The Best Star Trek Series

Rather than continue the off topic discussion over here, I think I’ll propose this as a separate article. Which was your favourite Star Trek series? Which was your least favourite? Why? I’ll list my opinions under “Read More”.

In order from most to least favourite, I’d have to rank the Star Trek series like this:
Star Trek: Deep Space 9
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: The Original Series
Star Trek: Voyager

Why do I rank them this way? Deep Space Nine, to me, was the only series that wasn’t insufferably optimistic. Even when things looked dire for the crew of the Enterprise, there was an uplifting feeling at the end of the episode (with some notable exceptions, such as “The City On The Edge Of Forever.”) It allowed the exploration of characters that seemed more human than those on the other shows.

As far as Next Generation and the Original Series are concerned, they were very much the same vision and the same intent. The only real difference between them came from the production value and acting talent. The original series just can’t compete on these grounds with a show made twenty years later that had better backing from the network.

And then there’s Voyager. I think I’ve seen about ten episodes of Voyager. (I stopped watching it before my local affiliates stopped airing it. Now I only get syndicated reruns.) They turned me off in the second episode, with the singularity. While I loved the scene with Janeway and Torres geeking out while deciding a course of action (and leaving the other people behind in the process,) the fact that the entire episode was founded on a momumental misunderstanding of general relativity turned me off the series for a long time. I’ve tried watching it again, but it seems like a pale attempt to bring back the glory of the Next Generation.

By the way, those of you with the Next Generation Technical Manual can look up the warp curve. Watch the pilot of Voyager, and you’ll find out the maximum speed of the ship. Look that speed up on the warp curve. Now, knowing that the radius of our galaxy is about 12,500 parsecs today, and that the current value of the Hubble constant is about 50 km/(s*Mpc), you can figure out how long it will take the ship to get home. Go ahead; I’ll wait.

I did this calculation when the pilot aired. According to my calculations, there will be no appreciable difference in the size of our galaxy. That means the diameter is about 82,000 light years. That’s 54 years at warp 9. If they landed roughly in the center of the delta quadrant, that’s a 27 year trip home. The pilot episode states that they can indefinitely maintain a speed greater than warp 9, though. (It’s 9.something.) That means they can make it in a little over 20 years. Admittedly, that’s uncomfortably long, but that’s not nearly as bad as they made it out to. They also said the ship can maintain a warp 9.99{something} for six hours. These people could be home in ten years. That’s only slightly longer than the seven year exploration mission the Enterprise-D had. The premise didn’t work, because they don’t put enough thought into the capabilities of the technology they create. In my opinion, they should have been blasted into a neighbouring galaxy.

Anyway, enough of my thoughts. What are yours?

17 replies on “The Best Star Trek Series”

  1. Dave says:

    There you go…
    … assuming real-world physics has anything at all to do with Treknobabble.

    Aside from the fact that warp curves are utterly meaningless, in both Trek and physics senses (example: in one episode of Voyager, someone attained the theoretically impossible speed of Warp 10, i.e. infinite velocity), the likelihood of maintaining a high velocity for several years is pretty darn slim.

    Think about it — you have to stop the ship periodically to let the engines cool down (as it were), for maintenance, and (in a universe far removed from Federation Starbases) for food-gathering, trading, and so on.

    But throwing ’em into another galaxy would pretty much remove ALL hope for the forlorn crew, making the trip a couple hundred years longer (not to mention they’d have to deal with Trek silliness such as the “galactic barrier” that makes leaving our galaxy effectively impossible).

    Guess what! The physics is CRAP. Anyone who tries to apply real-world principles to Trek will end up with a headache that’s not gonna go away for about a year. (q.v. The Physics of Star Trek, one of my favorite pop-science books.)

    Besides, their original 70-year figure, regardless of whatever maths they may have used to reach it, is pretty well shot anyway. Every so often, someone or something comes along and blasts the crew a few thousand light years ahead over the course of a monologue.

    Believe it or not, I agree with your original ordering. There are many, many reasons to criticize Voyager, but the pseudoscience isn’t one of them – if we start doing that, then we have to mock all four series, and it just goes downhill from there.

  2. schroedinbug says:

    To heck with actually working out the physics…
    Why does everyone worry about how real a show is… Thats not what TV shows are about…

    I just happened to be watching ST:TOS and they were reaching speeds of Warp 14.

