7. Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973-75)
Yes, it’s at the bottom, but honestly, this isn’t a bad series, given its limitations. There are some smart sci-fi scripts spread throughout the show’s two-season run, especially the time-travel episode “Yesteryear,” which gives us a glimpse into Spock’s childhood. But the animation was really limited, and the voice actors didn’t even record together (and it shows). It gets points for keeping the Star Trek flames burning in the long decade between the original series and The Motion Picture, but it still ranks at the bottom, if only because there’s simply not enough of it.
6. Star Trek: Enterprise (2001-2005)
The fourth Star Trek series in the Rick Berman era, this show ran on UPN for four seasons, making it the shortest of the modern Trek series (so far). Despite a winning cast lead by Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer, this prequel show felt stuck in the television tropes of the prior decade, and didn’t really even feel like a true Star Trek prequel until the show’s wonderful fourth and final season. But that’s just not enough to save the show’s legacy as a whole. Also, the theme song was pretty awful and out of place for Star Trek.
5. Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001)
Let’s get this out of the way: Kate Mulgrew as Captain Janeway was a great Captain, and the rest of the cast was terrific as well. But this series never lived up to its premise. It was supposedly about a Federation starship lost in space, 70 years from home, with a crew made up of former enemies now forced to work together. But you’d almost never know it watching the show, which felt like a series desperately trying to capture the glory of the Next Generation years. Many episodes felt very familiar to those that had aired just a few years earlier. Random episodes here and there are indeed terrific (and some really not), but there are really not enough of them for a series which lasted seven seasons.
4. Star Trek: Discovery (2017 – Present)
Discovery is only two seasons in, and when all is said and done, its position on this ranking could change. Right now, it is a very ambitious show that does a lot of things right, but just as many things wrong. As a prequel to the Original Series, it’s head-scratching at best, with continuity errors everywhere. The writing is very hit and miss, but the cast is uniformly wonderful, and the production value dwarfs any Trek series ever made. It still needs to figure itself out, but its pretty entertaining, if not always great.
3. Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987- 1994)
This show had everything going against it when it premiered in 1987. How does one follow up something as iconic as Star Trek? Well, despite a very wobbly first two seasons, the show found its footing in season three, and became a true standout with dozens of classic episodes. Patrick Stewart is arguably the best actor ever to hold the Captain’s chair, and the characters of Picard, Data, Worf and the rest have all become icons. It also has one of the best series finales of any show ever. While objectively speaking, I do place two other Star Trek series higher, this one is my personal favorite.
2. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993 – 1999)
Much like TNG before it, Deep Space Nine took about two seasons to find its footing. But man, when it finally did, it became one of the most ambitious science-fiction series ever produced for television. Dealing with themes of religion and war among the usual Star Trek tropes, not one single character was the same at the end of this series as they were at the start of it. It also expanded and deepened our understanding of the many different species introduced in previous Trek shows, and gave us one the franchise’s best villains in the Dominion. This one broke the mold.
1. Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969)
Without Gene Roddenberry’s original series, there simply is no franchise, period, as it created the template that five of the series that followed it picked up on. But beyond just that, the dynamic of Kirk, Spock, and McCoy is one of the greatest in popular entertainment. Its first season is nearly flawless, with amazing episodes written by legends of the science-fiction genre. Season two is great as well, and season three is…well, less so. But the iconic nature of the original series, which let us not forget spawned six feature films and a 21st century reboot of the characters, still wins hands down. You just can’t beat the original.