Twenty of the best Star Trek episodes!

Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers ahead for the Star Trek franchise, including all episodes on this list. Spoilers are present for the following: Discovery Season 4, Picard Season 3, Prodigy Season 1, Strange New Worlds Season 1, and more.

So, I did a thing. A few days ago, I published a tongue-in-cheek list of what I consider to be some of the worst episodes in the Star Trek franchise. Since it went up, it’s been racking up clicks – almost immediately becoming the most-viewed piece on the website over the past few days. To balance out that list – and to claw back some of my standing as a Trekkie – I thought I shouldn’t wait any longer before writing the counterpoint!

As I said last time, I’m a huge Star Trek fan. Heck, I run a Star Trek-themed website – so obviously I like the franchise! But I’m not one of those fans who says that “everything Star Trek has ever done is perfect,” nor am I someone who wants to whitewash Star Trek and never mention the bad parts. Paramount has a marketing team to do that.

It’s the Enterprise-E!

So today, as a counterpoint to my last list, I’m going to pick twenty of my absolute favourite episodes. It should go without saying that this list is also entirely subjective, so if I exclude your favourite episode or you hate all of my picks… that’s okay! We’re all entitled to our preferences about which Star Trek stories we prefer, and there should be enough room within the Star Trek fan community for polite discussion and disagreement.

So without any further ado, let’s dive into the list!

Episode #1:
The Doomsday Machine
The Original Series Season 2

The wreck of the USS Constellation.

The Doomsday Machine is, in some respects, The Original Series in microcosm. It has everything that fans loved about the show: an exciting sci-fi premise, an incredible guest star, and a hard-hitting real-world comparison. It’s always stood out to me as one of The Original Series’ finest outings, masterfully building up tension as the unmanned weapon mindlessly carries out its directive.

The character of Commodore Decker, who was created for The Doomsday Machine, is one of the show’s most brilliant and tragic characters. His story has always been an absolutely riveting one for me – and the performance by guest star William Windom is phenomenal. The Doomsday Machine had a point to make about nuclear weapons out here in the real world, too – and coming at the height of the Cold War, less than six years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, it could hardly be more timely.

Episode #2:
Coming Home
Discovery Season 4

Captain Burnham on the bridge of the USS Discovery.

Discovery’s fourth season – like its predecessors – took a meandering and occasionally frustrating route to reach its final episode… but it was more than worth the wait! Coming Home is fantastic, and encapsulates everything that Star Trek is and always has been. There were incredibly tense and exciting moments as the Federation leapt to the defence of Earth, which was in serious danger, but those moments were coupled with the discovery of a very new and different alien race.

Seeking out new life has been at the heart of Star Trek since its inception. But, as many have pointed out over the years, Star Trek’s “new life” could often look and act very, well, human. Species 10-C, which we finally got to meet in this episode after a season-long buildup, have to be one of the most strikingly different aliens ever created for the franchise. Above all, though, Coming Home excels for its sense of optimism and hope. I’d challenge even the most ardent Discovery-avoider to give it a try.

Episode #3:
The Siege of AR-558
Deep Space Nine Season 7

Quark and Nog.

Few Star Trek episodes truly manage to capture the feel of being at war quite so dramatically and spectacularly as The Siege of AR-558. Director Winrich Kolbe drew on his own experiences in the Vietnam War to create a claustrophobic, frightening scenario in which Federation soldiers were fighting for their lives over a nameless lump of rock. The futility of war is on display in The Siege of AR-558 in a way that Star Trek has seldom touched upon.

Nog’s character arc is one of Deep Space Nine’s best, and this episode shows why. Nog went from petty thief to Starfleet hero over the course of seven seasons, and the life-changing injury he suffered in the battle on the planetoid AR-558 would be a defining moment for him. The Siege of AR-558 is an episode that challenges many of our assumptions and beliefs about the Federation, Starfleet, and the Dominion War – and it’s an absolutely incredible watch.

Episode #4:
First First Contact
Lower Decks Season 2

Shaxs in First First Contact.

First First Contact is Lower Decks at its very best. It’s a Star Trek story through-and-through, with a challenge befalling the crew of the Cerritos that’s of a scientific and engineering nature. It’s also the perfect example of how Star Trek can tell tense and exciting stories without the need for evil villains and big set-piece battles.

Lower Decks often operates with a two-story or even three-story structure, pairing up characters and setting them off on their own adventures. But First First Contact is a comparatively rare example of the entire crew working together and taking part in the same storyline – and it works incredibly well. There are moments of high drama, tension, and emotion as the Cerritos races to save a stricken Federation starship and an uncontacted planet – and a moment of engineering genius that would rival anything Scotty or Geordi could’ve come up with!

Episode #5:
The Next Generation Season 5

A plasma fire!

I consider Season 5 to probably be The Next Generation’s strongest overall outing, so Disaster really is the cream of the crop! This is an episode in which every main character gets to play a role in one large, connected story – but it’s a story that throws everyone far outside of their comfort zones and usual roles! The situations the characters find themselves in are tense, dramatic, and occasionally comical, because Disaster really is an episode that has it all!

