Thursday, January 24, 2013

Star Trek: TNG - Essential Episodes List: Season 7

This is part of a continuing series on what I consider the essential episodes of Star Trek: TNG. To view previous entries, click the Essential Episodes tag at the bottom of this post.

Star Trek: TNG - Essential Episodes List: Season 7

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.

The final season. There are still a couple of great episodes, but for the most part, everyone looks kind of tired and the writing gets noticeably worse. Sub Rosa is probably the worst, but it absolutely needs to be watched just so you can say, "yeah, this show needed to end here." Interface, an episode meant to give more family backstory to Geordi, falls flat. The two-parter Gambit is a crappy space pirate episode with an Emotion Gun and it's yet another that should have only been one episode. Force of Nature is a badly done environmentalism episode that should say something interesting but instead has terrible pacing and a message too blunt even for Star Trek. Masks is an insultingly stupid Data Gets Possessed episode.

Descent II - "The Borg are being led by Lore. Data falls under his control by being fed negative emotions."

Concludes the Borg plot, Lore's plot, and some dumb stuff with the emotion chip. I don't particularly like this episode, but it's an important one.

Phantasms - "Data experiences strange dreams, while the Enterprise has issues with its new Warp-core. But all is not as it seems."

Totally trippy craziness. It's not stellar, but it's a fun one with some really nutty images.

Attached - "Reclusive aliens imprison Picard and Dr. Crusher on charges of espionage, and experimental implants linking their minds telepathically cause them to face their latent feelings for each other."

This one feels kind of fan servicy, but I still think it's a good episode. Picard and Crusher slowly becoming more and more mentally symbiotic is fun to watch.

Inheritance - "Data encounters a woman claiming to be his "mother"."

One of the last good Data episodes of the series. The timeline of events and what Dr. Soong was doing when with whom is kind of ridiculous, and his farewell message a little too convenient, but Data's relationship with Dr. Tainer is sweet.

Parallels - "Worf finds himself randomly shifting between alternate realities."

One of the best alternate reality episodes of Trek. I love the changes, both big and small, that form around Worf, and it's nice to see an alternate reality that isn't completely overblown/evil.

The Pegasus - "Riker's former Captain boards the Enterprise to retrieve the USS Pegasus. Picard investigates the circumstances of its loss and finds that there has been a cover-up. Features Terry O'Quinn as Admiral Eric Pressman."

Riker's last big backstory episode. This kind of comes out of nowhere since his past actions were never even hinted at previously, but that's TNG.

Sub Rosa - "Dr. Crusher attends her grandmother's funeral, and takes on an unusual family tradition."

Crusher falls in love with the ghost that has slept with all of the women in her family. He lives inside of a candle. A Scotsman yells funny things in a terribly fake sounding, over the top accent. This is a terrible, terrible episode. Everyone who's come this far through the show needs to watch it once.

The Lower Decks - "Junior officers buck for promotion as one of them is assigned the dangerous task of helping a Cardassian spy."

This episode feels more DS9 than TNG, and I mean that in the best way. If you like this episode and haven't seen any DS9, you'll probably like DS9. More episodes should have focused on new/minor characters. Seeing the command crew from another perspective is good.

Genesis - "A routine medical treatment inadvertently creates a virus that begins to de-evolve the Enterprise crew while Picard and Data are on an away mission. This is the first and only episode to be directed by Gates McFadden, who plays Dr. Crusher."

The episode that answers the question, "what if TNG were a horror b-movie?" Tremendously stupid, but in a way that's a lot of fun to laugh at. The best misunderstanding of evolution outside of actual anti-evolution propaganda. Barclay turns into a spider.

Journey's End - "Wesley considers his future, as the Enterprise is ordered to remove Native American colonists from a planet that is about to fall under Cardassian jurisdiction. Guest star Richard Poe as Gul Evek. Final appearance of Eric Menyuk as The Traveler."

The final Wesley episode. I actually hate that he leaves the show as a super-powered being after the last couple of appearances finally started to humanize him. It's an important episode, but still kind of stupid. In case the viewers were too dumb to recognize the historical parallel with relocating natives, the writers decided they actually needed to be Native Americans and reference their ancestors' past.

Preemptive Strike - "Lieutenant Ro graduates from advanced tactical training, and is sent by Picard to lure Maquis terrorists into a trap. Guest star Richard Poe as Gul Evek."

I'm glad Ro gets a sendoff episode before the series ends. It's a shame how long it is between this episode and her previous appearance, but I'm very glad she wasn't totally forgotten.

All Good Things - "Picard finds himself being transported between three time periods thanks to Q, with a spacetime distortion that threatens to destroy reality growing larger in the past, and smaller in the future."

The final episode of the show.

Thanks for reading, people! Once you're done with TNG, you may be curious about the four movies that followed the TV run. I'm sorry to say they all range from mediocre to bad in their own unique way. DS9 is the best place to go from here, and as much as I do love TNG, I fully believe DS9 is a better show. I may do an essential episodes list for the first two seasons of DS9 in the future, but after that, it's hard to say "just watch these handful of episodes" because so much of the show is so good. It may be easier to make a "skip these episodes" list for the whole series; it would be much shorter.


  1. Genesis follows its preposterous premise to a satisfying conclusion without making up convenient new magic science rules and loopholes along the way. That puts it a step above most sci-fi (including much of Next Generation) if you ask me, and yeah, Spider Barclay puts it another notch above that.

    1. I love that in the end, everything was Barclay's fault and kittens save the day.