The duo of episodes that stick with me the most is “The Best of Both Worlds.” I was pretty young when I watched them, and I was totally blown away by the idea that Picard could be turned into a Borg and turn against his crew, as I’d never seen storytelling that bold (as in, this was the first time I saw something like it).
TNG, in general, served to introduce me to a lot of the narrative tools of science fiction in how it can let us look at social, ethical, and other issues.
The most memorable to me, and probably the best episode in all of Trek, is The Inner Light. In the hands of a lesser actor it would have been mediocre, but Patrick Stewart elevates the material so much it makes me cry every time I see it. Trek has a lot of superlative episodes but it’s the quieter, more personal ones like The Inner Light, Family, The Visitor, and City on the Edge of Forever that stick with me.
I’ll be honest, I haven’t watched all of The Next Generation in any sort of useful way - it was always on TV when I was a kid, and I’ve watched some episodes here and there, and I gotta say that this show is Weird y’all
Anyway, my favorite Good Star Trek Moment is in an episode when Picard was dealing with, basically, aggressive Rules Lawyer Aliens over a treaty that allowed them to annex a planet. After spending the whole episode on the edge of war, he finds a loophole in the treaty that lets him win, and when the aliens call him back, he lets the Space Phone ring for a while and goes over and looks at the Enterprise’s dedication plaque and is just Smug As Hell and it’s great.
The episode I will never shut up about, however, is the one where Troi got raped by a space energy being and had a space energy being baby in like 36 hours and everyone on the ship except Worf was totally okay with this. Worf is like “fuck this, I’m sending security guards to the birth of this eldritch monstrosity” and the Doctor GOT MAD AT HIM. Star Trek could be very bad. I guess I’ll give it +5 Woke Points for being willing to mention the “abortion” word on network television in the early '90s, but then Negative 8500 Points for having an entire episode centered around having the empath character bear an energy being rape baby.
It’s goofy, but my most memorable one is Genesis. I was a very little kid when I saw it for the first time and it may have been my introduction to horror. The devolutions of the crew were gross and pretty cool to me. It’s not the deepest episode, but it blew my mind all the same.
Inner Light is an obvious one, and I’ll argue that All Good Things is literally a perfect TV show finale and an astounding narrative construction, but if there’s a pair of episodes that stuck with me and sort of represented the best of what TNG could be it would probably be the two episodes about the Pegasus
Uh obviously the one where Crusher goes to Planet Not-Ireland and has a tryst with a 400 year old fuckboighost.
Genesis owns, Barclay gets a disease named after him! Everyone de-evolves except Worf who somehow becomes even more awesome, etc.
Elaine wasn’t vocal about being pro-choice on the Seinfeld abortion episode yet so you were never going to get a mainstream TV show where characters are okay with someone blasting an unborn kid. There are a lot of off terrible episodes involving Troi because they started out using her as like a bootleg Bene Gesserit truthsayer from Dune, but then realized it was redundant to have an alien on the screen screaming about wanting to destroy everyone and then her going “I sense…anger!” That combined with Next Generation being an 80s show and you have a recipe for some real dogshit.
She ended up being one of my least favorite characters because of that, they never quite found a niche for her to occupy that wasn’t “how does Troi get horribly traumatized this week?”* and we only really learned more about her planet’s culture and stuff via Lwaxana episodes which uh
*There was one really good episode along these lines but too little too late.
There are a lot of off terrible episodes involving Troi because they started out using her as like a bootleg Bene Gesserit truthsayer from Dune, but then realized it was redundant to have an alien on the screen screaming about wanting to destroy everyone and then her going “I sense…anger!” That combined with Next Generation being an 80s show and you have a recipe for some real dogshit.
Yeah Troi is pretty terrible. Either they have to come up with a reason that she is incapacitated so she doesn’t shortcut the entire plot, or she’s basically just Explaining What The Actors Are Acting to you.
