There have been many developments with the Star Trek franchise in recent months, at least on the small screen (when and if that fourth Kelvinverse film ever gets made is anyone’s guess). We had the announcement that flagship series Star Trek: Discovery would be ending with its fifth and final season, it was announced the Michelle Yeoh-starring Section 31 series will now be a movie and there will be a Starfleet Academy series in its place, and Star Trek: Picard recently wrapped its third and final season in style. So, it’s the perfect time to dust off my Star Trek TV Series ranking list, especially since the original came out all the way back in 2016 (practically a lifetime ago).
And so with a quadrant-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s rate all 11 Trek TV series:
#11 Star Trek: The Animated Series (Two Seasons, 1973-1974)
If you can get past the stilted and repetitive animation you can find quite a lot to enjoy with Star Trek: The Animated Series. Almost all of the voice cast returned (they could not afford Walter Koenig, so no Chekov) so you have that auditory authenticity. You have returning elements from TOS such as Harry Mudd, Cyrano Jones, the Guardian of Forever and the pleasure planet from Shore Leave. And the animated format allowed the series to bring some wild things to screen, sometimes too wild (giant zookeeper snails, anyone?).
While a bit more fantastical than its live action counterpart the show treats the subject matter with respect and does not dumb it down for cereal-munching children. And it does feature the excellent Spock time travel adventure Yesteryear, so that alone makes it worth watching. It may be at the bottom of the list, but if you want a quick nostalgic Trek fix then beam right up to TAS.
#10 Star Trek: Prodigy (One Season*, 2021-)
Prodigy may be the penultimate entry on this list, but that should not put you off from watching it. Sure, it’s target demographic is younger viewers, and it is a lot more action, comedy and whimsy heavy than your regular Trek series. Trek-lite, if you will, hence its ranking.
But it features a fun cast of interesting characters, tons of franchise callbacks and, best of all, Kate Mulgrew returning as Hologram Janeway. It only has one season so far, but it gave me thrills, laughs and even a couple tears. Prodigy is both a great gateway series for young fans and has enough Trek in its DNA to entertain older Trekkies. Do check it out.
#9 Star Trek: Discovery (Four Seasons*, 2017-)
No Trek series has been more divisive than Star Trek: Discovery, and even some of its fans only like parts of it. And DSC does have its share of flaws, including the hyper focus on Michael Burnham at the exclusion of the usual crew dynamic, the ill-advised changes to the Klingons, some early canon trampling, some weak plotting (the Burn revelation really burned), a frequent focus on pew pew action over cerebral plotting, and an apparent attempt to highlight its diverse cast to distract from the shortfalls in storytelling. But it does boast great visuals, the Mirror Universe stories are fun, the inclusion of Captain Christopher Pike and Young Spock in Season 2 was a breath of fresh air (so good that they got their own series, Strange New Worlds), and for every undeveloped character (and there are a LOT of them) we have great ones like Lorca, Saru, Georgiou and Book.
Some fans like the first two seasons set pre-TOS while some prefer the latter two set in the far future (I fall in the second category myself). And while the series has never reached the greatness of Trek series of old it is improving season on season, and I look forward to its final season.
#8 Star Trek: Picard (Three Seasons, 2020-2023)
Oh Picard. You are lucky your third and final season was so awesome, because otherwise you would have been lower on this list. Now having one of the most popular franchise characters return to headline his own show was an inspired idea. The execution of said idea, however, has some issues.
The first season of Picard began with explosive action and a tantalising mystery only to waste a Borg subplot and devolve into full meh. Then the second season began with explosive action and a tantalising mystery (I’m sensing a pattern here) only to toss that all away for dull time travel subplots and an odd, evolved Borg plot. Thankfully, Season 3 felt like a soft reboot, bringing back the entire TNG cast, adding great new characters, terrific writing, a fantastic villain, buckets of nostalgia and even more explosive action. In my review I called Season 3 the best Trek we have had in years, and it single-handedly raised the bar on what was previously a middling series.
