Star Trek has a history of not only highlighting powerful women on-screen, but featuring them behind-the-scenes as well. Going as far back as Star Trek: The Original Series, each series has featured women as episode writers, which was a striking move for a 1960s show. As the franchise continued to grow throughout the years, more women joined the Star Trek writing family, bringing us stories of humanity, hope, and heartbreak.
We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite episodes written by women, starting with The Original Series and going all the way forward to Star Trek: Lower Decks. These stories have touched our hearts and changed Star Trek’s canon for the better. Celebrate the history of women behind the camera by tuning in to these iconic episodes.
D.C. Fontana, writer, "Journey to Babel"
We’ve written about how much we love this episode before, but we consider it so important that it made this list too. D.C. Fontana changed our view of Vulcan by introducing Spock’s parents in this episode packed full of intrigue. As the Enterprise transports ambassadors, including Spock’s father Ambassador Sarek, to an important diplomatic meeting, a murder occurs and Sarek falls gravely ill. Fontana develops Spock’s character beautifully as he considers the needs of the many versus the needs of the few (a long time before Wrath of Khan), and we can’t get enough of the family dynamics at play in the episode.
Jean Lisette Aroeste, writer, "Is There No Truth in Beauty?"
Another popular episode from The Original Series, this episode follows psychologist Miranda Jones as she and the Enterprise travel with Medusan ambassador Kollos to his ship. The episode has plenty of action, but is perhaps most famous for summarizing Vulcan philosophy in a beautiful fashion that rings true today. There is infinite diversity in infinite combinations, and writer Jean Lisette Aroeste crafted the running theme of diversity in its infinite beauty perfectly.
One of the best The Next Generation episodes (and so important that we included it in our Picard watch guide), "The Measure of a Man" questioned Data’s personhood. Picard stood strong for his crewmember’s agency, even as Riker is forced into the uncomfortable position of having to argue against it. Melinda M. Snodgrass crafted an introspective episode that forced the crew of the Enterprise to examine what makes someone human, and in turn gave us one of the best episodes of television.
Jeri Taylor, writer, "The Drumhead"
Picard faces a miscarriage of justice by a corrupt Starfleet admiral in this episode that defined him as a character. Picard believes that justice should be carried out in a rational, collected fashion, even as Admiral Satie accuses him of crimes he did not commit after defending a crewman from accusations of sabotage. Jeri Taylor gets to the heart of what makes Picard an admirable captain and a good man in this classic episode.
D.C. Fontana, writer, "Dax"
Taking up the pen again, Fontana wrote this episode which questions whether Jadzia Dax is guilty of crimes committed by the Dax symbiont while she was not the symbiont’s host. Questions of what makes someone culpable abound, as do plenty of twists and a surprising last minute play. One of the only episodes Fontana penned for DS9, this one is a good one to check out, especially if you’re a fan of legal intrigue.
Written by Jane Espenson, who’d go on to pen episodes of other popular genre shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Once Upon a Time, this episode explores the culture of Bajor and their caste system. Sisko must take a stand to ensure that the freedoms of the Bajoran people aren’t infringed upon. While not often found on the average Deep Space Nine top 10 episodes list, “Accession” is an important episode for characters like Kira, and a great way to check out the early work of one of television’s most famous sci-fi writers.
Jeri Taylor, writer, "Coda"
Nancy Malone, director, "Coda"
Janeway is struggling to survive as an entity wants to feed on her body in this decidedly creepy story, written by Jeri Taylor and directed by Nancy Malone. This episode follows Janeway’s struggle after she “dies,” and even includes her seeing what she assumes is the spirit of her father. If you need a scary tale to celebrate Halloween, you can’t go wrong with this, and if you’re looking for a good episode, Jeri Taylor rarely lets us down.
Phyllis Strong, co-writer, "Author, Author"
The Doctor’s humanity and agency take center stage in “Author, Author,” co-written by Phyllis Strong. The Doctor wants to publish a novel when he returns to Earth, but the publishers refuse to recognize him as the copyright owner since he is not human. The crew of Voyager rallies behind him, establishing his personhood. One of the best Voyager episodes, Strong also co-wrote several episodes in the series’ final season.
