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August 25, 2006 5:34 PM   Subscribe

The wife and I just got the entire Star Trek: The Next Generation series on DVD. Which ones should we watch?

She's a neophyte, I'm a fan from back in the day. We've watched "The Best of Both Worlds". Now what? Exceptional Picard, Data and/or Worf-centric episodes will earn you extra furlough on Rigel-7.
posted by Optamystic to Media & Arts (58 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Inner Light is almost unanimously considered Picard's best episode.
posted by The Confessor at 5:40 PM on August 25, 2006

I haven't watched the series in a very long time and do not remember which episodes were which, but I would say that all the episodes that involved the borg were probably my favorite.
posted by nickerbocker at 5:41 PM on August 25, 2006

Yesterday's Enterprise.

The one where Worf is shifting from one timeline to another, and there's a danger that the universe will be completely filled with Enterprises.

The one where Q turns Gates McFadden into an Irish Setter and she doesn't notice.

The one where Worf describes Klingon courtship. The male RECITES LOVE POETRY... and ducks a lot.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:49 PM on August 25, 2006

Measure of a Man, from second season, is one of the better Data episodes.

Yesterday's Enterprise is excellent, though if it's anyone-centric, it's Guinan or Tasha Yar.

Elementary, Dear Data is good, and fun.

Deja Q is, IMNSHO, the best of the Q episodes.

There's an episode, which I think is called Brothers, which is both Picard- and Worf-centric.

Cause and Effect is an excellent episode, with a cameo from Kelsey Grammer, and in which the Enterprise explodes before the opening credits.
posted by cerebus19 at 5:51 PM on August 25, 2006

I always thought the best Data-centric episodes were "The Measure of a Man" (Season 2 episode 9), in which Data's status as a sentient being is put on trial. and "The Most Toys" (Season 3 episode 22), in which Data is kidnapped and added to a wealthy merchant's collection of rare and valuable artifacts. I loved Picard in "The Measure of a Man" too. "Starfleet was founded to seek out new life, well THERE IT SITS!"
posted by Gator at 5:53 PM on August 25, 2006

It's hard for me to conceive of buying the whole set and not watching them all, in order. Isn't that the point?

The series got steadily better as time went on, so if you're going to skip some, skip the early ones (but make sure to watch the pilot). And once you're about halfway into season three or so, there are 'mythology' episodes about the klingons and the borg and the relationships between the major characters, and you basically have to watch them all or you'll miss out on the feel of it.

That said, you can safely skip the Robin Hood one.
posted by bingo at 5:54 PM on August 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

You should skim through Memory Alpha and see what you like. Some of my favorites:

Best of Both Worlds
Yesterday's Enterprise
The Icarus Factor
Future Imperfect
And of course,
I, Borg
posted by richter_x at 5:55 PM on August 25, 2006

If you like Measure Of A Man, you should check out Otto Binder's Adam Link stories from the 30s and 40s, especially considering the fact that episode was lifed wholesale from "The Trial Of Adam Link."
posted by beaucoupkevin at 5:58 PM on August 25, 2006

That is very weird. I just read the Wikipedia entry on the The Inner Light. I got to it like so:

The Man in the High Castle > Alternate history books > Star Trek original series episode about time/nazis etc > Star Trek TNG: Inner Light.

Odd timing for me to get to that just as this question popped up....

But yes, apparently it's excellent! ...although I haven't seen it, heh.
posted by knapah at 5:58 PM on August 25, 2006

Oops. Mea culpa - Eando Binder wrote those stories.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 6:01 PM on August 25, 2006

posted by corpse at 6:04 PM on August 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Another vote for Inner Light!
posted by Robot Johnny at 6:07 PM on August 25, 2006

The Inner Light and also Darmok. Both are outstanding.
posted by markmillard at 6:12 PM on August 25, 2006

"Elementary, Dear Data" is a charming, funny exploration of sentience.

"The Measure of a Man" is one of my all-time favorites -- does Data have a soul?

"Q Who?" is the introductionn of the Borg.

