Just say nay!

One thing I keep telling people about my experience with TOS is that the highs are so very high, but the lows are so very, very low.

You can’t win ’em all, but Star Trek sometimes loses so badly. Here’s the rundown of the worst episodes.


3×12 Plato’s Stepchildren
3×20 The Way to Eden
3×24 Turnabout Intruder
3×06 Spock’s Brain

Just Plain Losers:

1×20 The Alternative Factor
2×03 Friday’s Child
2×16 A Private Little War
2×25 The Omega Glory

Our winner was, by far, “Plato’s Stepchildren,” which managed a Warp Core Breach from us both. Here are some choice adjectives from our review for good measure: ghastly, shambling, dreadful, loathsome, execrable, awful, embarrassing, laughable, horrible, unsatisfying, demeaning. That about sums it up!

Torie: Maybe it’s just rose-colored glasses, but most of those in the unwatchable category I don’t remember being as bad as they appear here. “Spock’s Brain” grew on me after seeing it, oh, fifty times, and “The Way to Eden” is kind of fun and at least has an interesting theme, even if it doesn’t actually deliver. Unfortunately, I still get some of those songs as earworms. “Plato’s Stepchildren,” on the other hand, is truly unforgivable. I can’t imagine seeing that again without some serious impairment of judgment on my part. And Turnabout… well, at least everyone can agree on that one.

This list doesn’t include some of my personal least favorites: “The Paradise Syndrome” (on par with “The Omega Glory” for Most Appallingly Racist), “The Mark of Gideon” (utterly incomprehensible), and “The Savage Curtain” (a complete waste of Abraham Lincoln). I’m shocked “The Empath” didn’t make it on the list, too. I remember really loathing that one much more than my score would indicate.

I’m going to give a special prize for most disappointing: “The Arena.” It still doesn’t do it for me.

Eugene: Coincidentally, this list also includes the next seven installments of LaughTreks

Torie’s right about the rose-colored glasses, but I’m just going to trust the numbers; “The Way to Eden” already has fooled me into watching it more than once, and it’s not getting any better. From now on, I will refer to these episodes as the Red Shirts, because they’re dead to me.

We could certainly add a few others to the list of all-time worst episodes, most notably “The Empath” and “And the Children Shall Lead,” but otherwise this rundown looks about right and is much more clearcut than our top eight. I was most surprised by how intolerable “Plato’s Stepchildren” turned out to be, and I still can’t believe I didn’t recognize that when I was a kid. What’s not so surprising is that four of these episodes are season three episodes, with only one from the first season and three falling under the second. Despite the smattering of watchable episodes in the maligned final season, it seems its reputation is well deserved.

Fortunately, these still represent the minority of Star Trek episodes. On balance, the show was sometimes great, often good, and frequently entertaining. Eight bad apples (Oh yeah, “The Apple”! I feel like that should be here too…) out of seventy-nine is still fair odds that when you happen across a rerun while channel surfing, it’s probably safe to linger on the station for a while.


Next week: Introducing The Animated Series!

About Torie Atkinson & Eugene Myers

TORIE ATKINSON is a NYC-based law student (with a focus on civil rights and economic justice), proofreader, sometime lighting designer, and former Tor.com blog editor/moderator. She watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books. EUGENE MYERS has published short fiction in a variety of print and online zines as E.C. Myers. He is a graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop and a member of the writing group Altered Fluid. When he isn’t watching Star Trek, he reads and writes young adult fiction. His first novel, Fair Coin, is available now from Pyr.