*Spoiler Alert. In this article, several significant plot elements of the episodes “The Inner Light”, “The Best of Both Worlds” parts one and two, “All Good Things”, “The Measure of a Man”, and “Yesterday’s Enterprise” are discussed.
“Star Trek: The Next Generation” is a syndicated television program that premiered in 1987. For many fans, TNG was their first exposure to the Star Trek franchise. It combined richly detailed storytelling with vastly improved makeup, costumes, sets, and visual effects as compared to the original series from 1966. Over the course of a seven-season run and four feature films, audiences grew to love the cast and crew. With so many fantastic stories to consider, StudyFinds was asked: what are the best Next Generation episodes?
Just like with its fans, the sci-fi franchise has enduring inspirational reach with scientists. Move over, Mr. Spock. Teams of modern-day Starfleet officers have created the world’s first mobile DNA lab that can fit in your pocket and even matter replicators, according to new studies. Much like the fabled “tricorder” scientific scanner from “Star Trek,” this iPhone app can help scientists study virus samples in the palm of their hands.
Oftentimes, Star Trek provides a template for a future where mastery of science and engineering enables great achievements. Fans of the series continue to look to it for ideas to advance technology as well as ideals to advance society.
Through the 35+ year history of “The Next Generation”, it is easy to see that it is perhaps the most beloved series in the current Star Trek catalogue. So, StudyFinds scoured the internet for 10 sources that have ranked the 176 episodes of the series, and here are the results for the best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. Let us know which episodes make the top of your list in the comments below!
The List: Best Star Trek Next Generation Episodes, According to Fans
1. “The Inner Light” – Season 5, Episode 25
In what is often regarded as the best episode of the series, “The Inner Light” is highly praised by nearly all our sources. This episode has Captain Picard whisked away from the Enterprise by an alien probe. It then leads Picard to experience an entire lifetime on a planet that is slowly dying due to climate change.
“‘The Inner Light’ isn’t just the best ‘Next Generation’ episode — there’s an argument to be made that it’s the best ‘Star Trek’ episode, period,” writes Looper. The dying planet is only a backdrop however, the real focus of the story is Picard’s relationships with the family that he grows to love.
Twenty-five years ago today, one of the best episodes of Star Trek debuted. On June 1st, 1992, we saw ‘Inner Light’ for the first time. pic.twitter.com/SRzBEmV8PA
— Andrew Ferguson (@warandpeace) June 1, 2017
Patrick Stewart’s emotional portrayal is a departure from the typically stoic Picard as he disappears into his new identity as Kamin, the man whose life he is experiencing. Though the people and society of the dream are all long-gone by the time of the probe’s discovery in this episode, their memory lives on in Picard.
This episode’s emotional punch is described as follows, “He (Picard) wakes up back on the Enterprise, where only 25 minutes have passed – and in that 25 minutes, he lived through decades. Upon opening the probe, Picard finds the same flute he played for years as Kamin. The episode ends with Picard playing a hauntingly beautiful song on the flute with the skill and familiarity of decades of practice,” according to Movie Web.
It is also worth noting that narratively, this episode marks a shift in Picard’s portrayal as he has been deeply affected by the events that took place. “This episode fundamentally changes Picard, with ramifications that follow through in ‘Lessons’ and into Star Trek: Generations,” writes Cinema Blend.
Of this episode, Patrick Stewart makes the following statement, “‘It was a beautiful script, which for me was almost entirely located away from the Enterprise – and its crew! And because I was given the chance to perform what Picard would have been like if his life experience had been different,’” writes Move Web.
2. “The Best of Both Worlds” parts 1 and 2 – Season 3 and 4, Episodes 26 and 1
In these episodes, Captain Picard is taken by the Borg and is assimilated. “The Best of Both Worlds” part one and two were a television event and one of The Next Generation’s most impactful episodes. The plot lines and developments that began in this episode would shape nearly all the Star Trek narrative that would follow, as well as the feature film “Star Trek: First Contact”.
“There were times when TNG told better or more important stories, but for sheer nail-biting drama, it’s impossible to top the cliffhanger ending of The Best of Both Worlds, part 1,” writes Space.com.
18 June: US Episode Premieres
Star Trek: The Next Generation
1990: THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS, Stardate 43989.1 (2366) pic.twitter.com/4IVb8eJ6ou
— Today In Star Trek History (@TodayinStarTrek) June 18, 2021
It is also written that, “If you only watch two episodes from this list, ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ parts 1 and 2 are the most tense (and scary) viewing and set you up to better understand Picard’s past with the Borg,” says Short List.
Numerous reviews like this one are simply an illustration of the deep impression this story made on audiences. What’s more, these two episodes are highly regarded as some of the best science fiction storytelling available.
“With ‘The Best of Both Worlds,’ written by future Deep Space Nine showrunner Michael Pillar, The Next Generation achieves a winning intersection of character development, universe-altering ramifications, and well-executed sci-fi action,” writes Collider.
