Look, it’s not exactly a secret that Mass Effect has a little Star Trek in its DNA. It’s a franchise all about assembling a crew comprised of humans and aliens as you explore the furthest reaches of space and try your best to romance a few of those humans and aliens. It’s safe to say someone on the Mass Effect development teams watched an episode or two of Star Trek.
So while Mass Effect is, in some ways, a giant tribute to Star Trek and several other notable sci-fi works, there are a few ways that the Mass Effect games reference Star Trek that you may not have spotted unless you’re a hardcore Star Trek fan who also explored the furthest reaches of Mass Effect‘s galaxy.
From suspicious lines of dialog to familiar voices, these are some of the best Star Trek references and Easter eggs you’ll find in the Mass Effect trilogy.
The Borg and The Geth
As a race of networked AI who utilize a “hivemind” system and have to deal with the occasional dissenter, there are clearly similarities between Mass Effect‘s Geth and Star Trek‘s Borg that can’t be ignored.
Having said that, some fans have pointed out that the designs and philosophies of the Geth could also be a nod to Battlestar Galactica‘s Cylons. It should also be noted that Mass Effect‘s Reapers are often treated as a mysterious galactic threat similar to how the Borg were described in early TNG episodes.
The Thorian and Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan’s Ceti Eels
In Mass Effect, you’ll encounter a sentient plant known as a Thorian. If this almost slug-like creature with the ability to use painful spores to control people’s minds seems oddly familiar, that’s likely because it’s almost certainly a reference to the Ceti Eels that Khan used to control people in one of Star Trek 2‘s most memorable scenes.
In fact, there’s a memorable moment in Mass Effect when Fai Dan shoots himself after ignoring a Thorian order to kill Shepard. It’s an almost exact recreation of a Wrath of Khan scene in which Captain Terrel uses a phaser on himself after disobeying Khan and the influence of the Ceti Eels.
Cerebus and Section 31
In Star Trek: Deep Space 9, we learn there’s a special section of Starfleet known simply as Section 31. They’re kind of a “wetworks” organization that has operated with and without Star Fleet’s support over the years. Through it all, they claim to promote “security” through whatever means necessary.
The Cerebus group in Mass Effect serve a similar purpose, with the biggest difference being that Cerebus has long been a kind of “splinter” group that operates independently to protect human interest (allegedly) on a galactic scale whereas Section 31 did seemingly operate with Starfleet’s support (at least for a time).
The Normandy’s Poker Table
While it’s a bit of a shame you don’t really get to do much with the poker table on the Normandy, the fact there’s a poker table so prominently featured on a spaceship has to be a callback to the poker table frequently used by the Enterprise crew in Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Actually, TNG‘s poker table was such an important part of the ship (at least to key members of the crew) that it was even the centerpiece of the final scene in TNG‘s last episode, “All Good Things…”
Kenneth Donnelly is (Accidentally?) a Scotty Tribute
As a spaceship engineer with a heavy Scottish accent, it’s easy to assume that Mass Effect‘s Kenneth Donnelly was designed to be an obvious homage to Star Trek‘s Montgomery “Scotty” Scott.
However, Mass Effect level designer Dusty Everman has previously stated that the similarities between those two weren’t planned from the start and really only came to life as the result of voice actor John Ullyatt’s performance choices and a bit of coincidence. Actually, Everman (or someone convincingly posing as him once upon a time) stated that Donnelly’s accent was based on his wife’s love of Ewan McGregor and that the original plan was for female Shepard players to be able to romance him.
“Yes! Exhilarating, Isn’t It?”
One of Mass Effect‘s better Star Trek references happens when Shepard warns a Krogan that the area around them is collapsing and the Krogan replies “Exhilarating, isn’t it?”
The same line is spoken by Christopher Lloyd in Star Trek 3: The Search for Spock under spiritually similar circumstances. Lloyd even portrays a Klingon in the film, and the Krogan have been called a Klingon-like race.
Various Star Trek Actors Voice Characters in the Mass Effect Franchise
If you’ve ever wondered just how much Star Trek influenced Mass Effect, look no further than Mass Effect‘s voice actor cast list.
Marina Sirtis, Armin Shimerman, Keith Szarabajka, Dwight Schultz…the Mass Effect cast is packed with actors arguably best known for their roles in various Star Trek series and films. Michael Dorn (who famously portrayed Worf in Star Trek: TNG) even voices a Krogan in Mass Effect 2.
“This is… it’s green?”
While visiting the Dark Star lounge, Mass Effect‘s Commander Shepard receives an alien drink and remarks “This is… it’s green?” The line is a clear callback to a Star Trek: TOS episode called “By Any Other Name” in which Scotty picks up a strange bottle and makes the same comment.
In fact, Data says a similar line in the TNG episode “Relics” while pouring a mysterious green drink for…Scotty.
Mordin Solus and Data Have Similar Taste in Music
Mordin Solus’ love of music isn’t just one of the best Mass Effect companion’s most loveable attributes, it’s an apparent nod to Data: the also hyper-intelligent, also slightly detached Star Trek: TNG character who also loves to sing.
Actually, Solus and Data seem to share an appreciation for Gilbert and Sullivan as the two sing the duo’s greatest hits in their respective series.
“Goodbye Little Wing” and Deanna Troi
Matriarch Benezia isn’t just one of the more memorable side characters in the original Mass Effect; she’s another one of those characters in the Mass Effect franchise you may have not realized was voiced by a Star Trek alumni. Yes, Benezia is played by none other than Deanna Troi actress Marina Sirtis.
Best of all, there’s a moment in the first Mass Effect when Benezia says “Goodbye little wing, I have always been proud of you” shortly before dying. It’s an odd phrase that might make a little more sense when you realize that Troi’s mother was always calling her “little one” in TNG.
“When Your World Seems Hollow, We Help You Touch the Sky”
This one has to be in the running for the honor of “most obscure” Star Trek reference in any Mass Effect game.
In Mass Effect‘s Bring Down The Sky DLC, there is a radio shack located between two fusion torches. Go inside it, and you’ll find a log filled with unused radio promo spots. The script for one of those spots reads “If you are feeling hollow, we can help you touch the sky.” What is that supposed to mean?
Well, it seems to be a nod to a Star Trek: TOS Season 3 episode called “For The World Is Hollow And I Have Touched The Sky.” In that episode, an old man living atop a mountain tells the Enterprise crew “the world is hollow and I have touched the sky.”
The Systems Alliance Logo Looks Very Familiar…
Mass Effect‘s Systems Alliance is an Earth coalition responsible for representing the interests of humans in Citadel space. There are obviously many organizations in several notable sci-fi works with similar responsibilities, but there’s little doubt that the Systems Alliance is intended to refer to Star Trek‘s Starfleet.
In fact, the Systems Alliance logo bears a strong resemblance to the Starfleet logo from later Star Trek series and films. It’s not exactly a 1:1 copy, but it’s impossible not to spot the similarities once you start looking for them.
“Karora is Essentially a Great Rock in Space”
You’ll find another surprisingly subtle Star Trek reference in Mass Effect 2 when you request more information on a planet named Karora. The Normandy’s computer will inform you that “Karora is essentially a great rock in space, tidally locked to Amada.”
As it just so happens, Spock describes the Regula planet that the Enterprise crew encounters in Star Trek 2 as “essentially a great rock in space.” Maybe the wording is common enough to be a coincidence, but given all the other clear Star Trek references in Mass Effect, it feels like an intentional tribute.