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25 Days of TNG, Day 22: The Bottom 25 Episodes, Part 2

So, what episodes are left that could possibly be worse (or at the very least “less good”) than the 15 I listed yesterday? Let’s find out.

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10: Up the Long Ladder (Season 2 Episode 18)

Worf: Madam, have you ever considered a career in security?
Brenna Odell: Well if it’s anything like babysitting, then I’m an authority!

Someone’s going to have to beam all that hay off the transporter pad…

The Plot: A colony of Irish farmers is threatened by solar flares, so the Enterprise must rescue them, leading to much hilarity. Meanwhile, another colony, populated entirely of clones, is also in jeopardy, because they’re running out of genetic material. Finally, in a C-plot, Worf gets sick.

Notable Guest Stars: Diana Muldaur as Doctor Pulaski; Barrie Ingham as Danilo Odell

Why Did It Suck? Almost every time Star Trek tries to do a “let’s look down our noses at the less-technological people until we realize they had it right all along” episode, something bad happens. And in this one, they did it twice: once with the Irish farmers, and then again with the planet of clones. Frakes and Muldaur do an admirable job with the scene in the cloning room, but the overall resolution of the episode (polygamy/polygyny) doesn’t do justice to the scientific reasoning behind it, and there were a lot of missed marks. Oh, and is it just me, or did someone on the production staff have a foot fetish? Because there’s a foot reference in the Riker/Brenna pre-sex scene, and later, in “The Price” there’s a foot massage. That seems a little subversive for late 80s television.

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9: Cost of Living (Season 5 Episode 20)

Mrs. Troi: Every one of us has a thousand different kinds of…of little people inside of us. And some of them want to get out and be wild, and some want to be sad or happy or inventive or…or even just go dancing. That’s why we all have so many different urges at different times. And all those different little people inside of us…we must never be afraid to take them with us, wherever we go.

I couldn’t find the shot from the end of the episode with Worf up to his chin in the mud. I did try, though.

The Plot: After saving a nearby planet from an asteroid impact, Mrs. Troi comes on board to hold her wedding to one of that planet’s noblemen. Meanwhile, Worf is having difficulty enforcing “proper” discipline upon Alexander.

Notable Guest Stars: Majel Barrett as Mrs. Troi; Brian Bonsall as Alexander; Carel Struycken as Mr. Homn

Why Did It Suck? Despite a bevy of excellent lines from Mrs. Troi (including the one I quoted), the episode overall was pretty forgettable. Worf, as a full Klingon, trying to enforce discipline on his son, who is one-quarter human but was raised mostly by them (and K’Ehleyr, who was more human than Klingon), just struck me as something that really didn’t need to be shown on-screen. Really, the Alexander plot only existed to shore up the Mrs. Troi plot, and the whole “Lwaxana marries EVERYONE” storyline that seemed to exist through this general period of Star Trek never moved me very much. Majel Barrett Roddenberry brought to life a great character, but she was given a lot of really bad episodes to appear in.

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8: Symbiosis (Season 1 Episode 22)

Tasha: Drugs… make you feel good.

The Plot: A race of rich-looking people is selling life-saving drugs to a race of poor-looking people… except that the disease the drugs were supposed to treat was eradicated years ago, and the drugs are now just being used to keep them down. Also, if you watch one of the ending scenes very closely, you can see Denise Crosby frantically waving goodbye as the cargo bay door closes.

Notable Guest Stars: Judson Scott as Sobi; Merritt Butrick as T’Jon

Why Did It Suck? This episode came out in the Spring of 1988, when “Just Say No” and “DARE” and all those other organizations were big news. My guess is that it was supposed to show us that drugs are bad, m’kay? The thing is, as with so many first-season episodes, the message was inordinately heavy-handed and I feel bad for Denise Crosby for having to deliver it to Wesley and Data the way she did. Plus, two of the co-stars of Star Trek II were really wasted here; it was great to see them back together, and they both acted their parts very well, but I didn’t really care about T’Jon’s people and I didn’t really dislike Sobi’s people.

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7: Liaisons (Season 7 Episode 2)

Data: I have heard that in moments of diplomatic tension, it is often helpful to find elements of commonality.
Worf: Ambassador Byleth is demanding, temperamental, and rude!
Data: You share all of those qualities in abundance. Perhaps you should try to build on your similarities.