"The Emissary" has some great Worf character develoment.

"Who Watches the Watchers" - one of many explorations of the Prime Directive -- the letter of the law or its spirit?

"Yesterday's Enterprise" -- Star Trek usually does dippy time travel stories, but I liked this one.

"The Best of Both Worlds" parts one and two -- the Borg take Picard!

"Family" is good as well.

"The Nth Degree" is a great one focusing on the minor character Barclay -- played by Dwight Schultz.

"The Drumhead" -- Betazoid's are Star Trek's NSA wiretapping.

"Unification" --- a two parter that focuses on the Romulans and has Leonard Nimoy in it.

"The Outcast" thinly-veiled parable about gay rights, but still good.

"I, Borg" -- a good one about stooping to the enemy's level.

"Force of Nature" -- they learn warp drive is bad for the environment

About season six, the show's quality was suffering, so not much good after this.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:17 PM on August 25, 2006

I guess this is more or less piggybacking on the OP, but which was the episode where the Enterprise is caught in the wormhole? And the crew was in a series of time-loops (everything kept happening again and again until Picard, I think, realizes whats going on)?
posted by Eudaimonia at 6:31 PM on August 25, 2006

btw, I showed 'The Inner Light' to a friend who knew nothing about Star Trek, and he hated it. Since I had hyped it as one of the universally-acknowledged-to-be-good episodes, he decided he didn't need to watch any more ST at all. He's a harsh critic, though.
posted by bingo at 6:35 PM on August 25, 2006

Darmok and Jalad... at Tanagra!
posted by ontic at 6:38 PM on August 25, 2006

posted by eustacescrubb at 6:38 PM on August 25, 2006

I second, "Darmok"
posted by sandra_s at 6:42 PM on August 25, 2006

All, in order.

Or are you afraid of her getting bored and wandering off?
posted by trevyn at 6:48 PM on August 25, 2006

"All Good Things" - the final episode. Better than the first TNG movie.
posted by hangashore at 6:52 PM on August 25, 2006

Eudaimonia: Is "Cause and Effect" what you were thinking of?
posted by ontic at 6:57 PM on August 25, 2006

The one I was thinking of "Cause and Effect" and it was Data that ultimately realizes what's up, not Picard

... I can't believe I more or less admitted that I used to watch Star Trek after school...
posted by Eudaimonia at 7:00 PM on August 25, 2006

oh, heh, thanks ontic
posted by Eudaimonia at 7:00 PM on August 25, 2006

There is also "Time Squared" where Picard has to figure something similar out.
posted by ontic at 7:02 PM on August 25, 2006

Don't know if I saw "Time Squared," but I'm going to third your suggestion for Darmok
posted by Eudaimonia at 7:07 PM on August 25, 2006

Watch them in order, otherwise you will ruin the story arc.
posted by orthogonality at 7:11 PM on August 25, 2006

I have to strongly disagree with eustacescrubb's assessment of the series' quality going downhill from season six on. On the contrary, I think the season really hit its stride in season six and went out with a huge bang in seven. I've converted many a non-believer based on season seven alone.

If you're trying to introduce her to the series, I definitely think the best thing to do is to watch them in order. It's fun to watch the progression of the characters and the evolution of the show, and even though there are some horrible TV moments wrapped up into seasons one and two, there are some wonderful gems--can anyone say 'Cluck cluck, Number One'? Oh yeah.

'Schisms' had Data's poetry recital (including 'Ode to Spot').

'Sarek' had some great Picard moments. Well, really, it was just amazing acting on the part of Patrick Stewart.

'Sins of the Father' has Worf and Kurn fighting to clear their father's name with the Klingon High Council.

'Reunion' is a great episode for both Worf and Picard (I just love Picard getting all down with the Klingons).

'Data's Day' follows Data around for a day (duh) and offers some interesting looks into his life.

'Hero Worship' has a young boy trying to be like Data because androids don't have emotions.

'Captain's Holiday' takes Picard off the Enterprise and gives him a bit of an adventure on his vacation.

