Out of 694 episodes of Star Trek (not including The Animated Series), only 35 have been directed by women (8 in TNG, 7 in DS9, 10 in VOY and 10 in ENT – graphs here!).
However, of the episodes brought to us by the 6 women who directed episodes, many have been outstanding. Here are my top Star Trek episodes directed by women (in no particular order).
1. TNG – “Face of the Enemy”, directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
“Face of the Enemy” is one of the most important episodes in rounding-out Troi’s character. It passes the Bechdel-Wallace Test over and over and over as Troi, disguised as a Romulan Tal Shiar agent, argues with the ship’s commander, a Romulan woman named Toreth. Toreth is one of the most complicated women villains we get on TNG: she’s a ruthless soldier but with a strong ethical grounding that makes her unwilling to ignore unreasoned cruelty and violence. Ultimately it’s an engaging episode that puts two strong women at the centre of the action.
2. VOY – “Coda”, directed by Nancy Malone (and [bonus!] written by Jeri Taylor)
I remember watching “Coda” over and over again as a kid and although I’m no longer a Janeway/Chakotay shipper the episode still shines to me as a great character exploration. First of all, it gives us an inside look at Janeway’s emotions toward her crew and her dad, without making her weak. It’s full of truly touching moments such as when we see Tuvok note Janeway’s “death” in his log. More specifically on the direction, there are a bunch of jumps back and forth between Janeway’s visions and reality and it manages to keep you guessing and to be suspenseful but not confusing.
3. ENT – “Dead Stop”, directed by Roxann Dawson
Special thanks to The Man from Nantucket, who recommended I check out this episode before deciding on this post. I watched it last night and enjoyed the story, plus it certainly had an interesting atmosphere (sound and visual) that made it stand out from other episodes. The music felt toned-down compared to other episodes, particularly those from previous series. In addition, there’s a really neat visual contrast between the super sleek and white Apple-store-esque public rooms of the repair station (pictured at top) and the gritty and metallic access corridors they have to climb into (picture directly above).
4. TNG – “Disaster”, directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
The Keiko birth scenes alone make “Disaster” an awesome episode. But there are many other story threads and they’re woven together in a way that’s easy to follow but never boring. It also passes the Bechdel-Wallace Test through Troi and Ro’s conversations. Finally, it gives Troi some badly-needed character and skill development as she goes from being painfully ignorant of most of what she should be doing in command to being able to finally assert her authority and make the right decisions.
5. DS9 – “In Purgatory’s Shadow”, directed by Gabrielle Beaumont
“In Purgatory’s Shadow” is widely considered an excellent DS9 episode. It’s ranked in the top 10 at TV.com and Jammer’s Review states it’s “Extremely impressive. Startling, exciting revelations, and some major character highlights. One of the series’ best.”
I love it because it’s full of big surprises and tiny details. It fully pays attention to how the characters are impacted by what’s happening, as well as how the events relate to the bigger picture for Bajor, the Federation, and the rest of the Alpha Quadrant.
There are also great, funny exchanges such as Dax borrowing Worf’s Klingon operas to encourage him to come back from the Gamma Quadrant soon.
That said, if you haven’t seen the later seasons of DS9 you really need to watch this one in order with the rest of the arc or it’ll be hard to appreciate how much you should be going, “Oh, shit” when you see the ending.
What’s your favourite episode by a woman director? Let me know if I missed it.