I AM DONE. On Boxing Day last year, I impulsively rewatched “Caretaker”. As of five minutes ago, I have finished my Voyager rewatch — skipping certain episodes (“Threshold”) that I knew weren’t worth seeing again, but ploughing through the slab of late seventh season episodes I skipped because, having had a VHS copy of “Endgame” sent from the US, I couldn’t be arsed renting the rest of the season on video. (Also, I was a student, and I was broke.)
I have vague thoughts that I may eventually blog about, like (a) Seven/Chakotay is not actually 100% terrible until the finale when it is the actual worst thing in history; (b) despite the perception that Seven steals all the attention from other cast members when she joins, she actually gets fewer very special episodes than the Doctor — but no one notices that, because he’s a white male and hence the default human; (c) okay, show of my teenage heart, you were kind of not very good but I love you anyway.
But I’m here now to talk about Next Generation.
You see, my flatmate, E, who is generally very television literate, has never seen any TNG. She’s seen all of DS9, BSG and even Babylon 5, but somehow TNG bypassed her. As did Voyager, but Voyager, bless its happy little heart, was never regarded as groundbreaking television. TNG, while working within the considerable limitations of Gene Roddenberry’s increasingly weird “vision” (he didn’t want an episode about a child mourning his dead mother, because the humans of the future would have evolved past grief? AND THIS WAS MEANT TO BE A UTOPIAN IDEAL?), managed to lay the groundwork for 1990s science fiction. We remember it now as episodic and continuity-lite, but Ronald D Moore had his first taste of arc-plotting with Klingon politics, and whatever JMS tells you, Babylon 5 owed a ton to TNG. And BSG is just B5 + DS9 + some extra misogyny and a dash of post 9/11 moral ambiguity.
But having said all that … seven seasons is a lot of television. And let’s face it, a fair amount of TNG is kind of skippable. Grant Watson, over at The Angriest, suggests that the very early phases of the show weren’t so much ’80s television as ’60s television with an ’80s budget. That feels about right. It’s interesting, but not necessarily good. And I say that as a person who was quite impressed when she rewatched season 1 a few years back.
So I’m asking, oh internet, what do you consider the unmissable episodes of TNG? Not necessarily the ones where Patrick Stewart acts a lot, but the ones that made you fall in love?
I, for example, am very strongly inclined to include season 1’s “The Battle”, because when I was a kid, it was the episode that made me think of Picard as an interesting character. Earlier I had written him off as Grown-Up, Authority Figure, Therefore Scary. (I was also … hmmm, you know, I think I saw this episode before I was even properly watching the show. I might have been about eight? The point is, I found Picard pretty scary. Stop laughing, I was also scared of the Seventh Doctor at that age.)
So the first season 1 episodes I’ll probably show E are:
- “Encounter at Farpoint” (you have to start somewhere!)
- “The Battle”
- “The Big Goodbye”
(I know “Conspiracy” is really disappointing on a Doylist level, because it sets up this arc that actually never goes anywhere, but I just really enjoy it. I have a big old girlcrush on Captain Tryla Scott, okay?)
Season 2? I have a grudge against season 2 for not having Beverly Crusher. But it does have some important episodes. I guess I’d go…
- “Elementary Dear Data”
- “The Measure of a Man”
- “Q Who”
- “The Emissary”
- NOT “SHADES OF GREY”, I’M NOT A MONSTER, YOU KNOW
Season 3 is where it gets tricky, being actually good. But I feel like at this point, E will have feelings about some characters, and I don’t want to skip, say, “Booby Trap” if Geordi is her favourite.
Let me hear your arguments, guys. What are your essential episodes of TNG and why?