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'Make it so': Star Trek: The Next Generation's 25 best episodes, ranked

These are the best adventures of Captain Picard's  TNG  crew.

Star Trek The Next Generation Best Episodes Header

No one expected Star Trek to last longer than the original series’ first three seasons, let alone 55 years. 

Even by 1960s standards, the classic show suffered from low-budget sets and, at times, cheesy effects. But what it lacked in spectacle it made up for with ideas; a thematically-rich exploration of heady sci-fi concepts bolstered by occasional space-based action and some of the finest TV characters ever assembled. Trek ’s legacy would endure and spawn 13 feature films and several series, most notably Star Trek: The Next Generation , which is as popular now (or more) than it has ever been, thanks to streaming. In 2021,  TNG  celebrate some significant milestones: The 30th anniversary of the Season 5 episode "Disaster,"  Trek 's take on disaster movies like  The Poseidon Adventure , the 30th of "Unification, Parts I and II, which marked Mr. Spock's return to television prior to the theatrical release of 1991's  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country , and  Star Trek: First Contact  recently turned 25. 

With everyone coming up  Star Trek: The Next Generation  lately, as well as the franchise itself celebrating its 55th anniversary this year, SYFY WIRE scrolled through our databanks to rank and file the 25 greatest episodes of  TNG . 

25. “Q Who?” (Season 2)

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The Borg have never been more scary than they are in “Q Who?”, their first appearance in Star Trek .

When Q is denied a spot amongst Picard’s crew, he punishes the captain’s perceived short-sightedness by snapping his fingers and sending the Enterprise to the unexplored reaches of the Delta Quadrant. There, Picard encounters — and barely escapes — the Borg and their relentless pursuit of perfection by means of assimilation. The moment their cube vessel cuts out a section of the D’s saucer as easily as one would carve a roast, the Borg instantly shot past the Klingons as Star Trek ’s most lethal adversary. Our introduction to the Borg is both bleak and dark, which gives the episode a slow burn, almost haunted house movie-type feel thanks to future X-Files director Rob Bowman’s dread-filled visual style. For the first time on Star Trek , you don’t know how or if the crew will get out of this one. The tension therein makes for one hell of an episode. 

24. “The Next Phase” (Season 5)

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“The Next Phase” is further proof that, when it comes to delivering high-concept entertainment, no Trek show did it better than The Next Generation .  

With a plotline rich enough to sustain an entire feature, “Next Phase” pairs the conflict-heavy Ensign Ro (Michelle Forbes) with LeVar Burton’s Geordi LaForge on a mission to free themselves from being phased out of reality before Romulans destroy the Enterprise. Forbes and Burton’s committed performances help ground the out-there premise as the sci-fi complications build to a race-against-time conclusion that is so satisfying, you might catch yourself applauding in approval. 

23. “Ensign Ro” (Season 5)

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Season Five’s “Ensign Ro” had the unenviable task of introducing the episode’s titular recurring character as means to tee up the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine spinoff. While more plot heavy than usual TNG episodes, Michael Piller’s teleplay delicately balances out the exposition with essential character development scenes between the infamous Ro Laren and her new captain, Picard.

When we first meet the Bajoran Ro, everything about her says “stay away.” Her rebellious Starfleet record precedes her when she first boards Enterprise, which leads to instant friction between her and Riker as Picard recruits Ro for a mission that concerns her people and their enemy, a Nazi-like occupational force known as the Cardassians. Ro quickly became a fan-favorite, thanks to Forbes’ sympathetic and charming performance in what would become a load-bearing episode for the franchise’s expansion in the ‘90s. 

22. “Brothers” (Season 4)

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This Season 4 entry fleshes out Data’s backstory with a one-man show for Brent Spiner as he plays three different characters: Data, his very old creator, Dr. Noonien Soong, and Data’s very evil brother, Lore. 

After Data inexplicably orchestrates a fake disaster aboard the Enterprise and takes control of the ship’s computer, he confronts both the father he thought was long lost and the brother he can’t seem to lose. Soong wants to give Data an emotion chip, to finish what he started before he dies, just as Data’s family reunion jeopardizes the health of a young boy under Dr. Crusher’s care. If Data doesn’t relinquish control of the Enterprise, this kid will die and his brother will suffer from a lifelong case of survivor’s guilt. Looking past the fact that “Brothers” confusingly avoids dealing with any serious questions surrounding Data’s selfish and potentially deadly actions, the episode serves as an extended Emmy reel for Spiner. He effortlessly dons old age makeup and switches between three generations of Data’s family line in what is a definitive moment in the android’s arc. 

21. “Deja Q” (Season 3)

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The second best of Q’s visits to the Enterprise, “Deja Q” is a brilliant elevator pitch — what if Q lost his powers — executed to its richest and most dramatically satisfying potential. Stripping Q of his omnipotence gives the mischievous a newfound sense of vulnerability and humility, one he only previously experienced when observing the subjects of his torments. While Q’s appreciation for what it means to be human is brief, it gives John de Lancie interesting opportunities to invest his iconic baddie with more nuance as Q goes from selfless to selfish in this entertaining (and very meme-friendly) outting. 

20. “Reunion” (Season 4)

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Worf-centric episodes of TNG like “Reunion” or “Sins of the Father” are to Star Trek what the last two Captain America movies are to Marvel: World-building game changers. “Reunion” pushes major plotlines whose consequences will eventually ripple effect throughout the next three decades of Star Trek , as Worf’s personal vendetta against his rival, the Duras family, brings more intrigue to the Enterprise and tragedy to our favorite Klingon. 

It also pushes Worf into a relationship with his estranged son, Alexander, as the two must learn to live together when a conspiracy that threatens to tear the Klingon Empire apart results in the death of Alexander’s mom and Worf’s over, K'Ehleyr (the scary-talented Suzie Plakson). The mystery plot here clicks into place like safe tumblers, but “Reunion” truly excels in the moments spent with Worf as his obligations as a Starfleet officer get in the way of his code as a Klingon warrior. Especially when, during one of Trek ’s darkest moments, Worf exercises his right to avenge his one true love by straight-up murdering her dishonorable killer. 

19. “The Drumhead” (Season 5)

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As bottle episodes go, they don’t get much better or more powerful than “The Drumhead.” 

It’s The Crucible on the Enterprise as Picard spars with one of the Federation’s legendary legal minds and investigators when she suspects there is a Romulan conspiracy taking root on the flagship. The circumstances surrounding her suspicions achieve Red Scare-levels of paranoia as TNG puts McCarthyism through a revealing and unyielding sci-fi lens to tell a very timely story of how far people will go to find the truth — even if it means fabricating a version of it. 

18. “Lower Decks” (Season 7)

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Before the comedic adventures of the animated Star Trek: Lower Decks , Star Trek ’s first attempt to explore the lives of the rank-and-file officers aboard a starship occurred in “Lower Decks,” one of the few standout episodes from the underwhelming Season 7. 

“Lower Decks” devotes most of its screentime to a small group of pals who aspire to be on the Enterprise bridge or among the senior staff’s away missions. They soon end up in “be-careful-what-you-wish-for” territory when Picard plucks one of the young officers, the Bajoran Ensign Sito (Shannon Fill), to help him execute a dangerous mission involving the Cardassians. “Lower Decks” acts as a pseudo-sequel of sorts to “The First Duty,” where Picard first encountered Sito during a court martial that tarnished the then-cadet’s career before it started. Her chance at redemption via Picard’s mentorship gives the episode its beating heart, which ultimately breaks ours in the final moments when this earnest officer we’ve been rooting for becomes another casualty under Picard’s command. With this final dramatic twist, “Lower Decks” goes from a welcomed departure from TNG ’s usual story template to one of the show’s most effective episodes. 

17. “The First Duty” (Season 5)

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Wesley Crusher continues to give Picard more headaches than anyone is worth, but at least this time it results in a standout episode of Trek . 

Ron Moore’s attempt to do A Few Good Men , Star Tre k -style, centers on Crusher and his fellow cadets. On the eve of their graduation from Starfleet Academy, they find themselves in the middle of a tribunal that intends to get to the truth behind why their friend and fellow cadet, Josh, died during a flight exercise. The lies Wesley and his friends tell to escape justice only puts them under more scrutiny when Picard goes digging around the shady circumstances surrounding Josh’s death. That search yields a show-stopping scene between Picard and Wesley, with one hell of a monologue that still gives us chills. “The First Duty” adds some much needed depth and ethical greys to Wesley’s squeaky-clean image, while also affording TNG the rare chance to challenge its “perfect” utopia by proving that even the best of us can succumb to our lesser angels. 

16. “The Defector” (Season 3)

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“The Defector” is another exceptional episode from (shocker) writer Ron Moore, which puts a Romulan defector front and center with tragic consequences.

This defector, who Picard struggles to believe is just some low-level officer, risks never seeing his family again in an effort to save his people and Earth’s from what appears to be another costly war brewing between the two adversaries. In the course of vetting the defector’s statements, Picard finds more questions than answers. That investigation comes with one hell of a gut punch: Eventually, the Romulan officer realizes his people betrayed him . They used him as bait, leaking somewhat false information as a way to test his loyalty to the Empire and gleam intelligence off Starfleet’s response to their partial ruse. “The Defector” is a powerful tale of one man’s journey from brave hero to duped traitor, with a mystery plot that keeps audiences at the edge of their seats as the final scenes send them reaching for some tissues. 

15. “Disaster” (Season 5)

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Designed as an homage to classic disaster movies like The Poseidon Adventure , Ron Moore’s underrated “Disaster” gives the Enterprise the Irwin Allen treatment when the starship is crippled after a collision with two quantum filaments (think space potholes). With the ship powerless and adrift, “Disaster” splits up the crew and mines their individual crises for maximum tension by putting these characters outside their comfort zone or into conflict-rich pairings. For example, an injured Picard is forced to help and work with people he normally can’t stand, children, while Counsellor Troi finds herself both in command and way over her head as her inexperience clashes with that of the better-trained Ensign Ro. “Disaster” is the rare Trek outing with no moral or lesson to learn, just good ol’ fashioned, keep-the-plates spinning tension that is just as rewatchable as the epic movies that inspired it.

14. “Relics” (Season 6)

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The Next Generation thankfully loosened up on its “no classic Star Trek actors” guest star policy for Season 6’s “Relics,” a thrilling episode written by Ron Moore that brings James Doohan’s Scotty into the 24th Century. 

Prior to Scotty, only McCoy and Spock mingled with Picard’s crew, but Scotty’s episode arguably makes the best use out of revisiting these iconic characters. Here, Scotty struggles with being a man out of time and a fish out of water when he is thrust into a conflict of engineering styles with Geordi as the two must work together to free the Enterprise-D from the massive confines of a Dyson sphere. The episode spends considerable time contrasting the two engineer’s styles, giving Doohan more meaty acting moments in this one hour than any episode or movie did before. Scotty, accustomed to saving the day and with plenty of old war stories to prove it, quickly realizes he’s less of an asset on this Enterprise and more of a has-been. He begins to find his place and relevance once again by sharing a drink with Picard on the bridge of The Original Series ’ Enterprise (albeit a holodeck recreation of it).

“Relics” wisely invests Scotty with a rich exploration of what would really happen if one of the 23rd Century’s most famous heroes finds himself questioning his usefulness in the 24th Century. Moore’s script uses one Trek icon to push and challenge his TNG equivalent, giving fans one of the show’s most exciting adventures.

13. “Chain of Command, Parts I & II” (Season 6)

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“Chain of Command” is arguably TNG ’s darkest hour, and one of its most thrilling. This two-parter kicks off with one of the shortest teasers in Trek history: Captain Picard loses command of the Enterprise when Starfleet re-assigns him to lead a Black Ops-esque team on a mission deep into enemy territory. That enemy? The Cardassians. Picard’s job is to find out if these baddies are creating a deadly bio-weapon and but his mission goes sideways; he is soon captured and tortured as a POW by a sadistic Cardassian (David Warner) as Riker bristles against the brash command stylings of Picard’s replacement, Captain Jellico ( RoboCop ’s Ronnie Cox.) 

The second half of this intense storyline is the strongest and most memorable for fans, as it features the infamous “There are four lights!” interrogation scene. Here, a gaunt and delirious Picard combats his captor’s psychological torture as the Cardassian gaslights Picard into submission by promising him freedom if Jean-Luc will admit he sees five lights when there are only four. This battle of wills is fraught with more tension than any space battle could muster, as “Chain of Command” provides a sobering dose of political commentary by tackling the issues of war crimes and genocide in ways only Star Trek could.

12. “The Wounded” (Season 4)

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The first appearance of the villainous Cardassians (complete with their funky and quickly-abandoned head gear) is Star Trek: The Next Generation ’s sci-fi take on Coppola’s Apocalypse Now . Only instead of venturing “up river” to terminate a rogue colonel, Picard and Chief O’Brien (Colm Meany) are forced to work with “the bloody Cardys” in pursuit of O’Brien’s former captain, Maxwell ( Shawshank Redemption ’s Bob Gunton). Maxwell has seemingly gone rogue, using his starship to attack what appears to be non-military Cardassian targets.

O’Brien, having fought the Cardassians during a violent war years ago, must grapple with his hate and his duty in an episode that gives the supporting character his first real dramatic showcase. When O’Brien finally has some alone time with the cornered and defeated Maxwell, “The Wounded” earns its namesake as the two sing a melancholic song after sharing war stories of comrades lost that Maxwell’s vengeful PTSD can’t ever bring back. This haunting scene tugs on the heartstrings moments before Picard discovers that the supply ships Maxwell attacked were indeed part of Cardassian efforts to re-arm themselves. It is a revelation that validates Maxwell’s career-ending crusade while also giving the episode one of Trek ’s most bittersweet finales. 

11. “The Offspring” (Season 3)

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Data’s earnest endeavors to be more human reach a turning point in “The Offspring,” an emotionally-charged episode of TNG where Data creates his daughter, Lal. 

Just as the android bonds with his child, a veteran Starfleet admiral arrives on Enterprise threatening to pull them apart when he challenges their right to be a family at all. Star Trek: TNG often finds success in exploring Data’s humanity

through the lens of the very humans who would try and take it away from him. “The Offspring” offers an excellent and tearful portrayal of that conflict as the crew comes to their friend’s aid just as Lal suffers a life-threatening issue. It’s a five-boxes-of-tissues affair when Data and the admiral work offscreen to save Lal. No matter how fast Data’s hands move, they fail to prevent Data from having to learn the hardest of humanity’s lessons: Loss. 

10. “Measure of a Man” (Season 2)

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Real talk: Star Trek: The Next Generation ’s first two seasons are noble misfires. Their weekly installments have more lows than highs, but one of the few outstanding hours from the series’ early days is the Data-centric “Measure of a Man.” 

When another jerkoff Starfleet scientist comes looking to dissect Data to see what makes him tick, Picard must defend his officer’s sentience in court, and settle once and for all if this android is indeed alive or merely Federation property. The stakes couldn’t be higher — Data either gets to live on the Enterprise or under a microscope — and the drama that unfolds from this classic Star Trek premise is riveting. “Measure of a Man,” Melinda M. Sondgrass’ first writing credit for the show, is full of great dialogue and speeches that spark numerous ethical debates: Who is Starfleet to say that Data is sentient or not? Is their mission to explore new life or to play God when they find it? “Measure” never shies away from debating such topics, which have always been at the heart of Star Trek . It all builds to Picard’s passionate, climactic defense in favor of his colleague and friend — a scene that ranks near the top of Patrick Stewart’s long list of great acting achievements.

9. “Darmok” (Season 5) 

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Credit: © Paramount Television/courtesy Everett Collection

Picard’s diplomatic skills are put to the test in “Darmok,” when he is taken against his will and paired with an alien commander who only communicates via metaphor. This “only-on- Star-Trek ” premise offers a potential minefield of narrative obstacles that could easily derail the drama in their execution, but Joe Menosky’s exceptional script for this Season Five episode pulls it off effortlessly. 

Picard, stranded on a mysterious planet with Dathon (Paul Winfield), quickly finds that language can be both a tool and a barrier for success, but only after failing several times in his attempt to communicate with his new alien friend. The two can hear each other's words, but not comprehend their meaning, which eventually leads to one of Picard’s finest moments: A campfire story recounting the tale of Gilgamesh. (But only after Dathon tells the mythic story of Darmok and Jalad, at Tanagra). Here, the two strangers forge a strong alliance — just in time to combat a savage threat. “Darmok” deservedly takes its time to tell a story about how similar we are despite our linguistic differences, and every rewatch of this seminal TNG episode never fails to make that point resonate as deeply as it did when it first aired. 

8. “I, Borg” (Season 5)

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The value of life has been a thematic staple of many Star Trek episodes, but few have tackled it with the high-stakes drama like “I, Borg” does.

When the crew of the Enterprise finds an injured Borg drone, Picard must make a choice: Nurse it back to health or use it as a Trojan Horse that can infect the Borg Collective with a fatal virus. When Picard leans closer to condemning this Borg’s life to save millions of others, “I, Borg” thrusts the captain and his crew into a passionate moral debate that results in one of the series’ most powerful moments when Picard confronts the naive drone, one that Geordi has affectionately named “Hugh”. Up until this moment, Picard was hellbent on using Hugh to destroy the alien race that once assimilated him. But the captain has a change of heart while talking to Hugh as Locutus, Picard’s former Borg self. Here, Hugh breaks from the collective by speaking firmly from the “I” instead of “we,” which sends Picard into a wrestling match with his conscience. 

Star Trek rarely colors its heroes in such dark shades, but “I, Borg” succeeds by realistically portraying how someone like Picard isn’t wrong , per say, for wanting to kill those that turned him into a killer. For wanting to punish the Borg for crimes against humanity (and the galaxy) that they have committed and will likely commit again. But can you still be a hero if you do to your enemy what they did to you, and alter and weaponize them? “I, Borg” argues that there are no easy answers to those questions, but the discussion they spark makes for a very profound hour of television. 

7. “Tapestry” (Season 6)

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Star Trek goes full It’s a Wonderful Life with “Tapestry”, which is arguably the best of the standalone Q episodes.

After a near-death experience, Picard is shown the life he could have lived had he played it more “safe” in his youth. The path not taken leads Picard away from command and into a blue uniform with a career so unremarkable, even Troi struggles to find something nice to say about it. On the road to nowhere fast, Picard turns to Q for a second chance to get back the only life he knows, even if it means dying to get it. “Tapestry,” written by the inestimable Ron Moore, takes an almost Twilight Zone -y approach in telling this story, which is full of heartfelt moments and surprisingly laugh-out-loud comedy. The lesson Picard learns here, about how rewarding taking risks can be, is a universal one — which explains why "Tapestry" often finds its way near the top of fans’ “must-watch” lists. 

6. “Family” (Season 4)

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Honestly, it’s a mini miracle that “Family” got made. 

Before this exceptional episode from TNG ’s fourth season, the series largely steered clear from serialized storytelling. At the time, executive producer Rick Berman and Paramount television were strongly against “sequelizing” any TNG storylines; “no serialized stories” was an unofficial “rule” of television back then. But writer Ronald D. Moore thankfully saw an opportunity to break that rule with a story that he couldn’t pass up: How would Picard deal with the emotional fallout of his time with the Borg? 

With no phaser battles or even a trip to the Enterprise bridge (the only episode in Star Trek ’s run to never have a scene set on the command deck), “Family” pulls off an engrossing hour of television that peels back the curtain on who Picard was, and who he is struggling to be, in the the aftermath of the two-parter “Best of Both Worlds”. Mostly set on Earth, the episode introduces Picard’s family vineyard into Trek canon, as Picard confronts his estranged brother and debates whether or not to leave Starfleet. The only person who can help Picard deal with his trauma is the last person he can stand being with, his brother. Only through their constant bickering does Picard find a sense of satisfying resolution, which gives Stewart one of his most heartbreaking scenes when he finally acknowledges the emotional scars the Borg left him with. 

5. “Cause & Effect” (Season 5)

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After a jarring teaser that culminates with the fiery destruction of the Enterprise, “Cause & Effect” unfolds with time loop after time loop as Picard and his crew struggle to free themselves from suffering the same terrible fate. 

Written by Brannon Braga, TNG ’s go-to scribe for high-concept stories, “Cause & Effect” pulls a Groundhog Day two years before the movie was even a thing. It breaks the show’s traditional storytelling mold by repeating the same disaster and making each loop through a new puzzle that both the audience and the crew must solve. Fans were so “in it” with their favorite characters that many called their local affiliates during the original broadcast with concern that something was wrong with the satellite feed as the episode kept repeating scenes. While audiences take the “time loop concept” for granted today, “Cause & Effect” pioneered it in a way that still registers as one of its best and most entertaining executions. 

4. “The Inner Light” (Season 5)

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This surprising tearjerker ranks high for fans, thanks in large part to Patrick Stewart’s compelling performance as “The Inner Light” explores the concept of being a living witness to an extinct civilization. In this classic episode, Picard finds himself living the life of a long-deceased man named Kamin, after being zapped by a probe that is seemingly all that remains of Kamin’s civilization. 

The probe allows Picard to live a lifetime in 20 minutes, and experience all the things Picard denies himself to be — namely a husband and a father. The majority of the episode takes place on an alien world as it is slowly undone by Star Trek ’s equivalent of global warming, with Kamin trying to help save his planet from pending doom the way Jor-El tried with Krypton. And like his Superman counterpart, Kamin fails — but he succeeds in providing a glimpse into a society that, while being nothing more than a blip in the galaxy’s grand scheme, still has a legacy worth being remembered. That’s the heartfelt and poignant endnote “Inner Light” imparts on viewers, which explains why this episode still resonates decades after it first aired.

3. “Yesterday’s Enterprise” (Season 3) 

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When the long lost Enterprise-C travels through a (what else?) temporal anomaly that alters history, Picard and the crew of the Enterprise-D find themselves in the darkest timeline and at war with the Klingons. The only way to stop this war is to send the C’s Captain Garrett back to when she came from and change history. The only catch? In order to save millions of lives, nearly everyone aboard the Enterprise-C must sacrifice theirs.  

That moral and ethical dilemma at the heart of “Yesterday’s Enterprise” makes this hour more than just a novel “What If…?” detour for the show to explore. It affords TNG a chance to give its main characters a more desperate edge as they debate the notions of fate as participants in a reality that should not exist. At the heart of this drama is Picard, who is more militant and beleaguered than ever as he debates with Whoopi Goldberg’s Guinan (and her time-sensitive intuition) about whether or not to send the other Enterprise’s crew to certain death. 

The return of Denise Crosby’s Tasha Yar gives her character the proper (and heroic) sendoff she deserves, which gets complicated as Tasha falls in love with a member of the C’s crew around the same time she discovers she died in the original Enterprise-D timeline. The internal struggle over restoring the way things were meant to be, by sacrificing lives history already recorded as lost, is a classic Star Trek premise that “Yesterday’s Enterprise” explores to a very satisfying, and action-packed, conclusion. 

2. “The Best of Both Worlds, Parts I & II” (Season 3 & 4) 

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Star Trek ’s first-ever season-finale cliffhanger is one of television’s greatest. More than three decades later, fans still get chills at the end of “Best of Both Worlds, Part I” when Riker gives the chilling order to “fire” on the Borgified version of his former Captain Picard. 

The wait for this iconic storyline’s resolution made the Summer of 1990 a very long and agonizing one for Trek fans, but it was worth it. “Best of Both Worlds, Part I” has TNG mining similar character drama as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan did, with Commander Riker forced to confront why he keeps passing up one promotion to Captain after another — just as his Captain is taken by the Borg in a violent attempt to turn Picard into Locutus, the public face of their campaign to assimilate Earth and all of humanity. The episode is a nail-biter, thanks to a perfect script from the late writer Michael Piller. The former TNG showrunner takes a bigger-than-usual swing with the characters to tell a story somewhat outside of the series’ comfort zone. While “Part II” falls a bit short of the dramatic highs of “Part I,” it finds great success in dramatizing the crew’s struggle to get their Captain back (even if their final solution is ultimately more convenient than inspired.)

The Enterprise crew’s second encounter with the evil cybernetic beings would have consequences throughout the next 30-plus years of Star Trek , especially in 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact . The hit movie serves as a big-screen, action packed therapy session for Picard to deal with the trauma of his assimilation into the Borg collective.

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1. “All Good Things…” (Season 7)

“All Good Things…” is the best Star Trek series finale ever and The Next Generation ’s crowning achievement. 

Written by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore, “All Good Things” proved to be a better cinematic-worthy adventure than The Next Generation crew’s first movie, Star Trek: Generations . The briskly plotted, feature-length episode — and its complex storyline involving paradoxes and second chances — finds a disoriented Picard struggling to uncover why he is moving back and forth through time. He slips in and out of three key time periods: The past, just before the launch of Enterprise-D’s first mission; the present, and the future. In the future, Picard is a very retired, very old man, who runs his family’s vineyard. He also is afflicted with a debilitating neurological syndrome that makes it hard for his former shipmates to believe him when he starts pulling a Sliders across multiple timelines. Picard’s mission — which, of course, is being manipulated by the omnipotent Q — forces the captain to convince all three versions of his crew to work together in each timeline in order to stop an anomaly from unraveling existence as we know it. 

