Originally I was going to write about Masters of Sex, as season two just ended, but I have been more ecstatic, captivated, and engrossed by Star Trek recently. Star Trek over sex. . . I guess I am starting to become a Trekkie. . . Last week I wrote about the top ten episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series (http://www.celebrategeek.com/brandons-corner-top-10-star-trek-original-series-episodes-spoiler-free/). We now move on to the top ten episodes of Next Generation, la crème de la crème of Star Trek. Again, let me remind you, dear reader, how I have been assembling these lists. Instead of taking my top ten favorites as a normal person would, I have been taking Trekkies' consultation on the matter (Methodology: Take ten highest top ten lists searched on the web and score episodes based off of position on lists - ten points for number one spot and one point for a number ten spot - and when you compile all the points together you get your top ten). So without further ado, here is the list:
Synopsis: Data goes on trial when a Starfleet officer claims that he is property of the Federation and that he is to be dissected and experimented on. Questions of his sentience and his rights are raised.
Analysis: Measure of a Man is never quite as good as I might have hoped it would have been, but it is never in the least way bad. It might not be the greatest discussion, but at least they have it, and at least it is an interesting one embellished by top notch acting.
Synopsis: The Enterprise gets stuck in a time loop. Faded memories are all that remain as they try to figure out the mystery of getting out.
Analysis: This may just be my favorite of the Star Trek episodes, period. It is not philosophically compelling like many of the other episodes, but the scenario and premise are executed so well that allows it to be simply irresistible.
Synopsis: Captain Picard runs into a species that only speaks in metaphors. He gets stranded with one of them on an unknown planet and they need to work together to survive.
Analysis: The episode reminds me so much of learning French. It is agonizingly difficult to comprehend at times, but once you get a gist of what's going on, it begins to be rewarding.
Synopsis: Picard relinquishes command so he, Worf, and Dr. Crusher can go undercover. There they run into some trouble with the Cardassians.
Analysis: Chain of Command bothered me greatly even though it is a fan-freakin'-tastic episode. It reminded me way too much of people I have met in life. When Picard is no longer Captain, the next guy to come along is a self righteous d-bag who micromanages everyone. Personal frustration aside, the payoff of the storyline with Picard elevates this episode to being absolutely phenomenal. Patrick Stewart showcases why he was one of the best actors to ever work in television.
Synopsis: Q and the Borg are both in this episode. What could go wrong?
Analysis: It's a simple run-of -the-mill episode, except it's not! We get first hand look at one of Star Trek's deadliest foes, the Borg. Their storyline would be one of the most important and entertaining to come on Next Generation. All of this is presented here as we see from the get-go how seemingly invincible these cybernetic creatures are.
Synopsis: Picard gets a glimpse into what his life could have been from Q when he suffers a serious injury on an away mission. Choices, choices, choices. . .
Analysis: This episode is immensely watchable. I have seen it a few times and enjoy it every time. There is something about the theme of choices (à la Mr. Nobody http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr._Nobody_%28film%29) that I absolutely love. It is also one of the funnier episodes and reveals probably the prettiest girl that I have ever seen have interest in Jean-Luc Picard, or in the words of Q, “Gene Luck Pickurd”.
Synopsis: The finale of all the Next Generation seasons showcases Picard being thrown around in three timelines: past, present, and future. He must figure out what is happening before it is too late or all he loves will inexplicably perish.
Analysis: It wrapped things up perfectly, end of story.
Synopsis: The crew gets thrown into an alternate reality where they have been in a long war with the Klingons. A certain character is still alive in this reality. . .
Analysis: The episode probably isn't deserving of being this high, but the way they deal with the redemption of a certain character is why the fans love it so much. It is entertaining nevertheless and has ramification for an ongoing b-plot throughout Next Generation (Although none of those episodes were high enough to make the list).
Synopsis: Captain Picard experiences an entire lifetime on an unknown planet. His identity and what he's doing there is in question.
Analysis: It is an award winner and for good reason. You couldn't ask for a better episode to flesh out a character and put it in such an incredibly interesting scenario at the same time.
Synopsis: It is a two part episode involving the Borg and one of the most important season ending cliff hangers in Star Trek lore. We also get an in depth look at Riker as a more complex character.
Analysis: It might not be deserving of its place, but it revolutionized this new series after three only good-but-not-great seasons. From there on out Next Generation had some of its best episodes. And even if Best of Both Worlds is not deserving of number one, it is nevertheless a completely awesome episode with a great, compelling story arc. Furthermore, it also laid perfect ground work for First Contact - the second and best of the Next Generation films - so I won't complain.
Conclusion: Almost every single one of these episode on this list are above and beyond superb, and the ones that aren't - they're dang near close. Next Generation elevated the Star Trek to something greater than was thought possible. It recaptured a generation (the next generation?) and gave some of the best episodes on television, let alone a sci-fi series. If you are thinking about watching Star Trek, but don't want to start with the Original Series, this is an excellent place to begin. You can find all these episodes on Hulu or streaming on Netflix.
Extra Thoughts For Those Thinking of Watching These Episodes: There is, for all intents and purposes, only two stories that are not on this list that have ramifications for all these episodes. They are the Encounter at Farpoint (the pilot episode) and Skin of Evil. The most important of the two is Skin of Evil. You can either watch the episode or read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skin_of_Evil. I only read about it myself because it was so poorly received as an episode as a whole, but I knew it had importance for later events. Besides these episodes though, the the top ten is rather digestible without seeing any of the other stories. Star Trek, in general, doesn't follow a huge overarching storyline and each episode is self contained. That being said, I would recommend watching the top ten in chronological order, as well as watching Encounter at Farpoint then reading about Skin of Evil immediately after. The episodes in chronological order are listed below:
Measure of a Man (Season 2, Episode 9) Q Who? (Season 2, Episode 16) Yesterday's Enterprise (Season 3, Episode 15) Best of Both Worlds (Season 3, Episode 26 – Season 4, Episode 1) Darmok (Season 5, Episode 2) Cause and Effect (Season 5, Episode 18) The Inner Light (Season 5, Episode 25) Chain of Command (Season 6, Episode 10 -11) Tapestry (Season 6, Episode 15) All Good Things. . . (Season 7, Episode 25-26)