The 15 Cruelest Deaths in Star Trek History

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?One of the traits Star Trek is best known for is its penchant to creatively and profusely kill off characters to strange new alien threats and other dangers; it’s how “redshirts” entered the pop culture lexicon as s synonym for sci-fi cannon fodder, after all. But it’s not just redshirts who die in Trek, and all Trek deaths are not created equal — both the TV series and the movies have occasionally offed its characters, main and otherwise, in ways totally vindictive and joyfully cruel, generally with a sharp stab of irony. These are the 15 cruelest deaths from many, many Star Trek episodes and movies that we can think of. There’s surely more, so please share additional examples of brutal and cruel Star Trek deaths in the comments!

Thanks to Topless Robot reader Michael for suggesting this list, and to Memory Alpha for providing the pics.

15) Lieutenant Branson


?The naive, young helmsmen assigned to serve near Captain Picard on the bridge of the Enterprise probably think they have it made and that a bright future in Starfleet is ahead of them. Unfortunately, the only thing most of them have to look forward to is an exploding console and the cold embrace of death. Lt. Branson bucked this trend; no, silly, he didn’t survive, but he died in a more unique way. When a torpedo blew out the bridge’s viewscreen, Branson was sucked right through into the expanse of space, a split second before lifesaving, emergency force fields popped into place. Poor, dead sucker. (Nemesis)

14) Captain Lisa Cusak


?Captain Cusak was the only survivor after her ship was damaged by a planet’s radiation and crashed on the surface. She sent out a distress call that was picked up by the Defiant and got to know the crew well through long conversations she had with them as the ship headed to her rescue. But when the Defiant arrived, they found that their new friend had been dead for three years, the planet’s radiation having caused a time distortion that affected communications. Talk about dashed hopes! Here’s a bit of fun trivia: Captain Cusak was never seen on-screen (aside from her dried-out corpse) but her voice was provided by Debra Wilson, a long-time MADtv cast member who played Uhura in the show’s Star Trek parodies. (DS9, “The Sound of Her Voice”)

13) Tasha Yar


?This was cruel on two levels, both to the character Tasha Yar and the actress who played her. Denise Crosby made the unfortunate career choice of quitting Star Trek: The Next Generation in its first season. The writers responded by killing off her character like she was a total redshirt, slain by an energy discharge from a tar-like creature called Armus that murdered her simply for amusement. Granted, the death of a main character in such a casual way was shocking and it had an impact on the characters, mainly Data. Yar would later return from an alternate universe only to suffer another terrible fate when she was forced to marry a Romulan and executed for trying to escape after her own daughter betrayed her. (TNG, “Skin of Evil”)

12) Edith Keeler


?Hopefully, Edith died a quick death when she got hit by a truck. The real cruelty in this episode was the universe and time playing a nasty trick on Captain Kirk, sending him back in time to fall in love with a woman and then being forced to let her die or have the future as they knew it cease to exist. (TOS, “The City on the Edge of Forever”)

11) David Marcus


?The death of Captain Kirk’s son was an example of sheer hopelessness and brutality. David was a scientist, not a fighter like his father, and had little hope of defeating an armed Klingon. But he attempted to anyway in a lose-lose situation in which his Klingon captives were determined to execute one of the prisoners they held. David stepped in to prevent the killing of another prisoner, the Vulcan Lt. Saavik. As Kirk listened in, David was slaughtered quickly with a knife to the chest, and Saavik dispassionately informed Kirk that his son was dead. Kirk, of course, replied by opening up a can of whoop-ass on the Klingons. (The Search for Spock)

10) All-Redshirt Away Team


?These security dudes beamed down to the planet Triacus on a seemingly standard away team mission. However, the Enterprise was commandeered at the time by possessed children who were employing psychological control over the crew, making them see things that weren’t there in an effort to kill all the adults. Unfortunately for these poor schmoes, the Enterprise had actually departed Triacus and the planet visible to the crew was just an illusion, meaning this security team got beamed right into the cold vacuum of space. (TOS, “And the Children Shall Lead”)

9) Tuvix


?A Transporter accident merged Neelix and Tuvok into one being. Tuvix, as he called himself, had the combined memories of his “parents” and the best of their skills and traits. He became well-loved by the crew and began serving on the ship as a lieutenant. So naturally, Captain Janeway decided it had to be undone. Even after the Doctor declared it went against the Hippocratic Oath to harm a patient and would take no part, Janeway purposefully performed the procedure herself in order to restore Neelix and Tuvok. Tuvix had pleaded for his life but eventually went along with his own demise when the crew failed to support him. But he declared (rightfully so) that they would all have blood on their hands! (Voyager, “Tuvix”)

