So let’s talk about my favorite episodes of Star Trek-TNG.Like the previous article I am going to do this season by season, and I havedecided to pick two episodes per season. A gimmicky episode and one that ismore relevant. Why? Because it’s easy to say we love the gimmick episodes, it’swhy they do them so often.  If the storyinvolves cool space battles, time travel, a strange disease infecting the crew,or some other odd occurrence like possession or amnesia it’s real easy to likeit. However, those shows aren’t what make the series memorable. Anyone can do ashow where time repeats in a loop (and many have) for example. What makes theseries memorable is how they handle the more relevant stories. The episodeswhich you have to really watch and follow the story to appreciate.

By the way sometimes the line between a gimmick episode anda relevant one can blur. For example, “The Loss” is built around agimmick (Troi losing her powers, it’s the “blind” episode) but hassome good stuff in it despite that, so these may blend a bit but will try tokeep them separate. Before I discuss my favorite episodes, let’s discuss thevery first one.

“Encounter at Farpoint”
Wanted to briefly mention the pilot since it’s not fair tojudge it against a normal episode. The show is…not bad I guess. It is definitelya pilot and has some annoying things. Picard surrendering the ship in the firstten minute, Troi’s constant whining (they the lord that didn’t last!), Wesley! Whichwas the worst idea Gene Roddenberry ever had because every time he had to save theday it made the crew look like morons, and the sappy ending which was justlame. However it did have some good stuff too. The action scenes were good,some of the characters were clicking (like Riker for example), and we meet Qwho really propelled this from just another story into something a little stronger.So now that I have talked about the pilot, let’s discuss the episodes Iactually liked.

Season 1
Ok, this isn’t that easy. Season 1 was not very good, everytime I catch the re-runs I can’t believe it’s the same show it would be acouple years later.
“Lonely Among Us”
I wish I could explain why I like this episode. When thisfirst aired I hated Picard, and was wondering if maybe this episode was theshow finally killing him off. Alas, he makes it out in one of the biggercontrivances in Trek. But, for some reason I like this one maybe because we seethe characters acting so odd. I don’t know, it’s a favorite even if it is aweak entry

“Symbiosis”
Yeah, I liked this one. I think it does a pretty decent jobof tackling the subject of drug abuse. Not only do we see how drug abuseaffects the people who are addicted, but we see how others can take advantagefor their own benefit. The Brekkans in this episode are basic drug pushers, keepingan entire planet addicted because it is their one industry! They literally havea thriving society because they keep every single member of the Onarans hookedon this drug. What’s even worse than distributing an addictive substance for anillness the Brekkans know how to cure because they cured it? They have refinedthe potency of the drug to make it even more addictive! These people are horrible,and it is interesting watching Picard looking for a solution that does notviolate the prime directive. This episode is also the last one filmed withDenise Crosby, and at end you can literally see her wave to the audience. I understandwhy she wanted out but loved that character, and wonder how she would haveevolved if she had stayed.

Strong episode especially for the first season.

Honorable Mention include The Big Goodbye (which I did not likethat much) and The Battle which was actually pretty good.

Season 2
The writer’s strike realty hurt this year, and they alsomade the brilliant move of adding Dr.Pulaski. The idea was to recreate theSpock/McCoy relationship but Data is not Spock, and Pulaski came off like amean witch.

“Time Squared”
Everyone has those movies they loved even those they arereally bad films. This episode is like that for me. The story makes no sense,but the gimmick of Picard running into himself from six hours in the future isa great one. I guess at one point this was supposed to be  a Q episode which would have explained whyeverything happens, alas that did not last and we get no real explanation. Justa fun episode even if it makes no sense.

“The Measure of Man”
Sometimes Picard gives some very long winded speeches, butthe one he gives at the end of this episode is a classic. If you’ve never heardit, seek it out. This episode raises the question, is Data the property ofStarfleet? Of course once you start using the word property it isn’t hard tofigure out what this episode is really about, slavery. This episode does a verynice job of tackling this subject without beating you over the head with itlike other episodes do. Just a very well written show. This is one of the firsttimes Whoopi Goldberg isn’t just there to smile; her discussion with Picard isone of the best moments of the series. And having Riker forced to argue theother side was also a great touch.

Honorable Mention include “Contagion” (which is pretty goodactually) and “The Schizoid Man”

Season 3
This is the year the show finally started to really click,which you can tell from the first few minutes of the first episode. This is theshow that would be loved and respected. Picking a favorite is real hard, buthere we go.

