Sunday, January 20, 2013

Star Trek: TNG - Essential Episodes List: Season 3

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 3

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.

Season 3 is where I think the series really comes into its own. In spite of a couple of really great episodes in Season 2 (Measure of a Man, Q Who), the overall season still felt kind of weak. Here's where it gets good. I could certainly pick more episodes than this to recommend, but I want to try to keep things compact.

The Survivors - "The Enterprise investigates the last two survivors of an annihilated world, as the entire surface has been transformed to dust except their one little garden and house. Guest stars John Anderson and Anne Haney as Kevin and Rishon Uxbridge."

An episode dealing with the question of, "How do we apply our morals and laws to something so beyond our power that it's incomprehensible?" The Troi subplot isn't the most well done, but the main story is a great one.

Who Watches the Watchers - "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."

This one is a good episode for examining why the Prime Directive matters. Too often on TNG forward the non-interference policy is used as an easy out in a tough situation, but this one is a good look at the results of accidental cultural incursion.

Booby Trap - "The Enterprise falls victim to an ancient booby trap set to snare starships; while in an effort to find an escape, Geordi finds himself falling for the holodeck's representation of a famous Federation engineer. Guest star Susan Gibney as Dr. Leah Brahms."

An important Geordi episode. The fallout of this one comes back later in an amazing awkward way. This is Geordi's big turning point from a nerdy go-getter to an actually goony nerd.

The Defector - "Determined to avert a war, a Romulan officer defects to warn Picard of his Empire's invasion plans."

A strong Star Trek Politics episode written by Ronald Moore. One of his early episodes; he'd go on to be one of the most important creative forces on this show and on DS9. Features some good Cold War tension and an appearance by Tomalak, one of the better recurring villains.

Deja Q - "The Q Continuum strips Q of his powers, and dumps him aboard the Enterprise."

This is probably my favorite Q episode. It's funny, dramatic, and gives most of the crew a nice chance to interact with him. The ending celebration is one of my favorite things in the series.

Yesterday's Enterprise - "The Enterprise-C arrives from the past, causing a shift in reality—and the return of the deceased Tasha Yar."

TNG's best time travel/alternate reality episode. The biggest reason I recommended Skin of Evil in Season 1 is that seeing it makes this episode a lot more poignant. Tasha is a lot more likeable here than in any part of Season 1, and the main plot is a great one showing how little it takes to turn the tide of history. Unfortunately leads to the birth of one of TNG's worst villains, but she doesn't appear in this episode herself.

The Offspring - "Data creates a young android, which he considers his daughter, "Lal". But a Starfleet admiral arrives demanding she be removed from the Enterprise. Guest star Hallie Todd as Lal."

Data's best episode of the season. After all they fought for in Measure of a Man, the crew is still upset by the idea of Data attempting to create new life, and Starfleet still ignores his rights. Good moral conflicts, good goofy father/daughter adventures.

Sins of the Father - "Worf goes on trial to prove his father's innocence after the Klingon High Council declares that Worf's father is a traitor, and worked with the Romulans all along."

One of Worf's most important episodes. The plot here is one of the very few arcs that runs throughout the entire series and even into DS9. Tony Todd is absolutely great as Worf's brother Kurn.

Hollow Pursuits - "Lt. Barclay's use of the holodeck as an escape interferes with his duties. Meanwhile, the Enterprise suffers from mysterious and random malfunctions."

Barclay's introductory episode. He's one of my favorite minor recurring characters, and this episode tells you all you need to know about him. It's a good look at what an imperfect nerd stuck in the Star Trek universe might do.

Sarek - "The Enterprise is plagued by an outbreak of violence when it is visited by the renowned Vulcan ambassador, Sarek. Discovering that Sarek is suffering from an incurable disease, Captain Picard must allow a mind-meld with him so that the ambassador can complete a last vital negotiation between the Federation and the Legaran."

Every appearance of Sarek in both TNG and Original Series shows is solid; Mark Lenard's perfect in the role. This is one of the few TNG/TOS crossover episodes and it's a good one. Not a whole lot of time is spent on the Vulcans in this series, and of the Vulcan episodes this one's the best. Serves an important role in a later two-parter.

The Best of Both Worlds Pt. 1 - "Picard is kidnapped by the Borg, who begin their invasion of Federation space."

I still remember seeing this one when it first aired. It stuck with me in a way that nothing else in the series had, and scared me pretty badly as a kid. This is the episode that really sells the Borg as an unknowable, unstoppable juggernaut. I don't think Pt. 2 is nearly as good, but this is a phenomenal episode and essential to Picard as a character.

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