Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Top Ten Episodes from STAR TREK, The Next Generation

Yesterday was Top Ten Book Related Subject day (a weekly meme run by the gals at THE BROKE AND THE BOOKISH), but I was off on a tangent. I'm in a sci-fi frame of mind lately so I'm doing a TV related post instead. I suppose I could have done Top Ten Sci-Fi books, but I didn't. Primarily because I don't read a great deal of science fiction.

Since I recently discovered you can watch whole seasons worth of certain television series Streaming on Netflix (hooray for that!) I sat and watched episodes of STAR TREK, The Next Generation primarily because I have/had a crush on Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) AND Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn). Obviously you're never too old for crushes. (Embarrassing, I know.) Plus it was a damn good show that ran seven seasons, from 1987 - 1993.

By the way, if you're looking for the purity of the original series, The Classic Film and TV Cafe did a Five Best Original Star Trek Episodes post a couple of weeks ago. Not to worry, I love the original series too.

My Top Ten Favorite Star Trek Next Generation Episodes:

1) Time's Arrow - Part One (Season 5)

In which Lieutenant Data - the life-like android played wonderfully by Brent Spiner, literally loses his head.

When a landing party, including modern day Data, stumbles over the robotic head of Lieutenant Data in an ancient cave - minus the body - they eventually figure out they need to go back in time to re-unite head and body in order to save Data's life in the future. (Not as confusing as it sounds.) A complicated but fun episode. Jerry Hardin as Mark Twain  and Whoopie Goldberg as Guinan, both show up in early 20th century California.

We also have a young Jack London (played by Michael Aron) as a smartly conniving bell hop - at one point he even asks Twain for writing advice.

Michael Aron as Jack London.

2) Time's Arrow - Part Two (Season 6)

A continuation of the crew's adventures in the early part of the 20th century. There they are hindered rather than helped - at first - by Mark Twain's recalcitrance when he suspects them of foul play. The nature of their mission, besides putting head and body together for Data's sake, is to close a time-travel space conduit being used by ghoulish space aliens to travel back in time and drain earth bodies of their lifes' blood. (Something like that.)

Counselor Troi and Mark Twain aboard the ship.

Both episodes are a great deal of fun, especially when Data has to keep reminding everyone (to explain his odd appearance) that he's "...from France." Ha!

I also enjoyed watching Mark Twain aboard the Enterprise near the end. Just terrific stuff.

3) DARMOK - (Season 5)

The Tamarians are an alien race which the Federation has never been able to communicate with despite several tries over the years. The Star Trek crew tries to make themselves understood when they meet a Tamarian ship, but the crew's speech once again appears incomprehensible. The Tamarians - reptilian looking humanoids - speak only in metaphor, metaphor related to their own unique myths and history, metaphor which covers even their basic orders and exclamations.

In general, metaphor can only be understood if it makes some reference to familiar objects, situations and/or literature, history or shared points of our mythological past. This point is made effectively and cleverly in this dramatic episode featuring the Captain of the Enterprise and the Captain of the alien vessel trapped on a planet where a hostile creature lurks.

The two captains must learn to communicate not only to survive, but to avert their two ships in orbit around the planet from firing upon each other and possibly beginning a war.

My favorite part of the episode occurs when Picard, using metaphor, tries to explain the Sumerian legend (Patrick Stewart at his best) of the Mesopotamian King, Gilgamesh (possibly the oldest written story on record) to the wounded Captain of the alien ship played superbly by Paul Winfield.

A remarkable television episode that requires actual thinking on the part of the viewer. Darmok his arms wide.

4) RELICS (Season 6)

In which the current Enterprise comes across a Dyson's Sphere, and a small ship which has crashed on its surface. On board, in a sort of stasis within the ship's looping transporter beam, is none other than Montgomery Scott (James Doohan), Chief Engineer of the original Enterprise and first series. It is over fifty years later and the universe has moved on.

