- Tragic endings are a common occurrence in the Star Trek universe, with characters facing death, imprisonment, or eternal exile.
- Characters like Charlie X, Tuvok, and David Marcus meet tragic fates, despite their potential and the efforts of others to save them.
- Kess and Icheb both have stories of being rescued only to face further tragedy, highlighting the painful nature of their journeys.
Star Trek is a popular franchise, but it’s not because of happy endings. There are plenty of sad stories in the Star Trek universe, some of them even tragic, ending in death, imprisonment, or eternal exile for the characters involved.
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The voyages of the Starship Enterprise, and all of the ships that have followed in its wake, are intended to be a voyage of rescue and benevolence as much as exploration but success is not always guaranteed. Contrary to what Captain Kirk might say, there is such a thing as a no-win scenario.
6 Charlie X
Forever Isolated From His Fellow Humans
Star Trek: The Original Series
, S1E2, “Charlie X.”
When the Enterprise first got the call about an abandoned child, the only survivor of a crash several years ago, it seemed like a standard rescue mission. Soon it became clear that there was more to Charlie’s story, and by the time Kirk and his crew figured out what was going on, it was too late to save him.
Charlie was the only human survivor of the crash, but he wasn’t alone. The aliens that adopted him were friendly and benevolent but non-corporeal, and they allowed him to use his mind with terrifying and devastating power. The aliens come back for him at the end despite Charlie begging them to let him remain. It was the only way for him to survive, but at what cost?
She Did It For Him
Star Trek: Voyager
, S1E1, “Caretaker.”
Most people cite the seven-year mark as how long it took for the starship Voyager to return to the Alpha Quadrant and planet Earth, but without some intervention from Janeway, it would have been twenty-seven years. She gave her life to travel back in time and show her past self a faster way home. This wasn’t just for the crew in general but to save Tuvok from a tragic fate.
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In “Endgame” it was revealed that Tuvok was suffering from a neurological disease that was already affecting him during the voyage, but after twenty-seven years away from home it was too late to save him. He could have been cured if they had been able to return sooner.
Janeway’s farewell to him in the assisted living facility where he lives, which includes a strong hint at what she’s about to do to avoid his present fate, is one of the most tragic scenes in Star Trek history. It wouldn’t be the first time a hero from this IP defied space and time to save a loved one.
4 David Marcus
A Young Life Cut Short
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
One of the running jokes of the Star Trek franchise is the one about all the little Kirks that would have been scattered throughout the galaxy, courtesy of Starfleet’s most notorious bachelor, but the only one fans ever got to meet was David Marcus. What makes his story tragic is that he was killed for no reason just as he seemed to be blossoming as a character.
David Marcus was one of the scientists who helped Carol Marcus, also his mother, build the controversial Genesis project. The destructive properties of Genesis were sought after first by Khan and then by the Klingons. It was Captain Kruge who took David, young Spock, and Lieutenant Savik hostage on the fledging planet, and although it was Savik who was intended to be the first one executed, David fought with one of the Klingons and died in her place.
Sometimes Gone Is Better
Star Trek: Voyager
, S1E1, “Caretaker.”
Kess was already tragic from the start. She was a member of an enslaved, oppressed race that only lived for a few years in human time. However, her people were known for their psychic powers, and hers were amplified considerably during her time on Voyager.
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The first time she disappeared was in an episode aptly called “The Gift.” Her psychic powers evolved beyond the need for a permanent corporeal form, and she left the ship but used her powers to cut some of their travel time. It was sad that she left, but it was an open ending that writers could end another time.
They did, but as a result, many viewers wished that Kess had simply stayed gone. She returned angry and resentful, accusing Janeway and the crew of taking her from her home against her will. Her powers almost destroyed the ship until events involving her past self helped convince her to leave, compounding the tragedy of her absence with the unpleasant surprise of her return.
2 Paul Stamets
From Tragedy To An Impossible Task
Star Trek: Discovery
, S1E3, “Context Is For Kings.”
Paul Stamets’ field of study is astromycology, and he was the driving force behind the research and development of the spore drive and its related technology. To navigate the drive in the absence of the tardigrade they nicknamed Ripper, he’d combined his DNA with that of the creature even though he knew it would have a similar detrimental effect.
Stamets’ connection to the Myconid network made him the hero of many Discovery episodes, but the cost to him personally was devastatingly high and not for his own health. His husband, the ship’s doctor Hugh Culber, was killed by the Klingon agent Voq after a long series of spore drive jumps had incapacitated Stamets.
One of the best storylines in the franchise is how these tragedies were reversed, not only to repair the damage that Voq and Mirror Universe Lorca had done but also to save Culber.
Some Borg Have All The Bad Luck
Star Trek: Voyager
, S6E16, “Collective.”
Icheb is a callback to Charlie X in some ways, but many would argue that this fate was even worse. Icheb was assimilated by the Borg as a child, much like Seven of Nine, and was rescued by the Discovery crew and some of his peers. Returning him to his family wasn’t the happy resolution that everyone hoped for, however, because they infected him with a virus and immediately sent him back to the Borg.
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The crew of Voyager rescued him a second time, and it seemed like Icheb had finally been rescued and could live his dream of joining Starfleet. He appears again in the series Picard, but his ultimate fate is a grim one. It turns out that reclaimed Borg parts have become valuable on the black market, and Icheb becomes a victim of a gruesome plot to reclaim the parts from still-living but non-assimilated Borg.
Seven of Nine finds Icheb when he’s still alive, but he’s been so badly injured that she can’t save him. To make this even more tragic for both of them, she decides to end his life quickly to spare him any more pain.
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