TNG gives the beloved cast and their characters a perfect final episode that brings them together as a family in ways the series left surprisingly unexplored for most of its run. As impressive as the action is in “All Good Things”, especially the scene where the futuristic Enterprise-D flies on its Z-axis while blasting newly-mounted phaser cannons, the episode’s best scenes are the quieter ones spent with these characters. The finale truly shines in its final moments, when Picard joins his crew for the first time at their regular poker game. Picard’s arrival at the poker table resonates with his crew as deeply as it does for fans, which is a testament to the finale’s commitment to giving Next Generation the emotional send off it deserves. 

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Picard prepares to engage

The first ever "Star Trek" spin-off, "The Next Generation," ran for seven seasons between 1987 and 1994. It defied conventional wisdom by reinventing the notion of what "Star Trek" was, introducing audiences to an entirely new ship and crew.

Living in the shadow of Kirk and Spock early on, most agree that the first two seasons disappointed , even if they showed a lot of promise (the troubled production of these initial seasons became the subject of the 2014 HBO documentary "Chaos on the Bridge"). But "The Next Generation" would become one of the best sci-fi shows ever once it found its footing and came into its own in its third year. With 178 episodes during its run, there are dozens of all-time greats, many of which just narrowly miss making this list. Episodes like "Remember Me," "The Wounded," and "Sins Of The Father" are all worthy watches, but here are the 30 that rank as the best according to IMDb.

30. Chain of Command, Pt. I

The sixth-season episode  "Chain of Command, Pt. I"  opens with Riker and the crew shocked when Starfleet removes Captain Picard from command and gives the Enterprise over to Captain Edward Jellico ("Robocop" villain Ronny Cox). But we soon learn that Picard, along with Doctor Crusher and Lieutenant Worf, is actually being sent on a covert mission inside Cardassian territory to stop a dangerous biogenic weapon, while Jellico is ordered to take the ship to the demilitarized zone to negotiate with the Cardassians. 

Even before Picard leaves, there's tension in the air. The Enterprise crew view their new captain as demanding and overbearing, while Jellico views them as soft and lazy. But though audiences may have assumed the change of command was just for a single story, the episode ends on a shocking cliffhanger that leaves the future of the entire series up in the air.

"Family"  is the direct follow-up to the beloved "Best Of Both Worlds" two-parter that saw the captain turned into the Borg villain Locutus. As part of his recovery, Picard takes a vacation to his home village in France, staying with his brother Robert and his family. The pair of siblings have a strained relationship, but Picard finally opens up to Robert about his traumatic experience with the Borg, giving fans a new insight into the soul of the Enterprise's captain.

In a B-story, Worf is visited by his human foster parents while the ship is docked above Earth. The two are concerned for Worf, who is still dealing with his exile from the Klingon Empire the previous season, and offer their support. Together, the two family-related plots form the backbone of an episode with no space action or alien contact, but with drama that is much more poignant and personal.

28. Reunion

"Reunion"  features the return of Lieutenant Worf's lover K'Ehleyr, previously seen hooking up with the Enterprise's Klingon security officer in Season 2. This time, she comes aboard with news of an impending Klingon war, and has come at the request of Chancellor K'mpec, who is on his deathbed. After he dies, he needs Picard to ferret out the man who poisoned him: one of the two men vying for the leadership of the Empire. Newcomer Gowron is one suspect, but the other is Duras, who had framed Worf's father to cover up his own family's dishonor in the Season 3 episode "Sins Of The Father."

When K'ehleyr arrives, however, she also brings a surprise: Alexander, the child she bore with Worf two seasons earlier. An important episode that changes the lives of several characters and introduces the fan-favorite Gowron , "Reunion" is also a key piece of the story of Worf's family honor that would continue throughout "The Next Generation" and into "Deep Space Nine" — his son Alexander would become a recurring character in both series.

27. The Drumhead

Retired and revered Rear Admiral Norah Satie comes to investigate the Enterprise in  "The Drumhead"  when there appears to be a saboteur onboard. After a rogue Klingon exchange officer is caught stealing information, the case is seemingly closed, but when the warp core is damaged in an apparent act of sabotage, Satie comes to believe there are others involved. What follows is a dark tale that sees the admiral peeling back layers of what she thinks is a vast conspiracy.

But after exposing a young officer who lied about his heritage to get into Starfleet, Satie threatens to drag everyone into her web of suspicion, even Captain Picard. "The Drumhead" is a fascinating look at paranoia and how fear can be used to subvert democracy, spreading like a disease, all in the name of freedom and liberty. It's a cautionary tale, and one of "Star Trek's" most timeless political parables.

26. The Next Phase

"The Next Phase"  adds a new stunning piece of advanced technology to "Star Trek" lore when the Enterprise comes to the aid of a disabled Romulan ship experimenting with a "phasing cloak." When the ship's transporter mixes up LaForge and Ensign Ro, the pair become trapped in a kind of limbo, cloaked and phased so they can pass through ordinary matter. Unable to communicate with anyone else aboard the Enterprise, the situation escalates when they overhear the Romulan commander tell his crew to rig the ship so that the Enterprise will be destroyed when they activate their warp drive.

With the clock ticking, Geordi and Ro must find a way to warn their shipmates and return to their normal state, all while being pursued by a Romulan who they find trapped out of phase with them. Fast, fun, and exciting, "The Next Phase" is one of the series' most thrilling adventures.

25. Time's Arrow Pt. I

The fifth-season cliffhanger finale  "Time's Arrow"  opens with archaeologists uncovering Data's head buried beneath San Francisco. Realizing the discovery means that at some point in the future Data will be hurled back in time to the 19th century, where he will die, Picard attempts to keep Data safe from this lethal destiny. But when an unusual signal leads the Enterprise to discover an alien race who is traveling into the past and murdering humans in 1893 to absorb their life force, the Captain realizes it may simply be Data's fate to die in the past. 

Sent back in time, Data allies himself with the 19th-century version of the Enterprise's bartender, Guinan, who turns out to be far older than anyone ever realized. At the same time, he's also brought to the attention of Mark Twain, who will become an unexpected adversary in the second half of the two-part adventure. Though not the most bombastic of episodes, it proves its worth as a classic "Trek" time travel story.

24. Unification Pt. II

After the reveal that Leonard Nimoy would be returning as Mr. Spock in the Season 5 two-parter "Unification," some fans were left disappointed when his appearance in the first part was limited to a single scene in the closing moments. But he takes center stage in  "Unification, Pt. II,"  which sees Spock on Romulus after apparently defecting from the Federation. Picard and Data — disguised as Romulans themselves — find that Spock is working with an underground sect that wants to reunify the Romulans with their Vulcan cousins.

The episode also featured the unexpected return of the  Romulan villain Commander Sela  and includes some classic moments between Spock and the "Next Generation" crew, particularly Data. Picard and Spock, meanwhile, share some of the most important and thoughtful interactions in all of the series, and in his final television performance as his Vulcan character, Nimoy delivers a momentous performance.

23. Redemption, Pt. II

Season 5 opener  "Redemption, Pt. II"  concluded the cliffhanger from the fourth-season finale, revealing the mastermind behind the Romulan alliance with the Klingon Duras family to be Commander Sela, who claims to be the daughter of long-dead Enterprise security chief Tasha Yar. As the two Klingon factions — led by Chancellor Gowron and the Duras sisters — duke it out for the fate of the Empire, Worf resigns his commission and joins the fight. Picard and the Enterprise had previously vowed to remain neutral, but now devise a plan to expose Romulan involvement.

The plan, involving a fleet of Federation starships forming a blockade around the Neutral Zone, puts Data in the captain's chair of the USS Sutherland, where he must contend with the bigoted Lieutenant Hobson. An episode filled with drama, it gives both Worf and Data some of their best, most satisfying moments in the series.

22. Redemption, Pt. I

"Redemption, Pt. I,"  the Season 4 finale, opens with Gowron requesting that Captain Picard see through his commitment to help install him as the new Klingon Chancellor. But a challenger appears in the form of a young warrior named Toral, brought forward by the Duras sisters, who themselves are the surviving kin to the man Worf killed in combat in "Reunion." Known traitors, the House of Duras cannot be trusted, but Picard — as the Klingon Arbiter of Succession — is duty-bound to consider their claim.

When Toral is dismissed as possible leader of the Empire, a Klingon civil war begins. But all is not as it seems — Worf suspects that the Duras sisters are getting help from the Romulans, and leaves Starfleet to aid in Gowron's fight against them. Full of twists and turns, it doesn't quite match the legendary Season 3 finale, but it comes close.

21. The Defector

"The Defector"  is classic "Trek" — a gripping political drama, the story of an enemy soldier who defects to the Federation, risking his life to help avert a war. Claiming to be a low-level logistics clerk, a Romulan officer named Setal insists that his people are readying for an all-out invasion, and he has deserted his homeworld to warn the Federation. Picard is skeptical, as to prove Setal's claims, the Enterprise must enter the Neutral Zone in violation of the Federation's treaty with the Romulan Empire, and at the risk of starting a war.

Stuck in this quandary, Picard and his crew must decide whether Setal is telling the truth and truly trying to help, or is in fact attempting to bait him into being an aggressor. With the stakes so high, "The Defector" is a tension-filled episode that ends in a dramatic and surprising conclusion — particularly when Setal's true identity is revealed.

20. The Offspring

An important and sometimes overlooked episode, the "The Offspring"  sees Commander Data create his own android child named Lal. Choosing her own appearance and gender identity, Lal becomes a young human woman with a naive but wide-eyed and wondrous outlook and personality. But things take a dark turn when a Starfleet admiral arrives to take Lal away, claiming that the creation of a new android life needs to be carefully overseen by Federation experts. Torn between loyalty to Data and his duty to Starfleet, Picard once again finds himself fighting for the rights of androids to make their own choices. 

A quasi-sequel to the iconic Season 2 episode "The Measure of A Man" but overshadowed by bigger episodes that sandwiched it, "The Offspring" is an intimate character piece with a classic moral dilemma and an emotional ending, and received renewed attention thanks to its importance to the plot of the first season of "Star Trek: Picard."

19. The Pegasus

Season 7's  "The Pegasus"  begins with the arrival of Admiral Erik Pressman, who happens to be Riker's old captain from the titular starship Pegasus. He comes with new orders for Picard, telling him that the Pegasus wasn't destroyed as had been previously believed, and has been found buried in an asteroid field ... and the Romulans are after it.

It's soon revealed that the Pegasus was once used to test an experimental Federation cloaking device, an act specifically prohibited in the treaty with the Romulans. Commander Riker's loyalty is questioned when he is ordered to keep the secret of the Pegasus, and he's forced to choose between his two captains when the Enterprise falls into a Romulan trap. "Lost" star Terry O'Quinn makes a memorable appearance as Pressman, while Picard and Riker get into some heated exchanges about mortality and integrity that make "The Pegasus" a nail-biter of an episode.

The only pure comedy episode on this list,  "Deja Q"  earns its place as one of the best episodes of "The Next Generation" thanks to the sharp wit and strong performance of John De Lancie, who returns once again to serve as a thorn in Picard's side. As the immortal trickster Q, he arrives on the Enterprise claiming he has lost his god-like powers and has been exiled from his people in the Q Continuum. He asks for a safe haven aboard Picard's ship, which becomes a cry for help when a race of beings shows up to get vengeance on him for tormenting them in the past.

Most of the humor of the episode comes from Q slowly learning the basics of being mortal, from nightly sleep to being hungry to crippling back pain. But "Deja Q" also includes many touching moments involving Data, who somewhat ironically attempts to show Q what it means to be human.

After featuring Spock the previous season, Season 6 dips back into the original "Star Trek" series lore with  "Relics," the episode that brings back Enterprise-A chief engineer Montgomery Scott. Having apparently survived for 75 years by storing himself within his ship's transporter, "Scotty" re-materializes aboard the Enterprise-D during an investigation of a fantastic alien Dyson Sphere and is warmly greeted, but soon begins to feel out of place in the 24th century. When the Enterprise gets trapped inside the Dyson Sphere, it's up to Scotty and his engineering successor, Geordi LaForge, to save them.

Ultimately, the return of Scotty is a touching story about aging and the need to feel useful in an ever-changing world. While the genius former engineer feels that the future has left him behind, he soon discovers that he still has plenty of life left in him, and a lot to offer the 24th century.

16. Ship In A Bottle

A sequel to one of the better Season 2 episodes, the Season 6 follow-up  "Ship In A Bottle"  ties up what might have wound up an unresolved plotline . It begins when a self-aware hologram of Professor James Moriarty — Sherlock Holmes' ultimate nemesis in the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle — appears on the holodeck demanding to see Captain Picard. After Data and Geordi unwittingly gave him sentience in "Elementary, Dear Data," Moriarty's program has been trapped in the holodeck computer for years, and now he wants to leave. But as far as Picard and crew believe, it's simply not scientifically possible.

But Moriarty has a plan and takes control of the ship, threatening to destroy it if his demands aren't met. What follows is a mind-bending "Inception"-style adventure where Moriarity and Picard — with the help of Data and the neurotic recurring character Reginald Barclay — attempt to trick each other with dueling holodeck-within-a-holodeck scenarios that will leave your head spinning.

15. Timescape

Stories that play with time have been a staple of "Star Trek" since the beginning, and time-bending episodes are often among the franchise's best.  "Timescape"  is no exception. Returning to the Enterprise from a science conference, Picard, Geordi, Data, and Troi discover the Enterprise and a Romulan warbird frozen in time, seemingly in the midst of battle. Going aboard, they find the crews frozen, as well — both ships are trapped in a strange anomaly, and any attempt to unfreeze them in time risks killing several members of the Enterprise crew, who are apparently under attack by Romulan soldiers.

When Picard becomes incapacitated, the remaining trio must figure out what's really happening, despite interference from mysterious pair of Romulans who, like them, are able to move freely about the Enterprise. With loads of fun, sci-fi time-altering shenanigans, and its far share of twists, "Timescape" is an episode full of surprises.

Among the most famous episodes of the series,  "Darmok"  may not rank in the top 10, but it comes close. The story sees Captain Picard kidnapped and brought to the surface of an unknown planet along with a ship captain from a species known as the Children of Tama, whose language has proven indecipherable despite the Federation's universal translator technology. Trapped together on the alien world and forced to work together to fight a deadly beast, Picard and his fellow captain find common ground and slowly learn to communicate.

The unusual language structure devised for the episode proved groundbreaking — it's been pointed out that the Tamarian "language" predicted Internet meme culture , and it's even been used to teach college courses . The uniqueness of this language is one of those fascinating concepts that could only be seen in science fiction, and the episode as a whole is quintessentially "Star Trek," with a universal message of friendship, tolerance, and understanding.

13. I, Borg

The compassion of Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise is on full display in the Season 5 episode  "I, Borg."  Coming upon the wreckage of a Borg ship, Doctor Crusher convinces the captain to bring the last surviving drone aboard to save his life. But while Picard's intentions are initially less selfless — he hopes to use the drone to destroy the entire collective — he comes around when he realizes that this new Borg is showing signs of personhood, even taking the name Hugh.

An example of the moral and ethical dilemmas often faced in "Star Trek," Picard ultimately abandons his plans for revenge against the Borg and allows Hugh to decide his own fate. Realizing the Borg won't stop looking for him, Hugh returns to the Collective, with the hope being that his sense of individuality will survive and spread. It proves to be one of Picard's best decisions  — Hugh would return later in "The Next Generation," and again in the first season of "Star Trek: Picard."

12. Lower Decks

The story that inspired the modern adult animated comedy of the same name,  "Lower Decks"  was a unique episode of "The Next Generation" that focused on a group of younger officers: Nurse Alyssa Ogawa, Ensign Sam Lavelle, the Vulcan Ensign Taurik, and the Bajoran Ensign Sito Jaxa, who had previously been seen getting into trouble at Starfleet Academy in the Season 5 episode "The First Duty." Now, the young officers are all up for promotions, and as their friendship is tested by their career ambitions, we see the struggles, challenges, and everyday life of the lower-ranking officers serving on the Enterprise.

Meanwhile, Jaxa is confronted by Picard about her troubled past, a prelude to her assignment to a dangerous mission to return a Cardassian defector to his people. A generally upbeat story, "Lower Decks" is a fun detour from the senior bridge crew, but it ends on a surprisingly bittersweet note.

11. Chain Of Command, Pt. II

A darker episode than most on this list,  "Chain Of Command, Pt. II"  concludes a two-part episode that saw Picard kidnapped by the Cardassians on a mission to stop a rumored doomsday weapon. At the mercy of a cunning Cardassian named Gul Madred, he resists and becomes the subject of brutal psychological torture. Over the course of the episode, it becomes clear that while Madred definitely wants to acquire Federation secrets, the thing he wants most of all is to break Picard's spirit.

Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Jellico is clashing with Commander Riker, who feels his new captain is too controlling. But Riker may also be the only man who can execute Jellico's daring plan to expose the Cardassian plot and save Captain Picard. Picard's defiant shout of "There are four lights!" puts an iconic capper on one of the better late-series episodes.

10. Parallels

Years before Marvel's "Loki," the "Next Generation" Season 7 episode  "Parallels"  put the multiverse front and center when Worf inadvertently passes through a split in the barriers between universes. Moving between them throughout the episode, Worf finds himself in new and different realities: some where Riker is captain, some where he is married to Counselor Troi, and some where the Bajorans are the Federation's greatest enemy. 

Another trippy sci-fi story, most of the fun is in the first half as Worf struggles to figure out what's happening to the world around him as events and people change before his eyes, though the episode also features a daringly ambitious climax. The various windows into what might have been are intriguing, and "Parallels" even takes the opportunity to bring back Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher. It also introduces the first spark of romance between Worf and Troi, a sub-plot that would continue through the remainder of the show's final season. 

9. Tapestry

Q has traditionally been a major pain for Picard and other Starfleet captains, but he returns in  "Tapestry"  in the surprising role of benevolent spiritual advisor. Picard is actually killed in the opening moments of the episode, only to greeted by the all-powerful trickster in the apparent afterlife, who offers Picard a chance to relive his past and change moments that he regrets.

Returning to his days as an ensign fresh out of the Academy, Picard hopes to avoid the reckless behavior that got him stabbed through the heart in a bar fight as a young man while also pursuing a romance with one-time friend Marta Batanides. In trying to bring his older wisdom to his younger self, however, he learns that life's mistakes help us to become who we are. A "Star Trek" version of "A Christmas Carol," the heartwarming message of "Tapestry" makes it one of the series' best.

8. All Good Things...

Often voted among  television's best series finales ,  "All Good Things..."  capped off the show's remarkable seven-year run with an epic feature-length episode that saw Picard revisit events in both the future and the past. Harkening back to the series' very first episode, "Encounter at Farpoint," we see Picard once again on trial before the Q Continuum, attempting to prove the value of humanity's existence by piecing together clues to a potentially world-ending mystery in three different time periods.

As Picard struggles to convince three different crews that what's happening is real, he must find answers to a puzzle that stretches back to the dawn of time to save his entire species. Full of drama, action, and emotion, it was just about everything a fan could want in a finale. While the episode would be one of the series' best on its own, it works even better as a final bookend to "The Next Generation."

7. Cause and Effect

  "Cause and Effect"  is a near-perfect science fiction riddle. Opening in the middle of the action, the Enterprise is destroyed in a shocking scene before the opening credits even roll. Coming back from the iconic "Star Trek" music and fanfare, we find the crew is trapped in an endless loop of time that inevitably leads to the ship's destruction, and worse — they have no idea it's happening. Thinking each loop is the first time through, the crew struggles to even realize what's going on, let alone collect the clues to figure out how to stop it before they all blow up yet again.

With the destruction of the Enterprise occurring just before each commercial break, it's a maddening but mind-blowing story that will leave you on the edge of your seat until the very last moments. And don't forget to keep your eyes peeled for a memorable cameo from Frasier himself, Kelsey Grammer.

The fourth episode to feature Q on this list, Season 2 entry  "Q Who"  saw the more sinister aspect of the god-like being, who arrives on the Enterprise and asks to join the crew. Picard, of course, turns him down. Incensed and hoping to prove to Picard that humanity is not ready for what awaits them amongst the stars, Q flings the ship into a distant uncharted region of space. There they encounter, for the first time, the mysterious race of cybernetic beings known as the Borg. They also learn that Ten Forward bartender Guinan is already familiar with the hostile hive mind, which annihilated her home world.

An important episode in the series, and "Star Trek" as a whole, it's also one of the best — a well-paced thriller that has Picard at first hoping to prove Q wrong and attempting to make peace with the Borg, but ending with an ominous warning that foreshadows not one but two of our remaining entries.

5. The Measure Of A Man

A landmark episode that has been analyzed by  legal scholars , Season 2 standout  "The Measure Of A Man"  puts android Commander Data in the spotlight when a brilliant cyberneticist named Bruce Maddox arrives and wants to disassemble him so he can recreate his positronic brain. Data doesn't approve of the risky procedure, but Maddox states that Data is the property of Starfleet and cannot decline. Picard fights back against this notion and demands a hearing so that he can defend Data's rights. However, the hearing takes place at a poorly-staffed starbase, and Commander Riker is forced to act as prosecutor against Data, despite his personal feelings for his fellow officer.

One of the franchise's best examination of ethics and human rights, it's also one of its most important, as "The Measure of a Man" explores issues that would be revisited again in many future episodes, both in "The Next Generation" and other "Trek" spin-off series. Maddox would even return in the first season of "Star Trek: Picard" in a quasi-sequel that explores the fallout from the work of Noonian Soong, Data's creator.

4. Yesterday's Enterprise

"Yesterday's Enterprise" takes place in a darker alternate timeline created when the Enterprise-C, predecessor to the ship captained by Picard, finds itself thrust 22 years forward in time. Without its sacrifice at a crucial moment in the past, all of history was altered, and now Picard's Enterprise is a warship, with the Federation engaged in a bitter conflict with the Klingons — and on the verge of defeat.

But the arrival of the Enterprise-C adds new complications to an impending Klingon attack, and when Picard learns that the war was never supposed to happen, he struggles with the decision to send it and its crew back to their proper time to face certain death. The episode that saw the return of long-departed cast member Denise Crosby as Tasha Yar, it's an important piece of "Next Generation" lore, and possibly the best alternate reality episode in the entire franchise. 

3. The Best Of Both Worlds, Pt. II

Opening up Season 4,  "The Best Of Both Worlds, Pt. II"  is the thrilling second part of  one of television history's best cliffhangers . The previous episode had ended with Commander Riker giving the order to open fire on the Borg cube that held Locutus — the assimilated Borg drone that had once been Captain Picard. Audiences who had waited all summer for the attack tuned in to see the cube survive unharmed, and Riker and the Enterprise helpless as the Borg launch a direct assault on Earth.

After Starfleet loses a devastating battle with the Borg at Wolf 359, it's up to Riker to devise a bold last-ditch plan to rescue Picard and save Earth from assimilation. The series' most gripping season conclusion, it's an episode that "Star Trek" has still never been able to match in terms of sheer anticipation and excitement.

2. The Best Of Both Worlds, Pt. I

As a stunning season finale and the first cliff-hanger of the franchise, "The Best Of Both Worlds, Pt. 1"  could rightfully be credited as the episode that turned "The Next Generation" into a genuine pop culture phenomenon. Discovering a Federation colony decimated in the same manner as the alien civilization they found destroyed by the Borg in "Q Who," Picard alerts Starfleet that a confrontation may be near. Admiral Hanson arrives with a new officer, Lieutenant Commander Shelby, to help with the crisis. 

The ambitious Shelby adds an interesting layer in what turns out to be a Riker-focused episode, as the title refers to Riker's struggles with whether to leave the Enterprise to become a captain of a lesser ship, or stay and remain Picard's first officer. When his captain is abducted by the Borg and declared lost, Riker gets the best of both worlds — at the cost of Jean-Luc Picard.

1. The Inner Light

"The Inner Light" isn't just the best "Next Generation" episode — there's an argument to be made that it's the best "Star Trek" episode, period . The story begins when the Enterprise comes upon an alien probe that zaps Picard unconscious right off the bat. The captain awakens on an alien world, in another life. Here on the planet Kataan, in the community called Ressik, Picard is a man named Kamin, with a wife named Eline. After giving up on ever finding the Enterprise, which seems to have been just a dream, Picard settles into his new life, even having children and grandchildren, all while Kataan is slowly dying of drought.

Now an old man nearing death, Picard learns that the probe was a messenger that carried memories of a long-dead civilization, and wakes up on the Enterprise having experienced an entire lifetime over the course of a few minutes. An example of what made "The Next Generation" so special, the episode's message of love, hope, and family help it remain one of the most beloved pieces of television ever conceived.

