I just re-watched all of Star Trek: The Next Generation over the course of 2-3 months. It has left me a broken shell of the man I was. There is a lot to love, and even more to hate about the show as a whole. All of season one is pretty bad. In the first 12 episodes you have like 5 space Wizards, Lore showing up, Data having sex, 2 Q episodes, the Prime Directive is violated roughly 5,872 times, and a whole bunch of other nonsense. And that’s just the start! The biggest problem overall with the series, is that nothing really builds. Big important things happen, but since it’s an “episode of the week” show, nothing really has much impact emotionally.
But! There are lots of little things to like in each episode, and there are nice character moments throughout the series. Which says a lot about the show, since it has far more bad episodes than good, and yet it has endured as a show. There is something at its core that is fun to watch, and while slightly hard to explain what that actually is, it’s there.
So, without any more fanfare, here are my Top 5 Best and Worst lists, complete with their original trailers(which are misleading, and confusing):
THE WORST – Honorable Mention:
In the second episode ever, the crew gets wasted. Wesley and some weird homeless Asian man take over engineering. Data contracts a disease (don’t worry, that will never be explained or happen again), and fucks Tasha. EPISODE TWO, FOLKS.
The writer’s strike hits TNG hard. The S2 finale is a Riker clip show. Relive all your favorite Riker moments…from two seasons. Also, say goodbye to Pulaski while you can.
After taking some cold medicine Barcley causes the ship’s crew to mutate. Worf turns into a Super-Saiyen Klingon, and tries to rape Troi….who is a fish. This barely misses the top 5 for one reason: The writer’s of Voyager looked at this episode and said; “You know what, we can do worse.” For as bad as this is, it’s not as bad as Paris and Janeway turning into lizards, and fucking.
Sex plus Star Trek never ends well. There are two things that are certain in the TNG world: Admirals are just waiting to get their crazy on, and Ambassadors are balls out insane, and probably incredibly dangerous. This is also one of many “crazy Troi” episodes. Whether being mind controlled, losing her powers, or having a space baby, no one does crazy quite like Troi. This episode also showcases the crew’s complete inability to gauge what is happening on the ship. How many times have you guys seen members of your crew mind controlled, taken over, or swapped? You need to be a little more proactive here fellas! It’s also pretty lucky that Troi’s body can just revert back to normal. Science!
Highlights: every single outfit that Cruella deTroi wears, crazy “Mom”, screaming, screaming, Starfleet’s lack of background checks, screaming.
Well, once again, Riker’s boner has doomed the crew. Can Wesley’s space sweaters and Ashley Judd save the crew from a mind controlling VR sex game? Did I just type that? Was that really the plot? This is the first time a Crusher fakes an orgasm, but it won’t be the last!
As the trailer points out, this is a “high-tech nightmare”.
Highlights: A CG Frisbee fucking a CG phonograph, Ashley Judd (no really, it’s her), Wesley faking an orgasm, Riker’s bedroom eyes.
This is another example of an episode that just loads up with unwatchable TNG tropes. Its got a space wizard, the crew interacting with 21st century idiots, Data being wacky, random guesses to solve plots, and unexplained powers. This episode is so poorly written, that by the time the “twist” is revealed (that the Royale is based on a poorly written book) the gag falls flat. After having watched 30 minutes of terrible acting and dialogue, that twist seems a little hard to swallow. Also, hard to swallow is the guess that, “Well fuck, maybe if we win the Casino we can get out of here?” is the solution to their problems. The mystery of Troi’s power range/limits shows up again. She can apparently feel the crew across the void of space and into a space wizard’s realm. Why? How? Who knows, just go with it.
Highlights: that dude from Wolfram and Hart is working the desk, wacky cowboys, the crew basically LARPing, Data’s finger snaps.
What can you really say about this one? Ron Moore himself called the episode “embarrassing”. For whatever reason, the writers of TNG seemed to really like the idea of putting olde timey Earth races in space. Native Americans, Scotts, and a bunch of Weasleys. This episode is not only a laundry list of Irish stereotypes and wacky situations, but of predictable and terrible story telling devices. Look, you guys, this episode may be wacky, but that doesn’t mean we can’t throw in some shit at the end about the ethics of “self” and cloning. And what an unexpected resolution! For forty minutes we try to figure out how we can give a dying race enough genetic stock to continue their existence, while trying to find a new home for their ancestors. Can you guess the outcome? If you guessed in under forty minutes, you are more than qualified to join Starfleet.
Highlights: cargo bay fires, Riker creepin’ on a feisty lass, Klingon whiskey, the Enterprise allowing a race to die in lieu of donating a hair follicle.
