NOTE: I originally wrote and posted this a little over six years ago but I'd taken it down in order to add photos, and while forging ahead in the overrated train wreck that is BATTLESTAR GALACTICA I was reminded that I needed to finish it, so here it is. And special thanks goes out to regular reader Will, who correctly pointed out that I had confused the two-part "Gambit" with the one-part "The Chase." You can read his comment below, and I have corrected the post accordingly.
Purportedly the most successful television series produced for syndication during its day, STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION ran for seven seasons and an impressive total of one hundred and seventy-eight episodes (of which only one was a “clips” show). It aired daily on the SPIKE TV network for years and is available on DVD in exorbitantly priced full-season boxed sets, and with such constant exposure it’s easy to see that much of its run was mediocre at best and downright fucking terrible at its worst.
The disastrous first season was easily the most dire in the show’s entire run, a creative train wreck across the board, complete with cheap looking sets, howlingly bad scripts, ridiculous costumes — remember the unisex skirt outfits for male crewmembers? — and the embarrassing agony of seeing the actors slowly figure out their characters. Captain Picard comes off as a bit of a martinet, Riker is a smirking frat boy in space, Counselor Troi begins a seven-season career of virtually nonstop irritation (though that Marina Sirtis is very easy on the eyes), Dr. Crusher is a bore, Worf is little more than a stoic baritone with a turtle glued to his forehead, Tasha Yar is the stereotypical tough gal, and Data is little more than a dull Spock wannabe. And DO NOT get me started on Wesley Crusher, perhaps the single most off-putting character in the history of sci-fi television…
Having watched this season again a few years back, I have one question about it: How the fuck did a show this bad get renewed for another season? Simple answer: STAR TREK fans will put up anything just to get a dose. How else does one explain STAR TREK: VOYAGER and the majority of ENTERPRISE?
I watched NEXT GENERATION during its original run on New York City’s Channel 11 and missed perhaps three episodes, but when it started running twice daily on SPIKE I can finally say that I have seen the entire series from start to finish as recently as six years ago, so what follows is my rather fresh-in-my-memory list of the relatively few episodes that I would watch over and over again. Not all of them are good, but all entertain me for different reasons and if I could assemble my own DVD collection of choice episodes without having to deal with the blatant extortion that is the list price of any given season boxed set, these are the ones that would make the cut:
# 3 "The Naked Now"
A disease first seen in the original 1960’s STAR TREK series removes the crew's inhibitions and Data gets some pussy. A bad, derivative show that’s worth it just for the look on Data’s face when Tasha Yar jumps his artificial bones.
# 4 "Code of Honor"
It's "Where the white wimmen at?" time on the planet of the Negroes when their leader gets a look at Tasha Yar and loses his fucking mind. Unimaginably terrible and so un-PC that it’s an unintentional comedy classic. To all you white NEXT GEN fans out there: I defy you to watch this with black friends present and not cringe.
# 20 "Heart of Glory"
The first taste of the Klingon fun to come as two of Worf’s people show up and we get our first look at the finer points of Klingon culture.
# 22 "Skin of Evil"
Tasha Yar gets killed while battling the evil pudding man (and I did not give a shit). Reminiscent of a bad classic DOCTOR WHO installment, this makes the cut because of Armus, a total asshole of a monster who I swear to God looks like ambulatory molasses or something.
# 25 "Conspiracy"
Worth it solely for the goriest scene in the show's history.
# 34 "A Matter of Honor"
Riker serves on a Klingon ship thanks to an exchange program and experiences deep space warrior society firsthand. The crew of brusque and violent soldiers are surprisingly endearing, and this is the episode where we finally see that Riker’s not just a douchebag. I just wish the Klingon officer Riker bonds with were given a name and seen in more than just this story.
# 35 "The Measure of a Man"
Data's sentience is put on trial, and his character is truly put on the map.
# 36 "The Dauphin"
Wesley finds first love with a very unusual girl... Perhaps the only tolerable Wesley Crusher story, this one really belongs to his love interest.
# 42 "Q Who?"
Meet the Borg. And what's up with Q's comments about Guinan? Hmmmm...