'Tapestry' gives an Picard a look at how his life might have been different.

Wow...didn't mean for this to be so long, but I was quite the geeky fangirl as a teenager, and I'm currently going through the series again. I highly recommend looking at the characters' profiles on Wikipedia (at least Data and Picard) as they offer lists of key episodes. That might jog your memory a little, too, as far as the good ones go.
posted by monochromaticgirl at 7:12 PM on August 25, 2006

My recommendations (items in bold are my strongest recommendations)

Season 1: "Encounter at Farpoint" (more as the "origin" story rather than for the story itself) "Datalore" (Data), "Too Short a Season," "Coming of Age" (a good Wesley episode! yes, there are one or two), "Heart of Glory" (Worf), "The Arsenal of Freedom" (purely for Vincent Schiavelli's performance), "Skin of Evil," "We'll Always Have Paris" (Picard), "The Neutral Zone"

Season 2: "Elementary, Dear Data" (Data), "Loud as a Whisper," "The Schizoid Man" (Data), "A Matter of Honor" (Klingons, though not specifically Worf), "The Measure of a Man" (Data), "Q Who," "The Emissary" (Worf)

Season 3: "The Ensigns of Command" (Data), "The Survivors," "Who Watches the Watchers," "The Enemy," "The Defector" (one of the best episodes of the series, IMO--James Sloyan is brilliant, and I'm surprised this episode hasn't already been mentioned in this thread), "Deja Q" (best Q episode of the series), "Yesterday's Enterprise," "The Offspring" (Data), "Sins of the Father" (Worf and also Picard), "Allegiance" (Picard), "The Most Toys" (Data), "Sarek," "The Best of Both Worlds, Part I"

Season 4: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II," "Family" (Picard and Worf), "Brothers" (Data), "Remember Me," "Reunion" (Worf), "Data's Day" (Data), "Clues," "The Drumhead," "Half a Life," "Redemption" (Worf)

Season 5: "Redemption Part II" (Worf), "Darmok" (Picard), "Ensign Ro," "Disaster," "Unification I," "Unification II," "New Ground" (Worf), "Conundrum," "Cause and Effect," "The First Duty" (another good Wesley episode, believe it or not), "The Perfect Mate" (Picard), "I, Borg," "The Inner Light" (Picard), "Time's Arrow, Part I"

Season 6: "Time's Arrow, Part II," "Relics," "True Q," "Rascals" (yes, the premise sounds cheesy, but it's actually done well), "The Quality of Life" (Data), "Chain of Command, Part I," "Chain of Command, Part II" (Picard), "Ship in a Bottle," "Face of the Enemy" (The only good Troi episode), "Tapestry" (Picard), "Birthright, Part I," "Birthright, Part II" (Worf & Data), "Starship Mine" (Picard), "Lessons" (Picard), "Rightful Heir" (Worf), "Second Chances," "Descent, Part I" (Data)

Season 7: "Descent, Part II" (Data), "Gambit, Part I," "Gambit, Part II" (Picard), "Inheritance" (Data), "Parallels" (Worf), "The Pegasus," "Homeward" (Worf), "Lower Decks" (also one of my top choices, and again surprised it hasn't been listed here already), "Thine Own Self" (Data), "Masks" (Data; the plot isn't that great, but a great performance by Spiner), "Firstborn" (Worf), "Preemptive Strike," "All Good Things" (Picard)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:25 PM on August 25, 2006 [4 favorites]

If you don't get a lump in your throat after watching "The Inner Light", you have a heart of stone.

