The best pi (and pie) mentions in Star Trek

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Mar 14, 2018

Every year on March 14, we celebrate Pi Day, the one day of the year with a date that shares the first three digits with the mathematical constant pi (π). While pi — 3.14159265359... and on and on — mainly finds itself in the public spotlight during this math holiday when people use it as an excuse to eat (what else?) pie, it’s obviously essential beyond this yearly reminder. Not only does this little Greek letter represent the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter, you can also find it in more places than you might think — even in Star Trek!

You might not be shocked to learn that the constant is regularly mentioned in such a science-based science fiction series considering the talents of many of its characters, but you might be surprised to see the different ways it’s brought up. Pi and pie are surprisingly common in Star Trek.

So, in honor of Pi Day, we just had to curate the ultimate pi (and pie) Star Trek list. Here are the best mentions in the Star Trek series of the mathematical constant and the baked good that so often comes with it.

Neelix makes apple pie

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Inside Man," Neelix makes apple pie for Harry Kim, who's upset that their latest attempt to get home didn't work. The pie doesn't quite look like the apple pie we're used to and Tom Paris even jokingly refers to it as a new lifeform. It takes a while for Kim to get the courage to try the pie, but when he does it turns out to not to be so bad even if "it would have tasted better in San Francisco." It's a sweet gesture on Neelix's part, but mostly unforgettable because of the pie's green, jiggly appearance. This unique version of the classic food is, if nothing else, unsettlingly memorable.

T’Pol tries pecan pie

Throughout Star Trek: Enterprise, Trip Tucker's love for pecan pie is clear, but the dessert makes its best appearance in the episode "Breaking the Ice." At the beginning of the show, Tucker tells T'Pol pecan pie has been his favorite since he was a child. She can't see the appeal since it's mostly sugar and turns down his offer to try some. In response, Tucker tells her "it may not be good for the body, but it sure is good for the soul," a sentiment that apparently sticks with the Vulcan.

Throughout the episode, T'Pol deals with some personal problems involving her arranged marriage and turns to Trip for advice. After their talk, she makes a decision that keeps her on the starship and the show ends with her in her quarters with a piece of pecan pie! The pie plays a surprisingly central role here. The end scene is a fun reference to her earlier conversation with Tucker and can even be seen as a symbol of her growth during the show.

Data’s anecdote

Star Trek: The Next Generation brings the first pi mention to our list. It’s all the result of Lwaxana Troi's arrival on the Enterprise in the episode "Manhunt." She, once again, makes advances on Captain Picard and tricks him into attending a private dinner. After discovering the other officers weren't invited, Picard eventually takes an opportunity during the dinner to reach out to Data in order to break up the intimate setting. Picard states that Data's after-dinner conversation and anecdotes are legendary. Then the show cuts to the android sitting with them telling his first story, which is all about using pi in a calculation.

Not only does this anecdote show again how impressive Data's work is, but it's hilarious to watch the reactions of his listeners. Troi and her manservant look bored while Picard claps and calls the anecdote fascinating. You just know he wants to keep Data there for as long as possible so he won't be alone with Troi any longer than he has to be if it can be helped. While Picard is extremely grateful to Data afterward, Data doesn't quite seem to understand why.

Blood pie for the Day of Honor

In Voyager's "Day of Honor," B'Elanna Torres struggles with whether or not to observe a Klingon holiday known as the Day of Honor. It’s a time when Klingons are supposed to look back on the last year and what they've done. Eventually, she decides to do it thanks to some blood pie — or rather Neelix making it to try and cheer her up as the morale officer. He tells her that he makes it a point to be aware of events like the Day of Honor and he knows blood pie is a tradition for the holiday.

Neelix’s kindness during their discussion as he offers to be there for her if she needs anything moves Torres and she decides to ask him if she should go through with the day. His response is that traditions are good things and worth preserving, and she admits she's been thinking about the rituals her mother taught her. She's just scared because she doesn't know the impact the day's events will have on her. In the end, she decides to do it and accepts the blood pie that Neelix made for her. While we've known of the pie as a Klingon dish before, this moment might be its most important cameo in Star Trek as it shows how essential the food is to Klingon tradition and leads to a big decision for Torres.

Captain Janeway’s authorization codes

Pi is an essential part of Captain Janeway's authorization codes and is regularly heard in Voyager's most dire situations. That puts the mathematical constant right in the spotlight of some of the most intense and memorable moments in the series. Often, it's because Janeway is using code "Janeway pi 110" to initiate the auto-destruct on the starship, which usually means things are at the roughest point for the crew. As a result, pi is an essential part of the show.

Spock stops Jack the Ripper

Despite all the other mentions of pi and pie, nothing can beat how pi stars in Star Trek the Original Series episode "Wolf in the Fold."

In this episode, a killer is on the loose and turns out to be an entity that actually feeds on fear — an entity that's apparently famed serial killer Jack the Ripper! After killing a number of people, the entity jumps from a physical form into the Enterprise's computer. While they try to keep everyone on the starship calm, Captain Kirk and Spock come up with a plan to try to stop the entity by asking the computer a compulsory command so the entity can't get it to do anything else. Spock's idea for the best thing to ask the computer is for it to compute pi to the last digit. This succeeds in completely occupying the computer and forcing the entity back into a physical form they can stop.

Without pi, Kirk and Spock wouldn't have been able to save the day and stop Jack the Ripper!