Relationships and romance have been an integral part of Star Trek from the beginning. Even in Gene Roddenberry's advanced, progressive vision of the future, the human desire for love and connection was one thing that never changed.
However, it did take vastly different forms over the course of the franchise, exploring relationships that were taboo in other media of the time.
Star Trek explored relationships that ranged through a wide spectrum, crossing lines of race, gender, religion, and species.
The franchise was often on the cutting edge of exploring the complexities of love and romance as the universe grew larger and more connected, mirroring the changing attitudes about the increasingly connected world in which its audience lived.
Many of the couples introduced within the franchise went on to define the relationships of Star Trek, revealing truth about relationships in the future and the present day and exploring how love works in diversity.
Other pairings, however, missed the mark by underdeveloping and forcing connections between two characters or veering into uncomfortable territories that didn't understand the point of the franchise.
While some couples spurred the series on to new heights, others could have been done without completely.
Here are the 8 Couples That Hurt Star Trek (And 9 That Saved It).
17 Saved: Tom and B'Elanna
The relationship of Tom and B'Elanna captured the spirit of their show like few others could. Lost in the Delta Quadrant, likely for decades, romance isn't the first thing on the minds of either of them.
Voyager opted to build up their romance over time, first establishing a friendship, then a subtle flirtation that ultimately bloomed into a relationship.
The pairing of a renegade Starfleet officer and a Maquis rebel, neither of whom wanted to be on Voyager, seemed to symbolically mirror the journey of the entire crew.
Both found a purpose and love on an accidental mission that forced enemies together. Their slowly building romance was one of the more interesting facets of the show, providing conflict and complex emotions as the two well-developed characters were fleshed out on screen.
16 Hurt: Neelix and Kes
The problem with this entire coupling could be quickly summarized as "no one cares." Kes and Neelix, by themselves, were two of the most underdeveloped, useless, and annoying characters on the show.
The audience was never given any reason to root for Kes and Neelix, other than the fact that Neelix manipulated the Voyager crew into saving Kes from Kazon imprisonment.
Throughout the three seasons in which they were featured, there was never any clear reason why Kes and Neelix were even together.
The already uninteresting relationship also proved to be extremely static. Even when Kes began to develop great mental powers, the relationship between them ended rather than try to explore a new dynamic.
When her powers grew too great, she was sent away and hardly ever mentioned again, even by Neelix.
15 Saved: Picard and Vash
Though Picard and Vash were never the most likely of pairs, their personalities complemented each other in unexpected ways.
Vash was a rule-breaker by nature, never above deception and shady practices to further her own goals. Picard was the polar opposite, the buttoned-down Starfleet captain who lived by a rule of order to fathom the unexpected situations he encountered.
However, Picard's relationship with Vash often showed a side of him that was not often accessible. They bonded over their shared love for archaeology, and they found each other to be kindred spirits.
Vash pushed Picard out of his comfort zone, allowing him to be something besides the authority figure he played in so much of his life. Though short-lived, Picard's relationship with Vash was a crucial element of his character development.
14 Hurt: Tasha Yar and Data
Star Trek had many less-than-stellar relationships, but not many of them were quite this uncomfortable to watch. This couple only lasted for one episode, "The Naked Now", while the entire Enterprise crew was under the influence of a strange illness that caused manic behavior.
In this pattern of unusual behavior, Tasha Yar allures Data, who seems to agree to the encounter, stating that he is "fully functional."
This brief relationship does further Data's quest for humanity in certain ways. However, was it necessary that those facets be explored in such a thoroughly cringe-inducing pairing?
The fact that the entire relationship only happens under the influence of an illness also makes it questionable in terms of consent. Overall, everything about Tasha Yar and Data only raises questions that no one wants to answer.
13 Saved: Kirk and Edith Keeler
"The City on the Edge of Forever" is one of the most beloved episodes of the Original Series. The episode has a timeless quality that continues to hold as decades pass. Part of that quality comes from Kirk's doomed relationship with Edith Keeler.
Captain Kirk is not exactly a paragon of good relationships, but Keeler was different. They saw the world in the same way, as Edith was a woman far ahead of her time.
This episode is a true test of what Kirk is made of. Despite their connection and Kirk's feelings for her, he has to let Edith pass away in order to preserve the future he knows.
Few other episodes show his commitment to his duty as a Starfleet captain like this one. The Enterprise is his first and foremost love, no matter what incredible woman he meets along his adventures.
12 Hurt: Kirk and Miramanee
Kirk has a long list of "girls of the week" that he cycled through in nearly every episode, but Miramanee deserved a special mention.