Also "Darmok", "Cause and Effect", "Clues", and any episode with Reg Barclay.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 7:37 PM on August 25, 2006 [1 favorite]

Oh, and "Thine Own Self". A great Data episode.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 7:43 PM on August 25, 2006


"Temba, his arms wide."
posted by jca at 7:46 PM on August 25, 2006

all, in order...if you both of you haven't gone through them before, I would think it would behoove you to do it in order. You might find it fun to use something like The Nitpicker's Guide to Star Trek as you work through the eps.
posted by mmascolino at 7:57 PM on August 25, 2006

MeTa per eustacescrubb.
posted by mlis at 8:16 PM on August 25, 2006

Me three for Inner Light and Darmok. Best TV anywhere at the time they were made. Outstanding.
posted by mwhybark at 8:25 PM on August 25, 2006

"The Emissary" (Worf)
"The Enemy"
"Yesterday's Enterprise"
"New Ground"
"Cause and Effect"
"The Perfect Mate"
"Chain of Command, Parts I and II" (The best acting on any Trek is in this episode.)
"Lower Decks" (I think it's most underrated TNG episode ever.)
"All Good Things"
posted by ruwan at 8:27 PM on August 25, 2006

I bought The Nitpicker's Guide years ago, and I haven't seen the series since it first ran, but there was an interesting episode about a 'game' that you wear on your head. It stimulates a pleasure center the farther you get. Anyway, the 'game' hardware is easy for the replicators to duplicate, and it starts spreading among the crew.

This episode was produced before the internet as we know it today, or cell phones, or blackberries, but I think it was the first time I noticed someone bringing up the idea of technology addiction.
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:35 PM on August 25, 2006

The Inner Light made me cry, dammit.

The first epidode of TNG I ever saw was Darmok, and I thought it very impressive. So another two votes for both of those.
posted by jokeefe at 9:18 PM on August 25, 2006

I was a huge ST:TNG fan. How huge? I videotape and audiotaped every episode. I took extensive notes on them. I argued about the episodes on USENET. I loved the show.

I haven't watched a single episode since the series ended.

As others have hinted, there's an arc of quality. During the first and second seasons, the show is finding its footing. There are good episodes here and there, but it's pretty rough. The third season is outstanding. There are a couple of clunkers, but other than that it's top notch television. The fourth season is a little weaker, and the fifth season weaker still. The last two seasons the show seems to tread water — like most good shows that turn bad, it becomes more about its own mythology than it used to be. Also, they crap that was to plague late DS9 and all of Voyager begin to appear: technobabble as a substitute for plot, a focus on character quirks, too much trying to be "cool". Even so, there are some great episodes late in the run.

My recommendation would be to watch the entire series. In order. That's 178 episodes. You could stretch that to almost a year of viewing if you wanted, and I think it would be great fun.

I can't believe you watched "Best of Both Worlds" without watching the episodes that came before it. The reason that pair of episodes was so great was because of the setup. Without that, they lose some of their power. (I can remember the first time I saw the third season cliffhanger — I was waiting tables at a Holiday Inn, and had to keep sneaking off to the bar to catch a peek at what was happening.)

Seriously: watch them all, and watch them in order.

Then, when you can come to appreciate the nuances of the characters and the universe. You can appreciate that the character of Wesley has taken a bad rap for nothing. (He's a fine character and Wil Wheaton does a good job.) If anything, it's frickin' Data that's always saving the ship. Data is the deus ex machina in too many episodes. It's Brent Spiner who gets on the nerves. You can be wowed by the middle seasons, and then be saddened by the gradual decline in quality, as the Big Names get all the focus at the expense of Geordi, Crusher, Troi, etc.

And, in the end, you will marvel at the hidden joy that is the series best episode: "Lower Decks", the only episode that ever made me cry. I can't believe it's only received two mentions here.
posted by jdroth at 10:17 PM on August 25, 2006

shaka, when the walls fell!

jdroth makes a good point, but if you're not that devoted it probably is safe to skip the first two seasons. i thought they were horrible and i'm glad i stuck it out to get beyond it because the 3rd season and beyond were pretty good.

and i know all about roddenberry's love for the wesley character, and wil wheaton is a great guy and everything, but man, some of those wesley-centric eps are really painful. you might want to avoid those.
posted by joeblough at 11:36 PM on August 25, 2006


Or, as we call it around the house, "Picard and the Planet of Comparative Lit Majors."

Still, great episode.

Nth for "The Inner Light" and "Yesterday's Enterprise." "The Defector" was also quite good.

