Star Trek is one of the biggest franchises ever with over 700 television episodes across 30 seasons and 13 films (and counting)! Star Trek celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and what better way than with a new film: Star Trek Beyond!
The new trilogy has brought a resurgence of popularity, and has given birth to tons of new Trek fans! For those of you who are new to the franchise here are some episodes to watch, and lucky for you they're all on Netflix!
1. The Original Series: Season 1 Episode 14 - 'Balance of Terror' (1966)
This episode depicts Starfleet's "Cold War" with the Romulans, and for the first time Kirk and his crew see that Romulans look like Vulcans. The crew becomes paranoid and suspicious of their first officer Spock, wondering if he's a collaborator.
The episode hops back and forth between the Enterprise, and their enemy the Romulans. With these unique perspectives, both sides of the battle are understood and it's a wonderful commentary on war, racism and paranoia.
2. The Original Series: Season 1 Episode 16 - 'The Galileo Seven' (1967)
Spock and his shuttle party become stranded on a planet in this captivating story of ethics, leadership and xenophobia. The shuttle would have enough energy to leave the planet if it left three of the seven stranded crewmembers behind. Due to Spock's overly logical approach, the crew argues with him on how to proceed.
This episode is rare as it focuses primarily on Spock rather than Kirk. One of the things that made the original series great is that Kirk had Spock for his logical side and McCoy as the emotional side, leaving Kirk to find the middle ground. This episode, however, gives Spock the opportunity to do this.
3. The Original Series: Season 1 Episode 28 - 'City on the Edge of Forever' (1967)
During a medical experiment on an ancient planet Dr. McCoy becomes temporarily insane and escapes through a portal that the former civilization had built, and he destroys the timeline so Starfleet no longer exists. Kirk goes back in time to the 1930s to correct the error, and while there falls in love with a woman destined to die. Should he witness her death, or alter history?
It's one of Trek's best because of the complex and short-lived love story between Kirk and one of the best guest stars Trek ever had: legendary actress Joan Collins.
4. The Original Series: Season 2 Episode 1 - 'Amok Time' (1967)
When Spock begins acting out of control he confides in Kirk that he is going through the "Pon-Farr" process, which is chemically forcing the primitive part of the Vulcan to mate. The Enterprise travels to Vulcan to find Spock's betrothed T'Pring so the two can be married. T'Pring, however, brings a purebred Vulcan that she loves and wishes to marry. Spock insists on proving his worth through combat. T'Pring accepts choosing Kirk to fight Spock to the death. If Spock can kill his Captain he proves that he is not emotional and can cut ties to his Starfleet life. It pits Kirk and Spock against one another in a tense and emotional battle of friend vs. friend.
5. The Original Series: Season 2 Episode 4 - 'Mirror, Mirror' (1967)
During a transport back to the Enterprise, Kirk, McCoy, Scotty and Uhura are swapped with their doubles from an alternate universe — a universe where murder of officers for personal gain is prominent, and the other Kirk is a tyrannical and abusive leader.
The episode is fun because we get to see strange doubles of our characters, but also because it shows us how we all have demons and in different situations how those demons take control.
6. The Next Generation: Season 3 Episode 15 - 'Yesterday's Enterprise' (1990)
When a starship from the past is pulled into the present, history is immediately altered and all our characters change. The ship had not fulfilled its destiny in the past so a war broke out between Starfleet and the Klingons. The episode is awesome not only because of the wonderful writing, but because of guest stars Whoopi Goldberg and Denise Crosby.
7. The Next Generation: Season 3 Episode 26 and Season 4 Episode 1 - 'Best of Both Worlds', Parts I & II (1990)
The villainous Borg return in this episode, determined to destroy Earth. They succeed in destroying much of the Starfleet, but when the Enterprise attempts to intercept the Borg takes a special interest in Captain Picard.
The episode marked the first cliffhanger in Star Trek, partly due to Patrick Stewart unsure he wanted to return for another season. Luckily, it worked out and, as a side benefit, created one of the most nail-biting finales - and season openers, in Star Trek history.
8. The Next Generation: Season 6 Episodes 10 & 11 - 'Chain of Command', Parts I & II (1992)
Picard is replaced as Captain of the Enterprise, but the new Captain doesn't take to the crew well. Meanwhile, Picard is sent on an impossible mission against the Cardassians. Things get worse when Picard is captured, and the Enterprise leads an attack to prevent an invasion. It's a taut episode that shows just how much Picard was beloved by his crew and the lengths they would take to save him.
9. The Next Generation: Season 6 Episode 15 - 'Tapestry' (1993)
When Picard is shot, his artificial heart is badly damaged, leaving him on the brink of death. The omnipotent antihero Q shows up to greet the Captain, telling him that he's actually died. He grants Picard a chance to change the past so that he never loses his heart to begin with, but Picard realizes that when you mess with small events they can have huge consequences.
This episode gives us a very different side of Picard, and is extremely relatable for anyone who wishes they could wipe one thing from their past.
10. Deep Space Nine: Season 4 Episode 1 - 'The Way of the Warrior' (1995)
Although DS9 had a slow start it produced some of my favorite stories and characters in Star Trek. The dark story lines, rich religious themes and the war made it the most complex of any Star Trek series.