“Yesterday’s Enterprise”
Can I tell you how many times I have sat through thisepisode? More than I can remember, I assure you. This is a twist on the basictime travel story because we are seeing the event in another time line. That isamazing, we spend an entire episode with different characters than the ones weknow and love. Even in Mirror,Mirror we still had the character we knew, justblended with the mirror universe one’s. Here, we don’t see them at all exceptthe very beginning and end. I always like how they give Worf the opening, guessthey figured he should have some lines. The space battle at the end is one ofthe series best, and then there is the moment when everything just changes backto the show we are used to. Of course, this also brought Denise Crosby backwhich was truly the icing on the cake.

“The Offspring”
Can you tell Data is my favorite character? This little episodecould easily have been a bore, but the writers did a great job keeping thestory interesting enough that we want to see how it ends up. In the end thestory is about family, as we see Data learning to raise his daughter while wehave Starfleet trying to move in and take the new android. I never didunderstand why they were so anxious, this episode makes Starfleet Research seemglad greedy bastards. How did Data make it through the Academy safely?Thankfully they cast Nicholas Coster who somehow manages to be sinister andcharming at the same time; you just can’t hate this guy no matter how manyreasons he gives you to. Of course the best scene is the one with Riker in TenForward. Jonathan Frakes directed this and it is a very good episode.

Honorable Mentions, well, just scroll through an episodeguide. Pretty much every episode was a good one. Sarek, Hollow Pursuits, TheMost Toys, Tin Man, and of course the season finale The Best of Both World’s. Icould do a whole article on just that one show. That was when people realizedthis show was to be taken seriously. Picard turned into a borg? OMG! And I willnever forget that feeling when the words TO BE CONTINUED first appeared on thescreen!

Season 4
This is the season the show really got rolling, and producedsome of the best episodes of its run.

Clues-I could talk all day about this episode. It’s really avery small episode; it’s just a little mystery in a bottle show. That’s it. Whydo I love it so much? Because it only features our main cast. That’s it, thereare no guest stars to hog the spotlight or a scenario where one character isthe focus and the others seem to vanish into the background. Everyone is inthis episode and they all get equal time. They all get some good lines and havesomething to do or contribute to the story. Even Worf comes in with his broken wrist;you’d think he had no role in this episode until that gets turned around withthat moment which totally shifts the episode into a new direction. That makesPicard realize they were awake and aware for that missing day. Probably thebest thing in the episode is Data, he acts perfectly normal and yet the way theevents unfold his sudden normal behavior seems, well, odd. This is a greatcharacter episode, and I love those. Just like the episode of Friends called”The One Where No One is Ready”, where it’s just the six in theapartment interacting and being funny each getting equal time and equal story.That’s just what this episode does, there is also enough suspense and action tokeep those fans happy as well. Heck, we even get to see Guinan in a morerelaxed mode in the opening. I love this episode, and have seen it a milliontimes.

“The Drumhead”
I loved learning about the Salem Witch Trials at school,maybe that is why I like this episode so much. Watching the ambassador go frombeing a likable character to an almost evil one is fascinating. The actress dida great job with that character, so much so I would have loved an epilogue orsomething explaining just what happened to her after she left the ship. Ialmost feel sorry for her in the last scene. Really not much else to say, agood story told very well.

Honorable Mention : Remember Me-I had a video this wasrecorded on, and by chance this episode happened to be the first thing on thetape. So it was easy to pop it in and watch without rewinding or anything. As aresult, I have seen this episode a hundred times. I love it, even it is kind ofweak. Future Imperfect is clever but the last half feels like filler and gets dull.Devil’s Due was an abandoned script from the Star Trek Phase2 series, and itshows. This episode feels more like a classic series story, but it’s still an entertaininglittle piece. Finally, Data’s Day was a great episode but not the strongest,the mystery feels a bit forced and the more I see it the more I wonder why Datais suddenly in charge of everything. However, Data was my favorite character soI still enjoy this one.

SEASON 5

“The Game”
The entire crew chasing after Wesley, what’s not to like?Seriously, this may be the one Wesley episode I really like. The fact that theadorable Ashley Judd is in it is just a coincidence I’m sure. This episode isreally kind of silly, the whole crew being taken over by this game? But thechase scene is fun and that moment when Data walks onto the Bridge at the endis pure coolness. This episode inspired a story of my own which I love, andthat is one reason why this show has a special place in my heart even if it is justfluff.

“Violations”
I love this episode because I think that it touches on therelevant stuff so well. It deals with rape, and they even use the word by theend of the show so I know I can use it. Of course the way the rape is portrayedis what makes it unique to Star Trek, rather than a violation of the body it’sa violation of the mind. An alien actually probes the crew’s memories forcingthem to relive some horrible event, eventually resulting in a coma. I have twofavorite parts of this; one is the speech Picard gives at the very end. Hebasically points out that all people carry the seed to be violent within themand fi they’re not careful, that violence can bubble up and overwhelm any ofus. My second favorite thing is a Worf moment at the end, hard to believe sincehe is hardly in the episode. But the alien and Troi are fighting at the end ofthe show, and Troi is actually holding her own this time. Then Worf proceeds towalk in and smack the guy with his hand, without even breaking a sweat. I don’tknow, that is just one of my favorite moments I am not sure if it’s becauseWorf is so cool about it or because we really hate this guy by that finalmoment. Great episode with a powerful lesson which it delivers very well.

