It's no deep Romulan secret that the first season of every new Star Trek series is a little... special. That might not be the right word. "Weird," "odd," or "disjointed" may work better. Early Trek shows always had growing pains that were occasionally more painful than Spock's rapid aging on the Genesis Planet.
Star Trek: Picard has not had this issue yet, and it's not likely to suffer it at all. The show features a lead character that we already know and love, it has a highly serialized narrative (don't expect an episode in which Picard and Dr. Jurati are trapped on the holodeck), and it is, in so very many ways, picking up the storyline of Star Trek: The Next Generation from where it abruptly left off in the film Star Trek: Nemesis. It's come into the world fully cooked, and unless Elnor (Evan Evagora) gets real weird, real fast when he shows up, it will likely stay that way.
This is a special case because when it comes to Jean-Luc Picard's very first season in a Star Trek series, the situation was the complete opposite. Development on The Next Generation was famously tumultuous, which is probably why Season 1 (and a whole lot of Season 2) holds little in common with the greatness that would beam up later.
Though other shows in Trekdom had similar issues, none seemed to have the chaos that besieged the set of TNG. That said, there's almost always a classic "first season head-scratcher" in the mix.
Aside from the aforementioned Picard, there really is no standout oddity in the first season of Star Trek: Discovery. Commence the tossing of rocks. I looked, I rewatched, and I thought hard, but again, the highly serialized nature of the show (and the reduced amount of episodes in the seasons) does not allow for it.
Because of these factors, you don't have an episode where, let's say, Burnham and Tilly get miniaturized by accident and have to build mechanical walking dolls to operate inside of so they can escape the clutches of a tyrannical alien child in time to cure a cruel new space disease. That would be a really weird episode, and if anyone out there is interested, my pitch is ready. Not all Trek fans go for Discovery (an understatement), and when they're out, they're fully out. Black Alert, spore drive is up, because Discovery gets a pass when it comes to my silly little list. I'm a very big fan of the show altogether, as well.
As for the other shows? Some entries here won't surprise you. I do try to be as positive as possible, but certain episodes just really try my patience. There are always possibilities, however — I really started to enjoy "The Royale" (TNG Season 2) on the fifth viewing, so who knows.
Just to offset things a little, I'm gonna throw in my personal favorite episodes from these first seasons, too. I'm a creature of joy, what can I say. Let's see what's out there.
ENT 1x17 'Fusion' Trailer
Star Trek: Enterprise Season 1, Episode 17, 'Fusion'
This was a hard choice because most of this series' first season is not weird or even bad — it's just kind of okay. I'll admit that when it first aired, I jumped ship quickly. I'm not proud. I got back into it later, and I'm glad that I did. It'll never be my favorite Trek series, but it's not the devil.
"Fusion" always unsettles me. I like getting to know more about T'Pol (Jolene Blalock), and diving into Vulcan mysticism is also something I welcome. Still, her dream in this episode (following some chats with Vulcan Creepster No. 1), which sees her going into a San Francisco Jazz Club, makes me feel like I've somehow turned on Twin Peaks by accident.
Even more unsettling is the forced mind-meld that the Vulcan Creepster forces on T'Pol later in the episode. Something about the way it is shot (and performed) is very visceral, which was probably the intention. Still, when rewatching this series, I'm not gonna run to this episode. Blalock's work aside, this one stands out as "the weird David Lynch jazz club thing from Season 1."
Personal Season 1 highlight: "The Andorian Incident." (Shran is my favorite character on the series.)
Star Trek - Kirk Vs. Kids
Star Trek Season 1, Episode 8, 'Miri'
When I went to rewatch the entirety of the series that started it all a couple of years ago (potentially picking up some eps along the way that I'm ashamed to say I'd missed), I got stuck on this one. It delayed my rewatch for a month, mostly because I just didn't want to finish it.
I have a bit of an issue when I decide to do a full rewatch — I have to watch every single episode, even if I know I don't particularly care for it. I couldn't get to the rest of TOS without finishing this one, and damn, I really don't like what could be titled "Planet of the Insanely Creepy Kids."
