It can be difficult to design costumes for a science fiction series. Your characters must be wearing something believable, but the outfit also must convey how very alien this new world is. Some shows get it right, but for others, like the Star Trek franchise, there’s a long-standing tradition of questionable fashion choices. Whether it’s the Barbarella-esque Sexy Alien Girl of the WeekTM on the Original Series, or the Klingon’s cabaret biker look in the later shows, fans have come to expect the ridiculous. Star Trek: The Next Generation in particular managed to sneak in some of the best (worst) fashions of them all.
1. Solving daddy issues gladiator-style
When first officer William Riker is offered a promotion on another vessel, his father is sent to brief him on the new position. The only problem is the two left on bad terms fifteen years ago, and haven’t spoken since. How do they resolve their differences? By organizing a duel with giant Q-tips in the holodeck, of course. Because nothing says “working through your emotional baggage” like wearing two-tone plastic laser tag armour. (Fun fact: those visors come down and they fight blind.)
This fight is serious business. You can tell by the kicky little Spartan skirt.
Eventually, they each learn something about the other and hug it out, but not before teaching us all an important lesson on sportswear.
2. Gossip Girls
Spaceship sports clothing strikes again! The entire plot of the season three episode “The Price” revolves around Counsellor Deanna Troi’s budding relationship with Devinoni Ral, a negotiator who has come aboard the Enterprise to settle a dispute about wormhole rights. Things heat up quickly, and the audience then gets this delightful scene between Deanna and Doctor Beverly Crusher, as the two stretch and giggle about the recent fling.
It’s clothes like these that betray the show’s late 80s origins. Neither crewmember would look out of place jogging on the spot behind Jane Fonda. They both get bonus points for the sparkly fabric – extra “future-ness!” – and the outfits are made even better by their banter, which features excellent bits of advice like “who needs rational when your toes curl up?”
3. Little Purple Men
First season episode “11001001” features a species of alien called the Bynars who are very technologically advanced, and always work in pairs. (Dual processors, anyone? Okay, that’s my only computer joke, don’t ask for more.) Star Fleet requests they revamp the Enterprise, and at first everything seems to be on the up and up. In the end, though, the Bynars are actually aboard to highjack the ship, drive it to their home world and download all their computer data – essential to their survival – for safekeeping during a radiation surge. But what really matters in this episode is how wonderfully twinned these aliens are. Also, the outfits are tight and sparkly and wonderful, as are these team uniforms we get treated to earlier in the episode:
I am becoming increasingly worried about the state of 24th century workout clothing.
4. When Irish Eyes are Smiling (you don’t notice the hideous outfit)
Raising barns and eyebrows
“Up the Long Ladder” is the story of two human colonies that desperately need Star Fleet’s help. The Bringloidi are followers of the 22nd century philosophy of Neo-Transcendentalism and are willingly pre-industrial, but must now leave their home due to solar flare activity. The Mariposans on the other hand are technologically advanced, but suffered severe casualties while colonizing and are now all genetic copies of the five survivors. Because of the long-term cloning, they are suffering from “replicative fading” and will require new DNA to mix up their gene pool.
The two groups predictably help each other out, but not before the audience is treated to a delightfully terrible series of Irish stereotypes. The Bringloidi are folksy, fiery, always drinking, and refuse to leave without their livestock (and the copious amount of hay that is quickly spread out everywhere on the ship). But all this serves only as a backdrop for the most glorious shirt to ever grace the Enterprise.
Feast your eyes, this is a cable-knit crop top. Because there’s nothing quite like it when you still want to look good on those cold nights on the farm. I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when the show’s wardrobe team was trying to reconcile “Riker’s sexy object of interest” and “farmstead matriarch.”
5. Wesley Crusher: Awkward Teen
Everyone’s least favorite wunderkind Wesley Crusher (played by the wonderful and not at all like his character Wil Wheaton) was introduced as the highly intelligent, highly eager teenage son of Doctor Crusher. He was consistently more resourceful than his Star Fleet-trained elders and was often given precedence over actual officers, taking the helm and going on away missions while he was still pre-pubescent. He was insufferable, and one of his greatest sins was his terrible taste in sweaters.His wardrobe definitely more than contributed to making him the intolerable, know-it-all, little tagalong that he was.