The 10 Best Star Trek The Next Generation Episodes, Ranked

Star Trek: The Next Generation Cast

The Star Trek franchise has been a part of pop culture for over 50 years and, thanks to new entries like Star Trek: Discovery and Lower Decks, is having a bit of a renaissance. Perhaps the most famous and well-loved of the canon is Star Trek: The Next Generation. With the launch of Paramount+ on March 4th, you’ll be able to boldly go and stream the entire Star Trek library, so let’s take a look back at some of the best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes you’ll be able to beam up to your device from the new streamer.

star trek best episodes next generation

10. Sins of the Father - Season 3, Episode 17

Worf journeys to the Klingon homeworld of Q’onoS (pronounced Kronos, naturally) to clear his long-dead father’s name of treason. Until Star Trek: The Next Generation , Klingons were the franchise’s chief villain. Known mostly for their warrior and brutish status, “Sins of the Father” starts to flesh out these fan favorite aliens with plenty of politicking and intrigue, including the first appearance of Worf’s secret brother, played by the Candyman himself, Tony Todd. Ultimately, Worf must sacrifice his honor and family name for the sake of the Klingon Empire, which would have lasting repercussions throughout all seven seasons of The Next Generation and into Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Data's Day

9. Data’s Day - Season 4, Episode 11

Chief O’Brien’s wedding to Keiko. Gift shopping with Worf at the replicator. Learning to dance with Dr. Crusher. This is “Data’s Day.” This Season 4 episode takes a look at a day in the life aboard a starship when the crew isn’t fending off the Borg or brushing up against the Romulans. A quasi-companion episode to “Measure of a Man,” Data records his observations for Commander Bruce Maddox. In typical Data fashion he has a childlike, inquisitive nature as events unfold around him. The B-plot of this episode is also fun, complete with a Romulan defection.

I, Borg

8. I, Borg - Season 5, Episode 23

The breakout villain of TNG , the Borg are a chilling cybernetic enemy with one mission, assimilation. Part of the brilliance of “I, Borg” is taking everything the audience has learned about the Borg and flipping it on its head. After finding an injured Borg drone, the crew brings it back to the Enterprise. With fresh memories of Picard’s capture and assimilation during “The Best of Both Worlds,” the crew hatches a plan to use this drone to wipe out the entire Borg species. But as the drone spends more time away from the collective, he begins to develop individuality and autonomy, even taking the name, Hugh. A stellar Season 5 episodes that explores prejudices against your enemies and the right choice vs. the easy choice. This episode is also required viewing for fans of Star Trek: Picard.

The Measure of a Man

7. The Measure of A Man - Season 2, Episode 9

Early on in its run, Star Trek: The Next Generation wasn’t exactly known for quality episodes. An early diamond in the rough, however, is Season 2’s “Measure of a Man.” Commander Bruce Maddox wants to disassemble Data to study how he was created, which Picard strenuously objects. At its core a courtroom drama, Picard must defend Data’s right to life before a Starfleet hearing. This is Trek at its very best. Often known for its weighty themes, “Measure of a Man” gets to the very heart of TNG ’s most enduring themes. Humanity, sentience and right to life. What is humanity worth if someone, or something, isn’t entirely human? You may be sensing a theme, but this is another key episode for viewers of Star Trek: Picard .

star trek best episodes next generation

6. Darmok - Season 5, Episode 2

Even if you’ve never seen a single episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation , you’ve heard the phrase “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.” Its near-ubiquity alone is a testament to the strength of this episode. After the Tamarian captain, played by Wrath of Khan’s Paul Winfield, beams himself and Picard to the surface of the nearby planet, Picard first assumes the Tamarian wants battle. In reality, Dathon has brought Picard for a bonding ritual meant to unite the two. What follows is a wonderful episode about communication and trust between two disparate cultures. Although they cannot understand each other the two captains, through common goals and shared respect, eventually overcome the threat before them. More Trek at its absolute Trekkiest.

star trek best episodes next generation

5. Yesterday’s Enterprise - Season 3, Episode 15

Although TNG never had a traditional Mirror Universe like the original series’ “Mirror, Mirror,” this is the closest we get to one. After the never-before-seen-on-screen Enterprise-C emerges from a temporal rift, the timeline is changed. Now, the Federation has been at an unceasing war with the Klingons, the Enterprise is no longer a ship of exploration, but one of battle. Picard is now hardened by years of conflict. Riker, usually a loyal second in command, is at constant odds with his captain. Tasha Yar, unceremoniously killed off in Season 1, is once again alive in this alternate timeline. Even though this is an alternate timeline episode, there are lasting consequences that reverberate in later seasons, especially “Unification”.


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star trek best episodes next generation

4. Chain of Command - Season 6, Episodes 10 & 11

Cardassians eventually end up being a primary protagonist in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine , but they were first introduced in The Next Generation . This is the first Cardassian-centric episode to showcase how sinister they can truly be. After a secret mission turns out to be a trap, Picard is held captive and tortured by Gul Madred, a Cardassian interrogator. Famous for the meme-worthy “There are four lights!” scene, in the context of this two-parter it’s much more harrowing. David Warner is effecting as Picard’s interrogator, and Patrick Stewart knocks it out of the park as our favorite captain pushed to the breaking point of his resolve and will.

star trek best episodes next generation

3. All Good Things… - Season 7, Episodes 25 & 26

“All Good Things…” is one of the best series finales in television history. At once a swan song as well as a victory lap, this super sized episode revisits key moments in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s 7 season run. Coming full circle, this episode brings back fan favorite character Q, who resumes his “trial against humanity”, which began in the pilot episode, “Encounter at Farpoint.” Picard finds himself passing through different moments in both his past, present and future.

Old favorites like Tasha Yar and Chief O’Brien appear for one final time. In the future, we find Beverly divorced from Picard, Worf now part of the Klingon Empire and Captain Riker of the Enterprise, hardened over the loss of Deanna Troi. A thrilling adventure through time where Picard will need to have all three Enterprises work together to save all of human existence. In a 2018 interview with EW , Marvel Studios head honcho Kevin Feige cited this finale as a model for Avengers: Infinity War saying, “That to me is one of the best series finale ever. That wasn’t about death. Picard went and played poker with the crew, something he should have done a long time ago, right?” Who’s to argue with Kevin Feige?

star trek best episodes next generation

2. The Inner Light - Season 5, Episode 25

One of TNG’s most beloved episodes, “The Inner Light” finds Picard living a life not lived. After a mysterious alien probe puts him into a coma, Picard wakes up off of the Enterprise and the strangers around him are all calling him Kamin. Over the course of the episode, years pass and Kamin sees his kids grow up while he grows old. We eventually come to learn that the colony has built a probe with the intention of sending it into space to share their heritage and history with anyone who might stumble upon it. After a flash of white light, Picard wakes up back on the Enterprise and, while he has lived a full life as Kamin is his mind, mere minutes have passed on the ship. Patrick Stewart turns in a wonderful performance playing a gentler family man than we are used to seeing in Picard. This episode fundamentally changes Picard, with ramifications that follow through in “Lessons” and into Star Trek: Generations.

star trek best episodes next generation

1. The Best of Both Worlds - Season 3, Episode 26 and Season 4, Episode 1

As if any other episode could land the top spot on a Star Trek: The Next Generation best episodes list. Sure, this is the Borg episode where Picard is assimilated and turned into the mouthpiece of the Alpha Quadrant’s greatest threat. The real secret to this episode, though, is that it’s actually all about Riker. It turns out, unbeknownst to Picard, Riker has turned down three promotions to Captain, and it’s beginning to hurt his career. Enter Commander Shelby, played by Brian Dennehy’s daughter, Elizabeth Dennehy, a rising star who is sent to help strategize about the Borg threat. A hot shot who constantly butts heads with Riker, her arrival starts to make the Commander question what he’s even still doing on the Enterprise.

Jonathan Frakes is firing on all cylinders in this two-parter, leading up to the iconic cliffhanger. As the now assimilated Picard appears on the view screen with a threat, the music swells, the camera whips around and acting-Captain Riker utters three words, “Mr Worf. Fire,” and the “to be continued” card appears. The cliffhanger of cliffhangers, this moment is sure to give any TV viewer goosebumps.

The beauty of Star Trek is there’s certainly no shortage of episodes to watch. If you’re looking to binge some on your own, Star Trek: The Next Generation is streaming just about everywhere, including Netflix , Hulu , Amazon Prime and starting March 4th on Paramount+ .

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star trek best episodes next generation

star trek best episodes next generation

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The Best Episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation

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In the imaginative universe of Star Trek: The Next Generation , countless episodes have made their mark, leaving a lasting impression on viewers. With a brilliant mix of engaging storytelling, memorable characters, and thought-provoking themes, the series has offered countless moments that resonate with viewers even decades after its initial run. Delving into these exceptional episodes not only entertains but also offers an insight into what makes this great sci-fi series stand apart. 

The best episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation showcase the incredible creative talent behind the show, presenting stories that both entertain and challenge viewers through captivating narratives and philosophical dilemmas. By exploring themes such as morality, identity, and the human condition, these episodes remind us of what makes Star Trek: The Next Generation a groundbreaking and enduring television phenomenon. 

A few examples of extraordinary Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes include "The Best of Both Worlds," "Yesterday's Enterprise," and "The Inner Light." Each of these masterfully crafted episodes demonstrates the show's ability to craft complex narratives, create memorable characters, and tackle thought-provoking concepts. In "The Best of Both Worlds," the crew faces an unprecedented threat from the Borg, leading to a nail-biting cliffhanger. "Yesterday's Enterprise" transports viewers to an alternate timeline where they witness dramatic events unfold between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. And in "The Inner Light," Captain Picard experiences a deeply emotional and heartrending journey that profoundly impacts his perspective on life. 

Episodes like these Illuminate the brilliance of Star Trek: The Next Generation , demonstrating the power of exceptional storytelling and the transcendent themes that have made the series an enduring classic. By examining these standout episodes, it becomes evident why fans celebrate and cherish the show's legacy: inspiring generations to boldly go where no one has gone before. 

Cause and Effect

Cause and Effect

The Best of Both Worlds

The Best of Both Worlds

The Inner Light

The Inner Light

Yesterday's Enterprise

Yesterday's Enterprise

The Best of Both Worlds, Part II

The Best of Both Worlds, Part II

Q Who

The Measure of a Man

All Good Things...

All Good Things...


Starship Mine


Lower Decks


Ship in a Bottle

I, Borg

Chain of Command

Redemption, Part II

Redemption, Part II

The Defector

The Defector

Future Imperfect

Future Imperfect


The Offspring

The Next Phase

The Next Phase


Face of the Enemy

The Nth Degree

The Nth Degree

Thine Own Self

Thine Own Self

The Pegasus

The Pegasus

Sins of the Father

Sins of the Father



A Matter of Honor

A Matter of Honor

Elementary, Dear Data

Elementary, Dear Data

Unification, Part II

Unification, Part II

Ensign Ro

The Drumhead

The Survivors

The Survivors


Time's Arrow


Chain of Command, Part II

Remember me.

Peak Performance

Peak Performance

Frame of Mind

Frame of Mind

The First Duty

The First Duty

Who Watches the Watchers

Who Watches the Watchers


The Wounded

Where No One Has Gone Before

Where No One Has Gone Before


Time's Arrow, Part II


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These are the on-screen voyages of Star Trek , a now-massive and popular franchise with 13 movies and over 800 episodes and counting . Star Trek: The Original Series went off the air in 1969, and was followed by two decades of movies about those same characters. Yet it wasn't until the launch of the second TV series, Star Trek: The Next Generation , that we got to see new characters in this universe. Aptly named, Next Generation moved into the future from the original series, exploring new technology such as holodecks, and the universe-changing replicators, which could create almost any item you wanted in an instant.

As said in an article in the New Yorker , "It is hard to overstate how much of a departure the 'Star Trek' franchise's eighties-and-nineties-straddling incarnation, 'The Next Generation,' was from the original series." The show moved the Trek universe into a utopian future of post-scarcity. In one episode, for instance, Jean-Luc Picard, the current Captain of the starship Enterprise-D, tells a twentieth-century human concerned about his old stocks that, "People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We've eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We've grown out of our infancy."

And that is the heart of the message of this show. Many of the best episodes have a more philosophical and intellectual bend to them, exploring deep ethical questions, explorations of justice, and what it means to be human. Yet some of the most beloved episodes are personal and emotional explorations of difficult subjects such as torture, loss of a loved one, or the effects of PTSD.

The Next Generation , or TNG as fans call it, has had a profound and lasting impact on how we see the Trek universe, the Federation, and creator Gene Roddenberry's vision for the future of humanity as a whole. It won two Hugo awards over its time on air, and remains one of the most memorable Trek shows to this day.

So which episodes from Star Trek: The Next Generation are the best?

10 "Encounter at Farpoint" - Season 1, Episode 1

The premier of Next Generation is a two-part episode that sets up the characters and the starship well, in spite of awkward wardrobe choices and a bit of a clunky feeling to it. But what it does best is frame the show around its central theme - exploring large philosophical questions about humanity. We also get introduced to one of the best side characters in all Star Trek , who would go on to appear in multiple different shows: the mysterious extra-dimensional being known as Q.

In this episode, Q appears on the ship and finds Captain Picard, a meeting that would begin a long and entertaining "friendship" between the two. Q takes Picard to be a representative of humanity, and puts the entire human race on trial, confronting him with the worst aspects of humanity, from the past to the present. Picard is put in the tricky and unenviable position of defending the history and present state of humanity, acknowledging the violent past, as well as fairly judging the struggle for humans to come out of that and into a better future. He ultimately succeeds, and shows us who he is, and the kind of world the Enterprise now exists in, in the process. It's philosophical Trek at its finest.

9 “Tapestry” - Season 6, Episode 15

The episodes with Q and Picard are certainly some of the best of the show, and this one is an excellent example of the ways that Q would challenge and even help Picard.

In this episode, Picard succumbs to a terrible injury, and is possibly dying. His consciousness drifts into an all-white world, where he finds Q - who immediately jokes around about him being in the afterlife. Q gives Picard an option to live, however, if he goes back to the past and makes one change in his life. The thing he has to change is to not get into a fight in a bar. It sounds simple enough, but the now-familiar "butterfly effect" sees that one change alter Picard's entire life. He wakes up in the present time and finds his life unrecognizable, and unremarkable.

The story is a profound and interesting lesson about the nature of regrets, a life well lived, and what it means to take risks. It was also the first time that writer Ronald D. Moore, one of the most prolific and exceptional writers on the show, got to write about the enigmatic Q.

Related: Star Trek: Picard Showrunner Teases Many Familiar Next Generation Faces Returning in Season 3

8 “Chain of Command” - Season 6, Episodes 10 and 11

This two-part episode may be the darkest in the entire running of Next Generation . Featuring a new and terrifying enemy in the form of the Cardassians, the episode follows Picard as he is pulled into a covert mission that ends with him captured and mercilessly tortured. Patrick Stewart's performance is intense and chilling, as we watch him struggle to maintain his spirit and not break under the ruthless physical and psychological torture of the Cardassians. The episode sets up how nefarious they are, leading nicely into the new spinoff Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, where they are one of the main antagonists. It's rare to see any show, especially a 90s sci-fi show, go into such a dark topic as torture, and this episode does not shy away from it.

7 “All Good Things…” - Season 7, Episodes 25 and 26

The finale of the show was powerful, and is without a doubt the best Star Trek series finale ever, summing up the characters and the show with a loving reverence and heartwarming send-off.

The two-part episode is a complex story. It begins with Picard being bounced around in time - his consciousness slips between the past, before the Enterprise's first mission with him as captain; to the present of the show; to the future, where he is a retired old man, living on his family's vineyard in France. His disorientation is waved away as a symptom of a fatal neurological disease he is diagnosed with, but he insists that his time-jumps are real, and implores his crew to believe him. The fate of their universe, and all of their timelines, hangs in the balance.

Picard leans on the trust of his crew, asking them to have faith in him despite years apart in the future, or a lack of familiarity in the past. They come together in a moving, bittersweet ending that was both a love letter to fans, and a powerful goodbye to the cast and show, that USA Today called "picture perfect." The two-part episode also won a Hugo Award, and contributed to the show earning an Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige even cited it as a model for Avengers: Infinity War. No list of the best episodes of TNG would be complete without this finale.

6 “Yesterday's Enterprise” - Season 3, Episode 15

This episode features one of the best sacrifices we see in Star Trek , as well as a proper send-off for Tasha Yar, who had been too-quickly killed off in the first season. When another Enterprise (C) appears out of a temporal rift in space, we discover a different universe, in which the Federation is at war with the Klingons, and Yar is still alive. The future is altered by this change in the past, and only Guinon realizes that the future should be different. Ever a wise advisor to Picard, Guinon tells him that the Enterprise-C must return to the past, where they will surely be killed, in order to set the future right again. Picard at first refuses to send them into such a fate.

The episode is a redemption for Yar, giving her an emotional farewell that resonated with fans who felt she had been dealt a poor hand earlier. By the time the Enterprise-D (our crew) is on the verge of defeat, the Enterprise-C travels back to the anomaly, and to their inevitable deaths - saving millions with one heartbreaking sacrifice.

5 “The Offspring” - Season 3, Episode 16

Long time fan favorite, Data is one of the most interesting and unique characters in the Trek universe . Originally playing the cool, logical role of Spock in the original series, he moved into his own space as the show explored the nature of androids, and questions about what it means to be human - something Data always longed for.

In this episode, Data experiments with creating another android based on his own model - only with improvements. He calls this creation his daughter, and names her Lal (the Hindi word for "beloved"). This episode starts off innocent and sweet, and soon becomes one of the biggest tear-jerkers of the entire show. It's also the directorial debut of Jonathan Frakes (who played Will Riker), and it's impressive that he manages to capture such heartbreak so well. Next Generation explores Data's humanity in this episode, especially as he confronts one of the deep and tragic aspects of being human, in the form of loss. In one of the most touching and wise scenes of the entire show, Lal asks Data why he continues to try to be human, even though he never will be. He replies, "I have asked myself that many times, as I have struggled to be more human. Until I realized, it is the struggle itself that is most important. We must strive to be more than we are, Lal. It does not matter that we will never reach our ultimate goal. The effort yields its own rewards."

4 “Family” - Season 4, Episode 2

Captain Picard is the central figure of Next Generation , and one of the most influential characters in the Trek universe - he even has his own honorary day . His life, his greatest achievements and worst failures, are all a large part of the show and what it explores. And perhaps the deepest we go into Picard's psychology is in the aftermath of his capture and conversion into the hive-mind of the relentless and terrifying Borg.

This episode takes place right after these events, continuing the storyline - something TNG almost never did. Struggling with whether or not to leave Starfleet, Picard goes back to Earth, to his family's vineyard, to try and come to terms with what happened to him and find grounding in his life and his past - his identity. He clashes with his brother, until they physically fight, and he ends up breaking down and admitting how broken he truly feels. The episode did not receive high praise at the time, and the concept itself was hated by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, but it is now cited as one of the best episodes in the entire series, being both a moving and deeply personal window into the character of Picard and his psychological state. Like many of the episodes on this list, it was written by the exceptionally talented Ronald D. Moore.

3 “Measure of a Man” - Season 2, Episode 9

The first two seasons of Next Generation had some misses in terms of episode quality, but this episode is one of the examples where the show excelled. And like many of the most interesting episodes in the series, it is centered around the android, Data.

The episode starts with a Starfleet scientist who arrives and insists on dissecting Data to find out how he works - seeing him as a tool or engineering marvel, not a sentient being. This culminates in a court hearing to determine if Data is "alive", and has sentience, or if he is merely a tool that should be used how the Federation sees fit. The poignant writing and fascinating intellectual problem makes the courtroom scenes utterly riveting, as the debate about what makes a being conscious and alive goes back and forth. It also features some of Picard's best lines, as he finally challenges the scientist: "Prove to the court that I am sentient." The scientist can't. This episode is one of the best examples of a unique mixture between fascinating philosophical questions, and genuine heartfelt drama.

Related: Why a Star Trek: Worf TV Series Should Happen

2 “The Best of Both Worlds" - Season 3 and 4, Episodes 26 and 1

The first episode in this two-part saga ends Season 3 on one of the best and most shocking cliffhangers of 90s television. The episode starts with the crew of the Enterprise responding to a distress call that leads them to the Borg. Along the way, we get an important glimpse of the relationship between Riker and Picard - that Riker has turned down positions as Captain on other starships, so that he can continue to work under Picard. That is how much respect and admiration he has for the Captain.

This becomes important later, when the Enterprise clashes with an ominous Borg "cube" in space. Picard is abducted, and Riker takes command of the ship. The episode ends with a horrifying image of Picard, now converted to the Borg, enslaved to the hive-mind. He calls himself Locutus, and tells the Enterprise to "prepare for assimilation." Riker orders Worf to fire upon them - and we understand the weight of this difficult decision because of the context provided earlier.

The second part of the story finds the Enterprise struggling to stay ahead of the Borg and stay alive. They manage to recapture Picard/Locutus, while the rest of the Borg head for Earth. The crew manage to use Locutus' connection to the Borg, having Data hack his way in and disable their weapons and shields. And the episode ends with Picard freed from the awful Borg implants, yet we see that he is still deeply shaken from the ordeal. The powerful episode won the show an Emmy, and has been declared by the Washington Post as the best episode in all of Star Trek , and the greatest cliffhanger in television history.

1 “The Inner Light” - Season 5, Episode 25

This second-to-last episode of Season 5 is the best from Next Generation , and is one of the only Trek episodes in the entire franchise to win a Hugo Award. It's also one of the best examples of a "bottle episode", where the events of the episode have little to do with any over-arching plot or character arcs. Yet it is consistently praised as one of the best, if not the best, in all Star Trek. It is even Patrick Stewart's favorite episode. As he said in a Reddit AMA : "It was a beautiful script, which for me was almost entirely located away from the Enterprise - and its crew! And because I was given the chance to perform what Picard would have been like if his life experience had been different." It also adds a personal touch, that Stewart's real son Daniel plays his character's son in the episode.

This touching story starts with Picard being shocked by a probe. He falls unconscious, and enters a reality where he is living the life of a man named Kamin, on a world that is slowly dying from increasing drought and radiation from the nearby sun. At first Picard seeks to find a way to contact the Enterprise, but he soon realizes he is trapped, and begins to live out his life as Kamin - even coming to have children and grandchildren. He lives almost an entire lifetime, as the planet dies around them. He tries and fails to save it, and grows old. One day he is invited to watch the launch of a rocket, and sees everyone around him looking young again. They tell him that the rocket is launching a probe into space, whose purpose is to share a brief glimpse of this world and its people with whoever finds the probe - through the eyes of Kamin. Picard realizes then, that he is the one who finds this probe, centuries later.

He wakes up back on the Enterprise, where only 25 minutes have passed - and in that 25 minutes, he lived through decades. Upon opening the probe, Picard finds the same flute he played for years as Kamin. The episode ends with Picard playing a hauntingly beautiful song on the flute with the skill and familiarity of decades of practice.

The writing of this episode is beautiful. It is based on both a Beatles song, also titled "The Inner Light", and on a verse from the ancient text, the Tao te Ching , about gaining vast knowledge and understanding without traveling anywhere. And it also shows some of the best range for Stewart's acting, pulling a wonderful and powerful performance from him. With such profound beauty that rivals that of a poem, this episode is Star Trek at its finest, and is the best episode in all of The Next Generation.

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The best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, ranked

Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in 1987 to a great deal of skepticism. Throughout the run of the original series and its revival on the big screen, Star Trek had always been the story of Captain James T. Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy, maverick space explorers portrayed by William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley. Now, with the film franchise in decline, creator Gene Roddenberry was proposing a new version of the beloved sci-fi series that would feature none of the familiar cast or characters. In an era before spin-offs and reboots ruled Hollywood, this was practically heresy. These doubts were further fueled by the unfortunate reality that, for its first two seasons, The Next Generation wasn’t very good, hampered by nonstop backstage drama .

11-9. The Best of Both Worlds, Parts I and II/Family (season 3, episode 26/season 4, episodes 1 and 2)

8 and 7. chain of command, parts i and ii (season 6, episodes 10 and 11), 6. who watches the watchers (season 3, episode 4).

  • 5 and 4. All Good Things … (season 7, episodes 25 and 26)

3. Darmok (season 5, episode 2)

2. the inner light (season 5, episode 25), 1. the measure of a man (season 2, episode 9).

The show’s fortunes changed significantly with its third season and the addition of new head writer Michael Piller , who rapidly retooled The Next Generation into a more contemporary sci-fi drama that would not only live up to the legacy of Star Trek but define it for the next 30 years. Piller’s TNG would become the launchpad for the Star Trek franchise’s most prosperous and prolific period, with a string of spin-offs that continues to this day. This writers’ room was the incubator for the next wave of space sci-fi on television, where the likes of Ronald D. Moore ( Battlestar Galactica , For All Mankind ), Brannon Braga ( The Orville ), and Naren Shankar ( The Expanse ) began their careers. Far more than an attempt to recapture the magic of the classic Star Trek , The Next Generation became one of the most iconic and influential science fiction series of all time, producing many of the franchise’s greatest episodes.

