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Top Ten TNG Episodes June 6, 2009

Posted by vorpalkeith in television review.
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My countdown of the best of the best of the best Star Trek episodes continues now with the second series The Next Generation.  Just remember kids, we’re still on the easy ones, with lots of good episodes.  The dark cloud that is Voyager still hangs on the horizon.

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NUMBER TEN

The First Duty
Written by Ronald D. Moore & Naren Shankar

Wikipedia Says: Wesley is questioned over a Starfleet Academy flight-training accident.

Keith Says: This is a strong Wesley Crusher episode, which is nice to see. It also deals with a real problem in the military, and a question of loyalty. What are you most loyal to? The organization? Your friends in your squad? Or to the truth?

NUMBER NINE

Who Watches the Watchers
Written by Richard Manning & Hans Beimler

Wikipedia Says: Deanna and Riker must rectify the damage done when two primitives from Mintaka III catch glimpse of a Federation observation team and eventually conclude that Captain Picard is a god.

Keith Says: There is a school of thought which says that any significantly advanced technology would seem like magic to someone from a primitive culture. This episode examines that. You can’t help but feel sorry for Picard as he tries to make the Mintakans understand he is not a god, and most painfully, he cannot bring their dead, or his own, back to life. I want to add though, that making the Mintakans “proto-vulcans” just makes for sloppy production design.

NUMBER EIGHT

Yesterday’s Enterprise
Written by Trent Christopher Ganino, Eric A. Stillwell, Ira Steven Behr, Richard Manning, Hans Beimler and Ronald D. Moore

Wikipedia Says: The Enterprise-C arrives from the past, causing a shift in reality—and the return of the deceased Tasha Yar.

Keith Says: Wow, that’s a lot of writers. In a lot of ways this episode is The Next Generation’s “City on the Edge of Forever”, which is appropriate because the original premise would have use the Guardian at the Edge of Forever, but that was changed in the development process. It’s an episode that deals with the reality that sometimes, no matter what we do, people must die to see things through, and how painfully tragic that is.

NUMBER SEVEN

Chain of Command
Written by Frank Abatemarco and Ronald D. Moore

Wikipedia Says: Captain Jellico is assigned command of the Enterprise, while Picard is sent on a covert mission into Cardassian territory. Picard, having been captured, is tortured by a sadistic Cardassian interrogator (played by David Warner).

Keith Says: While the B-plot of having a different Captain on board the Enterprise has it’s moments, the episode really shines in the torture scenes. It’s a great acting achievement for Patrick Stewart as you see a man progressively getting broken down. “THERE ARE  FOUR LIGHTS!”

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NUMBER SIX

Tapestry
Written by Ronald D. Moore

Wikiepedia Says: An accident kills Picard, and he finds an afterlife with Q analyzing his past choices.

Keith Says: A lot of the strength of this show was in the back and forth patter between Picard and Q, and this is one of the better episodes for that. It takes the concept of a near death experience, tosses in a little bit of It’s a Wonderful Life, and shows Picard what the consequences would have been if he’d have led his life entirely differently.

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NUMBER FIVE

The Best of Both Worlds
Written by Michael Piller

Wikipedia Says: Picard is kidnapped by the Borg, who begin their invasion of Federation space.

Keith Says: This episode is such a seminal moment in the history of Star Trek that it needs to be on any list. Picard’s assimilation by the Borg is a defining character moment that would haunt him the rest of his days. The Battle of Wolf 359, where the Federation fleet is massacred solidified the Borg as a major threat unlike any seen before, as well as having ramifications well into the future (including Deep Space Nine and Voyager). As a matter of fact, the opening scenes of Deep Space Nine take place during the Battle of Wolf 359 and establishes and Sisko could never trust Picard because he would always associate him as Locutus and Locutus was responsible for the death of his wife.

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NUMBER FOUR

The Measure of a Man
Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass

Wikipedia Says: When Data refuses orders to be dismantled for research purposes, a hearing is convened to determine if he is a legal citizen or property of the Federation. With Guinan’s guidance, Picard—assigned to defend Data—realizes that while a single Data is a curiosity, the researcher’s goal of a creating innumerable androids would create a race, and using them as expendable machines would constitute slavery.

Keith Says: TNG always shined brightest when it was about convictions and moral principals. This is one of their earliest episodes and one of their strongest for it.

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NUMBER THREE

The Inner Light
Written by Morgan Gendel & Peter Allan Fields

Wikipedia Says: A space probe creates a telepathic tether and causes Picard to experience, in twenty-five minutes, a lifetime as a married man on a world that was destroyed a millennium ago.

Keith Says: You know, I’m finding a lot of the episodes I think are the strongest are Picard-heavy ones. Which probably goes to show how exceptional an actor Patrick Stewart really is. In this episode our Captain becomes the last witness to an entire civilization, as well as the last echo of a simple man who once lived a good life. Deeply touching.

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NUMBER TWO

Drumhead
Written by Jeri Taylor

Wikipedia Says: A witchhunt ensues for suspected Romulan spies aboard the Enterprise.

Keith Says: I want to quote Wikipedia a little bit more here . . .

“Picard is stunned by his sudden realization that Satie is engaging in a ‘witch-hunt’ among his crew, and likens the investigation to a drumhead trial — summary justice dispensed on the battlefield, around an upended drum, where appeals were always denied . . .

Admiral Thomas Henry, who worked with Satie in the past, arrives to observe the hearings. Picard makes an opening statement about the xenophobic and paranoid nature of the investigation. Satie picks apart Picard’s career aboard the Enterprise, citing numerous infractions of the Prime Directive, his capture and assimilation by the Borg, and finally directly questions his loyalty to Starfleet. Worf nearly loses his temper with the investigators over accusations regarding his heritage. While making his final arguments Picard quotes Satie’s father, a prominent Starfleet judicator, about the path of limiting freedom. Satie furiously berates Picard for invoking her father’s name in his own defense, stating that she has “brought down bigger men than you Picard!”; Admiral Henry leaves the room in the middle of the tirade, having recognized Satie’s paranoia for what it was. The Admiral’s departure signals the end of Starfleet’s support for Satie’s personal vendetta; the prosecution calls a recess, and leaves a disgraced Satie sitting alone in the courtroom.

Worf later finds Picard in the observation lounge to inform the captain of Admiral Henry ending the hearings, and of Satie’s departure from the Enterprise. Picard remarks that the human race thinks it’s come so far, with the Inquistion and the Salem Witch Trials all an unpleasant memory, but all it took was a single person with an agenda to destroy two careers and almost cause panic in the Federation. Worf laments that he was, initially, quite eager to assist Satie in her witch-hunt, because of how she presented her case. Picard speaks of the ever-present, but subtle, danger of those who would spread fear and suspicion in the name of righteousness and (paraphrasing Thomas Jefferson) of the need for vigilance against mindless paranoia and fear-mongering.”

That should say all it needs to as to why this episode is important.

NUMBER ONE

All Good Things . . .
Written by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore

Wikipedia Says: Picard finds himself alternating between three time periods thanks to Q, with a spacetime distortion that threatens to destroy humanity growing larger in the past.

Keith Says: It’s rare in television that a final episode can encompass everything that a series is about. It’s especially rare for the final episode to prove to be the best of a series, especially with Star Trek shows, but this one knocked it out of the park. This episode perfectly summed up all of the themes of the show, bringing it right back to things that were hinted at in the very first episode, “Encounter at Farpoint”. Every character got a moment to shine, but Picard and Q (back in his trial getup) steal the show.

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Next up: Deep Space Nine

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