Star Trek TNG Greatest Episodes
While the five year mission of the USS Enterprise ended up originally lasting only three years, a rabid fanbase carried the franchise in popularity through a series of motion pictures long after Star Trek came to an end on the small screen. By 1987 it was clear that it was time for Star Trek to return to television so creator Gene Rodenberry brought to life a vision of a new Enterprise crew long after the original, led by Patrick Stewart in a career-defining role as Captain Jean Luc Picard. While it got off to a rocky start Star Trek: The Next Generation eventually became one of the biggest shows on television with characters like: Data, Worf, Riker, Troi, Dr. Crusher, and Geordi becoming absolute fan favorites. In honor of one of the greatest science fiction shows of all-time, in nor particular order here are the great Star Trek; The Next Generation episodes.
Chain of Command (parts 1 & 2): The unthinkable has happened and Picard is replaced as captain of the Enterprise by the pompous Captain Jellico, a supposed expert in Cardassian politics. This change in command allows Picard, Dr. Crusher, and Worf to go on a top secret mission which ends with the captain captured by the Cardassian leader Gul Madred who ruthlessly subjects him to torture. In order to rescue him, Ryker must resolve his issues with Jellico. To this day “there are four lights!” is a phrase which resonates with fans.
Q Who: A frequent foe of Picard and his crew is the incredibly powerful trickster Q, and in this season 2 episode the mysterious being takes the ship into the Delta Quadrant to teach them the potential consequences of their explorations. Far away from any trace of the Federation, Picard decides to seek out strange new worlds only to encounter an ominous cubed ship inhabited by the nightmare-inducing Borg. In a matter of moments there was a new baddie in the Star Trek Universe as they easily manhandled the crew of the Enterprise. While Q pulls them out of danger before it is too late, it is inevitable they will have to face this threat again.
Brothers: Star Trek TNG introduced TV audiences to one of the medium’s most beloved characters in the android Data. This episode gives actor Brent Spiner a chance to show off his acting range by not only playing Data but also his villainous brother Lore and his creator Dr. Noonien Soong. In a shocking move, Data takes control of the Enterprise in a staged emergency. This is done so he can beam down to a nearby planet to have a family reunion of sorts with Lore and Dr. Soong who, realizing his demise is near, has finally crafted an emotion chip for his creation. The issue arises from the fact that while the android may fulfill his greatest wish, a dying boy onboard needs to be rushed to a Federation base.
The Inner Light: Star Trek gives its take on the classic Alan Moore Dave Gibbons Superman story “For the Man Who Has Everything”. In this episode a mysterious energy beam from the planet Kataan hits the orbiting Enterprise seemingly knocking Jean Luc Picard into a coma. While the crew struggles to save him, Picard awakens on the planet a millenia in the past where he is an iron weaver named Kamin. For years he lives becoming a key figure in this new community even if he does operate under the delusion that he is actually a starship captain. All of it leads to an end which is both incredible and heartbreaking.
I, Borg: By now the Borg were firmly established as the greatest threat to the universe. A terrifying and unstoppable hive mind all they know is to continuously assimilate others into the Borg. But is it possible that they can change? That is the moral dilemma posed by “I, Borg” when the Enterprise responds to a distress signal and find the Borg Third of Five. While this understandably kicks up Picard’s PTSD from his own experiences having been assimilated, Geordi takes a liking to their new passenger and even calls him Hugh to establish his own individual identity. It all comes to a head when the opportunity arises where they could use Hugh as a weapon against their enemies or they could return him as he now is and hope that he saves others who have been assimilated. Hugh became a beloved character for fans popping up in future episodes and even playing a major role in the first season of Star Trek: Picard.
Lower Decks: Not every crew member on the Enterprise gets to serve heroically on the bridge. Most of them perform their tasks oft-overlooked in the lower decks. Taking center stage is the disgraced Bajoran Ensign Sito who is called upon by Captain Picard himself for a dangerous mission in Cardassian space. Seeing this as a way to redeem herself and receive tutelage from the decorated starship captain, she goes along to tragic results. This could have been a novelty episode but the writers infused a usually background character with so much heart that Ensign Sito captivated viewers for this episode.
The Defector: Coming across a Romulan Warbird attacking one of its own scout ships in the Neutral Zone, Picard and the crew get involved and save the low ranking Setal. This supposed turncoat Romulan has seemingly risked everything to give the Federation intelligence concerning brewing war plans. Of course trust is hard to come by as secrets are revealed and the makings of a complex trap seems to take form. And few can argue that Picard has never been more badass than when he confronts three Romulan Warbirds with the famous line “shall, we die together?”.
Measure of a Man: Many fans consider this episode the one where TNG really hit its stride. Hoping to gain a better understanding of how Data works, the Federation sends cybernetic expert Commander Maddox to examine him. His final conclusion is that the android should be disassembled to be further understood but the crew who has grown to see their shipmate’s inner humanity will not stand for this and take the matter to a court. Picard has to defend his crewmember and friend, proving that Data is in fact more man than machine. Reluctantly presenting Maddox’s case is Commander Riker who has the moral struggle of arguing against his friends while having to follow orders. This genius combination of tense drama with a philosophical debate at its heart made “Measure of a Man” an undisputed fan favorite.
The Best of Both Worlds (parts 1 & 2): With Commander Riker’s order of “Mister Worf….fire” one of the defining moments in television history seared itself into the memory of all who watched it. After a year of anticipation, the Borg have finally arrived immediately making their presence known by wiping out Federation settlements and kidnapping Picard. The captain is then assimilated into the Borg forcing the crew of the Enterprise to open fire with their newly designed weapon leaving audiences with a massive cliffhanger for three months. Even after Jean Luc Picard is rescued by Worf and Geordi the damage is done as the Borg have used his knowledge to deal devastating blows against the Federation, one of their victims would be the wife of Commander Benjamin Sisko who would become the lead character in the spin-off Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Though he is eventually saved the damage done to Jean Luc Picard continues to haunt him.
All Good Things… (parts 1 &2): The spin-off which seemed doomed from the start had become one of the biggest shows on the airwaves loved by millions of fans. But as the title of the series finale implies everything must eventually come to an end and Star Trek: The Next Generation did so to perfection. This time-hopping epic brings plotlines years in the making full-circle as Q resolves to finish the trial of Captain Picard which he began at the series’ beginning. This proved to be the perfect send-off for TNG as countless fans tuned in, in Toronto they even packed 40,000 into the Skydome to watch “All Good Things…” as the beloved crew of the Enterprise made the leap from TV to taking over the Star Trek film series.