If you love Star Trek (and it seems you do, since my editor keeps letting me write these lists), then you have probably watched the entire franchise enough to be a real asset when competing in your friend's nerdy pub quiz.
And if you're like me, you never really stop watching Star Trek. You read books about it, you learn little factoids, watch interviews, go to panels, bleach all your hair, tattoo your whole body blue, and surgically attach antennae to your head -- but eventually you get bored of being an Andorian and just go back to watching more episodes again.
Over time, though, you might start to focus on watching certain episodes that I like to call "the not completely terrible ones." And that, friend, means you might be neglecting about half of the Star Trek oeuvre. Because Star Trek is @#$ing terrible a not small portion of the time.
Not me, though. I crave those bad episodes. For MANY reasons. Sometimes they have a sort of feckless charm, some of them don't even deserve the bad rep they've got -- and some of them are so horrific they have to be seen to remind you how lucky we are that Star Trek has survived this long and is even getting a brand new series next year.
Also bad episodes are funny.
This is not a definitive list. Honestly, I think every Star Trek episode, regardless of quality, is worth multiple viewings. But I went through each series and picked a few infamous episodes, some of which I enjoy despite their badness, some that were recommended by others, and some which I barely remembered at all but sounded curiously cringe-worthy.
You want reasons to watch these, some of the most despised hours of television? Sure, why not? Get ready for reasons of some sort for why you should rewatch these 10 episodes instead of just staring at Pakled pornography for a few hours.
TOS - The Omega Glory
Fun fact, this script was one of three choices for the original series' second pilot. It was between "The Omega Glory," "Mudd's Women," and the one they went with, "Where No Man Has Gone Before". And despite how early in production this Gene Roddenberry script was penned, it didn't see the light of day until the end of Season 2. That's how you know a Star Trek script is a real gem -- when it gets produced because Roddenberry got bored and left and nobody else had any better ideas.
And if you were thinking, "How much worse can this episode be than "Mudd's Women," the answer is "Kirk saves the day by dramatic pausing his way through the United States Constitution". Which is to say that "The Omega Glory" is stupid and great and you should watch Shatner pretend he's not Canadian as many times as one lifetime on Earth allows.
For a matter of record (or just in case you forgot), "The Omega Glory" is an episode where Kirk has to fight a rival captain who has gone off the rails while Kirk, Spock, and Bones are trapped on a planet whose two factions are at war. Oh, and it turns out that the two factions are descended from communists and "yankees" from Earth, but neither group really remembers why they're fighting in the first place.
What a hilariosuly unrealistic conceit: two groups clinging steadfastly to their century's old idealogies and legal documents for so long that they literally no longer understand the words or concepts that they're fighting for. And then to go so far as to have a clear lunatic outsider obviously increase aggressions for his own personal benefit? Absurd! That would never happen in the real world!
Yup. Come for the depressing real life parallels, stay for some of Shatner's worst overracting ever.
TOS - Spock's Brain
Nearly five decades on, this is still considered to be one of the worst episodes in television history, let alone on Star Trek. But, much like the Eymorg who steal Spock's brain in order to run their ancient technology, this episode is a giver of both pain and delight. Pain, because it's awful and delight because... well, because it's awful.
Long before the likes of William T. Riker, it was little Kirk that got a ship called Enterprise into trouble. And so it is in "Spock's Brain," where a beautiful woman teleports on to the ship and effortlessly steals the contents of Spock's noggin thanks to Kirk's first instinct to flirt with danger.
But without that act of powerful and potent stupidity, we wouldn't get to witness Leonard Nimoy Frankenstein around for an hour. And we also wouldn't get to see Shatner's hilarious pain face, or hear the brilliant line "Brain and brain! What is brain?!" I tell you just the thought of living without any of these things is too much to bear.
I'd make jokes, but the episode is the joke. And though "Spock's Brain" was not intended to make the audience laugh for the duration of the episode, that is still the glorious result. The only thing missing is the original script's intention of having McCoy reconfigure Spock's brain incorrectly causing him to laugh when he means to sneeze. Because people mean to sneeze. It is a thing we do on purpose. Amazing.
TNG - The Naked Now
You can blame George Takei for this episode being on a most hated list. Original flavor Sulu very famously bagged on "The Naked Now" and, in hindsight, it's super obvious that he did it primarily because he was mad that TNG was biting on his style. Yes, the TOS original version, "The Naked Time," is better. Yes, it features topless Takei waving around his fencing rapier.
But "The Naked Now" also has some features all its own that are worthy of praise. For example, drunk engineer, Shimoda, taking out all the isolinear chips thus placing the Enterprise in totally unnecessary danger. Shimoda acting like an inebriated baby isn't just hilariously dangerous, his behavior also went on to inspire the best TNG podcast ever (take that, Mission Log), Greatest Gen, which features a segment titled "Drunk Shimoda" where the podcast's co-hosts single out characters week-to-week who behave in a manner befitting a Drunk Shimoda. Wow, this sure did turn into an ad. Quick, let's talk about something else.
