Watching “Encounter at Farpoint” — to say nothing of slogging through the first two seasons, who would have thought that this spinoff would have, itself, created spinoffs? And yet it has… and for a significant number of fans who didn’t watch the original series when first broadcast or in syndication, this is their Trek.
That also means some serious ribbing is in order, which I will delegate to the Screen Junkies:
Note: Everything below may contain spoilers and definitely contains some snark.
People who like to debate “Kirk vs. Picard” forget that Picard has Kirk’s zeal for truth, justice, and the Federation way. Like Kirk, he has his own particular tortured backstory. He just doesn’t have any ounce of cowboy (although Patrick Stewart does). Also, no flying leg kicks. Still, it works.
William T. Riker
Bearded or clean-shaven, Riker’s ready to step over a chair, sit down, and let you know how it’s done. And “it” could be starship operations or some sort of consensual intimacy. He’s a renaissance Riker.
Geordi La Forge
You can look. It’s in a book… or technical manual. Unless it’s about romantic relationships. Sorry, Geordi, you’ll have to wait for Ensign Kim in Voyager to be more hapless in that department. In the meantime, keep speaking technobabble like a boss. I’m so glad they switched you to Engineering.
Much like Spock was the quintessential Vulcan who turns out to be a very atypical Vulcan, so too is Worf the Klingon’s Klingon who… was not raised by Klingons, has a greater sense of honor than just about any other Klingon we meet, and generally only kicks ass off screen. Sigh. Hang on until DS9, Worf.
Over 30 years later, and I’m still wondering about the wisdom of naming a doctor “Crusher,” but, I mean, she’s capable, compassionate, and… we’re never going to resolve that thing between her and Picard, are we?
One of those characters that grew on me in the rewatch. I wish they had made her de facto role of cultural/alien contact specialist and diplomat more formal from the get-go, but I guess the priority was form-fitting clothing and inconsistent sensing of emotions.
Not just an emotionless Vulcan stand-in, considering the number of episodes the Enterprise is saved by having this android aboard makes him kind of a “machina ex deus ex machina.”
It took waaay too long to take this character from annoying airlock fodder to intelligent, but flawed officer-in-training… and in a sense, they didn’t fully succeed on that journey. He does have some good moments though, so ease up.
168) “Code of Honor”
Season 1, Episode 4
So let’s say you haven’t seen this episode since it first aired in 1987, so you feel you need to give it a fair shake. And you know that the entire cast reviles this episode as a racist piece of filth and the director was evidently a piece of work too. But you try and approach it with the same open mind you try and approach a friend’s indie film because there’s usually something good in those and then OH MY GOD: I JUST THREW UP IN MY MOUTH. Yeah, not good.
167) “Shades of Gray”
Season 2, Episode 22
I really don’t want to hate this one as much as conventional fan wisdom demands because a) there’s flashbacks to episodes that don’t suck and b) we get to see Worf and Riker battle Skeletor’s cousin at the beginning. But the fact remains that clip shows are inherently unsatisfying and a clip show in the second season of anything is a singular failure which should not be rewarded. Bad Trek! No biscuit!
166) “The Last Outpost”
Season 1, Episode 5
In which the new Main Bad Guys, the Ferengi, are introduced and everyone wisely decides they don’t qualify as the Main Bad Guys. Besides the Enterprise being unable to engage in combat due to Starfleet thrift, you are left with waiting for something, anything, to happen. Eventually, some actor –evidently escaping a production of the Ring Cycle– appears to disrupt the Ferengi’s weird performance art. Unless you really want to see actors who later play Ferengi play proto-Ferengi, this is an episode you can skip without any shame whatsoever.
165) “Where No One Has Gone Before”
Season 1, Episode 6
Look, producer-writers, we’re not sure how much we want to deal with the Mary Sue character that is Wesley Crusher and now you want to make him Mozart of the Warp Drive? Next, the episode title is a play on “Where No Man Has Gone Before” aka one of the most action-packed episodes of the Original Series. Heck, it’s the second pilot that allowed there to be a Star Trek. Seriously, couldn’t you have done something with the Romulans or Klingons or something? Blah.
164) “The Royale”
Season 2, Episode 12
Viewers used to modern television and its shortened seasons will not understand why this episode exists. But simply knowing this is here for padding a season’s episode count doesn’t excuse the plodding pseudo-holodeck story and it’s another one that’s easy to skip.
163) “The Battle”
Season 1, Episode 9
Failing to present the Ferengi as any sort of physical threat, the creative team sees if they can present the Ferengi as duplicitous schemers. Still pretty weak, but at least they re-affirm the Ferengi’s love of profit over revenge (unless revenge is a dish that can be served at a considerable markup).
162) “Force of Nature”
Season 7, Episode 9
Picard: We admit that we were wrong in our assumption that warp travel doesn’t damage space. We’ll make sure a better equipped vessel studies this and I will personally make sure the findings are not swept under a 24th century rug.
Serova: I’m going to ignore the words you’re saying because you’re not acceding to illogical demands I haven’t even stated — and then I’m going to kill myself.
Picard: Rabal, your sister Serova has just ruptured space-time endangering 1,000 men, women, and children on this ship because we said we’d help her. Can you help us without going crazypants?
Rabal: No captain, I’m afraid all I can contribute is my flat acting.
Picard: Well, the hell with this episode then!
Season 1, Episode 15
The few pluses of this episode, like the idea of a computer-dependent civilization, a massive starbase, and Catherine McCormack, are more than erased by glacial pacing typical of season one and, of couse, next to no action whatsoever — even in terms of meaty philosophical discourse. Both George Bernard Shaw and Michael Bay give this a pass and so should you.
Season 2, Episode 19
Though not entirely objectionable, Lwaxana Troi experiencing the Betazoid version of Pon Far is not my idea of a good time. A nice twist at the end, I suppose, but meh.
159) “When the Bough Breaks”
Season 1, Episode 17
The Enterprise encounters an alien race advanced enough to cloak their planet, but not advanced enough to do root cause analysis. You know, if you’re going to steal all the children and force us to watch a Wesley-centric episode, you ought to work harder. Bonus points for that cool wood-carving tool though.
