Given how groundbreaking it was in terms of science fiction, it’s no shock Star Trek worked in alternate realities quite a lot. The classic episode “Mirror Mirror” introduced the Mirror Universe, a reality where a brutal Terran Empire dominated the galaxy. It included a bearded Spock, scarred Sulu and other characters who were twisted and evil. Deep Space Nine returned to this universe to reveal how the Empire was overthrown by a Klingon/Cardassian alliance with more twists to characters. Discovery also played on it as the Mirror Universe is a major part of Trek lore.
However, it’s not the only alternate history the Trek mythos have given us. Time travel has led to quite a few different takes on history although it’s set right in the end. But episodes have offered other turns on classic moments, showing how vastly different things could have been with just one minor alteration. The comics and novels are able to use it even more. A trilogy called Myriad Universes each offer three novellas showing amazing alternate realities that put wild spins on Trek history. These books offer writers the chance to be very daring by bumping off major characters while letting smaller folk step up majorly. A few have obvious plotlines but others are more original and present intriguing histories. Here are 20 of the best Trek alternate realities besides the Mirror Universe to show how fans just love seeing characters in a new light.
20 ENGINES OF DESTINY
If there’s one guy you think would know better than to mess with time, it’s Montgomery Scott. The fabled engineer spent decades trapped in a transporter beam before revived by the TNG crew. In the novel “Engines of Destiny,” Scotty launches an audacious plan while on board the Enterprise-D. Without anyone knowing it, he manages to get the Enterprise-D to take him to the area where Kirk perished in Generations. Scotty uses a shuttle to go back in time with the Enterprise following. He beams Kirk out of the Enterprise-B to save his life. Scotty returns with the Enterprise to the present…where they find themselves attacked by a Borg fleet.
Because Kirk survived, he wasn’t there to save the Enterprise-D crew from the events of Generations. Which means they weren’t around to stop the Borg from changing history in First Contact. Which means the Borg assimilated Earth in the past. The Vulcans, Romulans, Klingons, Cardassians and others form an Alliance led by Sarek to try and protect the rest of the universe from the Borg. As the Enterprise tries to survive this darker universe, Scotty has to figure out a way to fix the timeline as he realizes Kirk’s survival came at too high a cost.
19 THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS
In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, DC published a regular TNG comic that had some intriguing stories. Easily the best was the four-part “The Worst of Both Worlds” storyline. Investigating an anomaly, the Enterprise is pulled into an alternate universe. They’re met by another Enterprise crew that includes a one-eyed Riker, a bitter Shelby and others. This is a universe where the Enterprise’s attempt to stop the Borg cube failed. Earth has fallen to the Borg and the rest of the Federation is on the ropes.
The story has some rough writing but still intriguing ideas. Worf is jarred at how his double feels dishonored not able to help save Picard. Shelby’s obsession with taking down the Borg borders on mutiny. O’Brien is a broken man after losing his wife and daughter. The alternate Riker openly asks the regular universe’s Troi to stay as he realizes how much he loved her after her doppelgänger was killed. Plus, the idea of Picard literally face-to-face with Locutus is dramatic. It even has a nice coda that reminds you that even in a dark universe of the Borg dominant, it’s the humanity that makes a TNG story shine.
18 ROMULAN EARTH
“Deviations” was a series of specials and mini-series by IDW showing different realities for some of the properties they published comics on. For Star Trek, they imagined a rather interesting difference. In this universe, instead of the Vulcans, it’s the Romulans who make first contact with Earth. Needless to say, the Romulans do not have Earth’s best interests in mind and turn the planet into a penal colony. Riker, Geordi and other crewmembers are prisoners on the planet.
Riker goes to track down a captured Picard with news of how the legendary Federation exists. Some of the touches are nice like how Geordi is truly blind and only able to “see” through Data’s eyes. The idea of the crew in a Mad Max like setting is intriguing and the search for an Enterprise is also well done. It shows how Earth could have suffered a darker fate but the TNG crew would still fight for its future.
17 THE SHATNERVERSE
Aside from his acting, William Shatner is also a novelist, including the Tek War series. It makes sense he would take part in a novel meant to revive his beloved character. “The Return” has Kirk brought back to life following the events of Generations thanks to an alliance of the Romulans and the Borg. At first programmed to believe he’s a loyal Romulan aide, Kirk remembers his true identity and goes on the run. This leads to a reunion with an aged Spock and McCoy and the twist that the Borg were actually partially created by V’ger.
