Started by Gene Roddenberry all the way back in 1966, Star Trek has grown to become one of the biggest science fiction media franchises today, even branching out to include kid-friendly content.
Over almost 60 years, we’ve been introduced to a countless number of characters and storylines, in the forms of both television series and feature films.
The Star Trek television series are so far 12 in total, out of which 8 are live-action series, 3 are animated series and 1 is a short-form companion series.
Here I’m ranking all of these series from worst to best, based on merit.
12Star Trek: Enterprise
Enterprise is a prequel series to the original Star Trek series. It takes place in the 2150s and is centered on the voyage of Earth’s first warp 5 capable starship, Enterprise.
Enterprise is placed at the bottom of the list not just for of its low ratings; it’s obvious that the writers couldn’t correct the continuity issues from the previous series and the plotlines just feel out of place.
The ship’s lack of advanced technology slows down the pace of the show. Captain Jonathan Archer is a well-written character but the supporting characters personalities could have used some work.
Enterprise’s cancellation and disappointing finale started the 12-year-long Star Trek drought from 2005 to 2017.
11Star Trek: Picard
Picard is a series set about 30 years after the events of TNG that revisits The Next generation’s protagonist, Jean-Luc Picard. Picard, now retired, seeks redemption for what he believes are his past failures.
Sir Patrick Stewart and the rest of the returning cast are all able to fall back into their roles almost effortlessly. However, the new characters and villains just can’t seem to keep up.
Picard is at its best when it focuses on its nostalgic elements; but otherwise, the stories don’t offer much else to enjoy.
10Star Trek: Voyager
Voyager features the first female commanding officer in a leading role of a Star Trek series, Captain Kathryn Janeway of the USS Voyager. The series takes place between the years 2371 and 2378.
Voyager proved to be ahead of its time because of its commendable portrayal of female authority. However, the repetitive storylines and some of the most absurd episodes are what made it so unpopular amongst fans.
Despite the way it was initially received, it seems like viewers today have grown to actually appreciate the show for the relatable characters story arcs that deeply discussed surviving trauma.
9Star Trek: Short Treks
Short Treks is a spin-off companion series of stand-alone short films that focuses on the characters from Discovery and is set in different eras. Some of the episodes are also animated.
This series provides a fresh perspective into the Star Trek franchise by telling stories of characters that would not usually fit into the regular plotlines. These snippets give you a peek into the New Trek-verse.
Although Short Treks was short-lived, it did a great job of telling prequel stories about characters that were yet to be introduced, as well as giving fans more glimpses of their favourite USS Enterprise crew.
8Star Trek: Discovery
Discovery starts as a prequel to The Original Series, set about 10 years before it. It follows the voyages of the USS Discovery, a unique starship with an experimental “spore drive”.
Discovery was the start of a new phase in Star Trek that became more inclusive. The series has a Black woman in the lead, along with many other actors of colour.
It is also the first series to have queer representation including a gay couple and transgender and non-binary characters.
However, this show has a more pessimistic and gloomy tone to it, as opposed to an idyllic outlook which the Star Trek franchise is famous for.
7Star Trek: Lower Decks
Lower Decks is an adult animated comedy series that is primarily focuses on the support crew of “one of Starfleet’s least important ships”.
The series took a step in a different direction by focussing on the lower deckers who struggle to complete their mission while simultaneously getting in the way of the senior staff and their jobs.
Lower Decks’ modern age animation is fun to watch, but it only remains enjoyable as long as it leans into the Star Trek concepts. Once it starts steering towards the more “adult” topics, the writing just isn’t as good.
6Star Trek: The Animated Series
The Animated Series is a continuation of TOS that kept the franchise alive during the 1970s. Most of the original cast came back to voice their respective characters.
The animated format allowed the producers to explore more exotic alien landscapes and life forms and experiment witch concepts that wouldn’t have been as easy to execute in the live-action series.
The Animated Series’ reputation unfortunately got tarnished over the years due to its animation errors and liberal reuse of shots. It’s clear that the creators became very ambitious with the series.
Still, it isn’t entirely unbearable; the intriguing storylines definitely make it a worthwhile watch.
5Star Trek: The Original Series
The Original Series, the one that started the beloved Star Trek franchise, tells the tale of the crew of the starship Enterprise and its 5-year mission “to boldly go where no man has gone before”.
Although the series is relatively low-rated and was cancelled very quickly, it is now considered a cult classic and has earned its place in science-fiction history.
The Original Series’ political subtext still remains relevant, which is amazing for a show that ran in the 1960s. The adventures of the crew and the chemistry between the main characters make the show entertaining to watch.
It was a daring move at the time, to include more female characters and people of colour. However, the way their arcs were handled would definitely not sit right with today’s audiences.
4Star Trek: Prodigy
Prodigy is the first Star Trek series that was developed for young viewers. It focuses on a group of teenagers who embark on an adventure upon an abandoned Starfleet ship, the USS Protostar, and is set 5 years after Voyager.
Although the show is aimed at younger audiences, it can certainly be enjoyed by adult viewers as well. The animation is beautiful to watch and the characters are unique.
Prodigy contains themes of hopefulness and comradery and it has a refreshing outlook on the Star Trek universe as it explores a world beyond the Alpha and Delta Quadrants, and the Federation.
3Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Deep Space Nine takes place immediately after the events of The Next Generation, from 2369 to 2375. Unlike other Star Trek series, this one is primarily set in a space station and it follows the aftermath of the occupation of plant Bajor by imperialistic Cardassians.
Besides having a Black actor as the lead character, Deep Space Nine was also progressive in addressing issues like racism, religion, and the aftereffects of war.
What make the show so unique are the character interactions, incredible writing and the engaging multi-arc episodes that we get in the second half of the series.
2Star Trek: The Next Generation
The Next Generation takes place about a century after The Original Series. It is centered on a new starship, Enterprise-D, led by Jean-Luc Picard. It also introduces some crew members representing new alien races.
When the series was airing, it became the highest-rated Star Trek series at the time and the fact that it won several Emmy awards should also speak volumes about how good the show was.
The Next Generation doesn’t just stand out because of its sophisticated storylines and wide range of themes; unlike TOS, it has fleshed out arcs for each of its characters.
Not to mention, Sir Patrick Stewart’s portrayal of Picard, which had a huge impact on pop culture and is the biggest reason so many fans revisit this timeless gem even today.
1Star Trek: Strange New Worlds
Strange New Worlds is the best Star Trek series till date. It perfectly blends the nostalgic elements of The Original Series with modern themes and sensibilities.
Strange New Worlds depicts the early days of the Enterprise and also features characters from Discovery.
The reimagined versions of the original characters have been given more importance than they initially were, thus making the series overall more suitable for modern audiences. The new characters are just as intriguing, and none of them feel out of place.
The storylines aren’t rushed, and the series strikes a perfect balance between drama, action, and nostalgia. It’s no surprise that the show has a near perfect rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
About Star Trek
Star Trek is an American science fiction media franchise originating from the 1960s television series Star Trek, created by Gene Roddenberry. That series, now often known as “The Original Series“, debuted on September 8, 1966, and aired for three seasons on NBC.
In creating Star Trek, Roddenberry was inspired by C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series of novels, Jonathan Swift‘s 1726 novel Gulliver’s Travels, the 1956 film Forbidden Planet, and television westerns such as Wagon Train.
The Star Trek canon includes the Original Series, nine spin-off television series, and a film franchise; further adaptations also exist in several media.