Season 1, Episode 8
The Enterprise tries to mix first contact with shore leave on the spa world of blonde models. It’s somewhat interesting in portraying the difficulties of the Prime Directive in the face of what amounts to unquestioning obedience to religious authoritarianism, but although it ends decently, the whole episode is inelegant.
157) “Lonely Among Us”
Season 1, Episode 7
An intriguing premise and some reasonably cool-looking –if rubbery– aliens runs into early Next Generation’s tendency to awkwardly ape the Original Series as well as the beginning of Data’s Sherlock Holmes fascination. In the end, it just doesn’t gel.
156) “The Neutral Zone”
Season 1, Episode 26
“We’re the Romulans. We just wanted you to know.”
Oh man, you young whipper-snappers binge-watching this on Netflix probably have no idea how we waited all season to see some of the classic bad guys. “Heart of Glory” gave us a very tiny taste of the Klingons, who were no longer bad guys anyway, dangit. And then we get this? A Romulan courtesy call?!? And we have to spend the rest of the episode with 80s Uptight Banker, Nashville Doofus, and Angst-Mom. Not the worst, but absolutely not the best.
155) “Coming of Age”
Season 1, Episode 19
The one incontrovertible fact we learned from both the plotlines of this episode? That whether they call it an “Inspector General’s Report” or a “Psych Eval,” Starfleet will find whatever reason they need to get all up in your yang and be dicks about it. Additional demerits to re-using the spaceport from Buck Rogers which goes one cost-cutting method too far.
154) “Man of the People”
Season 6, Episode 3
The “Dorian Gray” episode. Too on the nose and simplistic to be interesting.
153) “Eye of the Beholder”
Season 7, Episode 18
With a mystery fit for an empath and a guest turn by Mark Rolston, this should have been a decent if not great episode, but it just doesn’t catch fire (probably good, this close to warp plasma).
152) “Pen Pals”
Season 2, Episode 15
A so-so Prime Directive episode dominated by Wesley learning Very Important Lessons about leadership blunting some of the poignancy of Data’s storyline.
151) “The Schizoid Man”
Season 2, Episode 6
If you wanted to see Data be a creepy old man, here you go.
150) “Hollow Pursuits”
Season 3, Episode 21
Those of you who thought, “Man, why isn’t there an epidemic of Holodeck addicts in the 24th century? I’d certainly be one,” this is the After-School special for you. Okay, it’s not that bad, but would I miss this episode at all? No, no I would not.
149) “Home Soil”
Season 1, Episode 18
The premise of this episode isn’t bad and very Trek: we get to see terraformers in action, but a murder and mystery unfolds, which results in a first contact situation. The pacing is slow, as it is through much of the first two seasons, as if the writers are allergic to starting a scene as late as possible and finishing as early as possible. Also, even though we get one of the few instances of a character named Bjorn on American television, he’s pretty much a wanker covering up de facto genocide. His impressively cleft chin doesn’t make up for this. If you find the namesake and chin demerits subjective (which, frankly, you should), you can also point to some wooden acting and overly 80s costuming on the part of the terraformers. I will give points to the Velarans being entertaining, even if they do think of us as “ugly giant bags of mostly water.” Also, has anyone else noted that between LaForge and Troi, there’s two people on the Enterprise who can detect when anyone lies? Really, we need to do a Star Trek police procedural.
148) “The Naked Now”
Season 1, Episode 3
I guess the braintrust thought it’d be good to start with a callback to the original series, but instead of a charming callback to the past, we get a dire forecast of the season ahead. The reek of a moralistic 80s PSA has abated somewhat, but they clearly wanted younger viewers to know Alcohol Is Bad. Also still evident, season one’s general glacial pace and clumsy characterization. And speaking of characterization, what is it with these sci-fi shows doing episodes where the characters “act weird” when we’re just getting to know them? Don’t they know they’ll be a better payoff when both we and the actors know them better? Hey, we can’t all be Farscape. Anyway, bonus points for reasonably cool stellar phenomena and starship explosions.
147) “Hide and Q”
Season 1, Episode 10
A tedious episode starting with Q going all Squire of Gothos on the Enterprise crew and ending with awkward, one-dimensional wish fulfillment. Extra demerits to the writers who apparently didn’t have the budget for a thesaurus and insisted on calling humanoid creatures in Napoleonic uniforms “animal things.” Blah.
Season 1, Episode 11
This is the first episode to feature Lwaxana Troi, who in general does not herald banner episodes, but this particular one about an arranged marriage is not without its charms, including an intelligent plant for a pet, Data’s investigation of petty bickering, and a plague-ridden Daryl Hannah impersonator.
145) “The Outrageous Okona”
Season 2, Episode 4
Let’s be clear: Jem and the Holograms are truly outrageous. This episode is what you get when a company’s HR department wants to plan a “zany event.”
144) “Too Short a Season”
Season 1, Episode 16
The premise of an aging Admiral making an essentially Faustian bargain in order to relive glory days and defeat an old foe seems the stuff of an epic two-parter or even a movie, but the execution seems rather clumsy and features the 24th century version of Viewmaster as part of the conclusion.
Season 1, Episode 22
Having done something of an after-school special with “The Naked Now” and the dangers of alcohol, Trek now deals with drug addiction. While the sci-fi scenario does present it in a potentially interesting light, the whole situation is too on the nose for enjoyable repeat viewing. But who doesn’t enjoy the moment when Captain Picard drops the hammer on the smug drug peddlers?
142) “The Big Goodbye”
Season 1, Episode 12
Farscape has its “there’s something wrong with Moya” episodes and this is the first of what will prove to be many “there’s something wrong with the holodeck” episodes which span multiple series. At least they figure out some good concepts to explore in future episodes. Even with interesting production design and some great guest actors like Dick Miller, we’re left wanting.
141) “Samaritan Snare”
Season 2, Episode 17
While the Pakleds have a marginally interesting twist, I refuse to believe the implied notion that said Pakleds were able to successfully blackmail the Romulans or the Klingons. The Pakleds ceasing to exist as a living race in the galaxy is far more likely. Also, apparently not content with ignoring Guinan’s warnings about the Borg in the previous episode, the crew ignores Troi aka Their Very Own Lie Detector. Seriously guys, what’s wrong with trusting these women? Bonus points for Picard’s confiding in Wesley, though we get a better treatment of his heart condition and youthful choices in “Tapestry.”
