Star Trek is undeniably one of the most prolific pop culture franchises in the world. It stretches multiple television series across the decades, as well as thirteen different films, so there’s a great chance that anyone you meet has been exposed to Star Trek in some way, shape, or form. But when you have fifty years of content, it stands to reason that not all of it is going to be perfect.
Of course, its important to note that studio executives initially doubted the potential of The Original Series, and thus it was troubled by plenty of issues that stemmed from its low budget and lack of support. It was difficult to use special effects or reshoot over any errors that may have been discovered after filming.
Later series episodes would occasionally retcon over information established in previous seasons. And that’s not even to mention the confusion that stemmed from the introduction of high concepts like multiple timelines, because it became easy to mix up events. Fortunately, it’s common nowadays for major geek franchises to hire lore experts whose only job is to identify potential errors in writing and filming.
Other episodes just… didn’t hold up to the high standards that Star Trek writers like Gene Roddenberry always sought to adhere.
But despite it all, Star Trek is a series that manages to hold together its charm throughout the fifty years of content. It was groundbreaking in terms of diversity, and strove to always represent the highest ideals that humanity could be. It tapped into our deeply-ingrained desire to explore beyond the cosmos during a time when we were just beginning to explore outside of our own little blue-and-green marble, and it sympathized with our yearning to answer some of the great questions of the universe.
30 Tiberius Starts With An 'R,' Right?
The phrase “Captain James T. Kirk” has become a household name. It’s been used throughout The Original Series and its subsequent movies, and is even referenced in other pop culture franchises. People more familiar with the Star Trek series might know that the ‘T’ stands for Tiberius.
The third episode of season one of The Original Series, famously titled “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” has Kirk face off against an Enterprise crew member who is suddenly bestowed with psychic abilities and goes mad with power. The crew member shows Kirk a projection of his tombstone, but it actually says “James R. Kirk”.
Since “Where No Man Has Gone Before” is only the third episode in the series, and was actually filmed with the intention of being a secondary pilot, it’s more than likely creators just assigned a random initial, and added Kirk's "official" middle name in later episodes.
29 Magical Technicolor Armbands
Towards the end of the film Star Trek: The Motion Picture, there is a shot of Kirk, Spock, and Bones standing next to each other. Spock and Bones’ uniforms have armbands— Bones is wearing a blue armband, and Spock’s is orange. However, in the very next camera shot, these colors are switched.
Costume snafus are actually very common in the Original Series and its films. It’s possible that reshoots were required for this scene, and costume designers lost track of which character wore which color.
28 No Navigational Deflector
Star Trek Beyond is the second film in the Star Trek reboot series, and Kirk is already Captain of the USS Enterprise. During an attack by Krall and his swarm, the Enterprise’s navigational deflector is reported as damaged. A minute later, Kirk orders Lt. Sulu to jump to warp speed to escape.
The navigational deflector is the shield that keeps the ship from colliding with asteroids and other space debris while travelling. If you’ve ever had a pebble cause a chip in your windshield while you’re careening down the highway, imagine the amount of damage that can be done while the ship is going at the speed of light. In the vacuum of space.
It’s a very important device, and it doesn’t seem likely that the Enterprise would be able to successfully navigate warp speeds without it. Then again, the Enterprise was already damaged by the attack by Krall, so maybe the damage caused to the ship while going at warp speed without a navigational deflector is irrelevant.
27 Dimensional Costume Discrepancies
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Yesterdays Enterprise” shows the viewers an alternate reality where the war with the Klingons never ended. This turns Starfleet into more of a military-minded organization— not the humanitarian and exploratory organization we all know and love. To emphasize to viewers how different this reality is, the Enterprise crew members are given entirely different uniforms.
The timeline is eventually corrected, and everything resets back to normal. However, during a scene between Geordi La Forge and Guinan, we see that La Forge is still wearing his uniform from the other dimension, even though everyone else’s costumes have changed back.
