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Star Trek: The 10 Best Episodes Directed By A Cast Member, According To IMDb

With Strange New Worlds once again taking fans into the 23rd century, it is inevitable that a few Star Trek legends will get to sit in the director’s chair for an episode or two. Even in the golden age of Trek, the stars of the franchise were often tapped to helm episodes of their own.

Whether they were actors/directors like in The Next Generation, or returning veterans like in Enterprise, some of the best episodes in Star Trek history were directed by cast members. Even though there are a lot of great stories to choose from, some earned much higher scores on IMDb.


10 Similitude (Enterprise) – 8.4

Trip looks on from Star Trek Enterprise

Though The Next Generation had ended years before, actor LeVar Burton continued to take the reins of subsequent episodes of Star Trek shows. The episode “Similitude” finds Captain Archer at an emotional crossroads when Trip is injured and fated to die. With the help of Dr. Phlox, Archer creates a fast-aging clone of Trip in the hopes of harvesting his organs to save the original.

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With a story that hinges on a complicated question, “Similitudes” echoes the moralistic sentiments of other Trek series. Burton’s skilled directing helps the simple plot along, and the episode soars because of great performances and a challenging moral dilemma.

9 The Offspring (The Next Generation) – 8.5

Data says goodbye to his daughter Lal in Star Trek: The Next Generation

While still performing as Commander Riker on the show, Jonathan Frakes was quickly establishing himself as one of the best directors in Star Trek TV history. In the episode, “The Offspring,” Data is inspired to make an android child for himself, but fails to consider the ramifications of creating a life.

Used as a metaphor for parenthood in general, the episode is a great example of the show tackling deep issues. The bulk of the episode features Data interacting with his creation, and the audience comes to bond with them over the duration. Even though the story plays out on a micro-level, it is still one of the more powerful premises of the entire series.

8 Countdown (Enterprise) – 8.5

Hoshi is restrained by an alien from Star Trek Enterprise

After his seven-season run on Voyager as Tom Paris, Robert Duncan McNeill stuck with the franchise as a director on Enterprise. The episode, “Countdown,” sees Hoshi kidnapped by alien forces that demand she decipher the code of a deadly superweapon.

Playing out like an action film, “Countdown” is one of the tensest episodes of the entire series. Utilizing the camera to perfection, McNeill helps to elevate the story beyond just a simple episode of TV, and it becomes nearly cinematic. Paying off an ongoing storyline, the episode is the culmination of a season’s worth of plot lines, and it was handled exquisitely.

7 The Pegasus (The Next Generation) – 8.5

The Next Generation‘s own LeVar Burton pulled double duty throughout the series, and in “The Pegasus,” he both acted and directed. The Enterprise is dispatched on a secret mission to retrieve the U.S.S. Pegasus before it is captured by the Romulans. However, only Riker knows the true purpose for the mission, and the dark secret that the ship contains.

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The final season of the show was hit-and-miss, but it still contained one of the best episodes of the series. The ticking clock element keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, and Riker’s secret knowledge only further adds to the intrigue. Once again pulling back the curtain on Starfleet’s shadier side, the episode was one of the darker moments of the show.

6 Improbable Cause (Deep Space Nine) – 8.6

Odo interrogates Garak from Deep Space Nine

With Commander Sisko largely absent from the story, that gave actor Avery Brooks the perfect opportunity to direct a great episode of Deep Space Nine. “Improbable Cause” finds Odo on the case after someone attempts to murder Garak by blowing up his tailor shop.

The first part in one of the best DS9  two-part episodes, “Improbable Cause” does an excellent job of telling a contained story, but also setting up the second half as well. Odo is the star of the show, and his rapport with Garak is TV gold. Ultimately, when the story is taken as a whole, it is a thrilling mystery that thickens with each twist.

5 Living Witness (Voyager) – 8.7

When not playing Voyager‘s resident Vulcan, Tuvok, actor Tim Russ was tapped to helm a few episodes of the show as well. In “Living Witness,” the Doctor finds himself in an alien museum, hundreds of years in the future. Much to his surprise, the curators of the museum view Voyager as a warship full of savages.

The classic “put on trial for the crimes of humankind” trope had been done before in Trek, but, by casting the Doctor as the defendant, the story has a nice twist. The holographic physician has his own opinions on humans, but that doesn’t stop him from making a compelling argument against the alien’s claims. Though a simple episode, the brilliant performance from Robert Picardo is what makes it so memorable.

4 Twilight (Enterprise) – 8.7

T'pol talks to an aged Archer from Star Trek Enterprise

Tackling one of Enterprise‘s most compelling stories, director Robert Duncan McNeill showed that he was up to the unique challenge. The episode, “Twilight,” opens with Captain Archer awakened in a distant future, where Earth has been destroyed by the Xindi. Soon, he learns that he may be the key to fixing the past and stopping the tragedy.

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Leaving behind the familiar confines of the Enterprise, the episode is a bleak look at the possible future. Archer is on his own, and actor Scott Bakula does his best with what he is given to work with. What makes the episode so strong is that it quickly establishes new characters, and the audience genuinely roots for them to succeed despite only knowing them for a short time.

3 Timeless (Voyager) – 8.7

An aged Chakotay looks on from Star Trek Voyager

Trial and error was a big part of the Voyager storyline, and in “Timeless,” LeVar Burton helmed a compelling story of possible futures. While experimenting with slipstream travel, Ensign Kim accidentally causes Voyager to be involved in a catastrophic crash. Years in the future, survivors Chakotay, Kim, and the Doctor attempt to send a message back in time to prevent the accident.

Desperate to shorten their trip, the crew of Voyager makes several failed attempts at alternative travel methods. What makes “Timeless” so compelling though, is the personal journey that Ensign Kim takes as a result of his failures. Always one of the more emotionally vulnerable characters, Kim’s arc throughout the story makes him a more relatable and likable person.

2 Far Beyond The Stars (Deep Space Nine) – 8.8

Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) trapped in the 1950s in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

“Far Beyond the Stars” had actor Avery Brooks working double-time as he not only directed the episode but was also the principal star as well. Sisko finds himself in an alternate universe, where he is a struggling science fiction author in the 1950s, and the entire events of Deep Space Nine were just elements of one of his stories.

Compelling, and emotionally poignant, the episode tackles deep issues like racism and class. Sisko’s race, which largely doesn’t affect his personal life in the 23rd century, is at the forefront in the 20th, and his character is poorly treated by the world around him. Aside from the gripping story, the episode is one of the best of the series because of the amazing performance from Brooks as both an actor and a director.

1 Cause And Effect (The Next Generation) – 8.9

Temporal problems are nothing new for the Star Trek franchise, but “Cause and Effect” took things to a whole other level. The crew of the Enterprise finds themselves in an infinitely repeating time loop that always results in the ship being destroyed.

With most of the episode repeating over and over, it would have been easy for it to get dull quickly. However, director Jonathan Frakes knew exactly how to tweak the camerawork to keep things visually interesting. Truly one of the most fascinating mysteries in the entire series, the audience is on the edge of their seat as the crew attempts to figure things out, and the payoff is well worth the wait.

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