Shatner helped write more adventures as Kirk soon runs into a different version of the Mirror Universe where his sinister double is Emperor Tiberius. Another trilogy has Kirk investigating the apparent assassination of Spock which could cause a Romulan civil war. While aided by other authors, it’s clear Shatner had good influence on these books which show how not even death can stop Jim Kirk from saving the universe.
16 THE LAST GENERATION
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country revolves around the Klingons and the Federation trying to make peace at last. A group of Klingons, Starfleet officers and Romulans aren’t happy about this and set up a plan to continue the war. It was to culminate in the assassination of the Federation President but Kirk was able to stop it. In the “Last Generation” comic book mini-series, the plan works and kicks off full-scale war. This backfires on the Starfleet plotters as the Klingons end up conquering Earth. Sulu is the sole Starfleet captain, nicknamed the “Silver Ghost” for his actions. Picard leads a rebel cell which includes everyone from his usual crew to Ro, Tasha Yar and Annika Hansen (a non-Borg Seven of Nine).
Worf is a major Klingon commander while Wesley leads a more militant rebel sect. Guinan tells Picard this timeline is “wrong” and Picard discovers that a time ship from the 29th century is responsible. Its commander claims the Federation falling is all that can save the future and doing what he can to keep this timeline set. Surprisingly, the comic doesn’t end with history put back to rights but a new future developing from this universe. It just shows how in any timeline, Picard is always a man willing to fight the odds.
15 XINDI DESTROY EARTH
The second season finale of Enterprise raised the stakes dramatically for the series. An insect-like race called the Xindi, believing humanity will wipe them out in the 26th century, do a preemptive strike. They send a craft to fire a single energy beam that ravages a great portion of Earth. This sets up a brutal war with the Xindi that dominates the third season. In “Twilight,” Archer wakes up to find he’s now 12 years in the future with T’Pol his lover. At first thinking this might be some sort of trick, Archer realizes it’s true and that humanity is on its last legs.
In this history, Archer took a severe injury which led to him being relieved of duty and T’Pol made captain. While capable, T’Pol couldn’t match Archer’s skills and was unable to stop the Xindi from destroying Earth. What’s left of Earthlings (just 6000 people) is now living on the doomed world of Ceti Alpha V and the rest of the galaxy have decided to just leave humanity to their fate rather than risk the wrath of the Xindi. It takes some time travel antics to set things right and prevent this dark future which shows how close humanity came to being wiped out long before the time of Kirk.
14 SHERMAN’S FALL
While a hilarious episode, “The Trouble With Tribbles” also has a serious plotline. Arne Darvin, the supposed underling to Federation official Niaz Baris, is a Klingon spy who is out to poison the grain to be used on the settled world of Sherman’s Planet. It was stopped by Kirk and Darvin’s name was ruined (the character returned in the DS9 episodes “Trials and Tribble-ations”). The Myriad Universe tale “Honor in the Night” plays like a Star Trek version of Citizen Kane as Baris, the Federation President, dies whispering Darvin’s name. A journalist tries to figure out what that means and begins a long investigation that uncovers an amazing truth.
In this reality, the tribbles never uncovered Darvin’s plot and the poison got to the colonists, causing hundreds of deaths. Rather than be pleased, Darvin was horrified at what he’d done and sought to make amends. The Klingons gained more worlds, including Bajor where Darvin ended up being its governor and ruling it the best he could (meaning different lives for Kira, Quark and many other DS9 characters). Meanwhile, Baris used the incident to rise up into a respected diplomat and eventually Federation President who managed to forge an earlier peace with the Klingons. It’s an intriguing tale with the journalist deciding it’s best the public never knew how two “heroes” rose under such dark circumstances.
13 DATA’S DAUGHTER
In the TNG episode “The Offspring,” Data shocks everyone by creating an android “daughter” named Lal. Sadly, she became victim to a cascade failure that caused her to be shut down. In the Myriad Universes tale “The Embrace of Cold Architects,” Lal’s creation comes a bit later than it did before. She’s thus around when Picard is captured by the Borg and plays a part in ensuring the Enterprise’s weapon against the Borg cube is successful. Thus, Picard is lost and Riker becomes captain (it also means no Battle of Wolf 359 and so a different path for Sisko).