26 Captain Pike Doesn't Understand What The Federation Is
During the 2009 Star Trek film reboot, we see Captain Pike having a discussion with a young Kirk, before he’s enlisted with Starfleet. Pike tells him, “You understand what the Federation is, don't you? It's important. It's a peacekeeping and humanitarian armada."
That’s actually not what the Federation is. The Federation is a massive interplanetary governing force, similar to the United Nations or the European Union today. The “peacekeeping and humanitarian armada" that Captain Pike is describing is actually the Starfleet, which is the force under the Federation umbrella. You’d think he’d know this, considering he’s a Captain within Starfleet itself.
25 Data's Cat Changes Breeds
To provide humor and to help humanize the synthetic AI life-form Data, Next Generation writers gave him a cat named Spot. Throughout The Next Generation series, we see Data carrying Spot around and doting the cat with affection (and even, at one point, some poetry.)
In early episodes, Spot appears to be some kind of long-haired breed. In later episodes, Spot has magically turned into an orange tabby. The reason for this change is never explained or acknowledged by other crew members of the Enterprise.
24 Khan and Chekov Shouldn't Know Each Other
During the film Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Chekov gets in an altercation with Khan, the antagonist. The dialogue between them implies that they remember each other from Khan’s previous appearance in the Original Series episode “Space Seed”.
However, this shouldn’t be possible. “Space Seed” was a season 1 episode, and Chekov’s character wasn’t introduced until season 2. Chekov wasn’t present during “Space Seed”, so their altercation during The Wrath of Khan would have been the first time the two characters actually met.
23 Visible Crew Members
The low-budgeted Original Series is plagued with visible crew members and equipment, but one of the most glaringly obvious cases of this is actually in an episode of The Next Generation. During the season 5 episode “Unification II,” a crew member’s entire face is very obviously seen in the reflection of a large crystal. The reflection is so clear that the crew member was able to be identified as boom operator Bill Gocke.
This reflection was edited out of the Blu-ray release of season 5.
22 Tuvok The Lieutenant... Commander?
Tuvok is a young Vulcan featured in all seven seasons of Star Trek: Voyager. He holds the rank of Lieutenant and is referred to as such, but his uniform actually sports the insignia of a Lieutenant Commander throughout most of season 1. It’s eventually fixed, and his uniform reflects the correct rank for the remainder of the time that Tuvok remains a Lieutenant.
The costume error being fixed actually causes problems later on. In season 4, Tuvok is promoted directly to Commander, meaning that he skipped the Lieutenant Commander ranking altogether.
21 We Use The Metric System Now
It’s mentioned several times throughout the Star Trek series that Earth is now ruled by one World Government, and that they all use the same units of measurement. In this case, it’s the Metric system, because it's already by far the most commonly-used system of measurement. It may also be because the Metric system is considered best for scientific purposes, and Earth is now a technocracy. Writer Gene Roddenberry mentions this was an intentional decision by him and the writers.
However, given that most of the Star Trek writers and actors at the time were American, there’s still the occasional slip-up. For instance, in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Scotty mentions that the transporter is about “sixty feet”. Old habits can be hard to break.
20 The Incredible Vanishing Wesley
Star Trek: The Next Generation season 3 episode “The Enemy” tasks the Enterprise with rescuing Geordi La Forge from the surface of a planet during an electrical storm, which makes simply beaming him up impossible. Wesley Crusher approaches Picard with a possible solution, and the Captain orders Wesley to leave the bridge to enact the plan at once.
The next scene has Wesley return to the bridge to inform Captain Picard that his errand has been completed. The only problem is that the scene opens with a shot of Wesley already by the bridge controls.
It’s actually surprisingly common to see a character in a scene, only to have them enter a room or suddenly disappear moments later. Early Star Trek series has stock footage of crew members that it uses and reuses between scenes, and not all actors were available to film every day.