While Kirk was suffering a bout of amnesia, he was accepted into a tribe of Native Americans that were transplanted onto an alien planet.
During his life there, he married a priestess named Miramanee, and they were going to have a child. Unfortunately, she was stoned by her tribe while defending Kirk.
This relationship is the embodiment of the problems with the Original Series. She was given little development other than wanting to marry and have children with Kirk.
Her fairly offensive portrayal also existed within an uncomfortably racist portrayal of Native Americans (with a nice white savior narrative mixed in). In the end, she was only cut off so Kirk wouldn't be tied to anyone.
Apparently, the Enterprise's advanced medicine just can't fix stoning.
11 Saved: Worf and Dax
After Worf joined the crew of Deep Space Nine, his relationship with Jadzia Dax was a twist we didn't see coming, mostly because it was Terry Farrell and Michael Dorn themselves who pushed for a romance between them.
Dax's flirtatious nature with the oblivious Worf was an adorable beginning to the relationship. As their romance developed, Worf and Dax found they had much in common.
Dax and Worf both had blunt, aggressive natures that paired well. Most other characters were unprepared to handle the intensity of either Worf or Dax, which made them a good match for each other.
One of Dax's former iterations was also well-versed in Klingon culture and a competent Klingon-style fighter, which allowed them to bond over Worf's devotion to his Klingon heritage.
They understood each other and worked together well in their romance and careers, and they quickly became the power couple of the series.
10 Hurt: Worf and Troi
Opposites attract, but maybe not complete, polar opposites. Worf and Troi's brief attempts at romance felt like one of the most forced relationships of the series.
While they were excellent friends, Worf and Troi never seemed to form a romantic bond that felt genuine. They were also completely dissimilar to each other.
Worf was an intense, emotionally restrained warrior, whereas Troi was a demure diplomat that thrived on emotional expression.
They both cared deeply for Worf's son Alexander, but the writers gave no other reason for their romantic pairing. They wanted different things from their lives and their relationships, and ultimately neither of them could provide what the other truly wanted.
Troi ended up with the more emotionally available and charasmatic Riker, and Worf ended up with the strong-willed and wild Dax. The time devoted to their romance would have been better served developing their friendship or a different relationship.
9 Saved: Stamets and Culber
Star Trek has usually been on the cutting edge of exploring relationships of all types. The relationship of Stamets and Culber was a natural progression for the franchise.
Many of the Star Trek series were not allowed to explore LGBTQ+ relationships to the extent that they might have.
Incorporating Stamets and Culber's romantic partnership as a normal, casual part of life on the ship was the right move for Star Trek, in line with the progressive and diverse values of the franchise.
Stamets and Culber do not benefit the show just because they are a groundbreaking gay couple among the main cast.
Their relationship is also shown to be a supportive, committed relationship between two people who respect and admire each other.
Both of them care deeply for their partner, and that connection helped to develop their characters and made their ultimate fate heartbreaking.
8 Hurt: Voq/Ash and L'Rell
While Star Trek has explored many complex and questionable relationships, L'Rell and Voq on Discovery were an unnecessarily bleak relationship.
Voq was a Klingon sleeper agent who was altered to have the appearance and personality of Starfleet officer Ash Tyler.
He did not remember being Voq, and while he thought he was only Ash Tyler, his jailer and former flame L'Rell assaulted him, forced him into a non-consensual encounter, and tortured him. As Tyler, he carried that trauma with him.
When Voq was finally awakened, he caused great tragedy in order to hide his identity. Ultimately, due to the danger of the conflicting memories he held, L'Rell had to destroy the part of him that was still Voq, making the entire process seem pointless.
The whole relationship with L'Rell was the definition of messed up, and it could have been handled with more care.
7 Saved: Sisko and Yates
Sisko and Yates were a late-blooming, but special relationship on DS9. Kasidy Yates was able to relate to Sisko as an equal, a dynamic that Sisko had not found in many of his previous relationships.
Yates also proved her devotion to Sisko when she knowingly turned herself in for a smuggling crime rather than damage their relationship. A romance that can survive one partner arresting the other has to be a strong one.
They continued their relationship even when the Prophets warned Sisko that it would bring him sorrow.
They got married and were expecting a baby at the end of the series when Sisko sacrificed his life. Their healthy, budding marriage and family raised the stakes on Sisko's sacrifice, as he knew the life with her and his child that he was leaving behind.
Their dynamic made Sisko's sacrifice one of the most tearful goodbyes of the franchise.