Honorable Mention: “Unification”. You would think the meetingof Picard and Spock would be epic, but the episode doesn’t realty live up tothat. Still it is nice to see Leonard Nimoy so I guess I can let it go. I liked“Power Play”,” Conundrum”, and” The Next Phase” even if these episodes weremostly just mindless fun. Finally, there is “Inner Light” which is a beautifulepisode which I had to watch a few times before I got that. That’s why it isonly an honorable mention.

SEASON 6
This season started kind of weak (Picard turned into a 12year old?) but it got better as it went along. This was also when Deep SpaceNine came along, and it would be clear that the creators were more interested inputting all their effort into that show than this, especially into the nextyear.

“Relics”
You would think this was just a way to bring Scotty into theTNG world, but is actually has some relevance. The story about how we treat oldpeople, which is usually not very nice. We treat them like they are uselessbecause they are old, even though they have tons of experience. Why is Geordiso hard on Scotty in the beginning? But he comes around and realizes that justbecause someone is old doesn’t mean they are useless. Of course having Scottyon the show was brilliant, and worked much better than Spock the season before.That scene where he recreates the classic Enterprise bridge on the holodeck isone of my favorite moments ever.

I had to mention two episodes here, I will explain in asecond.
“Ship in a Bottle”
The episode that aired before this was “Chain of Command”,an episode about torture which was a really hard show to watch. No wonder theywent for something lighter here. This episode brings back Moriarity and has himtrick Picard into thinking he has escaped the holodeck, when in reality he hastrapped Picard in a simulation. Just a clever little episode with no realsocial significance. The best part of the episode may be the end when Picard hypothesizesthat they’re world may just  be “anelaborate illusion playing in a device sitting on someone’s table”. Brilliant.

“Timescape”
Why am I breaking my rule and making this a favorite ratherthan an honorable mention? I really can’t choose between these two andTimescape is just a great, if meaningless, episode. I love this show, and enjoythe heck out it whenever it’s on. The premise is simply that time has beenfrozen due to an incident with The Enterprise and Romulan Bird of Prey, and it’sjust very well done. This is about as gimmicky as it gets, even the title isnothing unique, but for me this was a true favorite.

Honoable Mentions include “Second Chances”, “The Chase”, and“The Quality of Life”. Finally, “Man of the People” is another bad episode Ienjoy, for some reason.

SEASON 7
What happened in season 7 exactly? The shows were so bad! Ofcourse the answer is because attention was placed elsewhere so this show gotneglected. However, as bad as the season was there were some good episodes.

“Parallels”
Know what I just said about “Timescape”? This one was evenbetter in some ways. The idea of alternate realties has always been one of myfavorite sci fi concepts and that is pretty much what this episode was allabout. Worf is bouncing between realties, and that’s about it really. Iactually hated the Worf/Troi relationship they built up but in this episode itsok because it’s an alternate timeline so we can just dismiss it. Why the creatorsdid that I never understood, and then to have Worf jump over to DS9 and fallJadzia?  They did acknowledge this in “Nemesis”when we Word drinking at Riker and Troi’s wedding. But I am getting offsubject, this episode was real fun and I loved noticing the changes includingthe Cardassian ensign and even Data having different eye color at one point. Wealso get to see almost every outfit Troi had during the series!

Finding a relevant episode to like is real hard. “Force ofNature” tried way too hard, and everything else was a bore. So what is myfavorite relevant episode from that season?

“The Pegasus”
This episode really tries hard, and is one of the strongersegments from the season. Riker’s former commander comes aboard the Enterpriseand suddenly he is conflicted because of events which occurred a few years earlier.It’s an engaging story with a decent payoff. It’s also nice to find out why theFederation never explored cloaking technology. And no, I am not even going toget into the fact they used in the “Enterprise” finale.

Honorable Mentions include “Phantasms”, “Inheritance”, “Homeward”,“The Dark Page”, and…ok, “Lower Decks” which was not a favorite for me but Iunderstand others really like it.

Finally,
“All Good Things…”
I loved this episode. I have watched a million times, andenjoy it every time I see it. What a fantastic way to end the series, it hitsevery note just right. There is a reason Nostalgia Critic did a parody of itlast week, because this is one of the best finale’s ever done. I could go onand on, and yes the story has its flaws but you can just feel the energy thatwas put it into this. What else can I say? To bad the first movie couldn’t havebeen as good.
I loved this show, and still watch it all the time.

By richb

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