When Star Trek was rebooted in the late eighties, it came back with a wildly different crew, an updated Enterprise, and Sir Patrick Stewart as the articulate Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Unlike its predecessor, Star Trek: The Next Generation ran for seven full seasons and cemented Star Trek as a sci-fi powerhouse. Though the series had a rocky beginning, it eventually hit its stride and had many impressive, unforgettable episodes.
While there are certainly more than ten good episodes in TNG, we're wheedling it down to the best of the best. For anyone interested in seeing the Enterprise-D crew at their best, these are the most must-see episodes the series has to offer.
RELATED: 25 Characters TNG Wants Us To Forget
10 MEASURE OF A MAN
Though TNG had some rocky episodes early on, one of the first truly great episodes came in Season 2's "Measure of a Man". In this predicament, a scientist wants to remove, disassemble, and possibly mass produce Data. However, Picard doesn't want to risk one of his best officers and doesn't think it's fair to force Data to agree to this research plan.
RELATED: 15 Things You Never Knew About Data
With a unique approach, Picard and the scientist hold a trial to prove or disprove Data's humanity. The episode really digs deep into what it means to be a human. When it comes to deep, philosophical episodes, Measure of a Man is a stellar example.
One of Picard's least favorite people in the universe is Q, the cross-dimensional, seemingly all-powerful being that has some sort of fascination with the Enterprise crew and, particularly, its captain. In this episode, Q and Picard go back to his Star Fleet school days and revisit a moment he regrets. After a scuffle in a bar, he gets stabbed and he wished he never did that. However, when he and Q change that event, Picard becomes a completely different person in the present. He's meeker, a science officer who never goes above and beyond the call of duty. It's a fantastic dissection of Picard and leadership in general. After all, bravery requires one part confidence and loyalty, and another part stupidity.
8 CHAIN OF COMMAND PT. 1 AND 2
Though the Federation has a truce going on with the Cardassians, that truce is flimsy at best. No episode shows that as thoroughly as Chain of Command, where Picard and Crusher are sent to infiltrate a Cardassian base and get caught. Meanwhile, a war-dog captain named Jellico takes over the Enterprise so that it's prepared for battle if necessary. Normally gelling with Picard, Riker and Jellico butt heads on changing procedures and mindsets, causing unrest on board.
While Riker's tale of authority is interesting, what truly takes the cake is Picard's mental battlefield with a Cardassian torture expert, Madred. Eventually, Madred will settle for breaking Picard's mind, even if he won't get information out of him. The dissection of psychological torture and rapport between Madred and Picard make for a gripping and impressive episode.
7 ALL GOOD THINGS
After seven seasons, Star Trek: TNG ended with "All Good Things". In this episode, Picard slides through time trying to figure out what's happening to him. Supposedly he has a brain disorder that confuses time, leading him to experience time before the pilot episode, the current, and the future intermingled. Ultimately, it was Q's fault and Picard still has time to enjoy his present Enterprise. Then he joins the senior staff poker game, something he's never done before.
As far as finales go, this one brought a sweet note to the end of a beloved series. Fans are in agreement that it finished things off well (until the movies, that is).
6 I, BORG
The second the Enterprise meets the Borg, they become the most frightening big bad in the galaxy. With no way to reason with them, they are mindless drones assimilating and taking cultures for their own. After "The Best Of Both Worlds", it's hard for any Star Fleet officer not to detest them. However, in "I, Borg" the frightening Borg narrative is flipped on its head.
The Enterprise picks up a lone, abandoned drone and decide to examine him. They learn more about his systems and gain a wealth of knowledge on the species. Meanwhile, the longer he's away from the Borg, the more his human side returns. Without a collective, he reverts to being an individual. They name him Hugh and Crusher and Geordi form a bond with the young man.
Analyzing prejudice and individuality, this is a smart and interesting episode that questions humanity itself all over again.
5 THE LOWER DECKS
Throughout all of the Star Trek series, the main cast is the senior staff, the people making big decisions. However, the honest truth is that there are a lot of people on the ship, all dealing with the trials and tribulations of space explorations. Star Trek: TNG is aware of that and makes a point of it in "The Lower Decks", an episode about a bunch of lower tier staff that have shown up in a few other episodes. They discuss their lives, their dreams, and their goals. While TNG does focus on senior staff, this episode reminds people that everyone in the ship is important and all have interesting, complex lives.
Several other series do similar episodes, but TNG's "The Lower Decks" is by far a fan favorite.
4 BEST OF BOTH WORLDS PT. 1 AND 2
In one of the most harrowing finales on nerd television, Riker is forced into a command position and has to decide whether to try and save Picard or destroy the Borg cube. Earlier in the episode, the Borg took the captain and assimilated him so that they could communicate more effectively, and menacingly, with humanity. Ultimately, Riker has to decide to sacrifice a great man to save millions. When the threat of the Federation is in balance, a lot of hard decision have to be made.
And things don't get any easier in the second part.
One of Star Trek's most shining experiences is in this two-parter, ripe with hard choices, defining character moments, and fantastic writing.
Throughout Star Trek, First Contact situations are always tense and confusing. However, few are as unique and harrowing as meeting the Tamarians in "Darmok". Though the species has been trying to make contact for weeks, they speak a completely different way. The universal translator can communicate their words, but their race speaks in metaphors so, without knowledge of their stories, the Enterprise is unable to understand them.
Furthermore, Picard and the Tamarian captain are beamed below with knives. The Enterprise and its captain fear it's for one-on-one battle, but it's a far more complex tradition than that. Between Picard and the Tamarian captain, there are so many frustrating and bonding moments that make this a great, unique episode.
2 SINS OF THE FATHER
When it comes to Star Trek, there are few species as beloved as the Klingons. After all, some Trekkies have learned the whole language. This warrior race is rich with culture, tradition, and honor. Star Trek: TNG made Star Fleet and show history by having a Klingon officer in Worf. In "Sins of The Father", fans not only get to learn more about Worf but also Klingon culture.
During the episode, Picard and Worf travel to Qo'noS, the Klingon homeworld, to face crimes pinned on Worf's father. Ultimately, they learn it's a cover job to protect a stronger house, House Duras, and they have evidence that Worf's father never betrayed his people. However, using House of Mogh as a scapegoat, they keep peace. Though it's dishonorable and shows a dark, political underbelly to Klingon culture, Worf accepts to save his Empire.
In heartbreaking character growth, Worf lets his people shun him to try to protect them.
1 THE INNER LIGHT
Arguably Star Trek: TNG's best episode, beloved by all fans, is "The Inner Light". This episode shows Picard experiencing an entire lifetime on an alien planet after being probed by a spatial time capsule. As Kamin, Picard is a charming scientist and musician married to the patient and lovely Eline. They live on Kataan, an unstable planet. Throughout Kamin's life, the planet slowly degrades until, in old age, the only hope for his people is a time capsule that preserves their memories.
Within a few moments on board, Picard lives a whole life, having children, loving his wife, adoring his music, and accepting the doom of his planet.
Filled with emotion and human experience, "The Inner Light" bonds fans to a life lived in a short hour. It's a fantastic episode that every Star Trek fan should experience.