#7 Star Trek: Lower Decks (Three Seasons*, 2020-)
On the surface, Lower Decks seemed like an attempt to cash in on the success of adult animated comedies like Rick and Morty, but with a Trek coat of paint. And while it did take a few episodes to find its footing, LD has come into its own as a loving homage to all of Trek.
Featuring a wacky crew, stuffed to the brim with easter eggs from throughout the franchise and delivering on the laughs (most of the time), LD feels like it was made by Trekkies for Trekkies. As a diehard Niner myself (DS9 fan) seeing the Cerritos visit the famous station in Season 3 filled my heart to bursting. And that was just one of many fan moments that brought a big old goofy smile to this fan’s face. If you haven’t seen it yet, then do yourself a favour and give it a watch. #badgeylives
#6 – Star Trek: Enterprise (Five Seasons, 2001-2005)
When I first watched Enterprise back in the day, I was not a huge fan of it. But I did a rewatch last year, and it was actually better than I remembered, though still not the best Trek.
Once again, I loved the spunky Trip, the quirky Phlox and sexy T’Pol was much wittier than I remembered. Scott Bakula, who I enjoyed in Quantum Leap, was still abrasive, arrogant and tonally inconsistent as Captain Jonathan Archer. WORST CAPTAIN EVER! The trio of Reed, Sato and Mayweather had potential but received too little development. And don’t get me started and that ridiculous theme song. Bleech! Even worse was the finale These Are the Voyages. The less said about that atrocity, including what they did to Trip, the better. #triplives
Abominable finale aside, the show had its fair share of strong storylines, including all the Andorian episodes (gotta love my boy Shran), the Vulcan three-parter, and the excellent Mirrorverse two-parter In a Mirror Darkly. The Xindi third season was a bit action heavy, but the Xindi themselves were pretty dang fascinating. And the fourth and final season, which introduced the Romulans as antagonists and drew heavily from TOS lore, was the show at its peak. Looking back, it was unfortunate that it did not get to continue.
#5 Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (One Season*, 2022-)
Sometimes giving fans what they want pays off. And after the mixed reactions to DSC and Picard (at that point), both of which having strayed from the usual Trek formula, the Powers That Be decided to return to basics with Strange New Worlds. And it was freaking awesome! With a charming and fantastic captain in Pike (Archer could take lessons), a thoroughly likeable and fully fleshed out crew (DSC could take lessons) and a welcome return to episodic adventures, SNW was exactly what Dr M’Benga ordered. And it’s a show that is not afraid to take risks as shown by the super bleak and affecting episode Lift Us Where Suffering Cannot Reach. SNW put on its big boy pants for that one.
My only complaints are that they killed off my boy Hemmer (he was so crotchety cool, please bring him back) and new James Kirk actor Paul Wesley has all the charm of wet toilet paper. But a truly fun, escapist show that feels like a welcome return to core Trek.
#4 – Star Trek: Voyager (Seven Seasons, 1995-2001)
I had a lot of fun with the fourth Trek series. We traveled to the Delta quadrant and encountered all sorts of strange and interesting aliens; the creepy Vidians, mysterious Species 8472 and hunter Hirogen are personal favourites. Oh and Borg. Lots and lots of Borg. Probably too much Borg. And whether it was super serious like Year of Hell or super silly like Bride of Chaotica! it never failed to entertain.
Kate Mulgrew, the first female captain to lead a series, showed great strength and wisdom. Robert Picardo was hilarious as the holographic Doctor and Jeri Ryan was a sexy bad mama jamma as Seven of Nine. The other characters also had some cool moments, and each felt thoroughly fleshed out. Even Neelix was pretty cool once you gave him a chance.
The stories were hit or miss (I’m looking at you freaky salamander babies and boring Fair Haven) but the characters themselves were always engaging. A good time.