Scotty immediately exudes his special warmth in this episode and his appearance makes it all too clear that the The Next Generation cast and series while generally excellent, could have used a hefty dose of his sort of charm.

There's a very touching scene in which Scotty visits the holodeck and makes the Captain's bridge from the original Enterprise reappear. Talk about instant memories.

However, Scotty is like a fish out of water on board the newest Enterprise as the writers make the point that the older generation might still have a thing or two to teach a bunch of arrogant youngsters.

James Doohan is simply wonderful. I'm so glad they brought him back for one last bow.

5) THE BIG GOODBYE (Season 1)

A parody of  Dashiell Hammett's THE MALTESE FALCON which evolves on the holodeck aboard the Enterprise. When Captain Picard begins to feel the pressure of studying another difficult alien language in order  to make an Official Greeting to a particularly finicky race of aliens, he turns to the ship's holodeck for relaxation. In this early episode, it's almost as if the holograms are being used for the first time.

Anyway, the Captain becomes his alter-ego,  private eye Dixon Hill (love him in a fedora and trench coat) and generates a hologram program featuring the 1940's world of San Francisco - there he goes for the relaxation of a good mystery. Joining in the adventure are a crew historian, Lieutenant Commander Data as a henchman and Dr. Crusher as a good looking doll complete with seamed stockings and veiled hat.

But when the ship is scanned by the alien vessel awaiting the Captain's greeting, something goes awry in the holodeck's workings and the four crew-members are stranded inside the hologram program where weapons have gone from make-believe to reality lethal.

Lawrence Tierney is perfect as the Casper Gutman character (here called Mr. Redblock) as the parody of THE MALTESE FALCON unfolds and Dixon Hill must stave off Redblock and his murderous henchman who are in search of a missing object. (The black bird is never mentioned.)

I've always wished some smart writer would do a series of Dixon Hill books or even a Dixon Hill movie.


The Enterprise comes upon a rift in the Space/Time Continuum and rescues the remaining crew of another, earlier Enterprise which is involved in a continuing and devastating war with the Klingons.

The current Enterprise immediately undergoes a complete alteration - the future has been changed and Worf (a Klingon) is no longer on board as Security Chief. Serving on the bridge is Tasha Yar (played by Denise Crosby) an original cast member who'd died in an earlier episode.

The current Enterprise is now a ship of war not a ship of exploration.

The only one who intuits the change on board is Guinan (played by Whoopee Goldberg), the long-lived and oddly prescient bar tender and close friend of Picard. She suspects that things are not as they should be and by the way, where are the children usually on board the Enterprise?

Tasha is stunned to learn (from Guinan) that she is not supposed to be on board and that she originally died a meaningless death, in fact, she and Guinan were never supposed to meet. When the older Enterprise must be sent back in order to return the future to what it was/is - that ship is doomed, meant to be destroyed by the Klingons. The remaining crew aboard understands this and go back because they must.

Tasha, who has grown fond of an officer on the earlier Enterprise, requests to go back with them figuring that at least her death then will have some meaning. Picard grants her request.

When the older ship flies back through the rift, the future returns as it once was and all is right aboard the current Enterprise. Guinan, down in 10 Forward, the ship's lounge, contacts the main deck and asks if everything is all right. The Captain says, 'yes, why?' Guinan says something like, 'I was just wondering.' The crew remembers nothing of the previous few hours spent in an altered future.

7) THE DEFECTOR (Season 3)

When a Romulan is saved and beamed aboard by the Enterprise as his ship comes under attack from a pursuing Romulan War Bird, Captain Picard and his crew are understandably leery of his wish to defect. The defector is a General with a long distinguished record of service to the Romulans. He brings news - but no evidence - of a plot that will bring about a war between the Federation and the Romulans.

The General claims he is tired of war and wishes to see his children and grandchildren grow up in a world without constant warfare. Hardly the sort of thing usually heard from the aggressive Romulan Empire.

