Not so long ago, Star Trek celebrated its fiftieth anniversary. This was a very special occasion: very few franchises are still producing new content after half of a century. Through Star Trek: Discovery, new fans are discovering Star Trek: The Original Series every day, while old fans take joy in revisiting old episodes of Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and more.
There's nothing quite like going back to your favorite old Trek episodes. It's like wrapping yourself in a warm nostalgia blanket of silly aliens, sillier costumes, and very serious commentary about humanity and philosophy.
However, not all episodes are worth returning to. Most of us began watching Star Trek episodes when we were very young, and we saw these episodes through the lens of a young child's eyes. Going back to some of these episodes as an adult is a real wake-up call to just how bad the episode was.
Some episodes are bad because they squander fan-favorite characters. Others lean into completely nonsensical plots. And still more episodes were trying to offer very serious social commentary at the time, and all of it now comes across as dated and, in some cases, downright bigoted.
Want to know which episodes to avoid next time? Put down that tricorder and check out 15 Star Trek Episodes That Have Aged Terribly!
15 Let He Who Is Without Sin
“Let He Who Is Without Sin” sounds like a very fun episode of Deep Space Nine. The plot involves the dour Worf going with Dax, Bashir, and Leeta to the pleasure planet Risa. However, Worf is so dour that he ends up getting involved with a group that hates Risa, and going back to this episode may just make you hate Worf!
Basically, this group opposes things like the climate control of Risa because they think it makes everyone weak. After Worf mistakenly thinks Dax is cheating on him, he actually messes with the weather system to make everyone suffer for a few days, only stopping when an earthquake nearly kills them. +
This is the episode that turned proud and honorable Worf into someone who becomes an overnight eco-terrorist because of trust issues, and it's just painful to watch.
Speaking of a new series cribbing off of an old series, “Q-Less” is the first season Deep Space Nine episode that featured Q, the most famous foe from Star Trek: The Next Generation. And he wasn't alone, as the episode brought back favorite TNG cameo character (and occasional Picard love interest) Vash. On paper, this is a great episode... but it holds up very poorly.
First of all, the portrayal of Q as a jealous lover trying to get back with Vash is completely inconsistent with his prior characterization as someone advanced way past Earthly pleasures. As for Vash, who was once an exciting and independent character? She's reduced to an object for Q to try to win back. The only memorable thing about the episode is a boxing match between Q and Siso that is embarrassing for every actor (and viewer) involved.
13 "These Are the Voyages"
Enterprise was a show whose run was cut short. While most modern Trek shows lasted seven seasons, Enterprise only made it four. To make it up to fans, the finale promised something special: cameos from TNG characters Riker and Troi! Looking back, though, this was the worst possible send-off for the series.
First, the plot involves a needless time jump, meaning we suddenly drop the interesting plot threads of the fourth season. Second, the cameos are awkward: Jonathan Frakes and Sirtis are visibly much older, but they are meant to be reprising their characters from the seventh season of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
These cameos also take the spotlight from our Enterprise cast, so we end up with gross scenes like Riker kissing a holographic T'pol instead of real story. Throw in the needless death of Commander Tucker and this ended up being one of the worst Enterprise episodes!
12 "Turnabout Intruder"
“Turnabout Intruder” was the final episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. This alone made fans excited (and bittersweet) about the idea of watching it. And a report on the death of Eisenhower even delayed the original broadcast date, so fans had to wait two months to watch it. This built up excitement, but looking back, you may wonder why anyone would ever watch this episode.
The general plot involves Kirk swapping bodies with a woman named Dr. Lester. She switches bodies with Kirk because being a woman in a man's world has driven her utterly insane. What might have been a progressive story about gender roles is just an excuse for Shatner to do an imitation of a histrionic woman who is willing to kill in order to command a starship. Ultimately, this episode couldn't have been more insulting to the feminist movement if it had tried.
Star Trek has a long history of celebrity cameos. Sometimes, they are used well, and sometimes... not so much. "Tsunkatse” is known to most fans as the episode where Seven of Nine has to fight an alien played by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. And what seemed like an exciting concept in the spirit of old, Kirk-style beat-em-ups is now embarrassing to look back on.
For one thing, the fight is meaningless. While Kirk's famous fight with the Gorn helped us question whether mankind is defined by violent tendencies, this episode is nothing but those violent tendencies being glorified. It was an exploitative episode featuring Seven of Nine, who was already an exploited character. Finally, considering how far Dwayne Johnson has come as an actor, it's really sad to see him as little more than a hammy (though quite buff) wrestler.
10 "Rogue Planet"
Star Trek is a series that can often get away with being goofy. However, some episodes are at the intersection of “goofy” and “dumb” in a way that makes them tough to go back to. This is the case with “Rogue Planet”, an episode of Enterprise that had lots of classic Trek ingredients (ranging from exotic aliens to a lovely lady interest) that blended together into something weird and gross.
The surface plot is about Captain Archer helping a woman who is being hunted down by aliens. The good captain has the hots for her and has his doctor try to interfere by disguising her scent, which is when we get the reveal: she's really a shape-shifter whose native form looks like a big snail! Thus, Captain Archer ruined relations with the hunters so he could try to have different “relations” with a snail... not a good look!
9 "Angel One"
“Angel One” is a prime example of an episode that sounds good in theory and then gets botched in execution. The episode is designed to explore gender roles, and the plot involves Picard and crew encountering a planet where women are dominant and men are submissive. This is when things start going downhill.
What's the problem with this episode? Well, the planet run by women is run terribly, and they hate men and are trying to execute four male rabble-rousers. Therefore, it's up to Riker to mansplain that not all men are terrible... and the plot involves him dressing in a terrible outfit and immediately romancing the lady in charge. Once again, a Trek episode meant to examine gender ends up revealing the weird misogyny of Trek's writers and essentially mocks the entire idea of feminism.
