Top 7 Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes

Often regarded as the best series of Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation (or ‘TNG’ for short) had a long run – seven seasons puts it in the higher band of Star Treks when it comes to longevity – and there are dozens of fantastic episodes to choose from. However, I have decided to narrow down my Top 7 best Star Trek TNG episodes – and it’s only 7, no Honorable Mentions this time, and for the sake of fairness two-parters count as one episode. So, coming in at number 7:

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7 – The Offspring

Who doesn’t love a Data-themed episode? The Offspring depicts a crucial step in Data’s journey to becoming more human as he tackles the challenges of parenthood, having created an offspring based off his own specifications in the ship’s lab. It is truly fascinating to see how Data manages his daughter’s development, and when Starfleet threatens to separate the two his urge to defy their instructions to remain with his child marks a highlight of this episode that showcases just how far Data has come as a character. This is a key episode for Data fans and deals with the classic sci-fi concept of the paternal aspects of the role of creator that can also be seen with Dr. Soong and Data, and is now presented through Data and Lal. The poignant ending serves to hammer home the emotional weight of this episode, and easily puts it in the top ten for being the perfect transition from lighthearted to tragic.

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6 – Tapestry

For many of his episodes, Q’s appearance is somewhat of a mixed bag. On the one hand, having an omnipotent entity serve as an obstacle to the crew is an interesting concept, one that classic Star Trek dealt with on occasion, and it opens some intriguing narrative possibilities. Unfortunately, in many cases, these opportunities are rarely realised, particularly in Q’s later appearances in Deep Space Nine and Voyager. However, the Season 6 episode Tapestry is a perfect example of the potential of Q as both a character and a plot device being met, with a strong story that delivers some really interesting character development for both Q and Picard. The premise is essentially that Q appears to Picard at a moment when he thinks he is going to die and offers him the choice to change things about his life that he disliked – particularly his rash actions as a young man in Starfleet Academy. Picard quickly realises, however, that altering the past can have severe ramifications for the present, and the method by which this episode conveys this theme is brilliant. Overall Tapestry is a great example of a character-driven TNG episode that still manages to get the best out of its sci-fi concept.

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5 – Yesterday’s Enterprise

From one time-travel based episode to another, Yesterday’s Enterprise also deals with the idea of history changing, and presents its events as being almost akin to the mirror universe episodes of the original series and DS9. This episode gives us an idea of the history that unfolded between the original series and TNG, as the crew of the Enterprise-D encounter the earlier Enterprise-C thanks to a time anomaly, and this results in an alternate timeline in which the Federation and the Klingons are still at war, and we finally get to see the Enterprise-D go up against a squadron of Klingon warbirds head on. This episode also sees the surprise return of Tasha Yar, who in this alternate timeline is still alive and replaces Worf as tactical officer, which is a nice surprise for Tasha fans and leads to a fantastic scene between her and Guinan, who retains the ability to detect how different the alternate timeline is from the original, allowing for some interesting moments with her as she tries to figure it all out. Ultimately, Yesterday’s Enterprise is a classic with a great sci-fi concept executed perfectly.

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4 – Phantasms

Some of the best episodes of TNG are the spooky ones, and the ones that deal with psychological threats that cannot simply be solved by diplomacy or weaponry. Phantasms presents some bizarre and memorable imagery in the form of Data’s dreams involving the crew and other strange characters in a complex subconscious metaphor for the issue that also happens to be affecting the ship at the time, and it makes for great viewing. One of the best things about Phantasms is just how accurately it portrays what dreaming is actually like, particularly a recurring dream, and the idea of the crew being able to use the holodeck to enter Data’s dreams was a stroke of genius. Definitely an episode that should be watched at night, Phantasms is a great mix of wacky and wonderful.

