The Final Frontier
Updated: Apr 7, 2021
The first episode of Star Trek I ever watched was The Inner Light an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. At the time, I was eight years old and my mom and I watched the VHS her boyfriend, now my stepfather, had let her borrow it. I was enchanted. I have no memory of what my relationship to science fiction was at the time, but it is the first true sci-fi experience I can remember. At the time, we also started watching several sci-fi shows, curled up in my single mother's bed watching TV while eating Tostito's pizzas. I wanted more. My mind was full of wonder about what lay so far beyond the stars. Two years later, I was starting work on my first novel The Suns of David.
It was the beginning of my love for science fiction. As soon as I was in college, my goal was to watch every episode of every series of Star Trek and I'm almost there! I have never seen Star Trek: The Animated Series and I'm still making my way through Star Trek: Discovery, I'm currently watching Star Trek: Discovery (Season Two) as I type this.
Below are my personal rankings of the various Star Trek series that I've seen so far. At a later date, I will post a review of each season of Discovery as I make my way through the series. Please, don't take offense to this list as it is my personal opinion and I LOVE all of Star Trek and anyone who loves them.
5. Star Trek: Voyager (VOY)
This series ends up at the bottom of the list not because it is bad. I LOVE this series but it does a lot of the same wonderful things that Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG ) does. It is a very episodic series but it does have some of the underlying connective tissue that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) does but to a lesser extent. It has a lot of cool things going on that should be noted. First of all, it is the first series, and so far the only series, to have a female captain. And what a captain Janeway is! She's tough but incredibly feminine. I love the fact that her most commendable trait, outside of her intelligence, is her more "feminine" traits, such as empathy and treating her crew as if they were her own children.
The premise of the story is incredibly interesting. However, the writing isn't always as strong as it is for other series which is why it gets its spot at the bottom of the list. I think out of all the series of Star Trek, this series has a lot more dud episodes than other series. That doesn't mean that I would try to sway people away from this series but it has some tough competition. There are some incredibly memorable episodes and one of my favorite characters of all time is in this series. That would be, of course, Seven of Nine.
4. Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS)
I absolutely hate putting the very foundation of Star Trek anywhere close to the bottom of the list but here we are. This series is the reason that we have Star Trek at all. It was foundational for the series as a whole but was also monumental to our society too. It explored a lot of issues that were difficult to address on television at the time. In fact, Lucille Ball and Martin Luther King Jr. both fought to keep this show on the air because they knew how important it or at least aspects of it were for the American public to see. Gene Roddenberry would even distract the censors when he had particular polarizing or scathing reviews of current events on the screen by showing women's navels (which was crazy scandalous at the time).
The series has all things considered, aged incredibly well. I watched it about two years ago and was quite taken away with the moral lessons I was able to take away from it. I grew up watching A LOT of sixties and seventies tv that I have trouble watching today sometimes but TOS in my opinion has aged a lot better and is progressive in comparison to other shows of its era.
3. Star Trek: Enterprise (ENT)
Now, it may surprise people to see ENT so high on this list but I really LOVE the show despite how most fans feel about it. When I first saw it, I hated it and didn't even want to watch it. My parents forced me to watch Quantum Leap when I was twelve years old and I fell in love with Scott Bakula because like, how could you not? Anyway, I think that combined with my love of Star Trek in general made it easy for me to make a connection with the show.
In my personal opinion, this show does a lot of things right that "modern" Star Trek iterations don't do right. It holds to the spirit of the series as a whole. Unlike what I call "fake Star Trek" aka J.J. Abrams Star Trek revamp, it holds true to the principles that make Star Trek what it is. It is a show about morality. It explores the difficult choices that Captain Archer has to make when exploring the galaxies for the very first time and what guidelines he needs to set in place for the galaxy as a whole. It does try to be maybe a little more grandiose than it should be but I still find it a fun show to watch but if you do watch the series, make sure you read The Good That Men Do and Kobayashi Maru by Michael A Martin and Andy Mangels for the best experience.
4. Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG)
This was the first series I ever watched so it will always hold a special place in my heart. There is some incredible stand-out writing in this series which drew me to the genre of sci-fi in the first place. Though the show is episodic in nature rather than having a strong through-line it still has some incredibly strong episodes which explore morality and fantastic moments of character development.
VOY, DS9, and TNG are probably the closest in canon than any other set of series in the Star Trek catalog but TNG is what shaped that connective tissue. It established characters, lore, and events that we cherish. DS9 and VOY, to a lesser extent, build upon this lore and take it in a completely different direction. TNG has become the true foundation for Star Trek and its future iterations. It will always owe its existence to TOS but it is the series that established much of the lore that future series build upon.
5. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
This is my favorite series of Star Trek of all time. It is so much like a novel rather than a TV show. It has inspired my writing more than you know. I have a lot to say about this series but the overall storytelling is like no other series of Star Trek. It definitely wins the category of most like a novel of any other series.
It also stands apart as it is the first series to have a black captain. It is standout with its episodes that address racial issues and the first series to ever show any kind of LGBTQ+ representation in it. Not only that, the storytelling and morality exploration is hands down the best. It is not afraid to explore those moral gray areas while still staying true to the "Federation spirit".