The basic premise of the episode sees the Enterprise-D damaged, without power, and adrift. Troi is the senior officer on the bridge, being advised by Ro and O’Brien. Data and Riker rush to engineering to try to bring power back to the ship. Picard is stuck in a turbolift with three frightened children (his own personal hell). Worf must take care of civilians in Ten-Forward. And Dr Crusher and Geordi are trapped in a cargo bay. Everyone gets their moment in the spotlight, making Disaster a genuine ensemble piece.

Episode #6:
Vanishing Point
Enterprise Season 2

Hoshi on the transporter pad.

Although Vanishing Point’s ending is pretty cheap and uninspired, the episode itself is a truly interesting exploration of one of Star Trek’s best-known pieces of technology: the transporter. We’ve seen characters like Dr McCoy being averse to the transporter, and more transporter accidents than I can call to mind! But Vanishing Point steps back in time to when the technology was new and untested, and places Hoshi Sato at the centre of its story.

Ensign Sato was such a great point-of-view character, as her nervousness and anxiety at being out in space had already been well-established. Vanishing Point also took Hoshi outside of her usual role as communications officer, allowing her to take centre-stage in a different kind of story. Although the ending drags it down somewhat, Vanishing Point is nevertheless a ton of fun!

Episode #7:
A Quality of Mercy
Strange New Worlds Season 1

Christopher Pike as we’ve never seen him before!

Season 1 of Strange New Worlds is fantastic across the board, without so much as a single bad episode! It was difficult to pick just one for this list, but I’ve decided to go with A Quality of Mercy. This episode gets time travel just right, with Captain Pike dealing with himself from an alternate future timeline in which he avoided his devastating accident and disability. Time travel can be tricky to pull off, but A Quality of Mercy manages it.

The episode also returns to the classic story Balance of Terror, showing us an alternate outcome to the battle between Kirk and the Romulan Commander. This gives it the feel of a story “made for fans,” and Trekkies who’ve followed the franchise for a long time will surely find a lot to love here. At the core of it all is Captain Pike, a character who I find incredibly relatable. Knowing that one’s health is in decline and seeking to make a “deal with the devil” to find a solution… I’ve been there. And Anson Mount plays the whole thing – and the roles of two different Pikes – incredibly well.

Episode #8:
Equinox Parts I and II
Voyager Season 5-6

Captain Ransom.

Voyager’s fifth season ended in stunning fashion with the first part of Equinox. I was hanging on for months waiting for Part II, which brought the story to an explosive conclusion. After years lost in the Delta Quadrant, Captain Janeway and the crew finally encounter another Federation vessel – and another crew who understand what they’ve gone through. But all is not what it seems, as it turns out that the aliens attacking the small USS Equinox are actually in the right.

Equinox is a challenging episode, condemning Captain Ransom’s actions while also presenting him and (most of) his crew in a relatively sympathetic light. It’s an episode that hammers home how lucky Janeway and the crew of Voyager have been – comparatively speaking – and shows the extremes that people can be willing to go to in order to survive.

Episode #9:
The Star Gazer
Picard Season 2

Who’s this?

I debated for a long time whether I wanted to include The Star Gazer on this list. The story that it so brilliantly set up went off the rails pretty quickly in subsequent episodes, and Picard’s second season is, overall, a disappointment. But on its own, The Star Gazer is actually a pretty great episode, one that re-introduces one of Star Trek’s classic villains in a new and terrifying manner.

If the rest of Picard Season 2 had been anywhere near as good as The Star Gazer, it would be one of the best in the entire franchise! As it is, this episode almost feels like an alternate timeline, showing us what might have been! Regardless, though, it sets up a tantalising mystery, teases us with some serious development for some of the show’s supporting characters, and contains one of the best and most frightening clashes between Starfleet and the Borg that the Star Trek franchise has ever created.

Episode #10:
Homefront and Paradise Lost
Deep Space Nine Season 4

Benjamin and Jake Sisko.

Deep Space Nine had done things differently from its very first episode, and some fans weren’t wild about its darker tone. This shift away from the Federation and Starfleet being presented as an incorruptible and enlightened paradise was on full display in this pair of episodes. In between the discovery of the Dominion and the official outbreak of war, the Federation was terrified of changeling infiltrators. Feeling that politicians and bureaucrats weren’t up to the task, a renegade “badmiral” plots a coup.

Some early Star Trek stories could present the Federation as almost too perfect, and this continued into The Next Generation era. What Captain Sisko and Odo had to confront here was the idea that Starfleet officers could themselves fall prey to paranoia, corruption, and ego – and this very human reaction to the threat of infiltration felt quite relatable. Although we’re firmly on Sisko’s side, Homefront and Paradise Lost throw some moral ambiguity into the mix thanks to some complex writing and several outstanding guest stars.

Episode #11:
The Royale
The Next Generation Season 2

The away team gambling.

I confess that I have a soft spot for The Royale for one principal reason: it’s the earliest episode of Star Trek that I can remember watching! Although I’m sure I’d seen at least parts of other episodes prior to The Royale’s broadcast on terrestrial TV here in the UK in 1991, this is the first one I have rock-solid memories of, and it’s always carried special significance as a result. So that’s my own bias stated up front!

