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Star Trek Stories That Are Actually Horrifying

Among the longest-running franchises on television and at the movies, "Star Trek" may be an outer space adventure, but it often defies genre categorization. While every episode and film is science fiction by nature, individual stories run the gamut. Across its many series and through nearly 60 years, "Trek" has embraced everything from mystery and action to romance and even comedy. One genre that has long been a staple of its storytelling is horror: tales that shock and frighten, with scares and suspense as effective as any monster movie or salacious slasher.

In fact, many of the best stories in "Star Trek" are of the hair-raising variety, from those set aboard spooky derelict starships to those where a mysterious creature stalks the crew. Whether in a movie or a show, moments that shock with disturbing imagery or scare with spine-chilling thrills are often the most memorable. 

Which of these terrifying tales are the best, the most blood-curdling, and the most downright horrifying? Your mileage may vary depending on what sends you scurrying, but here are some of the best "Star Trek" stories that are actually terrifying.

Empok Nor (DS9 Season 5, Episode 24)

Despite being the darkest of the '90s "Star Trek" series, tackling more serious subject matter, and enjoying a more grim tone, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" rarely ventured into straight horror. On the few occasions it did, it went hard. "Empok Nor" is the perfect example. It features some of the franchise's best edge-of-your-seat suspense, loads of jump scares, and as much blood-curdling imagery as they could get away with by '90s broadcast standards. 

The episode starts with the former Cardassian space station Deep Space Nine in dire need of repair. Unable to simply ask the Cardassians for replacement parts since they're in the middle of a war with the Dominion, the crew's only choice is to salvage components from its derelict sister station, Empok Nor. Chief O'Brien assembles a team to travel to the abandoned station, taking with him the gung-ho Ferengi cadet Nog and the former Cardassian spy Garak.

When they arrive, the team discovers they are not alone, and they're picked off one by one by what they discover are Cardassian soldiers who've been re-engineered into soulless killing machines. Garak takes it upon himself to hunt them down but risks becoming one of them. More than just a violent slasher, the story also explores O'Brien's history during the Cardassian war and the prejudice that still remains between the two sides. Above all, it's a story of O'Brien and the young cadet who must stay alive against a group of ruthless, bloodthirsty killers — and their own friend Garak, who may no longer be on their side. 

Star Trek: First Contact

The second film with the cast of "The Next Generation," "Star Trek: First Contact" is sometimes mistakenly considered an action movie because it features Captain Picard with a phaser rifle stalking the ship like John McClane. At its heart, "First Contact" is a horror story. It sees the return of the mindless cyborg race in a big-budget feature film that turns them from a series of insect-like drone robots into a horrific zombie army, visually redesigned to look scarier and more monstrous than ever before.

It begins with the Borg launching an assault on Earth, and Picard taking the Enterprise to stop them. When the enemy ship uses a temporal vortex to travel back in time and conquer the planet in the early 21st century, the Enterprise follows. While Riker, Geordi, and Counselor Troi deal with restoring history on the surface of the planet, Picard, Data, and a wayward 21st-century woman must deal with the Borg, who've taken over the ship. On the run from the cybernetic monsters within the Enterprise, the mere touch of one of the nightmarish robot zombies would mean assimilation and death. 

That's all pretty scary, but it's the discovery of the Borg queen that makes the film a true horror tale. A sinister and demonic villain unlike anything "Trek" had seen before, she not only plays on Picard's worst fears, but also twists the android Commander Data by tempting him with mortal flesh. A mix of "Hellraiser" and "Night of the Living Dead," it might have been a horror classic had it not been a "Star Trek" spin-off.

Remember Me (TNG Season 4, Episode 5)

Perhaps one of the most underrated episodes of "The Next Generation," "Remember Me" isn't just a mind-bending roller coaster and rare Dr. Crusher episode; it's also a nightmare come to life. Like a literal dream reality that you wish you could wake up from, the episode's surprising twists and turns will leave your head spinning. 