Data and Yar have sex! So without "The Naked Now," we wouldn't have decades of "fully functional" jokes. That's a dark timeline no one wants to live in. And this is also the episode that sets up the sexual tension between Picard and Beverly.
Yes, "The Naked Now" is an episode where everyone basically acts like Riker. Sure, it probably wasn't a great idea for this to be the second episode following the show's pilot, but with seven season's of hindsight, it's hilarious watching the often-stuffy TNG characters sweat a lot and awkwardly hit on each other. If The Enterprise D had an HR department, they probably had a busy day after this episode was over, that's for sure.
TNG - Rascals
Hair. That's what this episode is about. "Rascals" is not about Picard, Keiko, Ro, and Guinan getting transported to the ship and accidentally turned into kids, it's not about Ro and Guinan jumping on beds, it's not about Ferengi stealing the ship for born failure, temporary Captain Riker -- it's about hair.
Say what you will about child actors, but the one playing newly youthenized (that's how that word is spelled and what it means, right?) Picard has a scene where he plays with his hair for a while and anyone who has a thinning or bald head will weep while watching this emotional triumph of a scene.
Yes, it's true that "Rascals" suffers from "oopsie, we cured aging so now I guess no one has to worry about death anymore" disorder"(a not uncommon diseases afflicting plenty of poorly written speculative fiction), but it's still funny and doesn't deserve the bad rep it has.
There's laughs (Picard calling Riker his #1 dad before sharing the most awkward hug in recorded TV history), there's tears (pour one out for young Guinan whose voice was pretty obviously dubbed over), and there's even some good writing and acting.
Yes. I said it. Young Ro Laren is both well portrayed and has an emotionally affecting story. After all, Ro was a refugee as a child so it's easy to understand why she'd feel so uncomfortable returning to that phase of her life where she had no control. And it's equally powerful that she stays a child longer than anyone else because, yes, it means something to be able to actually be a child and have fun after you were forced to be an adult years before you were ready due of war, invasion, occupation, and genocide. That's genuinely powerful stuff.
But also the Ferengi are idiots and that's funny.
TNG - Sub Rosa
When I write a Star Trek list, there's usually an episode in particular that inspires it. Congratulations, "Sub Rosa" -- you've finally inspired something other than second-hand embarrassment.
So this was Brannon Braga's attempt to do a torrid romance style episode. It involves Beverly Crusher having sex with an alien ghost candle and Picard getting real mad about it.
"Sub Rosa" is set on what is basically planet Scotland where the Enterprise has taken Dr. Crusher to pay respects to her recently deceased grandmother who, sidebar, was the previous owner/lover of the aforementioned alien ghost candle.
Finally, an episode that will make you wonder if alien ghost candles can impregnate space doctors. Long have I imagined that Maury Povich episode where a magic, light-up space "vibrating massager" finds out that he IS the father.
And, by extension, here's the question this episode raises which I would say demands a rewatch -- if the candle's been diddling Howard women for generations, did it ever legit impregnante one? Is that why Wesley is such a special snowflake? Did he just happen to wind up with an accidental abundance of alien ghost candle DNA as a result of decades of making the phrase "burning the candle from both ends" seem incredibly filthy?
"Sub Rosa": the episode that goes where no man has gone before. Except for Wesley's dad. And maybe Picard. Oh, and that guy who dies and then becomes a woman because trills.
"Sub Rosa": the episode that goes where three men (and now an alien ghost candle) have gone before.
DS9 - Profit and Lace
One person's transphobic trash is another person's transphobic treasure. The Ferengi, written correctly, are simultaneously reductive, morally bankrupt, and delightfully self aware. "Profit and Lace" displays all those characteristics in abundance.
After literally breaking his mother's heart, Quark must take her place by secretly getting a sex change in order to convince the Ferengi commissioners that women deserve the right to wear clothes and make money. Never mind how this episode got commissioned, how did anyone even come up with this idea in the first place?
Is it offensive? Yes. At first blush, anyway. But if you're the sort of person who watches every episode of Star Trek over and over again, you start to realize that there's something almost progressive about Profit and Lace. After all, the main thrust of the plot is that Quark must be more than just good at business if he's going to be a woman -- he must also walk, sit, dress, look, and flirt appropriately, too.
All these things we silently (and sometimes not so silently) expect women to do in addition to do their jobs every day are put on display in "Profit and Lace" and it's exactly as awkward as it ought to be.
But it's also funny watching Quark not be able to deal with what his mother must cope with every day. And Armin Shimmerman honestly does more with the material than it maybe deserves.
I also find it very clever that the way Quark sells the idea of respecting women is that it means women will spend money, make money, and otherwise make the Ferengi more successful as a species, not less. And, in that way, the incredibly sexist Ferengi wind up briefly looking less sexist than a lot of us Earthlings.
Yes, both the writers and the actors agree that this episode did not wind up being all it could be. But, in the end Ferengi Tootsie deserves better than being declared the "Spock's Brain" of Deep Space Nine.
Voyager - Tsunkatse
This is almost a note to my younger self, but by proxy anyway who might have felt or still feel similarly to how I did then.