Bias aside, though, I think there’s a lot to enjoy in this episode. It’s the kind of story that no other sci-fi franchise would attempt, and it has an unusual and somewhat eerie feel. Imagine having to spend the rest of your life trapped in an alien recreation of a three-star hotel! That seems like a very specific kind of hell, putting a dark spin on what could’ve been a purely comical story. The idea of roaming to the farthest, unexplored reaches of space only to find an Earth hotel and a mystery is part of what made Star Trek stand out to me, and seeing Riker and the away team solve the puzzle is still an engaging watch more than three decades later!

Episode #12:
Through the Valley of Shadows
Discovery Season 2

The Klingon monastery on Boreth.

Through the Valley of Shadows reframes Captain Pike and the accident that left him disabled. The Menagerie, from the first season of The Original Series, showed us the aftermath of what happened to Pike, as well as introduced us to the character and his time in the captain’s chair. Through the Valley of Shadows took that idea to a completely new and different thematic place: Captain Pike had to choose this future for himself, making an unimaginable sacrifice in order to complete his mission and save untold numbers of lives.

We looked at one consequence of that above with the Strange New Worlds episode A Quality of Mercy. These two episodes make a fascinating pair, and the tragedy of Captain Pike takes on a whole new dimension in light of what we learn here. Pike has always been a character I find incredibly relatable, and Through the Valley of Shadows puts a distinctly “Star Trek” spin on the idea of seeing one’s own future – and knowing that illness, disability, and worsening health lie ahead.

Episode #13:
Court Martial
The Original Series Season 1

Captain Kirk with his lawyer.

Court Martial is Star Trek’s first foray into courtroom drama – a genre that the franchise would return to on multiple occasions! Captain Kirk is accused of murdering an officer under his command and attempting to cover it up, and the stakes are high! We know he couldn’t possibly be guilty, of course… but the evidence against him appears to be compelling.

Samuel T. Cogley – Kirk’s advocate – is a character I’d absolutely love modern Star Trek to revisit! Based on the “old country lawyer” character archetype, Cogley led Kirk’s defence in unorthodox fashion, and is one of the best parts of Court Martial. Along with The Conscience of the King and Charlie X, which also delve into Kirk’s backstory, Court Martial puts flesh on the bones of someone who was still a new character. Kirk’s integrity and honour are on display – and on trial.

Episode #14:
Dragon’s Teeth
Voyager Season 6

The USS Voyager prepares to land.

Dragon’s Teeth is an interesting episode, and one that tells us a little about the history of the Star Trek galaxy. It’s also a story that looks at the potential consequences of war and conquest, as well as how different reality can be from societal memory. The crew of Voyager re-awaken a group of aliens who have been in stasis since the 1400s, following a devastating war that culminated in the bombardment of their planet.

The Vaadwaur proved to be untrustworthy allies, however, and attempted to capture Voyager. The “underspace corridors” that were present in this episode weren’t revisited, even though they potentially offered a quicker way to traverse this region of space. The concept was fun, though, and reviving a long-dormant race was likewise an interesting and well-executed idea.

Episode #15:
The Andorian Incident
Enterprise Season 1


I have to hold up my hands and confess that I wasn’t a big supporter of Enterprise during its original run. I was disappointed in its choice of setting, believing that Star Trek should move forwards instead of looking back at its own fictional history. But episodes like The Andorian Incident show just how wrong I was to feel that way! The episode showcases the conflict between Andoria and Vulcan in the years prior to the founding of the Federation – and begins to set the stage for humanity to bridge the divide and bring them together.

At a Vulcan holy site on the planet P’Jem, a monastery has been attacked by Andorians. The Andorian leader claims the monastery is a front for a listening post. Jeffrey Combs returns to Star Trek after his roles in Deep Space Nine to play Andorian leader Shran, and the interplay between Shran and Captain Archer would be one of Enterprise’s best. All in all, a fascinating outing.

Episode #16:
Where Pleasant Fountains Lie
Lower Decks Season 2

Andy Billups, chief engineer of the USS Cerritos.

I adore Where Pleasant Fountains Lie. I think it has a potentially-interesting explanation for the abundance of human-looking aliens in the Star Trek galaxy (they’re all Earth colonies), but moreover it touches on a subject close to home for me: asexuality. I’m asexual, and while the Cerritos’ chief engineer Andy Billups isn’t explicitly stated to be asexual in the story, Where Pleasant Fountains Lie focuses in large part on his discomfort with having sex and desire to avoid it.

Star Trek has always used its sci-fi setting to shine a new light on the real world, and for me, this episode absolutely nailed it. When people ask me about asexuality, I now have a relatable story that I can point to, one that touches on many of the same feelings and experiences that I’ve personally had as an asexual individual. I wrote a longer piece about this episode’s asexuality analogy, and you can find it by clicking or tapping here if you’re interested to read more.

Episode #17:
Let Sleeping Borg Lie
Prodigy Season 1

What have the crew of the Protostar got themselves into this time?

Prodigy had a strong first season – though it’s been disappointingly let down by a lack of support from Paramount, especially in the merchandising department. There are several contenders for episodes to include on this list, but I’ve decided to go with Let Sleeping Borg Lie from the second half of the season.

