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I’m curious as to how many, if any, episodes of the original five broadcast Trek series did not include a single appearance by that show’s lead actor, the Captain for that particular show. I.E., TOS episodes in which Kirk does not appear, TNG episodes without Picard (none), DS9 sans Sisko, Voyager episodes without Janeway, or Enterprise episodes without Archer.

Are there any? If so, which ones?

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    as you ask about the original five series it's not an answer, but Discovery has two episodes without Saru when he was acting captain, and two without Lorca (before a replacement had been officially appointed). Obviously neither was the main character of the series though, which is Michael. Additionally, the first two episodes of Picard lack Rios who is captain of La Sirena (because the ship had not yet been introduced), but again Rios is not the main character of the show who is obviously Picard
    – Tristan
    Aug 12 at 10:17
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    And then there is also Lower Decks, where the captain is a relatively unimportant character. LD is canon, if you want it or not :). Although the voice actress Dawnn Lewis is credited for every single episode, according to her IMDB page.
    – Philipp
    Aug 12 at 13:14
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    @Tristan - Technically the entire second season of Picard doesn't have Picard in it
    – Valorum
    Aug 12 at 18:17
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    @Tristan yeah, Disco/Lower Decks/Picard have a fundamentally different format in many ways which make this question less interesting w/r/t those shows, hence their not being included in my question. I rather like the new stuff it’s just… not apples to apples for the purposes of this curiosity of mine. Aug 12 at 18:51
  • @Valorum For quite similar reasons every episode following chronologically from the first time a captain used a transporter also doesn't have that captain in it. :D
    – Lexible
    Aug 27 at 15:36

7 Answers 7

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For future reference, Memory Alpha has categories that can help with this kind of query; they're grouped together as "Regular cast non-appearances".

Using the resources there, it seems there are no episodes of the first five live-action Star Trek series where the captain (or equivalent) does not appear:

  • William Shatner appears as Kirk in all episodes of TOS. ("The Cage" is an exception, but Kirk wasn’t captain of the ship during the events of that episode, and Captain Pike does appear.)
  • Patrick Stewart appears as Picard in all episodes of TNG.
  • Avery Brooks appears as Sisko in all episodes of DS9.
  • Kate Mulgrew appears as Janeway in all episodes of Voyager.
  • Scott Bakula appears as Archer in all episodes of Enterprise.

There are instances of many other major cast members not appearing, but not the captains. Note that those lists do mention episodes in which characters only appear off-screen (i.e. heard dialogue only) or in an unusually brief capacity (in a dream etc), so it would also seem there are no episodes where the captains only make appearances of those kinds, either.

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    I would agree that The Cage doesn't count as a non-appearance - not because it wasn't broadcast initially but because Jeffrey Hunter appeared as Captain Pike. The fact that William Shatner wasn't in it is irrelevant.
    – GordonD
    Aug 12 at 9:26
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    @Tristan - Note that the question only asked about "the original five broadcast Trek series", i.e. TOS to Enterprise. Aug 12 at 10:12
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    @Tristan - I did think of adding the other shows, since I was already looking at the lists, but decided not to since the bounds of the question were pretty clear. It’s “left as an exercise for the reader”, as it were. Aug 12 at 11:52
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    It's also arguable whether The Cage even counts as an episode, since it was never broadcast. Parts of it were edited into The Menagerie.
    – Barmar
    Aug 12 at 13:18
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    @DarrelHoffman: "you'd also have to count the episodes where Picard becomes Locutus" - I'm not sure whether I'm getting the comment right, but note that the question also mentions "lead actor" as a description of what the OP is after. Thus, even in episodes where such a "lead actor", who would usually play the commanding officer in the show, is temporarily incapacitated, they would still the show's lead actor, so-to-speak "the captain of the show" from an out-of-universe perspective. Aug 13 at 23:04
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William Shatner as Kirk did not appear in the animated episode, The Slaver Weapon. Its the only time in the first block of Star Trek history (not including the new shows) where the Captain did not appear.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F. Please note that the question was specifically about ST:TOS, ST:TNG, ST:DS9, ST:VOY, and ST:ENT, so ST:TAS isn't really relevant.
    – DavidW
    Aug 12 at 16:08
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    @DavidW - it's still an interesting and useful fact and has my +1
    – Valorum
    Aug 12 at 16:34
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    The question asks about the first five broadcast series, which includes TAS and not ENT.
    – Plutor
    Aug 12 at 19:51
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    That’s my own fault for forgetting the Animated Series exists. Nonetheless this is a good and interesting answer. +1. Aug 12 at 22:41
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If you can accept The Animated Series as a continuation of TOS, then Kirk did not appear at all in TAS: The Slaver Weapon.

There are two episodes where the captain only makes a very brief appearance:

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Shatner is credited in all 79 episodes of The Original Series, but not in The Cage, so your call on that one. Obviously, Kirk was in Menagerie 1 & 2, the retelling of The Cage, broadcast in November of 1966. The Cage was not broadcast during the show's initial run (IMDB seems to be wrong on this), running on TV first in 1988.

