Star Trek The Next Generation got off to a rough start, unsure of itself and in some ways was fortunate to get past some shocking early episodes to grow into a hugely popular and impressive show that is remembered almost as fondly as The Original Series.
Captain Picard and his crew went on some incredible adventures in their ongoing mission and these are the ten best episodes Of Star Trek: The Next Generation:
10 – Yesterday’s Enterprise (Season 3 Episode 15)
Tasha Yar had become the first ever regular crew member of Star Trek to be killed way back in Season 1, but her death scene was pretty badly done, so it was fitting that she got to come back and do it again once the show had found its feet.
A time disturbance throws the Enterprise into an alternate timeline, bringing Yar back, but she ends it on the Enterprise C, heading towards oblivion once again, but this time in a memorable episode. Which must have been some consolation.
9 – Darmok (Season 5 Episode 2)
Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra? Temba, his arms wide? This has the not-entirely-promising premise of being an episode where Jean-Luc Picard learns a new language, but his interactions with Tamarian captain Dathon are so memorable and ultimately touching that Darmok has ended up being one of the best episodes of the whole show.
And the linguistics side of it was actually genuinely fascinating in a way that doesn’t just appeal to those who own Klingon dictionaries.
8 – Unification (Season 5 Episodes 7 & 8)
Three members of the Original Series’ crew appear in TNG at various points, and Scotty’s appearance in Relics almost made it into this list (if only for the Holodeck scene on the old bridge), but instead we’ll focus on Spock’s participation.
The long lives of Vulcans means that no time travel is necessary and he and Picard have some great scenes as he tries to broker a new peace between the Vulcans and Romulans.
7 – Chain Of Command (Season 6 Episodes 10/11)
Another two-parter, this one has two main strands, one showing the tension on the Enterprise under temporary captain Jellico and the other showing Picard captured and tortured by the Cardassians in scenes that are commonplace in TV shows we see nowadays but were brutal and sadistic for the small screen in the early 90s, especially on a show like Star Trek.
How many lights were there?
6 – Q Who (Season 2 Episode 16)
Having established in Season 1 that the Klingons were no longer enemies of the Federation, The Next Generation needed some iconic baddies of its own to go with the old Romulan foes. Q Who delivered that, with omnipotent pest Q flinging the Enterprise across the galaxy to demonstrate the threat that is heading their way – the Borg.
Their first appearance here is genuinely chilling in how completely outmatched the Enterprise is and how creepy the Borg are.
5 – The Offspring (Season 3 Episode 16)
Some of the best episodes of TNG are ones that focus on Data and his attempts to become more human than his programming intended.
Directed by cast member Jonathan Frakes, this episode sees Data create a daughter called Lal, and her brief ‘life’ is hugely interesting to watch and moving, both for her struggles with emotions and Data’s parental instincts, all of which opens up so many philosophical questions, as you’d hope from top quality Trek.
4 – Tapestry (Season 6 Episode 15)
Q’s delight in meddling with Picard takes on a slightly different twist in this great episode after the captain is mortally wounded on an away mission.
It’s a bit It’s A Wonderful Life as Q takes Picard back to a key moment in his early life that could affect whether he survives the attack in the future and the decisions he takes do save his life but demonstrate how much he would have lost (his captaincy for one thing) if he had lived a more cautious life.
3 – The Measure Of A Man (Season 2 Episode 9)
The first great TNG episode. A Starfleet officer wants to dismantle Data and transfer his memory to a computer so as to learn more about him, but this would effectively restore him to factory settings, in some ways ‘killing’ who he has become.
Picard fights to prove his rights as a sentient being, while Riker is compelled to argue against it in court. A truly deep and insightful episode that took TNG in the right direction at last.
2 – The Inner Light (Season 5 Episode 25)
For much of The Inner Light, it seems like another of those episodes where something weird happens and Picard just needs to find a way to get back to the ship from this fake life he’s found himself in, but instead there’s something much more moving going on.
In the space of only 25 ‘real’ minutes, he lives out decades of another life on what turns out to be a long-dead planet whose people were looking for someone to pass on their lives and deaths. The ending is heartbreaking.
1 – The Best Of Both Worlds (Season 3 Episode 26 & Season 4 Episode 1)
The cliffhanger at the end of the first episode (the last episode of Season 3) remains an all-time TV classic, with Picard having been captured and assimilated by the Borg and being revealed as Locutus, making him the Enterprise’s enemy. It ends with Riker telling Worf to fire upon Locutus and his Borg allies, leaving everything up for grabs.
Of course, everything is resolved in the next episode, with Picard rescued and restored to himself, but it makes for a thrilling storyline that was arguably better than most of the TNG movies ended up being.