We are well beyond half a century worth of Star Trek now. And, while the original creators are long gone, the spirit of their creation lives on in the hearts of the fans, and sometimes in the sequels that have been spawned. But which Treks trekked farthest, sought out the most earnestly, and dared to boldly go where even their fellow Treks did not? Well, let’s look into that. I’ll start with those I rate least and work my way up.
7. Star Trek: Picard
A sadly disappointing series that not only failed to provide the continuation of the Next Generation’s story that fans had long hungered for, but managed to reduce the far future utopia of the Federation into a mere allegory of modern day earth. It’s hard to rate the boldness of a series highly when the writers‘ imagination fell short of encompassing anything other than the world outside their windows.
6. Star Trek: Discovery
A much bolder and more imaginative series than Picard, Discovery is a prequel to the Kelvin timeline Star Treks rather than the original timeline. As such I am willing to be kinder to it, since it isn’t messing with the “real” timeline. Unfortunately, while it certainly makes some bold changes and retcons, few of those changes and retcons have proven to be improvements. This started with the main character, Spock’s adopted human sister that he never thought to mention during any of the many arguments he had with Kirk or McCoy over human customs versus Vulcan ones … It then proceeded apace with a universally unpopular redesign of the Klingons and just kept right on going from there. It’s certainly a bold show, is Discovery. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good one, however.
5. Star Trek: Enterprise
Another prequel, but this time to the main timeline, Enterprise was much more respectful of that which came before it and tried to fit in relatively seamlessly. Thoughts will vary on whether it succeeded, but the effort was there. It was easily the least popular Trek before the advent of the new series, but time is proving kind to it and those who rewatch it nowadays are finding a lot to enjoy.
4. Star Trek: Voyager
Lack of boldness hamstrung this series from the start. It had an interesting premise–that of a mixed crew of Starfleet and Maquis stranded in strange and hostile territory, forced to work together to survive. Unfortunately, it quickly undercut that premise by having the Maquis crew embrace Starfleet ways and become all but indistinguishable from the rest. This neatly ended all the potential drama of the crew being at odds over how to solve problems, or who should be in charge, or what they should be willing to do to get home. In the place of such tense and interesting questions, we were left with a very bland and safe Star Trek series. Voyager still had its good episodes, and some likable characters, but I can’t help but feel that it could have been more.
3. Star Trek: the Next Generation
Quality writing and memorable characters, with some iconic episodes among its mostly episodic storytelling. This is classic Trek. The only reason I don’t place it higher is because it didn’t really break any molds. Not that it needed to. It gave the people exactly what they wanted back then, and continues to do so well into the next next generation.
2. Star Trek. The original series
It broke all the molds, and set all the standards. Gene Roddenberry‘s vision of the future was groundbreaking for its time, and continues to inspire to this day. Even if some, like the aforementioned Picard writers, have a hard time understanding it. He had Russians and Americans working together, despite the series being broadcast during the Cold War. He had a black woman on the bridge during the Civil Rights era. It was, in a word, revolutionary. And people have been larping it even since.
1. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
It takes a lot to climb above the original series in terms of boldness, but I maintain that Deep Space Nine managed it. Where Star Trek was and has been mostly episodic, DS9 used a more serialized form of storytelling, allowing it to craft a multi-sided conflict on a galactic scale. It was a very serious story, and even quite dark at times. It was certainly a departure from what was typically expected of Star Trek, but it never lost sight of the optimism that is the lynchpin of the franchise. If anything, that said optimism was able to shine through even in the midst of a war as huge as that which centered around Deep Space Nine makes it all the more impressive.