25 Days of TNG, Day 20: 11 Lost “Best” Episodes

So here’s a weird thing that happened.

I’ve been writing these articles in sort of a piecemeal fashion — which is to say, I’ll write a little of one, move to another, move back, and so on. Well, somewhere along the way, I apparently misplaced my original list of what I’m calling my top 25 episodes. What you’re about to read was titled “Top 25 Episodes Part 1” in my cloud drive, but judging from the list at the bottom of the original document, it actually isn’t. That list doesn’t have any of these episodes on it.

But I still like them. And now you get to read a little about eleven episodes I really liked but somehow didn’t make it onto the top 25 list.


1. Lessons (Season 6 Episode 19)

Picard: I can assure you that I am not given to casual relationships.

Commander Daren, who has somehow never shown up in six years of trekking.
The Plot: Captain Picard falls in love with one of the scientists on his ship and they become romantically entangled, but when she’s the best officer to save a planet in trouble, Picard must deal with sending her into a situation that could mean her death.

Notable Guest Stars: Wendy Hughes as Commander Daren

Why It Was Great: It was very rare that we saw Captain Picard engage in normal relationships while on the show. He of course had his long-running UST-fest with Beverly, and he slept with Vash, but this was the only time we saw how the captain behaves when in a somewhat-long-term adult relationship with someone who’s his peer. And, in the end, the relationship ends in a mature, adult fashion, something that seemed to rarely happen on Star Trek. Overall, that’s why I liked it — because it was something utterly normal. Also, I thought Commander Daren was pretty. Don’t judge.


2. Allegiance (Season 3 Episode 18)

Picard: Then my doppelganger caused no serious damage. The replica was convincing?
Riker: Very convincing, but not perfect.
Picard: Not perfect in what way?
Riker: Well sir, I find it hard to believe that you’re that good a singer.

The Plot: Aliens abduct Captain Picard and four others and force them into a locked-room scenario where they must work together to figure out what’s going on. Meanwhile, a replica Picard acts in some very OOC ways back on the ship.

Notable Guest Stars: Jeff and Jerry Rector as the aliens who abducted Picard

Why It Was Great: Patrick Stewart really is a wonderful actor, and in this episode, he got to play himself twice (always a treat). The humor of him playing against type definitely worked for me, as did the overall concept of the episode — and, of course, the victory sequence, which shows just how well Picard can communicate with his crew. That was neat.


3. Clues (Season 4 Episode 14)

Picard: This time, we’ll get it right.

The Plot: The ship passes through a small wormhole and is thrown a short distance away. Everything goes back to normal, except that there are some inconsistencies with the ship and crew that get everyone curious. Data, however, is being awfully evasive about everything.

Notable Guest Stars: Colm Meaney as Miles O’Brien; Patti Yasutake as Nurse Ogawa; Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan

Why It Was Great: My favorite TNG episodes are usually bottle shows, ship shows, and mystery shows. This is two of the three. Shows like that generally depend upon a combination of special effects (which, at the time, were pretty great) and the acting ability of the cast (also pretty great). I was less than impressed with the voice they chose for Evil Deanna, but the concept was sound, and I really wasn’t expecting the ending (where they say “we’ll try again, and this time we’ll get it right”). That last bit felt a bit cop-out-y, but what can you do?


4. The Wounded (Season 4 Episode 12)

Picard: I think, when one has been angry for a very long time, one gets used to it. And it becomes comfortable like… like old leather. And finally… it becomes so familiar that one can’t remember feeling any other way.

Marc Alaimo (and his awesome moustache) as Gul Macet
The Plot: A Starfleet captain and war veteran has gone rogue and is taking on the Cardassians by himself, just after the Federation has signed a peace treaty with them. It’s up to the Enterprise to stop this man before he incites another war, and the only man who knows him well enough is Miles O’Brien, his former tactical officer.

