Babies in the womb can hear around 16-23 weeks. So, if you want your George Takeisms to really sink in, it’s best to start your children’s Star Trek education in utero. Skip the Baby Einstein Mozart concerto and pipe the Star Trek Original Series theme song through those headphones your stomach is wearing.
If you missed the boat, don’t worry; you still have time to instill a love of Trekkie culture in the kiddos — unless they’re 16 and already think you’re stupid for muttering the phrase “resistance is futile” at them whenever they refuse to do their homework. You may have lost them by then. But otherwise, get that Star Trek marathon started as soon as possible and you’ll be fine. Then the children might not resent you when you dress them as Jean-Luc Picard for Halloween— or the first day of school.
You have to be careful when selecting which episodes you’ll show them first. The episodes you choose can’t be too complex, and we would be a little wary of Deep Space 9 (changelings can be creepy.)
Make sure that these first episodes keep them interested. James Trowbridge makes an interesting point. Trowbridge was 10 when he wrote this blog post on whether Star Trek appeals to kids. He writes
“Star Trek’s vision of the future has almost become a reality, because now we see automatic doors, cell phones, and microwaves every day. Maybe when they make a new Star Trek, they should give us a new vision of the future that we haven’t seen already.”
So, if the present is all automatic doors and microwaves, what will hold a kid’s interest?
Here are our top 10 Star Trek episodes for kids that are cool for reasons besides bygone innovations in technology.
1. Trouble with Tribbles (The Original Series)
The starship Enterprise travels to Deep Space Station K7 and has to deal with an outbreak of quickly breeding small creatures called tribbles. Outbreaks are fascinating, especially when they are of small furry creatures.
2. The Inner Light (The Next Generation) – An alien probe scans the Enterprise and disables Captain Picard, who wakes up as “Kamin,” a resident of the planet Kataan. While the crew of the Enterprise tries to help him, “Kamin” lives through the dying days of his homeworld. Some consider this award-winning episode to be one of the best of the entire Star Trek franchise.
3. Rascals (The Next Generation)
Captain Picard, Ensign, Ro, Keiko and Guinan run into danger aboard their ship. They are transported onto the U.S.S Enterprise, but a molecular mishap brings them back as 12-year-old children. Their adult minds remain intact. Children can relate to this one because they get to see the protagonists as kids themselves. Tiny Whoopi Goldberg is pretty cute.
4. City on the Edge of Forever (The Original Series) – The crew of the starship Enterprise discovers a portal through space and time, which leads to accidentally altering history. History-altering portals are always fascinating.
5. Devil in the Dark (The Original Series) – Captain Kirk and Spock face a deadly subterranean creature. Subterranean creatures are much less common than microwaves. This one is particularly hideous to boot and might elicit some delightedly disgusted squeals.
6. Mirror, Mirror (The Original Series)
A transporter mishap switches Captain Kirk and his companions with their evil counterparts. In the so-called Mirror Universe, the Enterprise is a ship of the Terran Empire, an evil organization. Doppelgangers are the big sell for me in this episode. Come on, you know you want to meet the evil version of you.
7. Miri (The Original Series) – The Enterprise discovers an exact duplicate of Earth, where the only survivors of a deadly man-made plague are the planet’s children. Being sole survivors of a plague puts kids in a position of power, something that your children might feel they are often denied.
8. Phage (Voyager) – During a survey of a planetoid, Neelix is attacked and left for dead. The other members of the team find him and beam him up to Sickbay, where the doctor reports his lungs have been removed. With no alternatives, the doctor fits Neelix with a set of holographic lungs. They’ll keep him alive, but require him to remain confined in an isotropic restraint in Sickbay for the rest of his life.
Meanwhile, Janeway leads an away team back to the planetoid to rescue Neelix’s lungs. Holographic lungs. Enough said.
9. Once Upon a Time (Voyager) – The Delta Flyer crashes on a planetoid and becomes buried under three kilometers of rock. Meanwhile, on board Voyager, the crew is unsure of how to explain to a crewmember’s young daughter that her mother is lost. They fear she may have died. The ship’s morale officer, Neelix distracts the little girl with a fairy holo-tale “The Adventures of Flotter.” Neelix tells the tale of how he lost his own family. The crew finds the Delta Flyer and beams everyone to safety. I like this one for the same reason I like Rascals. It features a child and it’s not too scary. A good one for the younger Trekkies.
10. Imaginary Friend (The Next Generation)
A child on the Enterprise believes she has an imaginary friend. The imaginary friend turns out to be sentient being who may be up to no good. This one also has some of the younger Enterprise inhabitants at the center of the story but mostly I just put this one on here because when I was little it was hands down, my absolute favorite.
I know; there are many more episodes that belong on this list. But these are a good place to start explaining what live long and prosper means and why you’re always making that weird four-fingered peace sign.