    So to hell with working out the technicallities of the show… Just watch it and enjoy :)

    Jim

  3. fiziko says:

    Well, Dave…
    I understand that all four series have trouble with science. However, Voyager was the only series that based its entire existance, and at least one episode (the second one) on completely wrong science. The others conjured up bad science at the last minute as a way out of the corner they’d written themselves into. The science itself wasn’t the focus. My problem with Voyager is not the bad science, but rather the fundamental role the bad science plays in the basis of the series.

    As far as Krauss’ book goes, well, I have it. He makes a few mistakes, too. Not many, but they’re there.

  4. fiziko says:

    Re: Schrodinbug
    As I mentioned in my response to Dave, I don’t mind how bad the science is, provided they don’t base the show on it. As far as the warp curve goes, they re-draw it between series. The original curve topped out around 25-30, if I remember correctly. The “science” behind it is that there are discontinuities in the energy efficiency curve, so running at certain speeds is more energy efficient than other speeds. These minima in the efficieny curve are the warp numbers. That I’ll buy; it’s a device that explains why they like to cruise at warp 6 instead of warp 6.1, or warp 2pi.

  5. GusherJizmac says:

    Back on topic – my opinions
    I take a different tack with star trek then our original poster. My favorites, in order from best to worst would be:

    Deep Space Nine

    Voyager

    Next Generation

    Original Series

    The episodes of star trek I find most appealing are those that either a) deal with a recurring plot element or, more interestingly, b) deal with a particular character’s unique situation in the universe.

    Think about DS9 characters:

    Odo – only known shapeshifter, then we find out he’s the only one not bent on conquering the galaxy. Many key plots revolve around the things he’s able to do.

    Captain Sisko – The “emmissary” of the prophets. The prophets created him, essentially. That made for some pretty cool episodes and plotlines

    Worf – only klingon in starfleet. In good with high council, but frequently at the heart of political issues. Great plots around him as well.

    Bashir – Geneticly engineered. Not as cool as odo, but still had some cool plots.

    Now, voyager:

    The Doctor – the doctor’s character has lead to great episodes, because he’s, essentially, the only sentient hologram. Lots of man v. machine stuff

    Seven – Only borg freed from the collective (initially). Lots of “seven” episodes are really good because her unique situation allows exploration of human nature. Her knowledge of the borg leads to good plots as well.

    Next Generation:

    Data – need I say more?

    Worf – again

    Geordi and Troi a little because of their “super powers”, but they aren’t interesting like Data

    Finally, TOS:

    Not much. Spock probably, because he’s the only vulcan in starfleet, but TOS episodes didn’t really build a lot of characters like the recent series do.

    Personally, I think DS9 wins cause of useful characters and great running plot. Sci-fi at its best. Voyager’s second because the doctor and seven are great characters with lots of potential that have been part of really great episodes.

    I will say that Voyager has produced some of the lamest episodes in star trek history, but the good episodes outweigh them.

    I also think it’s a little unfair to put TOS in there, because it’s way different. It doesn’t deal with feelings and characters the same way that the new shows do. It was more about “sci-fi stuff”, which I think is why a lot of other crappy sci-fi shows fail.

    Anyway, that’s my (really long) 2 cents.

  6. Dave says:

    Bogus premises
    At no point was Voyager based on science, and we all know that. It was based on the premise of “throwing a Federation starship a REAL long way from home.” The numbers are purely arbitrary, and pretty darn flexible to boot.

    Example: in the pilot, it’s established that the crew is 70k light-years from “home,” which I’ll assume means (any part of) Federation space. They also establish that to be a trip of 70 years (give or take a couple months), at maximum velocity.

    That works out to 1000 light-years per year, or (grabbing pocket calculator) ~2.74 light-years per day.

    Yet, regularly, on the show, the ship will take side-trips of 3-5 light-years in a matter of hours, at slower speeds like Warp 5 or so.

    (No, I don’t have any examples handy, and the numbers may be pure fiction. That’s not the point. :)

    Depending on how you juggle those numbers, either Voyager is a galactic clunker, or should ALREADY be back on Earth.

    If you think too hard about the numbers, yeah, eventually things will break (either the numbers or your concentration). Fortunately, SF isn’t about numbers — at least, I don’t view it as such.