Notable Guest Stars: Bob Gunton as Captain Maxwell; Marc Alaimo as Gul Macet

Why It Was Great: Leaving aside the fact that this show introduced the Cardassians, gave us a war that occurred between TOS and TNG that we knew nothing about, and was a ship show (Nebula-class FTW), the concept that not everything is perfect in Starfleet really got its first tryout here. Captain Maxwell has Issues (with a capital I), and that is a real thing that happens. Plus, it was up to O’Brien — not even a major character — to save the day, both with his brains and his heart, and it really paved the way for him to become a major part of Deep Space Nine. Overall, a really good episode that introduced us to a new quasi-enemy, one that I think rivals the Romulans in many ways. If only Marc Alaimo hadn’t had that weird moustache.


5. The Battle (Season 1 Episode 9)

Picard: Let the dead rest, and the past… remain the past.

The Plot: A Ferengi with a grudge “returns” Captain Picard’s old ship, the Stargazer, once thought lost in the depths of space. But it’s all a revenge ploy to drive Picard mad and get him to destroy the Enterprise (and himself). Now Riker must stop Picard from using his famous Picard Maneuver without killing him in the process.

Notable Guest Stars: Frank Corsentino as Daimon Bok

Why It Was Great: Early Ferengi episodes weren’t awesome, but I’ve seen a lot of Daimon Bok in future iterations of the Ferengi. More so than “The Last Outpost”, this one really made the Ferengi seem like they could be actual villains, not just big-eared weirdos. Plus, a lot of great acting from Patrick Stewart, and a glimpse into Picard’s past. And, of course, the starship battle. Wil Wheaton has said that this episode really alienated people against Wesley, and yeah, I get that, but at the time I didn’t notice it because I was the kind of kid who would point out the “obvious”. Of the first ten episodes of TNG, this was probably the second-best.


6. Lower Decks (Season 7 Episode 15)

Ensign Sito: It’s not your place to punish me for what I did at the Academy. I’ve worked hard here. My record is exemplary. If you’re going to judge me, judge me for what I am now.

The Plot: Four young crewmembers (and a young bartender) speculate on why the Enterprise is performing certain actions near the Cardassian border. It turns out a Cardassian who is tired of war and intrigue brought information to the Federation, and Ensign Sito must escort him back and escape before being killed or imprisoned.

Notable Guest Stars: Shannon Fill as Ensign Sito; Alexander Enberg as Taurik

Why It Was Great: After seven years of only occasionally seeing younger officers, it was really interesting to see how officers who don’t normally serve on the bridge feel about being on the ship, their Starfleet careers, and their superior officers. In fact the TV Trope “Lower Decks Episode” was named for this very show. Plus, great acting from Shannon Fill really helped offset the annoying Lavelle subplot (sucking up to Riker), and it made it hurt that much more when we found out she’d been killed.


7. First Contact (Season 4 Episode 15)

Lanel: Will I ever see you again?
Riker: I’ll call you the next time I pass through your star system.

The Plot: Commander Riker, disguised and embedded on a pre-warp planet, is injured and brought to a hospital where his biological differences are revealed. Picard must then initiate first contact with this new race during a very politically-volatile time.

Notable Guest Stars: Bebe Neuwirth as Lanel; Carolyn Seymour as Mirasta Yale; George Hearn as Berel

Why It Was Great: Haven’t you ever wondered what happens when the Federation wants to contact a pre-warp society? They can’t just break the Prime Directive at their leisure. Instead, a careful set of rules must be followed. And what happens when everything goes wrong and the rules have to be broken? I think that everyone who watched this episode was thinking two things: “this could happen here if an alien ever got brought to a human hospital” and “I really hope the Malcorians join the Federation”. Well, they didn’t. But this episode was one of the best Prime Directive episodes the show had. Also, the phone in the hospital room where Riker was being kept? At the time, we totally had that exact same phone in our kitchen. I kept rewinding the tape to show all my friends. (Yes, we taped all the episodes. Yes, I still have all the tapes upstairs. Don’t judge.)


8. A Fistful of Datas (Season 6 Episode 8)

Data: Spot, you are disrupting my ability to work.

The Plot: With the Enterprise ahead of schedule, the captain grants everyone some time off. This gives Data and Geordi a chance to mess with the computer, and Worf and Alexander a chance to have some fun in a holodeck scenario of the Ancient West. But when a malfunction messes up Data’s head and starts making him appear as all the characters in the holodeck, Worf, Deanna, and Alexander must find a way to survive the program until they can be rescued.

