Star Trek: The Next Generation was easily one of the most popular science fiction series' of all time and with its easy availability in syndication, on VHS, on DVD and via digital download, it seems strange that so few people (outside StarLog Magazine, Star Trek Magazine, and people at Star Trek conventions) have offered a comprehensive list of the best episodes of the series for those thinking of dipping into the series or just looking for great television.
In considering the ten BEST episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, there was some pretty stiff competition as figuring out the ten best out of 178 episodes can be a real challenge. There were some worthy near misses from the highly rated pile, including: "Conspiracy," "Clues," "First Contact," "Darmok," "Chain Of Command, Part II," "The Drumhead," and "Family." But if you're going to spend time watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, the episodes you cannot miss are:
10. "The Emissary" / "Reunion" - reviewed here and here! - It seems I always cheat on these top ten lists and squeeze a little something extra in; at least this time I'm getting my cowardice out of the way early! Two Worf stories lead off the list as a perfect pair of episodes that act quite nicely as a two-parter, despite being separated by over a season. These are the two episodes that feature K'Ehleyr, Federation Ambassador to the Klingon Empire, a human-Klingon hybrid and former lover of Lt. Worf. She appears on a mission and reignites the passions of Worf, then returns . . . with Worf's son in two memorable episodes made perfect by guest star Suzie Plakson,
9. "Too Short The Season" – reviewed here! - Easily the most contentious episode on this list, this first season episode is a surprise to those rewatching it these days. Originally despised for the poor special effects, this episode stands up and knocks out the viewer now with the quality of the story and character study of a man going to extreme lengths to right a past wrong. While the Enterprise journeys to a planet to negotiate a hostage situation, the aged Admiral Jameson begins to de-age as he tries to wrest power from a planetary leader who he once was involved with shady weapons dealings with,
8. "I, Borg" – reviewed here! - A similarly quiet episode finds the U.S.S. Enterprise rescuing a Borg teenager and instilling in him the concept of individuality. Clever and an amazing character study and moral play, "I, Borg," presents the arguments behind the conventions of war in a clever way that asks the viewer to look at the humanity of the enemy in a very real way. Jonathan Del Arco and Patrick Stewart give great performances,
7. "The Survivors" - reviewed here! - The penultimate episode that I've never seen in anyone else's top ten list, this is a weird episode with a sharp moralistic sentiment. The Enterprise arrives at a planet to find the whole place utterly destroyed, save two people and their home. While Counselor Troi becomes tormented by telepathic music, Riker and Picard begin to unravel a mystery of how these two survivors could have been spared on a planet devastated by a cunning and brutal enemy. The result is a mystery and a morality play that is brilliant and the judgment of Captain Picard at the episode's climax is enough to found a new religion,
6. "The Vengeance Factor" - reviewed here! - Similarly neglected by virtually every other fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, this episode becomes something different and amazingly clever. Long before Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Star Trek: The Next Generation offered an episode where known murderer is brought aboard the Enterprise and the crew has to figure out what the audience already knows (who it is) and determine the motive. While the Enterprise crew negotiates between two cultures of aristocrats and scavengers, the episode becomes a simple love story for Riker that is not to be missed,
5. "Measure Of A Man" - reviewed here! - Despite what so many people looking at the series think, it was not always about Picard and Data. Indeed, originally about Riker and Wesley Crusher, it took some time for Picard to break out, and for Data and Worf to follow. The first real episode where Picard and Data explode onto the screen is a masterful episode where Data's rights are determined when a StarFleet scientist wants to disassemble and replicate the android officer. Faced with Data's possible death or a StarFleet filled with an android slave populace, Picard forces a hearing in one of the most directly intellectual hours of the series,
4. "The Best Of Both Worlds" - reviewed here! - And sometimes the lists get it right. When the Borg return to Star Trek: The Next Generation, they seem strangely interested in Captain Jean-Luc Picard in an episode that capped the third season and left the viewers begging for more. Still a nailbiter today, this episode is one of the most clever hours, balancing the Borg menace with the threat of Riker being replaced by a new first officer when he is offered his own command,
3. "Parallels" - reviewed here! - Late in the series, the show got especially clever with a Worf story that explored some of the "roads not taken." When Worf passes through a spatial anomaly, reality begins to bend around him such that he sees elements of his life changing radically, like the state of the Enterprise, his position aboard her, the role of the major powers in the galaxy, and his relationship with Counselor Troi - who he soon finds himself married to. The journey is a clever exploration of the different directions the series could have taken Worf as well as a wonderful lesson on parallel universe theory,
2. "Frame Of Mind" - reviewed here! - Who would have guessed that Jonathan Frakes could dominate an episode that charted this high?! In an incredible Riker story that finds the first officer in a degenerating mental state, the viewer is taken on a reality-bending odyssey that questions whether Riker is the victim of an alien experiment or if he is truly going insane. Blending time aboard the Enterprise where Riker prepares for a play involving his portrayal of a mentally ill man with an incarceration on an alien planet in their mental ward, "Frame Of Mind" keeps the viewer guessing the first time and entertained with the sophistication of how well it is put together each other viewing,
and . . .
drumroll please . . .
1. "The Inner Light" - reviewed here! - Too many people who take on this topic top this list with the phaser battles and intensity of one of the episodes like "Yesterday's Enterprise," but this is the top of the heap for the sophisticated viewer. Picard is doing his normal routine when an alien probe knocks him out. Unconscious on the bridge, he awaken in another place, with another name, on a planet he has never heard of. There he spends over forty years as Kamen, a scientist, artist and father who learns to love, play music and live a different life from that of the starship captain until he finally accepts that his other life was just a dream. Kamen's story is brilliant and an amazing change of pace for the series and a character study that only enhances Captain Picard's stature.
For other Star Trek reviews, be sure to visit the Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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