- Season 2, Episode 9 “The Measure of a Man”
- Season 2, Episode 18 “Up the Long Ladder”
- Season 3, Episode 13 “Deja Q”
- Season 3, Episode 21 “Hollow Pursuits”
- Season 3, Episode 26 “Best of Both Worlds 1&2”
- Season 4, Episode 2 “Family”
- Season 4, Episode 21″The Drumhead”
- Season 4, Episode 26 “Redemption 1&2”
- Season 5, Episode 26 “Time’s Arrow 1&2”
- Season 6, Episode 4 “Relics”
This is my (Baelnorn) top ten favorite episodes. These are my personal top ten, not what I consider the top ten best examples of Star Trek The Next Generation. The reasons why an episode can appear on this list ranges from heartfelt personal importance to just being a really fun romp. One of the connecting themes is that all of these episodes have been go to episodes of mine.
I spent some time trying to decide what order to put them in. I thought I’d rank them, but when it came to decided which would out rank which I found it more difficult than expected. In the end I copped out and ordered them based off their premier date.
You may have also noticed I cheated. I combined a few two part episodes and list them as a single entry. I hope you’ll forgive me, but it would feel like a real short list if a two part episode took up two spots. If you read on you’ll get an explanation of why I put each episode on this list.
Measure of a Man
I think this would be considered an iconic episode. In it Picard argues that Data is a sentient being and that he has the right to choose to resign from Starfleet. This episode has a lot going for it. It has Patrick Stuart doing a wonderful job at delivering speeches. The acting is top notch and the material is very engaging.
As with many of the episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation it connects the episode’s problem with issues that we have dealt with in our own past. This time it was dealing with rights of individuals. It bluntly likens it to slavery, which is important, but I think it applies to many topics of individual rights. Not just slavery.
Up the Long Ladder
If you’re well versed in The Next Generation then seeing this episode on a top ten list might be something of a surprise. In this episode the Enterprise rescues not one, but two forgotten Earth colonies. It deals with a few philosophical concepts. Ranging from the more abstract to the concreate.
I would say the main issue they deal with is body autonomy. One of the colonies forcibly takes DNA samples to clone people in an effort to bolster their population. It’s a very serious issue and is an issue humanity has been grappling with for a long time. In regards to cloning, it’s something we still need to answer for our own future.
A more abstract and probably less serious issue, is how we deal with a world increasingly being inundated with technology. The first colony was created in an effort to reduce their reliance on technology and go back to a less technologically advanced way of living.
So why do I like it so much? It’s fun! It really has little to do with the serious theme of body autonomy and more to do with encounter with the first colony. They needed to be evacuated and they brought all their animals and lack of knowledge of “modern” technology to the Enterprise. It is highly entertaining. Plus they are Irish!
In this episode Q becomes human and wants to become part of the Enterprise crew. I’d say the main them is the worth of an individual’s life vs the the group. The crew is put into the position of protecting Q against his enemies. They have to balance their desire to protect an individuals vs protecting not only the ship but a whole planet. It’s probably my favorite Q episode, followed by “Q Who” (Season 2, Episode 16), the introduction of the Borg.
So why exactly is it on my list and beating out the introduction to the Borg no less? Because Guinan stabs Q with a fork! There are lots of little moments, but that scene seriously highlights why I like it. I also really enjoy the personal journey Q has to go through in this episode.
This is the episode of Star Trek that I connect with the most. I dare say that, to me, this is the most important episode in the series. On the surface it’s easy to see what issue this episode is tackling, addiction, but as with most episodes it is multi-layered. I would say that on a deeper look the main issue is mental health and addiction is a part of that issue.
As a child (and an adult too) I really identified with Barkley. I didn’t know it at the time but I suffered from anxiety and at the time people just saw it as “being shy”. “Sounds like nothing serious” does it? Well, to me it was.
It was the first character on TV that I really connected with. Barkley was surviving on the flag ship of Star Fleet, the best of the best are serving on the enterprise and here there was this guy who suffered from the same thing I suffered from. Looking back on it, I can understand how representation in the media is important. I felt like I was represented, that I could achieve great things too, just like Barkley.
As an adult, who suffers with anxiety and depression, I can now identify how the approach to how he was treated was so great. They showed that you shouldn’t just ignore the problem, you treat it with a combination of medical attention, therapy and a support network. If you don’t get those things you might turn to self treatment and become addicted to something, something that allows you to escape, but could cause more harm than good. In this case it was hollow addiction. In real life it could be anything, video games, reading or drugs to name a few.
Best of Both Worlds
The first two part episode on this list and probably one of the most iconic episodes in the series. I used to think it was a good Picard episode, but after watching a recent YouTube video about the episode I realize it’s better described as a Riker episode.
