Netflix recently released data revealing the most watched “Star Trek” episodes on its streaming service.
The majority came from “Voyager,” the fourth series in the franchise, and there were a few “The Next Generation” shows sprinkled in. They mostly featured the fan favourite villain, the Borg.
But there are so many great non-Borg, non-Voyager episodes that people seem to have forgotten about. So we decided to put together a list of underrated (and clearly under-watched!) episodes.
Our list is in chronological order of when the episodes aired, and at least one episode from every series made it.
What can we say about 'The Original Series' that hasn't already been said? Many of the most iconic episodes from the first series end up high on 'best of' lists, if for no other reason than their lasting influence on the science fiction genre.
Several are overlooked, however, like 'The Conscience of a King.' In the episode, Captain Kirk suspects that an actor travelling on the Enterprise might have been a mass-murderer and eugenicist responsible for a brutal massacre years prior.
Dr. McCoy: In the long history of medicine, no doctor has ever caught the first few minutes of a play.
'A Taste of Armageddon' is another original series episode that gets overshadowed.
In this one, the crew of the Enterprise encounters a planet fighting a brutal centuries-long war with its neighbour. The catch is that the war is fought entirely through computer simulations, with 'casualties' expected to report to suicide chambers when the simulations say they have died.
Spock: Sir, there's a multi-legged creature crawling on your shoulder. (Then goes in for the Vulcan nerve pinch.)
Although 'The Next Generation' is best known for the Borg, Q, and Captain Picard's Shakespearean monologues, there are a bunch of hidden gems scattered throughout the show's seven-year run.
'The Survivors' is one such episode. Much to its surprise, the Enterprise crew stumbles upon two people living on an unharmed section of the colony Rana IV. They have somehow survived while the rest of the planet has been incinerated.
The story slowly and methodically unfolds before the final revelation knocks the wind out of you. The haunting performance by the late John Anderson in the last scenes alone is worth re-watching this episode.
Kevin Uxbridge: No, no, no, no, no -- you, you don't understand the scope of my crime. I didn't kill just one Husnock, or a hundred, or a thousand. I killed them all. All Husnock, everywhere. Are 11,000 people worth... 50 billion? Is the love of a woman worth the destruction of an entire species?
A Romulan defects to the Enterprise and tells the crew he has information that is crucial to their survival: the Romulans have set up a base on Nelvana III, which is located in the Neutral Zone between the Federation and the Romulan Empire.
Since entering the Neutral Zone is considered an act of war, Picard must determine whether the Romulans have set up a trap for the Enterprise, or if the defector is telling the truth. Patrick Stewart and James Sloyan's performances take the episode to the next level.
Admiral Jarok: There comes a time in a man's life that you cannot know. When he looks down at the first smile of his baby girl and realises he must change the world for her, for all children. It is for her I am here. Not to destroy the Romulan Empire, but to save it.
Legendary actor Mark Lenard reprises his role as Sarek, Spock's father, in an episode that deals with ageing. Sarek is suffering from Bendii Syndrome, a Vulcan neurodegenerative disease that causes sufferers to lose control of their emotions.
Sarek and Picard mind-meld so that Picard can 'hold' Sarek's emotions, while the ambassador finishes one last negotiation to cap his storied diplomatic career.
For fans, there's something magical about seeing Sarek and Picard on-screen together.
Perrin: My husband has taken an interest in your career. He finds it to be... satisfactory.
Picard: My word! High praise from a Vulcan.
Crewmembers start disappearing off the Enterprise, and the only one who seems to have any memory of their existences is Doctor Crusher.
Soon enough the universe itself begins to shrink in this haunting sci-fi thought experiment.
Doctor Crusher: Here's a question you shouldn't be able to answer: Computer, what is the nature of the universe?
Enterprise computer: The universe is a spheroid region, 705 meters in diameter.