# 44 "Up the Long Ladder"
The ultimate in Irish stereotyping, only with the added perk of being set in deep space. It's a piece of outright shit, but it has to be seen for it's sheer hilarious offensiveness and should be aired annually on St. Patrick's Day.
# 46 "The Emissary"
Introducing K'Ehleyr, Worf's mate. Yet more Klingon stuff, and the episode that made Worf a major player.
# 63 "Yesterday's Enterprise"
Worth it for setting up a major continuity point that would unexpectedly return to haunt the rest of the series, but otherwise highly overrated.
# 65 "Sins of the Father"
The ongoing Klingon saga begins as Worf's family is stripped of honor.
# 68 "Tin Man"
Worth it for the most interesting non-humanoid alien life form in the entire series.
# 69 "Hollow Pursuits"
Introducing Lt. Barclay and his holodeck addiction.
# 74 "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1"
The Borg abduct Picard and a lot of really heavy shit ensues. One of the best season cliffhangers in TV history, yet part 2 sadly falls as flat as a housecat squashed by a semi.
# 81 "Reunion"
The Klingon saga continues; K'Ehleyr is murdered and Worf meets his son.
# 87 "Devil's Due"
Worth it for the evil “goddess” Ardra.
# 95 "The Drumhead"
A tense look at a conspiracy witchhunt.
# 100 "Redemption, Part 1"
The Klingon saga continues; Worf embraces his heritage, fucks off out of the Federation and gets involved in a Klingon civil war. Plus, we meet Sela...
# 101 "Redemption, Part 2"
The Klingon saga concludes. Worf regains the family honor and we get the scoop on what's up with Sela.
# 102 "Darmok"
A fascinating study of inter-species communication, this gets my vote as the second-best episode of the entire series.
# 103 "Ensign Ro"
Introducing the coolest recurring crew member.
# 121 "The Perfect Mate"
Romantic tragedy in the face of arranged marriage for peace. You’ll really feel for Picard as he endures one of the ultimate male fantasies brought to life and comes up with bubkes.
# 125 "The Inner Light"
Picard relives the life of a long-dead man. To say any more would give it away, but this is hands-down the best episode of the series.
# 134 "A Fistful of Datas"
Yet another bad holodeck malfunction yarn, saved by an ultra-hot Troi in gun-slingin’ leather and the only truly fun episode that focuses on the strained relationship between Worf and young Alexander.
# 135 "Chain of Command, Part 1"
Picard is captured and tortured by the Cardassians while Captain Jellico (Ronny Cox) whips the Enterprise crew into much needed shape. Special points for getting Troi out of those stupid mauve PJ's and into a fetching uniform, and the hard-assed Captain Jellico should have been spun off into his own series.
# 136 "Chain of Command, Part 2"
Picard endures torture at the hands of Gul Madred (David Warner) and proves his complete and utter indomitability. A tour de force performance by Patrick Stewart.
# 142 "Birthright, Part 1"
Worf discovers a remote Romulan POW camp populated by Klingons, with more going on than is obvious at first. Features a short crossover with STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE.
# 143 "Birthright, Part 2"
See above. And it’s a shame that they never brought back Ba’el…
# 144 "Starship Mine"
As the Enterprise sits stationary in drydock, a group of thieves attempt to steal it while the crew is planetside, unaware that Captain Picard has returned to the ship to retrieve his horseback riding saddle. Lesson to be learned: Do not fuck with Captain Picard's ship.
#146 "The Chase"
It's the Enterprise against the raiders of archaeological sites. A so-so installment that is worth seeing since it finally explains why nearly all STAR TREK races are humanoid.
# 149 "Rightful Heir"
More Klingon fun as Kahless, the legendary founder of the Klingon ideal, apparently returns from the grave.
# 163 "Parallels"
Worf is caught in multiple alternate realities, some of which reveal intriguing possibilities he'd never considered...
# 167 "Lower Decks"
A look at four junior officers, including the adorable Ensign Sito Jaxa (Shannon Fill).
# 176 "Preemptive Strike"
Ensign Ro infiltrates the Maquis with unexpected results.
So out of a total one hundred and seventy-eight individual episodes I would keep only thirty-six. That ain’t a good average, kiddies.