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3 – Cause and Effect

As far as mysteries that unravel slowly as the plot progresses go, you don’t get much better a case than in Cause and Effect. The seemingly insignificant goings-on of a relatively ordinary day on the Enterprise become crucially important when they are revealed to culminate in the total destruction of the ship, only to be repeated again and again in a seemingly infinite loop. The best thing about this episode is how gradual the story develops – Cause and Effect keeps its cards close to its chest (ahem) until the last minute, and every scene is critical to the crew figuring out how to save themselves from destruction.

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2 – The Inner Light

Arguably one of the most mind-boggling episodes in Star Trek history, The Inner Light is both tragic and moving, as Picard lives out an entire life on a seemingly alien planet that has been lost to time, and is given haunting memories of a world long gone. This is one of those Star Trek episodes that leaves a lasting impact, particularly on the first viewing, because it just comes out of nowhere yet it carries such a huge emotional weight – so much in fact that the events of this episode go on to be discussed by Picard as a major event in his life that he cannot forget, which is unusual for Star Trek which tends to brush major psychological damage to their characters from the trauma they face on a day-to-day basis under the rug. That being said…

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1 – The Best of Both Worlds

Yes, the obvious choice for number one, ‘The One Where Picard Gets Assimilated’ is without doubt one of the greatest episodes of Star Trek of all time, and it trumps all other Borg appearances to date. As discussed in a previous article on How to Fix – Star Trek: First Contact, the Borg experienced severe villain decay over the course of their appearances on Star Trek. In the early days, however, the Borg were a truly sinister threat, and the episode The Best of Both Worlds is a perfect demonstration as to why. The Best of Both Worlds doesn’t pull any punches as Picard is taken by the Borg and used to effectively wipe out an entire fleet of Federation starships at the Battle of Wolf 359, an experience which haunts him for the rest of his life, and the psychological aftermath of which is depicted in the next episode, Family. What is interesting about The Best of Both Worlds is that the production team toyed with the idea of using this episode as a means of killing Picard and having Riker take his place as Captain of the Enterprise-D, and at the time of the episode’s airing it must have seemed to fans as though Picard’s fate was truly hanging in the balance, which is perhaps what gives this episode more stakes and suspense than many other episodes of Star Trek in which you can be reassured that no-one will die. Even with the hindsight that Picard obviously survives, this episode has lost none of its grit and great character moments between the crew in Picard’s absence drive the story relentlessly forward.

And that concludes the Top 7 Star Trek: TNG Episodes, do you agree with this list? Post your favourite episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the comments below, and be sure to check out other articles below:

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Star Trek – Ranking the Opening Titles

Whether you sit through them every time or use them as an excuse to grab a snack, the Star Trek opening titles are a staple of the series, and rightly so. The main themes of each version of the show are all fantastic for the most part, and the opening usually comes with some nice visual effects, be it model shots of the setting (usually a ship) or CGI renderings of various iconography related to the show (as in Discovery, but we’ll get to that). But the question remains – which opening is the best? So for convenience, we’ve ranked them all (apart from the movies), starting with:

6 – Discovery

Whilst it is clear that the idea behind the Discovery title sequence was to distinguish it entirely from prior titles in the series, the fact of the matter is fans would probably have preferred a showcase of the modern day special effects to create Discovery’s take on the classic style of Star Trek intro – that is, the ship flying around through space. Think something like the titles of Star Trek: Voyager, but with updated effects to show off the new ship. Instead, what we got was a strange blueprint/technical specifications manual in 3-D showing the ship and various pieces of Star Trek iconography like Phasers, Communicators and even the Vulcan Salute, coupled with high-resolution pictures of people (or at least parts of people – like a chin and an eye) who are presumably the crew. Regardless of whether you like this or not, what is undeniably the greatest drawback of Discovery’s titles is the theme itself, which is both uninspired and forgettable.