The Plot: Two ambassadors of a new race come aboard the ship for a cultural exchange, but prove to be too excessive for Troi and Worf to handle. Meanwhile, on his way to their planet, Picard’s shuttle crashes and he finds a woman who’s been alone for seven years.

Notable Guest Stars: Eric Pierpont as Ambassador Voval

Why Did It Suck? There have been occasions where Star Trek did humor correctly — “A Fistful of Datas” immediately comes to mind — but in those episodes, the humor is more incidental. Episodes like this, where Troi can’t keep up with the ambassador who eats and Worf can’t deal with the belligerent one, fall flat for me. I don’t know why that is, but I just don’t laugh at humorous plots; I prefer humorous lines. And the Picard part of this story was just awful; we all knew there was something strange about Anna right from the start. When this episode aired, my family had a satellite dish (one of the enormous ones) and we got it off the Paramount feed along with all the promos and commercials, and even the commercials didn’t make it seem interesting. That’s saying something.

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6: Interface (Season 7 Episode 3)

Data: Do you need to be comforted?

The Plot: Data, Geordi, and Beverly are testing a new piece of technology that allows Geordi to interface directly with a probe and perform his duty in places other people can’t go due to dangerous conditions. But when Geordi’s mom’s ship is lost, he uses the interface to try and find her again in the crushing atmosphere of a gas giant.

Notable Guest Stars: Madge Sinclair as Geordi’s mom; Ben Vereen as Geordi’s dad

Why Did It Suck? And the Season Seven hits keep right on coming! This episode had cool technology, Geordi with his VISOR off, real peril… and it just fell completely flat. I never cared about the fact that Geordi’s mom was dead, and in fact up until this episode it never mattered to me that we hadn’t met his family. Plus, another epic waste of guest stars — Madge Sinclair, who was in Roots, and Ben Vereen, who’s BEN FREAKING VEREEN (and was also in Roots).

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5: Sub Rosa (Season 7 Episode 14)

Quint: Dinna light that candle or dinna go to that hoose, or before you know it, they’ll be burying another Howard in this cemetery.

I guess this is what passes for sex in the seventh season.

The Plot: Beverly’s grandmother dies and she goes to attend the funeral. There she is made aware of a family heirloom/curse. That’s… about it.

Notable Guest Stars: Duncan Regehr as Ronin

Why Did It Suck? Commentary on this episode is pretty much “men hated it and women loved it”. Well, I’m a man, and I do love a good love story… but this wasn’t really a love story. It was a ghost story, and it was the kind of ghost story that I’ve seen handled better on Supernatural. I’ll give them credit for letting Gates McFadden fake an orgasm all the way to the… well, whatever the opposite of “the bitter end” is… but beyond that, I honestly can’t see any reason to watch this one again.

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4: The Royale (Season 2 Episode 12)

Picard: ‘It was a dark and stormy night…’ Not a promising beginning.
Deanna: May get better.

The Plot: The Enterprise finds the remains of a lost space shuttle. Riker, Data, and Worf go down to the planet to investigate and find themselves stuck in a hotel drawn directly from a novel being read by the only survivor (now dead). The problem is, they have to get out of there and they can’t.

Notable Guest Stars: Sam Anderson as the hotel’s assistant manager; Noble Willingham as Texas

Why Did It Suck? Just… just don’t, okay? I can’t even begin to tell you what’s wrong with this episode — which is to say, everything, from the bad science to the hackneyed plot to having a copy of this terrible novel on the Enterprise’s computer. The second season had a lot of really awful episodes, and this was one of them. But it wasn’t the worst.

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3: The Naked Now (Season 1 Episode 3)

Wesley: I feel strange, but also good!

Fully functional,.

The Plot: The Enterprise gets a distress call from a science ship and goes to investigate. They catch a virus that makes everyone feel intoxicated, leading to much confusion and ostensible hilarity before Wesley and Data manage to save the ship from a massive piece of stellar ejecta.

