Friday, January 18, 2013

Star Trek: TNG - Essential Episodes List: Season 1

Recently I was asked by a friend to compile a list of TNG episodes worth watching for someone who doesn't want to go through the entire series. Personally, I think it's worth watching every episode once, but I know that for someone's first time through the show, picking and choosing the good ones is smarter. There are a lot of bad episodes in the first two seasons and in the seventh, so there's nothing wrong with skipping big chunks to get to the good stuff, since there's so little essential plot continuity, and going back to them later if you end up liking the rest of the show.

I'm compiling lists, by season, of which episodes are worth watching for someone new to the show. Some of these are legit great episodes, some are important to the show as a whole whether they're strong episodes or not, and some are worth watching because of how goofy they are. Feel free to debate if your favorite episode doesn't make the list, these lists aren't concrete and can be swayed by a good argument! Summaries copied from Wikipedia.

Star Trek: TNG - Essential Episodes List: Season 1

 Encounter at Farpoint - "The new starship Enterprise begins her maiden voyage by uncovering the mysteries of an advanced space station. The crew's mission is threatened by an omnipotent being named Q, who puts them (and specifically, Captain Jean-Luc Picard) on trial for the crimes of all humanity."

The first episode. Introduces the crew and Q, though Data feels out of character and overly emotional in spite of the things he says. The Q plot is solid, but the main drive of the story, the mystery of Farpoint station, is actually fairly bad, and the episode's not a great one. Important, but not exciting.

Where no one has Gone Before - "Warp efficiency tests send the Enterprise traveling far beyond known space, where the crew's imagination takes on real form. First appearance of Eric Menyuk as The Traveler."

An important Wesley episode that introduces some decent magical sci-fi concepts. It's trippy and strange and marks a good transition episode between the Original Series and TNG. Not phenomenal, but decent.

The Battle - "A Ferengi captain returns the abandoned Stargazer to its former captain, Jean-Luc Picard. Picard, who experiences severe headaches, begins to relive the "Battle of Maxia" in which he lost the ship. Guest star Frank Corsentino as DaiMon Bok."

Provides some good Picard backstory and introduces the Ferengi in a more interesting capacity than the frankly terrible The Last Outpost did. They don't hit their stride until DS9, but this episode works much better than their first appearance.

The Big Goodbye - "A computer malfunction traps Picard, Data, Beverly, and Whalen in a Dixon Hill holodeck program set in early-20th-century Earth."

The first Holodeck Gone Awry episode, this is a fun, fairly silly film noir adventure. Features a good performance by the always spectacular and intimidating Lawrence Tierney.

Datalore - "The Enterprise crew finds a disassembled android identical to Data at the site of the Omicron Theta colony—where Data was found—which was destroyed by a life form dubbed "the Crystalline Entity." The reassembled android, Lore, brings the Crystalline Entity to the Enterprise."

Important episode that establishes two recurring threats. Unfortunately has a "Wesley saves the day" plot, but this one is essential to future shows.

11001001 - "Bynars upgrade the Enterprise's computers in spacedock. Riker and Picard become distracted by a surprisingly realistic holodeck character."

Introduces an interesting alien race, even if they never return. Establishes an understanding of Riker's personality better than any previous episodes and shows us what a goon he can be. Not essential, but a good episode for season 1.

Heart of Glory - "Fugitive Klingons seeking battle attempt to hijack the Enterprise, and ask Worf to join them."

The first episode to give Worf any focus beyond "angry guy that growls" and the first Klingon-centric episode of the show. Not the best, but important for establishing their presence.

Skin of Evil -"An evil, tar-like creature holds Troi hostage on an alien world. During the rescue mission, one of the Enterprise crew is killed."

A major character up to this point dies. Not a very good episode at all, but it's important because of that. The consequences of this episode come back in the fantastic Yesterday's Enterprise years later.

Conspiracy - "The strange behavior of high-ranking officers—which earlier prompted the investigation of the crew (in "Coming of Age")—leads Picard to uncover a conspiracy within Starfleet."

A followup to a previous not so good episode. Both this and Coming of Age are skippable, but I think this one's more worth watching for the establishment that Starfleet isn't an impenetrable utopian body afterall and for being a decent horror sci-fi genre episode. Features a very gross ending.

The Neutral Zone - "A derelict satellite is found containing cryonically frozen humans from the 21st century as the Enterprise is sent to investigate the destruction of outposts near Romulan space."

The Dumb 21st Century People subplot is fairly bad and the overall plot is sluggish, but this episode establishes the Romulans and drops the first hint of The Borg.

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