5 – Enterprise

The other standout of Star Trek title sequences that radically diverge from the normal formula to the point of being almost incomparable is Enterprise, which does a great job of establishing this show as the first in the timeline with specific focus on the progress that mankind has made between the early days of sailing in which the name ‘Enterprise’ was born to the first in what will be a long line of interstellar exploration vessels bearing the same name. This is also the general idea behind the theme, which for many is the primary drawback of this title sequence – it is a bit cheesey, particularly since it has vocals, something which thankfully has never been done again in Star Trek. One thing that Star Trek: Enterprise did do right, however, was the awesome variation of the title sequence used for ‘In a Mirror, Darkly’ for the Mirror Universe.

4 – Deep Space Nine

The first on this list from the ‘standard’ formula of Star Trek openings, The problem with Deep Space Nine’s opening titles is the fact that instead of a nimble ship that can zip around the screen, the crew in this show inhabit a giant space station that is, for the most part, immobile. For the first few seasons Deep Space Nine used a title sequence that did a very poor job of showcasing the station’s actual size, but this was later improved in an updated title sequence that was introduced as the USS Defiant became a staple of the series, that had lower angled shots of the station and more ships. One particular change that did wonders to better showcase the vastness of the station was the addition of a Nebula-class ship docked on to one of the pylons at the start, which fans of TNG will know is almost as big as a Galaxy-class ship, and yet it is dwarfed by the station. Although the theme of Deep Space Nine is somewhat of a slow march, it does have some real feeling to it that begins to reflect the content of the show itself as the series progresses.

3 – The Original Series

The original Star Trek title sequence set the staple for opening titles to come, and is also the first of two entries on this list that include the iconic “Space… the final frontier…” speech. The visuals are dated but that won’t bother anyone who is fond of the original series, and the main theme is upbeat and great for a sing-along. The only true drawback to the original opening titles is that by far the shortest of them all, hardly even topping a minute in length. Still, these titles have gone on to be a pop culture staple and those first four notes of the opening theme inspires excitement and awe in fans even over half a century later.

2 – The Next Generation

To get the obvious out of the way first, the main theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation is brilliant. easily the most bombastic of the themes, it really sets the tone for the blend of sci-fi and politics in TNG, and the model shots of the Enterprise-D give the illusion that the ship is huge. Patrick Stewart’s opening monologue is arguably better than William Shatner’s, and also replaces “To boldly go where no man has gone before” with “To boldly go where no-one has gone before”, which genuinely rolls off the tongue better as well as updating the line to be more in-keeping with the spirit of the show. Also, it is worth mentioning that TNG actually had two variants of the title sequence, with the later incarnation having updated effects and an altered theme, both of which were well-received by fans.

1 – Voyager

Sporting the best visuals of the four best opening titles, the opening to Star Trek: Voyager gives a sense of the isolation that comes along with the running plot arc of the show by dwarfing the ship against planets, asteroid fields and nebulae, showcasing the epic scale of the Delta Quadrant. Unlike the TNG opening titles, the ship is a CGI render and not a physical model, and this allows for some great angled shots of the ship. The music is definitely one of the best Star Trek opening themes, and like DS9 it has a melancholy aspect to it that is quite unlike the bombastic fanfare of TNG, reflecting the more dire situation that the crew of Voyager have found themselves in. Overall, Star Trek: Voyager is the one incarnation of Star Trek that has a title sequence that I will never skip.

So that concludes this ranking of the Star Trek Opening Titles, if you enjoyed then be sure to leave a like and you can see more content related to this article below:

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Doctor Who – Ranking the NuWho companions (2005-2017)

NuWho has been on the air for some time now, and has accumulated quite a sizeable array of companions to its name, spanning several eras. Time to rank them all!

#10 – Rose

Yep, Rose is at the bottom. Those who have read previous articles on my site will know that I am not exactly Rose’s biggest fan, and this is mostly due to her erratic and unpredictable behavior – be it laughing and giggling after having just witnessed someone being brutally murdered in Tooth and Claw, or being a total bitch to Sarah Jane Smith in School Reunion, or having a go at Elton for upsetting her mum in Love and Monsters when she herself basically ruined a year of her mum’s life by disappearing and not bothering to tell her. What is frustrating is that this character gets special treatment in the Russell tenure, with basically the entire arc of the era being based around one character – she even got to come back after being gone for a season and a half. So yes, Rose is right at the bottom for just shoddy character development.

