If we’re being honest, Star Trek usually isn’t the first thing audiences think of when they think about Halloween. Nonetheless, this Paramount franchise knows how to channel the spirit of dressing up as someone else through the sheer amount of episodes where our heroes disguised themselves as other species. If you’re ready for more tricks than a Romulan and more treats than Riker’s holodeck playlist, here’s our breakdown of the best Star Trek episodes featuring characters looking and acting like a completely different species.
Star Trek: The Original Series – “The Enterprise Incident”
Star Trek: The Original Series is the show that started it all, including many of the tropes that would later become franchise staples. That includes the trope of characters disguising themselves as other species, which we can see in “The Enterprise Incident” when Captain Kirk disguises himself as a Romulan.
In the episode, Kirk and Spock are part of a weirdly badass Federation plan to steal a cloaking device from the Romulans. Spock pretends to turn traitor, distracting the sexy Romulan commander while Kirk channels his inner James Bond. Honestly, the only thing we dislike about the idea of Starfleet stealing a cloaking device is how quickly future writers completely ignore this great plot.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Face Of The Enemy”
When Captain Kirk disguised himself as a Romulan, he had the help of Dr. McCoy, and McCoy only performed the surgery under his captain’s orders. But in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Face of the Enemy,” Betazoid Counselor Troi faces a much scarier situation: waking up as a Romulan on a Warbird with no memory of how she got there.
It turns out that Troi got roped into a wild plot to help some Romulan defectors make their escape but to pull the ruse off, she has to perfectly pose as a Tal Shiar officer. It’s a great Star Trek episode for many reasons, including the fun factor of seeing a fan-favorite character as an enemy alien. For that matter, it’s also cool to see the criminally underutilized Counselor Troi go on a cool spy mission instead of just picking up bad vibes while she rides shotgun next to Picard.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – “First Contact”
Somewhat confusingly, Star Trek: The Next Generation had an episode with the same title as the show’s best movie: “First Contact.” No Borg are present in this outing, though. Instead, we follow Commander Riker and his various misadventures after he gets injured and then admitted to an alien hospital while observing a pre-warp civilization.
Thanks to some surgical alteration, Riker certainly looks like the natives, but his physiology still lets a local doctor know that this newcomer is secretly an alien. The erstwhile commander must face major life-threatening dangers in his attempt to make it back home without violating the Prime Directive. Along the way, he even gets the help of an alien groupie who demands “first contact” of a very different kind in exchange for her assistance.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Unification”
Early episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation tried to avoid having many direct connections to The Original Series after the surprising Dr. McCoy cameo in the first episode. That’s what made it so special when the two-part “Unification” episode brought Trek legend Leonard Nimoy back to reprise his role as Spock.
Spock is fervently hoping to unify Romulus and Vulcan, two planets whose people couldn’t be more different. In order to make contact, Picard and Data end up disguising themselves as Romulans, and the changes to their appearance are quite striking. And while seeing Picard and Spock onscreen was really cool, and we were thinking about Picard’s strange alien face (those head bumps, man!) long after the credits rolled.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – “Apocalypse Rising”
In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, we see the conflict between the Federation and the Klingons start back up when Starfleet opposes Gowron’s plans to attack the Cardassians. Gowron and other Klingons are convinced that a Dominion shapeshifter is manipulating the Cardassians. In an ironic twist, the episode “Apocalypse Rising” has Sisko, Odo, and O’Brien disguising themselves as Klingons in order to reveal that Gowron is actually a shapeshifter.
Resident Star Trek Klingon expert Worf is there to coach them, but our characters still struggle to convincingly portray these alien warriors. It’s a fun story full of surprises, and we laughed as the disguised Sisko asked Dukat, “haven’t you ever seen a Klingon before?” Truly, we had never seen Klingons quite like this, and the episode will leave you alternately laughing and gasping.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – “Second Skin”
If you know anything about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, you know that Bajoran Major Kira has major beef with the Cardassians. It’s understandable: they brutally invaded and occupied her planet and killed more of her fellow Bajorans than she can count. All of that background served to up the stakes when Kira was forcibly altered by one of the Cardassians to look like their kind in the episode “Second Skin.”
It’s a bit of a mind game here as her captor tries to convince Kira that she is actually his Cardassian daughter and that her memories of being a Bajoran were just remnants of a secret spy mission. Ultimately, the fakeout isn’t as good as the one we got in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Normal Again,” but the real charm of this episode is in seeing the lovely Nana Visitor made up as a fearsome member of the aliens she hates the most. As always, her performance is guaranteed to be mesmerized.