Two episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and a much more recent episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks were inspired by Stephen King stories.
Most fans don’t automatically associate the venerable science fiction franchise Star Trek with horror stories for a simple reason: the average episode of Star Trek is about hope and optimism, and the average scary story is about horror and helplessness. But Star Trek has always had horror roots, and as Red Letter Media founder Mike Stoklasa points out, it’s very easy to view Star Trek: The Original Series as a horror show. In addition to general scary elements throughout the franchise, three episodes of the later Star Trek series were very explicitly inspired by horror maestro Stephen King.
Two of the examples of Star Trek writers channeling their inner Stephen King come from Voyager, including the season 6 episode “Alice.” This is an episode where Tom Paris (who serves as the ship’s pilot, bad boy, and general retro junkie) is manipulated by an alien shuttle that he nicknames “Alice” while working on it, and the shuttle eventually begins attacking others. If you can’t tell, this is basically a Star Trek take on Stephen King’s classic killer car novel Christine, and Voyager producer Brannon Braga later admitted the intentional parallels between the episode and King’s book.
This wasn’t the first time that Star Trek: Voyager was inspired by Stephen King, though: that honor goes to the season 2 episode “The Thaw,” in which the crew tries to rescue people whose brains are linked inside stasis pods. Soon, the crew discovers these people are living in a shared virtual reality in which they are hunted down by a killer clown who is feeding on their fear. You don’t have to be an expert on Stephen King to know that Star Trek is clearly riffing on King’s iconic novel It, although we’re happy to report that, unlike King’s novel, there are no strange group sex scenes in between clown battles.
The final episode of Star Trek that very explicitly channels Stephen King is “Room For Growth” from the animated hit series Lower Decks. This season 3 episode features our familiar ensigns clashing with Delta Shift for a coveted room on Deck One, and they go on a kind of road trip through the bowels of the ship and eventually swap stories about the bridge crew with their rivals. While it’s a bit more subtle than the other episode, this ep was inspired by King’s novel Stand By Me, with showrunner Mike McMahan saying he wanted to tell a story where the journey was ultimately more important than the destination.
Considering how often Star Trek writers have been inspired by Stephen King, fans perhaps should have been less surprised when NuTrek began introducing so much explicit violence and even gore with series such as Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. A common criticism of these additions to the franchise was that Star Trek was veering away from its roots of exploration and discovery and making a cringe attempt to seem more mature. But horror has been a part of Star Trek from the very beginning, and we’re just crossing our fingers we eventually get an episode inspired by Maximum Overdrive, complete with a ship that looks like the Green Goblin.