Throughout its run through multiple TV series, Star Trek has had some phenomenal episodes like "City on the Edge of Forever." But they can't all be winners. Every now and then, a weak episode slipped through, but these eight episodes are not just bad Star Trek. They're bad television. Let's run them down.

8. Threshold

"Do you take this giant newt to be
your lawfully wedded wife?"
While the quality of Voyager in general is debatable, "Threshold" really pushed the series into Bizarro world. In this episode, Lieutenant Tom Paris becomes the first person to break the Warp Ten barrier. As a side effect, Paris transforms into a mutant creature who can't tolerate water, air, or sanity. He kidnaps Janeway, and escapes to a planet where the Voyager finds the two have turned into lizards, mated, and produced offspring. You know, that old saw we've seen a million times.

Besides the silliness of Paris and Janeway turning into salamanders, what makes this episode so bad is how the implications of the ending are entirely glossed over. They introduced an alien and possibly hostile species on another planet. Surely Voyager can't just leave them there, can they? Yes, they do.

They also have a way back to their quadrant, which they imply is too dangerous to use, but they found a cure for the side effects. Surely they'll use the transwarp drive to go back home, right? No, they don't. That's why executive producer Brannon Braga called it "a royal steaming stinker" of an episode. And he wrote it.

7. Shades of Gray

"Are you sure you're trained in acupuncture, Doctor?"
In this episode of The Next Generation, Commander Riker ends up near death after he's infected by an alien parasite on an away-mission. Dr. Pulaski discovers the only way to save Riker is to force his mind to relive painful memories, which coincidentally all involve moments from the show. Riker and the audience are forced to undergo brutal psychological abuse.

This is a clip show, pure and simple. The series had run through most of its budget early in the season. and needed to produce an episode at very little cost. Clip shows happen to many shows, but it's never easy. For fans of the show who wanted a brand new episode, having to sit through this felt a million times worse.

6. Turnabout Intruder

The most uncomfortable queen bed ever made
In the final episode of the Original Series, a female scientist named Janice Lester switches minds with Captain Kirk. While Kirk (in the body of Lester) struggles to convince the others of what's happened, Lester (in the body of Kirk) sets the Enterprise on a dangerous course. It's basically Freaky Friday on a spaceship.

What makes this episode so disliked is the seemingly sexist message it sends. Lester is brutal, incompetent, and pretty much straight up crazy. The only explanation for her behavior is that she's a woman. Kirk accuses her of hating her own womanhood, and Lester doesn't disagree. She seems to consider making Kirk into a woman the worst punishment she can think of. If Lester had been a man, the episode might have been tolerable (although still not good), but instead it becomes completely misogynistic.

5. Code of Honor

"The loser has to leave this episode!"
"Then I'm playing to lose..."
In this episode of The Next Generation, security chief Lt. Tasha Yar is abducted by the leader of an alien race who abide by a strict code of honor. Yar is forced to become a pawn in the alien ruler's deadly game of politics. The only way to get her back is a fight to the death. Of course.

What gets this episode off track is that all the aliens are played by African American actors. That turns a somewhat clichéd story of the Enterprise running afoul of an alien culture and turns it into a racist stereotype of black men chasing after white women.

This episode was so bad that it caused a shakeup among the production - the original director Russ Mayberry was fired before completing filming (allegedly for casting African-American actors as aliens), and Jonathan Frakes tried to keep the show from being aired. Even if the racist angle hadn't been there, the lame alien-customs trope, the cheesy fight scene, and the clichéd story would make it a poor episode.

4. Angel One

"A little something for the ladies..."
On The Next Generation, Riker leads an away team to a female-dominated planet searching for a lost shuttle crew. The team discovers the planet treats men as second-class citizens while women wield enormous power. The missing crew has dedicated itself to overthrowing the abusive practices of the native womenfolk, and Riker is forced to sweet-talk the ladies for their survival.

"Angel One' was supposed to be a commentary on apartheid in South Africa using gender instead of race. Instead, the idea of a world where gender roles are reversed is played out in the worst way. The episode makes the idea of a planet governed by women into a nightmarish dystopia, where men are helpless and used as sex objects. Because, of course, that's what would happen if women ran things, amirite?

This is one of the few episodes the cast and crew spoke out against. Gates McFadden (who played Dr. Crusher) called the episode one of the most sexist they ever had. Executive producer Michael Hurley called the episode "absurd."

3. The Way to Eden

"Oh, behave! Do I make you randy, baby?"
In this episode of the Original Series, the Enterprise takes in a mad scientist Dr. Sevrin and his fanatical followers. Since no good deed goes unpunished, the cult hijacks the ship and sets out to find a mythical Utopian planet known as (subtly) Eden. It's like the swinging sixties never died, they moved into space.

