Every Star Trek Pilot Episode, Ranked From Worst To Best
With advancements in special effects and bigger television budgets, the Star Trek series has evolved with the times to create a show that is fitting for every era. While some shows hold up and still entertain today, others aren't as good as the very first time you saw them.
With Star Trek: Discovery premiering tonight, it's only fitting that we rank every Star Trek pilot episode from worst to best. Keep in mind, this is not the same as ranking the series as a whole. That is a completely different list. Here, we’re just talking about the first episode of each show.
Disclosure: GameSpot's parent company is Star Trek: Discovery producer CBS Interactive.
7. Star Trek (Original Series)
Pilot Episode: "The Cage"
Under the command of Captain Christopher Pike (Jeffrey Hunter), the USS Enterprise receives a radio distress call from a strange planet in the Talos star group. A landing party is assembled to investigate the signal and is then beamed down to find the source. Upon finding the signal source, the crew discovers a camp of survivors from a scientific expedition that went missing 18 years prior. Among the survivors is Vina, a beautiful young woman who Captain Pike is instantly drawn to. Unfortunately, Vina isn't all she appears to be, and in Pike’s hypnotized state (hypnotized by her beauty), he is captured by an alien race that lives beneath the surface.
Where does it rank? The original pilot ranks the lowest of the low because Captain Christopher Pike (played by Jeffrey Hunter) is devoid of emotion and sucks the life out of the dialogue. Frankly, it's insufferable. The production is improved by the second pilot which corrects casting missteps by adding the charismatic and charming William Shatner.
6. Star Trek: The Animated Series
Pilot Episode: "Beyond the Farthest Star"
While exploring the galaxy, the Federation Starship Enterprise becomes trapped in the orbit of a dead star. The crew discovers there is a massive derelict ship floating around this unknown star. Captain Kirk (William Shatner) beams aboard the starship with a boarding party that includes First Officer Spock (Leonard Nimoy), Chief Medical Officer Dr. McCoy, and Chief Engineer Scott, where they learn the star was once home to an insectoid race. From there, it's a race against time to get back to the Enterprise before the rogue ship self destructs.
Where does it rank? The pilot ranks low, but I give it props for incorporating elements of the live-action show into the animated series. The original voice cast is there, and they do the best they can, but the dialogue and animation make it a hard task to sit through.
5. Star Trek: The Next Generation
Pilot Episode: "Encounter at FarPoint"
In 2364, the new crew of Starfleet's USS Enterprise gets right into the action against Q, an omniscient figure from the Q Continuum. Q is sent to test the intelligence and the endurance of the new starfleet group. Captain Jean Luc-Picard (Patrick Stewart) is confident in his ability to lead his crew on this mission, but it isn't an easy task. Q declares that humanity is being put on trial--and deciding that their actions in the upcoming mission will be used to judge humanity’s worthiness and determine their fate as a race.
Where does it rank? "Encounter at Farpoint" ranks low due to camp overload. It's as if Roddenberry was trying too hard to recreate the original series instead of giving this its own identity. The dialogue is laughably awkward, even for Star Trek.
4. Star Trek Enterprise
Pilot Episode: "Broken Bow"
We see a young Jonathan Archer on Earth in the year 2121 watching his father paint a model space craft. His father is chief principal designer of the planet's first Warp 5 engine ship. Fast forward to the year 2151, and Jonathan Archer is soon to be Captain of the Enterprise NX-01. However, test flights and missions are met with opposition from Vulcans. Breaking the chain of command, Archer goes straight to Admiral Forrest to request permission to take the new ship on a mission to the planet Qo'noS.
Where does it rank? Broken Bow ranks middle-of-the-road because it's interesting in some aspects (like taking place in the past), but it moves entirely too slowly to hold much interest. Watching more than the first episode of this series is required to truly get into the show.
3. Star Trek: Voyager
Pilot Episode: "Caretaker"
On Earth, Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship USS Voyager recruits Tim Paris, a Maquis from a maximum security prison to help track down a missing Maquis spacecraft. Leaving the Deep Space Nine space station, Voyager journeys to the Badlands, where it is scanned by a "coherent tetryon beam" before being struck by a wave that places Janeway and her crew 70,000 light years away from the federation and scrambling to find a way back.
Where does it rank? Voyager ranks high because it continued to break free of the tropes Roddenberry established in this universe. Being so far from the nearest station, Captain Janeway must rely on her crew and her wits to get them safely back to the federation--thus leaving her in the "caretaker" role.
2. Star Trek: Deep Space 9
Pilot Episode: "Emissary"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) finds Captain Picard passing the torch (of sorts) to Captain Benjamin Sisko, who is now in charge of the crew at the Deep Space 9 outpost station. The Bajor requested protection from a Starfleet command after the Cardassian war. However, the discovery of an unexplored wormhole near the space station expands Sisko's mission beyond protecting the Bajor. This pilot episode is action-packed, and what better way to introduce your characters then to see them in action?
Where does it rank? Deep Space 9’s pilot episode ranks high on the list because it's the start of the series finding a new identity. It's diverse, well written, and not afraid to show the flaws in its crew early on. Upon multiple viewings, this show still holds up nicely in terms of action and production value.
1. Star Trek: Discovery
Pilot Episode: "The Vulcan Hello"
Discovery is set 10 years before the original series and is a precursor to the Klingon war. At this time, the Klingon houses were divided, but they soon joined forces to fight against the Federation. Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), First Officer Burnham (Soniqua Martin Green), and the rest of the crew of the USS Shenzou were on a mission investigating a remote part of space. They find hostile Klingon forces, which they engage in battle.
Where does it rank? I can't give too much away, but Discovery is high on the list for going against the typical structure of Star Trek. The show is told from the perspective of First Officer Michael Burnham, and not the ship’s Captain. She is also a human with a vast amount of Vulcan knowledge because she was raised by Vulcans. That's just brilliant.