Stewart is credited in all 176 episodes The Next Generation.

Brooks is credited in all 173 episodes of Deep Space Nine.

Mulgrew is credited in all 168 episodes of Voyager.

Bakula is credited in all 97 episodes of Enterprise.

According to IMDb.com, accessed 08/11/22.

Also, Memory-Alpha.fandom.com "The Cage"

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    This isn’t definitive. Leading actors are often credited on all shows of a series even if they don’t appear in a particular episode.
    – Dale M
    Aug 12 at 3:02
  • @ Dale M; I agree, which is why I deliberately wrote "credited". But it does establish "canon" in a sense, and needs to be addressed, I think,
    – JohnHunt
    Aug 13 at 6:47
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As close as any episode of the live-action broadcast shows come is TNG’s Thine Own Self, where Picard’s only dialogue is one short line. Others have covered The Animated Series.

If you do not consider Mirror Universe doppelgängers impersonating the real captain to count, a large part of season 1 of Discovery qualifies. An interesting judgment call is “The War Without, the War Within.”

Captain Gabriel Lorca (who had secretly been an impersonator for the whole season) was dead, and for most of the episode, Admiral Amanda Cromwell is the commanding officer. In the final scene, she names Phillippa Georgiou the new captain of the Discovery. But, that is really her Mirror Universe counterpart, the Empress of the Terran Empire, in disguise. But but, Admiral Cromwell knew that when she put her in command.

In the Voyager episode “Living Witness,” Captain Janeway only appears as a hologram

Major spoiler: whose portrayal is not entirely accurate.

The Enterprise two-parter “In a Mirror, Darkly” might also qualify on technicalities, if you squint hard enough.

The Mirror-Universe version of Archer (a different person in a different universe) is the main character of these episodes, we also see Captain Forrest of the ISS Enterprise, and Archer does take over the ship and start calling himself “Captain Archer,” but this is a hoax and he is not the lawful Captain.

Another amusing possible technicality inspired by a comment is “Farewell,” the season 2 finale of Picard.

The new Borg Queen took La Sirena and flew off with it in the previous episode, so neither Jean-Luc Picard nor Cristóbal Rios is the commanding officer of any ship any longer. Nor does Jean-Luc Picard hold the rank of Captain. He is either an Admiral, a General, or an undocumented immigrant. When Q snaps his fingers again, most of the time-travelers reappear on the bridge of the USS Stargazer, but not its captain, Rios, who stays behind. Admiral Picard does not take over as commanding officer of the starship he is on, but picks someone else to.

Since I don’t see any mention of them yet, Lower Decks and Prodigy both have the (Acting) Captain appearing in every episode. Not every episode of Short Treks is set on a starship with a captain.

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    If we're going to get picky, the entire 2nd season of ST:Picard has a robot version of Picard running around pretending to be the original
    – Valorum
    Aug 13 at 22:05
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    @Valorum Even if you consider them two different characters, that’s another situation like Pike/Kirk in TOS or Georgiou/Lorca/Pike in Discovery. The series would just have different captains in different seasons, who both appear in each episode of that season.
    – Davislor
    Aug 13 at 22:08
  • @Valorum But, another interesting technicality there is—I think I will edit that in.
    – Davislor
    Aug 13 at 22:09
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    I laughed out loud at "not entirely accurate" -- Yeah, their Janeway wears gloves. The real Janeway doesn't wear gloves! Unbelievable oversight.
    – apsillers
    Aug 18 at 17:11
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Some interesting pedantic edge cases:

  • The finale of Enterprise "These are the Voyages..." only has a holographic representation of Archer, as part of the holodeck simulation run by Riker. (Note this isn't a surprise twist or anything: the episode is explicitly framed as a TNG-era story that includes an ENT holodeck sim.)

  • "In a Mirror, Darkly" follows a mirror-universe Enterprise; the main-universe's Archer is referenced explicitly when mirror-Archer learns about him through Starfleet records, but the character does not appear. (The captain of mirror-Enterprise does appear throughout, though. Whether you count this as an "appearance by the captain of the show's primary vessel" is a matter of whether you think the alternative-intro'd mirror-Enterprise show itself is still a show about main-Enterprise or mirror-Enterprise.)

  • Honorable mention to Voyager's "Course: Oblivion" which...

    follows a duplicate Voyager, made of decaying exotic matter, trying to find the real Voyager. (Not a proper answer, however, because the real Janeway does make a very brief final appearance.)

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Another pedantic edge case. The first 71 episodes of Deep Space 9, from S01E01: Emissary to S03E25: Facets do not technically feature the show’s main captain. Benjamin Sisko was introduced with the rank of Commander and held this rank until S03E26: The Adversary where he was at last promoted to Captain, a rank he maintained until the end of the series.

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