The episode focuses on a derelict Borg vessel – tying into the story recently seen in Picard’s third season – and gives all of the main youngsters something to do. The episode moves key storylines along, as Prodigy is a surprisingly serialised affair, but it also takes the crew to a different environment. One of the advantages of animation over live-action is the ability to visit different ships and planets every week relatively inexpensively! There are strong themes of sacrifice and friendship that form the emotional core of the story, too.

Episode #18:
Birthright, Parts I & II
The Next Generation Season 6

The Enterprise-D at DS9.

This story is a fun crossover between The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, which wasn’t yet ten episodes into its first season. The main story focuses on Worf as he tracks down a hitherto unknown group of survivors of the Khitomer massacre – the event in which his birth parents were killed. The second part of the story in particular focuses on the Klingons and Klingon culture.

I adore a good crossover, and it’s a ton of fun to see Picard and Dr Crusher aboard DS9, as well as Data and Dr Bashir working together. This episode was designed to give Deep Space Nine a jump-start as its first season got underway, but it’s more than that. It’s a fantastic combination of characters and settings that expands Star Trek beyond a single series into a connected franchise.

Episode #19:
State of Flux
Voyager Season 1

Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok discuss the situation.

Voyager never managed to make good on its “one ship, two crews” idea, and State of Flux, coming midway through the first season, was one of the few episodes to really explore that concept. When the crew of Voyager come to suspect that someone is passing secret information to the Kazon, a trap is laid – and a member of Chakotay’s Maquis sect is the prime suspect.

This episode set up a recurring story that would come back in Season 2 and at the beginning of Season 3, giving Voyager at least some consistent themes across the first part of the crew’s journey home. It’s also an engaging mystery on its own merit, and a strong episode for Chakotay – a character who could feel under-used, especially toward the latter part of the show’s run.

Episode #20:
Civil Defense
Deep Space Nine Season 3

Kell, the former commanding officer of Terok Nor, appears on a screen.

Despite a station-threatening premise, Civil Defense is a remarkably fun episode! It takes the premise of occupying an alien space station to a completely different place than almost any other story in the series, as O’Brien accidentally triggers a computer programme designed to put down a rebellion by the Cardassian station’s former Bajoran workforce.

Civil Defense gives most of the show’s main characters – including Jake Sisko – something to do, putting together groups or pairs of characters who always work well together and provide a ton of entertainment. Quark and Odo help to keep things light – and so does Dukat, to an extent, when he arrives to offer his “assistance!” All in all, an exciting and surprisingly fun outing.

So that’s it!

The USS Enterprise in The Wrath of Khan.

We’ve taken a look at twenty fantastic Star Trek episodes from across the franchise, getting a great mix of modern and older episodes. Hopefully this will help me regain some of my lost standing as a Trekkie after my list a few days ago!

All jokes aside, though, there’s a ton of fun to be had with Star Trek. Put all twenty of these episodes together in a playlist and you’ve got a hugely entertaining Star Trek marathon that will take you from the very beginnings of the franchise in 1966 right the way through to the most recent seasons that have only just been broadcast. It was a blast to go back and revisit all of these wonderful episodes.

The Star Trek franchise – including all series, films, and episodes mentioned above – is the copyright of Paramount Global. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten great Star Trek episodes – Part 4: Voyager

Spoiler Warning: In addition to the spoilers for the Voyager episodes on this list, minor spoilers may be present for other iterations of the Star Trek franchise, including Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard.

Welcome back to the “Ten great episodes” series! In the first three entries, we looked at The Original Series, The Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine, so now it’s Voyager’s turn under the microscope. In the run-up to Star Trek: Picard premiering earlier this year, I looked at a few episodes and story points from Voyager, especially regarding Seven of Nine and the Borg, as she was scheduled to appear in the new series.

Voyager premiered in 1995, a spin-off from The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine occupying the same mid/late-24th Century setting. Voyager’s premiere episode, Caretaker, had scenes set aboard DS9 and featured Armin Shimerman’s character of Quark as a guest-star, tying the show to the expanded Star Trek franchise. Though The Next Generation had gone off the air six months before Voyager began, its cast were still together making films – Star Trek: Generations was still in cinemas at the time of Voyager’s US premiere. The show therefore joined a growing fictional universe, one which now saw two television series and a film series sharing a setting. There was potential for characters and themes to cross over, as indeed we would see with the Maquis – a faction of Federation rebels who debuted in The Next Generation and featured in multiple episodes of Deep Space Nine.

Where Deep Space Nine had been successful with the idea of a mixed crew of Federation and non-Federation personnel, one of Voyager’s weaker aspects was its attempt to use a similar formula. Chakotay and B’Elanna Torres were the two Maquis main characters, but aside from a few early episodes, and a couple of attempts to revisit the Maquis later on, Voyager’s crew quickly became an homogeneous group that was, for all intents and purposes, a Starfleet crew not dissimilar to what we’d seen on The Next Generation. In that sense, that aspect of Voyager’s story was wasted, or at the very least got lost in its “voyage home” storyline.