'The Wounded' is best remembered as the episode that introduces the villainous Cardassians, who would go on to vex the Enterprise through the rest of TNG's run and become major adversaries in Deep Space Nine.
The star of the episode, however, is Chief Miles O'Brien, the show's everyman technician, who is still hurt and traumatized by his experiences fighting against Cardassia. Eventually, he comes to recognise that holding onto those feelings won't help anyone.
Near the end, in a poignant scene, O'Brien and his former captain sing an old war song, 'The Minstrel Boy,' together.
O'Brien: It's not you I hate, Cardassian. I hate what I became because of you.
In this episode, the Enterprise crew must prematurely make 'first contact' with the inhabitants of an earth-like planet on the edge of discovering warp drive because Commander Riker is missing somewhere on their world.
Those on the planet who find out about the Enterprise must come to terms with the fact that they're neither the center of the universe, nor all that technologically advanced.
Chancellor Durken: I go home each night to a loving wife, two beautiful daughters. We eat the evening meal together as a family. I think that's important. And they always ask me if I've had a good day.
Captain Picard: And how will you answer them tonight, Chancellor?
Chancellor Durken: I will have to say: This morning, I was the leader of the universe as I know it. This afternoon, I'm only a voice in a chorus. But I think it was a good day.
'Q Who?' is scary because the Borg are so far from human. 'The Drumhead' is scary because it it presents a situation that is all too human.
In the episode, a genuine investigation into an explosion aboard the Enterprise turns into a witch hunt when a retired Admiral adopts a 'guilty until proven innocent' strategy. No one is spared, not even Picard.
Worf: Sir, the Federation does have enemies. We must seek them out.
Picard: Oh, yes. That's how it starts. But the road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think. Something is wrong here, Mr. Worf. I don't like what we have become.
Counselor Troi wakes up to discover she's been surgically altered to look like a Romulan. N'Vek, an actual Romulan, then tells he she's on a Warbird and must pretend to be Major Rakal of the Tal Shiar.
DeSeve: The Romulans are very moral, Captain. They have an absolute certainty about what is right and what is wrong, who's a friend and who's an enemy; a strict moral compass, which provides them with a clarity of purpose. At one time, I found their sense of purpose, their passion and commitment to be very compelling.
Picard: But not anymore?
DeSeve: As I've grown older, I realise that clarity of purpose is a more... ambiguous matter than I had thought in my youth.
While preparing for a play, Riker's reality alternates between the play's alien insane asylum and the Enterprise, and he starts to question what's actually real and what's a hallucination.
The episode is unusually dark and creepy compared to most TNG stories.
Riker: I'm not crazy!
'Timescape' asks: what happens if we have pockets of the universe in which time moves at a different pace than the rest of the universe?
In one particularly memorable visual, Picard accidentally sticks his hand into one such 'temporal disturbance,' and his hand (and nails) age in seconds.
Troi: He gathered 200 scientists from all over the Federation and all he did was put us to sleep.
Data: I have a memory record of the entire lecture, Counselor. I can repeat the portions you missed if you...
Troi: No, thank you, Data.
In 'Lower Decks' we see life on the Enterprise from its younger crew members' points of view, following a handful of junior Starfleet officers as they go about their lives.
What could've been an annoying Wesley Crusher 2.0 story (sorry, Wil Wheaton!), turned out to be both fun and surprisingly poignant.
Joret Dal: I'm sick of war. My people need peace.
Sito Jaxa: I never thought I'd heard a Cardassian say something like that.
Joret Dal: And I never thought a Bajoran would risk her life to help a Cardassian.
Ensign Ro Laren, back from Starfleet, is sent to infiltrate the Maquis, a group of Federation-born colonists whose territories were ceded to the Cardassians by the Federation.
The episode dives into the ambiguities of loyalty and political alliances.
Captain Picard's silence at the end of the episode.
'Deep Space Nine' veered into significantly darker territory than the other Trek series, which some argue went against everything the original Star Trek stood for. But its use of multi-episode story arcs and multi-faceted non-Federation characters were welcome innovations.
