Star Trek: Every episode, show, season and director ranked
Plus, ratings for the average Star Trek season.
With three separate series being released in 2020, it feels like the Star Trek universe is more alive than ever. Plus, the extra time at home resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has provided ample opportunity to catch up on old TV shows. So far, my partner and I have re-watched all of Deep Space Nine and Voyager and devoured Lower Decks and Picard.
All this Trek watching has inspired a bit of a deep-dive into the IMDB rankings of every live-action episode of Star Trek. While partially inspired by other rankings which have appeared over the last few months, this is the only list I know of that looks at the average IMDB ranking for every episode, show, season and director.
It also contains a timeline depicting the average month-by-month rating all the way back to 1966, plus a chart of the rating trend across an average Trek season. There were some interesting results, so let’s get into it.
Best Star Trek Show – Star Trek: Enterprise
(Average IMDB rating 7.67)
I have to admit — this was a surprise. I bypassed Enterprise when it launched in 2001, partially due to starting university, but mostly due to to the awful theme song. For the sake of this research, I decided to go back and watch the show. I’m currently halfway through season three and… well, it’s still a surprise that this ended up as the best-rated show. From the constant sexualization of its female lead to zombie Vulcans to Lieutenant Malcolm Reed, there are many reasons to dislike this show and it still hasn’t won me over. Maybe season four will be better, but more on that later.
- Ster Trek: Enterprise (7.67)
- Star Trek: Picard (7.64)
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (7.60)
- Star Trek: Voyager (7.47)
- Star Trek (7.47)
- Star Trek: Discovery (7.43)
- Star Trek: The Next Generation (7.41)
The biggest shock here is The Next Generation trailing all other shows at 7th place. While it did have a dicey first couple of seasons, TNG went on to define the look and feel of all modern Star Trek shows. It should be #1, possibly #2 at a stretch to Deep Space Nine, but there you go. These IMDB rankings are clearly not to be trusted. Having said that, let’s instead look at each season as a separate entity.
Best Star Trek Season – Star Trek: Enterprise Season 4
(Average IMDB rating 7.95)
And here we are again — Enterprise nabs the top two spots in terms of average ranking across its later two seasons. While the third season starts with a promising Xindi arc, it loses its way somewhat in the middle with Extinction and the non-holodeck holodeck episode North Star being particularly low points for me. It may all come together in the final season. We’ll see.
- Enterprise – Season 4 – 7.95
- Enterprise – Season 3 – 7.84
- Deep Space Nine – Season 4 – 7.81
- The Next Generation – Season 6 – 7.79
- Star Trek – Season 1 – 7.78
- Deep Space Nine – Season 7 – 7.77
- Deep Space Nine – Season 5 – 7.74
- Voyager – Season 4 – 7.73
- Deep Space Nine – Season 6 – 7.72
- The Next Generation – Season 5 – 7.69
- Picard – Season 1 – 7.64
- The Next Generation – Season 4 – 7.64
- Voyager – Season 5 – 7.62
- Voyager – Season 7 – 7.62
- The Next Generation – Season 3 – 7.61
- Star Trek – Season 2 – 7.58
- Deep Space Nine – Season 3 – 7.55
- Enterprise – Season 2 – 7.55
- Voyager – Season 6 – 7.44
- Discovery – Season 1 – 7.43
- Deep Space Nine – Season 2 – 7.43
- Discovery – Season 2 – 7.43
- Enterprise – Season 1 – 7.42
- Voyager – Season 3 – 7.37
- The Next Generation – Season 7 – 7.29
- Voyager – Season 2 – 7.23
- Voyager – Season 1 – 7.20
- Deep Space Nine – Season 1 – 7.06
- Star Trek – Season 3 – 6.96
- The Next Generation – Season 2 – 6.95
- The Next Generation – Season 1 – 6.83
Deep Space Nine, which provided the most satisfactory re-watch experience, performs well here, taking out four of the top 10 slots. The strong writing, fantastic character development and solid ensemble of guest talent really stands out. Additionally the multi-episode story arcs make DS9 feel like the most modern of all 90s Trek shows. This is odd, as I remember at the time it was criticized for being too dark, too political — not conforming sufficiently to Gene Roddenberry’s harmonious vision of the future, and therefore not really feeling like Star Trek.
Star Trek: Picard, despite the sizeable volume of hate aimed at it from several YouTubers, holds its own at number 11 with an average season raking of 7.64. The real YouTube venom, however, has been reserved for Discovery. Its first two seasons come in at a relatively disappointing 20th and 22nd place — though it must be noted that they outrank the first two seasons of Voyager, The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. While the first season took a while to find its feet, season two of Discovery was a huge improvement and the setup for season three is, for me, the best season cliffhanger since The Best of Both Worlds. The main YouTuber criticisms which seem to be hurled at Discovery are that it’s too woke, too dark and doesn’t conform to Gene Roddenberry’s harmonious vision of the future. Sound familiar?
The average Star Trek season
Averaging the ratings for each episode based on its place in each season shows that Trek seasons tend to start strong, dip slightly in quality in the middle third and rally to a strong finish by the final episode. With episodes one and two averaging 7.83 and 7.79, respectively, the average rating drops in episodes three and four. Quality bounces around a bit, but doesn’t reach the same heights again until episode 22, averaging 7.87. The final episode, on average, is the most highly rated.