While the episode is about Picard having his body and mind violated, it’s really Riker who has the most screen time. It follows Riker as he has to deal with his career, he has to deal with being in command, he deals with the conflicts and he makes the calls that gets it resolved (other than the whole sleep thing). It put a whole new light on the episode for me.
Really this is the start of the golden age of Next Generation and boy what a start. I once heard a story from Patrick Stuart abut the break between season 3 and 4, where we were left with that big cliff hanger. According to Stuart, he wasn’t sure that the show was going to get a 4th season and that just blew my mind. Can you imagine if there wasn’t a resolution to the order “fire”?!
This is the episode that directly follows the events of “Best of Both Worlds”. Picard goes back to his home village in France to help him recover from his experiences with the Borg. One of the best things about this episode is getting to learn more about Picard. You get to see a side of him you don’t get to see on most other episodes, his fragility. He has to confront his trauma with the Borg and learn how to incorporate that into his life.
While I consider the Picard storyline to be the best in this episode, there are two other storylines about family I should mention. First is the one with Worf; we get to meet his adopted parents. It’s a good story and we get some insight into his relationship with his parents that we might otherwise not get. There is a focus on his Klingon heritage throughout the series, but his human upbringing, while never shied away from, is often used as a counter point more than it is actually explored.
The other major story beat is with Wesley. His mother goes through some old things that were left in storage on Earth and comes across a holographic recording of his father, a message he created, for Wesley to have when he is older. We finally get to see what his father looked like and the message is heart warming and sad all at the same time.
Like an earlier mention on this list, “Measure of a Man”, I consider this one an iconic episode. If I want to see Patrick Stuart giving a speech, this tops the list as one of my go to episodes. There are many themes in this episode, all centered around legal protections and a person’s right to not be judged guilty without evidence.
There are at least two instances of Picard giving a speech, one to Worf, in private that explains what a drumhead trial is as well as making it a point to say that you shouldn’t weaponize a fundamental government principle against it’s citizens. He goes further on to mention that you should be careful to make sure suspicion does not turn into rampant paranoia. The Red Scare comes to mind in American History.
The other speech comes when Picard himself is being put to question in front of a public hearing. His whole command is being questioned, his very loyalty to the Federation, put on trial. He responds calmly and eloquently about the protections freedoms and how if one persons freedom’s are trodden upon we are all irrevocably damaged.
This episode, like so many others are still culturally relevant and I think does a good job of speaking to each and everyone of us.
There are a few episodes that could be classified as Klingon episodes, but this is the only one that was made into a two part. It is the resolution of a story line that includes two earlier episodes in the series, three if you include where they talk about his discommendation in “Family”.
While it is a big Worf/Klingon episode, it also is an episode about civial war and the Romulans and the Federation. Not only that, there is yet another episode, unrelated to Worf, that the story draws from “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. An episode which brought back Tasha Yar for one more jaunt in space.
There is so much going on and it combines stories from a multitude of episodes in a way that many series didn’t during the time. I love it and there is so much lore that comes from this episode, it was hard for it not to make the list.
So this made the list because it’s just a down right fun episode. In it, you get to learn more about the relationship between Picard and Guinan. You also get to learn a little bit more about Guinan’s species. They also get to return to earth to help solve a mystery that centers around Data.
In the process of unraveling the mystery some of the crew gets thrown back in time. They even get to meet two notable literary figures Samuel Clemens and Jack London. Although Jack London is a bit of a surprise when compared to Samuel’s role, which I loved.
One of my all time favorite moments is when Samuel Clemens is aboard the enterprise (Yah, he goes to the future!). He is talking to Diana Troi and says “Young lady, I come from a time when men achieve power and wealth by standing on the backs of the poor, where prejudice and intolerance are commonplace and power is an end unto itself. And you’re telling me that isn’t how it is anymore?” It is such a good scene and is very poignant to our current times and our hopes for the future.
I would like to end this segment with one more quote. It’s one I just love and it too was by Samuel Clemens “Eavesdropping is by no means a proper activity for a gentleman. Nevertheless, the deed is done!”
This is a fanboy episode no doubt, it was fun and entertaining and is one of the only two episodes which has a character from the original Start Trek crew, Scotty, the one and only James Doohan. I remember when it came out that it was a big deal. They painstakingly recreated the old bridge from the original show, they even managed to borrow the original captains chair from the current own!
There is some good interactions between Scotty and Geordie, but there was tension in the beginning of the episode. He also gets a few moments with Data and then a wonderful moment with Captain Picard. Scotty is a captain too after all.
All in all it was a fun episode, one worthy of being in my top ten list. They even manage to do some old school Scotty techno wizardry!