As a franchise, Star Trek has given us a plethora of emotional moments. By introducing us to the intrepid men and women of every race and species that explore the galaxy under the banner of discovery and peace, we share in their victories and in their losses. Star Trek: The Next Generation provided us with a new crew aboard the Enterprise-D, which we grew to care about just as much as Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and the original crew of Star Trek.
Captain Picard, with his unwavering dedication to diplomacy and goodwill, was always involved in storylines designed to make us ponder the complexities of the human condition while tugging at our heartstrings. Lieutenant Commander Data, always searching for ways to become more human and making us get misty-eyed at the depths of an android's humanity. Deanna Troi, with her pulse on the heart of the Enterprise itself, perpetually providing compassion to others when she needs it most. Grab a box of tissues, because here are 10 times when TNG broke our hearts.
10 THE DEATH OF DATA'S DAUGHTER
After Data reveals to Captain Picard and members of the crew that he’s created an android based on his own design and image, a dilemma arises. Picard must report the creation to Starfleet, but feels remorse when Data’s “offspring” clearly wishes to remain with her “Father”.
When a prominent Admiral comes to take “Lal”, Data is forced to hand his daughter over. Unfortunately, Lal has a cascade failure of her circuitry when she starts experiencing “feelings” before Data is forced to do so. He works tirelessly to save her but ultimately cannot, and she passes informing him that she loves him, and will “feel” the emotions for both of them.
9 WHEN PICARD PLAYED KAMIN'S FLUTE
When Captain Picard is rendered unconscious by an alien probe’s beam, he experiences the entire decades-long life cycle of Kamin, a scientist whose planet is about to be wiped out by a supernova, while only minutes pass for the Enterprise crew.
Picard at first tries to reach them, but then accepts his new life as Kamin, enjoying his time with his wife, children, and eventually grandchildren. When Picard is eventually brought back to his time, he finds the alien probe contained the flute he learned to master as the scientist. When he picks it up, he finds he has retained his musical skill, and plays it in the memory of Kamin’s species, long since wiped out.
8 TASHA YAR'S MEMORIAL
For some Star Trek fans, Tasha Yar’s death couldn’t come fast enough. She was a character that didn’t seem to fit anywhere - too important to be peripheral crew by the designation of her rank, but not given the same storylines as Worf, Riker, or Picard. As chief of security, she was often placed in dangerous situations, but her random death after the first season by a blob-shaped entity seemed to contradict her skill.
7 SITO'S DEATH
The episode “Lower Decks” offers a rare look into the lives of junior officers, a cohort rarely touched upon in TNG in favor of stories that feature the main cast. Of the four, most of the episode centers on Sito Jaxa, a Bajoran female who is up for a promotion alongside her fellow crew members.
Sito gets interrogated and tested by first Captain Picard, and then Worf in single combat. After her trials, her spirit and dedication impress them, and shes recruited for a secret mission posing as the Bajoran prisoner of a Cardassian (in fact a Federation ally). Unfortunately, she never returns from her mission alive, and Picard takes her loss heaviest of all.
6 WHEN PICARD SAYS GOODBYE TO NELLA DARREN
Picard didn’t often have many successful romantic relationships since he was a private man with a strict sense of duty. But when the new head of stellar sciences comes aboard the Enterprise-D, he can’t help but be intrigued by her spirited nature and her scientific knowledge.
Their friendship, which included long intellectual discussion and jam sessions with her on piano and he on his Ressikan flute, soon turned romantic. Unfortunately, as her captain, Picard realized he could never feel comfortable ordering his “girlfriend” into danger. When it was clear they wouldn’t be able to date and serve on the same ship together, Darren requested a transfer, breaking Picard’s heart in the process.
5 WHEN TROI LEARNS ABOUT HER DEAD SISTER
As annoying as Deanna Troi’s Betazoid mother, Lwaxana could be, her abrasive personality belied a highly emotional being with a dark secret. Shortly after the birth of Deanna, Lwaxana took her and her older sister Kestra to a lake for a picnic. Kestra wandered off without supervision, fell into the water and drowned.
Lwaxana revealing the story to her daughter Deanna is truly gut-wrenching, and watching the two women bond over the trauma is a gentle reminder that for all of their constant bickering, they care about each other very much. Lwaxana got peace for herself when Kestra visited her in her dreams and forgave her.
4 WHEN THE EXO-COMPS SACRIFICE THEMSELVES
A new mining technique has been discovered on Tyrus 7A by engineer Dr. Farallon. When the crew of the Enterprise arrives, they notice that small machines called Exocomps are being used to analyze problems with the method by replicating tools for the issues they encounter, “learning” from the process to adapt to future situations.
One Exocomp refuses to enter a tunnel during one inspection, and Farallon discovers new electronic pathways in its subroutines. Data suggests it has developed its own self-preservation technique, and shouldn’t have its life put in danger unless of its own accord, not human control. When Data informs Picard he must advocate for these machines as they have no advocate themselves, Picard tells him it’s the most human he’s ever been.
3 PICARD'S SPEECH AT DATA'S TRIAL
In one of the most emotional episodes in Next Generation, Data is treated as “property” by Starfleet when a noted cyberneticist comes aboard the Enterprise and wants to disassemble him to conduct a study of his circuitry. Data, who considers himself part of the crew, doesn’t wish to be singled out for such an experiment and prefers to resign his commission.
Starfleet forbids this, questioning his very civil rights of agency as a member of the crew. Commander Riker is forced to head of the opposition, while Captain Picard has the daunting task of representing Data at his own trial. His speech is both heartwarming, uplifting, inspirational, and heartbreaking before the verdict is passed.
2 "THERE ARE...FOUR...LIGHTS!"
Picard is captured during a secret mission by Cardassians in “Chain of Command”, who take him to a secret prison facility where the tyrannical Gul Madred forces him to undergo physical and physiological torture. If Picard will tell Madred that there are “five” lights in the interrogation room he is being held (there are four), he’ll stop inflicting incredible physical pain on him. Picard is so broken he’ll almost tell him anything.
It’s hard to watch the dignified captain become reduced to a shuddering shadow of a man, but it’s a testament to the human spirit’s triumph over evil when, even though he risks his very freedom and the ability to see his crew again, Picard shouts defiantly, “There are...FOUR….lights!”
1 PICARD CRYING ABOUT HIS BORG ASSIMILATION
When the Enterprise returns to Earth after the horrific events of “The Best of Both Worlds”, various members of the crew decide to spend time with family and clear their heads. Captain Picard, having recently been assimilated with the Borg Collective and made to do unspeakable things, decides to go to La Barre, France and visit his brother’s family.
He contemplates leaving his captaincy, feeling as though he let down his crew and Starfleet under control of the Borg hive mind. The moments where he breaks down to his brother Robert about what it was like being part of the Borg and what he was made to do are some of the most stirring in all the series.