After building momentum with the public throughout its redemptive third season, Star Trek: The Next Generation hooked audiences for good with a shocking cliffhanger that had fans shaking with anticipation throughout the summer hiatus. The Best of Both Worlds depicts the long-awaited return of the Borg, the unstoppable cybernetic zombies introduced in season 2’s Q Who? episode. As promised, they’ve come to conquer the Federation’s worlds and assimilate their technology, but there’s an even more sinister twist: they capture the Enterprise’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and force him to lead their invasion. Wired into the Borg’s hive mind, Picard gives the collective the benefit of his decades of experience as a Starfleet officer and every advantage they’ll need to run roughshod through Earth’s defenses. At the end of Part I, stalwart first officer Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) has no choice but to open fire on the Borg ship, potentially killing his friend and mentor.

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If the conclusion to The Best of Both Worlds was as killer as its setup, it might have very well jumped to the top of this list, but Part II is a bit of an anti-climax. (This is because Piller and Company came up with the cliffhanger without any idea of how they were going to resolve it after their spring break, a habit they maintained for all of TNG ’s season finales.) However, the uneven The Best of Both Worlds Part II is redeemed by the following episode: its informal epilogue, Family . For the first time in the series’ history, The Next Generation dedicated an entire episode to managing the fallout from the last one, and it hammers home exactly why The Best of Both Worlds and TNG as a whole have endured in the zeitgeist. Patrick Stewart’s performance as an emotionally reserved man coming to grips with the trauma of his capture is some of his finest work and provides an understanding of his character that influenced decades of stories that followed.

Another feature-length acting showcase for Patrick Stewart, Chain of Command sends Captain Picard on a covert mission to sabotage a Cardassian bio-weapon. Eventually captured and charged with terrorism, Picard engages in a fierce and cerebral battle of wills with a hardened interrogator (three-time Trek guest star David Warner). Like The Best of Both Worlds and Family ,  Chain of Command puts Picard through hell, but where those episodes explore his human frailties, Chain of Command showcases his incredible inner strength. Above all, however, Picard’s journey in this two-parter acknowledges that no amount of willpower makes you immune to the cruelty and indignity of torture.

Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Commander Riker and the rest of the crew are facing their own stubborn adversary, their new Captain Edward Jellico ( RoboCop ’s Ronny Cox). After five years of growing together as a family, Riker and company find themselves with a mean new dad who’s willing to sacrifice their old one if it means keeping the upper hand in the Federation’s negotiations with the Cardassians. Jellico is a great secondary antagonist for this episode, but as abrasive as he is, fans have spent decades debating whether Jellico is the worst Captain of the Enterprise or one of the greatest.  

We love when Star Trek is a rollicking space adventure or a riveting political thriller, but at its heart, Star Trek is a Philosophy 101 course, Bible stories for the agnostic. The crew of the Enterprise, who represent the best of humanity, arrive at a new place where they must tackle some sort of moral dilemma and spark a conversation for the viewers at home. Who Watches the Watchers is a perfect example of this classic episode format. Here, while rescuing a secret Federation survey team on a planet in its Bronze Age of development, Picard accidentally becomes a religious figure in the eyes of its inhabitants. A simple misunderstanding quickly snowballs out of control, potentially condemning an otherwise peaceful society to generations of holy war. In order to prevent a bloodbath, Picard must find a way to debunk his own godhood. But of course, there’s only one surefire way to prove your mortality …

Underneath some solid character drama, Who Watches the Watchers is a study on the nature of faith, superstition, and extremism, but also on the value of history and anthropology. The Federation studies other cultures in part to gain a better understanding of themselves, to celebrate their differences as well as the things that bind all civilizations together. But, above all, this episode is a perfect encapsulation of Star Trek’s brand of humanism. While perhaps a bit harsh on the concept of religion overall, Trek’s message is that human beings are capable of making our own miracles through science and cooperation. We are, today, the gods that our ancestors worshipped, and in the future, we may yet become that which we now idolize.

5 and 4. All Good Things … (season 7, episodes 25 and 26)

In the two-hour series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation , Captain Picard finds himself unstuck in time, bouncing back and forth between the show’s present, the Enterprise’s maiden voyage, and a lonely future 25 years hence. Only by finding clues in all three eras can he prevent the destruction of all life in the galaxy, not just in the present but throughout all time. It’s a climactic showdown between Picard and Q (John de Lancie), an omnipotent extra-dimensional being who has been Picard’s nemesis since the very first episode, but who is also sort of a member of the family. Their scenes together in this finale are among their best in the series.  

An antecedent to the kind of fan service that has become absolutely exhausting in the ensuing decades, All Good Things … is an emotional ride that captures the essence of the entire series, celebrating each main character’s growth while delivering a fun and exciting high-stakes adventure. Though the episode definitely plays a bit better if you’ve also seen the series premiere, Encounter at Farpoint (warning: it’s bad), the episode still stands perfectly well on its own and holds up as one of the best TV finales of the 1990s. And, despite being followed up by four feature films and a reunion season on Star Trek: Picard , All Good Things… remains the only finale The Next Generation has ever needed.

In this episode, Captain Picard finds himself trapped on a planet with the alien Captain Dathon ( Terminator ’s Paul Winfield) with whom he shares no common framework for communication. Even the Universal Translator, which usually makes any language instantly understandable, is useless because just transcribing his words isn’t enough. Dathon’s people speak only via allusions to their own mythology, all of which is Greek to Picard. While their ships butt heads up in orbit, Picard must find a way for himself and his counterpart to understand each other before they’re both killed by the planet’s indigenous wildlife.  

Some fans might be perplexed by the placement of Darmok this high on our list of The Next Generation ’s greatest episodes. After all, in many respects, it’s a very typical episode of the series, with no major impact on the Star Trek universe or deviations from the show’s established format. That, to our reckoning, is exactly why it deserves a place in our countdown: Darmok is the Platonic ideal of a Star Trek episode. Most Treks, particularly in The Next Generation , are not epic in scope or galactic in scale; They’re small but compelling dramas about peace, communication, and curiosity.

Of the 800+ episodes that have aired since 1966, there is no single, self-contained story that better represents what Star Trek is than Darmok . It’s thoughtful, it’s hopeful, and it’s also pretty silly. It’s a story about how connecting with someone different from you requires effort and patience but is one of the most important and rewarding things that a person can do. And, its value as an allegory about cultural context and the specificity with which people frame their world through language has only increased as our own civilization depends more and more on reaction GIFs and pop culture references to communicate.

As evidenced by previous entries on this list, Star Trek: The Next Generation is often at its best as a spotlight for Shakespearean actor Sir Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Stewart lent a degree of gravitas and legitimacy to every episode, but once or twice a season, the writers gave Stewart an opportunity to really show off the depth and range of his craft and of his character. In The Inner Light , a mysterious space probe psychically tethers itself to Captain Picard, causing him to collapse on the bridge of the Enterprise. While the crew attempts to revive him, we see a parallel story in which Picard wakes up on an unfamiliar, pre-warp planet, where he is greeted by a wife and a community of friends. Unable to leave the planet or convince anyone that his life as a space explorer wasn’t a dream, Picard — or, Kamin, as he’s called here — has little choice but to make a home for himself on this new world over the course of the following decades. You read that right, we said “decades.”

Beyond the mystery of what has happened to the captain, The Inner Light offers a deep exploration of Picard as a character. Throughout the series, Picard has been depicted as an emotionally reserved loner whose unhappy upbringing dissuaded him from starting a family. He has difficulty expressing affection or building romantic attachments, he’s uncomfortable around children, and he’s always chosen his career over his personal life. Now, suddenly, that career is gone, and he has the opportunity to learn what else he could be. Who is Jean-Luc Picard, if he’s not a space explorer? The Inner Light is a beautiful, heartbreaking story about the simple and undeniable beauty of everyday life, wrapped in a digestible hour of sci-fi television.

While The Next Generation doesn’t become week-to-week great TV until its third season, there are still a few diamonds in those rough first two years, including the show’s finest hour. In The Measure of a Man , Starfleet cyberneticist Bruce Maddox (Brian Brophy) proposes dismantling the android Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner) so that he can be studied and mass-produced. When Data refuses to participate, Maddox argues that, as a machine, Data has no legal standing and is the property of Starfleet. This escalates into a courtroom drama, with Captain Picard advocating for Data’s personhood and Commander Riker forced to serve as Maddox’s counsel. The first screen credit for attorney-turned-author Melinda M. Snodgrass, The Measure of a Man is the finest example of Star Trek as a Socratic argument, talking through the finer points of sentience and artificial intelligence in a way that has never felt more relevant.  

But, as always, the sci-fi of a great Star Trek episode isn’t really about sci-fi. The Measure of a Man does what Trek does best, using the imaginary problems of the future to recontextualize a familiar issue of our past or present. The Measure of a Man isn’t about robotics or artificial intelligence, it’s about the ease and frequency with which those in power justify the exploitation of those less powerful. Throughout history, those with the means to do so have found excuses to dismiss the rights of others for their own gain. In the real world, these atrocities take centuries to overcome, and never without bloodshed. The utopian future of Star Trek allows us to imagine that the next such tragedy can be averted by taking a hard look at our past, at each other, at ourselves, and saying “Not this time.”

All seven seasons of Star: Trek The Next Generation can be streamed on Paramount+.

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Dylan Roth

Few science fiction franchises have made as enormous a cultural impact as Star Trek. Trek’s language and visual iconography, from “warp speed” to your phone’s built-in “live long and prosper” emoji, are ubiquitous even to people who have never seen the show. It’s the original organized “geek culture” fandom, and the birthplace of fan fiction and cosplay as we know it. The stigma of Trekkies as unwashed, socially awkward outcasts has dissipated as sci-fi and comics culture has gone mainstream, but Star Trek itself can still be intimidating to outsiders due to its massive scale and dense mythology of more than 800 episodes and films. Though it’s possible to explore the Star Trek universe on your own, it is best navigated with the aid of a guide. And, if you don’t happen to have a Trekkie in your life to chart your course with you (which they absolutely love to do), we’re here to offer three options as to how to get started, depending on how you like to digest stories.

Course No. 1: The sampler platter

For as long as both entities have existed, fans of science fiction and fantasy have debated the merits of Star Trek and Star Wars. But for most of the 45 years that the two franchises have overlapped, Star Trek and Star Wars haven’t actually had much in common, apart from their cosmic setting. Star Trek is an aspirational sci-fi series set in humanity’s future, while Star Wars is a bombastic fantasy adventure that takes place in a far-off galaxy. One has primarily lived on weekly television, while the other has broken big-screen box office numbers. However, in recent years, both Star Trek and Star Wars have become tentpoles for their parent companies’ subscription streaming services, Paramount+ and Disney+, respectively, each pumping out a steady stream of content in an ever-widening array of formats. This has led them to encroach further into each other’s territory than ever before. Star Trek vs. Star Wars is no longer an apples-to-oranges comparison — they are directly competing products, sharing some of the same ambitions and struggling against the same environmental forces. We will likely never settle on which space franchise is the greatest of all time, but we can take a moment to ask: Which is better right now?

Star Trek and Star Wars have both leaned heavily into fan service

Crossovers are nothing new for the Star Trek franchise. That tradition began in 1987 when original series star DeForest Kelley reprised his role as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy in the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. But in the upcoming second season of Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, there's a unique crossover coming between this series and the animated program Star Trek: Lower Decks. For the first time in Star Trek history, two characters from an animated series will appear in live-action, and they will be portrayed by the same performers who provide their voices. As seen in the new Strange New Worlds trailer below, Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid are reprising their respective roles as Beckett Mariner and Brad Boimler.

Star Trek: Strange New Worlds | Season 2 Official Trailer | Paramount+


The 15 Best Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes, Ranked

star trek best episodes next generation

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If you're even remotely interested in science fiction and television, chances are pretty good that someone has recommended you watch Star Trek: The Next Generation .

Unless you've seen it and are sure you don't like it, that person was right: you should watch it!

But we don't blame you if you find it somewhat daunting—considering Star Trek: The Next Generation has hour-long episodes and lasted for seven seasons.

If you're not sure where to start, or if you're a longtime fan looking to rewatch a few excellent episodes, here are the best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes you should definitely watch.

How to Watch Star Trek: TNG

star trek best episodes next generation

Anyone who isn't a die-hard fan of Star Trek should probably stick to streaming episodes on Amazon Prime or Hulu. The show may not always be available in the future on either platform, but if you're already subscribed, you can watch while you can.

But any die-hard fan should seriously consider getting the entire series on DVD or Blu-ray. A vintage series like this may not always be around, in which case you'll thank yourself for owning a physical copy rather than being beholden to streaming services.

1. "Measure of a Man"

star trek best episodes next generation

The Next Generation was still finding its feet in the second season, but "Measure of a Man" was one of the first truly great episodes of the series.

This episode focuses on Lt. Commander Data, specifically his rights as an android, when a scientist who wants to dismantle him to create copies of him.

2. "Q Who?"

star trek best episodes next generation

Q made his debut in the series debut episode "Encounter at Farpoint," but this episode is where John de Lancie really begins to shine in his role. Q tries to prove that the crew of the Enterprise needs him as an ally. How? By putting them in incredible danger.

3. "Manhunt"

star trek best episodes next generation

Normally, episodes of The Next Generation that feature Deanna Troi's mother Lwaxana are groan-worthy—and this one is too, but in a way that works.

Lwaxana is on the prowl for a mate (hence the episode title), and Captain Picard is doing his best to avoid her. This episode also features a cameo from Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood.

4. "The Defector"

star trek best episodes next generation

If you're a fan of the recent The Next Generation follow-up show Star Trek: Picard , this season three episode is a must see. It gives excellent background on the Romulans, and also just happens to be a great episode on its own merits.

5. "Deja Q"

star trek best episodes next generation

Yep, another Q episode. This one is unusual, as Q spends most of the episode without his powers aside from his intellect.

After seeing him as a near-omnipotent antagonist in other episodes, seeing Q dealing with human problems is strangely satisfying, even if he does regain his powers by the end.

6. "Yesterday's Enterprise"

star trek best episodes next generation

Whenever time travel pops up out of nowhere in a sci-fi show, you know it's probably going to be a good episode. This is especially true with "Yesterday's Enterprise," a fan and cast favorite that features a new take on the death of a character from season one.

7. "The Offspring"

star trek best episodes next generation

This is another episode that ties well into Star Trek: Picard . It's also the first episode of the episode directed by a cast member, in this case Jonathan Frakes, whose directorial touch makes this episode (in which Data creates a daughter for himself) a favorite of numerous cast members.

8. "Captain's Holiday"

star trek best episodes next generation

As the title implies, this episode begins with Captain Picard taking a vacation, only to be drawn into an almost Indiana Jones -style adventure. It also happens to feature time travel—which, again, almost always makes for a great episode.

9. "Best Of Both Worlds"

star trek best episodes next generation

"Best Of Both Worlds" is more or less legally required to be on any list of the best episodes of this show. This two-parter that spans season three and season four sees Picard captured and assimilated by the Borg...

...and a cliffhanger that had fans impatiently waiting for season four to begin. This two-part episode is so good that it was released as a standalone Blu-ray disc.

10. "Brothers"

star trek best episodes next generation

This episode isn't the first episode to feature Data's brother, Lore, but it's the best. If you're a fan of Data (is it possible to watch this show and not become one?), this is a must-watch for the background the episode gives to his character.

11. "Data's Day"

star trek best episodes next generation

Speaking of Data, "Data's Day" is about, well, Data's day. This is one of the funnier episodes of the show, as well as essential viewing if you plan to watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine thanks to its focus on Miles and Keiko O'Brien.

12. "I, Borg"

star trek best episodes next generation

Here's another episode that provides great background for Picard . "I, Borg" sees the Enterprise crew find an injured Borg and initially decide to use him as a weapon against the Borg. Instead, he starts to develop free will and even takes a name: Hugh.

13. "The Inner Light"

star trek best episodes next generation

While "Captain's Holiday" lets us see a slightly different Picard we don't normally see on the show, "The Inner Light" shows us a radically different Picard. The Captain literally lives another life while only a few minutes pass for the rest of the crew.

14. "Tapestry"

star trek best episodes next generation

Another Q episode, but with a much different tone than normal. After Picard dies (yes, you read that right), Q gives him a chance to go back in time and change events, It's A Wonderful Life -style.

Of course, nothing goes as planned. Writer (and later Battlestar Galactic creator) Ronald D. Moore told fans this was one of the best episodes he'd written.

15. "Genesis"

star trek best episodes next generation

It was tough not to round out this list of episodes with "All Good Things," the final episode of the show, but that's kind of a bummer.

Instead, we'll go with "Genesis," one of the weirdest episodes of the show, which sees most of the crew turned into primitive beings including a spider, a venom-spraying mega-Klingon, and cavemen.

Can't Get Enough Star Trek?

Narrowing down the entire run of Star Trek: The Next Generation to the best episodes is effectively impossible, because it means leaving out a ton of great episodes.

If you're really looking to get into the series, start from the beginning and watch it all. Yes, the first two seasons can be a little rough, but the plot points they set up will pay off seasons later.

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

Great science fiction and standout performances make these the best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes ever.

Picard & Riker - Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

It's time to explore strange new shows and seek out the best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes as we boldly go where no one has gone before. Well Ok, a few people have been here before, but that's not going to stop us.

It’s hard to imagine what a list of the top Star Trek episodes would look like without The Next Generation. It may not have been the first Trek show to grace televisions (or even the second!), but for a lot of fans, The Next Generation is Star Trek. 

It only lasted seven seasons, airing from 1987 - 1994, but TNG is still a fundamental part of the current Trek universe. Paramount Plus original Star Trek: Picard just kicked off its second season and the events of Discovery regularly intersect with those referenced in TNG. It’s possible the Lower Decks would exist even without the TNG episode of the same name…but we kind of doubt it. What we're saying is, Star Trek is what it is today because of The Next Generation.

To be as fair as possible and give each franchise the respect it deserves, we’re going to examine them individually. What follows, therefore, is a list of the best Star Trek The Next Generation episodes. If you want to watch through these classic TNG episodes yourself, our Star Trek streaming guide is here to help.

Whether they offer exceptional science fiction, standout performances, or classic Trek moments, each episode on this list is worth your time — even if you’re a Trek newbie. Just keep in mind that spoilers lie within, and proceed accordingly. 

If you want to see even more great Star Trek content, check out our ranking of the best Star Trek: Voyager episodes too. It's a Neelix-lite list, we promise. We've also got our guide to the Star Trek movies, ranked worst to best if you prefer your Trek on the silver screen.

10. The First Duty 

Star Trek The Next Generation

  • Original air date: March 30, 1992

Ok, we all know that Wesley Crusher kind of sucks, but that’s exactly what makes The First Duty so good. In it, Wesley is caught between loyalty to his friends and the truth with not just his future at stake, but the respect of the most important male figure in his life, Captain Picard. 

Wesley and his pals, emboldened with the hubris known to virtually everyone who’s ever been young, attempt a flight maneuver that results in a fatal accident. The squad leader pressures everyone to keep quiet and lay the blame on the dead cadet, because to do otherwise would destroy their reputations and careers. Picard figures out what’s going on, putting Wesley in the position of having to choose between backing up his friends’ lies or coming clean. 

The First Duty doesn’t shy from making Wesley look like exactly what he is: a boy whose arrogance got his friend killed. The Enterprise crew is typically so virtuous they beggar belief, but Wesley’s situation is uncomfortably relatable. 

9. The Game

Star Trek The Next Generation

  • Original air date: October 28, 1991

Take Invasion of the Body Snatchers and mix in a sprinkling of anti-video game propaganda and you have The Game, featuring a very young Ashley Judd as Ensign Robin Lefler. 

A playmate on Risa introduces Riker to a video game that he later brings back with him to the ship. Wesley, visiting his mom while on break from Starfleet Academy, originally suggests to Ensign Lefler that they study the appeal of the game as a kind of ultra-nerdy date activity, which is how they stumble on the fact that it’s highly addictive and leaves the player open to suggestion. 

If there’s ever an episode of the horniest Star Trek episodes, The Game will definitely be on it, not just because of the players’ gasps of orgasmic happiness when they complete a level, but also because Troi’s explanation of how to eat a hot fudge sundae.   

8. The Most Toys 

Star Trek The Next Generation

  • Original air date: May 5, 1990

A collector by the name of Kivas Fajo concocts a ruse that allows him to kidnap Data while tricking the crew of the Enterprise into believing their comrade is dead. Fajo specializes in one-of-a-kind items and quickly reveals himself to be ruthless to the point of sociopathy when it comes to getting what he wants. 

The casual cruelty with which Fajo treats other living beings allows The Most Toys to explore the boundaries of Data’s humanity as he stands up to his abuser. It’s a compelling episode thanks especially to Saul Rubinek’s ice-cold turn as Fajo.

7. Cause and Effect

Star Trek The Next Generation

  • Original air date: March 23, 1992

As pre-credits hooks go, it’s tough to beat Cause and Effect. The episode has barely begun before Picard is ordering all hands to abandon ship, shortly before the Enterprise explodes in glorious fashion. The rest of Cause and Effect follows the crew as they slowly realize they’re reliving events over and over, eventually deducing that they’re stuck in a time loop. 

After the ship explodes, the loop resets and their memories wipe. Every sci fi show worth its salt has a time loop episode of one kind or another, but Cause and Effect carries it off with cleverness. The eventual solution to the problem is a mix of technical wizardry and personal insight, a pleasant change for a show set in space. The final cameo is outstanding, too.

6. Yesterday’s Enterprise

Star Trek The Next Generation

  • Original air date: February 19, 1990

Consider this one “It’s a Wonderful Life: Space Edition.” The Enterprise-C traverses an anomaly, triggering an alternate timeline in which the Federation is still at war with the Klingons and Tasha Yar never ran afoul of that oil slick. The only way to put things right — or at least the way they used to be — is for the Enterprise-C to return to its own timeline, but that’s a suicide mission. 

Yesterday’s Enterprise raises one of the classic sci fi questions: Who has more right to exist? Why is one possibility more true than another? In addition to exploring those questions, Yesterday’s Enterprise gives fans the opportunity to say a proper and meaningful goodbye to Tasha, whose previous exit was unsatisfying, to say the least. 

5. Lower Decks

Star Trek The Next Generation

  • Original air date: February 7, 1994

The cartoon of the same name takes a comical look at the relationship between the bridge staff and the rest of the crew of the Enterprise, but this episode is no joke. Lower Decks provides a rare glimpse into the attitudes and ambitions of crewmembers who haven’t made it into the limelight yet. One of them, Sito, was involved in the scandal of The First Duty, and she assumes her placement on the Enterprise under Picard’s eye is some kind of punishment. 

On the contrary, Picard requested her to ensure she was given a fair shake after what happened. Sito learns that people still believe in her and eagerly embraces a dangerous mission into Cardassian territory where she might prove her value. When she fails to return, we see how her death impacts the senior officers who wanted to help her realize her potential, as well as the friends she left behind. Lower Decks is a sad, intimate examination of ambition, hero worship, and self-esteem.    

Star Trek The Next Generation

  • Original air date: September 30, 1991

Differences cannot be overcome and alliance cannot be forged until we learn to communicate with each other, a highly Star Trek concept that Darmok takes to an extreme.  After the Tamarians’ attempts to communicate with the Federation fail, a Tamarian captain, Dathon, beams himself and Picard to the surface of a nearby planet. The Tamarian language is based entirely on references and metaphors; as Troi explains, the phrase “Juliet on her balcony” only makes sense if you know who Juliet was. 

Virtually the entire episode is Picard trying desperately to understand Dathon, a task that becomes more urgent as the duo are attacked by a predator and Dathon is severely wounded. Some Star Trek fans deride Darmok as being too boring or repetitive, but others appreciate it for how eerily it predicted the rise of online meme culture. Bernie, his hands cold. Homer, when the bushes parted.

3. Chain of Command, pt 2 

Star Trek The Next Generation

  • Original air date: December 21, 1992

TNG had its fair share of impressive villains, but few were as genuinely terrifying as the Cardassian inquisitor in Chain of Command. In Part 1, Captain Picard is captured during a clandestine away mission, the victim of an elaborate ruse by the Cardassians. In Part 2, he is systematically tortured by Gul Madred, played by the exceptional David Warner. 

The prize Madred seeks is Starfleet’s plans for Minos Korva, and the bulk of the episode is him employing everything from sleep deprivation to humiliation to get Picard to crack. He shows the captain an array of four lights, insisting Picard agree that there are five. When he refuses, he is punished. 

Chain of Command is frustrating, enraging, and frightening, but few moments in Trek history are as cathartic as Picard, weak from abuse but finally rescued, turning to face Gul Madred one last time and shouting, “There are FOUR lights!”  

2. The Inner Light

Star Trek The Next Generation

  • Original air date: June 1, 1992

The Inner Light is a gentle, yet profound piece of science fiction storytelling. The Enterprise encounters an unknown probe that scans the ship and hits Picard with an energy beam, knocking him unconscious. When he regains consciousness, Picard is shocked to discover that he’s no longer on the Enterprise; he’s on a planet called Kataan and everyone seems to think he’s someone called Kamin. He struggles to convince Kamin’s wife and best friend that his version of reality is true, without success. 

Years pass, and while he never stops hoping to one day be reunited with his ship, Picard embraces his life as “Kamin,” bringing what science he can to the low-tech society while also becoming a husband and father. As Picard, now old, reaches the end of his new life, The Inner Light reveals its secret. 

