6 Best Star Trek Next Generation Episodes: Nobody anticipated Star Trek to continue longer than the first three seasons of the original series, let alone 55 years.
The iconic program had low-budget sets and, at times, amateurish effects, even by 1960s standards.
What it lacked in spectacle, it more than made up for in ideas, with a thematically rich examination of heady sci-fi topics bolstered by occasional space-based action and some of the best TV characters ever produced.
Trek’s legacy would live on in the form of 13 feature films and various television shows, the most famous of which being Star Trek: The Next Generation, which, thanks to streaming, is as popular as it has ever been.
The 30th anniversary of the Season 5 episode “Disaster,” Trek’s take on disaster movies like The Poseidon Adventure, and the 30th anniversary of “Unification, Parts I and II,” which marked Mr. Spock’s return to television prior to the theatrical release of 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and the recent 25th anniversary of Star Trek: First Contact
With everyone talking about Star Trek: The Next Generation lately, and the franchise celebrating its 55th anniversary this year, SYFY WIRE went through our archives to rate and file the top 10 TNG episodes.
“All Good Things…” is the best Star Trek series finale ever and the crowning achievement of The Next Generation.
“All Good Things,” written by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore, turned out to be a more cinematic adventure than The Next Generation crew’s debut film, Star Trek: Generations.
Picard is puzzled as he struggles to understand why he is going back and forth through time in this briskly structured, feature-length episode — and its complicated storyline involving paradoxes and second chances.
He jumps back and forth between three crucial historical periods: The past, shortly before Enterprise-maiden D’s voyage; the present; and the future Picard is a retired, elderly guy who runs his family’s vineyard in the future.
He also suffers from a debilitating neurological condition, which makes it difficult for his old shipmates to believe him when he begins to pull Sliders across multiple eras.
Picard’s mission, which is orchestrated by the almighty Q, requires him to persuade all three versions of his crew to work together in each timeline in order to prevent an aberration from unraveling existence as we know it.
With “Tapestry,” possibly the best of the standalone Q episodes, Star Trek goes full of It’s a Wonderful Life.
Picard is shown the life he could have had if he had been more “safe” in his youth after a near-death experience. Picard’s alternative route takes him away from command and into a blue uniform with a profession that is so uninteresting that even Troi struggles to find something positive to say about it.
Picard comes to Q on the way to nowhere fast for a second opportunity to reclaim the only life he knows, even if it takes dying to do so.
“The Inner Light” addresses the theme of being a live witness to an extinct civilization and is a surprising tearjerker for fans, thanks in large part to Patrick Stewart’s riveting portrayal.
Picard gets zapped by a probe that appears to be all that remains of Kamin’s society in this classic episode and finds himself living the life of a long-deceased man named Kamin.
Picard can live a lifetime in 20 minutes and experience all of the things he refuses himself to be, such as a spouse and a father, thanks to the probe.
The majority of the episode takes place on an alien world that is slowly being destroyed by Star Trek’s version of global warming, with Kamin attempting to save his planet from impending catastrophe in the same way that Jor-El attempted to save Krypton.
“Family” pulls off an engrossing hour of television that peels back the curtain on who Picard was, and who he is struggling to be, in the aftermath of the two-parter “Best of Both Worlds,” with no phaser battles or even a trip to the Enterprise bridge (the only episode in Star Trek’s run to never have a scene set on the command deck).
Picard encounters his estranged brother and considers whether or not to leave Starfleet in this episode, which is mostly set on Earth and introduces Picard’s family vineyard into Trek canon. Picard’s lone ally in dealing with his trauma is the last person he can stomach being around, his brother.
Picard finds a sense of satisfactory conclusion only via their persistent squabbling, which provides Stewart with one of his most painful performances when he eventually realizes the emotional scars Borg left him with.
In “The Offspring,” an emotionally dramatic episode of TNG in which Data creates his daughter, Lal, Data’s honest efforts to be more human reach a turning point.
An experienced Starfleet admiral arrives on Enterprise just as the android and his child are bonding, threatening to tear them apart by questioning their right to be a family at all. Data’s humanity is frequently explored in Star Trek: TNG.
via the eyes of the very people who would try to rob him of it. “The Offspring” portrays that dilemma beautifully and movingly, as the crew rushes to Lal’s rescue just as he is facing a life-threatening situation.
When Data and the admiral work offscreen to save Lal, it’s a five-box-of-tissues situation. No matter how fast Data’s hands move, they can’t keep him from having to learn one of humanity’s most difficult lessons: loss.
The Borg have never been scarier than they are in Star Trek’s debut episode, “Q Who?”
When Q is refused a place on Picard’s crew, he snaps his fingers and sends the Enterprise to the uncharted Delta Quadrant, blaming the captain for his apparent short-sightedness.
Picard meets — and narrowly avoids — the Borg and their obsessive pursuit of perfection through assimilation there. The Borg overtook the Klingons as Star Trek’s most lethal opponent the minute their cube vessel sliced out a chunk of the D’s saucer as simply as carving a roast.
Because of future X-Files director Rob Bowman’s dread-filled visual aesthetic, our introduction to the Borg is both bleak and dark, giving the show a slow burn, almost haunted house movie-like air.
You’re not sure how or if the crew will get out of this one for the first time on Star Trek. The resulting tension makes for a fantastic episode.