Best Star Trek Director – Peter Lauritson
(Average IMDB rating 8.17)
Due to the huge pool of directors who worked across all 736 episodes of the franchise, this category was tricky to analyze. It hardly seemed fair to compare directors with only one episode to their name to the likes of David Livingston, who’s credited on a whopping 63 episodes. In the end, I decided to include directors with credits on at least two episodes.
- Peter Lauritson – 3 episodes – 8.17
- Adam Nimoy – 2 episodes – 8.05
- Alan Eastman – 3 episodes – 8.03
- Robert Butler – 2 episodes – 8.00
- Nancy Malone – 2 episodes – 7.95
- TJ Scott – 2 episodes – 7.95
- John Meredyth Lucas – 3 episodes – 7.90
- James L Conway – 19 episodes – 7.90
- Patrick Norris – 2 episodes – 7.85
- Victor Lobl – 5 episodes – 7.84
- Michael Grossman – 3 episodes – 7.83
- Reza Badiyi – 5 episodes – 7.82
- Robert Duncan McNeill – 8 episodes – 7.81
- Joseph Pevney – 14 episodes – 7.80
- Kenneth Biller – 2 episodes – 7.80
Peter Lauritson, who’s first involvement with Trek was the 1982 movie The Wrath of Khan, claims top spot here with his work on parts one and two of The Next Generation’s Gambit and potentially (spoiler alert) the best Trek episode ever — The Inner Light.
Leonard Nimoy’s son Adam — who is, I discovered while researching this piece, married to Terry Farrel (Jadzia Dax) — takes second place for the episodes Rascals and Timescape. He also directed two recent Trek documentaries, For The Love of Spock and the excellent DS9 retrospective, What We Left Behind.
Robert Duncan McNeill (Tom Paris) is notable as the highest-ranking regular cast member in the director list, taking the helm of four episodes of both Voyager and Enterprise.
Best Star Trek Episode – The Inner Light (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and In the Pale Moonlight (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
(IMDB rating 9.5)
While The Inner Light has often been at the top of many lists of the best Trek episodes, it’s nice to see it tie here with Deep Space Nine’s fantastic season six episode In the Pale Moonlight. The poignant performance by Avery Brooks weighing his decision to fabricate evidence to bring the Romulans into the Federation-Dominion war adds emotional heft to this episode — a stand-out of an already strong season.
- The Next Generation – The Inner Light – 9.5
- Deep Space Nine – In the Pale Moonlight – 9.5
- The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds, Part I – 9.4
- Deep Space Nine – Trials and Tribble-ations – 9.4
- Star Trek – The City on the Edge of Forever – 9.3
- The Next Generation – The Best of Both Worlds, Part II – 9.3
- The Next Generation – The Measure of a Man – 9.2
- The Next Generation – Yesterday’s Enterprise – 9.2
- The Next Generation – All Good Things… – 9.2
- Deep Space Nine – The Visitor – 9.2
The Next Generation takes out six of the top 10 episodes, with Deep Space Nine claiming three and The Original Series claiming only one spot with The City on the Edge of Forever. So The Next Generation is actually the best Trek series, right? Not so fast. Let’s take a look at the other end of the spectrum.
Worst Star Trek Episode – Shades of Gray (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
(IMDB rating 3.4)
I was sure Voyager’s diabolical Threshold, where Paris and Janeway make sweet salamander love, would take top spot here. Not only does this episode completely misunderstand how evolution works — not a first for Trek — but it also directly contradicts Star Trek lore, with Paris’ breaking of the Warp 10 barrier ruled out as physically impossible by the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual several years earlier due to the infinite energy required to pass warp 9.9. I don’t own a copy or anything.
Nor does oft-maligned Spock’s Brain take out the bottom spot here. That honor is reserved for Riker’s brain in Shades of Grey. While season two was patchy to begin with, producers really let Spot out of the bag when they ran out of funds toward the end of the season and were forced to produce a clip show. More common in the days of syndication and 26-episodes per year, clip shows saved money by essentially re-running some of the best parts of previous episodes. In this case, a deadly virus results in us having to endure Riker’s dreams for 45 minutes. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
- The Next Generation – Shades of Gray – 3.4
- The Next Generation – Sub Rosa – 4.9
- Star Trek – And the Children Shall Lead – 5.2
- The Next Generation – Code of Honor – 5.2
- Voyager – The Fight – 5.2
- Voyager – Threshold – 5.3
- Enterprise – These Are the Voyages… – 5.3
- Star Trek – The Way to Eden – 5.5
- Star Trek – Spock’s Brain – 5.6
- Deep Space Nine – Let He Who Is Without Sin… – 5.6
In terms of series ranking, The Next Generation takes out three of the bottom 10 spots, tied with The Original Series. The only Enterprise episode to feature is the series finale These are the Voyages, making the end of the voyage of the NX-01 officially the dampest squib in the franchise.
So there you have it — Enterprise is the king of Trek. I suppose the overall lesson here is don’t trust IMDB ratings. Some of the episodes I most enjoyed in my recent rerun were fairly low-rated affairs like holodeck fairytale Once Upon a Time (Voyager, 6.3) and Let He Who Is Without Sin… (DS9, 5.6), where Worf has to endure a visit to Risa with Dax and promptly becomes a terrorist.
Star Trek, in general, is a mixed bag. And back when they had to produce 26 episodes a season, there was plenty of filler. This is most evident with Voyager, which had some great characters — and one of the best captains — but could not avoid the regular stinkers. The new shows don’t suffer from the same fate, so we’re unlikely to see anything as bad as Shades of Grey in the future. Somewhat of a pity when you think about it.
Images: ViacomCBS, Getty Images.
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