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Find Your Calling with These Star Trek Episodes

As we embark on a new year, your favorite Star Trek episodes may be the key to figuring out what cause you're truly passionate about.

Illustration of hands cradling a heart with iconography of a home, money, clothing, food, and Star Trek delta

Another year is winding down and once again we're in the midst of the holiday season!

All around the world, menorahs and kinaras are dusted off, halls are decked, days grow shorter, and elves inhabit shelves. ‘Tis the season for family traditions, Cyber Mondays, and those feel-good movies we love to hate.

The holidays are also an opportunity — or maybe just the excuse we need — to step out of our daily routines, open our hearts to those in need, and think about ways to better ourselves in the coming year. We finally hit the pause button on our busy lives and stop to count our blessings, resolving to make a greater impact on our neighbors and the world at large.

For many, this more altruistic and less commercial side of the holiday season is ultimately what matters most. As the leftovers run out and the gifting high wears off, the lasting impact of these resolutions can create positive ripples of change and hope for everyone involved. Research shows that when you volunteer or give to charities you may be less prone to stress and depression, more likely to excel in social situations, and more physically and mentally active.

Picard in front of the Christmas tree in Star Trek: Generations

Star Trek Generations

But how do you know which charitable opportunity is right for you? In this noisy internet world of near-limitless options, it can be difficult to clearly identify what makes us tick on a personal level.

Thus, we’ve compiled a list of Star Trek episodes that will get you thinking, tug at your heartstrings, and help you clarify what cause most resonates with you. To find your cause, watch or rewatch these episodes and rank them against each other based on your feelings about the issues raised in that episode. There are no right or wrong answers — this is your personal list!

Once you’ve finished, look at the episodes that top your list and search for ways you can get involved with the issues they explored: volunteer your time, provide your professional skills pro bono, or give some much-needed cash to an organization promoting your ideals. Donating in someone else’s name can also be a thoughtful holiday gift for that friend or family member that already “has everything.”

Whether you act locally or globally, there’s a way for you to make a difference. And remember — all volunteering and giving is important, big or small. Who knows? You may just find your calling!

If you love Star Trek: Discovery's "Choose Your Pain," you might be passionate about animal rights
In the science lab, Tilly, Stamets, and Michael Burnham look at the lab reports of Ripper the Tardigrade in 'Choose Your Pain'

"Choose Your Pain"

My hope is that what makes it most happy is to be free.

Michael Burnham, "Choose Your Pain"

Like most Discovery episodes, this one has a lot going on, including the introduction of Shazad Latif’s character, Ash Tyler, and Rainn Wilson assuming the role of infamous Original Series scoundrel, Harry Mudd.

But it’s the ethical dilemma surrounding the treatment of Ripper, the crew’s indispensable tardigrade helper, that really punctuates this story and makes you think about the complex and ever-changing relationship between humans and animals, and the needs of one vs. the rights of the other.

If you love Star Trek: Enterprise's "Demons" and "Terra Prime," you might be passionate about combating hatred and racism
John Frederick Paxton stands with his back turned towards T'Pol and Trip Tucker in 'Demons'


A new era is at hand; an era that will expose the concept of interspecies unity as an absolute and vicious lie.

John Frederick Paxton, "Demons"

In what are widely considered to be two of the best episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise, Starfleet battles a terrorist group intent on destroying everything that Archer and the crew have worked to achieve throughout their mission.

Peter Weller gives a cold and hauntingly realistic portrayal of xenophobia and racism that underscores an important and disturbing message that is all too familiar throughout history.

If you love Star Trek: Voyager's "Extreme Risk," you might be passionate about mental health
A sweaty and volatile B'Elanna Torres reaches in front of her and looks at her reflection in the mirror in 'Extreme Risk'

"Extreme Risk"

B’Elanna, I’m worried about you. If there’s something wrong, I want to help.

Captain Kathyrn Janeway, "Extreme Risk"

Tom and the crew find themselves in a race against time to build a better shuttlecraft (enter the Delta Flyer!) in order to foil the galaxy’s worst polluters, the Malon.

But the biggest conflict in this episode is an internal one, as B’Elanna struggles with grief and depression after the loss of her old friends. It’s the Voyager crew at its familial best, tackling the difficult discussions that change and save lives.

If you love Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Family Business," you might be passionate about ending sexism
Stuck in the middle, Rom observes as Quark and their Moogie (mom) Ishka face off in 'Family Business'

"Family Business"

And when it comes to making profit, this female is a better Ferengi than you'll ever be!

Ishka, "Family Business"

After all these heavy episodes, it may be a good time for a refreshing change of pace. With a perfect mix of comedy and drama, this Ferengi-focused episode will make you cringe, laugh, and cry, perhaps all at the same time!

It will also make you think about society’s attitudes towards women in the workplace and at home. To top it all off, there may be a lesson in there about families, and how differences of opinion don’t necessarily have to tear them apart.

If you love Star Trek: The Next Generation's “Force of Nature,” you might be passionate about stopping climate change
In the observation lounge, Geordi La Forge approaches Captain Picard by a window in 'Force of Nature'

I spent the better part of my life exploring space. I've charted new worlds. I've met dozens of new species. And I believe that these were all valuable ends in themselves. Now it seems that, all this while, I was helping to damage the thing that I hold most dear.