Season 6, Episode 13
It’s like someone decided to do an awful version of “The Thing” and show Geordi have more romantic troubles in one episode. Why?
139) “The Game”
Season 5, Episode 6
Don’t hate Ashley Judd. Hate the game.
138) “The Dauphin”
Season 2, Episode 10
True, we get to see some true bug-eyed monsters and Worf face off against Gozer the Gozarian, but overall, this Wesley-centric episode isn’t too strong. Bonus points for faux flirting between Riker and Guinan plus indicating truly alien forms at the end.
Season 1, Episode 13
The lack of inventiveness doesn’t end with the title (“crystalline entity form,” anyone?). While I suppose any Star Trek character is entitled to an Evil Twin episode, certainly Brent Spiner, this one seems less than inspired — especially the way Lore posing as Data argues the aforementioned snowflake monster will be impressed by blowing up trees.
Season 7, Episode 13
Hearkening back to the bad old days of television when family relations never mentioned in years of a show suddenly pop into existence, we get Paul Sorvino as Worf’s human brother. Unsatisfying.
135) “The Child”
Season 2, Episode 1
One of the re-purposed old scripts, from the canceled Star Trek: Phase II series, which Marina Sirtis gamely tries to make work, but it doesn’t quite seem to mesh.
134) “Elementary, Dear Data”
Season 2, Episode 3
Yes, it’s another holodeck-centric episode, and probably worth skipping. However, if you do rewatch it for a sense of completeness, you will be rewarded by a great model of the sailing vessel HMS Victory, plus an even greater performance by veteran actor Daniel Davis as Moriarty.
Season 5, Episode 16
A laudable, but forced exploration of medical ethics is buoyed by exploring injury as seen by Klingons — and some nice moments between Worf and his son, Alexander.
132) “The Loss”
Season 4, Episode 10
Some earnest attempts to explore issues of life-changing injuries and how telepaths or empaths deal with the loss of their abilities, but it’s like we only get the part of the movie where Troi is a schmuck and not the part where she learns the valuable life lessons.
Season 7, Episode 23
Sigh. I know some people really want to celebrate this episode as a meta commentary on what TNG has meant to everyone as the series draws to a close, but for me it just strikes me as one more “Holodeck-gone-wrong” episode combined with a “Oh-something’s-wrong-with-the-Enterprise” episode — which season 7 already has in abundance. It also tells us “There’s one less episode in which you can see the crew do cool stuff.”
130) “The Arsenal of Freedom”
Season 1, Episode 21
One of the better episodes of season one TNG due to a plot structure designed to build suspense and a standout performance by guest star Vincent Schiavelli who manages to both creepy and charming at the same time. La Forge’s conflict with This Week’s Chief Engineer is a bit forced, but just wait a few minutes and you’ll get Vincent Schiavelli again.
129) “Where Silence Has Lease”
Season 2, Episode 2
The poetical title that hearkens to the Original Series also gives us a familiar problem: the powerful alien testing the Enterprise crew. It’s interesting to see how the Enterprise-D peeps deal with it, but it’s eclipsed by many episodes later in the series.
128) “Skin of Evil”
Season 1, Episode 23
This is another early episode whose premise that, upon rewatching, I can’t help but wonder what the actors and producers would have done with in a later season. The oil-slick-as-villain Armus could have been some sort of Sci-Fi One Ring, that would tempt and torment the Enterprise crew, potentially in a lovely two-parter. As it is, everyone seems to be doing their best, but it’s still just meh.
127) “Realm of Fear”
Season 6, Episode 2
Barclay’s paranoia about the transporter is put to good use. Bonus points for O’Brien getting to torment someone else for a change.
Season 7, Episode 3
I was all ready to learn more about Geordi’s family and what made him tick, but this episode just doesn’t deliver.
125) “Cost of Living”
Season 5, Episode 20
The sweetness of Lwaxana Troi connecting with Alexander mitigates this generally forgettable episode, but you probably forgot about that, didn’t you?
124) “The Quality of Life”
Season 6, Episode 9
The episode was clearly meant to play as another meditation on artificial intelligence and what rights they might have, but instead comes across as a marketing gimmick to sell toy versions of the Exocomp.
Season 6, Episode 5
Some mysterious subspace species is experimenting on the Enterprise crew and giving them all really bad hair. Oh, and occasionally killing them.
122) “We’ll Always Have Paris”
Season 1, Episode 24
I don’t mind a romance episode. Especially this late in the season where both we and the actors have warmed up to the characters. I don’t even mind them trying to have the higher ratio of romance plot to space-time danger plot even though the episode title would lead you to never guess that space-time shenanigans or fencing make an appearance. But the execution just isn’t there, so this becomes another First Season episode to get a “meh.”
121) “Journey’s End”
Season 7, Episode 20
Either the tale of Wesley Crusher taking a different path or the tale of the Enterprise (and Picard) facing disturbing historic parallels in forcibly evacuating ethnic Native Americans is interesting. Sadly, neither one comes off and they really don’t work well together.
Season 7, Episode 22
Ha! Joke’s on you Picard. We’ve spent all this time with a son who isn’t really your son not for a Ferengi revenge plot, but to infuriate viewers who know there’s only a few episodes of this series left, and we just wasted one. Mua ha ha ha!
119) “Dark Page”
Season 7, Episode 7
Another seventh season story that tries and fails to give satisfying backstory to one of the characters, in this case Troi and her mother. Oh look, Kirsten Dunst!
118) “Remember Me”
Season 4, Episode 5
Dr. Crusher finds herself in something of a Twilight Zone kind of episode as her reality collapses and those of you who were wanting the reappearance of the Traveler are rewarded.
Season 7, Episode 17
Brent Spiner gets to act up a storm and Patrick Stewart recalls some mask work from his theater days. Look, the anthropologist in me finds some of this fascinating, but that doesn’t make it a good episode.
