They’ve Never Seen Star Trek!

I discovered a very serious issue in one of my classes today. Perhaps it is inappropriate for a professor to share something of this nature on their blog, but with a problem this serious, I’m at a loss how to address it most effectively, and so I am turning to the collective wisdom of the internet for advice.

With one exception, every single student in my freshman class said they have never seen Star Trek. Not a single episode. Never.

I’m considering giving them a free class period to rectify this issue, or alternatively, devoting class time to doing so.

And so the next question is this: if you were to recommend one single episode to someone as the first ever episode of Star Trek for them to watch, which would it be, and why? Remember, this is not a matter of which episode is your personal favorite or the best in your opinion, but one that would (1) represent a good first entry into the show and its imagined future, (2) be relatively self explanatory in terms of the characters and background, and (3) leave the person who watches it wanting to watch other episodes.

Which episode would you recommend for this purpose?

For those who wish to watch Star Trek, episodes are online for free at and some clips at

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  • Josh Hale

    You definitely need to show them “City on the Edge of Forever.” Great storytelling, classic sci-fi conundrum, hard-hitting ethical conversation-starter. That’s the one that jumps out at me, though there are others which could be used too.

  • pduggie

    Return of the Archons

  • Shsavage

    For the original series, the one about the Horta.  For Next Generation,  Darmok

  • Christopher John Sissons

    I remember teaching a class of 16 year olds back in 1986 who were too young to remember ‘Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy’.  My Marvin the paranoid anbdroid impressions meant nothing to them!

    • Jon Hendry

      Bah, I was 15 in 1986 and I’d read all the books, and played the Infocom game. I think I’d seen the TV series, too.

  • Evan Hershman

    I would say that they should see “Devil in the Dark,” because it does a great job of showing how the ethos of the show was so much at odds with the standard sci-fi of the time… rather than just killing the apparently dangerous alien outright, the Enterprise crew learns to understand the Horta and brings things to a peaceful resolution. None of the “shoot first and ask questions later” mentality, which is specifically criticized.

  • Gail_D

    Seconding “City on the Edge of Forever” for TOS.  “The Measure of a Man” for TNG.

  • Paul Tillman

    TS:TOS – Trouble with Tribbles. It’s an episode that stands on its own, is funny, and shows some of the political maneuverings and species based racism. The future is good, but not perfect.

    TS:TNG – Darmok. Stand alone episode. Action mixed with epic poetry.

    • JB Tee

      I made the mistake of having a friend watch Tribbles. My friend didnt get it. Tribbles was a comic relief episode and should be viewed after others, IMHO. Im thinking Arena (it was my first) because it’s a good sci-fi story and has some character development, action, and suspense.

  • Lola

    Errand of Mercy.  Kirk and company try to aid the peaceful Organians, by protecting them from the Klingons.  But they come to learn that the Organians have no need of assistance, and abhor interference of any kind.  But they will interfere if necessary…

  • Gramina

    The two-part episode “The Menagerie” was the one that got me hooked — but I have a strong love for stories about loyalty.

  • Leslie Keeney

    “City on the Edge of Forever” or “Space Seed” or maybe “Bread and Circuses.” 

    My personal favorite is “Wolf in the Fold” but I realize that not everyone is as fascinated by the idea of Jack the Ripper as an immortal alien as I am.

  • Sci-Guys

    5 excellent TOS episodes for newbies.  And any newbie should start with TOS

  • admiralmattbar

    In this day and age science fiction tends to be more about spectacle.  Not complaining just pointing it out.  Be prepared for your students to react negatively to more cerebral science fiction stories.

    For TNG I recommend Time Squared or The Inner Light (also whichever episode has Data recite “Ode to Spot”).

    Not sure I’d recommend the old series.  I know this is heresy.  Not saying I personally don’t enjoy it, just that it’s dated and not going to have mass appeal.

  • Matthew Richardson

    I’ve been following your blog for some time, but this is my first comment. I agree with the suggestions for “Devil in the Dark”. This episode has many of the staple elements of science fiction (human colonists on an alien world, weird monsters, beam weapons, etc.), but it handles them in a way that at the time was unique to Star Trek. It perfectly illustrates Gene Roddenberry’s optimistic worldview, which was the foundation for the entire Star Trek franchise.

    On the other hand, “The Return of the Archons”, “Who Mourns for Adonais?”, and “Bread and Circuses” might be especially appropriate due to their religious themes.

  • Kierkegaard555

    The Devil in the Dark is a great episode that encompasses some essential Star Trek themes.

  • James Pate

    The ones listed are good, but I’d like to add one more to the list: Where No Man Has Gone Before.

  • Greg Smith

    Original series:  Space Seed.

    TNG:  The Inner Light.  This is my all-time fav from all the Star Trek series.  Second would be Darmok.

    “Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra.  When the walls fell.”

  • Keika

    “For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky”

    The Enterprise follows an asteroid that is on a collision course with another world. They check it out to discover it is actually an ancient populated generation ship.  This episode is a classic favorite of mine.  Bones has a fatal disease and is saved by alien medicine.  The artificial planet has its own God.  One of the best episodes of this series to hook a new generation of viewers with.

  • Liasis A Walker

    How about Mirror, Mirror?

  • An IndividualExperience

    I’ve found that this is the main problem when people don’t understand society’s potential- that they haven’t seen Star Trek. 

  • Jeff Carter

    “Plato’s Stepchildren” – who doesn’t want to see a dwarf riding Capt. Kirk like a pony?