I get why they were never going to have Troi abort her energy being rape baby but the fact that they thought that Troi Has A Rape Baby was a solid premise… for a season premiere… #MMMMMMMMMMMMMMM. Then again it was an early instance of Worf being The Best, because he was like the only person on the ship concerned that an unknown eldritch monstrosity was onboard and mind controlling senior crew.
The first Moriarty episode sticks with me if only because it addresses what it would mean for an AI to truly be conscious in a way that arguably better episodes involving Data (Measure of a Man) skirt around. As someone who has thought far, far too much about the problem and read entirely too many philosophical arguments on the subject I was genuinely impressed. Sadly, the followup episode ruined it, or perhaps more accurately just didn’t seem to care.
I’m also partial to Data’s Day because it’s kind of a weird prototypical slice-of-life episode in a franchise that just doesn’t have those even though you sort of end up craving them. That it’s one of the first real harbingers of just how important O’Brien would become doesn’t hurt, either.
I love “Family” it’s the episode right after Best of Both Worlds where Picard spends time with his family in France. TNG before this episode didn’t do a great job with recognizing the long term effects and consequence of the Enterprise’s actions. Family is wonderfully human moment of reflection and acknowledgement that trauma doesn’t really go away but that shouldn’t stop you from confronting it.
The Inner Light is one of the best episodes of television ever but it’s so loosely connected to the world and cast of TNG that I don’t really think of it as TNG (the periodic call-backs to it in later episodes are heart-wrenching though). Most memorable for me would be either Measure of a Man or The Drumhead. The Offspring also holds a fond place in my heart.
It was one of the first episodes of any show that made me realize the breaking the prim and proper of a television series (or a narrative in general) should be a thing. Presenting the flaws of a “hero” or “the good guys” has been a tenant of Trek since it’s inception, but The Drumhead was unique in the way it twisted the ideals of the “good guy” military. Satie could easily been seen as “doing the right thing” by most if Picard was not available to challenge her.
I really like “Darmok”. I love thinking about language and it is very cool to have the crew meet a species and not being able to understand them. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some political intrigues about Klingons and Cardassians but they could just as well have been about people.
Also, I really like the weird aliens in the episode “Samaritan Snare”. The concept of a species getting by even though they are dumb and lazy is charming, and Picard gives another great speech to Wesley.
So many memorable moments, but one episode that I go back to a lot is ‘The Wounded’. A rarity in TNG in that it is an O’Brien centric episode, it fills in a key part of his backstory, i.e his time during the first war with the Cardassians. The episode covers O’Briens former Commander who has taken it upon himself to launch a pre-emptive strike against the Cardassians as he believes they are preparing for war with the Federation but which everyone else believes to be a mission of revenge. The episode tackles war, loss, revenge and features a firefight covered by symbols on a viewscreen that is no less tense for it. Episode also has a great turn from Marc Alaimo as Gul Macet, (surely a relative of Gul Dukat ;-)) who has a great standoff with Picard at the end of the episode. One of the few TNG episodes that explores the fact that ultimately Starfleet is a military force and will go to war if needed.
Yeah Troi getting a-metaphor-for-raped pretty much once a season is legit terrible.
Toward the end of the run I do think they realized what they had done and started to make lemonade out of their lemons starting in Disaster when the ship gets knocked offline and Troi ends up being the highest ranking officer on the bridge and she has to wrestle the responsibilities of command that she didn’t want and isn’t really prepared for. it starts a sort of minor arc in the last couple seasons, played out mostly in B-stories that ends with her taking the Bridge Officers Test and becoming a fully fledged Commander. I dunno, it’s a small storyline and it stems from the female characters on the show being pretty underwritten, but it’s a story that has stuck with me.
“Tapestry,” the episode where Q allows Picard to re-live his life as though he’d never sustained a serious heart injury in youthful barroom brawl, is probably my favorite Q-heavy episode. It’s a neat conceit that really gets good use out of Q examining Picard’s flaws in a way few other episodes manage to capture. I think I remember it, though, because seeing Picard in anything other than a Command Red uniform is so immensely jarring.
I also like the Q episode where he gets slapped by Guinan.