When Star Trek is mentioned, most folks think of the drama. Throughout its various incarnations, Trek has provided truly groundbreaking storylines that make viewers think as well as be entertained. From views on religion, lifestyle, culture and even war, the franchise has moved fans to tears and shifted a lot of thinking. Which is why it’s so notable how downright funny the shows can be. There was always some humor with sharp lines going back to the terrific Spock/Bones banter. The other series continued that with some fun stuff. The Ferengi added comedy by how they went from supposed villains to money-hungry figures that made their antics better. That’s not to mention characters who are downright snarky geniuses, like Garak.
Several episodes are able to balance the drama with some lighter fare to stand out well. Even DS9 could bring some humor to brutal storylines so fans weren’t too broody. But even better is that Trek can embrace pure and full-on comedy wonderfully. True, some episodes don’t work out (quite a few from Voyager come to mind) but others work great. They have fun premises and the actors give their all to make it work nicely. While Enterprise didn’t offer a lot of these, the other Trek shows more than made up for it. Here are 20 of the funniest Star Trek episodes ever to show how it brought the laughs as much as drama for a sci-fi icon.
20 THE WAY TO EDEN, TOS
True, the funny in this mostly comes from how bad it is. Yet somehow, it makes for one of the few true joys of TOS’ final season. The Enterprise rescues six people from a cruiser being fired on by another ship. They are…well, there’s no other way to say it but that they’re space hippies. They’re led by the brilliant Dr. Sevrin who engages Spock in a long discussion that leads to Spock’s frank analysis that the guy is nuts. With horribly outdated slang, the group soon gets on Kirk’s nerves and he’s ready to dump that at the nearest starbase.
In response, the group pull off what has to be hands down the most ridiculous “take over a ship” plot in Trek history. Having tricked the crew into letting them do a concert with folk musical instruments, the hippies knock out the entire ship with a special ultrasonic frequency. They then fly it to a planet they’re convinced is paradise. The ending tries to be philosophical but just makes the story more ridiculous. If ever a Trek episode was “so bad it’s good,” it has to be this.
19 BODY AND SOUL, VOY
From the moment Seven of Nine joined Voyager, she and the Doctor connected. It made sense as Seven was a former Borg and the Doctor a hologram and each learning what it meant to be human. The chemistry between Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo was good and led to some fun antics. None are better than in this episode as the duo are with Harry when they’re abducted by some smugglers. In order to keep from being erased, the Doctor hides his program inside of Seven’s neural implants and thus basically takes over her body. In other words, “Seven” is really the Doctor for most of this episode.
Ryan does an absolutely pitch-perfect impression of Picardo, nailing the Doctor’s arrogance and educated demeanor. There’s also joy in the Doctor indulging in cake, getting drunk and even making out with the alien captain. That sets up him briefly out of her body and Seven throwing a fit over his antics. Janeway’s reaction to the whole thing is priceless as well. Ryan and Picardo are obviously having pure fun with this to showcase how putting the two scene-stealers together created a fun-as-heck story.
18 IN THE CARDS, DS9
Ironically, the kick-off to this episode is everyone on the station being down because of the threat by the Dominion. Jake figures he can cheer up his father by getting a rare Willie Mays baseball card that’s being auctioned off. He needs Nog’s help as the Federation doesn’t actually use money anymore. They’re outbid by a scientist who offers to trade the card for some services. Jake and Nog go around the station in a variety of weird jobs which actually ends up boosting the crew morale. When the scientist goes missing, Jake actually accuses Kai Winn of having something to do with it which causes Sisko to explode in anger.
It turns out the slimy Vorta Weyoun is behind this. He saw the goings-on and has become convinced Jake and Nog are on a secret mission of some sort (“the fate of the galaxy may rest on finding this Willie Mays and stopping him.”) Jake and Nog actually try to spin the story of Mays being a time traveler which is too outlandish even for Weyoun. It’s a terrific showcase for Jake and Nog’s friendship as their whacky hijinks actually end up working out in the end.
17 LIFE LINE, VOY
What’s better than one hammy Robert Picardo performance? Two of them bouncing off each other. Having found a communications link to the Alpha Quadrant, Voyager has been using the Doctor to talk to Starfleet. The Doctor learns that his creator, Lewis Zimmerman, is dying and naturally wants to help him. It doesn’t take long for the Doctor to realize Zimmerman is basically himself taken to the tenth power. An incredibly arrogant man, Zimmerman hates how the holograms that boasted his face are now being used for menial labor around the galaxy. This means some major clashes between the Doctor and his creator who is a horrible patient.