While "Tsunkatse" was the most viewed episode of Voyager's sixth season, it also faced some backlash for representing the first time a popular wrestler was featured in a Star Trek episode. Of course between 2000 and now, Dwayne Johnson has transcended far beyond being just The Rock. And, likewise, "Tsunkatse" has aged very well.
An episode that features not just Jeri Ryan and Johnson's talents, this space boxing story also includes two other Trek heavyweights, Jeffrey Combs and J.G. Hertzler, both who played no small part in Deep Space Nine's success.
And the story told, one that challenges the fragile work Seven has made to rediscover her own humanity after decades of being part of the Borg collective, manages to even sneak in a meaningful plot twist along the way despite being a very classic Trek-style morality play.
Sorry,I don't have any good jokes for this. If, like me, you hated this episode when it aired, you owe it to yourself to give it a rewatch -- I would argue it's actually one of Voyager's stronger episodes.
Voyager - Fairhaven
I find that the episodes which are the most reviled are the ones that don't have a lot of science fiction related stakes. No phaser fire, no evil aliens with crusty foreheads, no time travel or what-ifs... nothing plot heavy.
But diversions can be fun, and "Fairhaven," unlike its sequel, "Spirit Folk," is pretty fun. On the one hand, this episode might seem like a story about an Irish town created by Paris and Kim for the enjoyment of the crew, but, much like "Sub Rosa," the plot for "Fairhaven" primarily about a lady who is in desperate need of getting a little something. But don't hold that against it. In fairness, every captain after Kirk had to cope with the difficulties of being a leader who still has the same baser urges that the rest of the crew does.
And, yes, while unofficially Seven and Janeway were getting busy every time the camera pulled away, officially Janeway had little to no prospects. And that ain't right. Katey Janeway gotta get herself some, too.
So while there's a very tepid B-plot involving travel through some generic spatial anomaly, the real story is about the Captain having to learn that it's okay to bone a gentleman of the photonic variety.
And if that sounds boring, please let me remind you there's a point in the story where Janeway rewrites her boyfriend by removing his wife! I bet there are a lot of you readers right now who wish you could delete my wife and get you a little some from the person who writes corny Star Trek lists, right? Janeway, you so relatable...
Okay, and yes, there is a debate over at what point a hologram is real enough to love which is interesting I GUESS.
Save your hatred for "Spririt Folk" and watch Janeway craft an elaborate love doll again sometime. It's better than you remember. And, while you're at it, enjoy the fact that the trailer for this episode makes no mention of the actual Fairhaven plot whatsoever.
Enterprise - Unexpected
Kirk got away with sexing lady aliens all the time, Riker got into a few spots of bother, but nobody is a cautionary tale about being extra safe when it comes to alien relations like Charles "Trip" Tucker III. No, it's not because his love of T'Pol got him inadvertently killed and it's certainly not because he made Archer mad that time he taught a slave girl to question her own agency. I'm talking about the time he started growing extra nipples.
Yes, you should rewatch the "Trip gets pregnant" episode.
This is also an episode that teaches you not to trust a stranger or their holodeck... or stick your hands into any weird alien crystals just because it feels nice.
But more than that, more than the pregnancy jokes, this episode is worth it just to watch a Klingon utter the phrase "I can see my house from here".
Enterprise - A Night in Sickbay
This is considered by many to be the most hated episode in Star Trek history. I guess people don't like shows about people behaving like adults? Because "A Night in Sickbay" stands out as an example where everyone (even Archer, eventually) acknowledges how hard it is being trapped in tight quarters why travelling through the unknowns of space.
And there are some pretty serious stakes at play here -- Porthos could die! Can we all be real right now and admit that most of us like the dog more than probably about half the rest of the crew? Personally, I'd happily kick Archer, Reed, Mayweather, and Hoshi out of an airlock if it meant keeping Porthos alive.
Then there's the best doctor in the history of Starfleet to consider -- Phlox! Once again, he graciously and wisely navigates not only a series of risky and untried procedures just to save a dog, but also manages to diagnose Archer's hostilities towards T'Pol for the obvious sexual tension that they are.
In addition to succesfully saving Porthos' life and advising Archer to acknowledge but not act on his attraction to T'Pol, Phlox also reps the poly folks out there by discussing the complex but rewarding aspects of having multiple spouses and a large family. Not something you see much of on television, so that's pretty sweet.
Archer kind of learns his lesson. He apologizes to everyone for acting like a fool, including some very eaily offended aliens for whom he must chop down a tree for? It's weird but funny.
Yes, I'll admit that the sexual fantasy involving a naked T'Pol was not, perhaps, the most appropriate, and if Jolene Blalock wasn't pleased about it no one could blame her. But I did laugh at the end when Archer kind of implies he's into T'Pol and she very professionally shuts him down without making it seem like she wouldn't go there under different circumstances. That's more than I would do.
So, yes. I think the critics of this episode owe it an apology. So bust out the chainsaws and admit you want to have sex with Enterprise. It's only natural.