Since its debut episode aired on September 8, 1967, Star Trek has become one of the most iconic cornerstones of popular culture. With the excellent Star Trek: Discovery in the midst of its limited run on CBS, you may want to start planning how to introduce your kid to the wonderful world of the starship enterprise. But with six television shows (which adds up to 741 total episodes) and 13 movies, it can be hard to know where to even begin. Here, then, are 10 family-friendly episodes that will teach your kid to love exploring the Final Frontier.
The Original Series
“The Enemy Within” (Season 1, Episode 5)
Kids tend to love Captain Kirk because he represents a childlike idea of heroism. He’s a brave, slightly arrogant swashbuckler who will bend, and even break any rule if he feels he is working towards the greater good. And this episode explores the simple but compelling appeal of Kirk in a fun way: by splitting him into two characters. One is “good.” One is “evil.” In the end, Kirk needs both sides of himself to be the Kirk we all know and love. It’s a fun episode that presents an uncomplicated lesson on the duality of existence without getting too moralistic or heavy-handed.
“Balance of Terror” (Season 1, Episode 14)
The USS Enterprise finds itself under attack from the Romulans, a longtime enemy of the human race. This is widely considered the best episode in the Original Series run and for good reason: Even watching more than 50 years after its debut, “Balance of Terror” is a masterclass in tension and world-building. The brilliant simplicity of the plot will draw your kid in while the introduction of the Romulans will compel them to dive deeper into the world of Trek.
“Mirror, Mirror” (Season 2, Episode 4)
Evil Spock and Evil Kirk appear from another dimension to wreak havoc. What’s not to like? Plus, Evil Spock is rocking an incredible goatee.
“Trouble With Tribbles” (Season 2, Episode 15)
A fun, lighthearted episode of Star Trek that’s low on complicated philosophical implications and high on wacky, pet-based antics. The tribbles are cute as hell but they may also be terrifying monsters. It’s like Alien meets Gremlins, without being too creepy or frightening.
The Next Generation
“Yesterday’s Enterprise” (Season 3, Episode 15)
A time travel episode that features a previous USS Enterprise showing up in the modern Enterprise’s reality and inevitably causing all sorts of problems. As with any great Star Trek episode, Picard and the crew face a practical and moral dilemma without any easy answers to be found. It delves into time travel without getting too dense or needlessly complex and, unlike a lot of episodes, “Yesterday’s Enterprise” immediately dives into the action, making it a thrilling adventure from start to finish.
“Imaginary Friend” (Season 5, Episode 22)
Clara is a young daughter of a new crew-member on the Enterprise who everyone believes has created an imaginary friend Isabella to cope with having to move around so much thanks to her dad’s job. But some start to question if Isabella might be less imaginary than she seems. Touches nicely on the isolation and loneliness of childhood that adults often forget about, as well as depicting a genuinely moving childhood friendship.
“Inner Light” (Season 5, Episode 25)
Jean-Luc Picard isn’t just the greatest Star Trek character of all time. He’s one of the greatest characters ever created, regardless of medium. Picard is impossibly wise, brave, and, above all, good. When he isn’t saving the USS Enterprise from the brink of destruction with his quick, insightful decision making, he enjoys performing Shakespeare and reads poetry. Picard’s greatness is on full display in “Inner Light”, a deeply affecting episode where he gets to experience a lifetime in but a few minutes. Your kid may not fully get the “road not taken” implications but even so, they’ll start to understand the righteous power of Captain Picard.
“Rascals” (Season 6, Episode 7)
Picard, Ro Lauren, Keiko, and Guinan are “enveloped by an energy anomaly” while traveling back to the Enterprise and are transformed into 12-year-old versions of themselves, while still retaining the minds of their adult selves. It’s a pretty straightforward, fun episode and while your kid probably won’t get the larger implications of the bittersweet journey of leaving your childhood behind, they will like the episode because for once, kids are front and center.
Deep Space Nine
“Move Along Home” (Season 1, Episode 10)
DS9 might not be as revered as some of the other Star Trek shows but it still has some hidden gems that your kid will love, like the bizarre, extremely entertaining “Move Along Home.” An official delegation from the mysterious Gamma Quadrant is set to visit Deep Space Nine and when they arrive, the aliens only seem interested in playing games against the crew, which they easily win. Quark eventually cheats to end the losing streak but is caught and the crew is punished by being used as actual pieces in one of the aliens’ games. It’s a silly episode that is easy to follow and features some of the best looking aliens in Star Trek history.
“Future’s End” (Season 3, Episode 8)
The titular ship unexpectedly transports from the 24th century back to 1967 and have some classic fish out of water shenanigans while figuring out how to get back to their real time. It’s a low-stakes, high-fun episode that kids will love, simultaneously giving them the wrong impression of both the past and the future. Groovy.