Hey guys, remember that erotic Scottish ghost episode? Pretty good, right? This one has alot of the hallmarks of TNG: a stereotyped Earth race in space, a space wizard, and a mind numbing plot. I guess at some point a writer said; “Gates Mc Fadden has a pretty stupid breathy voice. Maybe we can write an episode around that?” And boy did they! This episode would have easily fit into season 1, and it’s actually kind of hard to believe that this is from halfway through the final season. The reason this one beats out “Up the Long Ladder” is that as bad as that episode is, it at least tries to actually throw in some plot about genetics, and morals. And as bad as that is, it’s at least something. This episode has NOTHING but erotic ghost mysteries.
Highlights: breathy ghost orgasms, Troi and Crusher dishing about wet dreams, haunted sex candles, groundskeeper Willy, “dinnae go to that hoose!”
THE BEST – Honorable Mention/Overrated
Picard is awesome, the Cardassians are awesome, “THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!!!” is awesome. But everything not Picard in this episode is pretty boring.
This should actually probably be in the top 5, but I just can’t put a Lwaxana episode there. Which is really unfair. She is a terrible character, and her episodes are painful, but this episode is really fantastic. She is the perfect character to just straight up call “bullshit” on a stupid tradition. But, there is more to it than just that, and watching that unfold between her and Timicin is pretty great TV.
Look, the Borg were the coolest, and the build up to their arrival was great. But the more I re-watch this, the less I like it. Picard becoming Locutus is an awesome idea, but really makes no sense for the Borg. They’ve never done it before, and never do it again. The more times I watch this episode the more that bugs me. Don’t get me wrong, Wolf 359 is an awesome scene, and the overall plot is great, but the McGuffin of Locutus really bugs me. The good news is that the only force in the universe that can really destroy the Borg, are the writers of Voyager.
Again, a cool episode, but one that bugs me for a different reason. Tasha is back! Yay. Tasha has to die! Boo. But, the good news is that she no longer has to die for nothing! She didn’t get killed by an evil trash bag after all, she gets to go out as a strong character boldly saving the day! Or, not. The problem I have with this is that in later episodes it’s revealed that Tasha survives, is captured by Romulans, tortured, raped, and murdered by her daughter. After growing up and escaping a planet full of “rape gangs” this is pretty harsh. At least a trash bag didn’t kill her? Unfair to judge this episode based on what happens later, but such is life.
This episode is one of the most overrated. Maybe because it’s so quotable people like it? This episode falls apart under even the most casual scrutiny. The Tamarian language is idiotic at best, and childish at worst. As Picard points out; “I don’t understand you, I just recognize the words.” So, at the end when Picard repeats phrases to the Tamarians it makes very little impact. Also, watching Troi and Data piece together in 5 minutes using an encyclopedia what all of Starfleet couldn’t figure out in 70 years is pretty weak.
Man, this thing is waaaaay overrated. It takes the space wizard bullshit of Q to a new level, and adds a mischievous monkey paw aspect. The whole conceit that if Picard wasn’t a cool bar fighin’ dude, he would never have become the man he is now, is pretty idiotic. Toss in a “was it all a dream” or was it Q aspect, and the whole episode really falls apart.
Fun episode, filled with lots of character moments and a nice final scene. But too many annoying tropes. Time travel, the “paradox” solution, Q, and the last ditch attempt at shipping Troi/Worf. I hate space wizards, they are the worst part of TNG, and Q is the worst of the worst. Especially in this episode. Humanity doesn’t solve shit. Q basically gives them the answer. So what does that prove? If you were playing charades with Q, and the word was “Rodeo Clown”, he would just mumble “Brodeo Brown” to you. That seems kind of dumb.
Oh, I see what you guys did there with Q, that was the name of the show. Meta.
Ambassador K’Ehleyr is the glue that holds this episode together. There is some plot in the background about a group of Klingons that just woke up and think they are still at war with the Federation. But that’s not really the good stuff. K’Ehleyr is a character that I really wish had become permanent on the show. She is legitimately funny, clever, and a fantastic love interest for Worf. Seeing her take on the Klingons, their traditions, and what that means is also an engaging counterpoint to what Worf thinks. The scene were she calls bullshit on Worf’s marriage proposal is both powerful and heartbreaking. I love this episode based on the performance of K’Ehleyr, usually that only happens with Picard, so high praise indeed.
“Two warriors test the courage of their private passions.” Thanks, trailer.
Highlights: stupid holodeck fights, dope-ass Klingon fashion, “comfortable chair.”
There are a lot of episdoes in TNG about sentience, artificial life, and what it means to be alive. They are mostly flawed, and usually pretty severely. This episode is NOT perfect, but it is very good. The idea of whether or not Starfleet owns Data is very compelling. Especially this early on in the show. This episode once again showcases Picard’s range, and also allows Data to finally have some genuinely touching moments. Too often the writers play up Data’s fish out of water schtick, which leads to Data being more of a joke character, than a serious one. Riker having to work against Picard and Data is on one hand very interesting, and on the other, incredibly stupid. Starfleet has fairly bonkers legal maneuvers. Compare the ending courtroom scene of this episode to that of “The Drumhead”. This episode makes you feel like the day was won with reason and a genuine meeting of the minds. Unlike “The Drumhead” where people just lose their shit and get real crazy, thus proving Picard correct.