Doomed by a supernova, the leaders of Kataan launched a probe containing memories of its people, hoping it would someday be able to share their story. The episode is lovely and sad, no moreso than when the probe opens to reveal the flute that Picard — as Kamin — believed he spent his life on Kataan learning to master.  

1. The Best of Both Worlds, pt 1

Star Trek The Next Generation

  • Original air date: June 18, 1990

There were times when TNG told better or more important stories, but for sheer nail-biting drama, it’s impossible to top the cliffhanger ending of The Best of Both Worlds, part 1. To appreciate its position atop this list, cast your mind back to the time before the internet did its best to dispel all mystery surrounding characters’ fates. 

The crew of the Enterprise had encountered the Borg before in Q-Who, but that simply laid the groundwork to establish how dangerous an enemy they were. A Borg cube attacks the Enterprise, abducting Picard in the process. An away team beams to the Borg ship to attempt a rescue, but only find their captain’s communicator and uniform. 

This leads to the most jaw-dropping season finale the series ever managed: The Borg contact the Enterprise, and an assimilated Picard — now Locutus of Borg — assures them that resistance is futile. Riker, now in command, gives the only order he can: “Fire.” Chills.  

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Susan Arendt is a freelance writer, editor, and consultant living in Burleson, TX. She's a huge sci-fi TV and movie buff, and will talk your Vulcan ears off about Star Trek. You can find more of her work at Wired, IGN, Polygon, or look for her on Twitter: @SusanArendt. Be prepared to see too many pictures of her dogs.

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star trek best episodes next generation

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, ranked

Love Picard? Then it's time to venture into his past

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, ranked

There have been a raft of new Star Trek shows but we still have a massive soft spot for TNG. As you will see from this best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes guide, there are so many great episodes that it's no wonder that many fans consider it their favorite.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is considered one of the best science-fiction shows of all-time, it’s this TV series in which Picard was captain of the starship USS Enterprise NCC-1701-D.

But with seven seasons to choose from, where do you start? Well, all 178 episodes are worth a watch in our opinion (or a re-watch if you saw them the first time round). If you enjoyed the main themes and characters of the Picard series, then there are some key episodes you can’t miss.

We’ve collected together our favourite Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, focusing on Picard’s career in Starfleet, his encounters with the Borg, artificial intelligence and more.

The great news is that you can now watch all episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Paramount+. The show, quite rightly, features in out best Paramount+ Shows guide.

If you have a favourite Star Trek: The Next Generation episode you don’t see here, you can add it below.

  • Get another space fix with our shortlist of the best sci-fi TV shows , ranked
  • Or, check out our shortlist of the best Star Trek villains

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

1 . The Inner Light (Season 5, episode 25)

This episode is one hell of a science-fiction story all about Jean-Luc Picard, or should we say Kamin. Picard is struck by an energy beam from an alien probe, which then causes him to experience 40 years of a new life as an alien humanoid called Kamin while he’s unconscious.

There’s a twist to why Picard experiences this other life, which we don’t want to give away. But if you’ve ever seen a GIF of Picard playing the flute, The Inner Light explains why. What’s more, the flute that plays the main theme in the Picard series is a subtle nod to the instrument he learns in this episode.

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

2 . The Best of Both Worlds 1 & 2 (Season 3, episode 26 / Season 4, episode 1)

One of the best storylines in the whole of Star Trek (and maybe the whole of science-fiction?), if you were wondering why one of the xB (that’s ex-Borg) called Jean-Luc “Locutus” in Star Trek: Picard, this is why.

Season 3 of Star Trek: The Next Generation ends with a huge and horrifying episode in which Picard is kidnapped and assimilated by the Borg. We may only have seen their inactive cube-shaped ship (the Artifact) in Picard, but this race of cybernetic humanoid drones pose a massive threat to the crew of The Enterprise during TNG’s run.

If you only watch two episodes from this list, ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ parts 1 and 2 are the most tense (and scary) viewing and set you up to better understand Picard’s past with the Borg.

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

3 . All Good Things 1 & 2 (Season 7, episode 25 and 26)

There are many things to love about the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, including another time-travelling romp which takes us 25 years into the Enterprise crew’s future.

But we’ve included it on this list, though, because of the milestone Picard’s character reaches when he finally learns to let his guard down with the people closest to him. This change is crystallised by his decision to join his senior officers’ weekly poker night. It's a heart-warming moment of togetherness which, judging by the events in Picard, helps to turn stoic starship colleagues into lifelong friends.

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

4 . The Measure of a Man (Season 2, episode 9)

Bruce Maddox may be elusive in Star Trek: Picard , but he plays a key role in the series – he created Soji and Dahj. But this isn’t the first time we’ve met the talented cyberneticist.

He first appears in this early TNG episode, in which all kinds of interesting questions about artificial intelligence, ethics and the rights of androids in the Star Trek universe are raised.

In this episode, Bruce Maddox arrives on the Enterprise with a request: to disassemble Data (an android) in order to learn more about his construction. This sounds like a valid request from someone who specialises in cybernetics. But there’s a catch: this would effectively ‘kill’ Data.

Data refuses and a trial follows in which Picard, speaking on Data’s behalf, argues that he’s not property of Starfleet but a self-determining being in his own right. The twist is, Picard’s first officer, William T. Riker, is called upon to argue against his captain on behalf of Maddox.

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

5 . Tapestry (Season 6, episode 15)

Another great Picard-focused episode, this one is orchestrated by Q, Picard’s playful omnipotent nemesis, who sends Picard back in time to a crucial moment during his time as a cadet at the Starfleet Academy. Q offers a chance to undo a past mistake, which Picard regrets. But, as we’ve learned from other time travel episodes, once you start messing with the past things in the future get complicated. Very complicated.

Apart from the joy of another John de Lancie cameo as Q, this episode offers a window into the brash, arrogant young man Jean-Luc was in his youth, offering a deeper insight into the journey his character has taken by the time we rejoin him in Picard.

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

6 . The Pegasus (Season 7, episode 12)

This is the episode that gave us ‘Picard Day’, a children’s celebration on board the family-friendly Enterprise, which is now commemorated every June 16th (in case you’d like to join in). The eagle-eyed among you will recognise the Picard day banner, which is strung up in Jean-Luc’s lock-up first appears in this episode, hanging proudly across the briefing room.

‘Pegasus’ shows us the strength of Picard’s relationship with his first officer, William T. Riker, when one of Will’s previous Captains (whom Lost fans will no doubt recognise) shows up to test his loyalties.

The shady goings on surrounding a lost, experimental ship also exposes a rarely seen conspiratorial aspect to the otherwise squeaky-clean bureaucracy of Starfleet. A theme which is picked back up in the new series.

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

7 . Family (Season 4, episode 2)

How do you follow a nail-biting two-parter that sees Picard become the cybernetic ambassador of an enemy alien race? With a restful trip back to the Picard family vineyard in rural France.

‘Family’ is an emotional change of pace that follows Jean-Luc as he recovers with family back on Earth. Picard viewers will recognise this as the chateaux from the beginning of the series. Things are fraught with his brother, culminating in a fist fight, which causes Picard to break down and share his guilt over what he did when he was part of the Borg collective.

Although this episode lacked a dramatic sci-fi thread, it was deeply moving in the way it dealt so well with Picard’s trauma – a huge testament to Patrick Stewart’s incredible acting talent.

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

8 . I, Borg (Season 5, episode 23)

Hugh is a key character in the Picard series, heading up the Borg Artifact Research Institute as an xB and clearly knows Picard very well. This episode in which they first meet.

In ‘I, Borg’, the Enterprise picks up on a strange signal from a nearby moon. Thinking it’s a distress call, and being such helpful citizens of space, the crew sends an away team down to the surface to see what’s going on. When they get there they find a number of dead Borg drones, as well as one who is very much alive and, you guessed it, turns out to be Hugh.

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

9 . Data’s Day (Season 4, episode 11)

Episodes in which Data attempts to learn more about what it means to be human, are some of the most interesting and thoughtful of the whole TNG run. That’s why ‘Data’s Day’ is one of our top episodes, in which Data records a day in his life on The Enterprise for Bruce Maddox – who he, rather surprisingly, stays in touch with after Maddox’s threat to disassemble him.

Data narrates this episode, talking Maddox through his day, and it includes the marriage of two of his friends and dealing with the complicated mess of human emotions that accompanies it. This is also the episode which introduces Data’s pet cat – Spot (which makes a surprising return in one of the later episodes of Picard).

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes

10 . Descent 1 & 2 (Season 6, episode 26 / Season 7, episode 1)

Another two-parter that bridges the end of season six with the final season of TNG, ‘Descent’ brings together a number of the most exciting threads from the previous six seasons.

Part 1 begins with Data on the holodeck playing poker with Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and the real-life Stephen Hawking in a rare sci-fi cameo. Data is called away on a mission to answer a distress call, which sets in motion a series of events that leads the crew of the Enterprise back again to the Borg. But this time things are different. The Borg drones appear to be acting with more independence.

This two-parter sees the return of Data’s devious doppelganger brother Lore, who is in charge of the breakaway Borg community. As well as the return of Hugh, who is leading a small group of rebels against Data’s duplicitious brother.

It also introduces Data’s first experience as an android of human emotions, laying the groundwork for the highly-sophisticated synthetic beings we encounter in Picard.

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The Top 57 Episodes of ‘Star Trek,’ Ranked From Great to Perfect

Star Trek Episodes Ranked

First, let’s be clear: Ranking the best “Star Trek” episodes is a silly thing to do. To date, the longest-running American TV franchise has aired a gargantuan 890 episodes and counting, starting with the original series in 1966. Since then, at least one “Star Trek” TV show has aired (or streamed) every decade, totaling 11 so far (with more on the way ). Choosing the best episodes within such a boundless, occasionally contradictory storytelling galaxy seems about as wise as cheating when playing poker with a Klingon.

On the other hand, there may be no more time-honored tradition among “Star Trek” fans than a vigorous debate over what constitutes the best of the franchise. (Best series ? Best captains ? Best starships ? Best aliens ? Best uniforms ? They’ve all been ranked multiple times !)

In that spirit — and to commemorate the 57th anniversary of “Star Trek” on Sept. 8 —  Variety ’s resident “Trek” geeks have ranked the top 57 episodes of all time, across the franchise.

Creating our list required some deep-dish nerdiness in its own right: We compiled a long list of episodes from each series that we felt deserved to be on the final ranking. Then we created our own individual rankings — and promptly realized our taste was quite divergent. To reconcile our lists, we adopted the approach of the great movie ranking podcast, Screen Drafts : We took alternating turns placing a pick from 57 to 1, and we each had two opportunities to veto the other’s pick (which in every case was to ensure it was placed higher on the list).

Other than the short-lived “Star Trek: The Animated Series” (1973-1974), this list reflects every other iteration of “Trek” on TV: “Star Trek: The Original Series” (1966-1969); “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-1994); “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” (1993-1999); “Star Trek: Voyager” (1995-2001); “Star Trek: Enterprise” (2001-2005); “Star Trek: Discovery” (2017-2024); “Star Trek: Picard” (2020-2023); “Star Trek: Prodigy” (2021-2022); and the ongoing “Star Trek: Lower Decks” (2020-present) and “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds” (2022-present).

The Way to Eden

STAR TREK, Leonard Nimoy (far left), Season 3, Episode 20, 'The Way to Eden' aired February 21, 1969, 1966-1969. © Paramount Television/ Courtesy: Everett Collection

“The Original Series” — Season 3, Episode 20

Look, this episode gets a lot of hate. But the fact is “TOS” is known (by today’s standards) for being very campy, and there is no episode campier than this one. A group of space hippies board the Enterprise on their journey to a mythical planet called Eden, where they can live happily forever. The episode memorably features Charles Napier (who would go on to a long career playing tough guys, villains, cops and the like) breaking out into song a bunch of times, including a jam session with Spock (Leonard Nimoy). —Joe Otterson Original airdate: Feb. 21, 1969

Terra Prime

ENTERPRISE, (aka STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE), Jolene Blalock, Peter Weller, Connor Trinneer, (Season 4) Ep. 'Terra Prime', May 13, 2005. 2001 - 2005, Photo: Ron Tom. (c) Paramount Pictures/ Courtesy: Everett Collection.

“Enterprise” — Season 4, Episode 21 More than any other episode of “Enterprise,” “Terra Prime” made the most of the show’s mission to dramatize the beginnings of Starfleet, 100 years before the events of “TOS.” Just as a newfound coalition of planets begins to form on Earth (a precursor to the Federation), Captain Archer (Scott Bakula) and his crew must stop a xenophobic terrorist (played to the hilt by future “Star Trek Into Darkness” villain Peter Weller) bent on forcing all aliens to leave Earth. Subtle, it ain’t, but the story feels more relevant today than it did 20 years ago, and everyone in the cast gets a moment to shine. Alas, it came too late: “Enterprise” had been canceled before this episode even went into production. —Adam B. Vary Original airdate: May 13, 2005

star trek best episodes next generation

“Prodigy” — Season 1, Episode 6

The animated “Prodigy” was the first “Star Trek” series geared toward kids, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t things for older “Trek” fans to enjoy. In particular, “Kobayashi” perfectly embodies what makes this show a worthy entry in “Trek” canon. Dal (Brett Gray) and Jankom Pog (Jason Mantzoukas) discover the holodeck aboard the Protostar, where they decide to go through the Kobayashi Maru, a.k.a. the “no-win scenario” that Capt. Kirk successfully beat during his time at the Academy. He gets help along the way from legendary characters like Spock, Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Odo (René Auberjonois). —J.O.

Original airdate: Jan. 6, 2022

Stormy Weather

Pictured: David Ajala as Book, Grudge the cat and Sonequa Martin Green as Burnham of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

“Discovery” — Season 4, Episode 6

On a mission to discover the origins of a cataclysmic gravitational anomaly, the U.S.S. Discovery enters a subspace rift and finds itself trapped inside a lethal black void that threatens to collapse in on the ship. The result is a classic race-against-time thriller (directed by “Trek” mainstay Jonathan Frakes), but what makes “Stormy Weather” stand out amid the heavily serialized episodes of “Discovery” is its emotionally resonant use of the ship’s sentient A.I. computer, Zora (Annabelle Wallis), who has to learn how to calm her mind from overwhelming stimuli in order to guide the ship out of danger. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Dec. 23, 2021

Seventeen Seconds

Patrick Steward as Picard, Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher and Ed Speelers as Jack Crusher in "Seventeen Seconds" Episode 303, Star Trek: Picard on Paramount+.  Photo Credit: Monty Brinton/Paramount+. ©2021 Viacom, International Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

“Picard” — Season 3, Episode 3

“Picard” didn’t find itself until Season 3, which reunited the core cast of “The Next Generation” — and it was really Episode 3 that sealed the deal. Riker (Frakes) is forced to take command of the Titan as Vadic (Amanda Plummer) and the Shrike hunt them. Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Dr. Crusher get an all-time great scene together as she reveals why she never told him about their son, Jack (Ed Speleers). Worf (Michael Dorn) makes his big return. We learn the Changelings are still intent on attacking the Federation. Riker and Picard end up at odds in a way we’ve never seen before. In short, epic. —J.O.

Original airdate: March 2, 2023

The Enemy Within

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Original Series” — Season 1, Episode 5

The transporter — the cause of, and solution to, so many “Star Trek” problems — accidentally splits Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) into two people: Good Kirk, who is wracked with indecision, and evil Kirk, who is a histrionic asshole. Come for a meditation on the darkness that lies tucked inside everyone’s psyche, stay for some of William Shatner’s most deliciously hammy acting — and this was just the fifth episode of the series! —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Oct. 6, 1966

Family Business

star trek best episodes next generation

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 3, Episode 23

The Ferengi episodes of “DS9” are always great comic relief, with this episode giving fans their first view of the home planet of Ferenginar and Ferengi culture in general. Quark (Armin Shimerman) and Rom (Max Grodénchik) must return home when their mother, Ishka (Andrea Martin), is accused of acquiring profit (gasp!), something Ferengi females are forbidden to do. Shimerman and Martin shine as they play out Quark and Ishka’s relationship, while Grodénchik really gets to put his comedic chops on display. This episode is also notable as the first appearance of Brunt (Jeffrey Combs) from the Ferengi Commerce Authority, as well as Kasidy Yates (Penny Johnson Jerald), frequent love interest of Cmdr. Sisko (Avery Brooks). —J.O.

Original airdate: May 15, 1995

Blink of an Eye

star trek best episodes next generation

“Voyager” — Season 6, Episode 12

The Voyager gets stuck in orbit around a planet where time passes far more rapidly than in the rest of space, as the episode alternates between the bemused curiosity of Capt. Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and her crew and the awestruck preoccupation of the expeditiously progressing populace on the planet below, for whom Voyager is a sparkling, fixed constant in the night sky. At one point, the Doctor (Robert Picard) beams down to the planet to investigate, and a delay of only a few minutes on Voyager means he spends three years on its surface. He even adopts a son! One of the great, wild what if? episodes of “Star Trek.” —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Jan. 19, 2000

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Next Generation” — Season 3, Episode 23

Mark Lenard absolutely crushed the role of Spock’s father, Sarek, in multiple episodes across multiple “Star Trek” series and movies, but this episode is perhaps his finest performance as the character. Sarek comes to the Enterprise-D on what is meant to be his final mission, only for the crew to learn he is suffering from Bendii Syndrome. The condition leaves him prone to uncharacteristic emotional outbursts while also causing him to telepathically influence the emotions of those around him. Picard saves the day by mind melding with Sarek, allowing him to finish his mission with dignity — and provide Stewart with the chance for some powerhouse acting as he channels Sarek’s volcanic emotions. —J.O.

Original airdate: May 14, 1990

star trek best episodes next generation

“Enterprise” — Season 3, Episode 10

“Trek” loves a moral dilemma, and this one’s a doozy: After Cmdr. Tucker (Connor Trinneer) is critically injured while the Enterprise is on a deep space mission, Dr. Phlox (John Billingsley) suggests growing a “mimetic symbiote” of Trip — effectively, a clone with a built-in two-week lifespan — in order to create the brain tissue needed to save Trip’s life. But that means the Enterprise crew must endure watching Trip’s clone rapidly age from a precocious kid to an adult man (played by Trinneer with eerie self-possession), who then pleads for his own right to live. Creepy and heartbreaking in equal measure. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Nov. 19, 2003

Trials and Tribble-ations

STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, front from left: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy; back: Avery Brooks, Terry Farrell, 'Trials and Tribble-ations', (S5.E6, aired Nov 4, 1996), 1993-99. ©Paramount Television / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 5, Episode 6

This episode is a love letter to the original series, with the Defiant’s crew transported back in time to the events of “The Trouble With Tribbles.” A Klingon agent is planning to use a booby-trapped tribble to assassinate James T. Kirk. Thanks to digital editing, the crew is able to interact with the original Enterprise crew and keep the timeline intact. —J.O.

Original airdate: Nov. 4, 1996

star trek best episodes next generation

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 2, Episode 23

Mirror universe episodes of “Star Trek” are (almost) always fun, if ultimately a little silly. But this one — in which Kira (Nana Visitor) and Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig) find themselves in an alternate reality in which Bajor, Cardassians and Klingons subjugate humans as slaves — comes closest to matching the spark of discovery in the original “TOS” episode. It’s especially fun to watch Visitor devour the role of Kira’s deliciously wicked mirror counterpart, the Intendant. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: May 16, 1994

Memento Mori

Anson Mount as Pike and Ethan Peck as Spock of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: STRANGE NEW WORLDS. Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ ©2022 CBS Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“Strange New Worlds” — Season 1, Episode 4

This episode proved “Strange New Worlds” — the newest “Star Trek” series — could be as action-packed as the very best of “Star Trek.” The Enterprise crew find themselves on the run from the Gorn, a savage enemy (first introduced on “TOS” and largely ignored in “Trek” canon) about which they know virtually nothing. They are forced to use every resource at their disposal to outwit and outrun the Gorn, including tapping into the subconscious of La’an (Christina Chong), the only crew member who has encountered the aliens and survived. —J.O.

Original airdate: May 26, 2022


star trek best episodes next generation

“Voyager” — Season 5, Episode 10

The main story is a tense, WWII allegory: Capt. Janeway and her crew hide telepathic refugees while passing through the space of the Devore, who have outlawed telepaths. But the real story is the relationship Janeway forms with the lead Devore inspector, Kashyk (Mark Harelik), who suddenly shows up alone and announces he’s defecting. As Kashyk aids Janeway in finding safe harbor for the refugees, she realizes how much he’s her intellectual equal, and she finds herself drawn to him — in spite of (or perhaps spurred on by) her continued suspicion of his motives. A great, subtle performance by Mulgrew captures both Janeway’s steely wits and her private yearning. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Dec. 16, 1998

The Drumhead

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Next Generation” — Season 4, Episode 21

“Star Trek” has done a number of courtroom episodes, and this is one of the best. Rear admiral Norah Satie (Jean Simmons) is sent to investigate suspected sabotage aboard the Enterprise. The investigation quickly spirals into paranoia and accusations of treachery against a crew member who is revealed to have Romulan lineage. It is an excellent reminder of what can happen when persecution is dressed up as an attempt at greater security, with Picard using Satie’s father’s teachings to bring about her downfall. —J.O.

Original airdate: April 29, 1991

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Next Generation” — Season 7, Episode 8

More thwarted romance! The seasons-long will-they/won’t-they between Picard and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) gets its best showcase, when the pair are captured by isolationist aliens and given implants that allow them to read each other’s thoughts. You get the feeling Stewart and especially McFadden had been dying to play out this dynamic on the show, so they both bring years of sublimated longing to the episode. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Nov. 8, 1993

In the Hands of the Prophets

star trek best episodes next generation

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 1, Episode 20

Louise Fletcher’s performance as Vedek Winn (later Kai Winn) ranks among the best “Star Trek” villains of all time. Deeply religious to the point of fanaticism, Winn protests Keiko O’Brien (Rosalind Chao) teaching children on Deep Space Nine that the wormhole aliens are not deities, as many Bajorans believe. Winn’s words whip Bajorans on the station into a frenzy; Keiko’s school is bombed. But what Winn really desires is power, to the point she tries to get one of her followers to kill a fellow Vedek she sees as a threat. The episode sets up Winn’s role as a major antagonist throughout the series to great effect. —J.O.

Original airdate: June 21, 1993

The Trouble With Tribbles

STAR TREK, 1966-69, Ep.#42: "The Trouble With Tribbles," William Shatner, 12/29/67. Paramount/Courtesy: Everett Collection.

“The Original Series” — Season 2, Episode 15

If you’ve seen any episode of “TOS,” chances are it’s this one. While on shore leave at a space station, the Enterprise comes upon an adorably furry alien creature called a tribble, which are born pregnant, multiply exponentially, consume enormous quantities of food and react with alarm when in the presence of a Klingon. Fizzy and funny and, to this day, one of the best-known episodes of “Trek” ever. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Dec. 29, 1967

Balance of Terror

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Original Series” — Season 1, Episode 14

Introducing the Romulans alone makes this episode worthy of being on the list. But it’s also an epic cat-and-mouse game between Kirk and a Romulan commander played by none other than Mark Lenard, who would go on to play Sarek starting in Season 2. Kirk successfully lures the Romulan ship into a trap, leading to Lenard delivering the iconic line, “You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend.” —J.O.

Original airdate: Dec. 15, 1966

STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, from left: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton, 'Qpid', season 4, ep. 20, aired 4/20/1991, 1987-94. © Paramount Television/ Courtesy Everett Collection

“The Next Generation” — Season 4, Episode 20

John de Lancie never disappoints when he plays Q, but this episode offered a wonderful twist on his usual appearances. Following the events of “Deja Q,” Q returns to the Enterprise saying he owes Picard a debt. Picard repeatedly tells Q he wants nothing from him, but Q notices Picard has eyes for Vash (Jennifer Hetrick), the mercenary archeologist Picard first met on Risa. Being Q, he naturally transports Picard, Vash, and the bridge crew to a Robin Hood fantasy in which Picard must rescue Vash from the evil Sir Guy of Gisbourne (Clive Frevill). Added bonus: Worf, in scarlet tights, exclaiming in protest, “I am not a merry man!” —J.O.

Original airdate: April 22, 1991

STAR TREK, Bobby Clark (as the Gorn captain), William Shatner, in Season 1, Ep#19, 'Arena,' January 19, 1967. (c)Paramount. Courtesy:Everett Collection.

“The Original Series” — Season 1, Episode 18

The classic “trial by combat” episode that pitted Kirk against a Gorn captain on a barren, rocky planet (i.e. the storied filming location Vasquez Rocks ). Few images from “Star Trek” have become more iconic than the original Gorn costume, which was essentially an actor dressed as a large lizard. The ending is also an all-timer, with Kirk choosing to spare the Gorn, proving to the all-powerful Metrons that set up the trial by combat that humans are capable of more than just random violence. —J.O.