Not a lot of support for "The Drumhead," but if you can get past some terrible scenery-chewing by Jean Simmons, it's quite good.

The problem for me is that I liked the last 4 years of DS9 more than most of TNG. The story arc and the players seemed stronger and less cardboard.
posted by dw at 12:50 AM on August 26, 2006

Too often, the episodes were "gee whiz", melodramatic, and/or saccharine -- either about the science fiction, the Star Trek mythology, Troi, or Wesley.

So when I checked up my favorite episodes recently, I found a lot of them had been written by Ron Moore, the showrunner on Battlestar Galactica (2004) and very influential on Deep Space 9. Most of his ST:TNG episodes stand out as the ones with an adult edge to them: "The Defector", "Descent" (Data murdering people!), "Yesterday's Enterprise", "Family" (Picard breaks down after being rescued from the Borg), "Chain of Command", and "Disaster" (two of the main characters nearly suffocate). A lot of BSG tropes are foreshadowed back in these early 90's episodes.

So, one attack for you, if you're a BSG fan: concentrate on the episodes Ron Moore wrote.

My personal favorite is one he didn't write: "The Survivors". It's one of the tightest scripts they ever shot. It's stand-alone sci-fi plot that reminds me of good sci-fi short stories. There's a great twist. The dialog is sharp and load-bearing. And the actors, including the guest stars, are great down the line. Sirtis even nails a tough emotional note!

BTW the episode Wild_Eep mentions: "The Game". Remarkable for two reasons: 1) it's a solid Wesley episode, and 2) a young, incredibly attractive Ashley Judd guests.

(Yep, I'm a geek. Hi search engines! Hi future employers and dates!)
posted by maschnitz at 1:09 AM on August 26, 2006

Inner... TNG geek... emerging...

For Picard, the two that leap to mind are definitely "Chain of Command" (for some tight acting by the Cardassian Gul as well as Picard - "There! Are! Four! Lights!") and "Inner Light," natch - the greatest TNG episode, period.

For Worf, the one where he gets imprisoned with a bunch of old POWs from the war with Romulus was pretty memorable.

For Data, the episode where Soong calls him back is great just for the sequence where he hijacks the Enterprise. The one where Lore lures him has the memorable scene where he gets angry at the borg (and has the added bonus of introducing the renegade borg). And I remember loving the one where he gains the ability to dream.

Also, and this does not meet your criteria, but - "Night Terrors." Because the scene in the morgue is creepy as hell.
posted by poweredbybeard at 1:57 AM on August 26, 2006

Oh! And which was the one where Picard is alone on the Enterprise while it's being "cleaned," and hijackers board? That's a damn good one.

Ok, I guess if I really was a geek, I'd know more ep names.

And of course any Q episode usually involved lots of Picard.
posted by poweredbybeard at 2:00 AM on August 26, 2006

poweredbybeard- that ep was called 'Starship Mine'- where the Enterprise is having a baryon sweep and terrorists (topical!) try to take over the ship.

Other great eps in no particular order-

'Cause and Effect'
'The Drumhead'
'Tapestry'- where Q helps Picard 'correct' his past mistakes
'In Theory'- where Data becomes romantically involved (quite touching)
'The Outcast'- where Riker falls in love with a hermaphrodite (how Trek could push the boundaries of sexual politics where other shows fear to tread, at the time)

Also 'Lower Decks' and of course, 'Inner Light' seconded!
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 3:47 AM on August 26, 2006

Response by poster: These are great! Many thanks to everyone.
posted by Optamystic at 4:15 AM on August 26, 2006

The one nobody mentioned that always stands out to me is "Frame of Mind" where Riker is stuck in a not-always-what-it-seems world where reality is questionable and no one is to be trusted.