Voyager was the first Star Trek series to have a very definite goal or endgame in mind, and though it wasn’t strictly a serialised affair like later Deep Space Nine seasons would be, its one overarching story was the quest to return to the Alpha Quadrant. We’d seen Starfleet ships taken a long way from home before, in episodes like Where No One Has Gone Before, but by the end of the episode they’d always manage to make it home again. Voyager took that storyline but changed it up – leaving the ship and crew stranded on the far side of the galaxy, having to make it home on their own. That was a new direction for Star Trek, and allowed for a show that could be similar to Kirk and Picard’s voyages of exploration, but with a twist. The premise also meant that Voyager could introduce new factions and races without having to return to the Alpha Quadrant’s familiar Klingons, Cardassians, and Romulans, which would allow for more variety and for the show to remain distinct from both Deep Space Nine and The Next Generation and its films.

Star Trek: Voyager’s opening title.

Sadly, as with Deep Space Nine, Voyager has not been remastered, and remains in its original 1990s broadcast format. As a result, it doesn’t look as good on modern screens as the remastered versions of The Original Series and The Next Generation, nor Enterprise, Discovery, and Star Trek: Picard. This difference is noticeable, especially if you’ve got a decent HD or 4K television and are used to watching content in HD or on Blu-ray. I consider this to be a major mistake on ViacomCBS’ part, and I have an article calling on them to rectify the situation, which you can find by clicking or tapping here.

Just to recap this format, I’m not presenting this as a “Top Ten” list of the absolute best episodes. Instead, these are simply ten great episodes that I consider to be thoroughly enjoyable and well worth a watch – especially if you find yourself with lots of time on your hands at the moment. The episodes are not ranked, they’re just listed in order of release. I’ve tried to pick at least one episode from each of Voyager’s seven seasons.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the list – and this is your final warning that there will be spoilers!

Number 1: State of Flux (Season 1)

Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok in State of Flux.

One of the potentially interesting elements included in the premise of Voyager was the concept of “one ship, two crews”. Both a Starfleet crew, headed by Capt. Janeway, and a Maquis crew, headed by Chakotay, would have to work together on a single ship – and that scenario could lead to conflict and tension. Deep Space Nine had used a similar idea, bringing together Federation and non-Federation main cast members. However, even at this early stage in Voyager’s run, it was apparent that the writers and producers didn’t really know how to make this format work without one side or the other becoming antagonists.

Seska shook up that formula somewhat. Where Chakotay and B’Elanna Torres had largely settled into their roles as First Officer and Chief Engineer, Seska had failed to do so in her appearances across the first season.

Exposing her as a spy is a great story – because it shows a real conflict between Starfleet and non-Starfleet principles. Seska was willing to trade Voyager’s technology to the aggressive Kazon, not caring that doing so would shift the balance of power in the region because she doesn’t care one iota about the Prime Directive. Janeway would stick to this doctrine throughout Voyager – even though it could be argued that destroying the Caretaker’s station was interference in itself! But not everyone on the crew agreed, and certainly not all of Chakotay’s Maquis did.

Seska isn’t a Maquis, though. Like Tuvok, she was a plant on Chakotay’s crew; a Cardassian spy. By this point in the Star Trek timeline, the Cardassians were well-established as villains, so making Seska a Cardassian too was in keeping with that. It does mean, however, than within ten episodes, Chakotay has discovered that two of his senior crewmen were spies. I liked the way he angrily confronted Tuvok about this toward the end of the episode, furious with himself for not realising he was being spied on and manipulated.

Seska’s recurring role as a villain was established in State of Flux, and it was arguably the last good episode where the concept of “one ship, two crews” was genuinely in play, with the idea of a Maquis rebellion a possibility. From this point on, the Maquis would behave like any other Starfleet crew, and while it would be given lip service numerous times across the show’s run, any real conflict or tension between the two groups was gone with the departure of Seska.

Number 2: Tattoo (Season 2)

Tattoo sees Chakotay learn more about the history of his own people – from the aliens who once contacted them.

Robert Beltran played Chakotay in all seven seasons of Voyager, and has been vocal, both at the time and subsequently, about how he didn’t really enjoy it, especially in the latter part of the show’s run. Episodes focusing on Chakotay were infrequent, especially after Seven of Nine joined the crew – and this was a major reason why Beltran was dissatisfied. But Tattoo, from Season 2, is a great example of a Chakotay episode, and how good of an actor Beltran can be when given enough material to work with.

The basic premise of the story is that Chakotay’s Native American tribe had been contacted in the distant past by “sky spirits” – who were in fact aliens from the Delta Quadrant. After finding a clue to their existence on a moon where Voyager’s crew is collecting resources, Chakotay tracks them down.

Representations of Native Americans on television as of the mid-1990s hadn’t always been great. Chakotay’s role, at times, could lean into the trope of the “noble savage” – a character archetype going back centuries, presenting Native Americans as being inherently virtuous, especially prior to European contact. This story leans into that at points – the “sky spirits” claiming to have visited Chakotay’s people because they “respected the land”, and the overall portrayal of the “sky spirits” can both be seen as stereotyping.

