Star Trek First Seasons- Ranking them All!

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Having just finished the First Season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, I thought I'd engage in one of my favorite activities ... ranking the first seasons of all Star Trek shows!

Let me start by saying that the more recent shows have a slight advantage- obviously, with fewer shows to make in a season, there is less of a problem with "filler" material. Even so, I thought it was illuminating to go back and review some of the older shows and see how everything stood up.

Finally, a note- this is just for the completed first season of each show. It is not a ranking of how the show ended, developed, or the overall quality of the show. Just the first season. In addition, this really hurts the TNG family of shows, as most of them didn't hit their stride until later; most people acknowledge that TNG didn't git gud until S3, for example.

One more thing- no animated series. If I were to rank the animated shows, I'd probably have Lower Decks around #3, the Animated Series in the middle, and no rating for Prodigy as I haven't watched it.

RANKINGS THAT ARE GUARANTEED AWESOME AND ACCURATE!

1. ST: TOS.

People can forget this, but TOS (The Original Series) only ran for three total seasons. Of those three seasons, two (the first and second) were stone-cold classics, and the third ... was pretty good. But in the twenty-nine (29!) episodes that aired in 1966-67, TOS set an almost insane standard of excellence. With writers like D.C. Fontana, Harlan Ellison, Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Bloch, and others, the show hit the ground running and established many of the themes that are still utilized in the franchise today. All the tropes- from Romulans to Klingons to the Gorn (ahem) ... all of it is in Season 1 of Star Trek. It's not just classic TV, it's one of the all-time great launches of a science fiction franchise, one that we still keep returning to today.


2. ST: SNW.
Yeah, I'm willing to stake my position here. This is TOS, modernized. I would watch an entire season of this crew just hanging out, chilling with Captain Pike and his amazing hair while he makes them delicious food. The worst that can be said about any episode in the 10-run first season is that it might not be as good as many of the all-time killer classics that they've already given us. But after a number of misfires, it's shocking to see how right a Star Trek series can feel. Just give me a crew that works together, a sense of optimism, good science fiction plots, and some fun. It sounds so easy ... and the cast makes it look easy.


3. PICARD.
I am not here to speak for the second season. Instead, I will say only that the first season was like a good cup of Earl Grey Tea. It was pleasant and soothing to see Jean Luc again.


4. ST: DISCO.
Weren't expecting that, were you? Discovery has had problems ... but the first season, despite numerous curious choices ... was decent. Sure, the show wrote a lot of checks that the acting couldn't cash, and the "twists" weren't that at all, but it was a fairly decent shot at a first season.





5. ST:TNG.
This was a tough one. I want to be clear- the first season of TNG was ... dire. There was a lot of Wesley (more than you remember). There was Denise Crosby's character getting killed off in a way that is ... well, I mean .... The only saving grace was probably Patrick Stewart's acting, and the hints of things to come (like the Romulans in the season finale or Q in the first episode). But it was brutal. So why do I have it ranked so high? Because it was practically a rite of passage to have really bad first seasons at this point ...


6. ST:DS9.
Arguably the best Star Trek by the end, DS9 was dogged at the beginning by the B5 controversy and complaints that it wasn't true to the philosophy of Star Trek (the optimism of Rodenberry). Before really finding its feet with the Dominion (first mention was in Season 2) the show worked hard to find that sweet spot from underneath the shadow of TNG.


7. ST:VOY.
It is inarguable that the first three seasons of Voyager are the worst ones. One of the primary characters associated with Voyager (Seven) doesn't even join the cast until Season 4. Season 4 is probably the best season of this show ... and, notably, it's not season 1. Just a brutal watch.


8. ST:ENT.
It's been a long road/Getting from there to here/It's been a long time/But my time is finally near/And I can feel the change in the wind right now/Nothing's in my way/And they're not gonna hold me down no more/No, they're not gonna hold me down
'Cause I've got faith of the heart


Ugh. Enterprise had a lot of problems. But the biggest (other than the theme music) was that they chose to make some kind of silly and stupid temporal cold war the basis for the show. Never go full time travel, Trek. NEVER GO FULL TIME TRAVEL. It was a mess, and drove off most of the viewership (and killed Star Trek as a viable ongoing TV presence) before they course-corrected. So this will probably always be the worst first season.


So I am putting this up for discussion. Am I correct, or am I absolutely correct? You be the judge!
 

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Hex08

Hero
Snarf's game so Snarf's rules, no animated series but I think that does an injustice to some great entries into the franchise.

1. TOS. I agree with Snarf here, the first season had very few stumbles with some great writers. Yeah, they were still figuring things out so there wasn't a lot of consistent continuity but when this show aired such things weren't really a concern. It also did something several Star Trek shows had a problem with; it had a handle on the characters personalities right out of the gate.

2. SNW. I am willing to say that this first season was as good as TOS and if it were not for my undying love of the Original Series, I might even give it a leg up. Greats characters, solid episodes even at their weakest and great writing. It even made me love characters, like Chapel, that I was indifferent to in TOS.

3. ENT. Going to disagree with Snarf here. While I am not a fan of the Temporal Cold War the show had the exploratory feel that a pre-Federation, well...exploratory vessel should have. I loved the feeling that these were the real pioneers exploring the galaxy. Also, like TOS and SNW it had a handle on, for the most part, who its characters were right away. The theme song was horrible though.