Original airdate: Jan. 19, 1967

A Mathematically Perfect Redemption

"A Mathematically Perfect Redemption”- Ep#307 --Jamies Sia as Kaltorus and Kether Donohue as Peanut Hamper in the Paramount+ series STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. Photo: PARAMOUNT+ ©2022 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved **Best Possible Screen Grab**

“Lower Decks” — Season 3, Episode 7

“Star Trek’s” first pure comedy (and second animated series) often plays as a twisted love letter to the entire “Trek” franchise — like when Peanut Hamper (Kether Donohue), one of the sentient Exocomp robots first introduced on “The Next Generation,” abandons the crew of the U.S.S. Cerritos in a time of need. This episode tracks Peanut Hamper’s journey to redemption afterwards, which involves her encountering a seemingly primitive species called the Areore. To say anything more would spoil the fun; suffice it to say, “Trek” has rarely provoked gasps of deep laughter like this episode does. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Oct. 6, 2022

Bar Association

star trek best episodes next generation

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 4, Episode 15

What better episode of “Star Trek” to talk about after Hollywood’s hot labor summer? Fed up with the unfair conditions at Quark’s bar, Rom talks the other workers into forming a union and going on strike. Max Grodénchik truly shines in this episode as the would-be union leader. Once Rom successfully gets Quark to agree to all the workers’ demands, he outright quits and goes to work as a repair technician for the station, setting up some of Rom’s best moments in the episodes to come. —J.O.

Original airdate: Feb. 19, 1996

STAR TREK: VOYAGER, from left: John Savage, Kate Mulgrew, 'Equinox', (Season 5, ep. 526, aired May 26, 1999), 1995-2001. photo: Ron Tom / ©Paramount Television / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Voyager” — Season 5, Episode 26 & Season 6, Episode 1

The Voyager swoops to the rescue of the Equinox, another Federation starship stranded in the Gamma Quadrant — only this one, led by Capt. Ransom (John Savage), is a smaller ship not meant for deep space travel. With their crew whittled down to just 12 people, Ransom has resorted to murdering alien creatures to use their bio-matter to boost the Equinox’s engines — a horrific violation of everything Starfleet stands for. The discovery pushes Janeway to her own limits, as she obsessively pursues the Equinox despite the cost to her own crew and her morality. The two-parter is one of the darkest episodes of “Star Trek,” a chilling reminder of how easily good people can find themselves slipping into disgrace. —A.B.V.

Original airdates: May 26, 1999 & Sept. 22, 1999

Who Mourns for Morn?

star trek best episodes next generation

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 6, Episode 12

Morn (Mark Allen Shepherd) was a “Deep Space Nine” fixture, always at Quark’s bar, but never actually speaking onscreen. But in this episode, with Morn apparently dead in an accident, everyone reveals the offscreen times they spent with him, including the revelation that he “never shuts up.” Quark inherits all of Morn’s property, which Odo relishes revealing is ultimately nothing. But as it turns out, Morn had a much more adventurous life before his time on “DS9” than anyone knew, leading his former comrades to seek him out to get a hold of the money they believed he still possessed. —J.O.

Original airdate: Feb. 4, 1998

Species Ten-C

Pictured: Sonequa Martin-Green as Burnham of the Paramount+ original series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. Photo Cr: Marni Grossman/Paramount+ © 2021 CBS Interactive. All Rights Reserved.

“Discovery” — Season 4, Episode 12

Other than the Gorn, almost all of the aliens on “Star Trek” are, essentially, humans with slightly different forehead ridges. But in its most recent season, “Discovery” embraced “Trek’s” prime directive (seeking out new life, bolding going where no one’s gone, etc.) by crafting a species that is truly alien: the Ten-C. Throughout the season, the Ten-C are presented as both a total mystery and an existential threat; when Capt. Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew of the Discovery finally reach them — outside the barrier of the Milky Way galaxy — they are unlike anything the show has ever encountered. Rarely has “Trek” applied more intellectual and emotional rigor to what it might actually be like to attempt first contact with extra-terrestrials, and rarely has it been this compelling. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: March 10, 2022

A Man Alone

STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, Alexander Siddig, Terry Farrell, Avery Brooks, Rene Auberjonois, 1993-1999, "A Man Alone

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 1, Episode 4

Odo is one of the best characters in “DS9” — and in the “Star Trek” universe — in general, and this is the first episode to really establish him as a standout . A known criminal returns to the station only to die shortly after, and Odo is accused of his murder. Odo’s status as an outsider, but ultimately someone to be respected, is made crystal clear in this episode, with even his archenemy Quark acknowledging that Odo is not the type to murder someone in cold blood. —J.O.

Original airdate: Jan. 17, 1993

Mirror, Mirror

STAR TREK, 1966-69, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, "Mirror, Mirror"--Ep.39, aired 10/6/67. Paramount/Courtesy: Everett Collection.

“The Original Series” — Season 2, Episode 4

The transporter strikes again, this time accidentally zapping Kirk, Uhura (Nichelle Nichols), Scotty (James Doohan) and Bones (DeForest Kelley) from their reality into a parallel universe in which the benevolent Federation has been replaced by the bloodthirsty Terran Empire, governed by brute force and fascistic exploitation — and Spock has a goatee! More silly than serious (and no less fun for it), the episode effectively spawned an entire sub-genre of parallel universe episodes of TV (from “Supernatural” to “Friends”) and gave generations of actors a chance to play wildly against type. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Oct. 6, 1967

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Next Generation” — Season 4, Episode 2

People rave about “The Best of Both Worlds” and Picard’s assimilation by the Borg, but fewer remember this incredible follow-up episode. Picard returns to his family vineyard to put the Borg incident behind him, even briefly thinking that he will leave Starfleet. Jeremy Kemp crushes it as Picard’s brother Robert, with the two sharing a memorable (and muddy) scene in which Picard breaks down and admits how much his assimilation has shaken him. The episode is also memorable for the appearance of Worf’s adoptive parents, who come to the Enterprise to be with him following his discommendation. —J.O.

Original airdate: Oct. 1, 1990

Living Witness

star trek best episodes next generation

“Voyager” — Season 4, Episode 23

For several minutes, “Living Witness” seems like a mirror universe episode, as a ruthless Janeway, captain of the “warship” Voyager, agrees to aid the Vaskans against the insurgent Kyrians by unleashing a biological weapon upon millions and executing the Kyrian leader. But then we realize that we’ve just witnessed a recreation at a Kyrian museum 700 years in the future, at which point a copy of the Doctor enters the story and learns, to his horror, how much the Kyrians have gotten wrong. What could have been a Rashomon-style caper instead becomes fascinating meditation on how the telling of history can be weaponized, even inadvertently, to maintain old wounds rather than heal them. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: April 29, 1998


star trek best episodes next generation

“The Next Generation” — Season 5, Episode 7 & 8

Spock appeared on “The Next Generation” a month before the release of 1991’s “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country” — but this time, at least, crass cross-promotion prompted some sublimely entertaining TV, as Picard and Data (Brent Spiner) aid Spock in his effort to reunify the Romulan and Vulcan peoples. [Stefon voice]: This two-parter has everything : Klingon warbirds, rude Ferengis, Tasha’s evil Romulan daughter Sela (Denise Crosby), Data and Spock philosophizing on their twin pursuits of logic and emotion, the death of Sarek, Worf singing Klingon opera with a four-armed bar pianist, and Picard and Spock mind-melding! —A.B.V.

Original airdates: Nov. 4 & 11, 1991

star trek best episodes next generation

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 7, Episode 9

Gul Dukat is the best villain in “Star Trek.” Yes, you read that right. The writers and actor Marc Alaimo created an incredibly nuanced character that goes through a remarkable arc over the course of the series. This episode, near the end of “DS9’s” run, reminds fans that Dukat sees himself as a savior, but is ultimately a force for evil. He establishes a cult dedicated to the Pah wraiths on Empok Nor, luring a number of Bajorans to his side. But of course, he also sleeps with his female followers and tries to trick them into a mass suicide. Amazing stuff. —J.O.

Original airdate: Nov. 23, 1998

The Last Generation

LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge, Brent Spiner as Data, Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher, Michael Dorn as Worf, Marina Sirtis as Deanna Troi, Jonathan Frakes as Will Riker and Patrick Stewart as Picard in "The Last Generation" Episode 310, Star Trek: Picard on Paramount+.  Photo Credit: Trae Patton/Paramount+. ©2021 Viacom, International Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

“Picard” — Season 3, Episode 10

The cast of “TNG” infamously never got their swan song, after 2002’s “Star Trek: Nemesis” bombed in theaters, so this series finale serves as a gift both to them and to “TNG” fans. Every character gets their spotlight, including the resurrected Enterprise-D, as Picard, Riker, Dr. Crusher, Data, Worf, LaForge (LeVar Burton) and Troi (Marina Sirtis) all help to take down the Borg once and for all. The final scene — everyone sitting around a poker table, laughing and reminiscing — is as pure and satisfying an expression of fan service as anything “Trek” has ever done. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: April 20, 2023

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Next Generation” — Season 3, Episode 13

Until this episode, Q was an enjoyably malevolent force within “TNG,” an omnipotent being who’d gleefully pop up now and again to play with the lives of the Enterprise-D crew. But here, when Q suddenly appears on the bridge, he’s been stripped of all his powers (and all of his clothes) and begs Picard for safe harbor. At first, no one believes him — even after Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) stabs him with a fork — which only fuels John de Lancie’s sparkling performance, as Q confronts life as ( shudder ) a mortal human. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Feb. 3, 1990

An Embarrassment of Dooplers

205: “An Embarrassment of Dooplers” -- Commander, Dawnn Lewis as Captain Carol Freeman an  Richard Kind as Dooplers of the Paramount+ series STAR TREK: LOWER DECKS. Photo: PARAMOUNT+ ©2021 CBS Interactive, Inc. All Rights Reserved **Best Possible Screen Grab**

“Lower Decks” — Season 2, Episode 5

The title refers to an alien called a Doopler, who duplicate themselves whenever they get embarrassed — which, naturally, becomes an issue the moment one steps foot on the Cerritos. But really, this episode is one of those deeply enjoyable “Trek” episodes that is less about story than it is about the vibes , as the characters spend their downtime winningly contending with the central premise of the show: The bittersweet contentment of life at the bottom of the ladder. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Sept. 9, 2021

STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE, from left: John Colicos, William Campbell, Michael Ansara, 'Blood Oath', (S2, E19, aired March 27, 1994), 1993-99. ©Paramount Television / Courtesy Everett Collection

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 2, Episode 19    

The lives of the past hosts of the Dax symbiont are a recurring plot device on “DS9,” and no episode does it better than this one. A group of Klingons who knew Curzon Dax arrive at the station and enlist Jadzia’s (Terry Ferrell) help in killing their sworn enemy, a criminal known as The Albino who killed the three Klingons’ first-born sons. Jadzia ultimately honors the blood oath, as the episode explores the meaning of honor and solidarity. —J.O.

Original airdate: March 28, 1994

Where No Man Has Gone Before

STAR TREK, Sally Kellerman (left), Paul Fix (2nd from right), George Takei (right), 'Where No Man Has Gone Before', (Season 1, ep. 103, aired Sept. 22, 1966), 1966-69.

“The Original Series” — Season 1, Episode 3

The famed second pilot episode of “Star Trek” (which introduced William Shatner as Capt. Kirk) is a strange artifact today: Bones and Uhura aren’t aboard yet, Sulu (George Takei) isn’t at the helm, the Enterprise has a psychiatrist (played by Sally Kellerman), and the uniforms and sets look a bit off. But the central story — Kirk’s best friend, Gary Mitchell (Gary Lockwood), is zapped by an energy blast at the edge of the galaxy, and begins to exhibit extraordinary psychokinetic powers — is vintage “Trek”: Brainy, brawny, and just the right side of uncanny. And it’s fascinating now to see how well-established Kirk and Spock’s dynamic of emotion vs. logic was from the very start. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Sept. 22, 1966

The Measure of a Man

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Next Generation” — Season 2, Episode 9

Data’s quest for humanity is at the very core of “TNG,” and this stirring episode literally puts that quest on trial — and establishes the show’s voice for the rest of its run. A Starfleet scientist wants to dismantle Data in order to create more androids, but Data refuses, setting up an intense courtroom drama — is Data merely a machine and the property of Starfleet? — with Picard representing Data while Riker is forced to represent the scientist. —J.O.

Original airdate: Feb. 13, 1989

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Next Generation” — Season 4, Episode 26 & Season 5, Episode 1

The Klingons started on “Trek” as a not-that-thinly-veiled metaphor for the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War, but over the decades, they’ve developed their own richly detailed mythology. This two-parter (which aired just before the fall of the USSR) depicts a civil war within the Klingon Empire that leads to Worf’s decision to leave the Enterprise and join the fight. For a series that was episodic by design, this is the closest “TNG” ever got to serialized storytelling, incorporating events from several previous episodes — including the shocking introduction of Tasha’s Romulan daughter, Sela. —A.B.V.

Original airdates: June 17, 1991 & Sept. 23, 1991

star trek best episodes next generation

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 1, Episode 11

It is endlessly entertaining to see Quark get what he wants as he then  learns that it’s way more trouble than he realized. This episode sums that idea up nicely, while also featuring the first of many wonderful appearances by Wallace Shawn as Ferengi leader Grand Nagus Zek. Zek unexpectedly names Quark his successor, only for Zek to die shortly after. Quark is thrilled at first, before he realizes being the Nagus puts a massive target on his back. This episode also helps build the friendship between Nog (Aron Eisenbeg) and Jake (Cirroc Lofton), with Jake secretly teaching Nog how to read. —J.O.

Original airdate: March 22, 1993

Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy

STAR TREK: VOYAGER, (from left): Robert Picardo (right), 'Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy', (Season 6, aired Oct. 13, 1999), 1995-2001. © Paramount Television / Courtesy: Everett Collection

“Voyager” — Season 6, Episode 4

Yearning to grow past his programming, the Doctor allows himself the ability to daydream, in one of the flat-out funniest episodes of “Trek” ever. It opens with Robert Picardo singing opera as Tuvok (Tim Russ) undergoes pon farr (i.e. the madness to mate that consumes Vulcan males) and just gets wilder from there, up to the moment when the Doctor, who’d fantasized about taking over command of Voyager in an emergency, does it for real. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Oct. 13, 1999

STAR TREK, 1966-69, Leonard Nimoy (as Spock) & Arlene Martel (as his bride, T'Pring), in episode #34, "Amok Time," 9/15/67.

“The Original Series” — Season 2, Episode 1

Speaking of pon farr, this is the “TOS” episode that first establishes it — as well as the planet Vulcan, several Vulcan customs and traditions, and the now legendary Vulcan salute (honorable mention: Spock actually smiles!). Wracked with pon farr, Spock asks for leave back on his home planet, and eventually reveals that he must meet his betrothed, T’Pring (Arlene Martel). Naturally, Kirk and Spock end up in a fight to the death in one of the most iconic battles in “Star Trek” history. —J.O.

Original airdate: Sept. 15, 1967

Year of Hell

star trek best episodes next generation

“Voyager” — Season 4, Episode 8 & 9

The most lasting criticism of “Voyager” is that every week, no matter what happened in the previous episode, the ship and crew emerged unscathed and ready for a new adventure. As if in response, this two-parter tracks a year in which the Voyager is ravaged to the point of near ruin by repeated encounters with an aggressive alien species called the Krenim. Unbeknownst to the crew, they’re actually the victims of a Krenim scientist, Annorax (Kurtwood Smith), who developed a technology to alter the fabric of time by erasing entire species from ever existing. This is as harrowing and merciless as “Trek’s” ever been, but it’s not quite the best episode of “Voyager” due to the irony of its ending: Janeway crashes the husk of the Voyager into Annorax’s timeship — which resets the timeline completely, as if nothing that we’d seen had ever happened. —A.B.V.

Original airdates: Nov. 5 & 12, 1997

star trek best episodes next generation

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 3, Episodes 11 & 12

“Star Trek” often addresses timely societal issues, but this episode put them firmly in a 21st century context. Sisko, Bashir, and Dax accidentally wind up in San Francisco circa 2024, where poverty and oppression of the disadvantaged are running rampant (crazy how that remains timely, huh?). When a man meant to serve an important purpose in an historic riot is accidentally killed too soon, Sisko is forced to take his place. —J.O.

Original airdate: Jan. 2, 1995 & Jan. 9, 1995

Those Old Scientists

Tawny Newsome, Jack Quaid and Anson Mount appearing in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, streaming on Paramount+, 2023. Photo Cr: Michael Gibson/Paramount+

“Strange New Worlds” — Season 2, Episode 7

In one of the rare “Trek” crossover episodes, Ens. Boimler (Jack Quaid) and Ens. Mariner (Tawny Newsome) from “Lower Decks” find themselves zapped back to the era when Capt. Pike (Anson Mount) captained the Enterprise. Marshalled by Jonathan Frakes’ steady hand as a director , the disparate tones of “Lower Decks” and “Strange New World” somehow mesh perfectly, and hilariously, together. Packed with guffaw-worthy laughs, “Those Old Scientists” also becomes a deeply poignant expression of the impact “Trek” has had on generations of fans. Maybe it’s controversial to place one of the most recent “Trek” episodes so high on this list, but this one more than earns its spot. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: July 22, 2023

The Best of Both Worlds

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Next Generation” — Season 3, Episode 26 & Season 4, Episode 1

This two-parter is frequently cited as the best “Next Generation” storyline of all time, mostly because it features one of the most iconic cliffhangers in all of television. The Borg attack the Federation, leading to a showdown with the Enterprise. Picard is captured and assimilated, revealing himself to his crew as Locutus of Borg. If we’re splitting Borg nano-probes, the second half doesn’t quite live up to the first, which is why, for us, it doesn’t quite rank into the Top 10. Special shoutout to this episode for setting up the incredible “Star Trek” film “First Contact.” —J.O.

Original airdate: June 18, 1990 & Sept. 24, 1990

star trek best episodes next generation

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 1, Episode 19

When a Cardassian named Marritza (Harris Yulin) arrives on Deep Space Nine, Kira realizes he must have worked at one of the most notorious labor camps during Cardassia’s occupation of Bajor, and she arrests him as a war criminal. What follows is effectively a two-hander, as Kira’s interrogation of Marritza leads to a series of revelations that unmoor her hard-won fury at the atrocities inflicted upon her people. The conventional wisdom is that “DS9” didn’t get cooking until the Dominion War, but this early episode proves that this show was providing great, searing drama from the start. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: June 14, 1993

STAR TREK, Ep.#24: 'Space Seed,' Ricardo Montalban, William Shatner, 2/16/67. Paramount/Courtesy: Everett Collection.

“The Original Series” — Season 1, Episode 22

Ricardo Montalbán makes his debut as Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically superior dictator from Earth’s Eugenics Wars. Khan and his people have been in suspended animation for 200 years and are looking to dominate humanity once again. Naturally, Kirk is able to beat Khan in a riveting confrontation, but rather than send him and his people to a penal colony, he agrees to let them settle on the wild planet, Ceti Alpha V. The episode proved to be so good, it led to the 1982 film “Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan,” arguably the best “Trek” movie of all time. —J.O.

Original airdate: Feb. 16, 1967

star trek best episodes next generation

“Voyager” — Season 5, Episode 6

There’s something about time travel — and the twisty narrative paradoxes it can cause — that has engendered some of the best episodes of “Trek” ever made. That certainly includes this stunning “Voyager” episode, which opens with Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) and Chakotay (Robert Beltran), 15 years in the future, discovering the frozen husk of the Voyager buried inside a glacier on a barren ice planet. It turns out Kim made a critical mistake that caused the catastrophic accident, from which only he and Chakotay survived. Their unyielding fixation to right that wrong — and erase the previous 15 years from history — makes for a gripping nail-biter about regret and devotion. Not only did LeVar Burton direct, but he cameos as Capt. Geordi La Forge! —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Nov. 18, 1998

The Defector

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Next Generation” — Season 3, Episode 10

Did a Romulan admiral really defect to the Federation, or are the Romulans perpetrating an elaborate hoax on Picard and the Enterprise crew? This wonderful episode sees the admiral in question (played by James Sloyan) claiming the Romulans are building a secret base within the Neutral Zone, forcing Picard to consider whether or not he should investigate and thus risk starting a war. It also features the excellent opening in which Picard tries to teach Data about humanity by having him act out scenes from Shakespeare’s “Henry V.” —J.O.

Original airdate: Jan. 1, 1990

Chain of Command

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Next Generation” — Season 6, Episode 10 & 11

Lured into Cardassian territory under false pretenses, Picard is captured and systematically tortured by a ruthless interrogator, Gul Madred, in a chilling performance by David Warner. Their disturbing tête-à-tête — Picard is stripped naked and nearly broken by the end — would be enough for one of the all-time best “Trek” episodes. But this two-parter also boasts Ronny Cox as Capt. Jellico, Picard’s replacement on the Enterprise, whose prickly and demanding leadership style creates all kinds of thrilling friction among the crew. —A.B.V.

Original airdates: Dec. 14 & 21, 1992

In the Pale Moonlight

star trek best episodes next generation

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 6, Episode 19

In this fantastic episode, Sisko grapples with the ethics of doing whatever it takes to get the Romulans to join the Dominion War on the Federation-Klingon side. This includes falsifying evidence and freeing a known criminal from Klingon prison with the help of master spy Garak (played by the always wonderful Andrew Robinson). Sisko (while recording a personal log) delivers a series of powerful monologues direct to camera about why he did what he did, ultimately deciding it was worth it in the end. —J.O.

Original airdate: April 13, 1998

The City on the Edge of Forever

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Original Series” — Season 1, Episode 28

Accidentally hopped up on stimulants, a crazed Bones leaps through a time portal on an alien planet and winds up changing history so drastically that the Enterprise disappears. Kirk and Spock travel back to stop him, and land in New York City during the Great Depression, where they learn that Bones saved the life of Sister Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), a pacifist whose message resonates so strongly that the U.S. stays out of WWII, allowing the Nazis to conquer Europe. Alas, Kirk falls deeply in love with Keeler, establishing a classic “Trek” moral dilemma: How does one suppress their most profound personal feelings for the greater good? An all-timer that still resonates today. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: April 6, 1967

Far Beyond the Stars

star trek best episodes next generation

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 6, Episode 13

In this Avery Brooks-directed episode, Sisko envisions himself as a Black science fiction writer in 1950s New York named Benny Russell. Russell dreams up a story about the crew of a space station led by a Black captain, but his publisher refuses to run it. This episode is memorable for many reasons, the biggest of which being its handling of racism, but it also allows the show’s main cast gets to appear without any prosthetics or makeup, as completely different characters, to great effect. —J.O.

Original airdate: Feb. 9, 1998

Yesterday’s Enterprise

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Next Generation” — Season 3, Episode 15

The Enterprise-C, believed to have been destroyed over 20 years earlier, emerges from a temporal anomaly and resets history into a decades-long war between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Tasha — killed off in Season 1 (after Denise Crosby wanted to leave the show) — is brought back to life, and falls for the Enterprise-C’s helmsman (Christopher McDonald), while Guinan implores Picard that something is desperately wrong with history and he must send the Enterprise-C back to certain doom. Somehow, this episode crams a movie’s worth of story into a nimble and rousing 44 minutes. Not a second is wasted. Outrageously great. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: Feb. 19, 1990

The Inner Light

star trek best episodes next generation

“The Next Generation” — Season 5, Episode 25

When the Enterprise comes upon a mysterious probe, Picard is suddenly hit with a signal that plunges him into a different man’s life on a dying planet. There, Picard experiences half a lifetime, with a wife, children and grandchildren, all in the space of 25 minutes. When Picard realizes this was all meant as a time capsule — a way to preserve the stories of the people of the planet, which was destroyed 1,000 years earlier by an exploding star — the revelation that he lived the life he’d long forsaken as a Starfleet captain, only to have it ripped away, is almost more than he can bear. But hoo boy, does it make for stunning, deeply moving television. In fact, almost no episode of “Trek” is better. Almost. —A.B.V.

Original airdate: June 1, 1992

The Visitor

star trek best episodes next generation

“Deep Space Nine” — Season 4, Episode 2

Don’t watch this one without tissues handy. This emotionally devastating episode gets right to the heart of what made “DS9” so special — the relationship between Sisko and his son, Jake. Told in flashbacks by an elderly Jake (Tony Todd), the episode recounts how Sisko became unstuck in time, briefly revisiting Jake over the course of his life, and how Jake is determined to bring him back. In brief, fleeting moments, Sisko tells Jake not to worry about him and to live his life to the fullest. But Jake cannot bear the thought of losing his father forever, ultimately sacrificing his own life to restore the normal flow of time. —J.O.

Original airdate: Oct. 9, 1995

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The Best Episode From Each Season of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’


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Star Trek: The Next Generation is one of the greatest science fiction television shows of all-time, even if it took a few seasons for the series to figure out its identity. While the initial episodes of The Next Generation struggled to flesh out all of the characters, relying on absurd comedic premises or simplistic metaphors, the series would grow into a more mature, enthralling entry into the Star Trek canon as it progressed.

Those watching the series for the first time may struggle to prioritize the essential episodes to catch up on , considering the series ran for seven seasons with over 175 episodes. These are the best episodes of every Star Trek: The Next Generation season.


Season 1, episode 24 (1988).