While her son Wesley performs experiments in engineering, Dr. Crusher and the Enterprise arrive at a starbase to take on new personnel, including her Starfleet professor friend, Dr. Dalen Quaice. When Quaice mysteriously disappears, and nobody but Crusher appears to remember he ever existed — including Starfleet — the good doctor fears she is losing her mind. It soon becomes clear that something strange is afoot, as more people aboard the ship begin to vanish from existence, from her own medical staff to senior officers like Lt. Worf and Commander Riker. As the crew dwindles to just the doctor and Captain Picard, nobody seems to think anything is wrong.

All the while, however, Doctor Crusher finds herself running from a strange vortex that appears and disappears throughout the ship, apparently threatening to erase her from existence. Now it's a frightening race against time to unravel the mystery before all of reality collapses in on itself. A terrifying "Trek" story that explores our greatest fears, "Remember Me" is an unheralded "Trek" gem.

Revulsion (Voyager Season 4, Episode 5)

Despite its reputation as an action-oriented series — and one that never went as dark as its sister show "Deep Space Nine" — the '90s spinoff "Star Trek: Voyager" probably did more horror-themed episodes than any "Trek" series. From psychological thrillers to stories of demonic possession, the series criss-crossed styles. In the Season 4 episode "Revulsion," they did their version of a slasher with a disturbed psycho killer, here played by Leland Orser ("Alien Resurrection"). 

The story opens with Voyager receiving a distress call from a nearby vessel and heading to investigate. What they find is not a ship in trouble, but a holographic crewman named Dejaren who is the apparent lone survivor of a deadly viral outbreak. After his humanoid shipmates all died, his limited functionality left him with no idea what to do next. Excited to meet another of his kind, Voyager's resident holographic Doctor tags along with Chief Engineer B'Elanna Torres to help make repairs to the ship. Dejaren is skittish and paranoid, and his disgust for organic beings is obvious, forcing Torres to wonder if it was really a virus that killed the crew.

When the mentally unstable Dejaren snaps and seriously injures Torres in a homicidal rage, it's up to the Doctor to keep her alive long enough to disable the hologram's program and stop him from finishing the job as he hunts them through the ship. A terrifying violent thriller, the only thing holding this one back from true greatness is a weak subplot involving Harry Kim's crush on Seven of Nine.

All Those Who Wander (Strange New Worlds Season 1, Episode 9)

Launched in 2022, "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds" was described by its creators as a return to the optimistic and upbeat storytelling of classic "Trek." That doesn't mean it couldn't go dark. Through its first season, it became clear it'd tackle every stereotypical "Star Trek" story, horror included. Their entry in the genre was "All Those Who Wander," a terrifying tale that's a clear homage to sci-fi horror classics like "Alien" and "Predator."

On their way to Deep Space Station K-7, Starfleet issues Pike orders to divert to a Class L ice planet called Valeo Beta V where the U.S.S. Peregrine has apparently crashed. While the Enterprise heads for the station, Pike, Spock, and a small team are left to investigate the downed Starfleet cruiser. It seems the entire crew of the Peregrine has been killed. Pike finds only an unidentified alien and a small human girl who claims the human crew of the Peregrine was all lost when a fellow refugee exploded with Gorn egg hatchlings that quickly hunted and killed them. When the unidentified alien himself births a series of Gorn young, Pike and crew must fight for their lives as the inhuman monsters stalk them through the bowels of the downed ship. 

Full of more than just jump scares, the episode culminates with the surprise death of a major character and proves to be one of the season's best entries.

Night Terrors (TNG Season 4, Episode 17)

In another episode that begins with the discovery of a starship left adrift, Picard and the Enterprise come across the U.S.S. Brattain, which has been missing for some time. Aboard the ship, they find only one survivor, a Betazoid who is so in shock from what happened on his ship that he is left mute. The rest of the crew is dead, with Dr. Crusher finding evidence that they all killed each other, whether in phaser fights or with bare hands. The captain's final log entry shows that the crew had gone insane, becoming paranoid and violent, but the doctor can find no cause as to why.