116) “The Chase”
Season 6, Episode 20
An oddly disjointed episode which can’t decide if it’s going to be a backstory drama (as per the confrontation with Norman Lloyd’s Galen), an archaeological adventure, or something else. At least most of the characters are as dissatisfied at the end as we are.
115) “Unnatural Selection”
Season 2, Episode 7
While I was happy enough to see the return of Dr. Crusher, I also didn’t mind the brief season 2 tenure of Dr. Pulaski. Her take on a curmudgeonly yet dedicated physician seemed a clear homage to Dr. McCoy. She’s never better than in this episode, where her working relationship with Captain Picard is tested. Plus, we get to see Colm Meaney handle technobabble like the chief he is.
114) “Suddenly Human”
Season 4, Episode 4
The allegory and the drama of this human raised by non-humans never quite comes together. And if you’re going to stab Picard, give us an episode like “Tapestry.”
113) “Up the Long Ladder”
Season 2, Episode 18
Come for the Space Irish, stay for the evil David Byrne impersonators. Not a bad episode per se –especially for fans of impractical sweaters– but would you be better served by watching The Quiet Man and “Stop Making Sense?” Probably.
Season 6, Episode 22
A mystery episode that would have been ten times more effective if we didn’t have alien races with unknown abilities that could easily come into play in the last act. I’m still open for Dr. Crusher solving mysteries in retirement, though. Just putting that out there.
111) “Sub Rosa”
Season 7, Episode 14
You want this to be a rattling cool ghost story, but it just comes across as half-baked melodrama. Bonus points for Governor Maturin feeling kinship for Scotland and for fog on the Enterprise.
110) “Imaginary Friend”
Season 5, Episode 22
When you’re spending more time looking at the cool scarlet strands entangling the Enterprise and considering how good the VFX team has gotten, it’s not the best of episodes.
109) “Angel One”
Season 1, Episode 14
Yes, this is season one, which means a strong 80s vibe and sluggish pace are there. In fact, it seems like they add the virus subplot simply because not much is happening on the planet of power-shouldered matriarchs, but wait: the plotlines intersect and the virus becomes a key point in denying an easy solution. Plus, Riker strikes a blow for chest hairs everywhere. Definite demerits for teasing us about the possibility of seeing Romulans though. (we need to wait for the rest of the season before that happens). Also, there’s an inherent plot issue of the Enterprise not extricating Federation citizens to prevent an interstellar incident simply because they’re not in Starfleet. I guess some legal precedents were set by the time we got around to the Maquis.
108) “The Icarus Factor”
Season 2, Episode 14
In retrospect, it’s actually not a bad reflective/soap opera episode, although some of the dialogue gets a bit on-the-nose at times. Still, Anbo-jyutsu looks pretty cool, obnoxious exposition about it notwithstanding. Definite demerits for never revisiting it or Papa Riker in the TV series.
107) “The Host”
Season 4, Episode 23
This exploration about identity and, more importantly, how to love when someone you love changes drastically is intriguing and very worth a sci-fi treatment. It’s also nice to see Dr. Crusher explore a relationship. However, Odan has systematically lied for at least 30 years to the Federation and others about his true nature (the alternative is to buy his claim that he didn’t understand just about every other sentient race he met and negotiated with wasn’t paired with a symbiote). A pity, as other moments are quite nuanced
106) “Hero Worship”
Season 5, Episode 11
Your patience with this episode is proportional to how much you like Data and can deal with kids as being the epitome of unreliable narrators.
105) “A Fistful of Datas”
Season 6, Episode 8
If you’re willing to hitch your wagon to another holodeck tale that rustles up some excuses to have an infinite number of Datas, you’ll be all right, partner. Otherwise, best leave town… or, you know, watch another episode.
Season 6, Episode 19
The idea of Picard attempting a serious relationship and bumping against some of his self-imposed (and external) constraints makes sense this deep into the series. It’s well enough executed, with good performances by both Patrick Stewart and Wendy Hughes as Lt. Cmdr. Daren. However, since TNG was still quite cautious in terms of serial storytelling, that means we have the whole love-and-loss arc within one episode. Therefore, our connection to Daren is minimal.
Season 5, Episode 5
Okay, let’s be clear: this episode is not a disaster. Putting the now familiar characters in situations they would never ordinarily want to be in is ambitious and enjoyable — with Worf delivering Keiko’s baby being a standout.
102) “Loud as a Whisper”
Season 2, Episode 5
Coming off as a Very Special Episode when it first aired, it’s aged decently, though since I’m not a member of the deaf community, I may not pick up on disliked tropes or not. Still, deaf and mute actor Howie Seago gives a great performance and the thoughts on abilities, disabilities, and where we find our strength are intriguing.
Season 7, Episode 19
The kid in me wants more Harryhausen monsters and the anthropologist in me wants more scientific accuracy. Both of us are disappointed, but the episode remains pretty entertaining.
Season 1, Episode 25
Finally! Some action. Wait, did they just phaser that guy’s head until it exploded?!? Talk about overcompensation. Enjoyable when it first aired because something was actually happening –and who doesn’t like a good conspiracy?– it really doesn’t hold up well for the aforementioned incongruity of some gross-out special effects, the stereotypical evil aliens (“we only eat stuff that’s nasty to humans just because”), and a storyline that is completely, utterly dropped (although I understand they revisit it in some non-canon novels). Worth a curiosity watch, I suppose, but there’s better paranoia and stop-action animation elsewhere.
Season 7, Episode 2
A comical take on diplomatic contact (well, except for poor Picard) that is uneven, but not without its moments.
98) “True Q”
Season 6, Episode 6
A solid enough entry in Q’s appearances as it explores a young woman’s acceptance (or rejection) of her Q powers.
Season 6, Episode 7
I will be the first one to voice my displeasure at Worf getting overwhelmed by Ferengi, and the episode has no right to be as fun as it is, but it is. I’m not saying it’s my number one episode, but I have to admit I always enjoy rewatching it.
96) “Birthright” (Parts I & II)
Season 6, Episode 16 & 17
Both Data and Worf explore their past — and while Data’s storyline is pretty “blah,” Worf’s is reasonably interesting. I’m just not sure it merits a two-parter.