Notable Guest Stars: Brooke Bundy as Commander MacDougal, who apparently lost her job as chief engineer after this episode

Why Did It Suck? The second episode (the pilot was a two-parter) and they’re already reusing a TOS plot? Everyone’s having sex? Wesley’s saving the ship? This whole episode was a strange morass of character development and bad plots — it definitely helped establish the Picard/Crusher, Riker/Troi, and Data/Yar dynamics, as well as giving Worf and Data some good lines, but as a single piece of *cough* art, it failed on too many levels. A lot of people make this out to be the worst episode ever, but for my money, there are two that suck even more. And only one is sex-related.

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2: Manhunt (Season 2 Episode 19)

Riker: Yes, it’s something Troi warned me about when we first started to see each other. A Betazoid woman when she goes through this phase… quadruples her sex drive.
Deanna: Or more.
Riker: Or more? You never told me that.
Deanna: I didn’t want to frighten you.

The Plot: Mrs. Troi comes aboard the ship, intent upon finding a mate, as she’s reaching “The Phase” — a time in a Betazoid’s life where she really just wants to get down, if you know what I mean. Meanwhile, the Enterprise is ferrying a strange-looking race called the Antedeans to a peace conference.

Notable Guest Stars: Colm Meaney as Chief O’Brien; Robert O’Reilly as Scarface; Mick Fleetwood as an Antedean dignitary

Why Did It Suck? How in the world did Majel Barrett agree to do this episode? Even bad romance novels aren’t this bad. She’s funny, as usual, but the situation itself isn’t, and notice how “The Phase” is rarely brought up again in the rest of Star Trek canon. Plus, at the very end, she saves the day by reading the Antedeans’ minds and learning that they’re assassins. WHAT? Just… just ridiculous on every level, and not in a good way.

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1: The Outrageous Okona (Season 2 Episode 4)

Wesley: Say goodbye, Data.
Data: Goodbye Data.

Because THIS was what the second season needed.

The Plot: The Enterprise rescues a “charming rogue” of a freighter captain who turns out to be more than he seems. Meanwhile, Data learns about comedy.

Notable Guest Stars: Joe Piscopo as The Comic; Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan; Teri Hatcher as Lt. B.G. Robinson

Why Did It Suck? I get the brow-wrinkles when I think about this episode, mostly because I’m not quite sure why it was greenlit in the first place. On the one hand, you have a halfway-decent plot about a “charming rogue”, and on the other hand, you have Data and Joe Piscopo. The comedy club scenes really brought things down and also proved that humor hasn’t advanced much since the 1980s. And, really, most of Piscopo’s jokes weren’t even funny in the 80s. On the other side of things, the Okona storyline could only have worked early in the series (when the crew hadn’t really gelled), and by now they’d been through enough stuff that gelling had occurred. Had this happened in season one, they might have gotten away with it by using it for character development of our regulars, much in the same way that fanfic writers take a character from one universe, drop him/her in another, and have him/her give incisive and insightful commentary that makes everyone feel better about themselves… but even as an elementary-schooler, I took one look at this episode and wrote it off as a complete waste of time.

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So, judging from my bottom 25, which seasons of TNG were the “worst”? Apparently seasons 2 and 5, each of which had six entries on the list. However, since season 2 only had 22 episodes, a greater proportion of them were bad, so season 2 definitely takes the cake.

  • Season 1: 4
  • Season 2: 6
  • Season 3: 1
  • Season 4: 1
  • Season 5: 6
  • Season 6: 3
  • Season 7: 4

Do you agree? Disagree? Comment, or hit up our forums. And, coming very soon, the exact opposite of this list: my top 25 episodes — which was a much harder list to write.

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Comments (1)

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  1. Timothy P. Callahan says:

    I always liked Symbiosis and The Royale, but I liked them at a time when I didn’t know the best was yet to come.

    At the age I watched Symbiosis I was actually really surprised they were actually suffering from withdrawl and the fact they seemed to have superpowers was like candy to my young imagination. If I were to watch it today without seeing it before I probably wouldn’t have been impressed and might have even seen the surprise coming.

    The Royale was, and still is, kind of silly fun for me. Got two good laughs, when Picard is reading the first line “It was a dark and stormy night” then says Not a promising beginning. And, for some reason, when Data says “Baby needs a new pair of shoes.” Still makes me smile for some reason.

    All the others, yeah, I agree with, not great episodes.