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OT - ST: The Next Generation Top 10 (+1)

I can understand how the Original Series can be difficult to get in to – even with the digital remastering, it’s still almost 50 years old. The thing you have to keep in mind (across all iterations) is Star Trek is a drama. It has its comedic moments, it has its action scenes, but at the core, it’s a drama. It can be slow paced at times, but if you stick with it, the rewards are often worth the wait. The Original Series article can be found HERE. If you had trouble getting going on the Original Series (like fizzle), I completely understand, and I think this might be more up your alley.

Next on our list is Star Trek: The Next Generation. A critically acclaimed series particularly toward the end of its run, TNG brought Star Trek back into America’s cultural medium and spawned three more spinoffs (DS9, Voyager, Enterprise).

The Next Generation is probably the most fondly remembered of all Treks, especially for those of us between 30 and 45 years old. These episodes will all stand on their own – you don’t need to have seen the series (or the Original Series) to get into what’s going on. On to the list.

1. Encounter at Farpoint (Season 1, Episodes 1-2)

This isn’t the best episode of the series, but if you have any desire at all to watch a few of these farther down on the list, this is where you should start. As a typical pilot episode is wont to do, it gives you a little bit of backstory on the main characters and brings them all together. Overall, it initially aired to an audience of 27 million in 1987. The show was immediately called the "highest-rated syndicated one-hour drama series on television".

2. The Inner Light (Season 5, Episode 25)

Captain Picard is rendered unconscious by an unknown probe and lives out an entire life as a member of a long-extinct civilization. The episode is widely considered by critics and fans as one of the best episodes of the entire Star Trek franchise. In 1993, "The Inner Light" won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was the first television program to be so honored since the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" won in 1968. It is the favorite episode of Patrick Stewart and Wil Wheaton.

3. Chain of Command (S6:E10-11)

Captain Picard is taken from command of the Enterprise for a covert mission, and his replacement is assigned to deal openly with a Cardassian military threat. Part 2 is noted for the intense performance of Patrick Stewart and its depiction of brutal torture and interrogation scenes.

4. Q Who? (S2:E16)

In this episode, the omnipotent entity known as "Q" arrives on the Enterprise and decides that Captain Jean-Luc Picard is acting arrogantly. Q then sends the ship across the galaxy where the crew makes first contact with the cybernetically enhanced assimilating race known as the Borg. The critical reception was positive, with the episode described as the first "great episode" of the series. It was nominated for three Emmy Awards, winning two.

5. The Best of Both Worlds (S3:E26, S4:E1)

The Enterprise must battle the Borg who are intent on conquering Earth, with a captured and assimilated Captain Picard as their emissary. The first episode won Emmy Awards for "Outstanding Art Direction for a Series" and "Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series". The storyline appeared in TV Guide's "100 Most Memorable Moments in TV History" (July 1, 1996), ranked number 50. The episode was also ranked #70 on the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time. In 2008, Empire magazine rated Star Trek: The Next Generation 37th on their list of "The 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time" and cited "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II" as the show's best episode. The episode was ranked #36 on TV Guide's list of "TV's Top 100 Episodes of All Time".

6. The Measure of a Man (S2:E9)

Android officer Lieutenant Commander Data must fight for his right of self-determination in order not to be declared the property of Starfleet and be disassembled in the name of science. It was not typical episodic television and had a great deal to say about man, humanity, what our problems in the world are today and hopefully what we can do about it in the future. Cast member Brent Spiner (Data) identified this episode as his favorite TNG episode. In an interview, fellow cast member Patrick Stewart (Jean-Luc Picard) concurred that this is "the first truly great episode of the series". On Twitter in April 2013, Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi) names this as her favorite episode.

7. Lower Decks (S7:E15)

This episode is told primarily from the viewpoint of seldom-seen crewmembers. While enduring the Enterprise's promotion evaluation process, four junior officers find themselves involved in a top-secret mission. The episode has proved influential on later television writers. In his "Production Notes: Doodles in the Margins of Time" in 2007, Doctor Who executive producer Russell T Davies cites "Lower Decks" along with the Buffy: The Vampire Slayer episode "The Zeppo" as an influence on his 2006 Doctor Who episode "Love & Monsters". The episode provided a television format which came to be known as the "Doctor-lite episode", an annual tradition for Doctor Who since 2006.

8. Yesterday’s Enterprise (S3:E15)

The crew of the Enterprise must decide whether to send the time-travelling Enterprise-C back through a temporal rift to its certain destruction in order to prevent their own disastrous "alternate" timeline from ever occurring. "Yesterday's Enterprise" was the third most popular episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation according to an April 2013 poll issued by startrek.com. The two most popular episodes were "The Best of Both Worlds" and "The Inner Light".

9. Darmok (S5:E2)

The Enterprise is ordered to make contact with the Tamarian race who have been transmitting signals toward Federation space for weeks. The Enterprise makes contact with a Tamarian ship in orbit around the planet El-Adrel. Though the universal translator can translate their words, the Tamarians only communicate through metaphor which baffles the Enterprise crew. This episode features Ashely Judd in her debut acting performance.

10. The Drumhead (S4:E21)

In this episode, an explosion aboard the Enterprise brings a Starfleet Admiral (Jean Simmons as Admiral Norah Satie) out of retirement to investigate the possibilities of sabotage, espionage and treason aboard the Federation flagship. This episode is applicable to our society from the McCarthy hearings to the controversy regarding the NSA. Michael Dorn (Worf) said this was one of his two favorite episodes.

10 + 1. Qpid (S4:E20)

There weren’t a lot of quirky episodes during TNG’s run, but this definitely qualifies. In this episode, "Q" sends the Enterprise command staff to a re-creation of Sherwood Forest where Captain Picard as Robin Hood must rescue his one-time love interest Vash who has been set up as Maid Marian. We get to hear Mr. Worf exclaim, "Captain, I protest! I am NOT a merry man!"

If you make it through several or even all of these, the series finale, "All Good Things" (S7:E25-26) is definitely worth checking out. It wraps up the series from beginning to end, features "Q" prominently since he was the first antagonist (which only makes sense). USA Today called the two-part finale a "picture-perfect" ending to the series.

We'll keep on trekking in a few more with my favorite series, Deep Space Nine.

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