Beyond that, however, Tattoo sees Chakotay rediscovering his faith and establishing a connection with his deceased father that he never had in his youth. In that sense, it’s a great character piece, looking at backstory to Chakotay as well as giving him a genuinely emotional arc.

The secondary plot of this episode looks at the Doctor and Kes – the Doctor learns about empathy by Kes putting him through a holographic illness. Kes was a character that I wish had more time on the series – she left the show at the beginning of Season 4, just as she was learning to develop her telepathic abilities.

Number 3: Basics, Parts 1 & 2 (Season 2-3)

In Basics, Maje Culluh and his band of Kazon capture Voyager and maroon the crew.

The Kazon had been antagonists since the very first episode of Voyager, but by this point in the series, the journey the ship was undertaking would soon have to leave their region of space behind – the Kazon, after all, did not span the entire Delta Quadrant. Seska’s decision to defect, as well as Crewman Jonas feeding them secret information, built up what was really a multi-episode story across Seasons 1 and 2 that needed a big payoff – and Basics, which ended the second season on a cliffhanger, definitely achieved that!

The Kazon formulate a plan, aided by Seska and the information from Jonas, to capture Voyager – and they’re successful, boarding the ship and capturing the crew. As punishment for refusing to share Voyager’s technology with the less-advanced Kazon, their leader, Maje Culluh, maroons the crew on a barren planet, forcing them to survive with nothing.

The resolution to this arc brought back Tom Paris (who had briefly disappeared from the ship as part of a ruse) and Neelix’s people, the Talaxians. As a duology of episodes which wrapped up the Seska storyline and was the last major engagement with the show’s first villains, Basics is fantastic. My only critique would be to say that it would have been potentially interesting to see the story last more than two episodes, and focus more on the crew surviving without much technology.

There was also a very funny moment involving the Doctor being holographically projected to the wrong location – in case you don’t remember I’ll leave you to spot it when you watch!

Number 4: The Q and the Grey (Season 3)

Q returns in The Q and the Grey, and Voyager is pulled into a Q civil war.

Bringing Q into Voyager posed a unique problem – as someone who is as close to omnipotent as any character in Star Trek, Q could have easily sent Voyager and its crew home. While his appearances throughout the series struggled, at points, to get around that obvious fact, Q did still manage to be an interesting recurring character for Janeway and co. to deal with.

The American Civil War is one of the periods in history that, for a variety of reasons, I find absolutely fascinating, and The Q and the Grey uses that setting and aesthetic to great effect. Depicting a war between two different factions of the Q Continuum, The Q and the Grey presents the familiar Q – the one we met in The Next Generation – as being on the side of the rebels, with those who supported the status quo opposing his faction.

Quinn, the renegade member of the Q Continuum that Capt. Janeway met in the second season episode Death Wish, was ultimately successful in committing suicide – spoiler warning for that episode. But his death shocked the Q Continuum and led to the outbreak of war. Q wants to have a child – initially with Janeway – as a way to bring about peace, but he’s too late and the crew of Voyager are dragged into the war.

The Q and the Grey built on Q’s previous appearance in the series and simultaneously set the stage for his return, but it was also an interesting episode in itself, and as a history buff I appreciated the reference to a time period I’ve long had an interest in.

Number 5: The Raven (Season 4)

Seven of Nine and Tuvok discover the final resting place of the USS Raven in The Raven.

LeVar Burton, who of course played Geordi La Forge in The Next Generation, stepped up to direct The Raven. After a trilogy of episodes had introduced Seven of Nine at the end of Season 3 and the beginning of Season 4, this was the first big Seven-centric episode in Voyager. I’ve written about this previously, but I wasn’t particularly a fan of Seven of Nine, especially by the time Voyager entered its final couple of seasons. Her character was incredibly static and one-dimensional, and I just found her to be repetitive and boring – probably not helped by the fact that many of Voyager’s later episodes gave her a large role. But we’re getting off topic! The Raven gets a pass as a Seven of Nine episode for two reasons – the first is that, as mentioned, it’s the first one. And the second reason is that this was taking place only a few days or weeks after her separation from the Borg Collective.

Because Seven of Nine experiences flashbacks ultimately caused by Borg technology, I often find myself confusing the events of this episode with the fifth season episode Infinite Regress, which sees Seven of Nine exposed to Borg technology and taking on the personae of assimilated individuals. However, in The Raven, Seven of Nine rediscovers her parents’ ship – the place where she was first assimilated by the Borg.

The Raven is thus the first episode to begin to dig into her background and humanise her for us as the audience. Having an ex-Borg crew member posed questions and issues for Voyager – most notably, how should she behave? Rediscovering all of her humanity and going on to act like any other human crew member would have been a waste, acting logical and aloof would have been too Vulcan (a role already filled by Tuvok), and so instead the producers chose this formula where Seven of Nine would be somewhat of a renegade among the crew while at the same time being taken under the wing of Capt. Janeway and the Doctor in particular to learn lessons in being human. She’d always seem to forget those lessons by the next episode, however, and that’s where my problem with her and the repetitiveness of her storylines begins!

