Star Trek: Voyager, the first spin-off of Star Trek: Next Generation (itself a spin-off of sorts from the original series) began with a dismal premise. The captain and crew of the Federation starship Voyager gets hurtled into the Delta Quadrant, considered the frontier of the Star Trek Universe, a relatively unexplored place beyond Federation arbitration. To reach home, it will take 75 years, in which case most of the crew would be dead before they ever saw the Alpha Quadrant.
Introducing a new ship and crew under these circumstances seemed like a set-up for truly tragic storylines, which seemed natural given the inherent despondency of their situation. Voyager had some of the saddest episodes in Star Trek, compounded by the fact that the crew seemed unable to escape an inevitable fate. Better replicate yourself some tissues, because here come ten of the most heartbreaking storylines.
10 KNOWING HARRY KIM WAS NEVER THE "REAL" HARRY KIM
In one of the most brutal and suspenseful episodes of Voyager’s second season, the ship encounters a spatial rift in a nebula, and suffers massive damage from unknown proton bursts. There are heavy casualties, including Ensign Harry Kim and a baby, Naomi Wildman. The rift also creates a “quantum double” of Voyager, allowing the two crews to view each other at the same time like a mirror.
Soon the “undamaged” Voyager is in the same trouble as its damaged double, as Vidiians board it and start harvesting vital organs from the crew. Its Captain Janeway at the last moment orders her Harry Kim, and baby Naomi, through the rift to complete the other crew. Harry spends the series wondering if he’s really aboard his Voyager.
9 THE SAD FATE OF ICHEB
Without a doubt, the Borg are a species that must be stopped. Their quest for efficiency and perfection by assimilating everyone they came in contact with would have meant galactic destruction. Starfleet thought of many ways to take them down, including infecting their Collective with a virus.
The virus came in the form of an adolescent, a boy named Icheb, who befriended Seven of Nine. He came to find out that the only reason for his existence was to deliver a virus to the Borg by being assimilated and making sure it infected all of them. Seven of Nine’s goodbye to a boy who just wanted to be normal is gut-wrenching.
8 TUVOK TRYING TO SHAVE AFTER GOING BLIND
“Year of Hell” is often cited as one of the top 10 Voyager episodes of all time, and for good reason. When the crew is faced with repeated shelling bombardment by the ships of the Krenim Imperium with dwindling weapon capabilities, their already desperate situation becomes even more desperate.
Voyager stands up to weeks of battle after drifting into Krenim-occupied space, and with each new hit, circumstances become more bleak. There is a quiet moment where Tuvok, now blind from a torpedo blast, attempts to shave with a straight razor unassisted, to prepare for his “morning rounds” amidst a rubble-strewn ship.
7 WHEN SEVEN OF NINE RELIVES ASSIMILATED MEMORIES
As a Borg, Seven of Nine was part of the hive-mind of the Collective, with the voices and thoughts of the hundreds of thousands of species the Borg assimilated in their pursuit of galactic domination. In one disturbing episode, she starts taking on the personalities of these individuals.
There’s an old woman whose son has recently joined Starfleet. She wants Voyager to pass on the message that she’s alive (the real woman has long since been assimilated and would sooner assimilate her son at this point). She also assumes the personality of a girl that was assimilated, at an age similar to when Seven herself was taken, now reliving a childhood she was robbed of.
6 WHEN THE E.M.H.'s DAUGHTER DIES
In an effort to experience all the happiness and sadness, trials, and tribulations of the human experience, Voyager’s holographic doctor writes himself a holodeck program that gives him a real family. He has a wife and two children he comes home to every day, allowing him to experience some level of human normalcy.
His daughter has an accident, shattering his bucolic existence. When her brain is hemorrhaging faster that he can save her, he faces the reality that she will die. He desperately wants to end the program but Tom Paris warns that to truly understand what it means to be human, he has to face the emotional burden.
5 WHEN TUVIX BEGS FOR HIS LIFE
An unfortunate transporter accident merges Tuvok and Neelix together into a single entity, who decides to be called “Tuvix” for the remainder of the episode of the same name. With aspects of each man in his personality and appearance, the crew adjusts to his presence as Captain Janeway decides how to reverse the accident.
When it comes time for the ship’s doctor to perform the procedure, Tuvix refuses, calling it an “execution.” He declares his right as an individual, which has been a central focal point for many Star Trek series. His pitiful attempts to get a single crew member on the bridge to defend him in his right to life is truly heartbreaking.
4 WHEN JANEWAY FINDS OUT HER HUSBAND MOVED ON
Being stranded in the Delta Quadrant with her crew, it’s natural for Captain Janeway to think that life has moved on for the rest of the world as she knows it. It’s been four years by the time “Hunters” takes place, but the crew are given a spark of hope when they find a way to communicate with loved ones back home.
Janeway receives a letter from Mark, her fiance on Earth, who explains that while he held out as long as he could, he’s recently married someone else. Janeway compartmentalizes the devastating news and collects herself as a sterling Starfleet officer.
3 WHEN NEELIX LEAVES THE SHIP
Though some viewers may have found Neelix’s boundless enthusiasm and goofy humor annoying, his cheer in the face of adversity did more for the crew of Voyager than they realized.
When it's time for Neelix to leave the ship and join a colony of his people, he thinks he can slink quietly to a turbolift. He doesn’t expect the entire crew to create a gauntlet, at the end of which is Captain Janeway, who greets him as “Ambassador.”
2 WHEN THE CREW OF VOYAGER DIES
In “Course Oblivion” during Season 5, the crew of Voyager is cloned by a life form on a demon planet that presents as a silvery substance. The “fake” crew develop a highly advanced warp drive and leave for Earth, now able to get there in a matter of weeks. They celebrate Tom and B’Elanna’s wedding below decks, until unexpected turbulence stops the ceremony.
The advanced warp core of the ship destabilizes, and they discover by trying to repair it that they aren’t the real crew. As they run out of time, each crew member dies one by one, desperately trying to preserve even the memory of their existence, and the schematics for the advanced warp core. When the original Voyager answers their distress call, they find nothing but a massive collection of silvery debris.
1 B'ELANNA TRYING TO SURGICALLY REMOVE HER BABY'S CRANIAL RIDGES
Growing up half human and half Klingon, B’elanna Torres didn’t exactly have a traditional or normal upbringing. She felt isolation from both human and Klingon communities.
When she finds out she’s pregnant with Tom Paris’s child in the last season of Voyager, and knowing that Klingon genes are dominant, she tries to do everything in her power to have the ridges surgically removed from her baby’s forehead. She breaks down in Sickbay telling Tom she doesn’t want to drive him away like she did her father.