Every Star Trek show ranked from worst to best

Tom Percival
The leads of every major Star Trek show

The USS Enterprise has been boldly going where no one’s gone before for more than half a century now, but what are the best Star Trek shows?

Created by Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek is one of the most influential shows in the history of television and is widely considered the greatest sci-fi series of all time (sorry, Doctor Who fans). Set in a utopian future where humanity has put aside its prejudices to travel the stars, Trek is arguably the most optimistic series ever to hit the small screen.

Still, there’s a lot of it (check out our Star Trek timeline for more on that), and while Roddenberry had a dream for humanity who’d move past petty rivalries and point-scoring, I’m not quite that enlightened yet. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that while Star Trek as a whole is brilliant, some series are a neutrino short of a stable warp reaction, if you catch my drift.

So, to save any wannabe Trekkies from watching something rubbish, we’ve been through every show to bring you a definitive list of the must-watches and the shows so bad you’d rather eat cold Gagh than watch them.

11. Star Trek: Enterprise (2001–2005)

The cast of Star Trek: Enterprise

A prequel set before The Federation dominated the Alpha Quadrant, when humanity was taking its first steps into the galaxy, meeting new species, and exploring the unknown, seems like the perfect setting for a Trek series. Unfortunately, Star Trek: Enterprise didn’t just fumble the ball. It popped the ball, let it deflate, and then set the remains on fire with a phaser. 

Enterprise was a shuttle crash of a show featuring the most unlikable and incompetent bridge crew ever seen in the history of Trek. Had this been by design, it might have been forgivable, but we were actually supposed to root for the dullards in charge of the ship. While Enterprise definitely started to improve in its third and fourth seasons, it was too little too late, and ultimately, it was canceled before it could reach warp speed.

10. Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973–1974)

The cast of the Star Trek Animated series

The oft-forgotten animated spin-off, Star Trek: The Animated Series, follows the crew of the USS Enterprise, with the main cast returning to voice their animated counterparts. While the show is technically unimpressive, featuring some pretty stiff and lifeless animation, it’s not bad. Indeed, the fact it’s animated allowed the writers to explore concepts that would have been unfeasible in live-action at the time, and it remained just as committed as the original Star Trek to telling mature and grown-up stories. If you’ve missed this non-canon curio, I recommend checking it out. 

9. Star Trek: Discovery (2017– present)

the cast of Star trek: Discovery

Unfairly maligned, Star Trek: Discovery is a more modern take on Trek that’s clearly designed for a contemporary audience whose first exposure to the franchise was J.J. Abrams’ movies. As such, the show has a deliberately modern feel both visually and narratively. Set 10 years before the events of TOS, during the Klingon Federation War (and in later seasons in the 32nd Century), Discovery has proven controversial with some fans for its retcons and the clumsy introduction of hitherto unheard-of tech. 

I understand why this rubs some fans the wrong way, but if you can get past these issues, there’s a lot to like about Discovery. Michael Burnham makes for a compelling, if flawed, main character, the supporting cast grows on you (even if they do quip like they’re auditioning for the next Marvel movie), and the show’s slow embrace of Roddenberry’s optimistic vision after a rather dour start makes it worth your time. Here’s hoping Discovery season 5 can stick the landing.  

8. Picard (2020–2023)

The cast of Star Trek: Picard

Picard’s not exactly bad (OK, its second season is); it’s more misguided than anything else because, in theory, bringing the arguably the best Star Trek captain of all time for more adventures is a great idea. The problem is that those responsible for putting Picard together don’t really seem to have understood what made Jean-Luc Picard and TNG great. It wasn’t Picard himself who made the show so brilliant. It was TNG’s core philosophy and inherent optimism. 

As a result, Picard’s first and second seasons feel like disjointed fan service for those who caught the TNG movies in a hotel room one night, while the third season overcorrects and is too reverent for a TV show from a bygone era. Still, Picard does one thing right: it nails Seven of Nine’s character, and seeing her go from a space vigilante to a respected Starfleet Captain would put a lump in even the most stoic Vulan’s throat. Oh, and we’d be lying if we didn’t clap like a Bajoran seal when we got to see the Enterprise-D back in action. 

7. Star Trek: Prodigy (2021–present)

The cast of Star Trek: Prodigy

The newest animated series and a bold departure from the traditional Trek format, Prodigy follows a group of young aliens who commandeer the Protostar, an abandoned Federation starship, and use it to escape the Delta Quadrant under the guidance of a Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) hologram. While it skews younger than other Trek series, essentially serving as an entry point for potentially younger fans, Prodigy shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s a bold and fun adventure that captures the inherent explorative and hopeful spirit of Trek. Mulgrew also does a brilliant job voicing the slightly older and wiser, but no less badass, Janeway hologram.

6. Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (2022–present)

The cast of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds

Set before Kirk took over the Enterprise, when Pike (Anson Mount) was the man in the big chair, Strange New Worlds is a fun entry in the show’s canon. Yes, it suffers from some of modern Trek’s more grating problems — why is everyone cracking wise so much, they’re in the military — Strange New Worlds skirts this issue by having one of the most likable and charismatic casts ever assembled for a Trek series with Mount, in particular, doing a brilliant job at giving Pike some much-needed characterization. While critics have claimed the show’s a bit lightweight, its lively spirit captures the adventure at the heart of Trek, and there’s a dark foundation to the show, which gives its characters some nuance.

5. Star Trek: Lower Decks (2020–present)

The cast of Star Trek: lower Decks

An animated show about the least important crew members on the least important ship in Starfleet is the perfect setting for a comedy show, and Lower Decks is a brilliantly funny series. Balancing the sci-fi shenanigans of Rick and Morty and Solar Opposites with the trappings of Trek was a stroke of brilliance, and it’s clear Mike McMahan is a huge fan of Roddenberry’s creation.

Each and every episode feels like a love letter to Trek’s Golden Age (the ’90s, for those wondering), and it’s choc-a-bloc with Easter eggs and deep-cut references that only the most learned Star Trek fans would get. Yet Lower Deck’s fan service is just the wrapping paper because, beneath the surface, this animated show is every bit as heartfelt as any of its live-action brothers and sisters, and it boasts some of the best-developed and compelling characters in all of modern Trek. 

4. Star Trek: Voyager (1995–2001)

The cast of Star Trek: Voyager

Beloved by fans but loathed by critics, Voyager is a strange beast. Set on board the USS Voyager, a Federation ship lost in deep unchartered space far outside the safety of Federation space; the show could have been Trek’s darkest show ever. Unfortunately, Voyager didn’t really commit to its core concept and deliberately eschewed season-long narratives (for the most part) in favor of a monster-of-the-week format. While this is disappointing, and Voyager definitely suffered as a result, the show was still entertaining enough, but it lacked the maturity of TNG or Deep Space Nine. 

Thankfully, it made up for it with some pretty bonkers aliens, the best Star Trek captain of all time, and arguably the most well-developed Star Trek character since Data, The Doctor. Seeing The Doctor — an emergency medical hologram — evolve and grow over the course of the show’s seven seasons was really rewarding for those who stuck with the Voyager crew. While it’s not the best Star Trek show, it’s a flawed gem that’s earned itself a loyal fan base.

3. Star Trek: The Original Series (1966–1969)

The cast of Star Trek: The Original Series

The Original Series from which all Trek flows was always going to rank highly on this list. Yes, its effects are dated, the acting is melodramatic, and there’s a distinct ’60s vibe to original Trek, yet Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future gives these stories a sophistication that belies its retro trappings. This was a bold and radical show that pushed boundaries. 

It may sound trite now, but having a multi-ethnic bridge crew (including someone from the Soviet Union) was genuinely revolutionary at the time, and the impact it had on everything from the world of tech to the burgeoning civil rights movement cannot be understated. Beyond its historical legacy, though, Star Trek is a genuinely fun show that managed to address social issues while being entertaining. If that’s not enough, it also gave us Spock, Kirk, and Bones, the greatest triumvirate in the history of science fiction. 

2. Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987–1994)

The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation

Considered by most to be the greatest Star Trek show of them all, The Next Generation follows the crew of the USS Enterprise nearly a century after Kirk’s five-year mission. While it got off to a shaky start (Seasons 1 and 2 were a bit rough), it eventually found its feet telling complex stories that put character over action. It’s this commitment to mature storytelling that led to TNG being considered one of the best TV shows ever, and it gave us some of the most impressive Trek episodes ever, including The Measure of a Man and The Inner Light. I’d go so far as to say that while TOS made us fall in love with Star Trek, it was The Next Generation that laid the path for the future of the franchise. 

1. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993–1999)

The cast of Deep Space Nine

Set on the frontier of Federation Space, Deep Space Nine was superficially different from its contemporaries. It wasn’t set on a spaceship, it wasn’t really about exploring, and its lead wasn’t even a captain. Yet what really makes Deep Space Nine stand out is the way it went out outfits way to be the antithesis of Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic vision of the future. Unlike the stark black-and-white worlds of TNG, Voyager, and TOS, DS9 exists in a gray mire of compromise and realpolitik. 

There are no easy choices on this show, and it explores some exceedingly mature themes, including the ethics of insurgency, political corruption, and even genocide. It’s dark and dreadful, yet it makes for some of the most captivating and beguiling stories ever told in the history of Trek. While there’s an argument to be made that TNG is the more watchable show, I don’t think Trek has ever been as good as it was in DS9’s later seasons, with the episode ‘In The Pale Moonlight’ putting DS9 on equal footing with Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, and other prestige shows from the new Millennium.

If you love Trek, then check out our guide breaking down everything you need to know about the upcoming Star Trek 4. We’ve also got articles about Severance season 2 and Dune 3. What, you want more? Well, check out our list of the best movies on streaming this month.

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