Star Trek didn’t become a cultural sensation because of science fiction action and special effects, it became a popular commodity because it challenged ideas in ways no one had ever seen before. Set in the future, the original Star Trek series showed us a time where the cultural and racial tensions of the present day were long gone. Episodes commented on war, science, even religion. However, one thing the franchise has always struggled with has been the depiction of sexuality.
The stories may take place in a utopian society that is open and progressive, but the episodes and films are still written by people from contemporary society, by people who are flawed and not as enlightened as the characters they write. This has led to some questionable depictions in Star Trek history. It has also given us some of the most memorable and scandalous moments on television. Whether the reaction is good or bad, Star Trek has always set out to push the boundaries of what the audience is used to in modern society. For better or worse, the franchise has always succeeded because it was never afraid to boldly go.
15 THE BETAZOID WEDDING
Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced Deanna Troi into the franchise’s universe, and with her came all the customs of the Betazoid people. One of the practices that was most likely to be questioned by an audience from 1987 were the Betazoid wedding traditions, where all those present at a wedding were expected to attend the ceremony in the buff!
In the episode “Haven,” Troi’s arranged marriage ceremony takes place, and we get to see several cast members standing around in their birthday suits, including Marina Sirtis and Patrick Stewart. Sure, we obviously don’t see anything below the shoulders, but it was quite the memorable scene to see. Thankfully Troi didn’t actually end up getting married in that episode, leaving her available to marry Riker later on.
14 THE ENTERPRISE MEETS THE EDO
In their mission to seek out new life and boldly go where no one has gone before, the crew of the Enterprise have come across many new societies and cultural practices. Star Trek: The Next Generation was just eight episodes into its run in 1987 when the episode “Justice” aired, where the ship encounters the people of Rubicun III, known as the Edo. This group of humanoid alien species were free spirited and very liberated.
Both men and women wore some of the most provocative costumes in franchise history, as the Edo all wore small, strapped pants and shirts. They were very open about their desires and welcomed encounters with anyone who was willing. The episode proved to introduce sexuality rather quickly for the show, as it struggled to find an audience in the beginning.
13 DEJA Q
In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the powerful entity known as Q likes to drop in unannounced and make life a living hell for the crew of the Enterprise. In the episode “Deja Q,” he manages to take things to a whole new level when he is kicked out of the Continuum and appears on the bridge powerless and in the nude. Jean-Luc Picard is then forced to help his frenemy.
Actor John de Lancie initially didn’t want to do the scene, but when there was no other way to fake it, he had to film in the nude. The episode proved to humanize Q, who is usually depicted as an interdimensional troublemaker, though fans of the show will likely have the image of de Lancie’s butt burned into their minds forever.
12 KIRK GOES SHIRTLESS
Things were much different in 1966 than they are today. Star Trek established Captain Kirk as a sex symbol early on when the show had him appear shirtless in just the second episode to air, called “Charlie X.” In one scene, Kirk goes to the physical training room to spar in some hand-to-hand combat. While everyone else seems to be properly dressed, he doesn’t feel like wearing a shirt.
While a shirtless man may have been a big deal in the ‘60s, the episode also follows a far more important story that deserves far more attention than it likely got at the time. The story of the episode follows Charlie Evans, who repeatedly harasses yeoman Rand because he has feelings for her. It also doesn’t help that he has powers that can make people do whatever he wants.
11 DATA AND TASHA GET IT ON
In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Naked Now,” the crew of the Enterprise comes under the influence of a bizarre illness that drives their urges out of control. As members of the ship struggle to keep themselves in check, Lieutenant Tasha Yar seduces Data in the most memorable moment of the episode. It was the first human-android relationship in show history.
The episode helped to solve the question whether or not Data was “fully functional” as an android. The scene also helped a woman take on a more dominant role in the situation, though it was done when she was under the influence of an outside force. It’s too bad that Denise Crosby would leave the show soon after because this has become her most memorable scene.
10 THE ENTERPRISE GOES ON SHORE LEAVE
In 1966, the episode “Shore Leave” premiered, showing the crew of the Enterprise taking a break from their busy lives as space explorers. They end up on a planet that turns your imagination into reality, and a series of bizarre events take place, mostly involving weird figures that couldn’t possibly be appearing on the previously uninhabited planet. Several of the crewmen run into trouble with their imagination.
Doctor McCoy seems to get the worst of it after witnessing the White Rabbit from Alice In Wonderland running around in front of him. He eventually runs into imaginary women who are dressed in nothing but pink and yellow fur outfits with matching pasties. It was certainly something far more sexual than fans of the time were accustomed to seeing on television.
9 THE CAT TAKES A NEW SHAPE
The 1968 episode “Assignment: Earth” was notable for spending a significant amount of time with a live cat on the set. The episode was set in the 20th century with the intention that Robert Lansing would play Gary Seven in a spin-off of the series, but that never happened. Instead, what we all remember about the episode was the talking cat.
The episode ends on a bizarre note, with Seven’s cat Isis transforming into a scantily clad woman for no real reason. The woman who played the cat’s human form was Victoria Vetri, who had been named Playboy’s Playmate of the Year later that year. Given the fact that she didn’t do much and wore minimal clothing, it’s safe to say that Star Trek just wanted to find a way to get her Vetri into the episode.
