We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Star Trek’s greatest hero isn’t a human, and isn’t even in Starfleet

Ever since it began Star Trek has been dominated by legendary heroes like Kirk, or Picard. But that ignores a genuinely underrated icon.

William Shatner as Kirk in Star Trek VI

When you think of Star Trek‘s most honorable heroes, your first thoughts probably go to the various captains: Kirk, Picard, and if you’re a fan with a particularly good memory, Rachel Garrett. But what about non-humans? Easy! There’s Spock, Jadzia Dax, Worf, Kira Nerys, Data, Commander Chin-Riley… the list goes on.

But what if we told you that Star Trek‘s actual greatest hero wasn’t only not a human, but was also never even involved in Starfleet? That’s much more of a challenge: and it’s also true. All you have to do is think back to the brilliant Star Trek movie The Undiscovered Country, and the Klingon Chancellor Gorkon.

For a quick refresher, the events of Star Trek VI see Chancellor Gorkon set aside the suspicions and instincts of his people in order to reach across the divide and establish peace with The Federation. It’s a quest to end years of hostility and painful war after the disaster on Praxis weakens the Klingon Empire. James T. Kirk, the best Star Trek captain of his era, is assigned with beginning the process by escorting Gorkon to Earth in order to commence negotiations.

Needless to say, it all goes wrong. Factions both within The Federation and the Klingon Empire attempt to sabotage the peace process, blinded by their prejudice and ingrained hatred. Gorkon is murdered, an act that’s pinned on Kirk, establishing the central mystery of the film (which is among the best movies in the franchise by any metric).

YouTube Thumbnail

So what, exactly, makes Gorkon Star Trek’s most worthy hero? Three factors, primarily.

First, Gorkon finds the courage and conviction to set aside his own prejudices, and that of his species, in order to create peace for future generations. At the start of the movie, that’s not something that even Kirk can do, and he’d sooner let the Klingons die than consider a peaceful alternative. But Gorkon sees the bigger picture: something that forces him to acknowledge and come to terms with his own past failings, and the violent history of his species.

Then there’s Gorkon’s sacrifice. His mission for peace comes at great personal expense and leads to his death. This was a risk he would have recognized right from the beginning, but he remained resolute throughout, undeterred by the prospect of treacherous plots from those surrounding him.

David Warner as Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI

Finally, you have the impact of Gorkon’s actions. In the TNG episode ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’ (one of the best episodes from any Star Trek series) we see an alternate timeline where war has once again broken out between the Klingons and The Federation, leading to the death of billions. This, or another war like it, would undoubtedly have begun again in the prime timeline had Gorkon not carried out his mission. The signing of the Khitomer Accords saved an unimaginable number of lives and was a direct consequence of Gorkon’s actions and sacrifice.

Need even more evidence? His name comes from an amalgamation of two of modern history’s great leaders: Mikhail Gorbachev, and Abraham Lincoln. Both fought for peace, despite it being the harder option, ultimately for the improvement of the future. Take the ‘Gor’ from Gorbachev and the ‘coln’ from Lincoln, and you have ‘Gorkon’ (at least, phonetically).

So step aside Kirk, Spock, Picard, and Riker. The greatest hero of all the Star Trek characters is Chancellor Gorkon. It’s time to put some respect on his name.

For more hot takes on Star Trek, check out why Data isn’t Starfleet’s best artificial officer, or see our complete breakdown of the Star Trek timeline and the best way to watch the Star Trek movies in order.