#3 – Star Trek: The Original Series (Three Seasons, 1966-1969)
The great granddaddy of them all. There was nothing before and has been nothing since like The Original Series.
We first meet the wonderful trinity of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. We have our first introduction to logical Vulcans, war-like Klingons and scheming Romulans. There are brilliant episodes like Amok Time, The Doomsday Machine and Balance of Terror that still hold up well today.
The Original Series does not rank higher on my list because when it is bad it is terribly bad (see Turnabout Intruder, Spock’s Brain and The Way to Eden) but it deserves all the love and iconic status.
#2 – Star Trek: The Next Generation (Seven Seasons, 1987-1994)
Jean-Luc Picard. BEST CAPTAIN EVER. Seriously, no one can top Patrick Stewart’s performance. He brings so much dimension and heart to the character you fully believe his crew will follow him to the ends of the galaxy and back.
We delve deep into Klingon society via Worf, who is iconic in his own right. Data brings wit and humanity, Riker is a superb leader and Geordi is fun. Wesley Crusher is, well, Wesley. The less said about him the better.
From Q to the Romulans to the Cardassians to the Ferengi to whatever the heck those aliens from Conspiracy were, we get to meet so many aliens and, unlike TOS, really feel like we are in an expansive, populated galaxy. And the Borg, no one beats the Borg. They are the best.
When TNG was on top of its game no sci-fi show could touch it (The Best of Both Worlds, The Inner Light, Yesterday’s Enterprise and Unification all come to mind) but when it was bad, man it could get really bad. We have offensive episodes like Code of Honor and Up the Long Ladder, the laughably bad ghost boinking of Sub Rosa, and the waste of time clip show Shades of Gray. TNG falls short of best Trek show ever due to its very rough first season, mostly phoned in final season (All Good Things notwithstanding) and for having just too one too many crap episodes. But in the middle there, boy oh boy, it was the top tier Trek and top tier Sci Fi.
#1 – Star Trek Deep Space Nine (Seven Seasons, 1993-1999)
Please lower your phasers. Yes, I put DS9 after TNG on my list. Let me explain.
Now I adore TNG. It’s pretty dang good. But DS9 was just something else. Avery Brooks as Captain (originally Cmdr.) Benjamin Sisko is mesmerising to watch. Armin Shimerman as Quark was a riot. Odo was just the best. The main cast and secondary characters, including the delightfully mysterious Elim Garak, all had their moments to shine.
Sure, the early seasons started off a bit derivative but when the show became serialised it took off and never stopped. The saga of the Dominion War and interlocked story lines had me hooked from week to week. Federation, Klingon and Romulan ships together battling against the Dominion and Cardassian fleets in all-out war. This is next level Trek boys and girls. And not to mention some of the greatest Trek villains ever in Weyoun (various versions), the Female Changeling, Gul Dukat and the mother of them all, Kai FREAKING Winn!
Instead of a perfect Federation and crew as we got in TNG, here we had flawed characters who made mistakes and paid prices. There were stakes and you felt them. And we delved even further into the alien cultures of the Klingons, Cardassians, Bajorans, Ferengi et cetera. Sure, we had some slow episodes here and there, though Move Along Home would be the only outright bad episode (leave Take Me out to the Holosuite alone, I love it). In contrast, there are masterful episodes like Duet, The Visitor, The Siege of AR-558 and, arguably one of the greatest episodes ever, In the Pale Moonlight. Man, I’ve not even mentioned Trials and Tribble-ations. This show was just TOO good.
I know there are many more fans who don’t like DS9, but I suspect most of them fell off in the early seasons and did not give the show a chance. Because if you stick with it, you will be pulled into an epic and riveting Sci Fi novel that will have you hooked all the way to the finale and then break your heart that it’s over. And that is why DS9 is the best Trek series of all time.
So, what do you think of my list? Does the list of the Editor Jules outweigh the lists of the few, or the one? How would you rank them? And you can warp to more great Trek content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.