The biggest problem with this episode is Sevrin's cult is a thinly veiled reference to the hippie counter-culture of the time. Besides the fact this doesn't age well, the space hippies are portrayed in a profoundly negative way. This episode is nothing more than an old fogey pounding away on a typewriter, sticking it to "those dirty hippies." The musical numbers only make the show worse.

2. These Are The Voyages

"Thanks for loaning me your TV
show. I needed the work."
The series finale of Enterprise was a turning point in Star Trek history. With the end of the series came the first time the Star Trek franchise left television in eighteen years. The creators decided to make the episode a frame story, where Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation observes a holodeck re-creation of Captain Archer's involvement in the founding of the United Federation of Planets. He watches, interviews crew members, and flirts with the crew of Enterprise while pretending we don't notice he looks way too old to be playing a younger version of himself.

The worst part about this episode is the focus is not on the cast and crew we've been following for years. The characters on Enterprise became like guest stars on their own show. Jolene Blaylock, who played T'Pol, called the episode "appalling." Even Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis were uncomfortable with it. In the end, the episode was supposed to be a "valentine" to Trek, but became more like a middle finger.

Oh, yeah, and then there's the matter of the completely unnecessary and contrived death of Trip Tucker. Thanks for that going-away present, guys.

And we never even got to see the speech Archer gave to the Federation. What a rip-off.

1. Spock's Brain

"I can make Spock go forward, but he only turns
when I put him in reverse."
In this episode of the Original Series, Spock's brain is stolen. That's not a metaphor. An alien female beams aboard the ship, stuns the crew, and surgically removes Spock's brain. Kirk and the crew have just hours to locate and replace it before Spock's body dies. The funniest image in this episode is how they put a headband on Spock so they can walk him around by remote control.

The cast has been pretty open about how awful it is. Leonard Nimoy says he felt embarrassed shooting it, and Shatner called it one of the worst episodes of the series. This episode has become sort of a "so bad, it's good" type of thing where you can enjoy how miserable it is. Sort of.

What did you think of these episodes? Can you think of worse?

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Tony Laplume said...

A couple of those ("Threshold," "These Are the Voyages") I vehemently disagree with (although at least you didn't include "A Night in Sickbay" or any given Ferengi outing), while you left out absurd episodes like "Night Terrors" and "Sub Rosa." Frankly, I always thought Star Trek was at its worst when it was completely forgettable. There are plenty of episodes like that. Most fans never think of those on these lists. They'd rather choose the ones that take risks or side with the creators. (The creators aren't always right.)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Those were some bad ones.
The two part pilot, Encounter at Farpoint, was bad. At the time, I really liked it and so did most people because we were excited to see a new Trek. But looking back, it was so hammy and over the top. Thank God Next Generation evolved after that.

Pat Dilloway said...

A lot of those early tng episodes were pretty cheesy.

Maurice Mitchell said...

"Subtilty: It's Michael Bay's middle name..."

Tony Laplume said...


Tony Laplume said...

The funny thing is, nothing is being blown up in the actual scene.

Pat Dilloway said...

This will look great once we get more explosions and a hot girl in a bikini running through it!

jeremy [retro] said...

Cowboy Hat Guy: Hey, Mike... Mike... Mike... we are out of batteries!
Michael: I see robots... do you see robots... lots and lots of robots!

jeremy [retro] said...

Damn you, now all of are stuck in my head... I got Spock's Brain... on my brain! All the that trippy singing in "The Way to Eden"... was just awesome!


Popcorn Movie
Some men just want to watch the world blow up

Mansyn said...

Threshold is possibly one of the worst episodes of any show ever broadcast on TV. I'm a fan of Voyager, but the idea that we evolve into lower life-form is just ponderous. Then they just shrug off the fact that Tom and Catherine had kids in this state, and were magically de-evolved back to homo-sapiens. And the worst part is that it starts off really interesting with the breaking of warp 10 barrier, so it's an incredible let down.

Nigel Mitchell said...

I agree. Breaking the warp 10 barrier could have been an episode by itself without all the goofy "side effects."

eclecticear said...

I dare ANYONE to watch Plato's Stepchildren and think there is a worse episode. Kirk on all fours, whinnying like a horse being ridden by the dwarf of Wild Wild West fame (sorry I can't think of his name); Kirk, bitch-slapping himself, all of the landing party walking around like puppets. Come ON..... the writers had to have dropped acid and sat back and laughed their butts off when they saw the final cut.


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