Running from 1995 to 2001, Voyager was a departure for the Star Trek series, journeying into new territory, literal and metaphorical. It was the first in the franchise to feature a woman in the captain’s chair, with the strong and stubborn Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) taking the helm. In the pilot episode, Caretaker (January 1995), the Intrepid-class starship Voyager is catapulted to the Delta Quadrant, a hitherto unexplored quadrant of the galaxy. Voyager’s mission (and overall story arc) was simple then: Make it back to Federation space, even though it was 75 years away (spoiler: it didn’t take that long).
During its seven seasons and 172 episodes, Voyager introduced new species, like the Hirogen and the bane of the Borg, Species 8472. It explored emotional and ethical quandaries, such as hologram sentience and reformed drone Seven of Nine’s dating life, and along the way had fun with rogue Klingons and Q. It was a somewhat uneven show and didn’t fully hit its stride until season four, but it still provided plenty of memorable moments.
Although Voyager never quite reached the heights of cast alchemy and narrative depth of its immediate forebear, the iconic The Next Generation, it broke new ground. Most significantly perhaps, it centered, for the first time, on a woman captain – one who commanded with utmost confidence, inspiring the love and loyalty of her crew, helping to pave the way for the gender-breaking 2017 series Discovery. And, it also included some very fine writing, as this list demonstrates (note: spoilers for individual episodes and the series follow, and two-parters will count as one episode for the purposes of this list).
If you want to relive Voyager’s best episodes, then check out our Star Trek streaming guide to find out where you can watch the show online. Or if you’re a just big fan of all things Star Trek then check out our list of Star Trek movies, ranked worst to best,
Now, let’s count down our top ten best Star trek Voyager episodes, starting with…
10. Distant Origin
- Season 3, episode 23
- Original air date: April 30, 1997
As Voyager was set in a distant part of the galaxy, 70,000 light years away from home, the series was always a touch more whimsical than The Next Generation (TNG) or Deep Space Nine (DS9). In this episode, Voyager, one of the jewels of Starfleet, more than meets its match in a race known as the Voth, when the entire ship is transported inside a massive Voth vessel.
It turns out the Voth might’ve evolved from Earth’s dinosaurs aeons ago in this tale about the importance of scientific curiosity and open-mindedness. “Eyes open” is the memorable line uttered by the trailblazing Voth paleontologist as he tries to prove humans and Voth once shared the same origin.
9. Good Shepherd
- Season 6, episode 20
- Original air date: March 15, 2000
Recalling the The Next Generation episode Below Decks, Good Shepherd gives viewers the chance to see Voyager from a different perspective – not of the captain and her officers, but from much lowlier crewmen. Focusing on a Bajoran who has trouble with her sums, a hypochondriac, and a misanthropic physicist, Captain Janeway decides to take these three on an away mission, to steer these lost sheep back on course.
It’s a fine episode that shows Voyager as the hierarchical starship it always was, and the importance of its many crewmen that help it to remain running. Fun fact: Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello appears in this episode as Crewman Mitchell.
- Season 7, episode 8
- Original air date: November 22, 2000
The “lowest ranked officer” Ensign Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) finally gets his chance to shine as he asks Captain Janeway to give him his first command mission. This episode was an efficient education in the finer points of leadership, as the junior officer took command of an alien ship, revealing the Captain and First Officer’s jobs were harder than they looked.
Watch as Ensign Kim undermines the confidence of his new crew and overemphasizes the importance of routine checks, among other lessons in what not to do as a leader.
7. Human Error
- Season 7, episode 17
- Original air date: March 7, 2001
Human Error finds Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) trying to outgrow her Borg limitations in a bid to become more human. It’s romantic, amusing, awkward, emotionally expansive, and yet oddly claustrophobic. As Seven navigates various social activities such as a baby shower, small talk, and, most poignant of all, dating, this episode unpicks obsession, perfectionism, and Seven’s sensitive interior, which belie her inscrutable drone façade.
With some fine performances by Ryan and Picardo as The Doctor (who is secretly in love with Seven), this episode is slightly flawed, yet more ambitious, and more attuned to human moods than much of Voyager’s oeuvre.
- Season 2, episode 16
- Original air date: February 5, 1996
“You live on the edge of every moment, and yet, in its own way, violence is attractive, too. Maybe because it doesn’t require logic. Perhaps that’s why it’s so liberating” – Suder’s chilling words to Tuvok.