19 That's No Moon... No, Really, There's No Moon
In The Original Series, we hear Spock tell us that his home planet of Vulcan doesn’t have any moons. And for the most part, all future portrayals of Vulcan reflect this statement. Except for one…
In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, we see a portrayal of Vulcan, and it has a moon! One really, really big one to be exact. This was pointed out by quite a few fans of the series.
The 2001 DVD release of the movie has some enhanced special effects, and they also edited Vulcan’s moon out while they were at it.
18 The Voyager's Distance From Starfleet Stops Being An Issue
The main premise of Star Trek: Voyager is the ship’s return home after being stranded 70,000 light-years away from home—a journey that would take them 75 years to complete—in a mostly uncharted and very dangerous part of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Being stranded without the immediate aid of the Federation or Starfleet posed some unique challenges that the crew of the Voyager had to work around, such as difficulties with resupplying and refueling. At one point, members of the Voyager begin to prioritize saving power, and have to ration the use of their replicators.
Perhaps series creators and writers decided that having characters constantly scrimping and saving to avoid running out of fuel was boring to viewers, because this became less and less of a plot point as the show went on. Later seasons don’t even mention rationing.
17 The Entirety Of "Code Of Honor"
“Code of Honor” is a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode that was widely panned by audiences, critics, and even its own writers and actors; it was ranked the second-worst episode of all time during the 2016 Star Trek 50th Anniversary convention. The episode shows the Enterprise crew members trying to get a vaccine from the planet Ligor II. Chief of Security Tasha Yar is abducted by the Ligonians to be one of the leader’s brides and must fight the other bride for her freedom and to fulfill the Enterprise’s mission of obtaining the vaccine.
The Ligonians were originally written to be a reptilian race with a kind of bushido code, but they was later changed to a culture indicative of 1940s African tribes. This led to some unsavory undertones.
This episode was referred to as “one of the worst things we’ve ever done”, among other negative comments, by Jonathan Frakes (Riker,) Brent Spiner (Data,) Michael Dorn (Worf,) and LeVar Burton (La Forge,)
16 The Borg Queen Isn't Necessary
The Borg is a reoccurring enemy race throughout the Star Trek series that sought to assimilate the galaxy into their hive-mind. The aspects of its existence made it an incredibly unique race in Star Trek—and even in science fiction in general. No one member of the Borg has more agency or importance over another. The entirety of the Borg think, act, and work as one.
But the introduction of the Borg Queen in the First Contact film, who controls all the other drones, kind of ruined that. Additionally, her obsession over re-assimilating Seven of Nine in Star Trek: Voyager is also strange, as no one member of the Borg is supposed to be more important than the others. Even with the valuable data of Starfleet now contained in Seven of Nine's memories, it just shouldn't be in the Borg's philosophy.
Overall, introducing a Borg Queen seemed unnecessary, and undermined all of the things that made the Borg race unique.
15 Reused Set Pieces
There is a season 7 TNG episode titled “Liaisons,” where Picard is sent on a mission to establish diplomatic relations with an alien race called the Iyaarans, in the hopes of convincing them to join the Federation. He meets up with a fellow Iyaaran diplomat, and together they set off for the alien home world.
The shuttle that Picard and the diplomat use on the journey is clearly a reused set piece that was poorly covered-up. The backs of the chairs are emblazoned with the insignia of the Romulan Empire.
14 Maybe There's A Los Angeles On Every Planet?
An episode of The Original Series, titled “A Private Little War”, takes place on a planet called Neural that is inhabited by primitive tribals that have been given armaments by the Klingons. The crew of the Enterprise are soon put in the middle of a war between two tribes, and question whether it is acceptable to violate Prime Directive by giving the disadvantaged tribe weapons to put them on equal footing with the tribe that the Klingons supplied.
At one point, one of the tribals, named Nona, struggles with assailants from another tribe. During this struggle, it is possible to see the smoggy, Los Angeles skyline in the background. It would appear as if the scene was filmed near there.