Jeri Ryan is a great actress, though, and The Raven gave her an opportunity to take Seven of Nine away from being cold and methodical – we see her go through an emotional rollercoaster that lets Ryan show off her acting abilities in a way most other episodes don’t. The episode would also establish the existence of Seven’s parents – Magnus and Erin Hansen – who would be mentioned several times in Voyager and ultimately make an appearance.

Number 6: Message in a Bottle (season 4)

The USS Prometheus – a Starfleet vessel the Doctor visited in the Alpha Quadrant.

Message in a Bottle is a funny episode, despite its serious setting and the major change it offers to the overall story of Voyager. Robert Picardo’s portrayal of the Doctor often walked a line between serious character and comic relief, but in this episode he’s joined by Andy Dick, who portrays a different version of the Emergency Medical Hologram. The two must contend with a ship that has been captured by Romulans, and some slapstick comedy ensues.

Aside from the amusing script that gave Picardo a chance to run wild with the character, Message in a Bottle marks a significant turning point in the overall “voyage home” narrative of the series. After several prior attempts to contact Starfleet met with no success, the Doctor is finally able to inform Starfleet Command in the Alpha Quadrant that Voyager and her crew are alive and well, and headed home. This would not only change the way the crew approached their situation, it also set the stage for future episodes, including several appearances by Dwight Schultz’s character of Barclay, who was a key part of the project to establish communication with Voyager.

While this shake-up may not have been as major for Voyager as the introduction of Seven of Nine and the departure of Kes had been at the beginning of Season 4, it was another significant development for the show. The crew, from this point on, would know that Starfleet was looking for them and trying to find ways to stay in communication, as well as bring them home. That optimistic streak wouldn’t be present in every subsequent story, but it remained part of the background and lore of the series as it entered the second half of its run.

Number 7: Night (Season 5)

Harry Kim playing his clarinet in Night.

Night is fascinating for two reasons: firstly, and most importantly, it forces Capt. Janeway to reexamine and relive her decision to strand her ship and crew in the Delta Quadrant. We’ll look more at this in a moment. Secondly, it shows Voyager traversing a region of space with no stars – a void. Voids exist in nature, across the galaxy and of course in between galaxies. But Star Trek’s depiction of the Milky Way has usually been that it’s a busy, almost crowded place with plenty of star systems and plenty of aliens to meet. Changing that up entirely, and sending the ship into what seems to be dead space with nothing to explore is a fascinating concept. Personally I feel that it could have been something that lasted longer than half of an episode, and I would have liked to have seen a season or at least a multi-episode arc of Voyager in this kind of setting. There was scope, I feel, for it to have been fascinating as this kind of setting would have forced episodes to be set solely on the ship and we could have seen more interaction between different characters. But that’s a separate point!

Janeway squirrels herself away in her quarters, depressed. Looking back on a decision she took five years ago which left Voyager stranded, she’s wondering if she did the right thing after all. It seems like, in this moment, Janeway had been expecting the journey home to be easier and quicker than it has been, that some other way home would have presented itself by now. Five years is a long time – and Voyager is facing the prospect of still having decades to go. The starless void didn’t cause her to feel this way, it simply robbed her of her everyday distractions of exploring space and managing the running of the ship, leaving her with lots of time to think. This can be a bad thing for someone dealing with mental health (as I can attest).

The episode later introduces the Malon, a species who would reappear several more times and be minor antagonists in the fifth season. The Malon continue Star Trek’s long history of using science fiction to parallel real-world issues, in this case pollution and the emitting of greenhouse gases. Not only do the Malon pollute their environment and the environment of the native life forms, they’re unwilling to change when offered better technology – because changing the way they do things would lead to less profit and for waste exporters going out of business. I love the aesthetic of the Malon too; the dirty, grimy way that they and their ships appear was just perfect.

Number 8: Equinox Parts 1 & 2 (Season 5-6)

Capt. Ransom, from the two-part episode Equinox, is probably my favourite antagonist in all of Voyager.

I’m split on one of the story points in Equinox. While I adore the two-part story overall, the fact that it’s established that the Caretaker from Voyager’s premiere is responsible for bringing Capt. Ransom and the Equinox to the Delta Quadrant was, in my opinion at least, lazy and verging on nonsensical. To very briefly summarise why, Capt. Janeway destroyed the Caretaker’s space station, and that was the only reason Voyager couldn’t be sent back home. The story of Equinox ignores that, and says that the Caretaker would drag ships to the Delta Quadrant and then just leave them to find their own way home when it had already been established that that was not the case. Inconsistencies like this bug me, and while it did come over five years on from Caretaker, as an in-universe point it’s contradictory, and I feel that it would have been easy to find an alternative explanation for the Equinox’s presence.

What I love about Equinox is that it shows how bad things could have been for Voyager had circumstances been different. We got a glimpse of this in Year of Hell, but the Equinox is badly damaged and in far worse shape than Voyager, and the story Capt. Ransom tells of how they were starving and running out of fuel is indicative of just how difficult a journey like this can be.