Season 7, Episode 10
Data gets to know more of his family and how telling the truth is not alway cut and dried. Solid.
94) “Identity Crisis”
Season 4, Episode 18
Mystery and transmogrification is always welcome in sci-fi. Nicely done.
Season 7, Episode 21
An important character-based wrap-up of Worf and his son Alexander. Yes, it basically gets undone by DS9, but it’s still worthwhile.
92) “The Emissary”
Season 2, Episode 20
The entertaining premise of wartime Klingons waking up isn’t bad, nor is the personal drama between Worf and his paramour, though moments such as retrieving the warp probe and some of Suzie Plakson’s snark seem a bit too precious at times.
91) “Peak Performance”
Season 2, Episode 21
There’s some enjoyment to be had with the whole war games scenario, but involving the Ferengi at the end just kind of sours the fun. Also Stratagema is an abstract letdown. Finally, the Dominion War called and wanted you to know that your assertion that “Starfleet is not a military organization” is absolutely adorable.
90) “Heart of Glory”
Season 1, Episode 20
Ermegerd, Klingons! In reflection with the rest of the series, this is a whole lotta inconsequential nothing, but at the time, it was incredibly welcome action and world-building — because previous to this, we basically understood the Federation was at peace with the Klingon Empire solely so Worf could be hanging out on the Enterprise. Bonus points for the build-your-own-disruptor kit the Klingons had hidden in their armor.
89) “New Ground”
Season 5, Episode 10
Another step Trek takes towards more realistic family issues as Worf needs to deal with the fact he’s a dad. Not a banner episode, but not awful. Bonus points for Jonathan Frakes convincingly handling puppets.
Season 3, Episode 1
Some great special effects and the welcome introduction of far less spandex in the uniforms is mitigated by Wesley giving rise to a new sentient life form and endangering the entire ship due to his pulling an all-nighter. What an irresponsible yet studious scamp!
87) “Q Who”
Season 2, Episode 16
The first appearance of the totally non-Swedish Borg isn’t all bad. However, when the Enterprise just hangs out in front of the massive Borg cube that was carving it up for dinner earlier, I have to question Picard’s tactical acumen — not to mention inviting Guinan to tell them more about the race that annihilated her homeworld and then ignoring her advice.
86) “The Outcast”
Season 5, Episode 17
Gender identity gets the Star Trek allegorical treatment here that also serves to build out Riker’s character more.
85) “Time Squared”
Season 2, Episode 13
An intriguing episode dealing with doppelgangers, bending space-time, and the choices we make, but these ideas are much better handled in later episodes.
84) “The Bonding”
Season 3, Episode 5
A thoughtful episode that explores the grief, loss, and the cost of exploration. The execution doesn’t quite measure up to the ambition.
83) “A Matter of Perspective”
Season 3, Episode 14
The Next Generation does Rashomon! It’s a fun enough conceit that adapts to science fiction quite nicely — albeit with a technobabble twist at the end.
Season 3, Episode 25
You may remember this as the one with the amnesiac, spandex-wearing Space Jesus or simply the one where Geordi gets his groove on. Also, you also get to see the pros and cons of having Worf as your wingman. I’m not saying skip it, but you’re probably fast forwarding a few scenes so you can get to “The Best of Both Worlds.”
Season 3, Episode 18
Picard’s doppelganger has way too much fun on the Enterprise while actual Picard riddles out his captors designs elsewhere. Decent.
80) “A Matter of Honor”
Season 2, Episode 8
After season one’s all-too-brief look at the 24th century Klingons, this was a great chance to delve deeper… and it’s great fun to see Riker adapt to life aboard a Klingon ship while being himself. Still, the Klingon commander seems paranoid to a degree unsupported by the script and the Benzite subplot on the Enterprise, while a nice thematic counterbalance of cultural misunderstandings, is rather boring.
79) “Half a Life”
Season 4, Episode 22
A great allegorical treatment of mortality where Lwaxana Troi’s marrow-sucking lifestyle is a perfect match for the theme and David Ogden Stiers’ performance. Thoughtful and heartbreaking.
Season 4, Episode 6
Tasha Yar gets some backstory, we an enjoyably plotted tale, and Data gets some heartbreak as only an android can.
77) “The Perfect Mate”
Season 5, Episode 21
A potentially clunky episode about arranged marriages, men and women, destiny, and duty benefits greatly from a performance by Famke Jannsen supported by the welcome appearance of Tim O’Connor (sans Dr. Theopolis). Even the bumbling Ferengi do not derail the proceedings (though they certainly try). Picard does a formidably stoic Hornblower impression that Kirk would well understand.
76) “Booby Trap”
Season 3, Episode 6
Geordi wants to make beautiful music with faux Dr. Brahms, but they have to save the ship before everyone’s irradiated.
Season 2, Episode 11
The generic and inaccurate title covers up what turns out to be an absolutely action-packed episode featuring the Space Cruiser Yamato, Carolyn Seymour as a Romulan coveting power and ancient secrets, and a long-lost interstellar empire that has secrets aplenty to covet. My only complaint is they could have cut Geordi being a bouncy ball in the turbolift so we’d have time for a good denouement to the episode. Plus, we don’t get to learn more about the Iconians for ages.
74) “Encounter at Farpoint”
Season 1, Episodes 1 & 2
Clunky? Yes, but pilots are often clunky. Not as good as the pilots that followed? Yes, but the pilots that followed were made because of the voyage that started with the Enterprise D here. You’ll see me be pretty tough on a lot of early TNG episodes because let’s face it: we had seen Star Trek II and Star Trek IV. We remembered how good individual episodes of the original series were. We wanted this series to boldly go. Well, it doesn’t pull it off for this first outing. Still, this episode is part of the payoff for the series finale, so even if you want to skip a lot of the first two seasons, you still ought to Vulcan up and check this out.
73) “Descent” (Parts I & II)
Seasons 6 & 7, Episode 26 & 1
The return of both the Borg and Lore and the manipulation of Data and his nascent emotions sounds like the making of an epic two-parter. It has its moments, but isn’t as engaging as most of the other two-parters.
