Besides Star Trek: The Original Series, which had an uncannily awesome first season, the beloved franchise has a bold tradition of rocky starts. It generally took a while for each series to reach its full potential, as most pilot episodes left fans with a sour aftertaste. Hopefully, that won’t be the case with the CBS revival Star Trek: Discovery. But in honor of its upcoming debut, it’s a good time to revisit all of the previous Trek pilots, from The Original Series to Enterprise, and rank them from worst to best.
EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re counting “Where No Man Has Gone Before” as the proper pilot for TOS, and we’re leaving out The Animated Series.
5. Star Trek: The Next Generation – Encounter at Farpoint
Oh, Groppler Zorn. Star Trek: The Next Generation, by far, had the worst pilot of the 51-year-old franchise, despite being co-written by Trek creator Gene Roddenberry. Arriving in 1987, the first live-action Star Trek episode in nearly 20 years was a certified stinker, boasting a boring plot, stiff acting, a chemistry-less cast and a forced cameo from DeForrest Kelley’s Dr. McCoy.
Even the debut of John de Lancie’s omnipotent Q couldn’t save the wreck of a pilot. Setting the stage for a lackluster first two seasons of TNG (besides a couple standout episodes, like Season 2’s outstanding — and Ted 2 story inspiration — “Measure of a Man”), the snooze-fest that is “Encounter at Farpoint” did no favors for the franchise. It wasn’t until Michael Piller came on board in Season 3 that TNG really found its groove — and boy, did it ever.
4. Star Trek: Voyager – Caretaker
“Caretaker,” in a lot of ways, is better than the series that followed. It established the overarching dilemma of the Voyager crew, and promised a different kind of Trek show. However, the result was a poor Next Generation knockoff.
Regardless, it’s not a bad episode of Star Trek, with some fun moments that showcase the personality of each main crew member. It’s a shame, though, that Kate Mulgrew’s Captain Janeway spends a chunk of the episode incapacitated in a chamber; she definitely deserved more than that in her first outing, considering how badass we would soon learn she was.
3. Star Trek: Enterprise – Broken Bow
Launching in 2001, Star Trek: Enterprise beamed its way onscreen with the most cinematic — and downright good-looking — pilot of the entire franchise, written by Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, and masterfully directed by James L. Conway. Unlike some of the other pilots that falter with their less-than-exciting plots (which take place in only a couple locations), Enterprise charts new territory, engaging the audience in an exciting mission that hits a ton of different locales as Archer assembles his rag-tag crew.
The pilot is also notable for showcasing a more “mature” Trek, boasting that memorably sexy scene with T’Pol and that decontaminate jelly. Good times.
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