#9 – Clara

In a similar vein to my dislike of Rose, Clara stole the show a bit too much when she finally came along. In fact, even before she came along – Jenna Coleman played two distinct versions of Clara before appearing permanently as the genuine article, and this sparked the retch-inducing ‘impossible girl’ storyline that was essentially a more contrived storyline than the whole Bad Wolf thing. The only reason why Clara ranks higher than Rose is that she became slightly less insufferable during her time with the Twelfth Doctor – although she continued to try and take over the show, even getting her face in the title sequence at the end of Series 8 instead of the Doctor’s – the Twelfth Doctor bounced off her better character-wise, and Clara gained more of a personality in Series 8 and 9 compared to the ‘Impossible Girl’ arc that basically carried her through Series 7. Once her character began to emerge, she is really good in some episodes, and once Moffat had got out of his Cbeebies phase Clara was able to meet the more serious and darker aspects that the show took on leading into Capaldi’s era, even having a particularly fantastic death scene in Face the Raven. Although she gets a copped-out immortal lesbian time-travelling spinoff show at the end of Hell Bent she still has to eventually go back and die, which is a pretty dark concept if you think about it.

#8 – River Song

I can genuinely appreciate what Steven Moffat was trying to do with River – the notion of a fellow time-traveller that is encountered out of order and married to the Doctor is a great idea in theory, but the execution was less than spectacular – because her appearance in Silence in the Library and Forest of the Dead was so good as a standalone idea for an episode, people were almost disappointed when her return was announced just one series later. Overall, although River herself was a strong character played excellently by Alex Kingston who also had great chemistry with Matt Smith, her reveal was ultimately a bit of a let down and although she is the Doctor’s wife it is strange that so much emphasis was placed on revealing her ‘secret identity’ only for it to turn out that she is the daughter of the current companions. Despite all this, her departure in The Husbands of River Song is still a defining moment in the Twelfth Doctor’s characterisation change for Series 10 so River can ultimately be thanked for inadvertently influencing the best series of the revival.

#7 – Mickey

Poor Mickey. The strange thing about this character is that he was a genuinely good person – he cared deeply for Rose, he was loyal to his friends and was pretty brave by the end of the show, yet for some reason that defies explanation the Doctor just really seems to dislike Mickey at first, probably because Russell had it in his head from the beginning that the Doctor would fall in love with Rose, but what reason is given for the Doctor’s disdain for Mickey? All Mickey did was get captured by the Autons and then be understandably shaken when the whole thing was over, and yet Rose totally abandons him. Throughout the series Mickey jumps from our universe to a parallel universe and back again, again a symptom of the writers not really knowing what to do with him, and eventually ends up with Martha in an unfortunate ‘match the spares’ situation of the ilk of Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood in the eighth Harry Potter film. Ultimately, Mickey’s best qualities are apparent in Series 2, in which he joins the TARDIS team and spends time fighting Cybermen in a parallel universe, eventually becoming a badass.

#6 – Amy and Rory

Although their era spiraled further and further into the nonsense that was Series 7, Amy and Rory are a standout because their relationship gave the show a whole different dynamic that almost makes every episode seem like a continuation of the same story, just framed differently against the backdrop of traveling through time and space. Amy may be bitchy at times and Rory takes a while to find his feet as a character (similarly to Mickey, in many respects) but once he becomes the Roman he becomes one of the most likeable characters on the show. Their best episodes include Amy’s Choice, The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang, The Impossible Planet/The Day of the Moon, The God Complex, The Doctor’s Wife and A Good Man Goes To War so there is a fairly strong selection there alone, and whilst it could be argued that their combined character was irrecoverably ruined  by the abysmal Asylum of the Daleks they at least got a good send off in Angel’s Take Manhattan.