8 "Move Along Home"
Every now and then, Star Trek does its own sci-fi flavored version of a different genre, show, or film. We can see this in the western-themed “A Fistful of Datas”, for instance, or the thriller “Conspiracy”. In “Move Along Home", we get Star Trek blended with Jumanji.
It definitely seem cool on paper. However, the episode is terrible: it involves key Deep Space Nine crew members being sucked inside a game played by an unwitting Quark. Getting out involves doing things like chanting nonsense children's rhymes and playing hopscotch. Eventually, they escape, and... that's it.
This episode is its own reset button and seemingly has no real consequences for anyone involved. At least that makes it easy to forget! Adding insult to injury, the design of the Wadi aliens in this episode (which amounts to a quick dash of forehead paint) is downright insulting.
7 "A Night in Sickbay"
Many fans already thought the character of Porthos was an odd fit on the Enterprise. This is Captain Archer's beagle that he inexplicably takes with him on missions. “A Night in Sickbay” takes a close look at why this is a bad idea and transforms a fun concept into a weird slog of an episode.
The plot involves Archer making some aliens mad when Porthos pees on a sacred tree. Later, the dog gets a disease from the planet, and Archer fumes at the aliens while in sickbay. When he falls asleep, he has inappropriate dreams about T'Pol. Only when Doctor Phlox calls him out does he apologize to the aliens... and makes good by chopping down a tree and taking off his shirt.
The episode may as well have been written by a random word generator!
6 "Assignment: Earth"
Every now and then, you get a Star Trek episode that's a little too different. That's the case with “Assignment: Earth,” an Original Series episode that focuses on the crew's encounter with “Gary Seven,” a mysterious time agent. It was both a season finale and an attempt at a backdoor pilot, so expectations were high, but this episode ends up being even more disappointing when you return to it.
The main problem with the episode is that it's barely a Star Trek episode. So much emphasis is spent on establishing who Gary Seven is and what his mission was that we don't get much face time with Kirk and Spock. To top it off, “Assignment: Earth” never did become a spinoff show, so even if you like the new character and his plot, you're left with the bitter knowledge that you'll never see him again.
5 "The Gamesters of Triskelion"
When it comes to The Original Series, “The Gamesters of Triskelion” is a perfect example of an episode that doesn't really hold up to multiple viewings. It sounds very fun on paper, with Kirk and crew encountering some brains in a jar that have enslaved a population and force them to fight gladiatorial battles. So, what's not to love?
The main thing is that we've seen all of this before. We had better Kirk fights with aliens in “Arena” and we had better manipulative aliens in “The Cage”. And our token female guest star is little more than a silver-clad sex object, hardly holding a candle to characters like Edith Keeler. Ultimately, no matter what you come to Star Trek for, there is an episode that does it better than this one does.
“Tuvix” is an episode of Star Trek: Voyager that felt pretty inevitable. Over the decades, we've seen the transporter due several funky thinks, including murder people and split a single crew member into two different people. This episode finally gave us the plot point of the transporter turning two crew members into a single person.
This sounds like a fun, Trek-like premise. And the new crew member, Tuvix (the weird name combo for Tuvok and Neelix, the two crew members who got joined together), is fairly interesting. But that's the problem: Janeway ends up forcibly separating the two and effectively murdering Tuvix while he pleads that he has his own rights. It's tough to go back to this episode because it basically confirms that our captain is a coldhearted murderer!
3 "Naked Now"
At first, fans had a lot to be excited about regarding “The Naked Now”. This was essentially a sequel to the classic Original Series episode “The Naked Time.” And if that wasn't exciting enough, the plot (about the entire crew getting infected by a mysterious virus) provides a fun excuse everyone to act drunk. We even get to see Data prove he's “fully functional” and “programmed in multiple techniques” with Tasha Yar.
In retrospect, though, this episode is just sad and weird. The virus doesn't make a lot of sense (such as why an android like Data would be affected at all), and this early reliance on Original Series storylines highlights just how bad the storytelling was in those early TNG seasons. To top it off, the entire cast seemed to think “acting drunk” meant “sweaty and giggly,” so almost every performance makes you cringe.
“Endgame” is an episode of Star Trek: Voyager that had a lot going for it. The episode was the series finale, so it promised to bring our crew home to Earth. And it prominently featured both the Borg and the Borg Queen, which was exciting to many fans. The end result, though, is an episode that it's not worth returning to.
The main plot involves an older Janeway traveling back in time to help her younger self get home quicker. This is a violation of the Prime Directive and it undoes the point of the entire series. The reason Voyager was stranded in the Delta Quadrant was that Janeway refused to violate the Prime Directive and force the mysterious Caretaker to send them back home. After seven years of episodes, we find out the Prime Directive's not so important after all.
1 "Sub Rosa"
In the final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, every main character got at least one episode dedicated to themselves. “Sub Rosa” was Dr. Crusher's episode, and it sounds like bodice ripping fun, with Dr. Crusher having lots of steamy ghost sex. However, this is the worst episode of Star Trek to return to.
First, we see the intelligent and capable Dr. Crusher reduced to someone caring only about sleeping with the ghost that used to hook up with her grandmother. Second, the planet they are orbiting is pretty insulting: it's basically planet Scotland, complete with terrible Scottish weather despite the existence of climate control technology. Finally, every single attempt at a Scottish accent in this episode is enough to make you cry.
Dr. Crusher may have been hooking up with a ghost the entire time, but it's really the viewers that are getting repeatedly screwed by this episode.
Are there any other Star Trek episodes that aged terribly? Let us know in the comments!
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