I’m not sure when exactly we knew that the seventh season of TNG was going to be the final one, but as far as final seasons go, it didn’t really blow me away. Compared to other final seasons — House, Buffy*, and Deep Space Nine, to name but a few — it was decidedly lackluster… but there were a few high points.
Best Episode: Sadly, the seventh season didn’t have a lot of great episodes. However, it did have “Parallels” (7.11), which was a bottle show that gave us so many alternate realities that even a fan of them like myself didn’t quite know how to handle it. Michael Dorn was his usual Worf-y self even as everything changed around him, and the little changes in uniforms, sets, cast, and extras were great touches. Probably my favorite episode of the season (favorite doesn’t always equal best). Honorable mentions: Descent Part 2 (7.01), Lower Decks (7.15), All Good Things (7.25 and 7.26)
Worst Episode: Oh, boy, did this season have some epic stinkers. Instead of giving you one, I’m going to give you all of them:
- Liaisons (7.02): Bad premise, bad love story, just bad overall.
- Interface (7.03): Geordi’s mom’s dead. Oh, wait, no, she’s not. She’s just conveniently lost in a place where our new technology (that we never use again) can find her. Oh, wait, no, that was an alien. Nevermind. She’s dead.
- Dark Page (7.07): Mrs. Troi goes crazy because her firstborn retconned daughter died while on a picnic. I realize that’s a traumatic and terrible event, but why now?
- Inheritance (7.10): Data’s mom’s a robot. O-kay…
- Homeward (7.13): Worf’s brother broke the Prime Directive. What a waste of Paul Sorvino. Also… “it is the Sign of La Forge!”
- Sub Rosa (7.14): A family ghost gives Gates McFadden an orgasm on-set. Oh joy.
- Eye of the Beholder (7.18): An empathic impression is killing people on the Enterprise. That was a thing that was happening.
- Bloodlines (7.22): Picard’s youthful indiscretion comes home to roost… or does he???
- Emergence (7.23): So, let me get this straight… the Enterprise… is a train?
Most Underrated: Something we rarely got to see on TNG was how the rest of the crew dealt with being just one of more than 1000 people on the ship. I mean, it’s a big ship; how often does Ensign Ricky in Custodial Operations get to see the Captain? Or even Geordi, his boss? Well, “Lower Decks” gives us that look, and it’s a good one. Though sometimes painful to watch (in a bad way), we get insight into the rest of the crew and how they see the stars of the show. And then, at the end, Picard — always a sucker for redemption — gives Ensign Sito a chance to win back her honor. She succeeds, and because of her interplay with Picard, we’re hit hard by her death. A strong episode, sometimes overlooked. Honorable mentions: Attached (7.08), Genesis (7.19), Preemptive Strike (7.24)
Most Overrated: I hate to heap more pain onto this season, but “Journey’s End” (7.20) is often an overrated episode — not because of the “return of Wesley” angle, because, hey, we did need to know what happened, but because it’s also the return of the Traveler and the ascension of Wesley to a higher plane of existence. It pays off earlier episodes, sure, but it does so in such a clunky fashion that I really could never get behind it. It also completely misses out on what DS9 did so much better with the Maquis — show us how people being displaced by Cardassians are going to react to things. Should’ve been better. Honorable mentions: Force of Nature (7.09), The Pegasus (7.12), Firstborn (7.21)
Best Guest Star: I can’t use Michael Dorn playing all the other Worfs, can I? No? Oh well; I’ll give it to Terry O’Quinn as Admiral Pressman in “The Pegasus”. Riker had beaucoup respect for this dude, and he squandered it by bringing Riker in on a cover-up that Riker knew was wrong in the first place. In the end, the multiphasic cloak ends up saving everyone’s ass, but it doesn’t help Pressman escape the long arm of Federation law. O’Quinn is a great actor, especially in these types of morally-righteous-but-legally-wrong roles, and he does an excellent job here. Honorable mentions: Brent Spiner (Lore), Shannon Fill (Ensign Sito), John de Lancie (Q)
Worst Missed Opportunity: Y’know how in horror stories when everything’s over and then the writer throws in a tiny twist to make the main character think that maybe, just maybe, something is still wrong? At the end of “Parallels”, with Worf and Troi alone in Worf’s quarters, that would’ve been the perfect place to throw in a little something to make Worf think that he wasn’t quite back home where he should have been. It could’ve been something simple, almost innocuous, that just leaves Worf shaken as he realizes there’s no way to fix this mistake. I don’t know what it would’ve been, but it would’ve been cool.
Strangest Thing: This was probably the worst season of TNG, overall. Even the second season had more really standout episodes. I don’t know if the writers were out of ideas, or were just phoning it in, or just didn’t care, but I was not impressed at all. You’d think that after seven years we could maybe continue some storylines or try a few small arcs, instead of just these “mission of the week” episodes, but with the exception of maybe five or six episodes, this season was forgettable at best. That’s strange to me, that the team assembled to write, produce, and run this show was so meh about making sure good episodes made it to air. The actors did the best they could with what they had, but the best they had often wasn’t enough.