Star Trek is one of the most venerable franchises in history, telling an ongoing story of various characters exploring strange new worlds ever since 1966. You might be curious how the Paramount franchise has kept all of its storytelling details consistent across nearly 60 years, and the blunt truth is that it hasn’t: Trek has made countless recons over the years, some of which improved the franchise and others which are just downright puzzling. We hope you’ve got your emotional support tribble at the ready because we’re about to walk you through the absolute weirdest retcons in Star Trek history.
7. Changing Kirk’s Middle Name
Even audiences who have barely seen an episode of Star Trek can probably tell you Captain Kirk’s middle name (or at least the middle initial). He’s James T. Kirk, with the T standing for “Tiberius.” Weirdly, though, this wasn’t always the case.
Way back in The Original Series episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” Kirk squares off with a former friend turned godlike foe. To taunt Kirk, his long-term friend created a headstone for the captain, and it’s clearly marked with “James R. Kirk.” We never did find out what the R stood for, and thanks to this major (and rather perplexing) retcon.
6. Making Mudd a Murderer
In Star Trek: The Original Series, few villains were quite as memorable as Harry Mudd. He’s a con man, swindler, and womanizer, but the original actor (Roger C. Carmel) played him with such sassy charm that fans couldn’t wait to see him again.
Well, be careful what you wish for: in Star Trek: Discovery, we see what Mudd was up to before he tangled with Kirk. In the more recent series, Mudd was played by The Office legend Rainn Wilson, and the character was a cold-blooded murderer who used a weird time-loop mechanic to kill Captain Lorca in increasingly crazy ways. It was funny for those with a sufficiently strange sense of humor, but this Mudd seems nothing at all like the one audiences first glimpsed back in the ‘60s.
5. Sisko’s Dad Returns From the Dead (Kind Of)
For fans of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, few characters are quite as beloved as Captain Sisko’s dad, Joseph Sisko. He was always a source of warmth, inspiration, and guidance for everyone around him. But would you believe simply having Captain Sisko’s dad be alive is a major retcon in and of itself?
In the first episode of DS9, Sisko (then a commander) definitively referred to his father in the past tense, saying he “was a gourmet chef.” In the later episode “The Alternate,” he talks about how Joseph Sisko became “ill” and looked “small and weak…lying there in the bed,” leaving the younger Sisko to realize that “in the end…there was nothing that he could do, and nothing I could do to help him.” Needless to say, Joseph Sisko popping up alive and well in the fourth season of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine came as a major shock to longtime fans.
4. Doctor Bashir Is a Bit of a “Khan” Man
Early on, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine established Doctor Bashir as a fairly straightforward character archetype. He was a brilliant young healer in love with the romantic idea of practicing “frontier medicine.” When he wasn’t chasing down killer conversations with Garak, he was trying to get the Trill science officer Dax into bed. Young, romantic, and horny — not a bad recipe for a memorable character.
However, the fifth season Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Doctor Bashir, I Presume” revealed that Bashir was enhanced by genetic engineering at the hands of his parents. They had his intellect and reflexes enhanced, and Starfleet freaks out because of their ban on genetic engineering (thanks to Khan). Bashir gets to stay in Starfleet thanks to a plea deal his father makes, but it was still bizarre that the show suddenly decided to give a bright and happy character a dark and tragic backstory.
3. The Constantly-Changing Appearance of the Klingons
Depending on when you started watching Star Trek, you might be surprised at how the Klingons look in other series and films. In The Original Series, the Klingons were indistinguishable from humans, but Star Trek: The Motion Picture added the iconic forehead ridges that carried through into The Next Generation. Many years later, Star Trek: Discovery changed their look yet again, removing their hair entirely (at least for the first season).
Things got so confusing that Paramount used the Enterprise episode “Affliction” to explain why the appearance initially changed: the Klingons always had forehead ridges, but a genetic experiment involving Augment DNA led to some Klingons and their descendants having smooth foreheads. This could be surgically reversed, but it’s still wild that Trek had to devote an entire episode to explaining one of their most perplexing retcons.
2. The Details About Khan’s Conquests
It’s fair to say that Khan Noonien Singh is the most iconic villain in Star Trek history: he dazzled in The Original Series episode “Space Seed” and basically stole the show in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. However, the franchise just can’t stop tweaking the details surrounding Khan’s original conquests on Earth and even the timeline of when those conquests happened.
For example, “Space Seed” makes it clear that the Eugenics Wars that Khan led in the 1990s were considered the “last so-called world war,” but the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation makes it clear that Earth faced a third world war that was completely distinct from the Eugenics Wars. More confusingly, the Star Trek: Voyager episode “Future’s End” showed Captain Janeway and the crew visiting Earth during the ‘90s and there were no signs of fierce Eugenics Wars or their aftermath.
Most recently, the Strange New Worlds episode “Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow” revealed that Temporal Wars and other time travel shenanigans had changed the finer details of Khan’s timeline (for example, he is now a young child in the 21st century rather than a grown man driven off Earth in the ‘90s). Some fans called this a cool connection to Enterprise, but we call it the franchise putting a lampshade on their own bizarre retcons.
1. Pretty Much Everything About Spock’s Family
The final strange Star Trek retcon is as weird as it is all-encompassing. What are we talking about? Simple: pretty much every single detail about Spock’s family.
For example, in The Original Series episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” Spock casually mentions that one of his ancestors had married a human, but later, the show retconned that Spock himself is half-human with a very human mother and a very Vulcan father.
It wasn’t until the insane film Star Trek V: The Final Frontier that we discovered that Spock also has a crazy half-brother named Sybok whom he had conveniently never mentioned. Star Trek: Discovery revealed that Spock had an adopted human sister, Michael Burnham, that he also conveniently never mentioned, not even to his closest friends.
But wait, it gets weirder: in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Sarek,” Captain Picard casually mentions that he once met Sarek “at his son’s wedding.” Keep in mind that Spock never married and that Sybok died before Picard was born. This means, canonically, that Spock has yet another brother or half-brother out there that we haven’t yet met.