“To Be Continued…” can be three of the most brutal words any Trekkie can read. This may be double so when they arrive at the end of a season. This axiom was proved once again at the conclusion of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds season 2 finale “Hegemony.”
“The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1”
At the conclusion of Star Trek: The Next Generation season 3, Trekkies were treated to one of the most savage season-ending cliffhangers of all time. In “The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1,” Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is subjected to the unimaginable: assimilation by the Borg. Picard’s transformation into Locutus would continue to inform the character through his most recent appearance in the series finale of Star Trek: Picard earlier this year.
“The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1” is especially effective because it proffers a path forward from the worst-case scenario. It’s easy to imagine a continuation of TNG in which the USS Enterprise-D is commanded by Captain William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes). Furthermore, a new Number One is even suggested by the presence of Lt. Commander Shelby (Elizabeth Dennehy). However, Picard is rescued and begins his rehabilitation at the conclusion of “The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2,” which opens TNG season 4.
Star Trek: Voyager had many two-part cliffhanger episodes over the course of its seven seasons. This makes sense, given the show’s well-defined overarching serialized narrative. However, of the multiple season-ending Voyager cliffhangers, season 3’s “Scorpion” is especially effective. This is thanks to the episode’s excellent use of the Borg. While the TNG crew demonstrated how dangerous the Borg could be, Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) takes an approach that’s arguably “more Starfleet.”
This episode sees the introduction of Species 8472, an invading species that compels Janeway to consider an alliance with the Borg. At the conclusion of the season, Voyager is being towed by a Borg Cube tractor beam. Perhaps best of all, however: the episode’s second part opens season 4 with the introduction of Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan).
“Tears of the Prophets”
The penultimate season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine features a finale that is memorable for multiple reasons. In “Tears of the Prophets,” the unthinkable happens. Beloved character Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell) is murdered by Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo). While the Dax symbiote survives, Jadzia has never again appeared in any Star Trek series.
But “Tears of the Prophets” is also remarkable for the status of Captain Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) at its conclusion. It isn’t just the fact that Sisko leaves Deep Space 9 and returns to his father’s restaurant on Earth. It’s that he brings his beloved baseball with him, leaving audiences questioning whether he ever intends to resume his position on DS9.
When it comes to explosive season finales, it’s hard to top Star Trek: Enterprise season 2’s “The Expanse.” The episode opens with a Xindi probe attacking Earth. The ensuing damage kills millions, including the sister of Trip Tucker (Connor Trinneer). This devastating loss takes a profound toll on Tucker, affecting his character deeply and setting him on a new path for the remainder of the series.
This episode also sees T’Pol (Jolene Blalock) resign her position with the Vulcan High Command, which will ultimately lead to her becoming the first Vulcan in Starfleet. Furthermore, it sets up storylines that will continue through to the show’s fourth and final season. Finally, the Xindi attack that takes place in this episode explains why Riker and Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) are able to plan a beachfront vacation in Orlando in the series finale of Picard, “The Last Generation.”
“Such Sweet Sorrow: Part 2”
In the season finale for Star Trek: Discovery season 2, the crew of the USS Discovery must work with the crew of the USS Enterprise in a battle for the future. This episode brings the serialized storylines from Discovery season 2 to a crescendo. This includes significant roles not only for Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the Discovery crew but also for Christopher Pike (Anson Mount), Spock (Ethan Peck) and Number One (Rebecca Romijn).
At the conclusion of the episode, Discovery travels through a wormhole to the future. In Discovery season 3, we see the crew’s arrival in the 31st Century. But “Such Sweet Sorrow: Part 2” keeps the action in the 2200s, with the conclusive scenes focused on Pike and the Enterprise crew. This not only builds tension regarding Discovery‘s fate but also makes this episode an easy transition to Strange New Worlds season 1, which opens with “Strange New Worlds,” an episode with a story that flows from the consequences of “Such Sweet Sorrow: Part 2.”
“First First Contact”
The Star Trek: Lower Decks season 2 finale is the kind that lulls you into a false sense of security. In the final few scenes of the episode, it seems as though the season will have a happy ending. Captain Carol Freeman (Dawnn Lewis) has not only executed her very first First Contact but she’s also decided to remain in her position as Captain of the USS Cerritos.
But in the final moments of the episode, everything goes horribly awry. Freeman is arrested for the crime of blowing up Big Strong City on Pakled Planet. The season ends with the future of Freeman and the Cerritos in jeopardy. Fortunately, Freeman has been exonerated by the conclusion of Lower Decks season 3’s opener, “Grounded.” Unfortunately, the events leading to this exoneration are too “upper decks” to appear in the episode firsthand.
Honorable Mention: “Supernova, Part 2”
Arguably, Star Trek: Prodigy season 1’s finale, “Supernova, Part 2” is not a cliffhanger ending. However, the new status quo established by the episode sees the majority of the Protostar crew enter into official Starfleet duty under the tutelage of the flesh-and-blood Vice Admiral Janeway. Furthermore, we know the season features the return of additional beloved Voyager characters, including The Doctor (Robert Picardo).
Sadly, Prodigy season 1 has been removed from streaming on Paramount+. Prodigy season 2 has been completed (and even recently had a clip released). However, we don’t know when or where we’ll be able to watch it. Let’s hope we get a continuation of Prodigy before too much longer. It just might be the most brutal Star Trek cliffhanger yet.
This article was originally published on 8/14/23.
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