13 Data Can't Use Contractions (Unless He Forgets)
Due to a programming error, the artificial life form Data in TNG is unable to use contractions when speaking. Unfortunately, according to Data’s actor Brent Spiner, old habits die hard.
Writers and directors attempted to be cognizant of catching errors in writing, or while Brent was speaking, but a few contractions slipped through the cracks over the course of the series. It’s hard to pay attention to something you’re used to paying no regard to.
There are entire YouTube compilations of Data using contractions. At one point, he even uses one right after explaining that he can’t.
12 What Happened to New Zealand?
During the film Star Trek: First Contact, Picard is seen looking down on Earth from above. The ship is orbiting around Oceania. It’s possible to pick out Australia, some Pacific Islands, and even a small part of very southeast Asia. However, New Zealand Star Trek fans (and possibly some cartography enthusiasts) took notice that the entire island of New Zealand had disappeared. It is also absent from the map later in the movie when Picard is determining an island for the Enterprise crew to hide out to prevent disrupting the Temporal Prime Directive.
And before you suggest the possibility that New Zealand was wiped out in some sort of science-fiction-y act of God— it's mentioned in Star Trek: Voyager that one of the last remaining penal colonies on Earth is in New Zealand.
11 Paths On An Uninhabited Planet
It’s a very common trope in Star Trek that an “uninhabited” planet turns out to not be so. In the Original Series episode “Shore Leave,” the crew is seen visiting one such planet, only to find strange goings-on. The planet is covered in paths and walkways, which should have been a dead giveaway but is never commented upon.
The planet is inhabited by one person, simply called The Caretaker, and the planet was originally designed to be a kind of amusement park, which would explain the pathways.
10 Miles O'Brien Gets Promoted... Then Demoted... Then Promoted Again
Miles O’Brien was a background character with a few notable scenes in The Next Generation, but later became a prominent reoccurring character in Deep Space 9. Due to his nature as a background character, he’s been seen wearing a few different ranks and even wearing different uniforms.
Throughout the series, he’s been a Lieutenant, a Lieutenant Junior Grade, A Warrant Officer, A Chief Warrant Officer, and a Chief Petty Officer. He eventually gets promoted to Chief of Operations on Deep Space 9, and stays there.
9 In Case Of Emergency, You Data Can Be Used As A Flotation Device
In the film Star Trek: Insurrection, Data mentions that he was designed by Dr. Soong to have flotation capabilities. However, a story told by Geordi La Forge in The Next Generation episode “The Descent: Part II” conflicts with this claim.
According to La Forge, he and Data had gone sailing on a lake when Data decided to jump overboard. He sunk to the bottom and was unable to reach the surface, so he had to walk along the bottom of the lake until he reached shore.
8 The Trill's Physiology Changes Throughout The Series
The Trill are believed to be a humanoid race, some of whom are “joined” with a symbiotic organism. The way this symbiote affects the Trill physiology is inconsistent throughout the series.
The first joined Trill introduced to the series is Odan in The Next Generation. He has bone ridges on his forehead and says that he cannot use transporters due to the nature of his symbiont.
When other Trill appear, such as Deep Space 9 main character Jadzia Dax, they have spots on the side of their face instead of bone ridges. They are also seen regularly using transporters with no ill effects.
Another confusing fact is that the series actually never even establishes whether the ‘Trill’ are the humanoids, or the slug-like parasites that inhabit some of them.
7 Worf's Reappearance Is Never Explained
When the films Insurrection and Nemesis were announced, fans were excited about the return of seeing the old Next Generation cast together, even though the series was long over and some characters were being re-used in other shows. One such example is Worf, who would have been on the space station in Deep Space 9 at the time of Insurrection. It’s never quite acknowledged or explained why Worf suddenly returned to the Enterprise—its as if his character never really left despite the events in the first Next Generation film.
