The first appearances of 23 classic Star Trek aliens, catchphrases, terms and more

By: H&I Staff    Posted: November 30, 2022, 2:00PM

With their dazzling effects and emphasis on action, the new blockbuster Star Trek movies have introduced a new generation to the beloved characters from the original series. Yet even before J.J. Abrams offered his vision of Kirk, Spock and crew, so much of the Star Trek universe had become part of the modern vernacular. Gene Roddenberry's creation is woven into our pop culture. Who doesn't know of the Vulcan salute and Klingons?

Of course, all of those elements have an origin, most of which date back half a century to the early episodes of the first Star Trek series. Still, you might be surprised to learn just how long it took for certain terms and species to become part of the canon. The Next Generation and the subsequent series introduced all new worlds, aliens and catchphrases.

Here's where to find the first appearance of a baker's dozen of iconic Star Trek concepts.

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Vulcan nerve pinch

The Original Series  
"The Naked Time"

Season 1, episode 4

Technically, the first time the pinch was performed was in the production of "The Enemy Within," which was filmed before and aired after "The Naked Time." (We like to stick with the first time audiences saw things.) The script called for Spock to knock out Kirk's evil doppelgänger; however, Nimoy rightly felt a violent action would be out of character. He came up with the brilliant nerve pinch, which was henceforth written as "FSNP" — "Famous Spock Nerve Pinch" — in scripts.


Redshirt death

The Original Series
"What are Little Girls Made Of?"
Season 1, episode 7

Even beginner viewers know that Redshirts are not long for this world. There is even a popular sci-fi novel about the disposabilty of the lowly Enterprise crewmembers. No wonder it's such a popular trope — the first time we see a Redshirt offed is quite early in the series.


Vulcan mind meld

The Original Series
"Dagger of the Mind"
Season 1, episode 9

Spock first displays his telepathic touch early in the first season.


"I'm a doctor…"

The Original Series
"The Corbormite Maneuver"
Season 1, episode 10

Though commonly quoted as "Damn it, man, I'm a doctor, not a…," McCoy never utters his catchphrase with that exact phrasing. Bones delivers a variation of the line 16 times over the course of the original series. The first instance comes after Kirk criticizes the doctor for not telling him of a flashing red light. Bones responds, "What am I, a doctor or a moon-shuttle conductor?"



The Original Series
"Balance of Terror"
Season 1, episode 14

If you confuse Romulans for Vulcans, there is good reason beyond the pointy ears. Mark Lenard, the actor who played the first significant Romulan character in the universe, also played Spock's dad (and a Klingon, for what it's worth).



The Original Series
"Galileo Seven"
Season 1, episode 16

See? It's not just Redshirts that get it. The first time the rank of ensign is mentioned happens in this episode. The ensign gets a spear chucked into his back.


The Federation

The Original Series
Season 1, episode 18

In the early episode "The Corbomite Maneuver" the word "Federation" is used, though it refers to the organization of Balok (the weird alien who is actually little Clint Howard). In "Arena," a wealth of firsts, we first hear of "the Federation" in relation to the governing body. It would not be fully named (as the United Federation of Planets) until "A Taste of Armageddon."


Photon torpedoes

The Original Series
Season 1, episode 18

Pyew! Pyew! Don't mess with the Enterprise.


The cruising speed of Warp Six

The Original Series
Season 1, episode 18

The ship's cruising speed of Warp Six is first mentioned in "Arena," as well. As is the dangerous Warp Eight.



The Original Series
"Court Martial"
Season 1, episode 20

Here is the first reference to "Starfleet" and "Starfleet Command." In early episodes, the Enterprise's command was referred to varyingly as Star Service, Spacefleet Command, United Earth Space Probe Agency and Space Central.



The Original Series
"Errand of Mercy"
Season 1, episode 26

Ah, there are those familiar adversaries! Though the Klingons were not quite fully formed in their early iteration, as they lacked their distinctive ridged foreheads.


Vulcan salute

The Original Series
"Amok Time"
Season 2, episode 1

Now this is an emoji on your phone. Surprisingly, it took a year before it appeared on the show. In this epic episode that pits Spock versus Kirk, Spock gives the salute to T'Pau. Interesting to note, however, that the actress playing T'Pau could reportedly not quite pull off the salute with her fingers, so they used a couple camera tricks.


"Live long and prosper."

The Original Series
"Amok Time"
Season 2, episode 1

You can't have the salute without the catchphrase.


"Make it so."

The Next Generation 
"Encounter at Farpoint"
Season 1, episode 1

The writers wasted no time in giving Picard his catchphrase. He first says it about 35 minutes into the series.



The Next Generation
"Encounter at Farpoint"
Season 1, episode 1

John de Lancie made for one delicious adversary. It's no wonder the powerful being turned up again and again. Q's one of the first things we see in the new series, as he materializes on the bridge in an early scenes.



The Next Generation 
"The Last Outpost"
Season 1, episode 5

Just think, at this early point, the Ferengi were "a lifeform we know almost nothing about," as Picard notes. That would obviously change dramatically with Deep Space Nine.


CGI alien

The Next Generation
Season 1, episode 13

Computer effects were prohibitively expensive for syndicated television in the late 1980s. The Crystilline Entity, seen here, is the first fully CGI being seen on a Star Trek series, and is perhaps the first use of CGI in general for the television franchise (Wrath of Khan featured the first use of CGI for Star Trek in general.)


The Borg

The Next Generation
"Q Who?"
Season 2, episode 16

It's everyone's favorite hive-mind alien menace! Resistance is futile! Hey, that reminds us…


"Resistance is futile."

The Next Generation 
"The Best of Both Worlds" Part 1
Season 3, episode 26

This saying is now part of the vernacular. It is first heard when the Borg abduct Picard in this cliffhanger season finale.


Spot the cat

The Next Generation
"Data's Day"
Season 4, episode 11

Spock once petted a black cat. Data needed a feline of his own, too. The android's pet became a fan favorite, despite Brent Spiner himself being no cat lover.



The Next Generation
"The Wounded"
Season 4, episode 12

We've been keeping up with the Cardassians ever since. The species would play a central role in Deep Space Nine.



The Next Generation
"The Host"
Season 4, episode 23

With their ridged foreheads, the Trill were quite different in appearance at first. When Terry Farrel was cast as Dax on Deep Space Nine, producers thought the actress was too pretty to cover up with all that makeup, so the Trill were redesigned to feature their trademark skin spots.



Deep Space Nine
Season 1, episode 1

Morn, the alien regular who is often found plopped at Quark's bar, was a riff on Norm from Cheers. He might seem like a minor character to highlight, but Morn is just one of six characters to appear in three Star Trek series. You can first spot him next to Sisko in the DS9 premiere.

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