So a couple years ago I got some good traffic to Whitleypedia because of a top 10 list I did of the Star Trek films and two-parters (since about half the films are not great and many of the two-parters are phenomenal).
This year for the anniversary of the airing of the first OS episode (Sept. 8, 1966), I wanted to do a top 20 list of the best single episodes. Note that this doesn’t include any episode that’s part of a two (or more) parter. So for example, I love the episode Rocks and Shoals of DS9, but it was part of the six-part Dominion War arc, which was on my top 10 list two years ago, so you won’t find it here. Truthfully and regrettably this keeps a lot of DS9 episodes off of the top 20 list.
Let’s start things off at the last place you’d expect: NCC-74656
I’m torn on this episode because there are a lot of TOS, TNG, and DS9 episodes that you could argue are better. And you might be right. But this episode is here because, structurally, it is what every Star Trek episode should aspire to: a real-life dilemma is played out against a science fiction backdrop, causing believable conflict among the lead characters. Torres, ashamed of her Klingon half, wants to genetically alter her daughter so she’ll be full human. This causes conflict with Tom Paris and the Doctor, who believe this is unethical. Throw in some nice flashbacks and Lineage is so watchable it could have been an episode of Lost.
The only other Voyager episode that was in competition for this list is Learning Curve, because Tuvok’s perfect in it and it _actually_ deals with the fundamental dynamic of the show (Marquis vs Starfleet), but Lineage edged it out because it’s more endearing and the performances among the mains are so strong.