Should Star Trek series have less arcs and more standalone episodes?

Anson Mount as Capt. Pike in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+
Anson Mount as Capt. Pike in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Credit: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ /

Star Trek: The Original Series was known for its standalone episodes. 

The series didn’t have any cliffhangers or two-part episodes, and though it was canceled after only three seasons, it found phenomenal success afterwards. Star Trek: The Next Generation followed the same formula to a certain extent. There were plenty of standalone episodes, but the series didn’t shy away from cliffhangers like “The Best of Both Worlds” and “Birthright.”

The Next Generation also integrated events that happened in prior episodes and seasons so that they were referenced. With The Original Series, once something happened, it was never mentioned again. That kept the series with standalone episodes. But is that what Star Trek fans prefer, or do they like the season long arcs like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had with the Dominion War?

Star Trek: Enterprise didn’t have much success with its season arcs.

The Xindi were a main focus in the third season of Enterprise, and it made it difficult for viewers to watch one episode in the middle of the season. The Temporal Cold War episodes offered a bit of confusion as well and weren’t as popular. Some of the best episodes of Enterprise were the standalones.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds set up the Gorn as the villains in the first season, but it didn’t focus the entire season around them. In the second seaon, the aliens became more prominent towards the end, with the series ending on a cliffhanger that will, most likely, take more than one episode in season three to resolve.

It seems that more Trek shows are moving away from one-off episodes that can be watched without a viewer needing to know what happened in the episode before. But could that be a mistake?

Though The Original Series only lasted three seasons, it remains one of the most-watched series in the franchise. Sure, some of the episodes get negative feedback, but the series isn’t convoluted. You don’t have to know anything when you sit down to watch an episode. You can just enjoy a good sci-fi drama with a little bit of humor thrown in.

Season-long arcs and cliffhangers can hinder new viewers from popping in the middle of a season, and season-to-season arcs can be especially convoluted, i.e. The Borg in The Next Generation. While some might say every fan needs to start from the beginning, I know plenty of others who got attached to Star Trek after watching one episode in the midst of a season. They saw that episode and it made them want to start from the beginning.

So what do you think? Are season-long arcs the way to go? Should there be more standalone episodes that invite new viewers to try the show?

It sounds like Starfleet Academy will adhere to canon. dark. Next