The Star Trek franchise represents some of the best ideas, principles, and concepts that the science fiction genre has to offer. The original series broke new ground in the ‘60s, challenging societal norms with its notion that humankind could transcend war, economic turmoil, and prejudice to become leaders in space exploration.
Then came Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Deep Space 9, offering new tales from different Starfleet crews aboard different starships. Humans of all creeds were working with alien beings of all races to achieve common goals, and some wonderful episodes came from that. But every once in a while, whether due Star Trek’s episodic nature or its revolving door of writers, some episodes failed to capture its inherent magic. Here are the worst episodes in Star Trek, though Trekkies might tell you there are none.
10 STAR TREK: AND THE CHILDREN SHALL LEAD
Sometimes the addition of children into the plot of a science fiction series isn’t the best choice. If the child actors aren’t very good or the storyline surrounding them too insipid, the result is a maudlin and slow episode that stops the pace of the series. In “And The Children Shall Lead”, the Enterprise goes to the colony of Triacus in response to a distress signal and finds all the adults dead.
The children are oddly indifferent to their situation, which causes unrest among the crew. They’re beamed aboard the Enterprise, only to cause complete havoc as they defy adult authority. Captain Kirk is forced to mold himself into a de facto social worker and helps them grieve properly.
9 STAR TREK: THE WAY TO EDEN
For a series that pushed against societal norms and strove for more enlightened ways of thinking, the original Star Trek series occasionally fell victim to outdated and stereotypical modes of thought. In “The Way To Eden,” the Enterprise chases after a group of idealists that are essentially “space hippies” because they stole a starship and are trying to locate the mythical planet of “Eden.”
In their haste, the idealists stall the ship, forcing the Enterprise to beam them aboard. Kirk is deeply condescending of the group when they’re brought on board, while Spock is curious about their ideologies. It seems the producers harbored a hostility towards the youth culture movement that was occurring in the ‘60s, writing the cohort as a reckless cult rather than people trying to attune with their natural surroundings.
8 THE NEXT GENERATION: SUB ROSA
Occasionally, TNG would make an episode focused solely on Dr. Beverly Crusher, for better or worse. In the case of “Sub Rosa,” much worse. When the Enterprise visits a colony for the funeral of her grandmother that recreates the Scottish Highlands, Beverly learns some dark family secrets.
The women in her family are seduced by a specter named Ronin, and since the death of her grandmother, she is next in line for his seduction. As Beverly spends more time in the house she’ll inherit, he visits her in her dreams to an explicit extent for Star Trek. The crew have to convince her to keep from resigning her commission just to remain with him in the house, which is an odd dilemma from Beverly that seems out of character.
7 THE NEXT GENERATION: CODE OF HONOR
Over the seven seasons of Next Generation, its episodic nature and ever-changing creative team meant that some episodes were bound to be banal. In “Code of Honor,” the Enterprise heads to Ligon II for a vaccine that will stop a virus from taking over the planet Cyrus IV. It finds the inhabitants of Ligon II willing to provide them with the vaccine, but at a price.
The planet’s ruler, Lutan, takes a particular interest in Security Chief Tasha Yar, and after negotiations are underway for the vaccine, kidnaps her to make her his “first” wife. This act he hopes will make him seem like a strong man, but his already existing first wife takes umbrage at the thought of being relegated to second, and so challenges Yar to a duel.
6 THE NEXT GENERATION: SHADES OF GREY
“Shades of Grey” is an episode that is consistently voted one of the worst Star Trek episodes of all time by fans, and it isn’t hard to see why. It’s barely an episode, just a bunch of random clips of previous episodes grafted together to make some semblance of a plot due to the Writer’s Guild Strike of 1988.
Basically, Riker returns from an away mission with his leg wounded. His wound is infected by microbes from the planet below, and eventually, he falls into a coma. Dr. Pulaski can’t seem to find a cure for the microbes that have fused themselves to his sciatic nerve; whatever she attempts will kill Riker too. Before the infection can reach his brain, she stimulates his brain to recall previous events on board the Enterprise.
5 VOYAGER: THE FIGHT
Unfortunately, Voyager often suffered from underdeveloped characters and bad stereotypes. In “The Fight,” both of those concepts are combined when Chakotay is forced to go on yet another vision quest to help the ship find a way out of “chaotic space” where it seems to be stuck with no means of escape. It seems whenever fans wanted to learn more about Chakotay, his identity always had to be wrapped up in a vision quest.
This interstellar Bermuda Triangle distorts everything, ruins sensors, and turns straight lines into curves and curves into straight lines. Aliens in chaotic space use Commander Chakotay as a means to communicate their desire for the ship to depart, providing him with hallucinations, such as of his Grandfather or his boxing training while attending Starfleet Academy.
4 VOYAGER: THRESHOLD
In Star Trek, a certain suspension of disbelief is necessary to enjoy it. “Threshold” from Voyager pushes that concept to the max with its narrative, which involves Tom Paris using a special dilithium to jump the warp threshold (something Voyager came up with that never gets mentioned again) in an attempt to get home faster.
Going faster than warp 10 has never been attempted, but Tom somehow succeeds. Unfortunately, jumping the threshold means you are simultaneously everywhere and at different points in time. This means when Tom returns his genes start mutating. He kidnaps Captain Janeway, who also crosses the threshold, and they abscond to a remote planet. They mate, have strange mutated children, and nothing about this episode makes any sense.
3 DEEP SPACE 9: LET HE WHO IS WITHOUT SIN...
A Star Trek episode featuring Risa, the Federation’s “pleasure planet” almost always guarantees light-hearted comedy, hijinks, and innuendos. When Worf, Dac, Bashir, Leeta, and Quark visit it in “Let He Who Is Without Sin” on Deep Space Nine, the lack of chemistry and shenanigans is immediately apparent, and it seems to affect the acting which is much stronger in other episodes.
There isn’t much to the plot since the crew is vacationing, but Worf and Dax encounter a cohort of fundamentalist protesters that ruin their peace and quiet. The protesters inform them the Federation has “gone soft” on tough issues, which makes for a jarring storyline amidst such an exotic locale.
2 ENTERPRISE: THESE ARE THE VOYAGES
“These Are The Voyages” from Enterprise is maligned as the worst finale of any Star Trek series. To fans, it felt rushed, and the plot that focused on Next Gen’s Commander William Riker in 2370 using the holodeck to relive the Enterprise’s last mission seemed like a desperate attempt to save a poor finish.
Though the episode featured Riker excavating his wrecked ship Pegasus on orders from Starfleet, it was the last mission of the Enterprise that offered him clues as to the manner in which it was destroyed. He interacts with members of Captain Archer’s crew to gain insights and learns that Captain Archer was traveling to Earth and sign a charter that would form an alliance between alien races when the Enterprise took a detour on a special mission.
1 THE NEXT GENERATION: ANGEL ONE
Much maligned for its sexism and shallow messages that harken back to the worst aspects of the original Star Trek, “Angel One” is plagued by poor acting and an unimaginative plot. When the Enterprise is called to Angel One to rescue the survivors of a lost Federation starship, they encounter its matriarchal society where women are dominant and men are subservient.
In an episode that would have been made for Captain James Kirk, we have William Riker taking his place as the Starfleet officer seduced by the planet’s leader, Beata. He has to appease her wishes because she will decide the fate of the Federation vessel’s survivors, making his diplomatic mission tricky. Meanwhile, a severe case of the flu breaks out aboard the Enterprise in a completely unrelated plot.