Let Star Trek inspire your holiday gift-giving.
‘Tis the season for gift-giving! Exchanging presents is part of several winter holidays. From ancient times, people have given and received gifts at the time of the winter solstice. In Star Trek’s vision of the future, humanity has moved out to the stars and seems less tied to the solar, Gregorian calendar—even though the Enterprise science lab was throwing Christmas parties during Captain Kirk’s command! But presents and gifts in Star Trek make frequent appearances.
Think about Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, for example. Admiral Kirk receives a copy of A Tale of Two Cities from Spock. He also receives a once and future present from Dr. McCoy: a pair of antique, 18th-century American reading glasses. Granted, Kirk’s getting gifts not for Christmas but for his birthday. But these examples prove giving presents as tokens of esteem, friendship, and affection is a tradition that persists into the 23rd century.
And well beyond! As I write this post, the most recent episode of Star Trek: Discovery, a series set in the 32nd century, ended with Lieutenant Tilly leaving an Enterprise NX-01 snow globe as a gift to Ensign Adira. In Star Trek, gifts are still vital ways to form, nurture, and celebrate relationships.
What these Trek episodes show about gift-giving
While many memorable gifts show up in Star Trek, these three stories get my vote—this gifting season, anyway—for the ones in which gift-giving makes the biggest impact.
3. “Data’s Day” (Star Trek: The Next Generation S4 E11)
In an episode full of wonderfully heartwarming moments, one of the best is watching Data and Worf “shop” together in the ship’s replicator center for the wedding presents they will give Chief O’Brien and Keiko.
The glass swan may not remind Data (or us) of Worf. But their brief scene together reminds us how tough it can be to find just the right present—and how much, sometimes, it really is the thought and the effort put into it that count.
Speaking of thought and effort in gift-giving…
2. “In the Cards” (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine S5 E25)
All Jake wants to do is cheer up his dad by getting a rare baseball card for him—a Willie Mays rookie card in mint condition, to be exact. (This card would cost you $800,000 in real life today.) But because—as Nog scornfully reminds Jake—humanity “decided to abandon currency-based economics in favor of some philosophy of self-enhancement,” the trades the two friends must make with others to secure the card become ever more elaborate and amusing.
The episode’s a lovely showcase for Cirroc Lofton and the late Aron Eisenberg—one of the warmest episodes featuring Jake and Nog together. And it’s a beautiful reminder of what really makes a gift valuable: the spirit in which it is given.
1. “The Gift” (Star Trek: Voyager S4 E2)
I think I was in the minority of fans at the time, but I liked the character of Kes in Voyager’s first three seasons. I was sad to see Jennifer Lien leave the series, and I thought the show’s writers could have handled her departure far better than they did.
All that said, having Kes use her telepathic power as she leaves Voyager to send the ship out of Borg space and 9,500 light-years closer to Earth was an inspired and inspiring choice. If any gift in Star Trek manifests friendship and love, surely Kes’ gift does.