As the fourth season begins, Worf transfers to the station as war breaks out between Starfleet and the Klingons. Worf's introduction is amazing, and he really rounds out the cast. This episode is fun because it takes us back to the original series where the Klingons were their most lethal enemies.
11. Deep Space Nine: Season 4 Episode 2 - 'The Visitor' (1995)
One of the best relationships of DS9 is between single father Captain Sisko and his son Jake. In an accident, Sisko is frozen in subspace, and Jake spends the rest of his life obsessing over how to save his father and prevent it from happening. It's a single moment that affects two lives for the rest of both of those lives, and it's fascinating.
12. Deep Space Nine: Season 5 Episode 26 & Season 6 Episode 1 - 'A Call to Arms' & 'Time to Stand' (1997)
When war finally breaks out between Starfleet and the Dominion alliance, the station is their first target. Sisko mines a wormhole so no Dominion troops or ships can enter the Alpha Quadrant, but this leads to a confrontation they're not prepared for. It's gripping and shows different sides to the characters that you never expected to see.
13. Deep Space Nine: Season 6 Episode 19 - 'In The Pale Moonlight' (1998)
The Dominion/Cardassian alliance is making more ground than the Starfleet/Klingon fleets. Captain Sisko is put in charge of bringing the Romulans into the war on their side, and he's desperate to win them over. But will he cross a line of deception and possibly turn the Romulans against the Federation instead?
Easily one of my favorite episodes of all time as we follow Sisko through his darkest moments. How far will he go to get the Romulans to join? This episode sees just how desperate men can become during war, and how easily values can change.
14. Voyager: Season 3 Episode 26 & Season 4 Episode 1 - 'Scorpion', Parts I & II (1997)
Voyager was Trek's attempt to explore new worlds, new civilizations beyond anywhere humankind had gone before. They're sent 75 years from home against their will, and on their journey back the are alone in unfamiliar territory, with new aliens to encounter, befriend, or fight.
'Scorpion' brings back the Borg as the main antagonist, and Captain Janeway soon finds that the Borg are losing their own war against another species which leads to an unlikely alliance between her crew and their longtime enemy.
15. Voyager: Season 4 Episodes 8 & 9 - 'Year Of Hell', Parts I & II (1997)
It's unfortunate that more of Voyager wasn't like this two-parter. The first place ended on a cliffhanger, with the crew in a very dark place as the ship fell apart around them. It was legitimately hard to tell how the two-parter would end! Plus, it had a great cameo from Kurtwood Smith (That '70s Show, Marvel's Agent Carter) guest starring as the villain.
16. Voyager: Season 4 Episode 23 - 'Living Witness' (1998)
When the Doctor's back up holo-module is found at the bottom of an ocean 700 years in the future, it's soon revealed he's the only witness to the atrocities that Voyager had been a part of centuries before. Since then, the people of the planet had twisted their history to glorify the martyrs and leaders at the time, so the Doctor attempts to set them straight.
The episode is a great political commentary on how both sides of war get to write their own history, and how they usually paint themselves in the most noble way — even if it's not the truth.
17. Voyager: Season 5 Episode 5 - 'Timeless' (1998)
A miscalculation in a experimental flight ends with Voyager crash landing and the death of all the crew aside from Kim and Chacotay, who make it back to Earth. Fifteen years later the two steal a shuttlecraft with the intention of using time travel to save their shipmates.
The episode gives Kim some great development, and we get to see Voyager destroyed. But the best part is Next Generation alum LeVar Burton not only directing the episode, but reprising his role of Geordi LaForge.
18. Enterprise: Season 1 Episode 7 - 'The Andorian Incident' (2001)
This prequel series goes back to the origins of Starfleet, decades before Kirk captains the Enterprise. This experimental ship with Captain Archer in command begin exploration as the only ship in the fleet.
When the crew visits a Vulcan temple sanctuary they are taken captive by the Vulcan's enemy, the Andorians, who believe the temple is actually being used to spy on their people. The Andorians are a paranoid and emotional species, and the logical Vulcans wouldn't use a temple as a ruse for war...or would they?
19. Enterprise: Season 3 Episode 20 - 'The Forgotten' (2004)
Season 3 of Enterprise focuses on an alien attack that killed seven million people on Earth. The Enterprise is sent to make contact with these aliens, the Xindi, and decide how dangerous they are.
Near the end of the season, Enterprise begins to win over some of the influential Xindi members as they realize their leaders are actually corrupt. Their leaders are the ones that instigate the war between the Xindi and Starfleet to weaken both species for easier conquest in the future. This episode shows a ton of emotion, especially from Commander Tucker, for reasons I don't want to spoil here.
20. Enterprise: Season 3 Episode 24 - 'Zero Hour' (2004)
Nearing the end of the "Xindi Arc," Enterprise is severely damaged. Even with their new allies, the Xindi, they're no match for a race of beings from the future who are about to destroy Earth.
Even though the show went on for one more season after this arc was over, this season was the best they did! The arc was wonderful, almost all characters had their own mini-arcs, and there were so many twists to the Xindi story that it makes for some great binging!
Well, my friends, there you have it! Twenty episodes to watch if you are new to Star Trek. There are so many others, but this list gives you a great sampling of all five series. You're in luck because they're all currently on Netflix. I hope you watch and enjoy!