The 12 Scariest Episodes of Star Trek

The 12 Scariest Episodes of Star Trek
It's not all fun and holodeck malfunctions, you know. (Image: Paramount)

This week’s Star Trek: Strange New Worlds delivered what might just be the closest Star Trek has ever gotten to an episode of genuine horror. Jump scares, tension, blood, gore, and lots of screaming, it had it all — but it’s far from the first time Trek’s trended terrifying. Here’s a few more of our creepy favourites.

“Genesis” – The Next Generation

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Is “Genesis” a good episode of Star Trek? Absolutely not. Is it still kind of petrifying when you get to see the entire Enterprise crew devolved into the schlockiest, gross-out monster makeup mashups around? Absolutely. Shout out to Spider-Barclay, the scariest member of the Spider-Verse ever.

“Impulse” – Enterprise

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Although Star Trek already has the Borg for its zombie riff, the franchise has never really come close to doing a zombie episode quite like this one. After the NX-01 crew comes across a marooned Vulcan vessel, it turns out a sinister toxin has rendered the crew a bloodthirsty, flesh-craving horde.

“Catspaw” – The Original Series

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Our standards for spooks may have changed since the time of the original Star Trek, but there’s both a retro Halloweeny charm to this episode — it’s even penned by Psycho author Robert Bloch! — and some genuine tension, as Kirk and Spock face a mysterious wizard who wants to ensorcel the Enterprise crew.

“The Thaw” – Voyager

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Clowns. Why’d it have to be clowns?

“Night Terrors” – The Next Generation

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This episode’s a bit more horror-light than full-on horror — but it’s got some genuinely good creepy moments, as the Enterprise-D crew finds itself afflicted with the same insomnia-driven hallucinations that tore apart the crew of a Federation starship they come across. Dr. Crusher being in sickbay as row after row of corpses slowly sit up behind her is good, but it’s Picard imagining the turbolift shrinking in on him that’s arguably the most chilling moment of all.

“Empok Nor” – Deep Space Nice

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A ragtag team of DS9’s finest take a trip to the station’s abandoned Cardassian sister-station, Empok Nor… only to find that it’s very much not abandoned. A classic things-that-go-bump-in-the-dark tale, and one made brilliant by the fact it’s essentially shot on the normal Deep Space Nine sets, just lit for a dark horror movie.

“The Wolf in the Fold” – The Original Series

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Once again, times have changed when it comes to scare standards, but hey: this is the episode where Scotty gets possessed by the spirit of Jack the Ripper. It’s wild, but it’s also genuinely creepy how much of the episode, before that twist, paints Scotty as a potential serial killer.

“Context Is For Kings” – Discovery

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Before this week’s Strange New Worlds, this is closest modern Trek had gotten to a whole bunch of creepiness — not just when the newly freed Michael Burnham finds herself on a peculiar U.S.S. Discovery filled with things and people that seem like they’re up to something, but when the episode truly devolves into alien movie horror as Burnham and a small Away team pay a visit to Discovery’s seemingly abandoned sister ship, the Glenn. Who knew tardigrades could be so violent, or so… large?

“Schisms” – The Next Generation

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Hoo boy, this has it all — body horror, paranoia, alien abduction. The Enterprise crew finds itself the subject of a bizarre, horrifying experimentation experience, with some genuinely great tension building before the big reveal.

“Whispers” – Deep Space Nine

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Poor Miles O’Brien goes through absolute hell on Deep Space Nine so often that it’s almost worth just putting “O’Brien’s life” as an entry here. But “Whispers” is another great example in a long line of “Star Trek hero comes back and starts realising something is different” thrillers, when Miles returns to Deep Space Nine only to find everyone behaving strangely.

“Conspiracy” – The Next Generation

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“Conspiracy” is a little more schlocky thriller than genuinely spooky at some point, but existentially there is something quite horrifying about just how close a maniacal parasite came to completely upending the Federation as we know it. And once again, if you love a good gross-out gore moment, this delivers when Picard and Riker infamously turn their phasers all the way up to blast the infected Lieutenant Commander Remmick to pulpy bits.

“All Those Who Wander” – Strange New Worlds

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And then, of course, the penultimate episode of Strange New Worlds’ first season has to be on here, because it is by far and away the scariest Star Trek has ever been. Alien with Gorn babies? Good god.