TALKIN’ ‘BOUT NEXT GENERATION
From ‘10 Forward’ to ‘Number One’, we present the definitive top ten episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation
Following the iconic Star Trek was never going to be an easy task, and The Next Generation certainly had a rocky start (evidenced by the lack of any Season one episodes on this list). Yet, Picard and the crew of the enterprise-d did the impossible, redefining the franchise with scientific thought experiments, social commentary galore, and more holodeck episodes that you can shake a phaser at. So grab a cup of tea, earl grey, hot, and let’s count down the best TNG has to offer. engage!
Darmok (SEASON 5, EP 2) “Darmok and Jalad at tanagra!” oft touted as one of TNG’S most accomplished episodes, ‘Darmok’ sees Picard stranded on alien planet, trying to communicate with a potentially hostile alien companion. nailing culture clash while giving us timeless quotes, ‘Darmok’s concept may seem dry, yet it remains gripping to the last minute. Also, a race that communicates exclusively in cultural references? ‘Darmok’ all but predicted modern meme culture.
QPID (SEASON 4, EP 20) A fitting episode for TNG’S 4/20, ‘Qpid’ sees ever-irritating omnipotent, Q, matchmake Picard with his old flame, Vash. it’s difficult to pick just one Q episode for a spot in the top ten, as the maniacal godlike was always a hoot. But with the entire senior staff roped into his game of Robin hood, ’Qpid’ is the standout — and not just because it gave worf the immortal line, “i protest. i am not a merry man!” which, honestly, sums up his entire character arc.
relics (SEASON 6, EP 4) Flung decades out of time, long-lost Scotty (James Doohan) returns to a galaxy he barely recognises. the stalwart Scot gives it all he’s got in mentoring geordi, resulting in a poignant tale of what each generation can learn from the other. And if you don’t tear up as Scotty mourns his friends on the bridge of the holodeck-recreated ncc-1701, then as Mccoy might have said, you’re nothing but a pointy-eared hobgoblin.
i, Borg (SEASON 5, EP 23) confronted with an adorable Borg drone named hugh, Picard has to deal with lasting trauma from his own tenure among the collective. thanks to a little help from soothsaying barkeep guinan (whoopi goldberg), he ultimately makes the difficult decision not to use hugh to kill all Borg in one fell swoop — a proposal that throws up all manner of moral questions about the ‘utopian’ Federation. it’s a good job too, as otherwise Voyager would never have been blessed by Seven of nine. which is clearly the most egregious consequence of Starfleet committing genocide...
THE OUTCAST (SEASON 5, EP 17) After years of Star Trek avoiding the question of sexual orientation, ‘The Outcast’ acts as a touchstone for queer and transgender rights. As Riker continues his quest to seduce every alien in the galaxy, we are introduced to Soren of the J’naii, an androgynous race that considers gender identity as deviance. But here’s the rub: Soren has always considered herself to be female. Laying track for Deep Space Nine’s Jadzia Dax and Discovery’s Lt Stamets, The Outcast was a groundbreaking episode in a more restrictive era of television.
CHAIN OF COMMAND (SEASON 6, EPS 10 & 11) When Picard, Crusher, and Worf go undercover to keep up with the Cardassians, the venerable captain is captured and tortured almost to breaking point. Trek’s darkest, most unflinching episode to date, ‘Chain Of Command’ features a stellar performance from Patrick Stewart, as Picard struggles to retain his freedom of thought (“There... are... four… lights!”). Meanwhile, Troi finally gets out of those cleavage-scooping civvies.
LOWER DECKS (SEASON 7, EP 15) In TNG’S final season, ‘Lower Decks’ introduced us to an endearing gang of ensigns who just want to get their jobs done without the ship almost blowing up every week. This enthralling look behind the scenes expands our perception of the Enterprise, as young Sito Jaxa is called upon to undertake a dangerous secret mission. After this episode, we were never able to look at those piles of dead Redshirts the same way again…
YESTERDAY’S ENTERPRISE (SEASON 3, EP 15) What happens to utopia after decades of war? Long before Deep Space Nine and Discovery pondered this question, ‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’ unveiled a reality wherein the Federation never made peace with the Klingons — and only Guinan knows that isn’t the way things are meant to be. Featuring the return of much-mourned Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby), Picard must decide whether to ask the crew of the Enterprise-c to sacrifice their lives, or remain in a timeline where 40 billion people have already died.
THE MEASURE OF A MAN (SEASON 2, EP 19) TNG really came into its own in Season Two, and this episode demonstrated the success of what would become a time-honoured technique: shoving Picard into a courtroom and getting him to argue his way out. As Data is faced with disassembly, Picard has to prove not only that his android crewman is sentient, but that Starfleet shouldn’t build a new race of “disposable people”. Thought-provoking and dramatic, ‘The Measure Of A Man’ may be an early TNG episode, but it is one of the entire Star Trek franchise’s all-time best.
THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS (SEASON 3, EP 26 & SEASON 4, EP 1) “Mr Worf, fire!” Riker’s command brought Season Three to an abrupt end, with Picard assimilated by the Borg and under fire from his own ship. The resulting cliffhanger shook the fans, and even Next Generation haters were desperate to know what would happen next — but that’s not the only reason this two-part episode rules the top spot of this, and many other lists. With excellent performances from each cast member, series-best action, and a psychologically complex arc that sent shockwaves through the rest of TNG and laid track for film First Contact, resistance to ‘The Best Of Both Worlds’ is futile.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION SEASONS 1 TO 7 ARE ON NETFLIX AND AMAZON VIDEO
Top left: The Jock and the Geordie. Main: Nice Borg, dead ahead. Bottom left: Worf Scarlet and Data Tuck.
Top: Knife-crime was really getting out of control in space. Left: Riker: Alien sex fiend.