When it debuted in 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation was the series that carried the torch of the Star Trek franchise into a new era of television. With a new crew, led by a new captain, aboard a new Enterprise, it set the pace for every Star Trek series after it. With its streamlined sets, updated aesthetic, and stentorian acting style, it was here to be taken seriously. It had left Mr. Spock and his drumming circles and Captain Kirk and his moon princesses behind so that Star Trek could mature.
Or so it appeared. The original Star Trek series didn't have a little something called a holodeck, where crew members could live out their most raucous fantasies in a virtual environment of their making. It didn't have a Q, an omnipotent space diva whose only wish is to pester Captain Picard and his crew out of boredom. These whimsical differences allowed for some truly hilarious episodes in TNG, breaking up the solemnity and showing that the series could loosen up when it wanted to. Here are ten of the funniest episodes ever.
10 "FISTFUL OF DATAS"
Taking on the tropes of classic Spaghetti Westerns like “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” and “Fistful of Dollars,” this episode places Worf, Deanna, and Data in the American Old West, after a power surge to Data’s programming affects a holodeck activity that Worf is participating in with his son.
While Geordi attempts to make Data into a sort of “systems back up” in case anything goes wrong with the ship’s computer, Data becomes a part of the Deadwood, South Dakota holodeck adventure as Frank, an outlaw who takes on town sheriff Worf and Deanna as a gunslinger. More characters take on Data’s appearance and skills, including a saloon girl, to much hilarity.
9 "DEJA Q"
The Enterprise has serious matters to attend to when the planet Bre’el IV faces an asteroid moon falling from orbit. So, of course, it’s the perfect time for Q to arrive naked on the bridge, because he’s been stripped of his powers by the Continuum for causing too much mayhem in the Universe.
Now a human asking for asylum, Q is at Picard’s mercy, who will only help him if Q helps them with the Bre’el IV catastrophe. When Q gets his powers reinstated, he reappears on the bridge with a mariachi band and women for Riker.
This episode is a trifecta of fun: it involves Vash, the hot-headed treasure hunter that caught Captain Picard’s eye on his vacation to Risa, a bored and mischievous Q, and a fantasy adventure. As the Enterprise hosts an archaeological symposium, Vash and Picard are reunited, but Q makes three a crowd. He offers to rekindle the romance they had as thanks for Picard’s help returning his immortal powers.
Picard rebuffs Q at first, causing Q to have to resort to stronger measures. He transforms Picard into Robin Hood and Vash into his lady love, Maid Marian. Several members of the crew including Worf, Data, and Riker are transformed into his merry men, to their extreme dissatisfaction (Worf: “I am not a merry man”).
7 "DATA'S DAY"
Episodes concerning Data’s study of humankind and his quest to adopt the affectations of humans have led to some of the most emotional episodes on TNG, including the most hilarious. The episode “Data’s Day” focuses on his internal monologue as he goes about his various tasks and interactions.
His friend Keiko Ishikawa and Transporter Chief Miles O’Brien are soon to be married, and Data has to learn all about prenuptial jitters, as well as tap and ballroom dancing. Though it’s touching whenever Data tries to understand the complexities of human emotions, the episodes focused on the practice are often unintentionally funny.
6 "THE NAKED NOW"
Using a similar plot to one of Gene Roddenberry’s un-aired teleplays for Star Trek, the crew fall victim to a strange ailment when they respond to a distress call from the SS Tsiolkovsky, a vessel undergoing scientific monitoring of a supergiant star.
This episode is for Star Trek fans who love to see a strange temporal anomaly or an unexplainable dimensional rift causing crew members to act completely differently than normal. We see someone showering with their clothes on, Wesley acting intoxicated, and Data experience his first intimate encounter with chief of security Tasha Yar. At the end, everyone goes back to normal as though it were all a bad dream.
5 "IN THEORY"
While Data didn’t have extensive experience in the realm of romance, he felt it was a vital part of unlocking the full comprehension of human existence, and thus pursued it wherever it seemed appropriate. In “In Theory,” he begins a relationship with a fellow crew member, Jenna D’Sora, much to the rest of the crew’s confusion.
This episode is amusing on several levels as Data attempts to be the “perfect boyfriend” and then, at Jenna’s behest, whatever type of boyfriend she wants him to be. At each step, he gets relationship advice from Riker, Worf, Troi, Guinan, and Picard, and each has their own perspective on how he should proceed.
Data decides that when powering down for the evening, he shouldn’t just monitor subroutines and go into low stasis mode. He should have dreams like humans. He therefore creates a dream function to do this, except that it malfunctions and he begins experiencing nightmares instead.
At one point, Counselor Troi is baked into a “cellular peptide cake with mint frosting,” and that’s just the start of his bizarre hallucinations. Did we mention the rest of the crew starts eating the cake? It’s definitely one of TNG’s strangest episodes, but a riot to experience.
Any episode featuring Troi’s man-crazy mother is sure to bring the laughs, and with an episode titled “Manhunt,” you know to expect nothing but innuendos to split your sides. When the crew of the Enterprise-D escort two Antedean ambassadors to a special conference, they find that the aliens won’t be the only life form they transport when they’re forced to pick up a shuttlecraft.
Out pops Lwaxana Troi, with special orders from Starfleet to give her every diplomatic courtesy. She proceeds to wine and dine Captain Picard, who she has focused on during “The Phase,” when middle-aged Betazoid females reach the peak of their sexual drive. It’s worth watching just to see Picard skulk cautiously around his own ship, anxiously trying to avoid her.
As the name implies, the episode “Rascals” pertains to a small group of misfit kids getting into trouble, only this time it’s several members of the Enterprise crew! Captain Picard, Keiko O’Brien, Ensign Ro, and Guinan return from the planet Marlonia when a transporter accident causes them to turn into 12-year-old children.
The “children” still have their adult minds, and comedy ensues when a diminutive scrunch-faced Picard tries to give orders on the bridge, and a bratty Keiko O’Brien doesn’t understand why her husband is acting oddly around her. He relinquishes command to Commander Riker, and tries to accept his newfound status while the rest of them come to terms with it as well.
1 "THE ROYALE"
When the Enterprise encounters debris from a NASA ship that’s hundreds of years old, they are shocked it reached the area of space it did. Commander Riker, Worf, and Data investigate it on the planet where it crash landed, only to find themselves entering the lobby of an old casino hotel called The Royale.
Unable to communicate to the Enterprise, they discover that when the ship was contaminated by a race of aliens, its crew was forced to play out the pulp novel entitled Hotel Royale. Only when Data, Worf, and Riker start participating in gambling to buy out the casino may they leave it.