72) “Galaxy’s Child”
Season 4, Episode 16
What with Star Trek already saving Earth whales in “The Voyage Home,” we knew it was only a matter of time before Star Trek did space whales and the result is pretty good. Also, Geordi is still unlucky in love, which is kind of like TNG’s “O’Brien must suffer.”
Season 5, Episode 12
Yes, a modern version of this story would take the freakiness and discomfort up to 11, but in the context of having a reasonably family-friendly syndicated broadcast TV show, this tale of intrusive telepaths is pretty darn engaging.
70) “A Matter of Time”
Season 5, Episode 9
It’s really sad to see Edison Carter turn to a life of time-travel crime, but it does make for a good episode.
69) “Time’s Arrow” (Parts I & II)
Season 5 & 6, Episode 26 & 1
Much like “Descent,” this two-parter has oodles of potential from Guinan’s backstory to Data causing temporal paradoxes and it’s not a bad watch — but it’s not a great watch.
Season 5, Episode 14
This episode proves that you will watch an okay episode with great characters. Because let’s face it, the plot is preposterous. The length the villainous Satarrans need to go to in order to trick the Enterprise crew into destroying their enemy is quite absurd. If this was a season 1 story, we would all talk about this episode in the hushed tones of embarrassment we refer to “Home Soil” And yet, the episode is tremendous fun. We get a great deal of introspection and we get to see the essential nature of each and every one of the main cast come through despite losing their identities. It doesn’t advance the concept that reptilian-humanoids are people too, but hey, that’s perhaps too much to ask.
67) “The Offspring”
Season 3, Episode 16
Jonathan Frakes’ directorial debut is a fitting follow-up to season two’s “The Measure of a Man” in raising some great questions.
66) “The Enemy”
Season 3, Episode 7
Did you get enough of Geordi last episode? Of course you didn’t. And here he is teaching an uptight Romulan that old prejudices may be wrong. Bonus points for Worf having honest trouble moving past his prejudices and Andreas Katsulas as a great Romulan commander.
Season 7, Episode 8
The increasingly paranoid aliens are fun and it’s nice to see Picard and Crusher’s relationship explored, but there’s still too much status quo at the end of the episode.
Season 4, Episode 20
Worf saying “I protest sir. I am not a merry man!” is one of the best lines in all of Trek. That said, the overall episode is just okay.
63) “The Price”
Season 3, Episode 8
An okay episode focusing on negotiations, machinations, and Counselor Troi. Just do not try and be more sensitive or caring than Matt McCoy. He understands your pain at not being as much of a sensitive, new age guy as he is. He really does. He just does it so, so well. Perhaps he can get you a drink and you can tell him all about it?
Season 4, Episode 3
We get to see a single android take control of a starship, Brent Spiner have a field day in three similar, but different roles, and there’s a nice little thematic subplot that adds to the dramatic urgency to cut short Data’s unscheduled family time. If The Patty Duke Show was more like this, I’d watch.
Season 7, Episode 6
A nice little Data-centric episode with mystery, misdirection, and some horrific images as Data explores nightmares… or not. Absolute bonus points for Freud analyzing himself in a dream within the dream. This episode deserves cake. With mint frosting!
Season 4, Episode 14
A solid mystery episode with a great reveal for Data and yet another example of how Worf will like it better on Deep Space Nine, where he’ll actually be able to defeat enemies, rather than just demonstrate how powerful they are.
59) “The Mind’s Eye”
Season 4, Episode 24
A suspenseful entry as you know Geordie’s up to something, but even he doesn’t know it. Plus, O’Brien doesn’t suffer, but a simulated version of him is killed, so we’re sort of warming up for DS9.
58) “I, Borg”
Season 5, Episode 23
No, ME Borg! Okay, seriously, it’s not a bad episode and it sets us up for “Descent,” has good ethical quandaries, and fencing with Guinan.
57) “The Nth Degree”
Season 4, Episode 19
Taking a few flowers from Algernon and many a page from tales of mind-controlling aliens and you have a not entirely unfamiliar tale with a very Trek treatment.
56) “Ménage à Troi”
Season 3, Episode 24
I know what you’re thinking: it’s a TNG story with Ferengi and Lwaxana Troi, what can I honestly expect? The answer is “a light, delightful episode” that introduces “oo-mox” to Star Trek canon.
55) “Tin Man”
Season 3, Episode 20
The always enjoyable Harry Groener gives a great guest appearance as a telepath tired of his powers being turned up to 11, Data finds new meaning in his Starfleet family, and we get some wonderful strange new life. Solid.
54) “Second Chances”
Season 6, Episode 24
A TNG take on the malfunctioning transporter that gives a look at the different choices that made Riker Riker.
53) “The Vengeance Factor”
Season 3, Episode 9
Have we given generational blood feuds the sci-fi treatment yet? No, then let’s do it with a little doomed romance, shall we? Nicely done, with quite a lot of story covered in such a short time, but some demerits for the director’s blocking of the actors at the end.
52) “Night Terrors”
Season 4, Episode 17
An inventive and occasionally creepy entry in the “lost starship” category of episodes with enough mystery and twists to deliver us to a satisfying ending.
51) “Gambit” (Parts I & II)
Season 7, Episode 4 & 5
An almost too-clever-by-half plot is buoyed by decently paced action, intrigue, and the fact we’re really here for the characters at this point. Plus, the artifact is pretty damn cool.
50) “In Theory”
Season 4, Episode 25
You knew we had to do an episode of an android in love at some point, and the resulting story, directed by Patrick Stewart, gives us all the comedy-drama we were expecting.
49) “The Masterpiece Society”
Season 5, Episode 13
A great example of what TNG can do with both the Enterprise ensemble and a good guest ensemble while exploring the ethical boundaries of non-interference, self-determination, and so much more. Quintessential Star Trek.
Season 6, Episode 4
Although the Dyson Sphere gets short shrift — or more to the point, the distinct lack of Dyson Sphere builders does — you’re here to see James Doohan give everyone’s favorite Scottish engineer a curtain call. Well done.