It won’t turn out that way, Captain. We still have time to make it better.

Jean-Luc Picard and Geordi La Forge, "Force of Nature"

This episode contains what is likely the longest series of cat-related jokes in all of Star Trek history, so it’s worth checking it out just for that. But it really makes this list because it focuses on one of the most discussed topics in the world today — the environment.

In a prescient tale that may be even more relevant now than when it premiered, two siblings who have devoted their lives to saving their planet attempt to change the minds of, well, just about everyone else in the universe.

If you love Star Trek: The Next Generation's "Hero Worship," you might be passionate about adoption
Timothy and Data sit side-by-side at 10 Forward drinking out of long straws with their hands folded and a large plate of dessert in front of them in 'Hero Worship'

"Hero Worship"

His world is gone, Data. We’re going to have to help him build a new one.

Counselor Deanna Troi, "Hero Worship"

Who among us hasn’t wanted to be like Data at some point or another?

Well, in this episode, a young boy named Timothy gets to do just that, but in less than ideal circumstances. Both sad and heartwarming, the relationship that develops between the orphaned Timothy and his new android companion shows just how important and life-changing it can be to mentor, foster, or adopt a child.

If you love Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "It’s Only a Paper Moon," then you might be passionate about veterans’ health
Nog sits in a chair in a white button down shirt and an undone bow tie staring off in 'It's Only A Paper Moon'

"It's Only A Paper Moon"

You stay here, you're going to die. Not all at once, but little by little. Eventually, you'll become as hollow as I am.

Vic Fontaine, "It's Only A Paper Moon"

DS9 brought us an ensemble cast unlike anything previously seen in the Trek universe, and this episode really shows off the depth of storytelling that could be accomplished with so many unusual and lovable characters.

In a memorable performance from the late Aron Eisenberg, we see Nog’s complicated struggle to come to terms with his wartime experiences, his PTSD, and the difficulties of returning to his former life. And Vic Fontaine shows us just how important a friend can be in a time of need, even when that friend is only photons and force fields… or is he?

If you love Star Trek: Voyager's "Nemesis," you might be passionate about ending hate speech
A bruised and beaten Chakotay is held captive on a Delta Quadrant world in 'Nemesis'


I wish it were as easy to stop hating as it was to start.

Commander Chakotay, "Nemesis"

Though maybe not as famous to all Star Trek fans as other classic episodes on this list, "Nemesis" touches on some major issues, including the dangers of hate speech, unchecked misinformation, and propaganda. And it features one of the best plot twists in the entire franchise. 

​​If you love Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's "Past Tense" Parts I and II, then you might be passionate about the housing crisis
In time appropriate attire, Ben Sisko finds himself in one of the darkest hours of Earth's history — 21st Century San Francisco — in 'Past Tense, Part I'

"Past Tense, Part I"

Causing people to suffer because you hate them is terrible, but causing people to suffer because you have forgotten how to care? That's really hard to understand.

Dr. Julian Bashir, "Past Tense, Part I"

Will the real Gabriel Bell please stand up? In a classic time-traveling conundrum, Sisko and the crew get rerouted to 21st Century Earth, and boy, does it have some problems! Our own version of 21st Century America sees over half a million people remain unhoused each day. The epidemic particularly striking those with mental illnesses and LGBTQ youth.

Viewers of "Past Tense" may note that its tackling of serious everyday issues like unemployment, poverty, and homelessness, feels a little too much like real life. But, that’s exactly what was intended.

If you love Star Trek: The Next Generation's "Sarek," then you might be passionate about elder care
Sarek arrives on the Enterprise-D in the transporter room and greets Captain Jean-Luc Picard with the Vulcan salute in 'Sarek'


A lifetime of discipline is washed away, and in its place… Bedlam. BEDLAM!!! I am so old. There is nothing left but dry bones, dead friends.

Ambassador Sarek, "Sarek"

There is at least one thing that all people in every corner of the world have in common — we are all growing older every day.

For many, this can be a difficult aspect of life, especially when it is accompanied by illness, memory loss, or dementia. Featuring raw and beautiful performances by Sir Patrick Stewart and Mark Lenard (as Spock’s father, Sarek), this episode challenges us to remember that aging does not make us less human or less deserving of care and respect. Perhaps it is just the opposite.

If you love The Original Series' "The Cloud Minders," then you might be passionate about labor unions
On the surface of Ardana, Kirk and Spock look up at the cloud city of Stratos in the sky in 'The Cloud Minders'

"The Cloud Minders"

This troubled planet is a place of the most violent contrasts. Those who receive the rewards are totally separated from those who shoulder the burdens. It is not a wise leadership.

Spock, "The Cloud Minders"

The first thing you need to know is that Lando Calrissian is nowhere to be found; this is a different cloud city, and it’s got enough problems even without the Empire lurking around!

While things may seem idyllic at the outset, it quickly becomes apparent that this planet struggles with some deadly serious labor issues and a caste system that only seems fair if you’re the one up in the clouds.