3. “All Good Things…” – Season 7, Episodes 25 and 26
“All Good Things…” is the grand finale of “The Next Generation”. In an absolutely fantastic show of storytelling special effects these are the episodes where the audience is invited to go on one last adventure with old friends. The story centers on Captain Picard, who is jumping between three timelines as he attempts to understand why the time jumps are happening to him. “’All Good Things…’ is the best Star Trek series finale ever and The Next Generation’s crowning achievement,” writes SYFY Wire.
The final episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation “All Good Things…” aired on this date in 1994. Star Trek: The Next Generation is an American science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry, that aired for seven seasons from September 28, 1987 to May 23, 1994. pic.twitter.com/lzrmnxv4li
— Killer 90s (@killer_90s) May 23, 2022
As with so many other television programs, it can be very difficult to present a satisfying end to a long running story. “All Good Things…” manages to create an end to a story contained within the episodes, the series itself, and a pointedly emotional finale for this “family” of characters. Because although the characters will go on, the stories of all of them together have come to a close.
“But we’ve included it on this list, though, because of the milestone Picard’s character reaches when he finally learns to let his guard down with the people closest to him. This change is crystallized by his decision to join his senior officers’ weekly poker night. It’s a heart-warming moment of togetherness which, judging by the events in Picard, helps to turn stoic starship colleagues into lifelong friends,” according to Short List.
As the impactful ending to a popular series, “All Good things…” has made its mark and continues to influence filmmakers today. “In a 2018 interview with EW, Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige cited this finale as a model for Avengers: Infinity War saying, ‘That to me is one of the best series finale ever. That wasn’t about death. Picard went and played poker with the crew, something he should have done a long time ago, right?’” Writes Cinema Blend.
4. “The Measure of a Man” – Season 2, Episode 9
“Star Trek: The Next Generation” is also a thought-provoking program. In “The Measure of a Man”, the question of an android’s status of personhood comes to debate. Star Fleet wishes to declare Lt. Data, an android, as property. Captain Picard intervenes as Data’s advocate and argues the position that Data is a sentient being who must be allowed to self-determine.
This triggers the following, “Picard demands a hearing be held in order to determine Data’s legal status, with Picard acting for the defense and Riker forced against his will to serve as prosecutor,” explains Giant Freakin Robot.
The STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION second season episode “The Measure of a Man” aired for the first time 34 years ago today.
[Feb. 13, 1989]#StarTrek #StarTrekTNG pic.twitter.com/Ba0mdXbHgr
— TrekNews.net (@TrekNewsNet) February 13, 2023
This episode is a prime example of Star Trek’s poignant social commentary. “This season 2 gem is one of the absolute best in the series, and an example of when Star Trek: TNG tackled important social issues with an effective message,” writes Screen Rant.
This engrossing narrative is focused on the debate presented by Captain Picard. “Cue the best courtroom drama episode of Star Trek ever produced including an astonishing performance from Patrick Stewart backed up by an understated but incredibly potent interaction with Whoopi Goldberg, and superb work from Jonathan Frakes,” writes Den of Geek.
“The very best Star Trek episodes delve into the Big Questions, and there are few bigger than the simple question ‘What does it mean to be alive?’ ‘Measure of a Man’ is one of the very best Data stories Star Trek: The Next Generation ever told,” according to Giant Freakin Robot.
5. “Yesterday’s Enterprise” – Season 3, Episode 15
Many “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes involve time travel. “Yesterday’s Enterprise” is widely considered to be one of the best. This ambitious episode manages to establish an alternate timeline that immediately engages with a sense of urgency.
Time travel sagas – Star Trek The Next Generation Yesterdays Enterprise pic.twitter.com/pfBW9Wabfs
— Colin Payn (@ColinPayn) October 23, 2015
Looper summarizes: “‘Yesterday’s Enterprise’ takes place in a darker alternate timeline created when the Enterprise-C, predecessor to the ship captained by Picard, finds itself thrust 22 years forward in time. Without its sacrifice at a crucial moment in the past, all of history was altered, and now Picard’s Enterprise is a warship, with the Federation engaged in a bitter conflict with the Klingons — and on the verge of defeat.”
And this is just the premise of the episode! The real narrative of this story is shown through the eyes of Tasha Yar, a crew member who died on a mission during the first season. This fan service call back to an older character was well-received. “This episode is arguably the most popular in TNG history and remains a must-have staple for fans of the show,” according to Screen Rant.
The cast must struggle with their decision to restore the original time-line at the cost of their lives. “The internal struggle over restoring the way things were meant to be, by sacrificing lives history already recorded as lost, is a classic Star Trek premise that “Yesterday’s Enterprise” explores to a very satisfying, and action-packed, conclusion,” adds SYFY Wire.
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- SYFY Wire
- Screen rant
- Short List
- Cinema Blend
- Den of Geek
- Giant Freakin Robot
- Movie Web
Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.