    Just in case the diatribe distracted anyone from my point: fiziko is a crack monkey and needs to stop smoking the solder. :-)

  7. rickyjames says:

    Series Rankings
    I’d rank em like:

    TNG

    Voyager

    TOS

    DS9

    Now having said that, I think the real way to rank Trek is not by series but by storylines, which often overlap series. In this vein, the order I come up with is:

    1. Death stories (except for Tasha’s, that was dumb):

    City..Forever, Inner Light, Voyager stories with Souter, DS9 where Jad/Dax dies….

    2. Borg stories (Locutus,Hugh,One,Seven,Queen)

    3. Q stories

    4. Spacetime stories (Yesterday’s Enterprise, etc)

    5. Sympathetic alien stories (Tribbles, hortas, the Companion,

    and so on, with stinkers including:

    999. Wesley Saves The Day stories

    One more thing, to Gusher…Spock was not the only Vulcan in Starfleet, just the only one on the Enterprise. I think there was a whole Federation starship of Vulcans (the Intrepid?) destroyed by the space ameoba thingee…

  8. xah says:

    TOS will always be the best
    There is no comparison between the majestic,

    philosophical, original “Star Trek” and the rest of the

    crufty knock-offs. My ranking:

    TOS

    TNG

    DS9

    Voyager

    TOS had everything. They actually explored ideas, which

    is far more than any other Trek. The characters? Spock

    was more of a character than all the characters on

    Voyager combined. The point wasn’t that each TOS crew

    member was a different alien race, or a different

    machine approximation of man. Instead, TOS employed a

    concept that has eluded the other Treks: the concept of

    well developed personalities. Instead of the blah blah

    blah dialogue of DS9 or the sensitive loser Neelix

    explaining his feelings and cookery on Voyager, or the

    all-too predictable Troi (“I feel. . . a sense of

    great loss”), on TOS we have characters who actually

    change. The TOS characters were real. Sulu had dreams.

    Scotty wasn’t just an engineer. He was a real man.

    And if you think the TOS characters were bad, please

    think of how incredibly stupid Star Trek IV would have

    been had they used TNG, DS9, or Voyager characters. It

    would have sucked. But with the TOS characters, it was

    gold.

    In TOS, emotions ran high. “Damnit, Spock!” and of

    course that episode when Spock lost control of his

    emotions and smiled when he saw that Jim wasn’t dead.

    And Star Trek II. And the first interracial kiss. Let’s

    not forget the intense, chekhovian Chekov.

    What other Trek had cool nicknames like “Bones”? What

    other Trek series had nicknames?

    What other Trek series had a sickbay with such a cool

    “heartbeat” sound? And Nurse Chapel was a babe.

    If all you are about is SFX, then you live a sad and

    lonely life. Go somewhere and meet a new friend.

    Finally, Captain Kirk was a space-roving stud who could

    have kicked Picard’s wimpy ass any day.

    • seanwelch says:

      Re: TOS will always be the best

      There is no comparison between the majestic,

      philosophical, original “Star Trek” and the rest of the

      crufty knock-offs. My ranking:

      TOS

      TNG

      DS9

      Voyager

      TOS had everything. They actually explored ideas, which

      is far more than any other Trek. The characters? Spock

      was more of a character than all the characters on

      Voyager combined. The point wasn’t that each TOS crew

      member was a different alien race, or a different

      machine approximation of man. Instead, TOS employed a

      concept that has eluded the other Treks: the concept of

      well developed personalities. Instead of the blah blah

      blah dialogue of DS9 or the sensitive loser Neelix

      explaining his feelings and cookery on Voyager, or the

      all-too predictable Troi (“I feel. . . a sense of

      great loss”), on TOS we have characters who actually

      change. The TOS characters were real. Sulu had dreams.

      Scotty wasn’t just an engineer. He was a real man.

      And if you think the TOS characters were bad, please

      think of how incredibly stupid Star Trek IV would have

      been had they used TNG, DS9, or Voyager characters. It

      would have sucked. But with the TOS characters, it was

      gold.

      In TOS, emotions ran high. “Damnit, Spock!” and of

      course that episode when Spock lost control of his

      emotions and smiled when he saw that Jim wasn’t dead.

      And Star Trek II. And the first interracial kiss. Let’s

      not forget the intense, chekhovian Chekov.

      What other Trek had cool nicknames like “Bones”? What

      other Trek series had nicknames?

