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13 Best Captain Picard Episodes in "Star Trek" History

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988) - Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart)
Here are the greatest Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes featuring Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Star Trek: TNG is over 20-years-old but it's still fun to watch.

Today is Captain Picard Day and, as part of our annual celebration, here's a Picard-centric blog post.

There have been 178 episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Which would you say are the best episodes featuring Patrick Stewart? Here they are ranked from good to best.

I've tried to keep the episodes spoiler-free in case you want to watch them, but there are some minor spoilers.

Make it so.

13. "Conspiracy"

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1988) - Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart)

Episode: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Season 1, Episode 25 (1988)
Best Line:"Friendship must dare to risk, Counselor, or it isn't friendship."

After an old friend sends a top secret message to Captain Picard he races the USSC Enterprise-D back to Earth. Picard uses all his knowledge of Starfleet regulations to uncover the aliens taking over Starfleet Command.  Even today this episode is chilling for its paranoia.

The episode ends with the greatest chest-bursting scene since Alien.

12. "Phantasms"

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1993) - Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton), Data (Brent Spiner), Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart)

Episode: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Season 7, Episode 6 (1993)
Best Line: "Normally I would wish you pleasant dreams. But in this case, bad dreams would be more helpful."

Patrick Stewart has had some amazing episodes in front of the camera. This one stands out as the best one with him behind the camera as a director. Data (Brent Spiner) begins having horrifying dreams and they realize they hold the key to saving the ship.  Stewart's uses camera angles and acting direction to make a terrifying episode. It's so scary that this is one of the few Star Trek episodes edited for screening by the BBC in the UK. The turbo lift scene when Data confronts Troi with a knife was so upsetting to audiences that the shot of him stabbing her has been cut out of some airings in the UK.

It's an amazing episode. Plus, we get Troi's cellular peptide cake. With mint frosting. Would you like a bite?

11. "Starship Mine"

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1993) - Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), Devor (Tim Russ)
Episode: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Season 6, Episode 18 (1993)
Best Line: "My name is Mot. I'm uh, I... I'm the barber."

The Enterprise is evacuated for a routine procedure to "eliminate accumulated baryon particles". Whatever those are. Left alone, Picard plays a cat-and-mouse game with terrorists trying to steal toxic waste from the warp core. The episode is basically Die Hard on the Enterprise, but it's one of the episodes that shows Picard is not just a man of words. He's a man of action.

The scene where Picard does the Vulcan nerve pinch is worth the price of admission. Especially because it's on future Vulcan actor Tim Russ.

10. "The Drumhead"

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992) - Sabin Genestra (Bruce French), Admiral Satie (Jean Simmons), Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart)
Episode: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Season 4, Episode 21 (1991)
Best Line: "But she or someone like her will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish – spreading fear in the name of righteousness. Vigilance, Mr. Worf. That is the price we have to continually pay."

After a dilithium chamber hatch explodes aboard the USS Enterprise-D Starfleet Admiral Norah Satie (Jean Simmons) begins a hunt to find the saboteur. In her search for a conspiracy, she crosses the line into paranoia. Picard decides that he won't help him with her xenophobic witch-hunt for Romulans and other enemy conspirators. Admiral Satie eventually accuses Captain Picard of treason.

This episode is a powerful analogy of the McCarthy communist hearings of the 1960s. Picard fights fear-mongering and shows that the goal of any society is to uphold the rule of law and equality.

9. "Q Who"

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992) - Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart)

Episode: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Season 2, Episode 16 (1989)
Best Line: "If we all die here, now, you will not be able to gloat. You wanted to frighten us. We're frightened. You wanted to show us we were inadequate. For the moment, I grant that. You wanted me to say 'I need you'? I need you!"

When Captain Picard is kidnapped by omnipotent Q (John de Lancie) he finds out that Q has been cast out of the "Q Continuum". To prove to the Enterprise that they’re not prepared for the challenges of deep space Q throws the ship seven thousand light years into uncharted space. There they have their first encounter with the cybernetic hive-mind race known as the "Borg".

They survive the encounter, but Picard comes to the terrifying realization that Starfleet may not be ready for the future. This episode introduces the greatest TNG villains of all time.

8. "Tapestry"

Episode: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Season 6, Episode 15 (1993)
Best Line: "I refuse to believe that the afterlife is run by you; the universe is not so badly designed."

This episode begins with Captain Picard dying. It gets better from there. Captain Picard and Q, were often at odds and this is the best episode he guest-starred in. Q gives him a chance to change the past. So he goes back and stops the barroom brawl that took his original heart as a young officer. In the process, he changes who he is and leaves him a low-level officer in the Astrolab.

Picard realizes his greatest regret is what led to him become the disciplined and restrained man he is today. Seeing him interacting with his former crew as a lowly officer is a hoot too.

It’s a wonderful exploration of Picard’s character and a powerful lesson on letting go of regrets.

7. "Ménage à Troi"

Episode: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Season 3, Episode 24 (1990)
Best Line: "My love is a fever, longing still for that which longer nurseth the disease. In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes, for they in thee a thousand errors see. But 'tis my heart, that loves what they despise, who in despite of view, are pleased to dote. Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

Picard has a rocky relationship with Counselor Troi's mother Lwaxana, played by Roddenberry's widow and ship's computer voice Majel Barrett. She is immediately smitten with him and her aggressive nature combined with Picard's desire to keep peace make for awkward and hilarious interactions.