Riker adjusts to being captain in major ways. For example, the episode “The Wounded” has Riker making a different choice regarding the Cardassian’s rise to power. Meanwhile, Starfleet has decided to use Lal as the model for a new line of robotic soldiers to send against the Borg. Data is concerned about this move for good reason as it leaves the Federation open to another cybernetic menace. All it took was a delay in a few weeks and the course of the entire galaxy turns on Data’s daughter.
12 YESTERDAY’S ENTERPRISE
While Kirk and Picard both made the Enterprise famous, there was another iconic version of the ship. In 2344, the Enterprise-C aided a Klingon outpost under attack by the Romulans. It was destroyed in the process but the Klingons were so impressed by this show of honor for an enemy that it pushed them to make peace with the Federation. In the classic TNG episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” the Enterprise-C falls through a temporal portal and emerging 22 years later. The episode shows the usual TNG bridge but as soon as the Enterprise-C shows up, everything changes. The ship is darker, the uniforms more military and the long-dead Tasha Yar is alive.
Meeting with Captain Rachel Garrett, Picard tells her how that Klingon outpost was destroyed, the Klingons blaming the Federation for it and a state of war has existed ever since…and it’s not going well for the Federation. Only Guinan is able to sense something is wrong with the timeline. She tells it to Picard with Tasha also discovering her useless death in the main timeline. This pushes her to join the Enterprise-C as it goes back through the rift to repair history. This timeline was brief but still notable as it set up the character of Tasha’s daughter, Sela and stands as a darker look at how TNG could have been.
11 ISIOLANIST EARTH
A subplot on Enterprise was the “Earth Prime” movement planning a violent extremist attack meant to drive Earth from joining the Federation. In the Myriad Universe novella “A Less Perfect Union,” Earth Prime succeeds. Earth has a space fleet but remains isolated from the rest of the galaxy, which is part of the Interstellar Coalition. Kirk is first officer under Captain Pike and has a major hate of Vulcans as he blames them for the death of his wife and son. Kirk is thus not happy when the Enterprise’s mission is to transport an aged T’Pol to a conference to discuss the possibility of Earth opening alliances with the Coalition.
Kirk is approached by Sarek (who, in this universe, never married a human so Spock doesn’t exist) for a secret meeting with T’Pol. It’s not until too late Kirk realizes he’s a pawn in a game played by the Romulans to keep Earth out of interstellar affairs. This sets up a battle where Kirk gets his first taste of command. The ending isn’t as pat as you’d expect but the story is intriguing for a much darker Kirk and a bitter T’Pol both overcoming differences just as Earth and Vulcan must to move into the future.
10 THE DELTA COALITION
The Myriad Universes novella “Places of Exile” openly asks “how often does history come down to a choice of words?” When Voyager is offered their alliance with the Borg in “Scorpion,” Chakotay gives different advice to Janeway. This sets up an attack that causes Voyager to be wrecked with Tuvok and Paris among the casualties. The crew are rescued by the friendly Vostigye as they adjust to being stranded. Torres joins an extremist group while Janeway is borderline obsessed with getting back to their journey. But as time goes on, Janeway realizes that’s a faint hope and accepts a new life on this world (which includes a romance with Chakotay).
Circumstances soon lead the crew to aid the Vostigye in reaching out to other worlds for alliances. This means different fates for characters, especially Kes and Seven of Nine. Making it more complex is Species 8472 showing up for an alliance that gives the crew a look at other realities. Before long, Voyager has helped forge a version of the Federation called the Delta Coalition. They also end up aiding in the war with the Dominion. It’s a fascinating look at how, had Voyager taken a break in their journey, they could have done much more good for the Delta Quadrant.
9 KHAN TRIUMPHANT
One of the greatest Trek villains of all time, Khan Noonien Singh was a genetically enhanced warrior who helped spark World War III in the Trek universe. For a time, he ruled a huge section of Earth before finally being overthrown. Khan and his followers thus fled Earth on the Botany Bay where they were frozen for decades. In the Myriad Universes story “Seeds of Dissent,” Khan was successful in his campaign to conquer all of Earth. He eventually expanded it into the stars with his forces crushing all resistance to establish a galactic Empire. Long dead, Khan lives on in his successors.
