Out of all the Star Trek spinoffs in our little corner of the universe, Star Trek: Voyager seems to be the most divisive when it comes to how good or bad it was. The stories waver between brilliant and outright silly, and it's true that the plot and storylines took some crazy chances that seemed to reflect the unusual circumstances of the lost ship itself.
No matter what side of the fence you're on, you have to agree that the show had some dizzying highs and lows. Here are five of the best Star Trek: Voyager episodes, followed by the five worst.
10 Best - Caretaker, Season 1
There's a lot to like in the very first episode of Voyager, especially if you're a fan of other Star Trek shows. The space station Deep Space 9 is the launch point of the show, literally. This was the last port of call for the USS Voyager before it was lost in the Delta Quadrant. It was teased that Riker from The Next Generation was going to be her captain.
The characters are introduced in tandem with the exciting plot, so there's little downtime in the action to make room for worldbuilding and character development. The plot follows Tuvak's mission to infiltrate Chakotay's crew into eventually meeting the Caretaker, the entity responsible for bringing the ship to the Delta Quadrant.
9 Worst - Fair Haven, Season 6
One of the best things about Star Trek: The Next Generation was the Holodeck, but the practicality of the system was always in question, as it seemed to give the crew no end of trouble. By the time Voyager came around, the novelty had worn off, and that's no more apparent than in this eye-roller of an episode.
The setting of a quaint Irish town is a nice start, but the stereotypes that inhabit it would make anyone cringe. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Lucky Charms mascot showed up. Plus, this whole thing is a hologram, so remind us why we or the crew of the USS Voyager needs to care about it.
8 Best - Meld, Season 2
Anyone who appreciates writing that asks the tough questions about human nature will like this episode. Tuvok catches a murderer on the ship, and the killer says he did it because "I didn't like the way he looked at me." The logical mind of Tuvok is unsatisfied by this answer and attempts a Vulcan mind meld to discern the true motivation. He not only discovers that the killer was telling the truth but begins to experience the same uncontrolled, violent rage that led to the murder.
In an interesting plot parallel, the actor who plays the murderous Lon Suder is Brad Dourif, who played a similar role in The X-Files episode, "Beyond the Sea." In this show, he claimed to have psychic powers and made another famously logical character, Dana Scully, question her own perspective about the unknown.
7 Worst - Favorite Son, Season 3
We all wanted to see more of Ensign Kim, but we didn't want this ridiculous episode. This is a great example of how writing can go off the rails for no other reason than to exploit old tropes that nobody likes. Why subject Kim to the tiresome "planet of lusty women" trope?
As if that wasn't embarrassing enough, the fawning women are shallow, sexist stereotypes that would alienate any female viewer. It gets even worse. It turns out that Kim is actually from this planet and isn't human but Nasari, a race native to the Delta Quadrant. Wait, what? Why was this even necessary?
6 Best - Flashback, Season 3
It's not just a great story with some amazing performances. It explores the whole concept of memory through the character of Tuvok, and are there any bad Tuvok episodes? "Flashback" was Voyager's contribution to several shows that were made to celebrate the franchise turning 30 years old, so we've got some satisfying fan service and cameos to enjoy as well.
George Takei makes an appearance as Captain Hikaru Sulu of the USS Excelsior, and the setting is the same time frame as the last Star Trek film to feature the original cast, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Grace Lee Whitney, who played Kirk's yeoman Janice Rand in the original series, is also an Excelsior crew member. The theme of memory featured here is no coincidence.
5 Worst - Spirit Folk, Season 6
Do you know what's worse than a bad episode of Voyager? Another bad episode about the same thing. As if our first visit to the land of Irish stereotypes wasn't bad enough, we end up here again only a few episodes later. The whole idea of holographic projections being self-aware is interesting to a point.
Moriarty of The Next Generation and the projection of the Doctor are compelling examples, but the extremes this episode goes to is beyond silly. Is every holographic projection capable of self-awareness? For the millionth time, we have to ask why is there a Holodeck if it's so dangerous, and why even have safety protocols if they're always turned off?
4 Best - Message In A Bottle, Season 4
Not only is this an exciting episode, as it allows Voyager to contact Starfleet after four years of being completely out of touch, but it also has some amazing humor and features the Doctor, one of our favorite characters. He has to contend with another holographic Doctor, played by Andy Dick of all people.
The episode serves an important function in the series, introducing a new race called the Hirogen and a communications network that plays an important role in future episodes. The Doctors must also rescue the USS Prometheus from Romulan control. The setting is gritty, with the malevolent Romulans lurking in the background, and the comedy of the dueling Doctors is welcome levity.
3 Worst - The Fight, Season 5
Critics call this the Star Trek Fight Club episode, and this particular entry has a lot of critics. The character of Chakotay never really had a place to be in the show, except to be constantly fooled by Seska or Tuvak's schemes, and "The Fight" doesn't do him any more favors. The stereotypical view of Chakotay's Native American heritage is never handled very well, and this episode is a glaring example, as his heritage gives him some kind of inherent gateway into spiritual knowledge.
Skills, attributes, and technobabble are tossed into the mix just to make a pre-determined plot work and are never brought up again. As much fun as cameos are, the appearance of the Groundskeeper who also mentored Picard back in the day falls flat.
2 Best - Timeless, Season 5
And then Voyager crashed and almost everyone, except Chakotay and Kim, dies. That's how the amazingly epic the 100th episode of Star Trek: Voyager starts off. It was even directed by LaVar Burton, who makes a cameo appearance as Geordi La Forge from The Next Generation.
The ship crashes while attempting to use a cosmic slipstream as a shortcut to get home. Although almost the whole crew is dead, the ship is preserved, and the few remaining crew members and their allies attempt to turn back time and give it another try. The special effects are stellar and the story is visceral; at one point they find Seven of Nine's frozen body and salvage her for parts, and Kim has some serious survivor's guilt. It's both deeply heartbreaking and uplifting.
1 Worst - Threshold, Season 2
If the other entries on this list are a piping hot mess, then this one is a dumpster fire. One of the most jarring things about it is that the plot starts out to be quite engaging. We start with Torres, Kim, and Paris trying to break the trans-warp barrier to get the ship back to the Alpha Quadrant faster.
Sounds like a compelling plot, but by the time we get to the end, Paris devolves into a lizard, kidnaps Janeway as his reptile bride, and they make a few amphibian babies on a planet that looks like Dagobah from Star Wars. To make it even worse, it's never explained how the Doctor got them back to normal.