It was a challenge for Picardo to play against himself but he manages it well. A beautiful touch is Deanna Troi being brought in to try and mediate things between this “father and son” pairing. Instead, the duo’s constant bickering actually causes Troi to lose her cool and berate them both. Throw in everyone’s favorite geeky tech Barclay (Dwight Schultz) with his holographic iguanas and insects and it just gets wilder. There is a warm ending of the two finally bonding and each helping the other yet the comedy of seeing two versions of Picardo makes it a great episode
16 THE MAGNIFICENT FERENGI, DS9
When one thinks of the Ferengi, “warriors’ is never a label that comes to mind. Which is why this spin on the classic movie is so much fun. Quark and Rom learn their mother has been abducted by the Dominion and have to figure out a rescue plan. They gather a team that includes Nog, Quark’s cousin, a nutjob and long-time nemesis Brunt. Quark gets them to help by promising shares of the 20 bars of gold the Nagus is offering (it's really 50 bars). They begin to run simulations of the raid on the holodeck which just shows how utterly inept they are as commandos (not only do they kill Quark’s mom but also each other).
Quark decides they need to do this the Ferengi way….by being sneaky and conniving cheats. They find a Dominion agent the Federation captured and offer to exchange him for Quark’s mom. Of course, things go off the rails as they end up accidentally killing their own hostage. Suddenly, we go from Seven Samurai to Weekend at Bernie’s as the Ferengi use a device to make the corpse walk to pull off the deal. Watching the banter of these morons is comedy gold that DS9 has rarely matched. It’s a scheme only Quark could manage to pull off for a hysterical episode that make the Ferengi heroes…of a sort.
15 TAKE ME OUT TO THE HOLOSUITE, DS9
It’s odd that the final season of Deep Space Nine, a year marked with a lot of darkness and destruction, boasts one of the funniest episodes of the entire series. Sisko reunites with Solok, an old Vulcan rival from his Academy days. Solok has long promoted Vulcans being superior to humans at anything. He wants to prove it by challenging Sisko to that exclusive Earth game of baseball. At first, Sisko is confident his crew can rise to the challenge. Sadly, Sisko has vastly overestimated his crews’ understanding of the game. It takes one holosuite practice for Sisko to realize the “Niners” make the Bad News Bears look like the New York Yankees.
Watching a man who has handled the deadliest alien threats completely lose it over baseball is glorious. Not helping is Odo jumping into the role of umpire and tossing Sisko out of the game. There’s touches from O’Brien chewing gum laced with Scotch to Worf treating this like an epic battle. The ending is fun in how the team claim a moral victory to show up the Vulcan after all. They may be bad ball players but that just made this episode even funnier.
14 DEJA Q, TNG
Long before the Internet as we knew it existed, this TNG episode was providing fodder for future memes. The Enterprise is watching a moon threatening to crash into a planet when suddenly, a naked Q pops onto the bridge. It seems the Continuum have finally had enough of Q’s antics and so have stripped him of his powers. At first, the crew think Q is just playing one of his tricks until an alien race attacks him. Q is forced to admit that he came to the crew for protection as the slews of races he’s mistreated over the years are coming for payback.
Watching the arrogant Q forced to learn some humility is a genius idea. From back aches to what to eat, Q has no idea how to be a regular person and it shows. The crew are taking delight in seeing Q taken down a thousand pegs (Guinan actually stabs his hand with a fork) and his attempts to help just make things worse. It ends with Q being reinstated and celebrating with a mariachi band. This is the episode that gave us both the “Picard face-palm” and “Data laughing” images that become meme icons to show what a laugh riot it is.
13 YOU ARE CORDIALLY INVITED, DS9
After several episodes involving some of the most brutal fights of the Dominion War, DS9 needed to lighten up a bit. Thus, we have Dax and Worf tying the knot on the station. The crew figure it’ll be fun and are unprepared for the Klingon rituals involved. Instead of a stag party, Bashir and O’Brien are subjected to nights of fasting, hung over hot rocks and some other painful antics. Meanwhile, Jadzia throws a wild bachelorette party with dancing and drink that leaves the centuries-old Trill hung over.
