First Contact Day: 11 unforgettable first contacts in Star Trek

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Apr 5, 2017

In the world of Star Trek, April 5 is recognized as First Contact Day. It's a special holiday created to commemorate when humans and Vulcans first officially met on Earth.

That historic event, which we witnessed in the film Star Trek: First Contact (1996), would only be the start of many more such encounters for the human race and eventually the United Federation of Planets as a whole. Each of the Star Trek series featured interesting moments where the crews met new aliens for the very first time, and those initial encounters didn't always go smoothly!

To celebrate First Contact Day, we take take a look back at the various "contact" events we've seen in Star Trek over the years. From Andorians to Q, it's hard to forget these significant meetings with other species.

Here are the 11 most memorable first contacts we saw in Star Trek after humans met Vulcans on First Contact Day.

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Greek God ("Who Mourns for Adonais?," The Original Series)

This first contact starts with a giant hand grabbing the Enterprise, which is then joined by a floating face inviting them to a planet. Captain Kirk and a landing party head down and meet with an alien who claims to have been to Earth 5,000 years ago when he was known as the Greek god Apollo. He tells them the other gods were travelers as well and that he wants the crew of the Enterprise to worship him. Kirk refuses and Apollo gives them a show of his power. Seeing what Apollo can do, the landing party realizes ancient humans must have seen these aliens' powers and thought they were gods, a story that's not uncommon in the Star Trek universe (or other science fiction franchises!) To escape, they have to force him to use his powers and then destroy the source of them. Ultimately, Apollo ends up leaving to join his fellow 'gods' and no longer bothers the Enterprise.

While ancient humans may have met these aliens before, I'm considering this to be the official first contact since it was the first time any humans probably realized these aliens were in fact aliens and not gods. It's perhaps not a hugely successful initial contact since the landing party is in danger most of the time and they drive the alien away in the end, but meeting with an alien who had such an impact on our culture is quite unforgettable as is the fact that the alien continued to put on a show as Apollo and still embraces all the aspects of Greece after all these years.

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Klingon ("Broken Bow," Enterprise)

Humanity's initial contact with Klingons didn't exactly go easily as we learned in the series premiere of Enterprise. In "Broken Bow," a Klingon named Klaang crashes on Earth in Oklahoma and is chased by Suliban. After Klaang deals with the Suliban, the Klingon encounters a farmer who can't understand what he's saying and ends up shooting him. The Vulcans want to delay the launch of the Enterprise after this incident, but Captain Archer convinces his superiors to let them take Klaang back to Qo'noS. The resulting mission leads to the crew loosing Klaang, rescuing him, and then bringing him back to his people in a rather unique face-to-face.

I would have loved to see a bit more happen between the two in the episode when Archer and the others finally arrive with Klaang on Qo'noS. It felt like the show didn't take advantage enough of the first interaction between humans and Klingons. However, despite this, it was very interesting to see this beginning with the Klingons and how it led to Starfleet launching their first ship and the Enterprise's first mission, which so much depended on!

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Gorn ("Arena," The Original Series)

When Captain Kirk came face to face with a Gorn, it was in a life or death situation that made considering diplomacy a bit difficult. It all starts when the Enterprise discovers an outpost has been attacked. Kirk suspects the attackers are preparing for an invasion by testing their strength and he goes after the alien ship, hoping to destroy it before they can report back. He is interrupted in the chase by the Metron, who are not happy that both ships entered their space. In punishment, they force the captains of the two ships to fight each other and the resulting battle has since become quite iconic. It's then that Kirk sees the Gorn. Despite the fact that they seem to be fighting to the death, the two do talk eventually and the Gorn reveals that the outpost they attacked was actually in their space. They saw the outpost as an invasion. This gets Kirk thinking about how the Gorn were just trying to protect themselves and when he finally gets the upper hand in the fight, he doesn't kill the Gorn.

It wasn't an ideal diplomatic meeting perhaps, but it did lead to a bit of understanding in this moment. Kirk tells the Metron that his side can talk to the Gorn and they can try to reach an agreement. While the episode includes first contact with the Metron as well, it's really the whole fight and discussion with the Gorn that's the most memorable here.

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Photonic interdimensional beings ("Bride of Chaotica!," Voyager)

It's not every day you meet new beings in a holoprogram, but that's the case in the fun "Bride of Chaotica!" It all starts when distortions appear in one of Tom Paris' Captain Proton holonovels as Voyager becomes stuck in place. Two beings emerge from the distortions in the holodeck and try to communicate with the characters in the program. They tell the novel’s villain that they are trying to contact other photonic lifeforms as explorers but when one of them is killed, the other escapes. Paris and Tuvok go to the holodeck and run into the being that escaped, who reveals 53 of his people have died in the fight with Chaotica and that he believes all life is photonic. To him, Tuvok and Paris are illusions!