The story opens with Julian Bashir the captain of a ship that finds the Botany Bay. The crew here are scientists and rebels who fled Earth centuries ago. They’re naturally horrified to realize Khan won and his forces control this galaxy. Led by Shannon O’Donnell (the lookalike ancestor of Kathryn Janeway), the crew find allies in rebel Dax and the unlikely team of Kira and Dukat. While they have little chance against the strength of the Khan followers, they have one unbeatable weapon: The records showing the truth of Khan as a dictator, not a noble hero. The story may not have a true ending but it still leaves an open path with Bashir realizing he’s been on the wrong side worshipping Khan rather than hating him.
8 Q SQUARED
Peter David’s Trek novels are always good fun and this is one of his best. It confirms the fan theory that Trelane, the childish all-powerful being from the TOS episode “The Squire of Gothos” was an immature member of the Q Continuum. Q has been put in charge of Trelane and taken him to the Enterprise, begging Picard for help as the brat has been driving him nuts. Obviously, Picard just enjoys Q’s misery but that changes when Trelane has “fun” mixing this timeline with the one from “Yesterday’s Enterprise.”
Trelane soon brings in another timeline where Picard is first officer to Jack Crusher (while in love with Beverly), Troi is married to a Riker reeling from Klingon captivity and Data is a mechanical mind in a human body. The game turns sinister as Trelane treats everyone like his personal toys. The mixing of the three timelines is wild but David manages to pull it off nicely. It comes into a great story that pays tribute to TNG lore while still offering fun looks at what could have been.
7 SAVAGE VULCAN
Eons ago, the Vulcans were an incredibly harsh and brutal race. It was the wise Surak who provided a template that turned the Vulcans to logic and paved the way for their rise as a galactic power. In the Myriad Universes story “The Tears of Eridanus,” Surak was killed before he could show his teachings. Vulcan thus remains a primitive planet of warriors so savage that even the Klingons don’t want to mess with them. It also means the Vulcans never split off into the Romulans. Instead of the Federation, there’s an Interstellar Union although it’s not as successful without Vulcan’s influence.
Sulu is the commander on a ship when he learns a Union observation team led by his daughter, Demora, has been captured on Vulcan. Against orders, Sulu leads the ship there but his crew is unprepared for the savagery of the Vulcans. Meanwhile, Demora meets one noble Vulcan, S’Vol, who needs her help finding a lost scroll that could be the key to turning his people around. For anyone who thinks Vulcans are just logical thinkers, this story offers a chilling look at how gritty they could have become.
6 A UNIVERSE WITHOUT SPOCK
The classic Animated Series episode “Yesteryear” briefly imagines Spock dying as a child and an Andorian named Thelin being first officer and Kirk’s best friend. The Myriad Universes novella “The Chimes at Midnight” expands on this idea with the passionate Thelin still serving with Kirk with the fun touch of McCoy being the voice of reason. Thanks to Thelin, the ending of Wrath of Khan goes differently. This leads to David Kirk and Saavik held captive by Klingons. Kirk leads a rescue mission which goes badly as Kirk finally faces a “no-win scenario.”
Incredibly, things get worse. Without Spock to provide an answer, the Whalesong Probe from The Voyage Home ravages Earth. This leaves the planet open to a full-scale Klingon invasion and occupation. To David’s horror, the Federation plans to turn the Genesis Device into a weapon which riles up the Romulans. Thelin is made a great character to the point of making a bold sacrifice at the end. It shows how critical Spock was to the universe and Earth would suffer badly without his presence.
5 PLANET DATA
Originally, Dr. Noonien Soong planned to have Data be just the first of an entire race of androids. That never came to be in the main TNG series. In the Myriad Universes story “Brave New World,” Soong’s dream comes true. Androids are now part of the Federation with many serving on ships. There’s also the concept of people able to upload their minds into android bodies. The Enterprise receives a message from the long-missing Data that takes them to a distant planet. There, they’re amazed to find Data has created an entire city for his android race.