You know, total fiction.
posted by softlord at 6:16 AM on August 26, 2006

Man, I really need to rewatch this show. I really liked it in junior high, then got too "cool" for it (started reading Gibson and the other cyberpunk folks, couldn't get into any other kind of SF). I still don't remember it as being great, but I have respect for a lot of elements (particularly Data's arch, completely destroyed in the movies). But, more than anything, I remember "Cause and Effect" blowing my undeveloped mind (many thanks to all of you for naming it for me). I've tried to tell people about that episode before, but I've never known the title, the season, or even the particulars of the plot. I just remembered how cool the looping was, and how weird I felt when the Enterprise blew up before the opening credits. That's a freakin' grabber.
posted by brundlefly at 6:33 AM on August 26, 2006

"Frame of Mind" was a wonderful episode.

But, to the OP: As a few others have suggested, watch them all. You'll likely find something to like in all of them, and will certainly come to appreciate the relationships between the characters more by seeing every episode.
posted by Merdryn at 7:26 AM on August 26, 2006

Oh! And which was the one where Picard is alone on the Enterprise while it's being "cleaned," and hijackers board? That's a damn good one.

That was "11001001", wasn't it?
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 7:43 AM on August 26, 2006

Darmok is my favorite. Except now I will, forever and always, refer to it as "Picard and the Planet of Comparative Lit Majors." (Thanks dw, that was the best laugh I've had in awhile!)
posted by kalimac at 8:26 AM on August 26, 2006

Darmok. Of course.
Inner Light.
Chain of Command. And after, you might want to rent or acquire Closet Land, a film starring (and only starring) Madeliene Stowe and Alan Rickman that follows the same general principle to devastating effect.

What's great about watching the series in order is the many bands of evolution. The characters develop. The writing tightens. The effects get better. Even the uniforms go from material akin to zippered spandex to higher quality wool. By the time you reach the end of the series, the investment is substantial.

Of course, I miss the suspense of season finales. A bunch of my friends and I would watch the cliffhanger episodes (like the first part of Best Of Both Worlds), then put our guesses for resolution in a box to be pulled out in the fall.
posted by grabbingsand at 9:13 AM on August 26, 2006

Just wanted to add my vote for watching the whole series in order, there is simply too much good in the series as a whole to view it any other way in my opinion. That being said, I give yet another vote for Inner Light as best episode overall.

Yelling out "there are four lights!" in social settings is also a great way to find out who else was a big fan and start a conversation....and possibly show your inner geek to the world.
posted by rfbjames at 2:42 PM on August 26, 2006

I agree with watching all of them, especially because the very good episodes ("Deja Q", "Measure of a Man", "The Offspring", "The Most Toys", etc) are much better if you have more knowledge of the character. "Deja Q" works on the contrast with the earlier omnipotent Q, otherwise it just wouldn't be as interesting.
posted by jb at 3:52 PM on August 26, 2006

"All Good Things," the series finale, is only as good as it is because of the vested interest you have in watching the previous 177 (or whatever) episodes, and building a familiarity with the characters. If you just watch that one episode... or even the dozen or so highly mentioned episodes... you are missing the power of it all.

It'd be like watching the finale of M*A*S*H, or Cheers, or The West Wing, or any other long running series. Yeah, you might enjoy the episode and think "Gee, that was really good." But, it's just not the same.
posted by jeversol at 4:20 PM on August 26, 2006

Best AskMeFi ever. Hands down.

(I think I love you guys.)

posted by damnjezebel at 6:07 PM on August 26, 2006

I can't believe you watched "Best of Both Worlds" without watching the episodes that came before it. The reason that pair of episodes was so great was because of the setup.

That's an excellent point, but interestingly, more because of the characters than the setup, IMO. I was a fan, but somehow missed the original Borg encounter episode with Q, and BoBW was still compelling. But part of that, I think, is that it really plays on the emotional connections between the characters in a really amazing way.

After all the abuse that the Borg took as decent antagonists in absolutely every appearance after this, it's cool to go back and remember just how goddamn scary they were in this episode.

And Stewart's delivery of the first Locutus line is just absolutely chilling.
posted by spiderwire at 10:21 AM on August 27, 2006

This is weird I answered the Inner Light in this askme. I think this episode is hands down the best of all Star Trek.
posted by darkmatter at 1:11 PM on August 27, 2006

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