In 'Necessary Evil,' Constable Odo revisits a murder mystery from five years earlier during the Cardassian occupation of the titular space station after an attempt is made on Quark's life.
Odo: I am looking for the proprietor of this establishment.
Quark: Does he owe you money?
Quark: Are you here to arrest him?
Quark: Then you've found him. Quark, at your service.
Commander Sisko, Doctor Bashir, and Lieutenant Dax end up in a somewhat dystopian San Francisco in the year 2024. The episode looks at what could happen in the near future (about 30 years after the original episode release date in 1995) if the United States' inequality problems aren't addressed.
Chris Brynner: Don't worry. Your friends are fine. That's the whole point of the Sanctuary: to give people in trouble food and a place to stay.
Dax: If that's all it's for, then why is there a wall around it?
A bomb goes off in Garak's tailor shop, and Odo is on the case. What results is a dramatic two-part episode that brings together the seemingly unlikely pairing of Garak, master of lies and deception, and Odo, enforcer of law and order, on a quixotic mission orchestrated by two of the Federation's major rivals.
Bonus: we get to see Garak reciting Shakespeare.
Enabran Tain: How could this be? What could have happened?
Elim Garak: I'm afraid the fault, dear Tain, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.
Enabran Tain: What?
Elim Garak: Something I learned from Doctor Bashir.
Worf joins the show. Sisko gets a beard. The Klingons, re-imagined as space-vikings in the best way possible, are great -- especially General Martok. Everything gets more tense, and the characters' moral decisions become more complicated.
This two-for-one episode is just spectacular. And it works as a stand-alone in case you don't have time to rewatch all of DS9.
Garak: (Tries root beer) It's vile!
Quark: I know. It's so bubbly, and cloying, and happy.
Garak: Just like the Federation.
Quark: But you know what's really frightening? If you drink enough of it, you begin to like it.
Garak: It's insidious!
Quark: Just like the Federation.
DS9 generally grapples with darker and more ambiguous issues than the other Treks, but it also has some fun, goofy episodes like 'Our Man Bashir.' (Another notable one is 'Trials and Tribble-ations.')
As usual, there are problems with the holodeck. The real life bodies of the DS9 crew are uploaded into Doctor Bashir's James Bond-esque program. The only two characters in the game who are themselves are Doctor Bashir, wannabe spy, and Garak, actual spy, who now must try to keep their friends from dying.
Bonus: We get Kira and her questionable Russian accent as Colonel Anastasia Komananov, Sisko as Bond-style villain Hippocrates Noah, and Miles O'Brien wearing an eye patch.
Bashir: I work for one of the nation states of this era, Great Britain, which is battling various other nations in what is called the Cold War. This apartment, my clothes, weapons, even my valet were provided to me by my government.
Garak: I think I joined the wrong intelligence service.
The Federation is worried about the possibility of shape-shifting Changelings infiltrating Earth. 'Homefront' explores how that kind of fear could quickly lead to mass paranoia. At one point, Sisko even believes his father might be a Changeling in disguise.
In the chilling final scene, Jake and Joseph Sisko (son and father of the captain, respectively) look out the window to see militarised Federation troops on the streets. Their presence reflects just how quickly things can escalate when fear of an enemy takes hold.
Dax: (To Sisko) Maybe the Prophets don't recognise you with the new beard.
Jake Sisko, aspiring journalist, goes with Doctor Bashir when they receive a distress call from a colony in the hopes of getting a good war story. (''Surgery under fire!' Now we're talking.')
But things get ugly and scary quickly, and Jake is surprised at his own cowardice in difficult situations. He learns that war isn't some fun prop for his next article, but a chaotic hell.
Sisko: You've been a changeling longer than you have been a solid.
Odo: 'Solid.' I wonder why my people use that term. Humanoid bodies are so fragile...