47) “Rightful Heir”
Season 6, Episode 23
A surprisingly packed episode that starts with Worf searching for his roots and ends up with possible intergalactic ramifications as well as personal reflections on faith and being, including a great moment between Worf and Data.
46) “Captain’s Holiday”
Season 3, Episode 19
Clad in vacation-wear that has launched a thousand memes, Picard manages to get his groove on whilst also dabbling in his love of archaeology and solving a time-travel mystery. I suppose it’s a prerequisite for Enterprise captains to be so overachieving.
45) “Future Imperfect”
Season 4, Episode 8
You think it’s an alternate timeline episode, but really, it’s a mind warp episode — and even with that, there’s one more twist that is wonderfully Trekkish.
Season 6, Episode 25
A perfectly enjoyable “what’s happened to the Enterprise?” mystery that also answers questions you didn’t know you had, like “Does Troi do impressions?” and “What happens if Picard doesn’t clip his nails?”
43) “Devil’s Due”
Season 4, Episode 13
Another classic Trek idea given the TNG treatment that tackles myth and superstition. Sadly, Marta Dubois’ Ardra does not return (a la Harry Mudd) to torment the crew in a future episode.
42) “Ensign Ro”
Season 5, Episode 3
The on-the-nose title notwithstanding, this is a good introduction to Michelle Forbes’ Ensign Ro Laren as well as Bajor, all wrapped up in a tale of intergalactic intrigue with modern Earth parallels.
41) “Déjà Q”
Season 3, Episode 13
Corbin Bernsen, ice cream sundaes, and the mariachi band make this a pretty fun Q episode. Don’t tell me you don’t like mariachi bands.
Season 4, Episode 2
It’s important in all sorts of storytelling to give the reader or viewer a chance to slow down and breathe while still telling the story. This is that moment. That the producers of TNG realized that they should and could do this is one of the reasons why Next Generation became the excellent series it did.
39) “Who Watches the Watchers”
Season 3, Episode 4
Apparently deciding to let everyone know that Season Three was officially stepping it up, this cracking good episode takes a Classic Trek notion of how the Prime Directive should be followed and gives it that thoughtful Next Generation treatment. I love the glimpse of the proto-Vulcan culture, the heartfelt performance by Ray Wise, and the look at science and superstition.
38) “The Survivors”
Season 3, Episode 3
One of my favorite versions of a classic Trek idea done in the Next Generation style, definitely benefiting from guest performances by Anne Haney and John Anderson. I love so much of the dialogue, from Worf’s befuddlement to Picard’s nautical commands — and that final reveal about the Husnock has to be one of the best “Holy Nuck Futs!” moments of the whole series.
37) “Final Mission”
Season 4, Episode 9
In a sense, we get Wesley Crusher’s last test before he goes to Starfleet Academy and it turns out he’s more than ready.
36) “The Next Phase”
Season 5, Episode 24
An inventive and entertaining Romulan story focusing on Geordi and Ro that manages to give just about everyone some good character moments and features one spectacular chase through the Enterprise.
35) “The Most Toys”
Season 3, Episode 22
An insidious villain (Saul Rubinek) and a loyal crew that will leave no android behind ably support what turns out to be an absolutely fantastic character study of Data.
34) “Lower Decks”
Season 7, Episode 15
We get to see the Enterprise from a whole new vantage point of some of Enterprise’s 1,000-member crew who aren’t on screen every week. A simple story idea, well executed.
33) “Preemptive Strike”
Season 7, Episode 24
Closing up Ensign Ro’s character arc as they wind down the series is a nice touch, with some great character moments and ideas that will get explored further and deeper in DS9.
32) “Sins of the Father”
Season 3, Episode 17
The debut of Tony Todd as Kurn sets us off on Worf’s multi-year odyssey to figure out that honor thing. It’s an excellent episode in terms of both theme and worldbuilding.
31) “Cause and Effect”
Season 5, Episode 18
The “One where the Enterprise keeps exploding” turns out to be great fun, keeping twists throughout and with a fun cameo at the end.
30) “Frame of Mind”
Season 6, Episode 21
The best of the TNG “mind warp” episodes sees Commander Riker debating whether it’s real sci-fi life, or just theater fantasy… and then there’s one twist more. My only quibble is that as a former stage tech, I wanted to see 24th century set construction and strike techniques, but that’s no reason for demerits.
29) “Thine Own Self”
Season 7, Episode 16
Data will do as a Data does in this tale that should warm the cockles of any scientist’s heart. Plus, if you think that Starfleet won’t have messed-up psych tests for the ship’s counselor, think again!
28) “Power Play”
Season 5, Episode 15
Terrorists trying to seize the Enterprise would make for a good episode alone, but making them body-possessing spirits levels up the whole proceeding — just don’t think about the mechanics of possessing Data too much.
Season 7, Episode 11
Worf excels in this thoroughly enjoyable alternate dimension tale with little bits of payoff for longtime viewers. Also, in a truism that I dearly want copied in other alternate dimension stories: when the cake turns from chocolate to yellow, trouble’s afoot.
26) “Data’s Day”
Season 4, Episode 11
A quiet epic of an episode built around the ingenious framing device of Data narrating the events of what turns out to be a not-remotely-normal day. You get a wedding, intergalactic intrigue, and tap-dancing. What more do you need?
25) “Starship Mine”
Season 6, Episode 18
It was pitched as Die Hard on a Starship, so — Data’s wonderful skills at small talk aside — get ready for a surprisingly high body count and grim humor.
24) “The Hunted”
Season 3, Episode 11
A great showcase for Trek as a source of timeless, allegorical tales. In this case, it’s in the form of an action-packed episode about how societies treat veterans.
23) “The First Duty”
Season 5, Episode 19
Voted “Episode Most Likely to Be Discussed in a High School Class” when it came out, it’s still a wonderful look at honor, integrity, and, yes, Wesley Crusher’s character arc. But really, you’re here for Picard being the moral rock that you know he is.
22) “The Drumhead”
Season 4, Episode 21
It’s depressing how well this episode has aged, but in a sense, it was trying to speak to timeless issues around justice and abuse of power when it was written. Stellar, earnest performances all around give nuance to wonderful shades of grey, yet with a strong ethical center. It’s not a light-hearted rewatch, but an episode that deserves a rewatch every now and then.