4. Picard. I loved it for its nostalgia, although the state the Federation was in was kind of disappointing. It took too much of its design aesthetic from DISCO, which was bad enough in DICO and very out of place in Picard. It was great to see Jean-Luc again. I loved the way the show used Seven of Nine, Riker and Troy. Data got a much better ending than the travesty that was Nemesis. I also liked most of the new characters, except Raffi but in the second season my opinion of her changed.

5. DS9. It was certainly different than what came before and that was a good thing. It was nice to see Starfleet personnel in a different setting than we were used to. I wasn't a fan of Sisko being a religious figure.

Here's where we enter the land of truly terrible first seasons.....

6. VOY. "Oh wow, this looks cool. Both Federation and Maquis on the same ship lost far from home? This should lead to some super stories with interpersonal conflict that we don't normally see on Trek." A few episodes in "Um, what happened????"

7. TNG. So many stumbles as it tried to find its way and as we have, unfortunately, discovered too much behind the scenes BS. Luckily it eventually became a great show.

8. DISCO. Sorry, but this is Trek in name only. Are we sure this isn't some other alternate timeline kind of like the Abramsverse? I'm not going to re-tred the reasons I think this show is so bad since I've talked about them in other threads but no... just no....
 

Stalker0

Legend
1. SNW

2. TOS - Only reason I switched them is because I watched TOS very late in the game, and SNW just hit me in the feels right from the get go.

3. ENT - Enterprise had its problems especially when the temporal cold war really got going. But season 1 had the fresh feel and some really interesting ideas, I actually felt the premise of "this is literally the first explorers", which kind of got ruined later on. But at the beginning, it was solid.

4. DS9

5. TNG

6. VOY

7. PICARD - The reason I put Picard down so low, is its not just that the season is bad, but it actually takes stuff I love and makes it worse. The ideals of the federation are torn down, Picard is all over the place, and frankly I didn't care a lick about any of the characters. With the other shows, yeah their early plots were ROUGH, but the characters I was on board with. Not in Picard.


Disco I haven't watched enough to comment.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Haven't seen them all but I managed to complete season 1 of Picard and Discovery. DS9 wasn't to bad.

Can't say that about Voyager or TNG. They're basically garbage.

And I can barely remember TOS.

So
1. Picard
2. DS9
3. STD
4. TNG
5. Voyager

Unranked

TOS
Enterprise
SNW
 


Yora

Legend
Last time I rewatched DS9 two years ago, I was really surprised by how the first season was not actually that awful.
It does have a lot of jank, some real stinkers, and the characters are not quite settled in comfortably yet, but I always had the believe that the first two season of TNG, DS9, and Voyager are all dumbster fires. DS9s first season is not terrible.

I give it a stellar rating of: "okay".
 

Ryujin

Legend
1. ST : TOS - The Gold Standard, especially given the time in which it premiered. Such good writing and what, for the time, were very progressive ideas, all hidden in what passed for basic North American action-adventure TV for the time.

2. ST : SNW - TOS, but updated for today's more progressive times. A solid first season of classic episodic TV.

3. ST : DS9 - Say what you will, but for me DS9 was stronger out-of-the-gate than most other Star Trek series. It took some time for the main characters to find their legs, as it generally does, but the setting and basic concepts were all solid from jump.

4. ST : TNG - I found the first few seasons to be rocky and themes from TOS were often repeated, imperfectly. Still, the characters and setting felt like a more touchie-feelie Star Trek than the original, but still Star Trek none the less.

5. ST : VOY - Annoying, reductive, and idiotic characters in season 1. Captain "Ramming Speed" should never have made the rank and any sane commander would have likely spaced more than half of the mutinous crew before the halfway mark of the season.

6. ST : ENT - If the question was about first EPISODES, then this show would rank higher. It started out reasonably well but started down a rabbit hole very quickly, that it wouldn't recover from, until it had already been cancelled.

7. ST : DISCO - Most notable, to me, for being the only Star Trek show that I haven't been able to make it though a full season of. Just. So. Bad. When it was announced it appeared to be, on paper, the sort of thing that I would very much enjoy. Lord, was I wrong, and the odd attempt to continue from where I had left off hasn't convinced me otherwise.


NOT RATED:
3. PICARD -
I tend to think of it more as "Star Trek adjacent." Very much enjoyed it, but doesn't quite fit the same mould, to my mind.
 
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To me comparing episodic trek seasons with season-arc trek seasons seems like an apples to oranges comparison.

TNG has a pretty terrible first season, but guess what, I can just just skip the bad episodes and the better ones make just as much sense without them. Discovery has much higher quality first season episodes on average, but a few terrible decisions reverberate throughout the entire season souring everything.

While one bad apple may or may not spoil the bunch when they remain separate objects, if you bake them all into a big pie together every slice is going to be bad.

I rank every season of every episodic Trek over the seasons 1 of Discovery or Picard. I don't think season-plot-arc storytelling is necessarily a hopeless endeavor for Trek, but they've yet to do it right.
 

Zardnaar

Legend
Last time I rewatched DS9 two years ago, I was really surprised by how the first season was not actually that awful.
It does have a lot of jank, some real stinkers, and the characters are not quite settled in comfortably yet, but I always had the believe that the first two season of TNG, DS9, and Voyager are all dumbster fires. DS9s first season is not terrible.

I give it a stellar rating of: "okay".

There weren't that many stinkers and most of them weren't that bad more low side of average.
 

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