Tuesday, June 03, 2014

#749. Seven Next Generation Episodes to Remember

Last November I wrote about characters from The Next Generation (1987-1994) that Star Trek fans who know Picard's crew only from their movies (Generations, First Contact, Insurrection, Nemesis) would never have met.  It recently occurred to me that there are large swathes of the crew's legacy that would be hard to truly appreciate without having seen at least some of the series.  Fans who existed at the time Next Generation was on the air wouldn't need a reminder like this, but we're now twenty years past the end of the series (no, really!), which is plenty of time for new fans who may not particularly have the time to sit through a hundred-seventy-odd hours (although, of course, there's binge-watching as a whole thing these days, which I'm not ashamed to admit I helped pioneer) but could easily watch the movies, if the new movies have indeed been making new Star Trek fans.

Here's the list:

1.) "The Measure of a Man"
Anyone who watches the movie will obviously know Data is an android, but by the time Generations comes around he's undergone a dramatic revision of his character.  He's lost one of the biggest hurdles in his quest to become more human.  "Measure" is the episode that doesn't just spotlight that quest, but threatens to take it away from him.  Insurrection is kind of a sequel to the episode, actually, in a lot of ways (another reason to take this particular movie more seriously), the way Admiral Dougherty casually dismisses Data.  It's also an early look at Data's relationship with Picard, which really doesn't get picked up again until the movies.

2.) "Sins of the Father"
Surprisingly, one of Next Generation's most distinctive characters, Worf, really only has a fitting spotlight in one of the films (First Contact), which doesn't even address most of what he was all about in the series.  Consider "Sins" a primer on everything you need to know about the proud Klingon warrior, from his background to his relationship with other Klingons (don't expect a lot of happiness).

3.) "The Best of Both Worlds, Parts 1 & 2"
First Contact is a sequel to this defining moment from the series, one that is useful in experiencing itself, from how Picard initially confronts the Borg to the process of disconnecting him from it.  Riker has a considerable role in the first part, which goes a long way to expanding his characterization.

4.) "Brothers"
The other side of Data's journey in the series is his surprisingly complicated family situation, which includes his creator, his brother, and the pesky emotion chip that he finally receives in Generations.  This is probably the most concise exploration of the whole affair.

5.) "The First Duty"
There isn't really a good Dr. Crusher episode worth recommending, but there are plenty of Wesley Crusher episodes to choose from (really!), including this one where he admits to wrongdoing at Starfleet Academy, which sees the cadet confront both his mother and Picard.

6.) "Ship in a Bottle"
Next Generation was famous, some might say infamous, for introducing the holodeck to Star Trek lore.  The best use of the holodeck was the underrated character of Moriarty (who debuted in "Elementary, Dear Data"), a truly cerebral villain fit for the character of the series itself.

7.) "Tapestry"
Arguably the best Q episode also explores aspects of Picard suggested in Nemesis, i.e. his surprisingly rebellious youth.  Given a chance to revisit those days, the thoughtful older Picard is surprised to discover that he needed to make the mistakes he did in order to become the man he is.

Have any episodes you think deserve consideration?  Sound off in the comments!



Great list!
"Ship in a Bottle" is one of my favourites. The idea that we ourselves could be in a program was great.

Tony Laplume said...

I don't know about you, but I assume I am. That totally explains why I'm always saying, "Computer, end program!" (Although that sounds a lot more depressing than I thought it would.)

Pat Dilloway said...

There's definitely a Matrix/Inception thing with the Ship in a Bottle episode.

Remembering Grace said...

I love all those episodes. I love everything about TNG, though, and if I could watch it 24/7, I would.

The end of Best of Both Worlds, when Riker gives the order to fire on the Borg ship, is one of THE moments of the series. And that Ship in a Bottle episode was so trippy I had to watch it a few times just so I could understand what was going on. Actually, I'm still not sure I understand what happened.

I think we could also give consideration to Chain of Command, Parts 1 and 2 - "There are four lights!," and Darmok - "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra!" Those episodes both can bear watching more than a few times. I think every time I watch Darmok, I come away with something new.

I also Relics, if only because of their illustration of the Dyson Sphere, so I guess that could fill in a niche. Another niche episode could be The Outcast - that one is way underrated. Even without the gender fluidity and whore-Riker, there is a great acting moment in the forest where you can FEEL the sexual tension, it's awesome.

Tony Laplume said...

"Chain of Command" was definitely an alternate in the list.


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