While Troi attempts to communicate telepathically with the survivor, getting only half-intelligible nonsensical phrases, the Enterprise crew begins to suffer effects themselves. Some begin to hallucinate, while others become so fearful and anxious that they turn on one another. As their condition deteriorates, Troi begins having uncontrollable nightmares of a glowing pair of orbs and a disembodied voice crying out a singular repeating phrase: "Eyes in the Dark. One Moon Circles."

With Commander Data and Troi somehow unaffected, they must work together to find out the meaning of her visions before the crew devolves into murderous insanity. A disturbing and haunting episode punctuated by an eerie musical score — and an unforgettable sequence where an entire morgue of dead bodies comes to life — "Night Terrors" is not an episode to be watched in the middle of the night.

Faces (Voyager Season 1, Episode 13)

When "Star Trek" goes body horror, it does it with aplomb. The first season "Voyager" episode titled "Faces" is a prime example. The series cleverly prepared for this entry, introducing Lieutenant Durst the episode prior so that when the horrific events of the following episode came into play, it would make them all the more intense. Centered on half-Klingon engineer B'Elanna Torres, the episode sees the return of the series' recurring villains, the Vidiians, who suffer from a brutal disease called the Phage. Ravaged by the affliction, Vidiians are forced to augment themselves with healthy tissue from the bodies of living victims. They have become the scourge of the Delta Quadrant, kidnapping innocent passersby and mutilating them to steal their body parts. 

In "Faces," B'Elanna Torres and Lieutenant Durst are taken prisoner by a Vidiian scientist and surgeon named Sulan who believes that pure Klingon DNA may be resistant to the Phage. Using his genetic expertise, he finds a way to separate Torres into two individuals: one fully human, the other fully Klingon.

While much of the episode revolves around Torres using the experience to come to terms with her Klingon ancestry, the meat of the episode focuses on Sulan's growing attraction to the Klingon woman. After killing Durst to steal his organs, Sulan takes the Lieutenant's old face and grafts it onto his own in one of the creepiest moments in the series. A shocking mad scientist episode, "Faces" is "Star Trek's" homage to the work of David Cronenberg.

Impulse (Enterprise Season 3, Episode 5)

When it comes to "Star Trek: Enterprise," there are a number of creepy episodes that might qualify for this list, including "Vanishing Point" (where Hoshi Sato believes she's disappearing from reality) and "Dead Stop" (where a suspicious automated space station appears to be killing the crew). But the most terrifying is certainly "Impulse," a little monster movie from the series' third season. 

Set at the beginning of the Xindi War story arc, the episode shows the Enterprise approaching a dangerous region of space called the Delphic Expanse, from which no ship has ever returned. T'Pol tells tales of the Vulcan starship Seleya, lost in its confines a year earlier.

The Enterprise discovers the Seleya adrift in an asteroid belt rich in a rare ore called Trellium that could protect them from the effects of the anomalies in the expanse. When they go aboard, they discover what happened to the ship's crew when they are attacked by a vicious Vulcan who has been driven mad by the effects of the unique ore. 

The fight to get back their ship is complicated by T'Pol, who also begins to suffer from the effects of the Trellium, turning her against them. It's a classic 'cabin in the woods' scenario, but instead a starship in outer space.

The Haunting of Deck 12 (Voyager Season 6, Episode 25)

Though the episode never goes down the truly horrifying slasher route it could have, "The Haunting of Deck 12" is nevertheless a scary story told as a kind of campfire tale. It begins with happy-go-lucky hobbit Neelix entertaining a group of children by lantern light in a closed-off cargo bay while the ship undergoes some kind of crisis. Flashing back, it seems the Voyager traveled past a unique nebula, after which a series of minor malfunctions began plaguing the ship.