In this episode, Lwaxana is kidnapped by the Ferengi DaiMon Tog (Frank Corsentino) and the Enterprise has to rescue her. He has to convince Tog that she's his lover and he'll destroy the Ferengi ship if she's not returned. The best part is when he's reciting Shakespeare sonnets confessing his love. This inspired one of the Internet's favorite memes: Annoyed Picard.

When Lawaxana returns, she's so impressed by the ruse that she wants to keep it going. Picard graciously returned her to her home planet of Betazed - at maximum warp 9.

6. "Chain of Command, Parts I & II"

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1992) - Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart)

Episode: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Season 6, Episode 10 and 11 (1992)
Best Line: "There... Are... FOUR lights!"

When Captain Picard, Worf and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) are tasked with a secret mission involving the Cardassians the Enterprise is put under the command of Captain Edward Jellico (Ronny Cox). He's a completely different style than Picard and quickly begins grating on the nerves of the crew. In Part II, Captain Picard is kidnapped and tortured by the Cardassians for information. Patrick Stewart shines in his torture scenes with Gul Madred (David Warner).

This a moving and powerful performance by Patrick Stewart as he insisted on filming his scenes naked on a closed set to capture the real inhumanity of torture. It also serves to remind us what an amazing leader Picard is. Especially when Jellico makes Troi cover up her cleavage.

5. "Family"

Episode: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Season 4, Episode 2 (1990)
Best Line: "I tried. I tried so hard. But I wasn't strong enough! I wasn't good enough! I should have been able to stop them. I should, I should."

After the confrontation with the Borg, the crew goes on extended leave. Captain Picard goes to his home village of La Barre, France. He hasn’t been home in twenty years after being estranged from his brother Robert (Jeremy Kemp). Picard is a private man and this episode explores some of his history and delves into why he went into space in the first place.

With all the space adventure episodes, this one has a slower pace. All the actors do an amazing job, but the monolog one really lets Patrick Stewart’s theater training shines as he explains what it was like being turned into a Borg.

4. "The Best of Both Worlds Parts I & II"

Episode: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Season 3, Episode 26 and Season 4, Episode 1 (1990)
Best Line: "Mr. Worf, dispatch a subspace message to Admiral Hanson. We have engaged the Borg."

In this two-part episode, Starfleet is caught by surprise when the Borg invades Federation space. They kidnap Picard and turn him into their spokesperson Locutus. The crew struggles to fight their greatest enemy while struggling to save their leader.

While the most memorable part of the episode is Picard’s abduction, there are some great scenes between him and Shelby as she tries to take command of the Enterprise for the war effort.

3. "All Good Things, Parts I & II" 

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1993) - Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton), Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden), Data (Brent Spiner), 

Episode: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Season 7, Episode 25 and 26 (1994)
Best Line: "I... I don't know how or why, but I'm moving back and forth... through time."

The episode begins with Picard frantically asking the date to the confusion of Worf (Michael Dorn) and Troi (Marina Sirtis). Q tells Picard that he's responsible for the destruction of humanity and sends him hurtling into the past and twenty-five years into the future. Picard has to solve the mystery of what he did to destroy everything.

Besides being the greatest season finale in television history it's also one of the best ways to reminisce on all seven season as Captain Picard goes from his first day of command of the Enterprise to his future on his family vineyard in France.

2. "Yesterday's Enterprise"

Episode: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Season 3, Episode 15 (1990)
Best Line: "Attention all hands. As you know, we could outrun the Klingon vessels. But we must protect the Enterprise-C until she enters the temporal rift. And we must succeed! Let's make sure that history never forgets... the name... Enterprise. Picard out."

The USS Enterprise-D encounters a time anomaly. The USS Enterprise-C thought destroyed decades before emerges from a time anomaly and changes the present. The ship is now a warship in battle with the Klingon Empire and only months away from total defeat. Only Guinan realizes something is wrong and entrusts Picard with the truth: If the Enterprise-C doesn’t go back and get destroyed the future will be changed and billions of lives will be lost. Picard makes the difficult decision to ask the crew of the Enterprise-C to return to their timeline and stop the war before it stops.

The return of Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) who died a "senseless" death in "Skin of Evil makes this one of the most heartbreaking episodes of the series. If you’re looking for an episode that shows Picard struggling with the moral choice between two necessary evils, then this is it.

1. "The Inner Light"

Episode: "Star Trek: The Next Generation," Season 5, Episode 25 (1992)
Best Line: "I always believed that I didn't need children to complete my life. Now, I couldn't imagine life without them."

After encountering a mysterious space probe, Captain Picard faints and wakes up as "Kamin," a resident of the planet Kataan. The crew of the Enterprise tries to get Picard out of his coma while freeing him from its influence. Meanwhile, Picard accepts his life as a farmer with his wife and children and realizes that the planet is dying. The probe makes him live through the last decades of its homeworld in the span of approximately twenty minutes.

When Picard is finally freed from the probe's influence he goes back to his quarters and plays the flute found in the probe. It has been a computer simulation to everyone else, but to him, it was his life. The flute showed up again several times and every time it does my heart breaks.

Which is your favorite Captain Picard episode and why?

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