Fifty-three years ago today, Star Trek debuted and boldly took viewers where they had never gone before for the first time. A journey that continues to this day in various formats. Over those years the series not only became a fixture of pop culture but it has taught us so much. It taught us to accept others. To hope for a better future for us all. It’s taught us about love, acceptance, loss, exploration, history, war, the human condition, fighting bigotry, standing up for what is right, when to fight and when to talk, and so so so much more.
What better way to celebrate over a half-century of one of the greatest science fiction series of all time then to spend the day binge-watching some of the different TV series? While there are fantastic moments across the years, including from the thirteen feature films, we selected ten episodes we think you should definitely check out today. The original five shows are available on Netflix with Hulu & Amazon both having the shows and the featured films.
Note: Star Trek: Discovery is only not on this list because I have not rewatched the first season recently or seen the second season in order to suggest episodes, but it is a great series and can be seen all on CBS All Access.
Star Trek – “Space Seed”
Season One, Episode 22
Before William Shatner and Ricardo Montalbán could face off in the greatest of the Star Trek films, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, there was this episode that first introduced the enhanced human being known as Khan Noonien Singh. As an origin story for not only Khan but what causes Khan and Kirk to butt heads, this episode should be required viewing for Trek fans.
Star Trek – “Mirror Mirror”
Season Two, Episode 4
One of the types of episodes that is generally the best in Star Trek are the “What If?” style alternate universes where everything is turned upside down, and this episode is one of the best as it was the first in the franchise. After a transporter accident Captain Kirk, Doctor McCoy, Uhura, and Scotty are sent to a parallel universe appropriately called the Mirror Universe. In this world, the Enterprise is part of the Terran Empire, a warped and evil universe conquering version of the United Federation of Planets. Also, mirror Spock has a sweet beard so that it’s worth watching for that alone.
Star Trek – “The Trouble With Tribbles”
Season Two, Episode 15
How can you not love the Tribbles? They’re fuzzy, adorable, fit in the palm of your hand and make a cute little cooing sound. Sure there is also the fact that they breed faster than rabbits and all they do is eat and eat and eat till they consume your entire world, but they sure are darn cute. One of the funniest and overall fun episodes that the Original Series has to offer. We never tire of those Tribbles.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Yesterday’s Enterprise”
Season Three, Episode 15
Another one of those aforementioned alternate universe stories, this one caused by time travel. Destroyed in battle twenty years before, the Enterprise C suddenly appears in the present day and turns the universe we know upside down to one where the Enterprise is the flagship of a militarized Starfleet that is fighting a losing battle against the Klingon Empire. Seeing the surprise return of a former crew member and watching our favorite characters fight and die to turn the world back to the one we know makes the episode well worth watching over and over again.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Best of Both Worlds”
Season Three and Four, Episodes 26 & 1
To this day, this two-part episode still ranks as one of the best cliffhangers ever. It features the Enterprise crew taking on one of their most powerful enemies in the Borg. Captain Picard is turned into the leader of the Borg Collective. Commander Riker takes command and faces a tough decision. Fans were left to spend months unsure what would happen to their favorite characters when the show returned for its fourth season. This was the moment everything changed in a good way for the second Star Trek series.
Star Trek: The Next Generation – “All Good Things…”
Season Seven, Episodes 25 & 26
The final episode, shown in two parts during repeat showings, is one of the best of the series. Captain Picard shifts in and out of three time points in his life the past where he first took command of the Enterprise, the present day of season seven, and a future long after the crew has gone their separate ways. The episode speaks to everything at the heart of series as it posits questions about humanity itself, as the omnipotent Q returns one last time to put Picard through one final test to prove to the Q Continuum that humans truly do have potential.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – “Trials and Tribble-ations”
Season Five, Episode 6
It seems fitting that this episode is on the list not only because it is a companion to the original Trouble With Tribbles episode listed above, but it was first aired during the 30th-anniversary celebration of Star Trek back in 1996. Using the beauty of computers, the series was able to insert the DS9 into footage from the Original Series episode, allowing fans to relive the fun of the Tribble episode but in a new way. It was a beautiful way to pay tribute to what had come before while celebrating how far the franchise had come in three decades. It also includes a joke about the changes in Klingons from those original years to the modern era, which just adds to the fun.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – “In The Pale Moonlight”
Season Six, Episode 19
While serialized television is common today, there was a time where it was seen as a pretty risky thing to do. Especially for something like Star Trek where the franchise had spent most of its history doing one-off style adventures with occasional two-parters. It would be hard to argue though that Deep Space Nine became a far better series once it began down the serialized road with the introduction of the Dominion and the eventual war that spread across multiple seasons. This episode shows how far Captain Sisko is willing to go in order to make sure that the Federation and their allies win the war. Unlike most of the shows where the captain was held up as a bastion of upholding the rules and peace and only breaking laws and rules when it was truly just, Sisko does things that he might regret but he’s willing to do them again in the name of protecting the Alpha Quadrant.
Star Trek: Voyager – “Deadlock”
Season Two, Episode 21
Trying to avoid the organ stealing Vidiians, Voyager enters a nebula and as they exit it a subspace disturbance causes the ship to end up being duplicated. Except the duplicated Voyagers are existing in exactly the same space. As one Voyager is being torn apart and the Vidiians begin to approach, the two Captain Janeways to make some hard choices. The episode is fantastic as it leaves you guessing about what will happen and even puts some characters in spots where they may not make it out. It also leaves the crew with the question, which was actually the real Voyager or were they both real in the end?
Star Trek: Voyager – “Year Of Hell”
Season Four, Episodes 8 & 9
This two-part episode is hands down one of the best that Voyager has to offer. As time changes around them, Voyager is beaten and battered as they travel through a dangerous region of space. Over the two episodes, the crew and the ship are utterly gutted on so many levels. Truly the episode offers a view of what the show could have been, in the sense of what would they have done if the ship didn’t magically get fixed and restocked between episodes as it so regularly seemed to do? Just imagine a series where the battered and struggling Voyager had to fight tooth and nail to make it through the Delta Quadrant, the crew making hard decisions every week. While it might have then lost out on some of the fun episodes of the series, it’s a version worth thinking about.
What were your favorite episodes of any of the Star Trek series? Let us know by commenting below or through Twitter or Facebook.