Season 1 is a somewhat rough one for The Next Generation ; after the solid two-part premiere episode “Encounter At Farpoint,” the season steeps into a heavy decline in quality with episodes that didn’t reflect the more serious tone in the later seasons. However, the penultimate episode, “Conspiracy” breathed new life into the series by showing the strong leadership skills that defined Captain Jean-Luc Picard ( Patrick Stewart ).

RELATED: The 10 Most Underrated 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Episodes

Picard’s sense of moral justice leads him to discover a conspiracy among senior Starfleet officers who have been compromised by a parasitic alien race; it puts Picard in a position in which he must defy orders.

“The Measure of a Man”

Season 2, episode 9 (1989).

While some episodes of The Next Generation have not aged well when it came to social politics, the episode “Measure of A Man” served as an interesting exploration of personal identity. When Data’s ( Brent Spiner ) autonomy is questioned, Picard must come to his defense in a legal case that forces his right-hand man, William Riker ( Jonathan Frakes ), into the role of prosecutor.

RELATED: 'Star Trek: Picard' Season 3: What Does It Mean Now That [SPOILER] Are Back?

The episode makes the argument that all lives are capable of thought and creation and should be protected under the freedoms ensured to them by Starfleet. It’s a particularly timely episode to watch now in the wake of discussion about artificial intelligence.

“Yesterday’s Enterprise”

Season 3, episode 15 (1990).

The security chief, Tasha Yar ( Denise Crosby ) , hadn’t been utilized to her fullest potential in the first season; during its early stages, The Next Generation didn’t offer a whole lot for its female characters to work with. Thankfully, the time travel episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise” offered Crosby the chance to reprise her role to give Yar the sense of closure that she deserved.

Time travel didn’t always work on The Next Generation , but “Yesterday’s Enterprise” showed that with the use of creative sets, inventive writing, and solid logical reasoning, time travel could be explained in a relatively reasonable way. "Yesterday's Enterprise" not only offered a fascinating look at a darker version of the setting we know and love, but properly sent-off Crosby's character.

“The Drumhead”

Season 4, episode 21 (1991).

The fourth season is one of The Next Generation ’s best, as after Picard’s capture by the Borg in the third season’s finale, “The Beat of Both Worlds (Part 1),” the series had become must-see television. However, the villain in “The Drumhead” isn’t an alien race but the very real concept of radical political fundamentalism.

RELATED: How This 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' Quote Changed the Way I Look At the World

Jean Simmons appeared in a guest role as the renowned Starfleet investigator Admiral Norah Satie, who is dead set on exposing a supposed conspiracy within the Enterprise ’s crew. Even when faced with contradictory evidence, Satie refuses to accept facts as she works towards her predetermined notion of an officer’s guilt.

“The Inner Light”

Season 5, episode 25 (1992).

It’s easy to forget that outside of his roles as Picard and Professor Charles Xavier in the X-Men franchise, Stewart was best known for his work in Shakespearean adaptation and classical theater. Stewart showed his dramatic range as an actor in the fifth season’s penultimate episode, “The Inner Light.”

When he’s stranded on an unfamiliar planet, Picard must communicate with a primal race of creatures in order to get back to his crew. The episode sets up a few plot points that would be paid off in both Star Trek: Generations and the new Paramount+ series Picard .


Season 6, episode 15 (1993).

Q ( John de Lancie ) is one of the most fun recurring characters on The Next Generation , and always seems to provide a good dose of humor to the series. However, Q enters a more serious storyline in "Tapestry," which sees him giving Picard the chance to relive some memories from his youth.

Although Picard often feels like the quintessential hero and leader, “Tapestry” reveals that he made mistakes that he now regrets as an older man. While Picard can’t change the past, the mistakes he made are ones that he has learned from.

“All Good Things…”

Season 7, episode 25 (1994).

Many great shows struggle to pull off the perfect finale, and The Next Generation ’s finale had the responsibility of sending off the new Enterprise crew satisfyingly that set up their upcoming adventures in the upcoming film Generations .

The two-part series finale “All Good Things…” serves as the perfect callback to “Encounter at Farpoint,” with the crew of the Enterprise forced once again to fight for the survival of humanity. The final shot, which sees the crew playing cards together and bonding, embodies the themes of equality that are represented in the best Star Trek stories.

KEEP READING: Picard and Crusher's Star Trek Love Story Taps Into Our Favorite Romance Tropes

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The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation poses with computer panels in the background.

The 15 Best ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Episodes of All Time, Ranked

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It’s a great time to be a Star Trek fan! Between Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks , Trek fans have a wealth of great shows to watch. But why limit yourself to what’s currently coming out? Why not go back and watch some Star Trek: The Next Generation ? If you’re not sure which episodes to revisit first, we’ve conveniently ranked the ones that we think are the best of the best.

But what if you’re new to Star Trek: TNG ? Don’t worry. The show is episodic, so you can jump in pretty much anywhere and you’ll be able to pick up what’s going on.

Here are the top 15 Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, ranked.

15. “Yesterday’s Enterprise” (season 3, episode 15)

Tasha Yar looks worried on the Enterprise.

In “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” a temporal rift opens and the Enterprise C emerges. The moment it does, reality changes aboard the Enterprise D—and Guinan is the only one who notices. This episode is a fun look at an alternate timeline, with the return of Tasha Yar as a bonus.

14. “The Wounded” (season 4, episode 12)

O'Brien sits at a bar with a Cardassian.

In “The Wounded,” Transporter Chief O’Brien’s former commanding officer, Captain Maxwell, has gone rogue. Maxwell believes that the Cardassians are planning a renewed war against the Federation, and Picard sends O’Brien to try and reason with him. This episode is a deft exploration of trauma and paranoia, known for its touching scene set to the Irish song “The Minstrel Boy.”

13. “Lower Decks” (season 7, episode 15)

Four junior officers sit around a Ten Forward table.

No, it isn’t the hilarious animated Star Trek sitcom! “Lower Decks” is the TNG episode that inspired the idea of exploring life among lower-ranking crew members. Four junior crew members are fretting about promotions when they’re enlisted for a secret mission. This episode includes an interesting look at the Enterprise from the little guys’ perspective, plus a surprisingly emotional ending.

12. “Tapestry” (season 6, episode 15)

Picard wears a science officer's uniform while talking to Worf.

In “Tapestry,” Star Trek ‘s take on It’s a Wonderful Life , Q visits Picard while Picard is injured. Q shows him what his life would have been like if he hadn’t gone through a painful event from his past. If you want to see Picard being kind of a loser—like, not a huge loser, just kind of a loser—this is the episode for you.

11. “The Drumhead” (season 4, episode 21)

Picard sits on the stand, surrounded by a crowd, in The Drumhead.

In “the Drumhead,” Admiral Satie is tasked with investigating an explosion aboard the Enterprise. However, Satie is so paranoid about a Romulan plot that her investigation turns into a McCarthyist witch hunt. Come for the thrilling plot, stay for the pointed social commentary.

10. “Family” (season 4, episode 2)

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' season 4, episode 2, "Family"

Star Trek: The Next Generation knew how to handle trauma, and the aftereffects of Picard’s abduction and brainwashing by the Borg gave the writers ample material to work with. In “Family,” Picard takes shore leave to recover from his time as Locutus, and has to deal with his estranged brother on the family vineyard. Although this episode has no phaser battles or weird science, it’s an emotionally satisfying story of anger and redemption. It also features a moving scene with Dr. Crusher and her son Wesley, and an appearance by Worf’s adopted parents, who are always a lot of fun.

9. “Cause and Effect” (season 5, episode 18)

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' season 5, episode 18 "Cause and Effect'

In “Cause and Effect,” the Enterprise is stuck in a time loop! Even worse, the loop ends with the ship’s fiery destruction! Time loops are always fun—see, for example, Groundhog Day and Palm Springs —and this episode does a great job of portraying the disorientation of finding yourself in one. At first, no one on the ship is aware of what’s going on, but the sense of déjà vu eventually gets too strong to ignore, so the crew needs to science their way out of trouble while continually having their timelines reset.

8. “I, Borg” (season 5, episode 23)

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' season 5, episode 23 "I, Borg"

After Picard’s time as Locutus of Borg, the Enterprise crew captures a single Borg soldier in “I, Borg.” Cut off from the collective, the lone Borg is disoriented and confused, and Picard plans to infect him with a virus and use him to wipe out the Borg completely. However, after Geordi nicknames him “Hugh,” Picard is forced to acknowledge the Borg’s humanity. “I, Borg” is great not just because it explores the implications of a Borg being cut off from the collective (a theme that Voyager would later delve into with Seven of Nine). It also lets us see Picard’s flaws, as he wrestles with the temptation to commit genocide in order to get revenge.

7. “The Measure of a Man” (season 2, episode 9)

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' season 2, episode 9, "The Measure of a Man"

In “The Measure of a Man,” A Starfleet scientist arrives with a mandatory transfer for Data, whom he believes is Starfleet property. He wants to study Data’s positronic brain in the hopes of creating more androids, and he’s conscripting Data for a dangerous, potentially fatal experiment. Data is forced to convince a judge that he’s a sentient being, in a scene that doesn’t just echo our own sordid history of slavery—it explores profound questions of sentience and consciousness.

6. “Darmok” (season 5, episode 2)

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' season 5, episode 1 "Darmok"

In “Darmok,” Picard is stranded on a planet with a member of a confounding alien race. The universal translator doesn’t work on them for some reason, and everything the guy says is gibberish. This episode forces Picard to work with someone whom he doesn’t understand, making for some great drama and quick-thinking. It also explores interesting questions about language. A sci fi adventure story that makes linguistics cool and exciting? Hell yeah. See you at Tanagra, baby.

5. “The Inner Light” (season 5, episode 25)

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' season 5, episode 25 "The Inner Light"

In “The Inner Light,” Picard is incapacitated by a mysterious probe. As he lies unconscious on the bridge, he finds himself transported to a sleepy village on an alien planet. Unable to wake up or escape, he slowly settles into a life there with his newfound family. This episode is an example of how well TNG combined high-concept science fiction with beautifully rendered human (uh, alien) stories. The revelation at the end, along with that final shot, are unforgettable.

4. “The Offspring” (season 3, episode 16)

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' season 3, episode 16 "The Offspring"

Reproduction is a fundamental aspect of being alive, and Data, in his quest to become more human, decides to become a dad in “The Offspring.” He creates a child, Lal, forcing the humans around him to question their own prejudices surrounding his rights and humanity. Like “Measure of a Man,” “The Offspring” is an emotionally-charged exploration of rights, consciousness, and humanity.

3. “Chain of Command” (season 6, episodes 10 and 11)

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' season 6, episodes 10 and 11, "Chain of Command"

“Chain of Command” is a two-parter that gives us both a thrilling black ops storyline, and biting political commentary. Picard is assigned to a secret mission to gather intelligence about a new Cardassian bio-weapon. However, he’s captured and tortured. In an homage to George Orwell’s 1984 , Picard’s interrogator turns on four lights and asks how many Picard sees, trying to convince him there are actually five. The episode aired years before the Bush administration would try to rehabilitate public acceptance of torture, but it’s a potent exploration of the psychological aspects of so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

2. “All Good Things …” (season 7, episodes 25 and 26)

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' season 7, episodes 25 and 26, "All Good Things"

Whenever Q showed up on TNG , you knew you were in for a good time, and in the series finale, “All Good Things…,” he didn’t disappoint. In “All Good Things…,” Q tells Picard that he’s still on trial to determine whether the Q Continuum should destroy humanity. Picard finds himself jumping between three different time periods, including the future, in which he lives with a disabling neurological condition called Irumodic Syndrome. Picard has to work with all three versions of his crew to save humankind.

Along with being excellent mind-bending sci fi, “All Good Things…” was an emotional sendoff for the crew of the Enterprise-D.

1. “The Best of Both Worlds” (season 3, episode 26; season 4, episode 1)

'Star Trek: The Next Generation' season 3, episode 26 and season 4, episode 1 "The Best of Both Worlds"

Does it get any better than “The Best of Both Worlds?” In the first half of this two-parter, the Enterprise crew encounters the Borg, who kidnap Picard. In one of the most exciting (and torturous!) cliffhangers of all time, the Borg reveal that they’ve assimilated Picard, rechristening him Locutus. In part 2, which aired three months later, Riker takes the captain’s chair while the crew tries to get Picard back.

The Borg are frightening enough when they’re assimilating anonymous alien races out in the reaches of space, but seeing them take one of the most beloved leads on the series was jaw-dropping for fans. “The Best of Both Worlds” may not reach the philosophical heights of some other episodes on this list, but in terms of classic, gripping Star Trek , it can’t be beat.

(featured image: Paramount)

Screenshot from Adventure Time S6E1

star trek best episodes next generation

Geordi's Most Embarrassing Star Trek: TNG Episode Is Great For Captain Picard

  • Captain Picard shines in "Booby Trap," showing his piloting skills and passion for archeology.
  • Episodes like this highlight Picard's multifaceted character beyond his role as a Starship Captain.
  • Picard's love of archeology is a recurring theme in TNG and even continues in "Star Trek: Picard."

One Star Trek: The Next Generation episode may have been embarrassing for Lt. Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), but it was a great showcase for Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). Following the adventures of the USS Enterprise-D and its crew, TNG had its fair share of ups and downs, but ultimately delivered more great episodes than bad ones. Still, some episodes were a mixed bag, with two separate storylines that didn't quite gel. For example, Geordi's awkward attempts at romance brought down one episode that otherwise told a solid and intense story.

Star Trek: The Next Generation season 3, episode 6, "Booby Trap," is most remembered for Geordi's unfortunate holodeck "romance" with Dr. Leah Brahms (Susan Gibney), but the hour also has some great Captain Picard moments. When the Enterprise detects a distress call from a Promellian battlecruiser, Picard insists on boarding the ancient ship to investigate. At the site of the final battle between the Promellians and the Menthars, Picard's interest in archeology takes over. When the Enterprise gets stuck in a trap left by the Menthars, Geordi works to find a solution, but Picard gets to fly the ship out of the debris field.

25 Best Star Trek: TNG Episodes Of All Time

Star Trek: The Next Generation produced some of the best and most beloved science fiction television of all time. Here is TNG's best of the best.

Forget Geordi, Star Trek: TNG's "Booby Trap" Is A Great Episode For Captain Picard

Picard gets to indulge in his interests and show off his piloting skills..

When Captain Picard first sees the Promellian battlecruiser floating amongst the debris, Jean-Luc cannot hide his excitement at the prospect of exploring a historical relic. Picard even reminiscences about the ships in bottles he built as a boy, saying he probably had a Promellian battlecruiser. Although Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) points out that there could be dangers lurking on the old ship, Picard insists on leading the away team. With his interest in archeology and history, Picard is not about to let this opportunity pass by.

It's a joy to see the usually stoic Captain Picard express genuine excitement, as Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) points out. When Picard questions why Riker and Troi are sharing a look, Troi remarks: "It's just a rare pleasure to meet this side of your personality." Picard also gets to show off his piloting skills as he maneuvers the Enterprise out of the debris field, using an asteroid's gravitational pull as a slingshot to gain extra momentum. Geordi (with help from Holo-Leah Brahms) may have come up with the solution that saves the day, but Captain Picard is the one who ultimately saves the Enterprise.

Picard's Love of Archeology Comes Up Several Times On TNG & Star Trek: Picard

Picard never stops being fascinated by ancient history & archeology..

Established in TNG season 2, episode 11, "Contagion," Captain Picard's interest in archeology pops up several times throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation . Inspired by Professor Galen (Norman Lloyd), his archeology instructor at Starfleet Academy, Picard likely would have been an archeologist if he had not become a Starship Captain. When Picard takes time for shore leave on Risa in TNG season 3, episode 19, "Captain's Holiday," he gets pulled into an archeological treasure hunt with the intriguing archaeologist Vash (Jennifer Hetrick). Although Jean-Luc does not get much time to indulge in his personal interests, it's always fun to see him get excited about an important archeological find.

As revealed in Star Trek: Lower Decks , Picard continued to support the Independent Archaeologists Guild and even funded the efforts of archeologist Petra Aberdeen (Georgia King).

In Star Trek: Picard season 1 , Jean-Luc has retired from Starfleet and spends his time tending to his family's vineyard in La Barre, France. Picard finds this life unfulfilling, and he retains a vault at the Starfleet Archive Museum that contains artifacts from his many adventures. Like an archeologist collects ancient relics and pieces of history, Picard has amassed a collection of objects from the most important parts of his life , including a banner from Captain Picard Day and paintings done by Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner). Jean-Luc Picard may be a Starfleet Captain first and foremost, but his love of archeology stretches throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation and beyond.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Cast Michael Dorn, LeVar Burton, Brent Spiner, Wil Wheaton, Jonathan Frakes, Patrick Stewart, Marina Sirtis, Gates McFadden

Release Date September 28, 1987

Showrunner Jeri Taylor, Michael Piller, Rick Berman

Geordi's Most Embarrassing Star Trek: TNG Episode Is Great For Captain Picard

How Long It Would Take To Watch All of Star Trek (Yes, ALL of It)


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Over the five decades since its inception, the Star Trek universe continues to inspire new generations of Trekkies. The original series that began in the mid-1960s has spawned countless spinoffs in television shows, as well as animation and feature films, some of which are still under production.

Someone new to this massive franchise may be wondering just how long it will take to watch all of Star Trek. With so many series and films in the catalog, catching up on everything may seem like a daunting task. Even some diehard fans have no idea just how many episodes of Star Trek there are. This list will divide the franchise into different categories to show just how long it takes to watch them. This way, consuming the entire Star Trek saga won't seem so intimidating after all.

Updated by Robert Vaux on June 8, 2024: Star Trek stands at something of a crossroads with Discovery finishing its five-season run and Lower Decks preparing for its fifth and final season. Despite that, the franchise has a very bright future, with Star Trek: Strange New Worlds carrying the banner forward and projects like Star Trek: Section 31 in active production. The article has been updated to include information on ongoing Star Trek series, as well as new details on all of the entries in the franchise.

13 The Original Series Introduces Viewers to the Cast and Universe of Star Trek

Every star trek role played by clint howard, from tos to discovery.

Although Clint Howard has played four different roles across four eras of Star Trek, he's also the only actor to be on both TOS and Discovery to date.

For a series with so much significance in television and pop culture history, it's surprising to find out that Star Trek: The Original Series lasted for just 79 episodes over three seasons. Ironically, that's shorter than the "five-year mission" it touts in its opening credits. That was enough for it to enter syndication, however, which is where the bulk of its fans first discovered it.

Each TOS episode lasts around 50 minutes for a total of 3,950 minutes, meaning it will take just under 66 hours to watch them all uninterrupted. In other words, The Original Series can be finished in less than a week with constant binging. Even those who don't have that much time can finish watching the show in under a month by screening 2–3 episodes an evening. Unlike most subsequent Star Trek series, TOS episodes are designed to be interchangeable, so switching the viewing order won't disrupt any larger plot threads.

Star Trek: The Original Series

In the 23rd Century, Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise explore the galaxy and defend the United Federation of Planets.

12 The Next Generation Found an Audience Starved for Science Fiction

Star Trek: The Next Generation was so successful during its seven-season run that it's arguably more popular today than The Original Series . It successfully released the series from covering the exploits of just one crew, and cemented the formula that every Star Trek series since then has followed. The Next Generation 's episode count topped its predecessor by almost a hundred for a total of 178 episodes, each with an approximately 44-minute runtime.

That adds up to a series total of 7,832 minutes or 130.5 hours — just under five and half days . If the viewer is free from work for about two weeks, The Next Generation series can be completed with ease. While it adopts a more formal structure than TOS -- with the characters advancing in age and experience from season to season -- most of its episodes are either stand-alone, or one of a two-part arc, making them very easy to enjoy in small 1-2 episode doses.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

Set almost 100 years after Captain Kirk's 5-year mission, a new generation of Starfleet officers sets off in the U.S.S. Enterprise-D on its own mission to go where no one has gone before.

11 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Proved There Was Room for Multiple Star Trek Series

How star trek: discovery's trill story connects to dax on deep space nine.

Star Trek: Discovery returned to the Trill home world in Season 5 for a mission with a symbiont host that connects to Jadzia Dax on Deep Space Nine.

Near the end of Star Trek: The Next Generation 's run, Paramount created another series that could run alongside it. The new series broke from Star Trek tradition by being set on a space station, Deep Space 9, that connected the Federation to the Milky Way galaxy. It explored the darker side of the Final Frontier, culminating in the terrible threat of the Dominion War that forced the entire Alpha Quadrant to stand together.

Another breakout success, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine ran for another seven seasons from 1993 to 1999. Those seven seasons, comprise 176 episodes, each running an average 45 minutes. That's a grand total of 7920 minutes or exactly 132 hours. People willing to watch five episodes a night could likely finish it within a month's time. Deep Space Nine was the first Star Trek series to embrace longer and more complicated plot arcs. Viewers should be prepared for longer binges, or else break big story lines down into multiple viewing sessions.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

In the vicinity of the liberated planet of Bajor, the Federation space station Deep Space Nine guards the opening of a stable wormhole to the far side of the galaxy.

10 Star Trek Voyager Continued To Break From Traditions

Star Trek: Voyager took over after Star Trek: The Next Generation ended, ensuring there were still two Star Trek series on the air. The series went back to setting the series on the starship Voyager. T he Voyager is run by Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew,) the franchise's first female lead , who aims to get her people home after being stranded. It took big risks on wild story lines, resulting in some of the saga's best episodes as well as its most bizarre.

Star Trek Voyager was another success for Paramount and their new network UPN, running for seven seasons. Like the prior show, each episode ran 45 minutes. At 172 episodes, that places the full series runtime at 7,740 minutes or 129 hours. This is another series that would require roughly a month of binging to get through. Its format is reasonably loose, however, and individual episodes can be readily watched without having to commit to anything more in a single viewing.

Star Trek Voyager

Pulled to the far side of the galaxy, where the Federation is seventy-five years away at maximum warp speed, a Starfleet ship must cooperate with Maquis rebels to find a way home.

9 Star Trek: Enterprise Is Star Trek's Last TV Series for Over a Decade

After running multiple Star Trek television series throughout the '90s, the franchise was gradually beginning to cool off. Finally, Paramount launched one more series, Star Trek: Enterprise . Unlike the others, Enterprise was intended as a prequel even to the original series. It followed Earth's first attempt at trying to make First Contact with other alien races. Led by Scott Bakula's Captain Archer, the first U.S.S. Enterprise paved the way for the founding of the United Federation of Planets.

Star Trek: Enterprise didn't quite have the same popularity that the other series did, and was hobbled by behind-the-scenes developments that had little to do with the show itself. Instead, it ran for four seasons and only 98 episodes. At 42 minutes an episode, that adds up to 4116 minutes, or 68.6 hours. That means it can be viewed in less time than the previous three Star Trek series, though it makes use of longer plot threads, and fans may need to plan for longer binges to get through them.

Star Trek: Enterprise

A century before Captain Kirk's five-year mission, Jonathan Archer captains the United Earth ship Enterprise during the early years of Starfleet, leading up to the Earth-Romulan War and the formation of the Federation.

8 Short Treks Offers Mini Side Stories

Some stories within the Star Trek universe don't need a full forty or fifty minutes to reach a satisfying conclusion. With that in mind, Bryan Fuller and Alex Kurtzman launched Star Trek: Short Treks . Running alongside Star Trek: Discovery , Short Treks gives viewers a chance for smaller stories to check out.

The project began back in 2018 with a season of four episodes, while a second season launched a year later with six episodes. The shows run from 8 to 18 minutes, and with only ten episodes, there are only 150 minutes so far . Fans can check that out in a single weekend. They're designed for easy single viewing sessions as well, and can even be added as riders to episodes of Discovery .

7 Star Trek: Picard Revisits Many of the Ideas From TNG

After years of fans watching stories about new characters, the new era of Star Trek finally decided to revisit an older era. In 2020, Star Trek: Picard decided to tell the first new story with Admiral Jean-Luc Picard since the Star Trek: The Next Generation films. Initially, Picard worked with a new cast that wasn't connected to the original series, but across the show, more of the classic characters were gradually added back in.

Star Trek: Picard ran for three seasons from 2020 to 2023, with ten episodes in each season for a total of thirty episodes. Episode lengths varied wildly since the series was on CBS All Access and could go from 39 minutes to 62 minutes. The full minute count, though, is 1350 minutes, or 22.5 hours. That's basically one solid weekend of marathoning or a week of leisurely watching episodes. Like Star Trek: Discovery , each season of Picard is based around a single large story line: allowing for single-season binges of about 10 hours apiece.

Star Trek: Picard

Follow-up series to Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987) and Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) that centers on Jean-Luc Picard in the next chapter of his life.

6 Animated Star Trek Series Have Become an Important Part of Star Trek

'hopefully we find a new home': jack quaid reacts to star trek: lower decks ending at paramount+.

Star Trek: Lower Decks' Jack Quaid laments the show ending while deeming himself "unbelievably grateful" for the chance to star in this world.