The early seasons of Voyager were patchy as the crew took time to establish chemistry, while antagonists such as the Kazon were uninspiring. But in season two, we were treated to an episode of high drama that didn’t rely on alien battles. Instead, it came via an onboard murder. The resident Vulcan and Chief Security Officer, Tuvok (Tim Russ), is charged with solving the case. Attempting to establish motive, the logical Tuvok is baffled when the murderer, the crewman Suder, replies that he committed the crime for “no reason”. Tuvok mind melds with Suder in order to better understand him.
Needless to say, Tuvok experiences adverse effects from the meld in this study of extreme violence, and grapples with the ethics of appropriate punishment. Anchored by a charismatic performance by Brad Dourif, as the sociopath, Suder even gets a chance at redemption, returning in the two-parter Basics (season 2, episode 26), when he helps to retake the ship from the Kazon.
- Season 5, episode 25 & season 6, episode 1
- Original air date: May 26, 1999 & September 22, 1999
This season five finale has a grittiness and darkness that later series Enterprise and Discovery would utilise more. Encountering another Starfleet vessel in the Delta Quadrant, Captain Janeway goes to the aid of the U.S.S. Equinox. A much smaller and less powerful vessel, the Equinox is a Nova-class starship not designed for long-range missions.
So, how have they managed to survive this long? In this tense and dramatic two-parter, Janeway is pitted against fellow Starfleet officers and turns vengeful as she discovers the horrifying truth about the Equinox’s betrayal of Star Fleet’s principles and the Prime Directive.
4. Blink of an Eye
- Season 6, episode 12
- Original air date: January 19, 2000
The U.S.S. Voyager investigates a world that rotates 58 times a second, with time passing much more quickly on its surface than in space, but gets trapped as it is caught by the planet’s orbit. Meanwhile, the primitive natives on the surface see a new star in the sky, which happens to be Voyager.
In this enjoyable episode, the crew of the ship, and we the audience, get to see the evolution of a world and its inhabitants before our very eyes. Featuring a pre-Lost Daniel Dae Kim as an alien, Blink of an Eye has a charm and sweetness that is magically expressed in the episode’s final moments.
- Season 7, episode 24
- Original air date: May 23, 2001
When Voyager’s finale aired, it was met with mixed audience reactions, with a consensus that it wrapped things up a little too neatly. While that criticism is not invalid, in retrospect Endgame was more of a treat than a sour note. After all, over its 86-minute runtime the two-parter finally gave its characters a little more room to breathe. This generosity extended to include the return of the wonderful Alice Krige as the Borg Queen, who first appeared in the role in the Star Trek: First Contact movie.
Involving a Borg showdown, among other delights, Endgame treated us to the sights of a Voyager crew in old age, as we learn of the crew’s destinies, the wonders of even more futuristic technology, and a white-haired Janeway coming to terms with how stubborn her younger self could be.
2. Year of Hell
- Season 4, episode 8 & 9
- Original air date: November 5, 1997 & November 12, 1997
This two-parter is among the darkest and grittiest Star Trek has ever gotten. This was Voyager in distress and Captain Janeway at her most grim. Voyager gets embroiled in an interspecies conflict, but finds itself drawn into a more personal story. Kurtwood Smith delivers an authoritative performance as the villain Annorax – a brooding figure who commands a temporal weapon ship capable of erasing objects and civilizations from the timeline.
Year of Hell had an epic quality, a sense of awe and real peril as it was difficult to imagine Voyager surviving through the onslaught. Full of memorable imagery – from Janeway as a gung-ho militaristic figure to a devastated ship with holes in its hull – this was Voyager at its most hellish.
- Season 5, episode 6
- Original air date: November 18, 1998
A mini-masterpiece. For Voyager’s 100th episode the show’s producers and writers Brannon Braga, Rick Berman, and Joe Menosky created something special. With Levar Burton (of Geordi La Forge and The Next Generation fame) as director, Timeless had the majesty of a movie. The 45-minute run-time included the extraordinary image of Voyager encased in ice and a plot that was as satisfying as it was compelling (as well a cameo from Burton as a Starfleet captain).
What was even more surprising was Garrett Wang playing an older, grizzled Harry Kim, in probably his standout performance, for a story that was full of pathos and regret. Can the older Kim send a message back through time to correct a huge mistake and avoid the deaths of his crewmates? Timeless really does have a timeless quality to it, since it’s the finest episode of Voyager ever produced.