Decidedly not played for laughs, the misbehaving systems are unsettling and hint at something more sinister at play. Soon, the ship's malfunctions become dangerous, nearly killing members of the crew. These are no mere systems on the fritz: when they passed by the nebula, the ship picked up an unintended stowaway in the form of an energy-based life form that's trying to make the ship habitable for itself. As the ship is quickly filled with the same poisonous gases as the nebula, the crew is forced into more remote areas of the ship in an attempt to stay alive.

As time runs out and control of the ship is lost, Janeway must find a way to communicate with the entity within the ship before it kills everyone on board. Though the episode could probably have used a few more red-shirt deaths to hammer home the danger, "The Haunting of Deck 12" remains a suitably spooky ghost story and gives Janeway several shining moments as she wades into a battle of wills with a killer energy cloud.

Regeneration (Enterprise Season 2, Episode 23)

Set more than 100 years before Kirk, "Star Trek: Enterprise" surprisingly featured the "TNG" foes the Borg in the Season 2 episode "Regeneration." An unexpected follow-up to the 1996 film "Star Trek: First Contact," the episode opens with a team of scientific researchers in Earth's Arctic region discovering the remains of the Borg vessel that had crashed there in 2063 after having traveled back in time. The researchers have no idea what the debris is and are unaware that the two bodies they've recovered are dormant Borg drones.

The franchise's version of John Carpenter's "The Thing," this episode features elements of horror and ratcheting tension as a monster awakens beneath the ice. The first half of the story focuses almost entirely on the scientists and their desperate attempt to fight off the zombie-like Borg monsters as they slowly regenerate their frozen forms. Once assimilated, though, the researchers and the two Borg form a new mini-collective and begin to craft a new space-faring ship that will take them back to the Borg who exists in this era. Once on a direct course for the Delta Quadrant, it's up to the crew of the Enterprise to stop them. Archer doesn't know the true danger that this race of cybernetic monsters poses, but the audience surely does. 

The dramatic irony and nail-biting suspense, combined with classic zombie horror, make "Regeneration" one of Enterprise's best stories, while riling canon-obsessed fans at the same time.

Schisms (TNG, Season 6, Episode 5)

A classic "boogeyman" episode, the "Next Generation" Season 6 entry "Schisms" will have you afraid to go to bed at night and paranoid of what may lurk in the dark. The episode opens with a tongue-in-cheek scene featuring Data reciting the poem "Ode to Spot" to a gathered audience. Among those listening is Riker, who is unable to stay awake. This is more than just boredom, as the phenomenon begins to spread; more crewmen suffer the effects of sleep deprivation despite getting extra rest. 

Before long, Riker, Worf, Geordi, and others begin showing signs of post-traumatic stress. Even Commander Data learns that his internal chronometer is showing a gap in his memory. As disturbing images begin to haunt several members of the crew, they realize something is very wrong. Counselor Troi uses the holodeck to try to reconstruct their fragmented memories. They're able to deduce that someone or something is abducting them while they sleep and subjecting them to a bizarre form of experimentation or torture. Unable to do anything to stop it, Riker volunteers to allow himself to be taken again in the hopes of leading them to the source of their monstrous tormenters and saving an abducted crew member.

Featuring some of the most unsettling scenes in "TNG," the episode is sure to send shivers down the spine of anyone who's feared an alien abduction, or whether their own memories could be hiding a horrifying secret.

The Darkness and the Light (DS9 Season 5, Episode 11)

The "Deep Space Nine" Season 5 episode "The Darkness and the Light" isn't just grim, but also terrifying, following a deranged madman's lust for revenge. Amid an ongoing story involving a pregnant Major Kira, word comes that a former soldier from her time fighting against Cardassian Occupation has been killed. Just when she's mourning her comrade, the major receives a mysterious transmission in a garbled voice declaring, "That's one." Whoever sent it is on a mission to assassinate every member of the Shakaar resistance.

