Star Trek: Discovery recently concluded its third season, and Star Trek: Picard and Star Trek: Lower Decks will be debuting their new seasons within the year. On top of all that, there are still several new Trek series coming our way, including a series focusing on Captain Pike and a young Spock called Strange New Worlds. Not to mention, animated children’s series called Star Trek: Prodigy. But of all these series, and the many to come before, which one is the cream of the crop? It’s time to evaluate each of the nine series set in the Final Frontier from the past 55 years. Here’s our ranking of every Star Trek series, from worst to best.
9. Star Trek: Lower Decks (2020)
This first animated Trek show since the ’70s, Lower Decks is also the first overtly comedic show in the franchise’s history. Centered around a second tier starship’s junior crew, this one premiered on Paramount+ Access only recently. So there is only one season of episodes to go by. So far, it’s pretty funny, although not outright hilarious. It’s also very faithful to Star Trek lore (if not Star Trek storytelling sensibilities.) But because there is only one season that has aired, it’s impossible to place this one any higher. That could change down the line. But for now, the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos is at the bottom. They’re probably used to it.
8. Star Trek: The Animated Series (1973 – 75)
Yes, it’s near the bottom, but I’d never say this is a bad series. There are some smart sci-fi scripts spread throughout the show’s two-season run, notably the time-travel episode “Yesteryear,” which gives us a glimpse into Spock’s childhood. But the animation was really limited due to budget constraints, 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 Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but it still ranks second to last. If only because there’s simply not enough of it.
7. Star Trek: Enterprise (2001 – 05)
This is the fourth Star Trek series of the Rick Berman era. The show ran on UPN for four seasons, making it the shortest run of the modern Trek series (so far). Despite a winning cast lead by Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer, this prequel show to the original Trek felt stuck in the television tropes of the prior decade. It didn’t really even feel like a true Star Trek prequel until the show’s wonderful fourth and final season. But that season’s not enough to save the show’s legacy as a whole. Also, the theme song was pretty cringe-worthy and out of place for a Star Trek series.
6. Star Trek: Picard (2020 – present)
The most recent live-action series saw the return of Sir Patrick Stewart as the (now retired) Jean-Luc Picard. Although the series starts out promisingly, its plot about a race of artificial lifeforms was ultimately way too similar to Battlestar Galactica and Blade Runner, both of which did it better. It also showed the once-Utopian world of the 24th century as a place now filled with bitter, broken people, which was a bummer. Stewart is fantastic as always, and his inner journey helped the show remain very watchable. But right now, this is a show that needs to reinvent itself in season two to ever go any higher on this list. Maybe the addition of John de Lancie as Q in season two will help push this one higher in the ranking.
5. Star Trek: Discovery (2017 – present)
Star Trek: Discovery is the franchise’s current “flagship show.” Three seasons in, the show is definitely a mixed bag. On the pro side: the cast—headed by Sonequa Martin-Green—is truly fantastic, and it has the best production value of any Trek to date. But like too much modern Trek, it often feels like it’s cribbing from other (more popular) franchises. Its prequel timeline/continuity was also handled messily from the get-go, which sometimes marred enjoyment of the series.
The series’ first two seasons are set about a decade before the original series. But in season three, the show went way past where any Trek has gone before, by jumping 1,000 years into the future. This was ultimately a good thing, as the journey past the prequel timeline and into an unknown future gave the show a much needed shot in the arm. Not to mention, Michael Burnham’s journey towards the Captain’s chair is now complete. Maybe with time, Discovery will move up higher on this list.
4. 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 fully lived up to its premise. It was supposedly about a Federation starship lost in space, 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 often felt like a series desperately trying to capture the glory of the TNG years. Many episodes felt very familiar to those that had aired just a few years earlier. Enough episodes scattered throughout are indeed terrific, but there really should be more of those for a series that lasted seven seasons.
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 the original Star Trek? Well, after a very wobbly first two seasons, the show found its footing in season three, and then became a true standout sci-fi series 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.
2. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993 – 99)
Much like TNG before it, Deep Space Nine took about two seasons to find its footing. But man oh 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 and politics 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 of the franchise’s best villains in the Dominion. This is one Trek series that broke the mold.
1. Star Trek: The Original Series (1966 – 69)
Without Gene Roddenberry’s original series, there simply is no Star Trek franchise, period. It created the template that six 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 ever seen 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 Star Trek: The Original Series, which spawned six feature films and a 21st century reboot of the characters, still wins hands down. You just can’t beat the original.
Originally published in 2019 with updates on September 8, 2020 and April 12, 2021.