If there’s one bad thing that anniversaries do, it’s make you feel old. I can’t believe that even Star Trek: The Next Generation came on the air two whole decades ago. In honour of the show that really brought me into the sci-fi fold, here are my favourite episodes (one per year) in no particular order. Enjoy!
Skin of Evil
An evil pool of tar (yes, I’m serious) traps Counsellor Troi inside a downed shuttle and ends up killing Tasha Yar.
The first episode that really hooked me into the series. Though there was not a huge story, it was Yar’s death made that this a memorable episode.
Omnipotent trickster Q returns to taunt Captain Picard and the Enterprise, sending them light-years off course and face to face with the Borg — the cybernetic race that shared a collective mind and were only interested in stripping their “enemies” for parts.
I had my first real “water-cooler” urge after watching this episode. I wanted to talk to my school friends (fellow geeks) about how incredibly cool the Borg were.
Ensigns of Command
Commander Data is sent alone to a planet with the mission to convince a stubborn colony of humans that they need to evacuate before another alien race comes to eradicate them.
A planet-bound solo episode featuring Data, I remember really empathizing with Data’s predicament and was very impressed by his resolution of the situation.
Reality is not what it’s supposed to be when a ship from the past is brought to the present and the Enterprise need to decide whether or not to help them return.
The opening sequence onboard a warship Enterprise was just the beginning of a cool and moving episode.
Best of Both Worlds
The Borg begin their attack on human worlds and the Enterprise is sent to stop them, only to have Captain Picard himself taken and assimilated.
Probably the best episode of Trek ever. Not only was it a full-on confrontation with the big bad Borg, but the hopeless-seeming cliffhanger of Captain Picard speaking for the Borg made the resolution that much more gripping.
Captain Picard and the Enterprise help a planet get out of a mythical contract that they have with a legendary goddess who appears to have returned to collect.
People might find this episode a bit corny, but I love mythology and found it clever that the writers imagined how future technology might allow someone to exploit mythology for personal gain. Plus it was a pretty fun episode.
Captain Picard and an alien captain are stranded on a planet with a vicious monster and the only way for them to survive is to learn to communicate and work together.
This was a really well-written and acted episode, plus the idea of the alien language being built upon their own mythology was such an interesting concept that I mentioned it in a university presentation that I gave.
Counsellor Troi, Chief O’Brien and Commander Data are possessed by alien entities and create a hostage situation on the Enterprise.
I love body-snatching episodes because it provides an opportunity to see familiar actors display a totally different personality and flex their dramatic muscles.
Cause and Effect
The Enterprise and its crew seem to be repeating a set of events that ultimately lead to the ship’s destruction.
This episode was so cleverly devised. On one hand they had to repeat certain events over and over, but make it slightly different and interesting to watch. On the other, they had to move the story forward to an eventual resolution. I could watch the episode endlessly.
When the Enterprise crew nurses an injured Borg drone back to health they start to get to know him.
It’s such a simple concept for an episode, but it was so well done. By putting all these characters up close with one of their enemies, it really showed their true faces. Plus, the idea of taking an inhuman enemy like the Borg and making an episode all about humanizing one of them — genius!
The Inner Light
Captain Picard is sent into a coma by an alien device only to live an entire lifetime in his mind.
Again, not a challenging concept, but the story was so moving and memorable that even now I feel touched when I hear the flute melody that Picard played in that other life.
Crew members are bothered by nightmares with common elements that start to suggest that something more troubling is actually happening.
I love this episode mainly for the scene when the victims all get together and use virtual reality to recreate their shared nightmare bit by bit — still sends me chills.
Chain of Command
Dr. Crusher and Lt. Worf go with Captain Picard on a covert op, but he is captured and tortured by the Cardassians.
I don’t think anyone will forget Patrick Stewart’s incredible performance in this episode when he yells “There are four lights!”. In that moment he embodied the indomitable human spirit.
Face of the Enemy
Counsellor Troi wakes up to find herself on a Romulan ship, herself turned into a Romulan agent.
I love Troi (I know, I know) and this was one of her best episodes. When she threatened to eject that other Romulan into space, she became so bad-ass I shuddered.
Dr. Crusher fears that she’s losing her mind when people she remembers start disappearing from reality.
This was a really cool and different kind of mystery, and a lot of fun to share the desperation with Crusher as she tried to figure out what was happening.
A look at ship-board life for four lower-grade crew members.
What an interesting alternative episode that gives fans a new perspective on the usual characters. In a brief episode, not only do we get to really know these junior officers, the ending moves me to tears every single time I watch it. Bravo!
An alien artifact causes Commander Data to manifest all kinds of personalities from a kind of pre-Columbian society.
Another episode that people really don’t like, but I love it, not only because Brent Spiner got to really go wild with all the characters he portrayed, but I love the mythical overtones of the whole episode.
When the ship breaks down, crew members are put into all kinds of situations that put their resourcefulness to the test.
By this episode I’d come to know the characters in their roles pretty well. This disaster was a great way to shake them up a bit and put them into situations that really tested them: Picard with kids! Troi in command! Data as just a head!
A seemingly ordinary day in Commander Data’s life as recounted to a friend.
In contrast to Disaster, showing the normal ship-board events from Data’s perspective (as narrated by him) made for a very interesting look at how mundane things really are the essence of living.
All Good Things
Captain Picard is shifting back and forth in time and faces Q again.
I thought this was one of the more satisfying series finales. I guess time travel really allows all kinds of closure, plus it was fun to see the possible future for all my favourite crew members.
There’s nothing quite like reminiscing about a favourite show. Pardon me while I go pull out those DVDs and watch them all again…