Data wants to reach out and prove to the Federation androids deserve fully equal rights. He’s aided by “daughter” Lal but Lore thinks androids should be above humanity. Complicating matters is Picard discovering that Data has been sending out androids disguised as other races as agents working behind the scenes. Data thinks it’s a good move to prevent future conflicts but Picard notes how this is a step away from a robot takeover. When the Romulans get involved, the tension rises up even more. It’s an intriguing story to show how androids are never fully accepted in the Federation.
TNG had touched on alternate timelines and such before. But season 7’s “Parallels” brings it front and center. Worf is returning from victory in a fighting tournament when he runs into an odd anomaly. Once on the Enterprise, Worf notes how things are shifting, events are different, people are changing and records show how he went from victory in that tournament to second place to not attending at all. Somehow, Worf is jumping between quantum realities and has to figure out how to stop it.
He eventually lands into a reality where Picard was killed fighting the Borg, Riker is captain, Worf first officer and married to Troi. An attempt to get him back causes tens of thousands of Enterprises from other realities to converge together. This includes the chilling sight of a frantic Riker from a reality where the Borg have taken over. From a Doctor Ogawa to a competent Wesley to Bajor dominating Cardassia, this episode offers plenty of fun looks at the ways TNG could be much different.
3 THE UDILITE WAR
Star Trek Online was never a huge hit but still had potential. After all, a MMORPG based on the Trek universe is ripe for some fun. It’s set in 2409 and focuses on a very dark galactic conflict. It doesn’t match the canon “Expanded Universe” of the various Trek novels and so is recognized as an alternate timeline. Here, the Federation’s refusal to aid the Klingons against the Gorn led to the Klingons declaring war on the Federation. The conflict was complicated by the discovery of the Udilites aka Species 8472, who were manipulating things behind the scenes.
The events of the game do conflict with the current Trek EU (Garak is still a Cardassian operative, not its President and the Borg are still around). In a tie-in novel, The Needs of the Many, Jake Sisko talks to those who took part in the “Long War.” This includes an agent of the Federation’s time travel agency who notes how this is just one of various histories he’s seen (“How could the Borg invade Vulcan when the planet was destroyed a century ago?”) and showing different fates for characters. While not as well-known as others, this “Long War” forms another major reality for Trek fans.
2 THE DOMINION DOMINANT
In a Myriad Universe novella it opens in what would be the fifth season of Deep Space Nine but it’s still Terek Nor. The Cardassians never left Bajor and never forced the treaty that created the Maquis (meaning Voyager is still in the Alpha Quadrant) although they have taken over Ferengi space. Immediately following First Contact, the Enterprise is informed that the Klingons and the Romulans have gone to war. Dragged in, the Federation feels the heat with all three sides making odd moves that cause more damage. The Cardassians then launch attacks with advanced weapons that wipe out Voyager among other ships. It’s at this point that resistance fighter Kira and Odo show up to reveal this is all the work of the Dominion.
In this reality, the Cardassians found the Bajor wormhole and forged an alliance with the Dominion that quickly became one-sided. Key figures on all sides have been replaced by Changelings who ensure the war drags out in a costly manner to leave the galaxy ripe for a Dominion invasion. Unsure who they can trust, the Enterprise is on a deadly mission that just ends up working into the Dominion’s hands. It’s a brutal conflict that costs numerous characters their lives and even with a huge defeat near the end, it still indicates that in this reality, the Dominion will be triumphant after all.
1 THE KELVIN TIMELINE
When the plans for a big-screen reboot of the Trek saga were announced, fans were wary. After all, they loved the Trek universe and hated the idea of having it all thrown away. Leave it to JJ Abrams to find a way to honor the past while creating a new future. The plotline is that Nero is a Romulan scientist from the early 25th century who’s rocked when a supernova wipes out Romulus. Blaming Spock for failing to stop it, Nero creates a massive ship to go back in time in hopes of destroying the Federation and thus saving his world (or at least gaining revenge). This leads to the attack on the U.S.S. Kelvin that kills George Kirk. Without his dad in his life, we see a much different James Kirk joining the Enterprise.
The movie openly discusses the alternate timelines thanks to the arrival of the “Prime” Spock (Leonard Nimoy). Thus, Abrams allows the classic Trek history to exist but this new timeline offers more storytelling options. It’s since spawned two sequels and a terrific IDW comic series that explores how events of classic Trek episodes go differently in this universe. Thanks to this move, newer fans can enjoy the fresher take of the movies while still respecting the expanded universe as canon.