Unfortunately, this meeting ends with the being not believing anything the two say and running away, leaving it up to the Doctor to talk to him as the crew tries to disable the death ray of Chaotica before he uses it against the photonic beings. Their plans work, closing the distortions and freeing Voyager. It might not have been a very prolonged or successful first contact, but the whole event taking place on the holodeck was definitely remarkable.

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Andorian ("The Andorian Incident," Enterprise)

The first-time humans meet Andorians is when the Enterprise stops to visit a Vulcan monastery on P'Jem. When they arrive, they discover the Andorians have taken over because they believe the Vulcans have violated their treaty and have a sensor array at the monastery. It's not exactly a peaceful meeting as the Andorians take Archer, T'Pol and Tucker prisoner and violent interrogations follow. Archer and the others learn about the volatile history between the Vulcans and Andorians and meet Commander Shran.

By the end of the episode, it's revealed the Andorians are correct about the Vulcans and Archer is essential to discovering this. He also lets Shran take the information about it back to Andoria so he can inform his people, something Shran seems to respect. While a rough start, Archer's actions leave an impression on the Andorians that will be essential to the future relationship that forms between them. Overall, it's one of the most interesting, complicated and historic initial contacts, especially after knowing about a classic species like the Andorians since The Original Series.

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Jem'Hadar and Vorta ("The Jem'Hadar," Deep Space Nine)

During a trip to the Gamma Quadrant with Jake and Nog, Commander Sisko and Quark run into a Vorta named Eris and are captured by some Jem'Hadar. They meet not one but two new species in this episode! While imprisoned, Eris tells them about the Jem'Hadar, the Dominion and her telekinetic abilities. Soon one of the Jem'Hadar arrives and Sisko is surprised to hear how much they know about their part of the galaxy. The Jem'Hadar even tells them how he wishes he had met a Klingon instead of a human and Ferengi first! He goes on to say they won't allow their ships to violate their territory anymore.

After this it takes some time, but Sisko, Quark and Eris are able to escape and at the same time reinforcements arrive from the Alpha Quadrant. They're rescued, but the battle shows how far the Jem'Hadar will go as they destroy the starship Odyssey. Once everyone returns to the station, Quark discovers that the device hampering Eris' abilities was a fake and it turns out she's actually a spy. The Dominion wanted them to get away so Eris could come back and spy on the Federation. She escapes, but this first contact told Sisko and the others quite a bit about the Vorta, Jem'Hadar, and by extension the Dominion. As first contacts with Gamma Quadrant species go, this one would not soon be forgotten!

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Talaxian, Ocampa, Kazon and the Caretaker ("Caretaker," Voyager)

These initial contacts, like those of the Jem'Hadar and Vorta, are tied together in the premiere of Voyager. It's hard to forget the historic first between Janeway and the crew and so many Delta Quadrant aliens! After Voyager is taken to the Delta Quadrant by a mysterious being, they join with the Maquis they were originally chasing to find both their missing crew members and end up finding a man who they eventually learn is the Caretaker. The Caretaker won’t help them, so they start to travel to the planet they believe their people were sent to and along the way find a vessel with an alien on it named Neelix. The Talaxian then brings them to the Kazon, which is a meeting that doesn't end on friendly terms, before they find the Ocampa, who have been taking care of Harry Kim and B'Elanna Torres all this time.

They learn the Caretaker has been doing all of this for the Ocampa and when Janeway confronts the alien about returning them home, it reveals it can't and that it's dying. Before it dies, it tells Janeway the Kazon can't be allowed to have the array or it could mean the end of the Ocampa so Janeway sacrifices their way home to help the Ocampa.

All-around it’s a lot of very quick first contacts here. Things go well with Neelix, the only Talaxian they meet, and for the most part with the Ocampa after some discussion. So much so that Kes and Neelix become a part of the crew! The Caretaker dies, but Janeway learns a bit about it before it does, and they’ve earned a quick enemy in the Kazon. It’s some unforgettable, historic first meetings with Delta Quadrant aliens that leave a big impact on Voyager.

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Q ("Encounter at Farpoint," The Next Generation)

It's in the premiere episode of The Next Generation that Captain Picard and the crew encounter Q for the first time and become aware of the Q from the Q Continuum. Q demands they turn around and ultimately puts the crew on trial as representatives of all of humanity, charged with being a violent species. Picard asks for their mission to serve as a test for how they've changed.