21) “The Pegasus”
Season 7, Episode 12
Loyalty, moral quandary, and really cool tech make this an episode that scratches just about all your Star Trek itches.
Season 4, Episode 7
Setting up much Worf’s “tragic hero” arc (which basically continues into DS9), we get the Duras family’s tradition of dishonor, the first appearance of Gowron, and Klingon loopholes involving duels. Sto’Vo’Kor awaits, K’Ehleyr.
19) “The Measure of a Man”
Season 2, Episode 9
Oft cited by fans as one of the best episodes of The Next Generation. Your mileage may vary depending on how much trauma you endured watching the first two seasons, but there’s no denying this is classic Trek as Data’s rights as a sentient being are debated passionately on both sides. Over 30 years on –and ever closer to true artificial intelligence– this episode seems to only grow more relevant.
18) “Silicon Avatar”
Season 5, Episode 4
It’s like someone in the writer’s room re-watched “Datalore” and said, “Hold my synthehol.” The crystalline entity is shown to be the danger it truly is, but Starfleet’s efforts to seek peaceful contact is also tested wonderfully… and Data has another banner episode.
17) “The Ensigns of Command”
Season 3, Episode 2
While Picard and Troi face off against a rock creature gone rogue from the Jim Henson Company, Data faces off against humans who clearly need Muppets because they take themselves waaay too seriously. An altogether enjoyable episode.
16) “The High Ground”
Season 3, Episode 12
I still remember seeing this episode when it was first broadcast and thinking to myself, “Now that I think about it, this season is really cooking with gas. This, this is the Star Trek I’ve been looking for in this new show.” And even though this particular episode of “the new show” is over 30 years old, its themes about armed resistance and terrorism still resonate as well-defined characters on either side try and do the best they can with an ugly, imperfect situation and the Enterprise crew is caught in the middle. Both George Bernard Shaw and Michael Bay will pull up a chair for this one (though Bay will say, “it needs a few more explosions.”)
15) “The Wounded”
Season 4, Episode 12
The introduction of the Cardassians is immensely satisfying in the tradition of TOS episodes showing the Federation’s detente with the Klingons and Romulans. Plus, it’s like we see O’Brien’s destiny of being tortured on Deep Space Nine birthed in this episode.
14) “Face of the Enemy”
Season 6, Episode 14
Troi is called upon to carry not only an episode, but one full of deceit and spycraft… and does so brilliantly. Bonus points for the cold open.
13) “First Contact”
Season 4, Episode 15
Not as action-packed as the TNG movie of the same name, this episode is filled with moments of delight and introspection, giving us a fresh take on how the Prime Directive is handled. Both George Coe and Michael Ensign bring their character’s convictions to wonderful life.
12) “The Defector”
Season 3, Episode 10
Star Trek does the Cold War, but thanks to a well-crafted script by Ronald D. Moore, this tale has a timeless quality (Shakespeare always helps in that regard, doesn’t it?). The whole cast shines in their respective parts with great guest turns from both James Sloyan and Andreas Katsulas with a great twist and a powerful denouement.
Season 3, Episode 23
The welcome return of Mark Lenard as Spock’s father heralds an emotional epic of an episode that’s spectacular Trek.
Season 6, Episode 15
A classic “what if” story that gives us not only satisfying backstory on Picard first hinted at in season 2, but some timeless resonance in exploring the regrets and acceptance that come from choices made — and you see Q in a whole new light.
9) “Unification” (Parts I & II)
Season 5, Episode 7 & 8
Between Sela, Spock and even Stephen Root(!), this is an incredibly satisfying two-parter despite the heartbreaking end of Sarek. For that, you have our gratitude.
8) “Ship in a Bottle”
Season 6, Episode 12
One of the more unexpected callbacks to an earlier season turns out to be one of the most ingenious episodes, with Daniel Davis returning as Moriarty who turns out to be every bit the cunning villain he ought to be.
7) “Yesterday’s Enterprise”
Season 3, Episode 15
A perennial mainstay on “Best of” lists in part because it scratches that “what if” itch so familiar to fans of classic Star Trek episodes like “Mirror, Mirror” and fans of science fiction in general.
6) “Redemption” (Parts I & II)
Season 4 & 5, Episode 26 & 1
Oh, what a long way we’ve come from season one with Klingons… and Worf. Full of action, intrigue, and more than a little political worldbuilding, this sprawling two-parter about the Klingon Civil War is a great watch giving both Picard and Data a chance to shine.
Season 5, Episode 2
Often thought of as TNG’s answer to “Arena,” the simple conceit of the universal translator failing in an interesting way (don’t think about it too hard) gives us a great exploration of first contact and validation for mythology geeks who’ve read the Epic of Gilgamesh.
4) “All Good Things…”
Season 7, Episode 25 & 26
While I know some find this series finale gave short shrift to the rest of the ensemble –it is a Picard-centric story through and through– I find that ignores what turns out to be an immensely satisfying two-parter, “what if” story, and an altogether pleasing note to end on.
3) “The Best of Both Worlds” (Parts I & II)
Season 3 & 4, Episode 26 & 1
The Borg are back and they’re on a mission… which just happens to make for an absolutely riveting adventure. If the second half flags a bit, it’s only because the first half ends with one of the best cliffhangers in all of television history. Stellar all around from the performances to the story to the action.
2) “Chain of Command” (Parts I & II)
Season 6, Episode 10 & 11
Not only does this tense two-parter give just about every single member of the main cast a moment to shine — it also shows us the uncomfortable truth that captains like Ronny Cox’s Jellico can be complete assholes, but are going to still be captains in Starfleet for years to come. Oh, and we have the standoff between Picard and David Warner’s Gul Madred that is one for the ages. Phenomenal.
1) “The Inner Light”
Season 5, Episode 25
The best Star Trek stories are so often simply great science fiction stories with a strong central premise. Here, the idea of living a lifetime in the space of, oh, let’s say an hour with commercials, is executed so expertly that it never gets old. Thoughtful, haunting, and voted “Most likely to make you stare wistfully into the middle distance” by It’s Dusty In Here magazine.