This week, Star Trek celebrates the 50th anniversary of its first episode to broadcast, “The Man Trap,” which premiered on September 8, 1966. In honor of this historic landmark, we went back through all 79 episodes of The Original Series and ranked each villain. Now, not every episode of Star Trek had a true villain, so we took some liberties with just what qualified as a villain: which basically came down to “anything that game the crew of the Enterprise angst.” (Some villains – hello, Harry Mudd – appear in more than one episode, so that’s why the list doesn’t count down from 79.)
What I noticed while doing this list is just how weak the third season is when it comes to antagonists. From the goofy storyline of “Spock’s Brain,” to the ridiculousness of the singing hippies in “The Way to Eden,” to the sexism of “Turnabout Intruder” (what a terrible way for the series to end). People often wonder how Star Trek wound up getting canceled: A big reason is they ran out of compelling villains. (They really should have had more recurring villains outside of Harry Mudd.)
But when the show worked, it was magic. Edith Keeler in “City on the Edge of Forever” wasn’t a villain, but she gave Kirk, Spock and McCoy their greatest test. The Khan in “Space Seed” puts the Khan we saw in Star Trek Into Darkness to shame. And who knew we’d get such an emotional return out of a lump of silicon in “The Devil in the Dark”? (We all have feelings.)
Also, keep in mind, the quality of the villain doesn’t necessarily represent the quality of the episode, though this does correlate quite often. So, ahead, from worst to best, and without any further commentary, here are your Star Trek: The Original Series villains, ranked in a visual gallery from least to most compelling.