Notable Guest Stars: John Pyper-Ferguson as Eli Hollander

Why It Was Great: Now this is how you do humor on Star Trek — you don’t bring the fish-out-of-water to the crew, you take the crew (the fish) out of their element (the water) and put them in a situation that’s so absurd you can’t help but enjoy it. Despite the safeties-are-broken peril and the rather-weak technobabble of Worf’s bullet shield, this was one of a very few holodeck-centric episodes that wasn’t terrible (across all the shows). Plus, the final scene — the Enterprise warping off into the sunset — really did make me LOL.


9. Future Imperfect (Season 4 Episode 8)

Riker: Shut up!
Picard: I beg your pardon?
Riker: I said shut up! As in close your mouth and stop talking.

The Plot: After an away mission gone awry, Riker wakes up sixteen years in the future, a widower with a son on the cusp of teenage-hood, and a mission to ferry Ambassador Picard and his attache, Deanna Troi, to the Romulan Empire on a peace mission. But when things stop adding up for Riker, he realizes that it was all a Romulan ploy to get him to reveal classified information… or was it?

Notable Guest Stars: Andreas Katsulas as Tomalak; Chris Demetral as Jean-Luc Riker; Carolyn McCormick as Min

Why It Was Great: I really loved this episode, and I wish I could’ve justified ranking it more highly. But everything that happened after Riker saw through the illusion completely lost me. I liked the future stuff; I liked seeing what might be, all those years ahead. I liked the updated uniforms, the updated ship, and the logical progression of what these people might be like in sixteen years. Unfortunately, things got way too muddled once Riker was in the Romulan prison cell, but until then, this was a great show. I also felt a little cheated that we only got tiny glimpses of Minuet; I wonder how Carolyn McCormick felt about that.


10. The Next Phase (Season 5 Episode 24)

Ro: I’m dead!

A futuristic high-five between Ensign Ro (and her horrible headband) and Geordi.
The Plot: After helping a disabled Romulan ship, a transporter accident kills Geordi and Ensign Ro, leaving the crew to move on without them. But they’re not really dead; instead, a Romulan technological mishap has moved them “out of phase” with the universe. Now they have to find a way back to normal and stop the Romulan plot to destroy the Enterprise.

Notable Guest Stars: Michelle Forbes as Ensign Ro; Thomas Kopache as Mirok; Susanna Thompson as Varel

Why It Was Great: I make no secret about the fact that I like Ensign Ro’s character — she was the dark one in the cast, the Faith to the Enterprise crew’s Scooby Gang*. She’d had a difficult past, and hadn’t yet moved past it; she wasn’t fully accepted by the crew, but really wanted to be. Despite the horrible headband, it was Ro who made us really have to accept the fact that everyone thought she and Geordi were dead. She truly made the episode work, and had they used another main character or perhaps a random guest-star, the show would not have been nearly as good.


11. Elementary, Dear Data (Season 2 Episode 3)

(Somehow, there are no quotes from this episode at any of my three main sources. Make one up, if you like.)

Geordi, Pulaski, and Data in the Sherlock Holmes program
The Plot: After discovering that Data knows all of Sherlock Holmes and can therefore not be defeated using conventional means, Geordi suggests that the computer devise an opponent who can beat him. Moriarty gains a form of sentience and manages to threaten the ship as well as Doctor Pulaski.

Notable Guest Stars: Daniel Davis as Moriarty; Diana Muldaur as Doctor Pulaski

Why It Was Great: One thing Star Trek does really well (except for the Fair Haven episodes on Voyager) is period pieces. They have the money and the clout to get the sets and costumes right, and in this case, the story was right as well. Brent Spiner plays the part with his usual skill, and Daniel Davis is great as Moriarty. Despite the technology hole (how did the picture of the Enterprise get off the holodeck?), the conclusion of the episode left plenty of room for sequels and further exploration (although that would be delayed until season six, due to legal issues). Overall an enjoyable episode, and one that I know a lot of people liked.


Well, what do you think? Were these good episodes, or were they stinkers?


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* Drink.