Morality has long been at the heart of Star Trek, and the moral argument between Capt. Ransom, who believed he was justified in killing a large number of aliens to help his crew get home, and Capt. Janeway, who was outraged by his actions, was engaging and thrilling to watch. A sympathetic villain – which Ransom clearly is – can be absolutely fascinating, and this is an episode which asks us, the audience, the question: “what would you have done in his place?” As Ransom himself says: “It’s easy to cling to your principles when you’re standing on a vessel with its bulkheads intact, manned by a crew that’s not starving.” He isn’t mad, he isn’t evil, he’s a desperate man who was willing to do anything to save himself and those under his command. The responsibility of command, on a ship not suited for the kind of voyage it was being forced to undertake, pushed him to that point, and he’s absolutely one of Voyager’s most interesting antagonists as a result.

The entire premise of Voyager meant that encountering Federation ships would be incredibly unlikely, and while we had seen, by this point in the show’s run, familiar Alpha Quadrant races like the Ferengi, Klingons, and Romulans, this was the first time we got to see Voyager meet other humans and another Starfleet vessel. I’m glad it came late into the show’s run, when it had already found its feet, because I think an Equinox-type episode in Season 1 or 2 might have been too soon.

Number 9: Good Shepherd (Season 6)

Good Shepherd features Capt. Janeway teaming up with some of Voyager’s underperforming crewmen.

Good Shepherd uses a comparable setting to The Next Generation’s seventh season episode Lower Decks, focusing on three crew members who have fairly menial roles on the ship. When Seven of Nine points out that these three junior officers are “inefficient”, Janeway feels like she has personally let them down, that they’ve slipped through the cracks on her ship because of the situation she put them in.

In that sense, the episode is as much about Janeway as it is about the three younger officers. She decides to take them on an away mission to give them a chance to shine, as well as to give them some personal bonding time since she barely knows them. Naturally, not everything goes to plan while away from the ship, and luckily, Janeway and the trio rise to the challenge.

It can be great in any show to take a break from the main cast and focus on someone different. In a Star Trek show, we obviously know that there are more people involved in running the ship than just the bridge crew, so taking a step back and acknowledging that worked great, as it had done in The Next Generation too. Not all tasks on a starship can be epic in scale and heroic, and it was interesting to see the ship from the point of view of three characters in that position. I would have liked to see them return for future episodes, but unfortunately they never did.

The actual story of the away mission, pitting underperforming officers against dark matter aliens, was interesting enough, but Good Shepherd is really a character piece looking at them and their reactions to being thrown head-first into a situation they weren’t prepared to experience.

Number 10: Critical Care (Season 7)

The Doctor is forced to work aboard an alien hospital ship in Critical Care.

Star Trek has always had episodes with a message – and Critical Care takes a critical look at the healthcare system in the United States, particularly the influence of money in the system determining who can get the best care. Money in Critical Care is represented by a patient’s “treatment coefficient”, a complicated, impersonal representation of their perceived “value” to society, allocated to them by a computer. If a patient’s TC was too low, they would be refused medication.

When the Doctor is kidnapped and forced to work aboard a hospital ship using this system, he rebels, trying to force the higher-ups to change the system to provide life-saving care to poorer patients. The whole episode is a send-up of the US healthcare system.

As a character piece looking at the Doctor, Critical Care is great too. He’s come a long way from when he was first activated at the beginning of the show’s run, and the story puts his humanity front and centre – including the ability to be aggressive and devious. He makes the hospital’s administrator sick, deliberately infecting him with a virus. And then he denies the administrator treatment until he agrees to treat all of the poor patients as well.

When Voyager finally recovers him – their tracking him down was the secondary plot of the episode – he wonders if something happened to his ethical programming to allow him to behave that way, but nothing was out of place. He has to live with the fact that he was capable of breaking his own hippocratic oath in order to affect the changes he felt were important, and as a character point for a hologram, that’s very interesting.

So that’s it. Ten great episodes from Voyager’s seven seasons that are well worth a look if you have time. I was an avid viewer of Voyager during its original run, and it was the second Star Trek show I collected on DVD in the early 2000s. While it wasn’t perfect, and some characters and story elements didn’t work in the way the producers intended, it was a great show. Voyager took Star Trek to a wholly different region of the galaxy, one that has yet to be revisited. While it is very much tied to The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine in terms of its timeline, it’s also a unique show in that respect.

Capt. Janeway is definitely one of Star Trek’s best commanding officers. Her determination to lead her crew home, even through difficult circumstances, while maintaining her dedication to Starfleet’s original mission of exploration is admirable. I would love to see her return in some way in Star Trek: Picard or another future series or film.

Voyager would be the last new series set in the 24th Century until Star Trek: Picard premiered earlier this year. In fact, with the exception of Star Trek: Nemesis, everything produced between Voyager’s finale and Picard would be a prequel. Some prequels can be good, but I’ve never been fully sold on them as a broader concept. Voyager was thus the last Star Trek show of the “golden age” in my opinion.

Stay tuned, because up next we’ll pull ten great episodes from Star Trek: Enterprise!

Star Trek: Voyager is available to stream now on CBS All Access in the United States, and on Netflix in the United Kingdom and other countries and territories. The series is also available on DVD. The Star Trek franchise – including Star Trek: Voyager – is the copyright of ViacomCBS. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.