A space disease ravages a planet that looks exactly like Earth, and the only survivors are children. The titular child, Miri, becomes obsessed with Kirk. The other children, fighting for survival with each other, steal the away team's communicators, and there's a back and forth here that seems to last for 84 years.
I don't know what it is about this episode that I don't like, because my dislike for it isn't generally shared by other Trek fans. "The Man Trap" is probably weirder, but I'll just never forget my own personal slog of getting through "Miri." I should probably give it another try... but not yet.
Personal Season 1 highlight(s): "Balance of Terror" and "The Naked Time."
Get the cheese to sickbay. (longer)
Star Trek: Voyager Season 1, Episode 16, 'Learning Curve'
This episode has the line that launched a million memes, and almost always gets quoted when someone mentions Voyager's first season. You know what I'm about to write.
"Get the cheese to sickbay."
Classic! It's not even what the episode is about; we're mostly dealing with Tuvok trying to get some former Maquis up to snuff, but then the ship begins to malfunction. The culprit? Friggin Neelix and the special cheese that he just picked up from somewhere. Great work, Neelix.
This is also the final episode of Season 1, so the last great threat that the crew faced before going on to battle with the lettuce-head Kazon once more in Season 2 was... cheese.
Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) and the Borg were still a couple of seasons away.
Personal Season 1 highlight: "Caretaker." (It's one of my favorite Trek pilots.)
Yar's Primitive Battle | Star Trek: The Next Generation - Code of Honour
Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 1, Episode 3, 'Code of Honor'
Racist, misogynist, boring, annoying, take your pick. This episode is the worst of all worlds, and comes dead on arrival. That sounds harsh, but so is this episode.
This isn't a hot new take — when Trek episodes are ranked in total, from every show, bet big on this one being toward the bottom, usually slugging it out with "Shades of Gray" from TNG Season 2. It's one of the only Trek installments in which I can find pretty much nothing, nothing redeeming.
Back in my Long Island days, WPIX tried to get me to like this one. That's where the TNG repeats played, and that's where I first watched Season 1 of this show. I swear that there was a week when they played this episode every night. The abduction of Tasha Yar by the inhabitants of "Outrageous Stereotype Planet" got worse every time.
I recently began a grand rewatch of The Next Generation, so you know what that means. The rewatch had to include this spiky-ball mess, and that will be the last time that I ever watch this episode. I'm very curious if this one has fans, and how they would go about defending it.
To this episode, I say this: You will have no vaccine, no Lieutenant Yar, and NO FURTHER VIEWINGS.
Personal Season 1 Highlight(s): "Heart of Glory" and "Conspiracy."
DS9 - Alamarain
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Season 1, Episode 10, 'Move Along Home'
Alla Maraine! You knew this one was coming. How could it be anything else? This is the best episode on this list, possibly the greatest episode in all of Star Trek... except not really. This was no WPIX bit of trickery — I taped this one, and voluntarily watched it quite often. I don't know why.
The story is baffling and silly — some tattooed idiots make contact from the Gamma Quadrant, and proceed to force Sisko, Dax, Kira, and Bashir into playing some manner of magical hologram game that has no rules and no stakes. The aliens shout their alien catchphrases constantly and tap little sticks together every other second. Sisko eventually gets out of the game, and comes very close to laying the alien leader right out on the deck.
It also features the famous hopscotch sequence, pictured in the video above. How they ever got Avery Brooks to do that is a mystery that would break Sam Spade's mind, but it also provided us with one of the best Trek-related videos of all time.
When asked at a convention years ago about his least favorite experience on Deep Space Nine, the great Avery Brooks gave a response. He began by singing, "Alla Maraine, count to four..."
This one is so silly, so weird, so insane, and so utterly without purpose... I have no choice but to love it with my entire heart and soul.
Personal Season 1 highlights (for real): "Duet" and "Dramatis Personae."