In the most recent episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks season 4, “Caves,” our favorite Lower Deckers get stuck in a cave (again). To pass the time, they begin telling stories about previous times they’ve been stuck in caves. As you might imagine, this pays homage to a long line of Star Trek cave episodes.
For this week’s Trek Tuesday, we’re sharing just a few of the many Star Trek cave episodes. As you’ll see, caves have been a part of Starfleet exploration throughout the Franchise’s history. Did we include your favorite cave episode? Be sure to let us know in the comment section.
The Devil in the Dark
First up is arguably the most classic Star Trek cave episode of them all. In Star Trek: The Original Series season 1 episode 25, “The Devil in the Dark,” James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) investigate a mysterious lifeform inhabiting a cave. While filming an episode in a cave can be cost-saving, “The Devil in the Dark” demonstrates how these creative restraints can cultivate an unforgettable story. In fact, the story told by Lieutenant Junior Grade Samanthan Rutherford (Eugene Cordero) in “Caves” is, in part, a direct homage to this episode.
In his memoir I Am Spock, Nimoy wrote that “The Devil in the Dark” contains his favorite instance of Spock performing a mind-meld. Nimoy explains that the episode is a favorite of his in general, thanks to the thematic concerns it addresses. “The theme is a powerful one, dealing with racism and intercultural conflict–the fear of the person or thing that we don’t know and don’t understand,” Nimoy wrote. “‘The Devil in the Dark’ illustrates beautifully how unreasoning fear begets violence–and how an attempt at understanding can benefit both sides in a conflict.” Now, that’s a theme worth digging into.
All Our Yesterdays
Weird time travel stuff in a cave? Maybe it’s more likely than you think. In TOS season 3 episode 23, “All Our Yesterdays,” Kirk, Spock and Doctor McCoy (DeForest Kelley) find themselves trapped in an alien planet’s past.
While Kirk visits an era that resembles Earth’s dark ages, Spock and McCoy travel back to the planet’s ice age. After a mysterious woman named Zarabeth (Mariette Hartley) leads them to a cave, Spock begins regressing to the contemporary state of the Vulcans, characterized by savage violence.
Just like the crew of Kirk’s Enterprise, the crew of the USS Enterprise-D underwent plenty of cave missions. Sometimes, a mission even unexpectedly became a cave mission. That was the case in Star Trek: The Next Generation season 3 episode 19, “Captain’s Holiday.”
At the beginning of this episode, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is enjoying a holiday on Risa. However, time travelers from the 27th century arrive, claiming their historical records reveal his discovery of an important artifact. Soon, Picard and his associate Vash (Jennifer Hetrick) are excavating a site in a cave. Fans of paradoxical time travel stories will love this episode.
Chain of Command (Part 1)
In the two-part TNG episode “Chain of Command,” the Enterprise-D is put under the command of Edward Jellico (Ronny Cox). This is because Picard, Doctor Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Worf (Michael Dorn) have been assigned to a secret mission. As you might have guessed, this secret mission involves caves.
The most devoted Lower Decks fans will already find the outfits worn by Picard, Crusher and Worf during their mission familiar. That’s because the command crew of the USS Cerritos wore similar outfits in the b-plot for Lower Decks season 1’s “Much Ado About Boimler.” As this demonstrates, there are simply too many Star Trek cave references to be made in a single episode, even one called “Caves.”
What You Leave Behind
What’s more dramatic than a cave? How about a cave filled with fire? According to legend, the Fire Caves on Bajor are a prison for the Pah-wraiths, created by the Wormhole Aliens after the Pah-wraiths attempted to destroy the Celestial Temple.
In the series finale of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, “What You Leave Behind,” Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) travels to the fire caves to confront Gul Dukat (Marc Alaimo), who has been possessed by one of the Pah-wraiths. Sisko’s story reaches its climax when he sacrifices himself to hurl Dukat into the flames. However, in one of the more unique instances of a Star Trek bridge crew member visiting the Black Mountain, it is subsequently confirmed that Sisko later joins the Prophets in the Celestial Temple.
In Star Trek: Voyager season 3 episode 16, “Blood Fever,” Pon Farr and a cave mission collide. Vulcan Ensign Vorik (Alexander Enberg) begins to experience Pon Farr. After he chooses B’Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) as his wife, the heightened emotional state that he is experiencing is passed on to her.
This situation is further complicated when Torres joins an away mission to an abandoned mine. And things get more complicated still thanks to the presence of Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill). While Torres and Paris are attracted to each other, Paris refuses to take advantage of Torres’ compromised mental state. Fortunately, Torres and Vorik can work their aggression out through a different kind of physical workout: the ritual combat known as Koon-ut-kal-if-fee.
Day of Honor
Another important cave appearance took place in Voyager season 4 episode 3, “Day of Honor.” In “Day of Honor,” Torres wrestles with her Klingon heritage. But it is through this struggle that caves appear in this episode.
Paris and Torres are drifting in space for much of the episode after Voyager‘s warp core has been ejected. However, early on in the episode, Torres takes part in a holographic simulation of a Klingon ritual. This ritual is set in a cave, which makes sense given that Qo’noS, the Klingon homeworld, is also known as a “planet of caves.”
Will You Take My Hand?
And speaking of Qo’noS, the planet plays a vital role in Star Trek: Discovery season 1’s finale, “Will You Take My Hand?” In this episode, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew of the USS Discovery must journey to Qo’noS to end the Klingon War.
The entire episode is not set in a cave. However, a key scene makes this episode worthy of our Star Trek cave list. To reach Qo’noS during the war, Discovery‘s spore drive must be utilized. In order to avoid detection, the ship has to “spore drive” directly into one of the caves of Qo’noS. Now, that’s what we call boldly going.
Each of these cave episodes is available for streaming on Paramount+.
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