The stakes are raised as victims two and three are reported and more messages arrive that make it clear her time is running out. Unwilling to wait for her death, Kira sets out to find her killer first. It doesn't take long to find him, as she is immediately abducted upon arriving on the doorstep of Silaran Prin, a Cardassian merchant who had been disfigured in a bombing perpetrated by her resistance cell.

The rest of the episode, and the crux of the horror, is a chilling game of wits — a mental cat-and-mouse game — between Kira and her torturer. It's not just Kira who is at risk, but also her unborn child. The atrocities of war, the visage of the disfigured Prin, and the diabolical deeds he threatens are enough to terrify anyone with a soul to speak of.

Genesis (TNG Season 7, Episode 19)

The "Next Generation" episode "Genesis" rightfully enjoys a reputation as a body horror episode and one of the best scary episodes of the series. What makes the episode so effective is just how slowly the danger builds. It begins innocently enough, showing a series of everyday occurrences of life aboard the Enterprise. While Picard and Data take a shuttle to retrieve a stray torpedo, an unusual virus begins sweeping the ship.

At first, the effects are odd but benign: Barclay becomes fidgety and Riker somewhat forgetful. Their behavioral aberrations quickly and precipitously increase while the ship's systems begin to fail. Things become dangerous when Worf attacks Dr. Crusher, blinding her with deadly acid. By the time Picard and Data return, the Enterprise is adrift. When they come on board, they find the ship's helmsman viciously mauled, as if by a large beast. Data deduces that the crew has been infected with a virus that has "de-evolved" them into more primitive forms of life, with Troi growing gills and becoming a reptilian creature and Riker mutating into a Neanderthal.

The biggest danger is a massive monster that they realize is Lt. Worf, who's stalking them through the ship. Picard may have to sacrifice himself if he's going to buy Data enough time to find a cure. With mayhem, murder, and a fiendish monster following Picard, "Genesis" is as close to a classic monster movie as "Trek" has ever come.

Context Is for Kings (Discovery Season 1, Episode 3)

When "Star Trek" was relaunched in 2017 with "Star Trek: Discovery," it took the franchise in a bold new direction, with a serialized story and a more adult sensibility. There were still plenty of classic "Star Trek" elements. Its third episode used a tried-and-true formula and dove back into the well of horror with another monster-of-the-week story. 

In some ways, "Context Is for Kings" is the first episode of the series, as the two-part premiere was a self-contained premise set-up. Here, Commander Burnham and her new enigmatic captain Gabriel Lorca investigate the wreckage of the U.S.S. Glenn, Discovery's sister ship, which is also equipped with an experimental spore drive. Something has gone wrong on the Glenn; when they arrive, they find that the crew has been horribly deformed and turned inside out, possibly as a result of testing their experimental propulsion system. That's not all: also on board is a group of dead Klingons, all apparently maimed by a mysterious beast that's still around. 

With some of the goriest visuals in "Trek" to date, the episode is the franchise's most viscerally horrifying in more ways than one. 

Juggernaut (Voyager Season 5, Episode 20)

Another episode of "Voyager" centered on B'Ellana Torres, "Faces" once again sees the engineer face off with a vicious antagonist who forces her to confront her more aggressive Klingon nature. Unlike the previous tale, the baddie in "Juggernaut" is not a mad scientist, but a mysterious monster haunting a damaged alien vessel. 

Coming to the aid of the Malon — the scourge of the Delta Quadrant whose waste haulage is a hazard to anything within its reach — the crew learns that the engine of its freighter is on the verge of critical collapse. If it can't be repaired, the radiation from their waste cargo will destroy everything within several light-years. Determined to restore the ship's containment field, Torres and a repair team go aboard and begin the perilous journey to the heart of the ship, where one of the Malon officers believes a legendary creature resides. As they grow nearer, they learn that this beast is no myth. They must contend with its violent rage if they are to repair the ship and save the sector.

In addition to its thrills and spills, "Juggernaut" also boasts a powerful environmental allegory. A monster mash with a moral message, the episode is packed with plenty of social commentary in the best tradition of classic "Trek."