6 Hurt: Ezri and Bashir
Dr. Bashir had longed after Jadzia Dax for a large portion of the series, but they were ill-suited for each other. Jadzia found a better match with Worf, but they were ripped apart by her tragic end.
When Dax returned to the station in the new host of Ezri Dax, it created an awkward situation between Ezri and all of Jadzia's old flames. Ezri eventually got together with Bashir with fairly little lead-up to the pairing.
Although Worf and Ezri had put aside any possibility of romance between them, Ezri and Bashir's relationships still somehow felt like a betrayal to Worf, who was still grieving the loss of Jadzia.
The relationship also seemed based on lingering feelings between Bashir and Jadzia, not involving Ezri as her own person. As it was, it merely undermined Jadzia's character by inserting Ezri into Jadzia's life instead of developing Ezri.
5 Saved: Picard and Crusher
Picard and Crusher had numerous obstacles to overcome in their series-long romance. Those obstacles only served to make their relationship the most tantalizing slow burn in Star Trek.
From the beginning, their dynamic was complicated. Picard had been friends with Crusher's late husband and had not seen each other since his demise, allowing them both to explore their grief and guilt over their feeling for each other.
Picard had the additional complication of being captain, meaning Crusher was under his authority. They held off their relationship to keep their mission at the forefront of their lives, but they remained close confidants with an undeniable deep connection.
Even as TNG decided to reveal they married and divorced, it showed they remained good friends after their romance dissolved.
Their trust and friendship made it easy to root for them, and it gave both characters a safe space to explore uncomfortable emotions.
4 Hurt: T'Pol and Trip
There's no doubt that T'Pol and Trip had some measure of chemistry on the show that ultimately led to their pairing. However, the writers never took the time to develop a deep bond between the two.
Their relationship comes up rather suddenly in season three. When it does, it showed that Enterprise was more invested in Jolene Blalock's cleavage than the emotional connection between Trip and T'Pol.
Most of their romance seemed based on physical attraction, a little shallow for a late-series romance between established characters.
Over time, they did develop more of an emotional connection, but then it turned depressing. Their lost child and Trip's eventual demise made the relationship's lows far more emotional and dramatic than its highs.
While a human-Vulcan relationship would have been an interesting exploration at this point in Star Trek's prequel history, it was wasted with a lack of development and a melodramatic storyline.
3 Saved: Kira and Odo
In many ways, Kira and Odo were one of Star Trek's most relatable couples. Their romance wasn't a straight line.
It was often awkward and messy with important things left unsaid. Kira and Odo were steadfast friends, and their romance began with Odo's unrequited love for Kira.
Over time, Kira's feelings for Odo grew until they finally became a couple in the last season. Unfortunately, Odo's illness and his decision to return to his people forced them apart in a bittersweet ending.
Although they never deeply explored the kind of life they would have had once they were together, their feelings of friendship and love for each other became integral to both of their characters.
Their awkward, miscommunicated will-they-won't-they dynamic was captivating to watch. The unhappy ending for the couple made their hard-won journey for their short time together all the more meaningful.
2 Hurt: Chakotay and Seven of Nine
When it comes to forced relationships in Star Trek, nothing stands out more than Chakotay and Seven of Nine.
Except for one episode that alluded to a possible attraction on Seven's part, there was absolutely no basis for this couple.
Their interactions before that point never hinted at any feelings between them. When their relationship was revealed in the finale, it was more of a shock than anything else.
Their pairing made little sense within the story. Their characters were never shown to be drawn together in any way. They were hardly shown as friends.
Although neither of them are known for a wide range of emotion, they both showed a more natural chemistry with almost every other character on Voyager than they did with each other.
The pairing served no purpose in the story except giving them some implied happy ending which none of the fans were invested in.
1 Saved: Riker and Troi
Though it wasn't always clear from the beginning, Riker and Troi became perhaps the defining couple of Star Trek.
They had a relationship before they became crewmates, but Riker ended it to focus on his career. Their relationship was long constrained to flirting, as their duty on the Enterprise had to come first.
It was clear they had deep feelings for each other and a lasting connection, but their relationship was complicated by the important work they were a part of.
However, Riker and Troi made an effort to keep their relationship alive in some form. In true Starfleet fashion, they prioritized their part in running the Enterprise and the rich life they had in their work, but they also supported and made time for each other.
They were able to be in love with each other and their work. In Nemesis, Riker and Troi finally got their well-earned wedding.
What do you think? What was your favorite couple in Star Trek? Sound off in the comments!