8) Lieutenant Commander Dexter Remmick


?Dexter Remmick was an eager Starfleet inspector who had the misfortune of becoming host to the mother creature of a race of parasites who were trying to infiltrate Starfleet. It’s possible that Remmick could have been saved, but we’ll never know since Picard and Riker phasered him to death, blowing off his head and most of his chest in what has to be the most horrifying thing ever shown on Star Trek, and that includes the time Captain Janeway and Tom Paris turned into lizards and mated. (TNG, “Conspiracy”)


7) Tholian Pilot


?The evil ISS Enterprise crew of the Mirror Universe was intent on finding the USS Defiant, a ship from another future that had crossed into their universe and had been captured by the Tholians, crystal-like creatures who lived in high temperatures. The Enterprise captured a Tholian pilot and Dr. Phlox took delight in torturing the creature by lowering the temperature in its cell, causing its shell to crack. After the Tholian had given up the information about the Defiant and tried to contact its people, Phlox antagonized the creature by steadily lowering the temperature until the Tholian shattered into a bazillion pieces. (Enterprise, “In a Mirror, Darkly”)

6) Admiral Matthew Dougherty


?Dougherty abused his power in Starfleet in a plot to steal the Fountain Of Life-like radiation from a planet and relocate the inhabitants. His partner was Ru’afo, an alien so obsessed with maintaining his youth that he used a machine to stretch his skin. When Dougherty had a moral crisis, Ru-afo strapped him to the machine and turned it on high, ripping apart the admiral’s face. This eye-popping scene still makes us cringe. (Insurrection)

5) The Romulan Senate


?Evil Picard clone Shinzon had a bomb placed in the Romulan Senate that infected everyone with radiation that caused them to gruesomely and spontaneously decay, turning into statues that then crumbled into dust. It didn’t matter much, as the whole planet would be destroyed anyway in the Star Trek reboot movie. (Nemesis)

4) Yeoman Leslie Thompson


?Alien beings sure liked to demonstrate their great power to Captain Kirk, which would usually be responded to with an impassioned speech from Kirk about the wonders of humanity. In this episode, the alien-of-the-week, Rojan the Kelvan, transformed this unfortunate female redshirt into a block of dehydrated crystal and showed his superiority by crumbling the block in his hands like it was a piece of Styrofoam, which it probably actually was. (TOS, “By Any Other Name”)

3) Lt. J.G. Van Mayter


?The Enterprise-D passed through a nebula that distorted the structure of the ship, causing poor Van Mayter to fall halfway through the floor and then merge with it. She might have been a nobody on the show, but her death has to be one of the most haunting deaths in Trek history. (TNG, “In Theory”)

2) Varria


?Kivas Fajo, an evil antique collector, just couldn’t wait to try out his Varon-T disruptor, a hand-held energy weapon banned by the Federation because it rips the body apart from the inside out, assuring a slow and terrible death. When Fajo’s assistant Varria betrayed him and helped a captured Data return to the Enterprise, Fajo used the opportunity to shoot Varria with the disruptor. And Fajo seemed to relish every painful moment of her demise. What’s even more interesting is that Data then attempted to shoot Fajo with the disruptor, but was beamed away by the Enterprise at that moment and the transporter disabled the weapon. While Data claimed it must have gone off by accident, it was pretty obvious to the viewer that Data had a dark side. (TNG, “The Most Toys”)

1) Commander Sonak and Another Enterprise Crewman


?Kirk’s new Vulcan science officer, Sonak, met a horrible demise when he (and another crewman) beamed onto the Enterprise while its transporter was still being repaired. The deformed, screaming bodies briefly appeared before being sent back to Earth, where they didn’t survive long (“fortunately”) in their twisted and mutilated forms. Of course, the real purpose of Sonak’s death was to set the stage for the triumphant return of Mr. Spock. (The Motion Picture)

Honorable Mentions: Captain James T. Kirk and Commander Charles “Trip” Tucker III

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?Captain Kirk and Commander Tucker certainly died painful deaths, although in themselves not as cruel as the examples listed above. Kirk fell to his death saving an entire world in Generations and Enterprise‘s Tucker died from injuries sustained in an explosion while saving his captain in the episode “These Are the Voyages…” No, the real cruelty was inflicted by the writers on Star Trek fans for unnecessarily killing two beloved characters. Enterprise had already been canceled just as it was getting good, and the supposed “love letter to the fans” the writers created as a final episode was more of a Next Generation episode than a finale for Enterprise. To top it off, they pointlessly killed off Trip in a last-second attempt to force more emotion out of the story. The iconic Captain Kirk, meanwhile, had and excellent swansong in The Undiscovered Country and his return in Generations was a half-assed and unsatisfying excuse to bring him back briefly to pass the torch and then die. Star Trek writers need to learn that, sometimes, it’s better to just let beloved characters fly off into the sunset.