We get some drama as a Klingon noblewoman threatens to call the whole thing off due to Worf’s difficult status with the Empire. That sets up arguments between the bride and groom that threaten to derail the wedding. They do come together to finally marry in a great ceremony topped by Bashir and O’Brien getting a chance at revenge on Worf. Leave it to a Klingon ceremony to bring some levity to a darker DS9 period.
12 TINKER, TENOR, DOCTOR SPY, VOY
From the beginning, this episode shows some fun. The Doctor is wowing everyone in the mess hall with his great singing voice. This causes Tuvok to break into an emotional outburst with the Doctor calming him down via song. Naturally, it’s just one of the Doctor’s daydreams which have been occurring more lately. We see more of them which includes Torres, Janeway and Seven fighting for his affections and then taking up command of the ship himself. The Doctor doesn’t realize that his dreams can be accessed via the holodeck and is deeply embarrassed when the crew stumble onto them.
As it happens, an alien scout has mistaken the dreams for reality and used them to encourage his fleet to attack Voyager. Realizing his mistake, the alien reaches out to the Doctor to solve things. The Doctor must thus pose as the “Emergency Command Program” after all but is far less effective in reality than in his fantasies. It’s a funny storyline that gives the Doctor a chance to shine nicely as a comedy player.
11 LITTLE GREEN MEN, DS9
Put Quark, Rom and Nog together and trouble inevitably follows. The trio are embarking on a “family trip” to take Nog to Starfleet Academy. The typical Trek accident occurs which opens a portal and dumps the shuttle onto Earth. Specifically, Roswell, New Mexico in July of 1947. Yes, the three Ferengi were the “Roswell aliens.” The initial comedy comes from the humans trying to understand the Ferengi language which includes acting out games while the Ferengi treat them like utter lunatics. There’s also the Ferengi amazed at everything from humans smoking to them touching their ears.
Ignoring Rom and Nog’s warnings not to change the timeline, Quark plans to use his knowledge of the future to make a fortune. He seems to be doing well until he tries to impress the humans by making them believe the Ferengi are going to invade Earth. This almost puts the trio on the dissection table before Odo (who had stowed on board) is able to rescue them. Even then, we get bits on how they break out of the base. Their method of returning to the future is unique as the episode shows how Ferengi are comedy gold in any era.
10 Q2, VOY
John de Lancie was always a delight as Q, even in his later years. Voyager had played with the storyline of Q needing Janeway’s help to prevent a civil war in the Continuum. This involved he and a female Q creating their own child. In their view of time, the boy is now a teenager (who, in a clever touch, is played by de Lancie’s real son, Keegan). Teenagers are a hassle already but one with the powers of an omnipotent being is giving Q headaches. He thus turns to Janeway for help. The kid is a chip off the old block with everything from taking away Seven’s clothes to setting the ship against the Borg just for kicks.
It’s glorious watching Q at his wit’s end. He even pops in on Janeway while she’s in the bathtub to try and get advice. For long-time fans, the true fun is how Q is being hit by the classic curse of a kid that’s just like the person Q used to be. Poor Janeway has to play godmother to this mess with Q2 stripped of his powers but still causing mischief. This was Q’s final appearance and it was fitting to show how even an all-powerful being is out of his league understanding a teenager
9 MORE TRIBBLES, MORE TROUBLE, ANIMATED
In between the original series and the movie revival, the cast took part in a 1970s animated series. The animated format allowed for storylines that couldn’t be done in live action and often played on past TOS episodes. It thus made sense to do a full sequel to one of the best TOS episodes ever. The Enterprise sees a Klingon ship attacking a small cargo vessel and move to stop it. The ship’s captain is none other than Cyrano Jones, the merchant behind the original Tribble mess. He claims he’s “fixed” the Tribbles so they no long multiply and can’t understand why the Klingons are after him.
McCoy soon finds the flaw in Jones’ “cure”: The Tribbles don’t multiply but just get incredibly larger as they eat. We thus have the sight of Kirk finding a massive Tribble sitting in his captain’s chair and musing “I’ll allow it.” When the Klingons shoot a Tribble, it just breaks apart into a thousand more. It’s a good balance of action and comedy as once more, the Tribbles are used as weapons. And once more, Kirk ends up buried in them to show these little furballs cause trouble at any size.