8 KIRK BECOMES EXPOSED
In “What are Little Girls Made Of?,” Captain Kirk ends up the victim of an android cloning operation. Thinking he is saving Dr. Roger Korby, he is instead attacked by his androids and captured in an attempt to replace him with a duplicate. We see Kirk strapped down and in the nude as the android is created. A scene like this was practically unheard of back in 1966.
While you would think that a nude Kirk was enough for one episode, Star Trek kept going with the female android Andrea’s outfit. Keeping with the design scheme of all the androids, Andrea was given a purple and green costume. However, unlike the other actors, Sherry Jackson wore far more clothing than her coworkers, wearing nothing underneath the exposing design. It was quite the whirlwind of an episode.
7 THE ORION SLAVE GIRL
The image of a scantily clad green woman dancing in front of an audience is a very memorable part of the original Star Trek series. They made their debut in the original pilot episode “The Cage” before the footage was reused for the two-part episode “The Menagerie” in 1966. The characters have become a recurring part of the Star Trek franchise with several Orion slave girls also showing up in Star Trek: Enterprise.
However, we often overlook the fact that these women are slaves, forced to use their bodies for entertainment. The overly sexualized nature of the characters as animalistic dancers, and the fact that Pike literally imagines a woman as one of these slave girls, doesn’t do a lot of good in the franchise’s depiction of sexuality either.
6 DEANNA TROI’S COSTUME
This doesn’t exactly come down to a single scene, but it does deal with every scene that Marina Sirtis is in during the early episode of The Next Generation. The character of Deanna Troi went through more costume changes than anyone else on the show. While the other characters are dressed in their professional uniforms, though, she always had on casual wear that showed off far more of her body.
Sirtis herself has spoken out about the costume change, being unhappy that this was what she was expected to wear while everyone else had on the full bodysuits. She also felt that as her character wore less clothing, she also became less of the intellectual she had been expected to be. It took a while, but Troi eventually gained a full uniform.
5 T’POL BARES IT ALL
Star Trek: Enterprise gave us a female Vulcan, and it would work out exactly like you might assume that it would. Despite her status as a logical, thoughtful member of her species, the show played up Jolene Blalock’s T’Pol based on the way she looked. On several occasions, she was depicted wearing less clothing than would likely be acceptable on the bridge.
Her most infamous scene on the show came in the 2004 episode “Harbinger,” where her relationship with Trip took a very big step with the two appearing nude on screen together. The idea of Blalock’s backside being visible forced the show to edit the footage for the television release in order to spare our eyes from having to witness human (and Vulcan) sexuality.
4 SEVEN OF NINE SHOWS UP
Women have been objectified on Star Trek since the show’s inception, and the franchise has still managed to create iconic female characters all the same. Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine character proved to be insanely popular on Star Trek: Voyager, even though she was objectified at every turn. It might be this combination of beauty and character growth that made her a truly memorable addition to the show.
Despite her popularity, that didn’t stop the show from trying to take advantage of Jeri Ryan’s looks. Forget the skintight bodysuit that she could barely breathe in for a moment; she actually appeared sans-clothes a few times on the show. In the episode “Q2” the son of Q makes her uniform disappear and in "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy," The Doctor imagines her in the buff.
3 THE MOST MEMORABLE RELATIONSHIP
On Deep Space 9, Jadzia Dax was a member of the Trill race who was the host of the Dax symbiont. As one entity, the symbiont would be able to live on after the death of its body, carrying the memories of their previous host with it. In the episode “Rejoined,” Dax is reunited with the the wife of a previous host, and we witness the awkwardness surrounding their relationship now.
According to Trill culture, it is considered to be taboo to continue a relationship from a previous host. However, Dax’s reunion with Lenara proves to reignite the love the two once shared when the symbiont was in a male body. In the end, we got a kiss between Terry Farrell and Susanna Thompson that proved to be as controversial as it was empowering for same-sex couples.
2 ALICE EVE STRIPS DOWN
In the recent film reboot universe, the franchise gave old-time fans a blast from the past when Star Trek Into Darkness introduced the character of Carol Marcus. She had previously been seen in the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and is known as the mother of James Kirk’s son. Considering the 2013 film also dealt with the Enterprise fighting Khan, the inclusion should have made sense.
Unfortunately, it would appear that the only reason Alice Eve was brought onto the movie was to play the role of eye candy for the audience. In one scene that was derided by many, Eve was blatantly shown in nothing but her underwear, which served no other purpose than to show off her body. It was a terrible step back for a franchise that was already under fire from many long-time fans.
1 THE BIG KISS
It was a big deal when Kirk kissed Uhura in the 1968 episode “Plato’s Stepchildren;” however, it can be easy for forget just how big of a deal it was back in the 1960s. The Civil Rights Movement had made a profound impact on the country, but not everyone had accepted the equality that black people had attained and prejudice continued.
Corporations were afraid of alienating their loyal audiences to the point that NBC was afraid of having an interracial kiss on their network. They initially forbade the kiss from taking place before the show and the actors themselves fought to have it included. It proved to be an important moment in television history, though lost in it all was the fact that it was a forced kiss.