The show Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) still stands the test of time as the penultimate vision of Gene Roddenberry. From introducing the heart-warming Data (Brent Spiner) to reintroducing the warrior Klingons, the show touched millions. If you're a newcomer to the series, our handy guide offers a thorough basis for understanding the entire show. Watch these ten episodes and you'll become an expert Star Trek TNG Trekker/Trekkie.
1) "The Best of Both Worlds Parts 1 & 2"
Season 3 Ep. 26\ Season 4 Ep.1
A cube ship containing the cold cybernetic alien Borg destroys a colony and is headed for Earth. As the Enterprise is intercepting the ship, Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is kidnapped and turned into their unwilling spokesman. Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) must choose between saving Picard and saving humanity.
The Borg are the best and most popular villains in TNG. This is the best Borg episode ever made. Watch these episodes and you'll have a full understanding of their culture, techniques, and strategies. This episode also had far-reaching affects on the Captain as he dealt with the post-traumatic stress of his kidnapping. This led all the way to the films and is Picard's strongest character motivation in the series.
Trivia: This is the first time the Borg's famous line "Resistance is Futile" is heard.
Favorite Quote: "I will continue aboard this ship to speak for the Borg. While they continue, without further diversion, to Sector 001 where they will force your unconditional surrender." - Picard talking to the Enterprise as Locutus.
See Also: "I, Borg","Qwho", "Descent 1 + 2", Star Trek: First Contact
Season 4 Ep. 20
The mischievous and omnipotent Q (John DeLancie) turns Picard into Robin Hood, and sends him on a quest to prove his love for an old flame. This episode is one of the better Q episodes, mainly because the characters get to interact in funny ways. While the character is one of the most frequent guest-stars on the series, "QPid" truly showed his whimsical nature. Any good Star Trek: TNG fan knows Q.
Trivia: The scene where Worf smashes Geordi's mandolin against a tree and then says "Sorry" is a parody of a very similar scene in Animal House, where "Bluto" Blutarsky does the exact same thing.
Favorite Quote: "Sir, I must protest. I am not a merry man!" - Worf
See Also: "Hide & Q"
3) "Yesterday's Enterprise"
Season 3 Ep. 15
The Enterprise-D encounters a rift in space-time and the heavily damaged USS Enterprise-C (a ship believed destroyed more than two decades earlier) emerges. As the Enterprise-C clears the field, the Enterprise-D undergoes a sudden and radical change. The Enterprise is now a warship, and the Federation is fighting a losing war with the Klingon Empire. Worf disappears. Tasha Yar, who had been killed years earlier in the line of duty ("Skin of Evil"), now mans the tactical station. Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) is the only member of the crew to sense something has changed, but is unable to immediately determine the cause. She voices her concerns to Captain Picard, who heeds her warning but cannot act without more evidence.
This episode was the first appearance of Denise Crosby after her leaving the show in the first season to pursue other acting opportunities. It was also the first episode to explore that Guinan was more than just a simple bartender. It was moving in its exploration of the subjects of death and fate. At its best, TNG explored this theme.
Trivia: This episode established the events that resulted in the birth of the human-Romulan character Sela that was played in subsequent shows by Denise Crosby.
Favorite Quote: "Let's make sure that history never forgets the name... Enterprise" - Captain Picard
See Also: "The Measure of a Man", "Tapestry", "Skin of Evil"
4) "Unification Part 1 & 2"
Season 5 Ep. 7 & 8
In this two-part episode, the crew goes undercover in Romulan territory to investigate the possible defection of Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy). It turns out that Spock was working with a senator to unite the Romulans and Vulcans in peace. However, there are sinister forces at work behind the scenes.
This episode not only helps bridge the movies with TNG, but also explores the complex relationship between Romulans and Vulcans. It's the first cross-over appearance of Spock from Star Trek: The Original Series. The episode is the most watched in all seven seasons of the show, making it a landmark in Star Trek history.
Trivia: This episode aired about a month before Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and makes reference to the actions of both Spock and Sarek in that film.
Quote: "Don't you two look sweet! Be careful, Android. Some Romulan beauty might take a liking to you - lick that paint right off your ear." - Klingon Captain K'Vada teasing Data for being modified to look like a Romulan.
See Also: "The Defector", "The Enemy", "Relics"
5) "The Big Goodbye"
Season 1 Ep. 12
A computer malfunction traps Picard, Data and Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) in a 1940s gangster holodeck program. Forced to live out the life of private investigator Dixon Hill while trying to survive and find their way out.
While the "holodeck malfunction" became a cliche by the end of the series, this episode stands alone as an excellent homage to the Film Noir genre.
