Sure, The Last Jedi is the big thing everyone’s talking about right now, but sometimes you just want your science fiction a little more focused. For more than 50 years, the adventures of various officers of the futuristic Starfleet have ruled many a nerd’s television set. A pop culture phenomenon, Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek has kept science fiction fans glued to their seats, following along with their favorite Captains as they set out on missions to explore the galaxy and forge alliances with new and strange lifeforms. Though the original series spent decades as a cult classic that spawned a successful film franchise, 1987 saw Star Trek truly explode into something magnificent.
Star Trek: The Next Generation took a new team of adventurers and sent them out even further into the reaches of deep space, exploring strange new worlds with bleeding edge technology and wilder and weirder plots than ever before. The series became a television mainstay, breathing new life into the franchise for decades to come. As with all things, the Internet has taken to memeing it, and something like Star Trek led to some of the best memes out there. Here are 15 hilariously unforgettable Star Trek: The Next Generation memes.
15 BETTER THAN YAR
An early mantra for Star Trek: The Next Generation was that there’d be not many references to the original series. Series creator Gene Roddenberry was eager to create a unique world distant from the adventures of Captain Kirk. Alien species from the original were largely off limits, the exception being a Klingon named Worf who served as a bridge officer, largely remaining in the background.
Following the death of Natasha Yar when actress Denise Crosby opted to leave the show, Worf got a promotion to chief tactical officer and gained a much greater presence. Serving as the ship’s chief of security, Worf was often consulted when battle was necessary and became one of the Enterprise’s most prized crew members. Worf proved to be one hell of a pop culture phenomenon even today, years after ST:TNG and Deep Space Nine have gone off the air.
14 WHAT CAPTAINS DO
Captain Picard’s a busy dude. In addition to jetting around the Neutral Zone in the cutting edge of spaceship design and negotiating treaties with alien races both familiar and new, he’s still got to find time to schmooze with ambassadors and roleplay as a detective on the holodeck. Being a Starfleet Captain is pretty serious business!
Picard manages to come out above all that, though. Well-rounded, intellectual, and thorough to a fault, it’s no wonder Jean-Luc is considered the superior Captain by many fans. Picard’s kept more than busy over the years, as this meme reminds us. Though it’s a bit of a jab at some familiar Star Trek: The Next Generation moments, it also highlights some of the greatest moments in Picard’s storied Starfleet career.
13 FOUR LIGHTS
Poor Picard. He went through a lot of bad times, from being assimilated into the Borg collective to having to appear in Star Trek: Generations. But the season six two-parters “Chain of Command” showcased a different side of Picard. Captured while on a covert mission, Picard is tortured and interrogated in one of Star Trek’s most intense scenes to date.
In an attempt to break his will, a Cardassian interrogator shows Picard four bright lights and tells him the torture will end when he says there are five lights. The episode itself is a hell of a story, but Picard’s parting, defiant cry to his captor of “There are FOUR lights!” has become a meme in its own right. This meme might be one of the best takes on it, though, because let’s face it, we all hate fighting with those damn Christmas lights when December rolls around.
12 GOOGLE GLASS
Hey, remember Google Glass? Google kinda hopes you don’t, but they’re also not really making a thing of it anymore. It was a smart device that you wore like a pair of glasses, giving you access to a number of popular Google features like maps and phone calls. The device had a limited release, but it didn’t do terribly well thanks to an exorbitant price and awkward interface.
Did they pull some inspiration from Star Trek: The Next Generation? Possibly. A mainstay from the first episode, the ship’s chief engineer Geordi LaForge was notable as a Starfleet engineer with a disability. Blind since birth, Geordi wore a device referred to as a VISOR which allowed him to see. The device became a signature staple of the show and made Geordi one of the show’s most recognizable characters.
11 GUINAN COMBAT
Oh, Guinan. Played by Star Trek superfan Whoopi Goldberg, the bartender aboard the Enterprise proved to be a fan favorite character. Mysterious, seemingly ageless, and always there to offer a shoulder to lean on, fans loved the down to Earth tone she brought to an otherwise fantastical piece of hard science fiction.
Guinan doesn’t interact all that much with the crew as a hold, appearing in only about 30 episodes or so, but that hasn’t helped her escape the fate of being a meme. Maybe it’s the unusual sense of style she possesses, maybe it’s that aloof and strange nature she carried. But ultimately it’s that Guinan tended to just be kind of goofy when the story didn’t call for her to be serious, that makes her pretty easy to meme.
10 HD MEMES
Many fans likely didn’t see Star Trek: The Next Generation in HD for a long while. Originally airing on syndicated networks, the show was hardly primed to be the mainstream success it came to be. A testament to the quality of storytelling and production, ST:TNG really did age like a fine wine over the years.
With the rise of blu-ray, remastered Star Trek was only a matter of time. Released between 2012 and 2014, Star Trek: The Next Generation got a spiffy HD remaster (though limitations of the original film prevent it from being released in an aspect ratio other than 4:3). The HD remasters are gorgeous, but many fans aren’t using them for memes, still sticking to the original images and screencaps that have been floating around the Internet for years.
9 99 PROBLEMS
Starfleet ships are pretty crazy when you think about it. The panels seem to spew sparks seemingly at random. None of the seats have seat belts, which provides a number of issues when the ship is inevitably blasted to hell by Romulans. And that’s not even counting the Holodecks, which seem to exist with the sole purpose of being literal death machines.
