This idea was originally for my recent introduction of classic Doctor Who. A friend, who's also a Whovian, picked one serial per Doctor for me to watch so I can get a little bit of a deeper appreciation of the show.
However, it was actually TNG that got me thinking about doing this for Star Trek. As some of you may be aware, I'm rewatching Voy S1-5 then for the first time ever watching S6-7 (this was more of a big deal when I started because I thought I'd watched a lot less when it first aired). I'm also diving headfirst into Trek-lit with Peter David's back catalogue and occasional forays into the odd other novel. So I got thinking with TNG, what are the episodes that have to be watched to get the story of the Enterprise-D or are just brilliant, while what can be skipped. A I want to watch the show but I don't want to have to put up with all the drek list. Since I'm actually watching Voyager right now I figured lets work it out for that show. I think this can be boiled down to three categories.
Caretaker, Basics, Scorpion, End Game are all obviously must watch to get the story.
Episodes that add a little something
Don't add anything, or are just plain bad. Threshold for instance.
Let's do it a season at a time, I'll update this top post after each week or so after we come to some sort of agreement, and maybe we could do a sticky thread at the end to help people who just want the 'Essential Voyager.'
Caretaker Essential - Duh
Parallax Essential the assigning of B'elnna to head of Engineering
Time and Again Essential Kes' psychic abilities debut
Phage Essential Introduces the Vidiian
The Cloud Optional? Fair few elements see their introduction here, including the Galley
Eye of the Needle Optional? - I think the idea that the crew contact the Alpha Quadrant is important, there's no real consequence to it due to it being the wrong time period.
Ex Post Facto Optional - I'm almost leaning toward essential for how good a Tuvok episode it is, and the revelations about the character.
Emanations Skippable what does this add to the overall story?
Prime Factors Optional? - Nothing major to Voyager's story but a decent chance to get home, and being on the receiving end of the Prime Directive is nice.
State of Flux Essential Big revelation of Seska and intro of Cullah
Heroes and Demons I'm torn between Essential and Optional Doctor's first 'away' mission and a big part for his character.
Cathexis Skippable - Not sure it adds a lot
Faces Essential Huge Torres and Vidiian episode
Jetrel optional or skippable? - Good Neelix episode, but other than that.
Learning Curve Optional nice nod to the Marquis adapting to life, but nothing major going forward