      What other Trek series had a sickbay with such a cool

      “heartbeat” sound? And Nurse Chapel was a babe.

      If all you are about is SFX, then you live a sad and

      lonely life. Go somewhere and meet a new friend.

      Finally, Captain Kirk was a space-roving stud who could

      have kicked Picard’s wimpy ass any day.

      Despite your hyperboly I agree with your rankings. I’m not going to try and dissect DS9 too much and I can’t name many of the episodes by name but I think TOS is generally the best overall for these reasons.
      1) The series didn’t last long enough to become truly stale.
      However that doesn’t mean there aren’t some very bad episodes, i.e. “Spock’s Brain”. I feel the STNG and the rest all went far too long and have whole seasons worth of forgettable tales.

      2) All of the core realities of Star Trek are established in the very best episodes of TOS. First Klingons, Romulons, and Vulcan/Spock episodes set the stage for many copycat episodes later.

      3) The original characters are more iconic and lend themselves to more story driven episodes with less time for techtalk and long discussions about each other’s feelings. TOS does have it’s share of pseudoscience and introspection but it is usually story related and not mearly dialog fodder, as heard so often on STV.

      4)The aliens on TOS, while they may look b-movie to some hint at a diverse galaxy. I felt the STNG really dropped the ball when they failed to include the Andorians and some of the other more seldon seen races (see: “Journey to Babel”) that populated the early episodes. The Borg and the Ferengi, when first introduced, are more than worthy additions. Too many of the later series’ rely on little more than a variation of the wrinkled forehead/funny ear approach, and in fact rarely refer back to TOS aliens, except maybe the Tribbles.
      5)The aliens in TOS do not want to be human. In the later series’ it seems that every body is striving to be more human. Data comes to mind immediately, he is forever trying to be more human. why not try to be more Klingon, or Vulcan? Worf, raised by humans acts like a Klingon usually when a scene calls for him to be stubborn or macho, otherwise he broods and makes pronouncements about his vaunted individuality. Hugh, Neelix, the list goes on.

      There are many good characters in all the series. I think the captains have all been great but I personally like Kirk best. Yes Shatner overacts, but the role does call for melodrama! No vulcan character after Spock has been as good as Nimoy’s. McCoy is the best doctor by far…come on, a hologram doctor, why? Tasha Yar was the best STNG character and shouldn’t have left in the first place.

  9. bee says:

    My Opinions
    Hope this doesn’t get too lengthy ;-)

    1. The Next Generation

    2. Deep Space 9

    3. Voyager

    4. TOS

    1) I love TNG, I’ve seen every episode several times and own most of it on video cassette. It’s really what brought into science fiction in the first place. I can count only maybe 5 episodes which I wouldn’t watch if I saw them come on TV. The writing was simply awesome (with a few bumps in the road), I was always engaged and eager for the next episode. TNG has the most (to me, at least) entertaining and indentifiable characters of any of the series… sure they’re cliche, but they were so well developed throughout the series (esp. Data, Wesley, Picard). TNG introducted my two favorite adversaries in Trek: the Borg and Q. Any episode with either (or both!) in it is an entertaining hour.

    2) I almost like DS9 as much as TNG. The series got better with the addition of the Defiant… The Jems and Founders also a great addition. I suppose the only reason I never liked it as much as TNG was that TNG introduced me to Trek, so I was just a bit biased. Once again, I think this series had great characters (esp. Rom/Nog/Quark, Worf/Dax, Julian/Chief). Right now on Space (the Canadian Sci-Fi Chan) they’re into the War with the founders and every episode is really great. I wish this series could’ve gone on longer… when TNG ended I felt like it was time, but DS9 I still wanted more.

    3) Voyager – I don’t like Voyager. I only watch episodes if there’s nothing else on. I don’t know what it is… I could never get into it. Tom and the Doctor were the only characters who ever really interested me. The Kazon (sp?) never seemed like an interesting adversary to me, and after that they haven’t really had a consistant enemy. The addition of 7 didn’t help the series (IMO) either.

    4) TOS – I hate saying it, but I find it hard to watch most of TOS. I don’t even see them on the same level as TNG/VOY/DS9, which is understandable considering the time gap. I can’t help it, I know it’s the original, etc etc, but it always looks like a bad B-movie to me :/ </flamebait>.