It’s even crazier when you consider the Enterprise itself. As a ship intended to perform peacekeeping duties and patrol the Neutral Zone, the ship housed a number of civilians. There’s a lot to go wrong day to day on a ship that also houses a fully functioning school and a nursery. Fortunately, they’ve got a pretty competent crew to keep things intact, but it’s a miracle that the number of casualties racked up during ST:TNG’s run weren’t worse.
8 INCOMPLETE DATA
Poor Data. He gets stuck with no shortage of jokes about his Android nature. It makes him something of an easy target when people are cooking up memes about Star Trek, in much the same way that Spock’s logical nature can make it easy for him. But for all the easy jokes, Data is an incredibly notable character in Star Trek lore.
Essentially the reverse of Spock, Data’s quest to obtain humanity made him a quickly relatable and easily lovable character. He may have had more than his fair share of falters, be it injuring crew members when he didn’t mean to or putting the crew at risk with the presence of his brother Lore, but Data’s personable nature and humble backstory made him a classic character almost instantly.
7 WHERE NO MAN HAS GONE BEFORE
Will Riker is an interesting addition to the cast. With Captain Picard intended to be a purely introspective leader (in direct opposition to Captain Kirk, who spent much of his time on away missions, punching baddies and bedding ladies), it was decided that his second-in-command should fill the void of an action-oriented character in a leadership role.
The end result was Commander Will Riker. A bit emotional when the time called for it, a consummate ladies man, and arguably over-qualified by season 3 of the series, Riker’s choice to remain second-in-command overtaking his own ship became a key character trait in later episodes. These days, fans mostly meme Riker for his track record with women, poking fun at his many romantic encounters to take place over the course of ST:TNG.
6 TRICORDER SELFIE
Star Trek has had more than its share of influences on real-world technology. ST:TNG episodes featured the popular datapads, a series of tablet devices that crew members regularly would use for reading and transferring documents around in lieu of paper. These datapads would eventually be spotted by Steve Jobs, who cited them as the inspiration for iPad style devices.
Star Trek probably didn’t do much to inspire the selfie, but without the history of Star Trek, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Unfortunately, we’ve reached a point where the technology has surpassed the presented history of Trek technology. It created real problems with series like Star Trek: Enterprise aired decades after Star Trek but had to reconcile the prospect of modern technology versus the old school tech aesthetic of the original series.
5 THREE BUTTONS
There’s a lot of thought put into Star Trek’s design, to the point that the LCARs system that powers the computers of the Enterprise exists as a fan-created OS conversion. Still, there are a few intricacies of the system that fans have taken note of. For instance, this meme points out how many incredibly complex maneuvers seem to be available with just a few button presses.
We see all sorts of things like this. The movies especially showcase this, with things such as Data disabling a self-destruct that needed three crew members to activate all by himself, or Picard pulling up a specific play with just a few taps on a screen. Still, they’re cheats all done in the favor of making the story more interesting. After all, who wants to watch a movie that features 20 minutes of Picard navigating an archaic file structure?
4 ANDROID SMARTPHONE
Naturally, Star Trek has been on the forefront of modern technology. However, it might be safe to say that this isn’t what they had in mind when they crafted this excellent moment from the episode “Phantasms.” Here Data was having strange dreams, which ultimately led to him seemingly losing his mind and even injuring Counsellor Troi.
Naturally, the episode ended with Data being fine, the dreams being the result of his android brain helping him resolve how best to destroy a parasitic organism infecting the Enterprise. Though the episode is hailed as an ST:TNG classic, it’s unlikely that this one particular image from Data’s dream, of Picard answering a phone inside his torso, is what the creators of Android had in mind when creating a new smartphone.
3 ARTIFICIAL HEART REPLACEMENT
Have you ever thought about how wildly inconsistent the seemingly magical science of Star Trek can be? One episode featured Worf being paralyzed by a falling barrel and begging his close friend Riker to help him commit suicide, as per a Klingon tradition. The whole episode is played up as a deeply philosophical affair, but then at the end of the episode a doctor shows up and just gives Worf a new spine, no questions asked.
Captain Picard has a similar unique story. Stabbed in the chest while still a Starfleet cadet, Picard received an artificial heart. Obviously a marvelous medical feat, but how is there not a modern solution for Picard’s receding hairline? Truth be told this was once a consideration, with early footage of Patrick Stewart wearing a toupee appearing years ago, but one look at that footage highlights why producers opted not to go with the look.
2 PHASER GUNS
Already in his late 40s, Patrick Stewart had the odds against him when he was cast as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Fans were somewhat put off by the much older Captain, given the years where they had been used to the much younger and more action prone Captain Kirk.
But damn, did Patrick Stewart prove them wrong. Even today, at age 77, Patrick Stewart is ripped and makes you feel like you’re lazy. Picard carried this on, too, in both the television show and following movies. Sure, he was more distinguished than other Captains, opting to settle matters with words as opposed to fists, but when it came time to throw down you definitely didn’t want to be on Picard’s bad side.
1 DANGEROUS MISSION
To be fair, this is a problem that every iteration of Star Trek has had so far. When you’re going down to a strange planet to encounter an unknown entity, who better to take planetside than every executive officer on the ship? Routinely, the likes of the Enterprise’s chief engineer, operations officer, tactical officer, commanding officer, and even the Captain will venture down into the unknown.
So what happens to the Enterprise if one of them dies? Or worse, just imagine the upheaval if all of them die. For a dangerous mission, you wouldn’t dream of sending crew members that important. Still, it has to happen. After all, Star Trek is a television program above all else, and no one would care about anything that happened planet-side if every excursion featured a group of no-name red shirts with no emotional attachment.