My favorite five Star Trek shows

Opinion posted April 6, 2023 in

The Star Trek franchise has cemented a large legacy not only in the pop culture landscape but also in my heart.

It remains to this day one of my top three most beloved movie/TV franchises in the galaxy and is one of the best things to ever happen to science fiction.

While Star Trek has various notable movie entries, the franchise is more famous for the vast legacy it has on television. Here is my definitive ranking of the best Star Trek shows:

5. STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE (2001-2005)

“Enterprise” was the franchise’s first prequel installment and takes place over a century before “The Original Series.” Like “The Next Generation,” there is a completely new Enterprise ship with a completely new crew, and the ship’s command is now given to the reluctant Captain Jonathan Archer.

However, despite the show being a prequel, it is hard to say it is a true prequel because of the consistent continuity errors.

There is an advanced technology in the 22nd Century that exists before it is even invented (oops!), there is a Temporal Cold War occurring that should disrupt any semblance of canon, and not to mention, the very existence of an Enterprise ship before the original U.S.S. Enterprise is a huge head-scratcher.

Despite the glaring continuity issues, the show is a half-decent attempt at exploring the origins of the Federation. “Enterprise” dares to go where not too many entries bother to venture to begin with. 

4. STAR TREK: VOYAGER (1995-2001)

Voyager is the second spinoff of “The Next Generation” and is technically a sister show to the “Deep Space Nine” show.

Instead of a crew aboard the Enterprise, or even the DS9 space station, the show follows the adventures of the U.S.S. Voyager crew trying to get home to the Federation after being displaced 70,000 light-years away in the unexplored Delta Quadrant.

The show has many lingering plotlines and threads from other entries, as the villainous Borg returns and even gets expanded on, along with the Federation’s situation with the rogue Maquis movement.

“Voyager” even features the franchise’s first female captain, in the form of the determined Captain Janeway. The show is a good entry in the Next Gen era, but because it was broadcast around the same time as its sister show, “Deep Space Nine,” it got less recognition.

Maybe for obvious reasons (DS9 was a stronger show anyway).

3. STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE (1993-1999)

The idea of placing a Star Trek cast on a space station instead of a starship was a controversial move back in the early 1990s. How do you boldly go where no one has gone before if you are stuck on a space station?

It turns out the show went in many bold directions, for the betterment of the franchise. For one, the characterization of these new characters is probably the best out of the entire franchise.

Not to mention, “Deep Space Nine” could touch upon themes other shows would not have dared to.

While the future was always depicted as utopian in the “Star Trek” franchise, the show now had to depict darker material, the main one being the destructive Dominion War.

While a “darker Trek” worked here, it, unfortunately, set the modern 2010s precedent that every Trek entry had to be “dark and brooding”. Nevertheless, “Deep Space Nine” is a necessary must-watch for this franchise. 

2. STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES (1966-1969)

“The Original Series” is where the franchise began, and it is fortunate that it survived past this point. Sci-fi was still considered niche at this point and NBC never believed in the show, canceling it twice.

The series became more popular after subsequent television reruns and gained a cult following among fans, with a dedication lasting over sixty years.

Like “The Twilight Zone,” the show was famous for touching on social commentary that no other show was willing to depict on television.

It even had the first interracial kiss on television (although that never aired in many Southern states).

The show also put many iconic alien species in the pop cultural spotlight, such as the Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans, Tellarites, Gorn, Andorians and so on.

Likewise, “The Original Series” serves as a great starting point for new fans and anybody that enjoys any form of entertainment from the 1960s. 

1. STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION (1987-1994)

This is where “Star Trek” on television hits its perfection. “The Next Generation” features a completely different cast than the “Original Series” on a completely different Enterprise ship, taking place about a hundred years after the originals.

This was a controversial move, as audiences were not accustomed to seeing Star Trek without Kirk, Spock and McCoy.

This works, however, despite the concern.

The show was also known for offering the most infamous cliffhanger in Trek history, when Captain Picard was assimilated into the Borg collective, and audiences had to wait for months to see the spectacular conclusion.

To this day, “The Best of Both Worlds Parts 1 and 2” is still probably the best Trek television episode of all time.

Despite season one being a mixed bag of results (the show did not find its footing yet), this is the best the franchise has ever been on television. 

Unfortunately, many of the other shows never made it onto this list, such as “The Animated Series,” “Discovery,” “Short Treks,” “Picard,” “Lower Decks,” “Prodigy” and “Strange New Worlds.”

The reason is that ‘The Animated Series” does not even remain in the series canon, and the rest (being made under the CBS All Access/Paramount Plus banner) do not even count due to them being “Star Trek” in name and utter abominations of this beloved franchise.

But for the shorter version: they are simply not good enough.

Nevertheless, this is my definitive ranking of the top five best “Star Trek” shows, and it is clear why they stand out among the rest. Live long and prosper. 

Logan M. Sharp is a third-year Film Production student at Penn State University. To contact him, please email lxs5590@psu.edu.