The episode pivots on the personality and acting skills of James Sloyan who is excellent as the Romulan who may or may not be on the level. As the crew of the Enterprise slowly becomes convinced that perhaps the general is speaking the truth, a surprise ending leaves all with a greater understanding of the Romulan mind and the lengths they will go to subvert peace.

James Sloyan in Romulan gear.

8) PARALLELS (Season 7)

Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Commander Worf.

As Lieutenant Worf flies back to the Enterprise from a Klingon Bat'leth Tournament in which he's won a major prize, he is feeling particularly well satisfied with his accomplishment. However, once on board the Enterprise, the self-contained Klingon must endure a surprise birthday party thrown by the crew, and that's not all.

Soon, Worf begins experiencing shifting realities, seemingly jumping from one Enterprise existence to another. Each time bringing about subtle and not so subtle changes.

In one existence, Worf and Counsellor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) are married. These scenes are absolutely delightful as a grumpy and uneasy Worf must accustom himself to a new relationship with Troi. Michael Dorn and Marina Sirtis are perfect together.

Eventually, Worf and the crew realize that some sort of shift in time and space has occurred. Near the end of the episode we view hundreds of multiplying Enterprise ships as various realities (all occurring at the same time) make their presence known and one Enterprise is forced to shoot at another.

It is an ingenious episode made extra special for me because I have a fondness for Worf and Deanna as a possible couple. (Though it never really developed - to my disappointment.)

9) EYE OF THE BEHOLDER - (Season 7)

In this episode we get further inkling of a possible relationship blossoming between Worf and Deanna (though as I said, it never really went anywhere other than a few strolls on the Holodeck). Deanna has a kind of out of body psychic experience on one of the ship's decks where some machinery is stored bearing the name of Utopia Planetia, the ship's 'dockyard' where the current Enterprise was built.

While under psychic influence she and Worf share a passionate kiss and spend the night together - but do they?  It's all to do with a murder having been committed at Utopia Planetia involving three crew members who'd worked on the ship's construction.

Terrific episode in which an enraged Deanna kills Worf out of jealousy - or does she?

10) CAUSE AND EFFECT - (Season 5)

The Enterprise is caught in a repeating time loop which results in the total destruction of the ship over and over again. The episode begins with the crew's poker game. Dr. Crusher (played by Gates McFadden) is the first to experience deja-vu and begins to question the others.

Events unfold and the ship is destroyed.

We view the same card game once again as other members of the crew mention their odd feelings of deja-vu.

Again events take their course and the ship is destroyed.

The card game again as more members of the crew start to feel that something is amiss.

Again the Enterprise is destroyed.

This is a very cleverly worked episode which you'd think would become repetetive and boring, but definitely doesn't.


I know I left off the Borg Two Parter, but I had to stop somewhere.

Resistance is futile.


  1. I don't know if it was the best episode, but I'd say "The Best of Both Worlds Part I" (the first of the cliffhanger two-part Borg episode) was the most important episode. The series wasn't doing well in the ratings, Star Trek V had just been hammered by the critics and the whole Star Trek franchise looked moth-eaten and moribund. Then suddenly the Borg two-parter showed up, re-energized not just TNG but the whole franchise. We wound up with six more movies, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, none of which would have happened, I don't think, if that episode hadn't made everybody sit up and take notice again.

    Not to mention it has the line "Death is irrelevant," one of my all-time favorites ...

  2. I've never been a big Star Trek fan, but of all the series, this was my favorite.

  3. City on the Edge of Forever, the episode with the planet that had a culture based on gangland Chicago (that episode still cracks me up!), and the Tribbles episode were the gems of Star Trek for me. Next Generaton had a lot more, including ones you listed. I loved Majel Barrett playing Deanna Troi's mother.
    I am also a huge fan of great illustrators/artists, and I enjoyed the Roberto Innocent post. Max Beerbohm ....ok, my brain just shut down...Any
    way, Great blog!
    And I love that I found your blog!
    Cheers --Valere

  4. I have seen most episodes of STAR TREK: The Next Generation though, unlike previous commenters, I wouldn't remember specifics, even titles for that matter. I enjoyed watching the series as much as I did the original. A comparison between the two series would be unfair as would a comparison between the two captains of USS Enterprise, William Shatner and Patrick Stewart, two fine actors.