6 Q And Guinan's Backstory Is Never Explained
Q is already a pretty enigmatic character who appears in several different Star Trek series. He sort of just does his own thing and comes and goes as he pleases, occasionally being an impudent prankster and other times being much more dangerous to the Starfleet.
In The Next Generation, it’s revealed that he and Guinan know each other from before their respective times on the Enterprise. It’s implied by Q that they are not friends— in fact, one could say he almost seems scared of Guinan.
The actual background behind Q and Guinan’s antagonistic relationship is never mentioned—you could argue that it’s because Q is ageless and mysterious, and Guinan’s race’s reputation as “Listeners” means that they rarely speak about their own personal lives, but it more than likely seems like a plot point that TNG writers never got around to exploring.
5 Tread Marks In The Desert
The final showdown in the Star Trek Generations film has Captains Kirk and Picard facing off against the El-Aurian antagonist, Soran, in a desert on the uninhabited planet Veridian III— which results in Kirk’s perishing. During this scene, it’s possible to see tread marks in the dirt and dust in the background. These markings are most likely tire treads from production vehicles that were never covered up before filming, nor fixed in post. Unfortunately, it makes the “uninhabited” planet they are fighting on seem much less so.
4 Scotty Forgets Kirk's Demise
The Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Relics" heralds the return of Original Series character Scotty, who put himself in stasis via a transporter loop, and later wakes up in the future. He believes that Kirk may be still alive, and Geordi La Forge has to break to Scotty the news of Kirk’s demise.
Its somewhat odd that La Forge has to do this, considering that Scotty actually witnessed Kirk’s end in the film Star Trek Generations. It’s possible that the way Scotty put himself in stasis would disorient himself a bit upon waking, but forgetting the loss of a longtime friend seems a bit of a stretch. There’s nothing that would have given Scotty the impression that Kirk was still alive.
3 Kirk's Firearm Transforms
During the 2009 Star Trek reboot, Kirk is seen sneaking onto a Romulan ship with his regulation phaser in hand. In the next shot, his phaser has suddenly transformed into a Romulan pistol. A few minutes later, we see Kirk’s firearm change back into his phaser just in time for Kirk to pick up the pistol from an incapacitated Romulan guard.
The most likely explanation for this error is that the shots were placed in a different order during editing than the one they were shot, which would put a few shots where Kirk has the Romulan pistol before he actually picked it up.
2 Why Does Captain Janeway Violate The Temporal Prime Directive?
Captain Janeway in Star Trek: Voyager is a no-nonsense, by the book leader stuck in a precarious situation. Starfleet’s Prime Directive lays out rules for engaging other civilizations and forbidding changing historical events. It means everything to Janeway, and she does not take violations of it lightly. Or, more accurately, she doesn’t take violation of it at all.
However, during the series finale “Endgame,” timeline shenanigans lead to younger and older version of Janeway intentionally violating several major tenants of the Temporal Prime Directive in order to limit the Voyager’s journey through space and save much of its crew.
This is perhaps the biggest statement of how much the crew of the Voyager came to mean to Captain Janeway over the series, but the fact that she would violate the Temporal Prime Directive without so much as batting an eyelash is a bit of a stretch for her character.
1 Now You See Insignia, No You Don't
This is a surprisingly common error throughout The Original Series. The nature of the material of the original Starfleet Uniforms meant that they had to be washed regularly, and the Starfleet insignia would have to be washed regularly and later reattached.
Costumers would occasionally forget to reapply the insignia before filming, or they would apply the wrong rank to uniforms. This would result in a character’s Starfleet insignia disappearing and reappearing on their costume literally between shots, and some background characters can be seen with sudden promotions or demotions in rank depending on which shirt they picked up that filming day.
A prominent example can be seen in “The Enemy Within”. While Kirk grapples with his “evil twin,” neither of them have their Captain insignia on their costume.