“I have twice as many sleeves because I’m twice as smart as you.”
Naked Innocent as the Day They Were Born
Though sexy utopias were more of an Original Series staple, TNG episode “Justice” was a strong showing in the “innocent, free-love Eden” category of planets. The crew of the Enterprise, looking for some shore leave, meet the Edo, a people whose childish ebullience translates into a lot of hugging, running, grinning, and rather… public displays of affection.
Believe it or not, this is one of the least NSFW screenshots out there.
The episode’s plot barely matters, really, because the most important lesson is that in the Star Trek universe being friendly and carefree apparently translates into not wearing a whole lot of clothing. This entire planet is like a sexy cult, and I’m totally okay with it. Not even the “mediators,” the Edo’s equivalent of law enforcement, are exempt. Which doesn’t exactly lend them an air of authority.
“Are your nipples cold? My nipples are cold.”
7. Riker and the 40-minute Nip Slip
Troi is a little overwhelmed.
An investigation into a crashed freighter sends the Enterprise to Angel I, a matriarchal planet that hasn’t had contact with Star Fleet in over sixty years. On this world, the women hold all social and political power, and the men are smaller in stature and submissive in nature.
As a show of good faith, Riker dons a traditional male outfit for his meeting with Beata, one of the six elected “mistresses” (I’m not joking, that’s her actual title). There’s a lot to love here. The Bluetooth-style earring, the asymmetrical deep v-neck, the shiny shiny fabric, the lace-up pants (not pictured: the matching shiny codpiece). It’s all marvelous, and the ladies of Angel I go bananas over him, despite the fact that it makes little biological sense for a tall, muscular man to be considered so attractive when their own men have evolved to be short and slight. (Riker, ever the space bro, even refers to finding taller, stronger men attractive as evolutionary progress. Yikes.)
“Let me at that hairy chest.”
8. Won’t Someone Think of the Children?
One of the major departures for TNG as a series was that this time around the Enterprise had families aboard. With the adults at least, uniforms provided a decent go-to outfit, but apparently every child in the 24th century is forced to wear some sort of variation on a jumpsuit. Aside from the fact that these outfits look ridiculous (is that a crop top overtop of a jumpsuit? Are those spandex overalls!?) these clothes make the list because they are so ludicrously impractical. Do children 300 years from now have iron-clad bladders? It’s a good thing the crew’s clothes come from a replicator, because washing dozens of soiled onesies would get old.
Oh Wesley, looks like you can’t exercise in normal looking clothing either.
9. A Guinan for All Seasons
There’s a really lovely anecdote that tells of baby Whoopi Goldberg who, by watching Nichelle Nichols in the Original Series, was inspired to become an actor herself. Years later, she asked to be on TNG and was given a role as Guinan, ship’s bartender/superbeing-in-hiding. Guinan is wonderful. She gives the best advice, makes the best drinks, and wears the best outfits that are, without fail, all variations on the “embellished muumuu and stiff, oversized beret” theme.
The colours, fabrics, and accessories could change, but it was always the same Guinan we knew and loved.
We think not having her carry drinks on her hat was a major missed opportunity.
10. Saving the best for last
Where would the show have been if not for Lwaxana Troi? Infinitely less stylish, for starters. As Councilor Troi’s mother, Lwaxana would occasionally flit in and out of TNG (and later Deep Space Nine), cause a ruckus, say the best lines, and flirt shamelessly with Captain Picard (don’t pretend you wouldn’t). Her dresses were always flouncy, sexy, and shiny, and she made every episode she was in brighter. It would be impossible to wrap up this list with anything else but a few more pictures of the lady who stole every scene.
“Is that really what you’re wearing?”
Ready for her close up.
“Can I help it that I’m so fabulous?”
*Screenshots courtesy of Trek Core.