Quark and the rest of the Ferengi are usually around just for comic relief. But in 'Business as Usual,' the show looks at how far Quark will go for a deal. The choice he faces at the end is whether a generous profit from arms dealing is worth the death of 28 million people on a distant world.
The monologue by Quark's cousin Gaila (which we included below) is adapted from Orson Welles' speech in the 1949 movie 'The Third Man.'
Gaila: Look out there. Millions and millions of stars. Millions upon millions of worlds. And right now, half of them are fanatically dedicated to destroying the other half. Now, do you think, if one of those twinkling little lights suddenly went out, anybody would notice? Supposed I offered you 10 million bars of gold-pressed latinum to help turn out of one of those lights -- would you really tell me to keep my money?
In the high-intensity Season 5 finale, the DS9 team evacuates the station and prepares for war. Season 6 begins three months later, and things are not looking so good for the Federation and Klingon Empire.
The episodes are fast-paced, and virtually every character gets in a great line somewhere.
Weyoun: I assume Captain Sisko removed or destroyed everything of value?
Dukat: Not everything. (Takes Sisko's baseball form the desk.)
Weyoun: What is that?
Dukat: A message from Sisko.
Weyoun: I don't understand.
Dukat: He's letting me know... he'll be back.
One thing Star Trek always does well is looking at the moral choices the 'bad guys' face. 'Rocks and Shoals' digs into questions of duty and honour within the ranks of stranded Jem'Hadar soldiers, currently at war with the Federation.
In the second plotline of the episode, we see the flip side: How easy it can be for even the 'heroes' like Major Kira to slowly turn into a collaborator without realising it.
To lighten things up, we get a fun scene at the beginning where Miles O'Brien rips his pants. We'd argue that Colm Meaney, who plays the character, doesn't get enough credit in TNG and DS9 overall.
Sisko: Do you really want to give up your life for 'the order of things?'
Remata'Klan: It is not my life to give up, Captain. And it never was.
'Voyager's' concept, in theory, is quite interesting: a Federation ship is stranded on the far side of the galaxy and has a decades-long trek home. But the series falls short of its potential.
There are some wonderful episodes, of course, like 'The Eye of a Needle,' in which the Voyager team finds a wormhole. They're initially excited about the possibility of getting home, but are dismayed when they find out its too small for their ship and would send them twenty years back in time.
B'Elanna: Just our luck. We raise one ship from the Alpha Quadrant and it has to be Romulan.
Voyager's standout character is the Doctor, a sarcastic emergency medical hologram. Robert Picardo's performances often elevated otherwise mediocre plotlines.
Projections is an interesting sci-fi scenario where the Doctor wakes up to find out that he's apparently a real person named Lewis Zimmerman -- the hologram's creator -- trapped in a holographic experience.
The Doctor: Computer, delete Paris.
In 'Counterpoint,' the Voyager team is helping some telepaths escape a sector where telepathy is illegal. Their ship is continually stopped by inspectors, and one lead inspector, Kashyk, says he wants to help the telepaths to safety. Janeway must decide if she trusts him.
Kashyk: I suppose you liked me better in uniform.
Janeway: I haven't decided whether I like you at all.
Prequels are tough to do, especially for shows that are all about exploring the frontier. 'Enterprise' had some major duds (the series finale, for example), but there were some great episodes, as well.
In 'Damage,' Captain Archer does an extremely un-Picard thing by deciding to go steal the warp coil from an alien crew's ship, which will leave the aliens stranded away from home for years.
The moral ambiguities in the episode can obviously be compared to DS9's classic 'In the Pale Moonlight,' but there is a key difference: In the latter, Sisko has a hard time justifying his actions to himself, but Archer seems more resigned to the fact that he will have to cross lines from time to time.
T'Pol: ''We can't try to save humanity without holding on to what makes us Human.' Those were your words to me.'
If we missed a episode that you think belongs on the list, shoot us an email at [email protected]
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