Trivia: This episode won a George Foster Peabody Award for excellence in television broadcasting. It also was nominated for Outstanding Cinematography, and won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Costume Design.
Quote: "You'll have to call again, I was just leaving. I'm uhh... not dressed properly." - Picard, in response to a knock at Dixon's office door while wearing his Starfleet uniform.
See Also: "Second chances," "Time's Arrow Pt. 1\2," "Manhunt", "Clues," Star Trek: First Contact.
6) "Chain of Command"
Season 6 Ep. 11\12
When Picard, Worf and Dr. Crusher go undercover in Cardassian space to investigate a biological weapon, they leave a new captain in charge to settle a peace treaty with the Cardassians. However, it turns out that Picard has been led into a trap and the new captain has plans of his own with the Enterprise.
This episode has the triple threat of watching Captain Picard struggling to maintain his sanity under torture and Commander Riker struggling to hold his respect for command under a harsh captain. It also introduces the Cardassians as the next big villain of the Star Trek universe. That never happened, but, it did set up Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Trivia: Ronald D. Moore, the writer of this episode, would become senior writer on DS9 when TNG ended.
Favorite Quote: "There...are...four...lights!" - Picard defiantly says to his Cardassian interrogator.
See Also: "Ensign Ro"
7) "The Naked Now"
Season 1, Ep. 2
When the crew is infected by a virus that caused them to lose all inhibitions, the Enterprise is thrown into chaos. It's a race against time to save them before they destroy themselves.
Why: Technically, this is a sequel to the classic episode from the Original Series called "The Naked Time," but no one mentions it. It perfectly explores the various characters and changes relationships in ways that resonate through the entire series. The acting is superb and the sense of drama is perfectly timed.
Trivia: During the scan of the records, we quickly see a bird (parrot) with a barely distinguishable human head on a perch wearing a Starfleet uniform, complete with insignia. This is a reference to the show's creator Gene Roddenberry, who was known among fans as "The Great Bird Of The Galaxy."
Favorite Quote: "I am fully functional in every way, of course. I am programmed in multiple techniques. A broad variety of pleasuring." - Data talking to Tasha Yar as she seduces him.
See Also: "Datalore," "Birthright"
8) "Sins of the Father"
Season 3, Ep. 17
The Enterprise hosts a Klingon first officer, Kurn, in an exchange program. Soon, the harsh Kurn reveals that he is Worf's brother and has a plan to return to the Klingon homeworld and restore their father's honor.
Worf's background as a Klingon is explored throughout the series and his loyalty to the Federation is tested on many occasions. This is one of the first episodes to delve into his Klingon heritage and loyalty to his people. The Klingons are the most enduring legacy from TNG and this episode starts you from the beginning.
Trivia: "Hamlet," "Much Ado About Nothing," and "Gilgamesh" have all been translated to the functional Klingon language.
Favorite Quote: "It is a good day to die." - Lieutenant Worf challenging Duras
See Also: "Heart of Glory," "Rightful heir," "Birthright"
9) "Ménage à Troi"
Season 3 Ep. 24
Riker, Counselor Troi and her mother Lawaxana are kidnapped by a Ferengi captain who intends to marry her.
Why: One of the more unsuccessful attempts to create a new villain for the show, the comical Ferengi achieved a welcome sense of evil in this episode. The Ferengi would take on a greater role in the spin-off series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Trivia: This is the first Star Trek appearance of Ethan Phillips who played the Ferengi Dr. Farek in this episode. Phillips would go on to play the Talaxian morale officer Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager.
Favorite Quote: "I should have known - even their transporters can't be trusted." - Lwaxana Troi, after the Ferengi have beamed her and Deanna out of their clothes.
See also: "Bloodlines"
10) "All Good things Part 1 & 2"
Season 7 Ep. 25\26
Picard has visions of traveling through time from the first mission on the Enterprise, to the present and future. Meanwhile Q taunts him that he is the key to the end of humanity. Picard has to unite the Enterprise crew and solve the mysterious connection between his past, present and future.
Few television series manage to outdo the entire run in the series. This episode does just that. Watch this episode and you'll have the perfect bookend to the series.
Trivia: The design of the USS Pasteur was based largely on very early draft designs of the original "Star Trek" Enterprise with a globe instead of a saucer.
Favorite Quote: "It's time to put an end to your trek through the stars." - Q talking to Picard about the end of humanity
See Also: "Encounter at Farpoint"
There you have it. You're now an expert Star Trek: The Next Generation fan. Make it so.
Which is your favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episode?
[Image source: Wikipedia, startrek.com, g4tv]
[Image source: Wikipedia, startrek.com, g4tv]