Star Trek: The Animated Series only lasted for two seasons in the early 1970s, releasing 22 episodes that were each 24 minutes long. Franchise creator Gene Roddenberry initially disowned the series -- making it hard to find for many years -- though it has since rejoined canon and now serves as the de facto fourth and fifth years of the original Enterprise's five-year mission. The Animated Series is only 528 minutes long or just under 9 hours. The whole series can be watched in just a single day, and individual episodes can be viewed as riders alongside TOS episodes.

Star Trek: Lower Decks premiered its first season in 2020 with 10 episodes. Each episode is 25 minutes long, totaling 250 minutes, meaning that the entire first season can be watched in just over four hours. Seasons 2 through 4 of Lower Decks also have 10 episodes each, making the total runtime around 1000 minutes. A final fifth season is planned, which will likely bring the total runtime up to around 1250 minutes or so. In addition, Very Short Treks is the most recent animated Star Trek series with five episodes, each running about 10-15 minutes long. All three animated series combined would take just under 1600 minutes or just under 27 hours.

Star Trek: Lower Decks

The support crew serving on one of Starfleet's least important ships, the U.S.S. Cerritos, have to keep up with their duties, often while the ship is being rocked by a multitude of sci-fi anomalies.

5 Currently Active Star Trek Series Continue To Expand Star Trek's Universe

At present, there are only three Star Trek series that are still running: Star Trek: Discovery , Star Trek: Prodigy , and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds . The first season of Prodigy is already out: 20 episodes amounting to a total of 480 minutes or 8 hours. A second (and presumably final) season is due in the summer of 2024, with another 20 episodes and another 480 minutes assumed in totem. That will boost the screening time for the entire series to 16 hours, or a single long day of binging.

Star Trek: Discovery has just completed its fifth and final season, leaving 65 episodes in its count with a total running time of 3,138 minutes or 52.3 hours . Episode lengths vary widely, as is typical in the streaming era, but average about 45 minutes apiece. Discovery uses season-long plot arcs the same way Picard does (it was originally conceived as an anthology series), and viewers who wish can comfortably binge a single season in a single day's viewing without trouble.

Finally, Strange New Worlds has two seasons with ten episodes in each, running a total of 1,082 minutes or a touch over 18 hours . That's short enough for a single-day binge. (A third season is on the way, which will add about another 9 hours to the total running time once complete.) Strange New Worlds emphasizes stand-alone episodes, making it very good for short viewing sessions of one or two episodes apiece.

Star Trek: Discovery

4 star trek: tos films gave the original series cast a comeback.

Ten years following the end of The Original Series , the adventures of Captain Kirk continued on the big screen. The TOS movies proved to be vital parts of the franchise, including such key moments as the death (and resurrection) of Mr. Spock and the original cast's formal good-bye at the end of the six-movie run.

Running times reflect the theatrical release of each movie, and may extend slightly, depending on whether any extended or alternate cuts are being viewed. Star Trek: The Motion Picture has a run time of 132 minutes. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan , universally considered the best film in the franchise, is 113 minutes long. The Leonard Nimoy-directed Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is 105 minutes, and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is 122 minutes. William Shatner's Star Trek V: The Final Frontier is 106 minutes, and Nicholas Meyer's The Undiscovered Country has a 110-minute running time. Overall, the original film series clocks in at a total of 688 minutes, which equals 11 hours and 28 minutes.

3 Star Trek: TNG Movies Offer a Sense of Scale to the New Era

The Next Generation did not have the same big-screen success as the original series but made four films following the end of the show. The first film, Star Trek Generations , featured both Picard and Kirk and is 118 minutes long. The best-reviewed of the films, Star Trek: First Contact , clocks in at 111 minutes, Star Trek: Insurrection is shorter at 103 minutes, and the last film, Star Trek: Nemesis , is 116 minutes long.

The four Next Generation films combined run at a total of 448 minutes, equaling 7 hours and 28 minutes. Binging all four movies can be done within the span of a single day, though their varying quality may induce some viewers to break them down into shorter viewing periods.

2 The Kelvin Timeline Movie Series Press the Reset Button on the Series

Star trek is getting a kelvinverse origin, but why are fans skeptical.

Star Wars veteran Simon Kinberg has been added to an upcoming origin movie for Star Trek and the Kelvin Timeline universe, but fans aren't pleased.

The most recent movie series, known as The Kelvin Timeline films, takes place in an alternate reality featuring the crew from The Original Series. It was created when Spock attempted to stop the Romulan sun from going supernova and exists in a parallel-but-separate timeline from the rest of the series. It's credited with keeping the franchise going during the extended gap in TV series between the end of Star Trek: Enterprise and the beginning of Star Trek: Discovery .

The Kelvin movie franchise consists of three films, with each film varying in length. 2009's Star Trek runs 127 minutes, the 2013 sequel Star Trek Into Darkness is just five minutes longer at 132, and the latest film, Star Trek Beyond , is actually the shortest at 122 minutes. The film trilogy totals 381 minutes, or 6 hours and 21 minutes. New Trekkies can finish this trilogy very quickly.

1 How Many Hours of Star Trek Are There?

Did gene roddenberry try to have a gay character on the original star trek.

In the latest TV Legends Revealed, learn what Gene Roddenberry's plans were on having LGBTQ+ characters on the original Star Trek series

All 13 Star Trek films have a combined total of 25 hours and 28 minutes, or just over a full day. Every single television series, both currently airing and retired, totals up to around 48,700 minutes, which is approximately 812 hours or 33.8 days. Every series and movie combined totals 837.5 hours, meaning it will take 34.9 days to watch them all uninterrupted.

Obviously, watching them all consecutively is impossible, but realistically, watching everything in the Star Trek franchise could take less than half a year. This doesn't even include upcoming movies like Star Trek 4 and new seasons for existing series. For those who believe this beloved universe is worth investing over 50,200 minutes, it's time to boldly go where only die-hard Trekkies have gone before.

The Star Trek universe encompasses multiple series, each offering a unique lens through which to experience the wonders and perils of space travel. Join Captain Kirk and his crew on the Original Series' voyages of discovery, encounter the utopian vision of the Federation in The Next Generation, or delve into the darker corners of galactic politics in Deep Space Nine. No matter your preference, there's a Star Trek adventure waiting to ignite your imagination.

Star Trek

Screen Rant

Recasting star trek: the next generation for a movie reboot.


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Counselor Troi's 10 Best Star Trek: TNG Episode, Ranked

Doctor who's matt smith reflects on the life-changing experience of carrying on the doctor's legacy, every q star trek appearance ranked worst to best.

  • TNG could get a successful big-screen reboot like The Original Series thanks to modern Hollywood actors.
  • Recasting TNG crew is tough as original cast members were irreplaceable. But new actors could coexist.
  • TNG's best moments revisited with possible modern actors for revamped roles, bringing new energy.

Who would play the crew of the USS Enterprise-D if Star Trek: The Next Generation were rebooted as a new movie? With J.J. Abrams' blockbuster films, Star Trek: The Original Series has already gotten a successful big-screen reboot, and TNG could benefit from the same treatment. Following the adventures of Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the USS Enterprise-D, TNG had an amazing cast of characters who became just as popular as Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) and his Enterprise crew. Recasting the TNG crew would be no easy feat, as many of the actors came to embody the characters they played.

Throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation 's seven seasons, the crew of the USS Enterprise-D became a family and the cast members remain close friends today. While TNG 's original cast members are irreplaceable, they could coexist alongside a new cast for a big-screen reboot. With actors like Michelle Yeoh, Jason Isaacs, Holly Hunter, and, most recently, Paul Giamatti, modern Star Trek has been incredibly successful with its casting. Many big-name Hollywood actors love the Star Trek franchise and would jump at the chance to be a part of it. Here are 10 modern actors who could portray an updated cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

25 Best Star Trek: TNG Episodes Of All Time

Star Trek: The Next Generation produced some of the best and most beloved science fiction television of all time. Here is TNG's best of the best.

10 Julian Hilliard as Wesley Crusher

Originally portrayed by wil wheaton.

Although he is currently only 12 years old, Julian Hilliard has already appeared in numerous hit television shows and films. As young Luke in Mike Flanagan's The Haunting of Hill House , Hilliard perfectly captured the fear and wonder of a young, curious boy living in a creepy old mansion. Hilliard also portrayed Billy Maximoff, one of Wanda Maximoff's (Elizabeth Olsen) twins, in WandaVision and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

Not only does Hilliard already have experience playing the son of Elizabeth Olsen's Wanda, but he seems more than capable of playing the young boy genius, Wesley Crusher. Wesley may not have been TNG's most popular character, but Wil Wheaton did the best he could with the role, and the character always had potential. Julian Hilliard could bring new energy to the role and round out the regular cast of TNG.

9 Marie Avgeropoulos as Counselor Deanna Troi

Originally portrayed by marina sirtis.

Best known for portraying Octavia Blake on the CW's post-apocalyptic drama The 100 , Marie Avgeropoulos would make a great Counselor Deanna Troi. Early in The 100, Octavia is one of the show's most empathetic characters, but she becomes a formidable warrior as the show progresses. Still, Avgeropoulos has the right look for Troi, and she showed her range as an actress on The 100.

In the first three seasons of The 100, Octavia is involved in a romantic relationship with Lincoln (Ricky Whittle), a warrior from a group of survivors called the Grounders. With their very different personalities, this relationship is reminiscent of the one between Deanna Troi and Worf in Star Trek: The Next Generation's final season. Like Marina Sirtis, Marie Avgeropoulos also has Greek parents.

Marina Sirtis's empathic Counselor Deanna Troi had some great moments throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation's seven seasons.

8 Elizabeth Olsen as Dr. Beverly Crusher

Originally portrayed by gates mcfadden.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Elizabeth Olsen showed her incredible range as an actress, playing Wanda Maximoff (aka The Scarlet Witch) as a frightened orphan, a powerful Avenger, a devoted wife and mother, and a malevolent force fueled by her grief. In WandaVision, in particular, Olsen got to lean into her domestic tendencies before eventually unleashing the full might of her power.

Elizabeth Olsen has been nominated for two Golden Globe awards, for her performance as Wanda Maximoff in WandaVision and as housewife Candy Montgomery in HBO's Love & Death .

Like Dr. Beverly Crusher, Wanda would do anything for her children, but she's also a strong and capable woman outside of her role as a mother. On Star Trek: The Next Generation, Dr. Crusher was incredibly empathetic, but was also willing to stand up to Captain Picard when needed. Elizabeth Olsen has already proven more than capable of playing both sides of a role like Dr. Crusher.

7 John Boyega as Lt. Geordi La Forge

Originally portrayed by levar burton.

British actor John Boyega rose to fame after playing Stormtrooper-turned-rebel Finn in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and its two sequels. Like Geordi La Forge, Finn has a strong sense of empathy and morality, choosing to join the resistance rather than participate in the cruelty of the First Order. Boyega starred in the Netflix science fiction comedy They Cloned Tyrone as multiple characters, proving his versatility as an actor.

John Boyega also portrayed King Ghezo alongside Viola Davis's General Nanisca in the historical epic The Woman King . While Boyega's performance in Star Wars: The Force Awakens was almost universally praised, the character of Finn was underutilized in the two sequels. Boyega has proven himself to be a talented actor who could undoubtedly play the brilliant and compassionate Geordi La Forge .

6 Laz Alonso as Lt. Worf

Originally portrayed by michael dorn.

As Marvin T. "MM (Mother's Milk)" Milk on Amazon Prime's The Boys , Laz Alonso has both the warrior mentality of Worf and his strong sense of morality. The Boys has a skewed morality compared to Star Trek, but MM is often the one holding Billy Butcher (Karl Urban) back from his darker impulses. MM is out for revenge against the defense contractor that owns the superhero team known as the Seven, which also draws comparisons to Worf.

Laz Alonso portrayed the villain in the fourth film in the Fast & Furious franchise, and he played Na'vi warrior Tsu'tey in James Cameron's Avatar. In The Boys and Avatar, Alonso plays both MM and Tsu'tey as strong and loyal warriors who also have a soft side . Life Worf, they fight for what they believe in and would protect their friends and families with their lives.

5 Matt Smith as Lt. Commander Data

Originally portrayed by brent spiner.

British actor Matt Smith has the perfect look and acting range to portray the USS Enterprise-D's resident android, Data (Brent Spiner). On the BBC's Doctor Who , Matt Smith brought a childlike wonder to the Eleventh Doctor, while also making it believable that he was a 900-year-old time lord. Both of these characteristics would serve him well playing Data, as the android is both ageless and childlike.

Matt Smith was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of Prince Philip in Netflix's The Crown, and currently stars as Daemon Targaryen on HBO's House of the Dragon, a prequel to Game of Thrones. With all of these very different roles, Matt Smith has shown that he has just as much range as Brent Spiner, who portrayed both Data and his evil twin Lore (as well as several members of the Soong family).

Former Doctor Who star Matt Smith reflects on the life-changing experience he had carrying on the Doctor's legacy, getting to portray the character.

4 Richard Madden as Commander William Riker

Originally portrayed by jonathan frakes.

Scottish actor Richard Madden has played princes, spies, and superheroes, and elements of all of these characters could be incorporated into a portrayal of Commander William Riker . Riker was an accomplished Starfleet officer who became less uptight as Star Trek: The Next Generation progressed, and Madden has the charm to play Riker as a ladies' man and the leadership qualities to play him as First Officer of the Starship Enterprise.

As Robb Stark in HBO's Game of Thrones, Madden commanded armies before his untimely death at the infamous red wedding . Like many Star Trek actors, Madden has also performed in numerous Shakespeare plays. In 2016, he starred as Romeo in a West End production of Romeo and Juliet, alongside Lily James as Juliet, and directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Richard Madden won a Golden Globe award for his performance as war veteran and police officer Sergeant David Budd in the critically acclaimed miniseries, Bodyguard.

3 Toby Stephens as Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Originally portrayed by patrick stewart.

No one could ever replace Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, but British actor Toby Stephens could make the role his own. Stephens delivered an incredible performance as the ruthless pirate Captain James Flint in Starz's Black Sails , and he could bring the same commanding energy to the role of Picard. As both Captain Flint and John Robinson in Netflix's Lost in Space , Stephens has played a strong and capable leader who remains calm in a crisis.

Most recently, Toby Stephens appeared as the Greek god Poseidon in the Disney+ adaptation of Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

Like Patrick Stewart, Toby Stephens began his acting career on the stage and is a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Stephens has starred in numerous Shakespeare plays, including a portrayal of Hamlet for the 2004 Royal Shakespeare Company production. Not only has Stephens proven he can lead the cast of an ensemble show, but he can also perform the hell out of a speech, a quality necessary for Captain Picard.

2 David Tennant as Q

Originally portrayed by john de lancie.

Scottish actor David Tennant has the perfect chaotic energy to play the omniscient god-like being known as Q. As the Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who, Tennant perfectly captured the sometimes manic, but always intelligent and profoundly compassionate nature of the Doctor. David Tennant's version of Q could also incorporate elements of his Good Omens character, Crowley, who enjoys wreaking havoc on occasion, but genuinely cares for his friend Aziraphale (Michael Sheen).

John de Lancie's god-like Q became one of Star Trek's most popular recurring characters, and here are all of his appearances ranked worst to best.

The energy David Tennant brought to the manipulative villain Killgrave on Marvel's Jessica Jones could come in handy in playing the darker Q of early TNG. When Q later developed a fondness for Picard, he became more playful, which is where Tennant's Doctor energy would come in handy. Like many British actors, Tennant has also performed in numerous Shakespearean adaptations and even played Hamlet alongside Patrick Stewart's Claudius.

1 Lisa Berry as Guinan

Originally portrayed by whoopi goldberg.

Another important recurring character on Star Trek: The Next Generation was Whoopi Goldberg's Guinan , who served as the bartender in Ten Forward on the USS Enterprise. Like many real-world bartenders, Guinan was always willing to listen and offer advice to any of the crew members on board. As Billie the Reaper on the CW's Supernatural , Lisa Berry was believable as an ageless being who often knew more than she let on.

Later in Supernatural, Billie became Death incarnate, making her even more powerful and knowledgeable.

Berry certainly has the right energy to play Guinan as someone who will tell you what you need to hear rather than what you want to hear. Berry had quite a screen presence on Supernatural and she could bring that same compelling energy to playing the enigmatic El Aurian bartender. Whether or not the characters of Star Trek: The Next Generation ever get recast, there are many talented actors who would be perfect for a role in a potential reboot.

Star Trek: The Next Generation

*Availability in US

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Star Trek: The Next Generation is the third installment in the sci-fi franchise and follows the adventures of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the crew members of the USS Enterprise. Set around one hundred years after the original series, Picard and his crew travel through the galaxy in largely self-contained episodes exploring the crew dynamics and their own political discourse. The series also had several overarching plots that would develop over the course of the isolated episodes, with four films released in tandem with the series to further some of these story elements.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

Best Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes

Stephanie Beacham and Daniel Davis in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

1. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Ship in a bottle.

Brent Spiner and James Doohan in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

2. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Ronny Cox and Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

3. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Chain of command, part i.

Richard Allen and Paul Winfield in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

4. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Brent Spiner and LeVar Burton in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

5. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Time's arrow, part ii.

Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, and Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

6. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Second chances.

Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

7. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Yesterday's enterprise.

Marina Sirtis, Ronny Cox, Patrick Stewart, and Tracee Cocco in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

8. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Chain of command, part ii.

Marina Sirtis in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

9. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Face of the enemy.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

10. Star Trek: The Next Generation

James Sloyan in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

11. Star Trek: The Next Generation

The defector.

Patrick Stewart and Kathryn Leigh Scott in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

12. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Who watches the watchers.

Kelsey Grammer in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

13. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Cause and effect.

Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, and Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

14. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Patrick Stewart and Norman Lloyd in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

15. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

16. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Terry O'Quinn in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

17. Star Trek: The Next Generation

The pegasus.

Jonathan Del Arco in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

18. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, and Patti Yasutake in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

19. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Future imperfect.

Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

20. Star Trek: The Next Generation

All good things....

Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, and David Spielberg in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

21. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Starship mine.

Jonathan Frakes, Wil Wheaton, and John Putch in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

22. Star Trek: The Next Generation

A matter of honor.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

23. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Time's arrow.

Patrick Stewart and Shannon Fill in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

24. Star Trek: The Next Generation

Lower decks.

Jonathan Frakes and Brent Spiner in Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987)

25. Star Trek: The Next Generation

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Published Jun 14, 2024

EXO-6 Unveils Museum-Grade Collectible Captain Picard Figures from Star Trek: The Next Generation

The series' 1:6 scale museum-grade articulated figures are open for pre-order!

Illustrated LCARs banner of an EXO-6 Next Generation Picard collectible figure with the text 'Captain Picard action figure,' 'leader,' 'tea drinker,' and 'flautist'

Let's make sure history never forgets the name Enterprise .

Captain Jean-Luc Picard, "Yesterday's Enterprise "

In celebration of this weekend's Captain Picard Day , is thrilled to share that EXO-6 is releasing the meticulously crafted 1:6 scale museum quality figure of Captain Jean-Luc Picard from Star Trek: The Next Generation , now available for pre-order ! This extraordinary collectible captures the essence of the legendary Starfleet captain in stunning detail.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Captain Jean-Luc Picard 1:6 Museum Grade Action Figure situated on the Bridge of the Enterprise-D

Star Trek: The Next Generation Captain Jean-Luc Picard Collectible Figure

EXO-6 is celebrating this wonderful character with three separate offerings suited to every fan's budget and desires. The more extensive "Standard" version with two uniforms and a wide range of accessories, and two different "Essential" versions — one with his everyday Duty Uniform, and the other with the casual uniform first seen in the episode " Darmok ." Each essential figure comes with a phaser and tricorder.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard ( Star Trek: The Next Generation ) - "Standard" Version

EXO-6 Star Trek: The Next Generation Jean-Luc Picard Standard Version of the figure with all its offerings

The Standard version of Captain Picard is the ultimate expression of our favorite captain with significant accessories from some of his most memorable adventures.

The Standard Version includes:

  • Fully Articulated Body : More than 30 points of articulation allow the figure to be displayed in multiple dynamic poses, approximately 30 cm tall.
  • Realistic Portrait : Lovingly rendered by a top artist, this is a perfect likeness of Patrick Stewart as the good captain. Each head sculpt is specially hand-painted.
  • Two Full Uniforms That Can Be Changed Out : the Duty Uniform and the "Darmok" Uniform

"Standard" Version - Accessories

EXO-6 Star Trek: The Next Generation Captain Jean-Luc Picard Standard Edition Accessories include: PADD, Risian Horga’hn fertility idol, Ressikan flute, Captain Picard Day banner

Captain Picard is outfitted with everything needed for a Starfleet officer. He comes equipped with the following accessories:

  • Type II hand phaser : The phaser can be worn in a black holster that magnetically attaches to the pants.
  • TR-580 Tricorder VII : This standard tricorder can be opened or worn in a holster.
  • PADD (Personal Access Display Device) : the data display device used on board the Enterprise.
  • Teacup : A clear teacup with Captain Picard’s Earl Grey tea.
  • Risian Horga'hn fertility idol : A culturally significant artifact from the pleasure planet Risa, featured in the episode "Captain's Holiday."
  • Ressikan flute : Featured in the episode "The Inner Light," this flute is significant for its deep emotional connection to Jean-Luc Picard, who learns to play it during his experience of living an entire lifetime while under the influence of an alien probe. This poignant storyline makes the Ressikan flute a symbol of memory, identity, and the enduring impact of personal experiences.
  • "Captain Picard Day" banner : Created by the children of the Enterprise -D in the episode "The Pegasus." The day is dedicated to honoring the Captain and underscores Picard's role as a respected and inspirational leader, highlighting his sometimes reluctant but meaningful connection with the younger members of the crew.
  • Seven hands posed for the various accessories. 

Captain Jean-Luc Picard ( Star Trek: The Next Generation ) - "Essential" Version with Duty Uniform

EXO-6 Star Trek: The Next Generation Jean-Luc Picard Essential Version of the figure with all its offerings

The Duty Uniform consists of:

  • Starfleet Duty Uniform Tunic : Meticulously researched, this duty uniform tunic matches the pattern, fabric and color of the original costume. An authentically scaled TNG communicator badge is permanently affixed to the tunic.
  • Starfleet Duty Uniform Pants : This faithful replica of the pants worn by the Enterprise crew in Star Trek: The Next Generation feature accurate styling to the original costumes. A magnetic fastener allows the phaser and tricorder holsters to attach to the pants.
  • Boots : Soft plastic cut in the original style of the footwear worn in Star Trek: The Next Generation .

The accessories included in the Duty Version:

  • Type II hand phaser : The phaser can be worn in a black holster that magnetically attaches to the pants.
  • Four hands posed for the various accessories.  

Captain Jean-Luc Picard ( Star Trek: The Next Generation ) - "Essential" Version with "Darkmok" Uniform

EXO-6 Star Trek: The Next Generation Jean-Luc Picard Essential Version of the figure with all its offerings and 'Darmok' Uniform

Captain Jean-Luc Picard ( Star Trek: The Next Generation ) - "Essential" Version with "Darmok" Uniform

The " Darmok" Uniform consists of:

  • Casual jacket : Simulated microsuede jacket with black shoulders. The "Darmok" jacket casual uniform variant was designed by Robert Blackman at the request of Patrick Stewart to make Captain Picard stand out from the rest of his crew and because Stewart wasn't happy with the uncomfortable standard duty uniforms. Producer David Livingston commented, "The genesis of the design was that submarine and aircraft commanders sometimes have a jacket that's special." In its first appearance, the jacket featured leather-like shoulders; however, in all other appearances, the shoulders were microsuede, with a synthetic fiber resembling suede used for the burgundy division color.
  • Uniform Trousers : Similar to the trousers worn in The Original Series films these have bloused bottoms that go over the boot.
  • Grey shirt : A ribbed grey shirt with a high collar has permanently attached Captain's rank pips.

The accessories included in the "Darmok" Version:

Close-up of the Star Trek: The Next Generation Captain Jean-Luc Picard 1:6 Museum Grade Action Figure

Captain Jean-Luc Picard's ethical leadership, intellectual depth, and moral integrity makes him a cornerstone of the world of Star Trek . Portrayed by Sir Patrick Stewart, his nuanced and commanding performance brought credibility and gravitas to the series. Picard embodies the ideals of Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets, representing the best of what humanity and the Federation strive to be and he is central to many of the series' most influential episodes, which often explore complex philosophical and ethical themes. His character's enduring legacy continues to resonate with fans, and his triumphant return in Star Trek: Picard cemented his place as one of the most significant characters ever created for the franchise.

Whether you're reliving the voyages of the U.S.S. Enterprise -D or commemorating Captain Picard's most memorable moments, this figure is an essential addition to any Star Trek collection. Each version offers unparalleled detail, authenticity, and the timeless charisma of Jean-Luc Picard, making this a must-have for fans and collectors alike.

Order now to secure your piece of Star Trek history and celebrate the enduring legacy of Captain Jean-Luc Picard with these exceptional museum-quality figures — "Standard" Version (SRP $250), "Essential" Duty Version (SRP $190), and "Essential" 'Darmok' Version (SRP $200) — from EXO-6.

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