Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Character Insight No. 125: Christmas in Star Trek

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we look into Christmas in the Star Trek universe.
Picard with Christmas tree
 ("If it seems to good to be true...") 

Unlike nearly every other episodic television show, Star Trek has rarely, if ever, jumped into the trope of a Christmas episode. Considering the 28 full seasons of the different iterations of the show, it's hard to believe this, but like Santa Claus, it must be true.

That's not to say the show has not come close on a couple occasions, but the full on trope of a Christmas episode is just not present. One of the closer episodes was Dagger of the Mind in TOS, in which a Christmas party is mentioned to have happened in the science labs aboard the Enterprise. Captain Kirk even spends a romantic evening with Dr. Helen Noel, an obvious reference to the holiday. But the Christmas party itself makes no appearance.

The only other mentions of Christmas are vague and small, such as in the holodeck and in log entries. In the TNG episode Devil's Due, Data is seen performing the Ebenezer Scrooge role in the play A Christmas Carol during one of the irrelevant fluffy uses of that series' favorite technology. In the DS9 episode Our Man Bashir, Dr. Bashir gives someone a set of exploding earrings for Christmas in another holodeck fantasy.

In Voyager, Shannon O'Donnell makes a personal log entry during the episode 11:59 about being happy that Christmas is over, and then Tom Paris later cracks a joke in the epsidoe Non Sequitur that three ghosts came to him in the middle of the night and explained the true meaning of Christmas. 

The final and perhaps most notable appearance of Christmas in this universe turns out to be another fantasy, as Picard experiences an alternative reality of being with his family on Christmas when trapped int he Nexus. Granted, Whoopi Goldberg on a small carousel doesn't show up in my Christmas celebrations, but the holiday experience could not be more clear than in this scene of Generations. 

It's been posited that the lack of Christmas in Star Trek is a reflection of humanity becoming largely secular and non-religious in this future universe. However, it seems likely that Christmas would go on as a secular celebration of family and goodwill, so it seems a bit strange that the subject matter is largely avoided over the many seasons of this show. Of course, the underlying tenets of the Federation and human society appear to put more emphasis on these things throughout the year in this future, so perhaps a big celebration of the same items is not as important. On the bright side, we don't have to put up with a cheeseball holiday episode as they most often become for other shows, but it is an interesting gap in the Star Trek universe.

If the lack of a holiday episode makes you sad, you can always check out Spirit in the Sky, which is an issue of the DC Comics TNG miniseries that makes Christmas a central story element. I'll leave it to Mike and Sunshine to review that!

The bottom line is, you don't need a holiday episode to get your family to snuggle around the couch and watch Star Trek this Christmas. It's a good time no matter what variety of Star Trek you watch. 


Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

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