8 A PIECE OF THE ACTION, TOS
Due to budget issues, the original Trek did a lot of episodes of the Enterprise crew meeting cultures much like old Earth. This episode actually presents a fun twist on the idea while offering great comedy. The Enterprise visits the planet Iotia which had been visited by a Starfleet vessel a century earlier. Beaming down, Kirk and Spock see a world that looks just like 1920s Chicago only with crime literally the only way of life. It seems that the earlier ship had left behind a book on the gangster culture which the naïve aliens used to build their entire society. The leader, Omnyx, wants the Federation to give him weapons to use against his rivals or he kills some hostages.
It’s a nutty set-up but it actually makes sense to allow the story to shine. The fun begins when Kirk distracts some guards by creating the most complicated card game in history. It amps up as he and Spock dress up in the period outfits and Spock figures out how to drive an old-styled car. Kirk decides he needs to talk to the aliens in their own language and it’s beautiful hearing William Shatner doing his best James Cagney impression. Even Spock can’t resist getting into the act. It may look crazy but it’s one of the best uses of a past era in TOS.
7 MENAGE A TROI, TNG
Any episode with Lwaxana Troi is bound to have some laughs in it. This is undoubtedly the best of the entire bunch. The Enterprise is visiting Betazed which naturally means Lwaxana is on board and hitting on Picard. She brushes off the attraction of a Ferengi named Tog as she’s more interested in pushing Deanna and Riker back together. The group is on a picnic when Tog abducts the two women and sets about to woo Lwaxana. Given how Ferengi’s views of females are…debatable to say the least, this doesn’t go very well.
Majel Barrett brings her usual charm and sass to the role with Lwaxana playing along with Tog’s moves in order to facilitate an escape. Riker and Troi also try to break out while the Enterprise is on the chase. This sets up one of the single greatest scenes in the show’s history as, to buy time, Picard proclaims his love for Lwaxana to Tog. Patrick Stewart goes beautifully over the top spouting out poetry and hamming it up to the point you can clearly see the other actors fighting not to break character. It’s the capper to a funny episode to show Lwaxana brings out the humor in anyone.
6 I, MUDD, TOS
This episode starts off dramatic but that doesn’t last long. A new crewman turns out to be a robot who hijacks the Enterprise and takes it to a distant world. Beaming down, who should the crew find sitting on a throne but our old friend, Harry Mudd? The smarmy con artist escaped jail and crashed on this world filled with androids, many of them beautiful women. He also has an android of his shrew of a wife who “inspired” Mudd to travel into space. The robots feel lost without anyone to serve so Mudd is giving them the Enterprise crew while he leaves. But the robots decide to keep him on as their "desire to serve" translates to "take over the galaxy."
Roger C. Carmel is a joy as Mudd whose bluster and arrogance is truly appealing. That he joins with the crew fast to save his own skin sets up their great ideas to overwhelm the robot’s logic circuits. This includes wild dancing in their jail cell (Chekov doing some flying kicks), Uhura pretending to join the androids, laughing at “executing” Scotty and incredibly complex world play. The ending gives Mudd his well-deserved comeuppance and close out an episode showing how everyone has a little madness in them.
5 QPID, TNG
While he was usually the stern commander, Picard could also be a great adventurer. In an earlier episode, Picard had a brief fling with Vash, a sneaky thief. When she shows up on the Enterprise, Picard reunites but is wary of her intentions. Q then pops in, wanting to repay Picard for helping him out in “Deja Q.” Sensing Picard’s feelings for Vash, Q decides to test them out. He creates a massive fantasy of Sherwood Forest with Picard as Robin Hood, Riker as Little John, Data as Friar Tuck and the rest of the crew dragged in. They need to rescue Marian (Vash) from the evil Prince John with Q, of course, as the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Just the sight of the crew in these outfits is priceless as we get Worf’s immortal complaint “sir, I protest! I am not a merry man!” From Troi shooting arrows into Data to Worf smashing Geordi’s lute, the crew stand out wonderfully. Vash also throws things off by playing her own game. The big finale gives Picard a chance to show off his sword fighting skills while Q is as smarmy as always with his lines. It’s a delightful romp that shows Patrick Stewart would have made a terrific Robin Hood in his youth.
