Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Top 5 Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes

As promised, here's my list of the Top 5 ST:TNG episodes.

5. Starship Mine - This pick I'm sure will baffle some Trekkies. I've never seen this episode make any other top 5s around the net, but it's an all-around winner. Starship Mine feels more like one of the movies than a TNG episode. It's funny, action-packed, but still true to character. It's one of the first times we ever get to see Picard kick ass, as he's stranded aboard a deserted Enterprise fighting to keep dangerous trilithium resin out of the hands of terrorists. A subplot involving Data's new "small-talk subroutine" brings the biggest laughs the series ever gets. How this episode slipped under the Best of Trek radar is beyond me.
4. Lower Decks - This Seventh-Season episode focuses on a small group of friends, junior officers, the expendable guys, the guys who don't get to make the calls, just follow them. I mention that it's in the seventh season because we've had seven years to get used to how the show works: the crew is confronted with a problem, they struggle, but their confidence and experience helps them prevail and at the end of the day everything goes back to normal. This week, everything is different. Our heroes are only vaguely aware of the problem, because it's classified. They struggle with smaller, more personal struggles, and their youth and insecurities make overcoming them difficult, and when the story ends their lives are changed forever. Refreshing.
3. The Inner Light - Though The Next Generation was always more plot-driven than character-driven, there were character subplots that ran through the whole series: Data's quest to be human, Riker's stagnant career, and the most powerful one, Picard's lonliness. Captain Jean-Luc Picard, it is slowly revealed throughout the series, has always regretted not starting a family. In The Inner Light, Picard experiences, in the space of 25 minutes, an entire other life where he has a wife, kids, and grandkids. And then he wakes up and to everyone else, nothing's changed. But for Jean-Luc, nothing will ever be the same.
2. Darmok - The epitome of what Star Trek is supposed to teach: understanding through adversity, the brotherhood of diverse cultures, and trust and respect to all people. If you are to show someone any one Star Trek episode, it should be this one.
1. All Good Things - A perfect ending to the series, providing closure to the character arcs. Guest appearances abound, an epic story and the highest stakes the show's ever put on the table. All Good Things is one of the best series finales in TV history, paying respect to the entire series and leaving the viewer with a tear-jerker. I can't tell you how many times I've watched this episode, and every time that last scene chokes me up.

(My apologies about the lateness of this list - I came home from college today for Thanksgiving break and my time was kind of limited. I'm considering coming back to this one in the morning and touching it up, but I didn't want to keep you guys waiting.)

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