#5 – Donna

As companions go, Donna is definitely going to be among the best-remembered in years to come, possibly even on the same level as companions like Jo Grant and Sarah Jane Smith, in that they all take a very unique perspective on the companion role. In Donna’s case that is the role of a loudmouth with an attitude but who has a heart of gold and, in many ways, is very like the Doctor in some ways. Considering the recent trend that started with the Eighth Doctor TV Movie in which the Doctor has a more romantic relationship with his companion, Donna was a refreshing change as it was made clear from the start that she and the Doctor had absolutely no romantic feelings for each other. This makes episodes in Donna’s era seem more concise and better trimmed, as time isn’t spent on a half-baked romance story in every single episode like in the Rose era.

#4 – Nardole

An ex-criminal cyborg from the future, Nardole is primarily used for comic relief in his initial appearances but the fantastic Series 10 molds him into a well-defined character in his own right, who was an unexpected fan-favourite at the time, who is expected to return at some point in the future. His great relationship with both Bill and the Twelfth Doctor made his inevitable departure all the more tragic, particularly with the manner in which it was carried out – essentially, he was doomed to protect the Mondasian children from endless waves of ever-adapting Cybermen with no hope of escape, which is a pretty dark way to go. Thankfully, we do eventually learn that Nardole survived for years and was eventually inducted into the Testimony system, so Nardole fans can rest easy.

#3 – Captain Jack

Who doesn’t love Captain Jack? Apart from being the first representation of an LGBT character on-screen, (not counting Ace because, although intended, that aspect of her character was never directly addressed by anyone on-screen), Captain Jack is unique among the majority of other NuWho companions as he does not originate from modern-day London, instead originating from the 51st century. As such he is more clued up on the various alien races and technology. The best thing about Jack’s character is that he bounces really well off basically any other character, and is one of the few characters in Russell’s era that I believe is due a temporary return, as he worked so well with both the Ninth and Tenth Doctors and I see no reason why he couldn’t work really well with the Thirteenth Doctor.

#2 – Martha

If there is another companion from Russell’s era that is deserving of a return, it’s Martha. Despite her time in the TARDIS being somewhat overshadowed by her romantic feelings for the Doctor, these didn’t get in the way of her character development or story involvement half as much as Rose’s romantic backstory with the Doctor did, and Series 3 gives Martha a chance to shine in some fantastic episodes like The Shakespeare Code, Gridlock, Human Nature/Family of Blood, Utopia and Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords, in the latter of which she proves her mettle by saving the world and the Doctor from certain destruction. Her departure, on her own terms, sets her above her contemporaries – particularly Donna and Rose – and her comeback in The Sontaran Stratagem/The Poison Sky allowed Freema Aygeman to return to her original character Adeola Oshodi’s defining trait of being a human controlled by an evil invasion force.

#1 – Bill

The personification of wide-eyed wonder and enthusiasm, Bill is one of the cornerstones of the masterpiece that is Series 10. Her relationship with the Twelfth Doctor was totally unique and hearkened back to the ‘Professor/Student’ relationship that Ace had with the Seventh Doctor, although in Bill’s case this is taken a tad more literally, as the Doctor takes on a tutor role both in the real-world, marking Bill’s assignments and teaching her in classes, and also on their adventures. Bill’s reputation as a companion who flaunts her sexuality is, in my opinion, undeserved – although Bill does mention the fact that she is gay in numerous episodes, often this is in response to things other characters insinuate, and even the seemingly random remark she makes to the Doctor before they part ways in The Doctor Falls about liking girls is obviously because the Twelfth Doctor appears so oblivious that they probably hadn’t even talked about it before. Ultimately, Bill is one of the most likeable companions in NuWho and Pearl Mackie does a fantastic job of bringing the character to life.

So that concludes my list ranking the NuWho companions, 2005-2017. If you enjoyed be sure to leave a like and you can follow us either here or on Facebook for more content like this. Thanks for reading!