4 LOOKING FOR PAR’MACH IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES, DS9
Mixing Star Trek with Cyrano de Bergerac is already promising. Having it be with Klingons just makes it better. In an earlier episode, Quark entered into a temporary marriage with Klingon noblewoman Grilka. Grilka returns to the station and Worf is swiftly attracted to her. However, as he’s been disowned by the Klingons, he has no chance. Quark wants to woo Grilka for real but her bodyguard challenges him to a duel. As Quark has no fighting experience, Worf uses a device to replicate fighting on a holodeck so Quark can pull off the duel…only for it to break.
It’s fun watching Worf the lovelorn guy while Quark actually lands a hot Klingon lady. There’s also a subplot of Kira (having to carry the O’Briens’ child) and Miles going on a trip together which is uncomfortable. But the real focus is on the Klingon stuff with Worf and Quark having a funny banter. This also leads to the big turn of Worf and Dax getting into a fight that unleashes passions. The payoff is Bashir tending to both couples for various injuries and deciding he doesn’t want to know what caused them. While giving us the great Worf-Dax pairing, this episode is also a fun spin on a classic story.
3 THE TROUBLE WITH TRIBBLES, TOS
Whenever lists of the best Trek episodes are made, this is generally in the top 10. That’s no surprise given what an utter gem of comedy it is. The Enterprise has been summoned to a space station where an arrogant Federation official wants them to guard a storage locker of grain meant for a colony world. Kirk can’t believe he’s being wasted on this but puts up with it even as some Klingons show up. Soon, merchant Cyrano Jones is handing out Tribbles, small furry cooing creatures that even Spock enjoys. The issue is that Tribbles are hungry and the more they eat, the more they multiply.
William Shatner’s performance is beautiful to watch as Kirk is slowly driven crazy by this entire situation. The writing is great and we get some fun moments like Scotty brushing aside a Klingon insulting Kirk....but when he insults the Enterprise, Scotty starts a bar brawl. There’s also the now iconic sight of Kirk completely buried in Tribbles that keep falling on top of him through an entire scene. The ending is one of the best in Trek history to close out a great mix of sci-fi comedy brilliantly.
2 BRIDE OF CHAOTICA!, VOY
Rarely has Voyager, or any Trek series, gone as full-out comedy as this. For some times, Paris has been obsessed with “Captain Proton,” a holodeck program based on old 1930s adventure serials. He’s thrown when he discovers that aliens from another dimension have mistaken the program for reality and launched an attack on it. This leads to various malfunctions across the ship (Janeway treating the loss of coffee as a red alert condition) and needs to be fixed. The scene of Tom matter of factly explaining this ridiculous situation to the crew is terrific.
This leads to Tom’s plan to trick the aliens by using the program’s villain Chaotica’s “death ray” to fight back. Which gives us the utterly glorious sight of Janeway dressed up as the “alien queen” Arachnia to seduce Chaotica. At first hating this, Janeway soon gets into the act, going wildly over the top and Kate Mulgrew is clearly having a blast with her performance. Never has a holodeck malfunction set up such a gem of a Trek comedy episode.
1 TRIALS AND TRIBBLE-ATIONS, DS9
As part of the 30th anniversary of the franchise, this DS9 episode was an utter treat for fans. The Defiant is transporting a figure who turns out to be the aged Arne Darvin, the spy from the original “Tribbles” episode. His life ruined thanks to that incident, Darvin uses an orb to send the ship back in time as he plans to kill Kirk in the past. The crew have to stop him which leads to bits like Dax in the classic Starfleet “mini-skirt” uniform and the rest of the crew interacting with the events of that episode (meaning O’Brien takes part in the bar brawl).
The comedy is terrific like the group gasping at how different the TOS Klingons were and Worf simply grumbling “we do not discuss it.” Worf also treats Tribbles as the worst thing ever while O’Brien is amazed at how backward the vaunted Enterprise’s technology is. It’s brilliant how it fits, complete with Sisko and Dax tossing Tribbles onto Kirk. The framing device of Sisko explaining to a pair of Federation officials leads to fun shots on time travel clichés. The payoff is a wonderful final shot that closes out an episode that honors Trek’s history while also being a laugh riot.