  5. M.M. : I didn't remember that the series was in danger of being cancelled. Thank goodness for The Borg, then. :)

    Two excellent episodes and quite remarkable in their conceptualization.

    "Death is irrelevant." Good line.

    I like my choice too: "Resistance is futile." No one can say 'futile' with the proper 'oomph' quite like Patrick Stewart.

  6. Bite our tongue, Ryan. Ha!

    There be Trekkies here.

  7. Valerie: Welcome to our corner of the world and thanks for dropping by. Glad you discovered us. :)

    Yes, I remember Troi's mother. What a dragon lady. But not in a bad way, I think. :)

    There's a good link in my post to Rick's blog where they dished the earlier Star Trek series and their favorite episodes. I put in my two cents there as well.

    You'll always find good artists' work here, if I do say so myself. And I do. :)

  8. Prashant: I loved both William Shatner AND Patrick Stewart. Each had his own talents and both brough tremendous flair and intelligence to their roles.

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  10. I liked the 'Inner Light' in Season 5. I also loved how they had Picard kep the flute and throughout the rest of the series had him pick it up and play it. I also have to agree about 'All Good Things'... it was a neat way to wrap up the series!

    Thanks for doing something a little different! I LOVE Star Trek! Need to throw some of those on the Netflix queue for those evenings you just want to watch something!

  11. Kate: Thanks for the reminder, somehow I missed re-viewing THE INNER LIGHT episode. I, too, remember the flute. I must watch it again and maybe add it to the list. :)

    It is a great idea to have whole seasons of TV shows for streaming.

    Currently watching MISSION IMPOSSIBLE. :)

  12. I'm not sure I could have only picked ten! I like most of the episodes that involve time travel, the holodeck and/or Q. Just not the Wesleysodes!

  13. Lauren: I didn't like the Wesley episodes either. What was it about that kid? Well, he left the show and soon after that I really began watching in earnest.

    I noticed when I was rewatching the episodes this last time on Netlix, that there were several shows I hadn't seen. So I think I didn't watch the earlier episodes as much.

    From year 4 to 7, were my favorites. Though I did like the early Dixon Hill episode a lot.

    There was another Dixon Hill bit on one of the later shows where Whoopee Goldberg shows up as Gloria from Cleveland, dressed like a 1940's 'doll'. SO funny.

  14. I will be sending a link of this post to my daughter, Yvette, as she was obsessed with The Next Generation whe it was on TV. Her friends called her "Data" because she knew so much about the show :)

  15. Pat: Oh, pressure! I wonder what she'll make of it. :)

    Thanks, Pat. :)

  16. Time's Arrow is a great two-parter!
    It seems like we both like the episodes that deal with time travel / other dimensions, etc

  17. nee: (Hope you don't mind if I shorten your name.)

    I love TIME'S ARROW! Yes, time travel and other dimensioins seem to be my favorite episodes as well.

    It was such fun to watch them all again in a bunch.

  18. I like this page, like it even more that Times Arrow is at the top of the page.. But that might be because I like the guy who played Jack London a bunch.. He's the best! (yes he's me) for real. Good blog though.. I originally booked the inner light, but then Patrick Stewart's kid had just gotten out of Cal Arts and they replaced me.. But then I booked Times Arrow.. Good fun stuff!

    1. Hi Michael, thanks for dropping by. You made a terrific Jack London in my favorite episode (s). I still enjoy watching these old Star Treks. As you say, 'good fun stuff'. :)


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