Judith Reeves-Stevens, co-writer, "Terra Prime"
The conclusion of a two-part episode, with a story and teleplay co-written by Judith Reeves-Stevens, saw Tucker and T’Pol facing a horrifying situation — a baby created from their genes being used as proof for why humans and other alien species should never have children. While the terrorists are stopped and the day is saved, their baby dies. It’s a heartbreaking narrative that shows the power of Star Trek to break our hearts as well as show viewers the best, and worst, of humanity.
Phyllis Strong, writer, "Regeneration"
The Borg make their first appearance in the Enterprise timeline in an episode by Phyllis Strong. The episode features the crew trying to rescue missing researchers, and ends with the tease that the Borg have sent a message to their hive in the Delta Quadrant. The Borg have always been a terrifying part of Star Trek canon, and this is another fascinating addition to their lore.
As Burnham wrestles with new discoveries, Pike faces a glimpse of the future in the penultimate episode of Season 2 of Star Trek: Discovery. Seeing his own future, Pike opts to choose the good of the many over his own future, establishing himself as one of the greatest Starfleet captains. The episode was written by Bo Yeon Kim and Erika Lippoldt, the writing team behind many of Discovery’s episodes, and it gives us an emotional look at Pike, who became a fan-favorite during the course of the season.
The third season of Star Trek: Discovery traveled to an unknown future where the status quo as we know it was out of balance. Burnham and the crew of the Discovery helped bring hope to the Federation and to a galaxy stricken by loss, and the finale cemented that hopeful message. Written by showrunner Michelle Paradise, this action-packed episode showcased the Discovery crew at their best and set up a whole new galaxy of adventures. Let’s fly, indeed.
Kirsten Beyer, writer, "Stardust City Rag"
Kirsten Beyer brought Seven of Nine into a new era with “Stardust City Rag.” Seven has clearly been through so much in the time between Voyager and Picard, and we get a glimpse of that in the painful opening scene. Perhaps more important is the emotional conversation she has with Picard towards the end of the episode, where she asks him if he ever felt like he fully regained his humanity following assimilation. The commentary on their shared trauma is powerful.
Samantha Humphrey, co-writer, "Nepenthe"
Samantha Humphrey, alongside showrunner Michael Chabon, wrote the reunion between Picard, Riker, and Troi. This powerful episode showed how far all three characters have come since their TNG days. As Riker and Troi remind Picard of the man he once was, Humphrey also sent off fan-favorite Hugh in a heroic blaze of glory. Fans adored the episode for all the beautiful moments of healing and the heartbreak that came alongside it.
Ann Kim, writer, "Moist Vessel"
In Lower Decks’ fourth episode, Mariner, Tendi, and Captain Freeman take the spotlight. Freeman wants Mariner off the ship, and she thinks a promotion is just the way to do it; however, when the ship is in danger, mother and daughter must work together to save the Cerritos. Meanwhile, Tendi struggles with feeling unliked after she accidentally interrupts a fellow crewman’s ascension ceremony. With plenty of jokes and Easter eggs, as well as a koala who carries the universe on its back, this episode is an excellent addition to the series.
This article was originally published on March 17, 2020.
In addition to streaming on Paramount+, Star Trek: Picard will also stream on Prime Video outside of the US and Canada, and in Canada can be seen on Bell Media's CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave.
Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4 are currently streaming exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., the U.K., Switzerland, South Korea, Latin America, Germany, France, Italy, Australia, and Austria. Seasons 2 and 3 are also available on the Pluto TV Star Trek channel in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media's CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave. Star Trek: Discovery is distributed by Paramount Global Content Distribution.
Star Trek: Lower Decks streams exclusively in the United States and Latin America on Paramount+. The series is distributed concurrently by Paramount Group Content Distribution on Amazon Prime Video in the UK, Australia, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, New Zealand, Japan, India, and more, and in Canada on Bell Media’s CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave. Additional international availability to be announced at a later date.