September 28, 1987…Trekkies around the world huddled in front of their TVs to see if Star Trek: The Next Generation would live up to their expectations. Almost uniformly, that initial answer was no. That first episode, “Encounter at Farpoint” was a bit slow, a bit stiff and a bit disappointing. But the series quickly recovered in that first season, and a couple of that season’s shows even stand as some of the finest of the series’ 178 episodes.
Certainly it captivated my friends and I for the seven seasons, as we would often gather to watch the episodes week-after-week. And, we even traveled to conventions to hang out with other geeks. I think we went to four or five conventions over the years.
To celebrate the anniversary of TNG (in my opinion, the best of the five Trek series), here’s my personal top 10 TNG episodes.
1) Chain of Command, Part 2 (Season 6): Picard, captured by the Cardassians, is tortured. Patrick Stewart’s performance makes this episode a standout and it’s stunning he didn’t receive an Emmy for this work.
2) The Best of Both Worlds Part 1 & 2 (season 3/4): The season 3 cliffhanger was a nail biter as Riker squares off against Borged-out Picard. The conclusion at the start of season 4 kept up the pressure right down to the final destruction of the Borg cube.
3) The Inner Light (Season 5): Here Picard, possessed by an alien probe, lives an entire other life. Another standout performance from Stewart and one of the most touching of all TNG episodes.
4) Conspiracy (Season 1): Worms are taking over Starfleet and it’s up to Picard and Riker to stop it. Okay, sounds silly, but it’s a solid episode (and to me lays the ground work for where the series went with the Borg).
5) Yesterday’s Enterprise (season 3): All Trek series time travel and it doesn’t get any better than this. When the Enterprise C shows up through a rift, everything changes, including the return of Tasha Yar.
6) I, Borg (Season 5): One Borg learns how to think for himself. We’d end up and see Hugh a couple more times over the course of TNG and the other Trek series.
7) The Offspring (season 3): Another episode to pull on your emotions as Data manufactures an offspring, but then must also face her death.
8) The Big Goodbye (season 1): The first of the “disaster-in-the-holodeck” episodes was the best of the lot as Picard and Company get stuck playing out a deadly Dixon Hill mystery.
9) All Good Things… Part 1 & 2 (Season 7): It’s rare to feel complete closure from a series finale, but TNG lived up to the challenge going back to “Farpoint” and forward into a possible future.
10) The Arsenal of Freedom (season 1): It’s kind of a kooky episode as the crew has to deal with an automated weapons salesman, whose weapons threaten to wipe them all out.
Now, let’s take a moment to look at how it all began. This promo cropped up in the summer of 1987 on the VHS release of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home