Also compare this episode to glowing lights from a mine gaining sentience, the Enterprise coming alive, or floating drill robots, for a laundry list of what this episode does correctly!
Highlights: Picard quoting Shakespeare, everything in this scene, wrapping paper, Data’s off switch.
What the fuck is with that trailer? Disregard everything that trailer just told you. As I started watching this episode I was groaning. Picard goes back to France!? Worf’s Russian immigrant parents are on a space ship!? Picard’s brother is a 400 year old golem!? But, guess what? This episode is great! Turns out that that Stewart guy has some chops, definitely some chops indeed. This is one of the few times that TNG follows up on a previous episode. Actually taking an episode to deal with how Picard must feel after having been used to murder so many of his fellow officers is a welcome surprise. It’s a shame this doesn’t happen more. So many important things happen on this show and are thrown away. Huge character moments that shake the characters to their core are thrown away. Data and Lal, Riker and the andron J’naii, Geordie being tortured for days, Picard and his stellar cartography dream girl.
The subplot with Worf and his parents is actually pretty sweet, and gives Worf a little more depth. I was not expecting to like this episode when it aired, and almost 10 years later I thought I would hate it as well. So, the fact that it has surprised me more than once is more than I can say about most episodes.
Highlights: MUD FIGHT!
Turns out when you strip the show of everyone but Picard it gets pretty good. Once again, Patrick Stewart just acts his little heart out, and does it wearing some pretty sweet low-cut sleeveless numbers. One of the things that this episode has going for it is the that that Picard fights what is happening for awhile, before actually settling into his new life, and living it out. That rarely happens in these types of episodes, so it makes the impact of living and losing this life actually matter. Even more than Locutus, this experience changes Picard. “Inner Light” is probably called back to more than “Best of Both Worlds” as the series progresses, since the impact of those events is more personal. It leads to a very nice pay off some episodes later when Picard is explaining the importance of music to his Stellar Cartography dream girl.
Another example of forgotten technology. You would think that Starfleet would want to explore a device that can give a man a lifetime of experience in a few minutes. Oh, well.
Highlights: Patrick Stewart’s son is Picard’s son, flute solo, every outfit Picard wears.
I forgot this episode even existed. And after re watching it, I have no idea how that’s possible. This episode is so far above and beyond any other episode in the entire series. The episode puts a group of Jr. officers in the foreground of the episode, while the Sr. staff plays backup. It’s pretty unbelievable how much emotion and depth this group of characters has, and it’s really a shame that this kind of episode happens once, and halfway through the final season.
What’s not to like? In one appearance, Ben the bartender becomes one million times more interesting than Guinan. His ability to go between the Sr. and Jr. officers both makes sense, and makes the ship feel like both a place of business, and a family. Nurse Ogawa is oddly enough one of the most recurring characters in the show. She probably has more screen time than O’Brien. And good for her! Ogawa is always so fucking happy, she’s literally psyched to be in every single scene she’s in!
But the real meat of the episode is the return of the Bajoran Sito Jaxa. You might remember her from that episode where she, Wesley, and Tom Paris tried to cover up that Blue Angels air show accident. Besides being incredibly likable, she is an amazing side kick to Worf. Seeing Worf try to advance her career, but being unable to really connect with her on a personal level due to his social awkwardness is pretty great to watch. All of her scenes with Picard are amazing, and prove why both she and he are where they are in Starfleet.
Watching all the Jr. officers get involved with a covert mission that they cannot speak to each other about, and that ultimately will kill one of them makes for some tense viewing. Sito Jaxa’s final scene with the Cardassian is a perfect example of the best part of TNG: The idea that one man can make a difference, if he is willing to risk everything.
The fact that Sito Jaxa’s death actually has an impact on the viewer is proof of the quality of this episode. I didn’t care when Tasha died, but man, Sito Jaxa hurt.
Highlights: Riker being a dick, Ben, Ogawa’s attitude, Sito Jaxa’s black-eye, Sito Jaxa putting out her arms to be cuffed, Ben and Worf in 10 Forward.
These are just my thoughts, and this is after having digested a TON of episodes in short time. I didn’t mention Minuet, Data learning comedy, that ginger space Jesus with his chorus, Vash, The Picard Maneuver, Data’s girlfriend, Ro, and about a million other things! Anyway, let me know your best and worst list! I am moving onto DS9, which I genuinely adore. Hopefully I am not remembering that show through rose colored glasses!