Best Episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation

If you've only seen the recent Star Trek movies, you might be eager to jump into the Star Trek universe. But the question is, where do you start? The Next Generation is a terrific show, but you might not be ready to binge watch all seven seasons. Here are the ten best episodes to start with.

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"Tapestry" (Season 6, Episode 15)

Picard is impaled through the heart
Picard is impaled through the heart. (Paramount Television/CBS Television)

When Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) is shot in the artificial heart, the omnipotent being Q (John de Lancie) allows him to go back in time and change the event that destroyed his original heart. But when he returns to the present, he discovers it's changed the man he was to become. This is a compelling episode about the journey Picard went through to become captain. It's also about choice, and how the darkness in our lives can lead to us becoming better people.

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"Cause and Effect" (Season 5, Episode 18)

USS Bozeman emerges from loop
USS Bozeman emerges from loop. (Paramount Television)

When the Enterprise is caught in a time loop, the crew is forced to live the same day over and over again. The ship keeps ending with the destruction of the Enterprise, and Data is the only one who can stop it. It's "Groundhog's Day" for Star Trek. This is a great story of time and choices, much like "Tapestry." 

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"Chain of Command" (Season 6, Episodes 10 & 11)

Madred torturing Picard
Madred torturing Picard. (Paramount Television/CBS Television)

When Picard, Worf, and Crusher are sent on a secret mission to investigate a Cardassian weapons facility, the Enterprise changes command to a more strict and harsh captain. But the mission goes wrong, and Picard is tortured by a sadistic Cardassian officer. This two-part episode contains some of the darkest moments in TNG. The torture sequences are especially emotional, and led to the popular Trek catchphrase, "There - are - four - lights!"

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"Data's Day" (Season 4, Episode 11)

The wedding of O'Brien and Keiko
The wedding of O'Brien and Keiko. (Paramount Television/CBS Television)

This episode is focused on a day in the life of Lt. Commander Data. Throughout the day of observing O'Brien's wedding and the mystery of a Vulcan ambassador's apparent death, we see Data's insights and struggles to understand the human condition. It's an emotional and rare glimpse into life aboard the Enterprise.

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"Darmok" (Season 5, Episode 2)

Captain Dathon (Paul Winfield)
Captain Dathon (Paul Winfield). (Paramount Television/CBS Television)

When Picard is trapped on a planet with an alien captain, he's forced to work to survive against an alien beast. But the captain speaks a language so complex that even the universal translator cannot decipher it. The episode is a classic Trek story that challenges our perception of culture and language and shows how people who are different can be brought together. It also made "Darmok at Tanagra" a popular catchphrase among fans.

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"The Measure of a Man" (Season 2, Episode 9)

Riker removes Data's arm
Riker removes Data's arm. (Paramount Television/CBS Television)

Data's humanity is questioned when the Federation demands that Data be reassigned and disassembled for research. Picard must prove in court that Data is legally a sentient being with rights and freedoms under Federation law. This is a great courtroom drama with a complex examination of the nature of sentience and free will.

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"All Good Things..." (Season 7, Episode 25)

Picard in his vineyard in the future
Picard in his vineyard in the future. (Paramount Television/CBS Television)

It's rare for a series finale to be well-received. It's even rarer for it to be beloved. The series finale was not only a great episode, it was one of the best episodes of the series. When Q tells Picard that he's going to the cause of the end of the human race, he begins an incredible journey through time from the present, to the past, and into the future.

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"Yesterday's Enterprise" (Season 3, Episode 15)

Castillo and Yar ready for battle
Castillo and Yar ready for battle. (Paramount Television/CBS Television)

When a temporal rift changes reality, the Enterprise becomes a warship in a conflict with the Klingon Empire. Only the bartender Guinan realizes something is wrong and must work to return the starship to its true reality. Not only is this a fascinating story of an alternate reality, it includes the return of fan favorite Tasha Yar, who gets to have an honorable death.

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"The Inner Light" (Season 5, Episode 25)

Picard playing Ressikan flute
Picard playing Ressikan flute. (Paramount Television/CBS Television)

When an alien probe takes control of Captain Picard, he finds himself on an alien world. He becomes a resident of the dying planet Kataan, and lives decades with a wife, children, and grandchildren in the span of twenty minutes. The humanity, the love story, the despair at raising and then losing children who never really existed made this one of the most powerful and emotional episodes TNG ever did.

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"Best of Both Worlds" (Season 3, Episode 26; Season 4, Episode 1)

Locutus of Borg (Patrick Stewart)
Locutus of Borg (Patrick Stewart). (Paramount Television)

This two-part episode is one of the reasons why the Borg are one of the most popular villains of the series. The season finale gave an epic cliffhanger. When the Borg kidnap Picard and convert him to become their spokesman, the Federation must turn against one of their own. The sight of Picard as the Borg Locutus is shocking, and this episode resonates through later episodes, including the movie First Contact.

Final Thoughts

No matter which episode you watch, you'll find worlds of adventure, drama, and complex science fiction in "The Next Generation."