  • Bill Ferrell

    The City on the Edge of Forever

  • WillBell

    If you want to introduce them, Encounter at Farpoint might be good (TNG), Darmok (TNG), or Caretaker (VOY).  If you want them hooked, All Good Things… (TNG), The Last Outpost (TNG), The Measure of a Man (TNG), and Who watches the Watchers?” (TNG).

  • Yvonne from Cincinnati

    Charlie X is an early episode that truly speaks to the social issues core to Star Trek. It definite left me wanting to watch more.

  • John

    700+ episodes to choose from. From TOS, “Let That Be Your Last Battlefield” that shows how  ST could deal with social issues like race.  From TNG, “The Outcast” which explores gender and sexuality. From DS9, I lean towards “Far Beyond the Stars” or “In the Hands of the Prophet.”  Enterprise has “Stigma” which is an allegory on AIDS.

    I teach a class called “Star Trek, Culture,and History” at San Diego State University and those who take the class usually have seen a few episodes though mostly from TNG.

  • Beau Quilter

    Naked Time, with the swashbuckling Sulu.

  • Pseudonym

    The total depravity part of me wants to say The Naked Now.  Nonetheless:

    TOS: The City on the Edge of Forever
    TNG: Darmok or The Inner Light
    DS9: The Visitor
    VOY: The Chute or Nemesis
    ENT: Carbon Creek

    • James Pate

       Nemesis was a cool Voyager episode.

  • Moe

    No no no…. I’m sorry.. if you want to introduce Star Trek to new audience, you should find something that defines all the characters and their purpose and mission, their depths and their facets, define the hero and villain, in a way that everyone would quickly understand and emotionally invest in the idea of Star Trek. a single episode will not do, my best suggestion is the movie First Contact. it might not be the favorite Star Trek for fans, but it would explain what Star Trek is about in the shortest time and the most fun. trust me go with the film, I’ve converted a few my self, and i failed to convert some others (wife), so i have given it a lot of thought.

  • Brad

    I would recommend Let That Be Your Last Battlefield. It has a great message about prejudice and the foolishness of war. Great tie-ins to the Cold War and Civil Rights Movement.   

    As for favorites, well, too many to mention. I do have fond memories of reenacting Spectre of the Gun with childhood friends! 

  • Brad

    Too add: Never seen Star Trek?  What is this generation coming to!

  • Tormato

    Lots of good stuff here.  I would recommend the following:

    TOS:  “A Taste of Armageddon” a nice allegory of our current modern wars
    TNG:  “Darmok”, “Who Watches the Watchers” 
    DS9:  (My personal favorite Star Trek) “In the Pale Moonlight”, “Sons of Mogh”, Really, if I were getting someone into ST, I would use DS9.

    VOY:  While I didn’t really bond with Voyager or Enterprise, the VOY episode “Death Wish”, where a Q wants to end his life, really stuck with me as a great episode.

  • Tim

    Spock’s Brain. Hah, just wanted to make sure you were reading. :)

  • Revel8r

    Students of that age who have never seen any Trek episode just need to be failed.  Barring the mass failure of the class, I suggest The City on the Edge of Forever or Devil in the Dark

  • skinman

    You have to start with TOS.  To get them hooked I would suggest the Doomsday Machine.  That one for me is the most memorable.

  • Tricksterson

    Can’t narrow it down to just one so, “Trouble With Tribbles”, to show the humorous side “Wolf In The Fold”, because it was seriously scary to me when I was a kid “The Cloud Minders” because it’s a good exploration iof the social issues side and the Organian episode because it introduces the Klingons.

  • James F. McGrath

    Rather than try to choose from among the great recommendations, I’ve simply pointed the students here. Hopefully the outpouring of sentiment will be inspiration as well as the recommendations being helpful.

    For those who like “The Trouble With Tribbles” I can’t stress enough that you should get hold of and watch the DS9 episode “Of Trials and Tribble-ations” if you’ve never seen it. The characters time travel back into the earlier episode, and they are actually edited into some scenes in a manner that is not only impressively done, but also hilarious.

  • mbells
  • Daddy Love

    +1 for “Devil in the Dark.” Also, “The Empath.”

  • akharris

    For TOS: Trouble with Tribbles which you might follow up with Trials and Tribbleations from DS9 to explore themes of time travel

    As for TNG, I’d have to go with Encounter at Farpoint. Great moral issues raised, characters themselves are still raw and new, and Q is always entertaining

  • Aaron

    Late, but I still need to put my two cents in.

    TNG: “The neutral zone”. They explain the 24th century to unfrozen 21st century humans. “Drumhead” Good Picard speech about due process. “Devil’s due” Just a fun episode that non-Trekkies can enjoy.

    I don’t think TOS will hook many children these days because it is so dated. You need to be a fan to appreciate it.

    Voyager: “the void”. shows good cooperation and tolerance of others. “Scorpion”. Not too much trek message, but enough action for kids.

    The movie “first contact” is the reigning king for introducing people to trek. The Borg, explanation of first contact and the progress of humanity.

    The real problem is that you need to watch about 10 episodes of Trek to really get into it. Even then, most series are just okay if you pick one or two episodes at random, but all the series are great if you watch them from the beginning. Star Trek is about character development. After you watch a single character for weeks, you can actually feel for them when they suffer. You understand them.

  • JB Tee

    Arena (it was my first) because it’s a good sci-fi story and has some character development, action, and suspense.