  10. starbreeze says:

    My fav
    I have to say my fav series was TNG. I grew up on it (I’m only 23) and I always loved Picard. He had this authoratative attitude but also vulnerable human side. Patrick Stewart in general is a wonderful wonderful actor.


    My fav episode of TNG ever was the one where Picard lived an entire life in his dream… the one where he learned to play the flute I think. I don’t own them on tape and the series hasn’t been on TV in a while so i can’t recall the name of this episode. I’ll look it up later :P


    My least fav series was DS9… they never seemed to go off the freaking space station. The characters didn’t hook me in as well as the TNG characters did. I didn’t identify with them… which is important in getting viewers in any tv series.

    After those two fall Voyager and the Original Series, in no particular order. Having a female captain rocks but I’m not really a feminist so I can’t say that feature can make it better than TNG :P


    I’m trying to keep my $0.02 short so thats about it :)


    ~kimmie

  11. morris says:

    TPOST
    I have read most of Krauss’ writings including The

    Physics of Star Trek. I’ve also met him a few times an

    talked with him at length. I’m curious to know what

    parts he “got wrong” in his book.

  12. fiziko says:

    Krauss’ Book
    I haven’t read the book in years, but I can double check for you. The one example I remember off the top of my head is an example which he admits is hearsay. His final example of the book is about an episode he heard about from a colleague, but didn’t see, in which Dax realizes that the laws of probability are being altered because 90% of the neutrinos in the station were orbiting the center in the same direction. Krauss thought they were talking about the spin on the neutrinos, which (at the time of his writing) was thought to be left-handed for all neutrinos. (Recent results indicate neutrinos have mass, which implies that some have the opposite spin.) That’s not wrong so much as it is shoddy research. (The episode had the neutrinos actually orbiting through the station, which is wrong for an entirely different set of reasons. Any envirnment capable of making neutrinos orbit would be uninhabitable by humans, or anything else that can’t tolerate that many interactions.)

    I also remember one of his earliest examples was some calculation of kinematics. My kinematics text quoted a different answer for the problem (given in terms of the ships’ mass). I checked the textbook, and found no errors, but I’ll double check that and Krauss’ book this weekend sometime.

  13. morris says:

    Re: Krauss’ Book
    That is a good point about the neutrinos. I suppose it

    unlikely that a second edition will come out to correct it.

    But that was really just a small part of the book. In

    general, he does a great job of explaining why certain

    things in the Trek Universe are possible and others

    just are not.

  14. theangrymob says:

    DS9 Get My Vote!
    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Deep Space Nine was the best Trek series. No other series came close to it in terms of writing, acting, and sheer Trekness. Out on the rim of the Federation, it’s a lot harder to maintain Starfleet’s high-minded ideals. It was a concept that Voyager’s hit on, but not with the same impact.

    TNG is my vote for second place. The first few seasons were weak, but picked up tremendously towards the end. The final season was packed with episodes that were considered to “out there” for regular airing, but these were hidden gems.

    Voyager has its high and low points. Without any clear direction, it has wandered through the Delta Quadrant trying to get home. The premise was solid, but badly implimented. I’ll miss several of characters when it signs off this summer, but nothing was really that memorable.

    What about The Original Series? I honestly have not caught an episode in years since I don’t get Sci-Fi channel (Don’t you love cable monopolies?). What I remember is that, while original in Sixties, it’s become fairly dated and kinda transparent. It’s not the series’ fault, but rather the evil ravages of time and the fact that I was born in the mid-70s and so some (or most) of the magic is lost on me.

    Any votes for the animated series? Hehe!

  15. frankblack says:

    Opening sequences/music
    It’s a hard choice for the best but I go with DS9 as my personal favorite. I enjoyed the idea of this bizarre mixture of characters way out there in “deep space.”

    Opening sequences: TNG started something in the second season with well-crafted opening sequences/music. Voyager’s opening sequence/music is grand and the visuals are beautiful. Little things like the subtle sounds of the ship passing through the rings add to the impact. But DS9 had the best. The French horn heralds a lonely intro on the field of stars in deep space. Then a ship appears out of nowhere and purposefully zooms by with a cool sound effect. And then another ship; and as the music grandly rises, we see our first sight of DS9 on cue with the next theme in the opening music. Then a closer look at the station as the viewer swings around the busy outpost. These words can’t convey how beautiful it is to me. Maybe some day?

  16. xah says:

    sounds of space
    No offense, man, but there is no sound in space.

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