Q interferes with Picard throughout as the mission causes the captain to make some tough decisions, but in the end Picard doesn't listen to his provocations. Instead of automatically firing on what they don't know, he continues to question, as do the other members of the crew, and they discover the truth. This leads to another first contact when the ship the Enterprise was investigating turns out to be an alien. They help the alien and its mate reunite and Q leaves since they passed the test, not promising never to appear again though!

As we know, this is only the start of Q appearing in The Next Generation and other Star Trek shows. It's an impressive introduction for the powerful aliens, putting all of Q's powers on display and leaving everyone with a bit of mystery surrounding him. It's a meeting that the Enterprise would certainly not forget and quite a way to meet a brand-new species, having them put you on trial with more than just your individual fate in their powerful hands!

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Species 8462 ("Scorpion," Voyager)

When trying to travel safely through Borg space, the Voyager crew discovers 15 destroyed cubes. They find an unfamiliar ship when they investigate to see who or what could have been powerful enough to take on the Borg. Chakotay and a landing party head over to see if they can figure out what it is and they have their first encounter with Species 8462 as it knocks down some Borg and attacks Harry Kim. As they escape, the aliens communicate with Kes to say "the weak will perish." It turns out these are not going to be helpful alien allies against the Borg like Janeway and the others were hoping they might be! Their wounds aren't easy to fix either as the Doctor discovers Kim is being eaten alive from the inside out. Further investigation reveals the Borg have been losing battles with these aliens for the last five months and the passage Voyager was going to use to get through their space is filled with the new aliens, who are coming from a quantum singularity and, according to Kes, want to destroy everything.

First contact with Species 8462 may have been brief in this episode, but it was certainly memorable. They looked quite different from what we'd seen before, caused a whole lot of problems for everyone and were the only species to be a real threat to the Borg. They also made Janeway consider teaming up with the Borg, which is no small feat!

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Borg ("Q Who," The Next Generation)

Speaking of the Borg, time travel may confuse first contact with the Borg a bit but I'm going to go with the episode "Q Who" as the official contact made between the Federation and the Borg. It all begins with Q, who whisks Captain Picard away in order to get him to promise to give a request that he has a full hearing. It turns out Q wants to join the crew, but Picard denies him and insists they are ready for anything when Q says they'll need him for what's out there.

Angry, Q takes the ship 7,000 light years away to force them to see what they'll face and how they'll need him. Guinan knows this area and tells Picard they should start back now but, being the explorers they are, they look around a bit and find themselves faced with a Borg cube. Picard tries to communicate with it to no avail and Geordi is the first to see one when it beams into Engineering. Seeing what it's doing, they try to neutralize it and soon discover how strong the Borg are and how they can adapt.

Riker takes a team onto the cube to learn more and it's the start of them becoming familiar with the Borg that would continue to haunt the Enterprise and Federation for years to come! In the end, Picard has to admit to Q they need him to escape and Q does return them to where they started. However, they all know this won't be the last time they face the Borg.

It's a memorable first contact for so many reasons, beyond the Borg just becoming such an iconic Star Trek nemesis. It's fascinating to see how Picard and the others react to the species. They consider all the angles, investigate and have to adapt themselves when everything they try fails. It's also a deadly interaction in that the Enterprise loses 18 people as it goes through this process.

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Kelvan ("By Any Other Name," The Original Series)

With so many first contacts, why are the Kelvans my number one? Well, they're the only first contact Star Trek made with a species from the Andromeda galaxy, which is frankly extremely impressive and memorable! Plus, it ends the ideal way first contact should with the two sides ultimately coming to an agreement that will hopefully lead to a future friendly relationship.

Captain Kirk and the Enterprise find the Kelvans when on a planet investigating a distress call. Two humanoids appear and demand Kirk surrender his ship. Using devices on their belts, they freeze Kirk and his landing party and explain how they plan to take the ship to return to their home, the Andromeda galaxy.

They take control of the Enterprise in human form and start the trip towards the galactic barrier, which they break through. The Kelvans turn most of the crew into blocks as Kirk and the others try to come up with a plan to stop them. They decide to try to use the Kelvans' new senses against them and it works. Kirk convinces them that by the time they arrive home, they'll be more human than Kelvan and Kirk offers to help them find a new home in the Milky Way by taking the problem to the Federation.

It turns out to be a rather successful first contact even though it didn't start off peacefully and wasn't completely death-free. Still, by the end they're all able to come to an arrangement that will benefit everyone and be peaceful, which is what you hope to accomplish when meeting a brand-new species isn't it?

Which first contact in Star Trek is your favorite? Tell us in the comments!