Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Star Trek: TNG - Essential Episodes List: Season 6

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 6

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.

Closing in on the last couple of seasons here. I don't think 6 is quite as good as 5 overall, but there's a lot of good stuff here. The Chase is an episode that SHOULD be essential; it should shake the foundations of belief of the Alpha Quadrant's major races. Instead, it's ignored after this episode, dulling its impact quite severely. Aquiel is this season's standout bad episode.

Realm of Fear - "Barclay must overcome his fear of the transporter to solve a mystery."

Not really essential, but it's a Barclay episode so it's on my list. I like looking at the transporter as a creepy machine, even if this isn't really a direction I'd imagine that examination taking.

Relics - "The Enterprise investigates a vessel that crashed on the surface of a Dyson sphere 75 years ago. An undegraded pattern is found in the transporter buffer, that of Mr. Scott. Feeling out of place and obsolete, Scotty agrees to return to his vessel with Geordi to help restore the logs, and they become the only hope when the Enterprise is accidentally pulled inside the sphere."

We get a couple of Spock episodes with Unification I and II and a McCoy cameo in Encounter at Farpoint, but this episode is my favorite Original Series callback on this show. Scotty trying to fit in to a world that's moved on is both sad and funny, and I really like him hanging around in the holodeck gettin crunk.

True Q - "Q reveals a secret about a young woman from Kansas who is visiting the Enterprise. Guest star: Olivia d'Abo as Amanda Rogers."

I like stories in which people discover and try to come to terms with terrifying new powers, whether it's in a Stephen King book, Spider-Man, or a Star Trek. Amanda is likeable enough to make it work well and it's fascinating to see a little more of how the Q Continuum works as a society.

A Fistful of Datas - "Data's mind is connected to the ship's computer, which creates unforeseen effects on the holodeck."

Worf and son fight outlaws in the Wild West. This one's actually pretty stupid, but I think it's funny.

Chain of Command I and II - "Captain Jellico is assigned command of the Enterprise, while Picard is sent on a covert mission into Cardassian territory. Guest star: Ronny Cox as Edward Jellico."

Part I is some good espionage fiction and Part II is the darkest this show ever gets. It's actually really hard for me to watch the torture scenes in this episode. We learn a lot about Cardassian culture in this episode, get to see the style of a captain who doesn't tolerate the casual behavior of the Enterprise's crew, and Troi starts wearing a real uniform and looks much classier.

Tapestry - "An accident kills Picard, and he finds an afterlife with Q analyzing his past choices."

Two Q episodes in one season, and they're both good. Tons of Picard backstory here, further explaining the story behind his heart condition first told in Samaritan Snare.

Birthright I and II - "Worf is told on Deep Space Nine his father is alive, and being held prisoner by the Romulans. Meanwhile an engineering experiment accidentally results in Data's first dream. Guest star: James Cromwell as Jaglom Shrek."

Another good mid-season two-parter. Both Data's and Worf's stories are good, and as corny as it is, I like the DS9 crossover. It's a shame Data's plot is resolved by the end of Part I, but Worf's remains solid throughout.

Lessons - "Picard becomes involved with a woman who is serving on the Enterprise, but he must send her into a dangerous mission."

The only romantic relationship Picard has outside of The Inner Light that's actually believable. These two really feel good for each other, certainly in a way Picard and Vash never did. If you don't recall Vash, that's fine; she's terrible.

Frame of Mind - "Riker finds himself prisoner in an alien mental institution, which resembles scenes from Beverly's play."

Another one that's really not essential but I'm throwing in here for personal preference. Frakes plays Riker on the brink of insanity extremely well for the most part, and it's fun to see an otherwise chill character lose it this hard.

Rightful Heir - "Worf experiences a crisis of faith, and travels to a Klingon holy site where the mythic figure Kahless returns to lead the Klingon people."

A good Klingon cultural episode with some good scowling by Gowron. This one should really impact the Klingon Empire more than it does, but there are some good questions raised here about what it means to be a holy figure.

Second Chances - "Riker encounters a duplicate of himself created by a transporter malfunction stranded on a planet. "Thomas" vies for Deanna's affections."

The premise sounds ridiculous, but it actually works quite well. Riker's disgust at his duplicate feels like a very human reaction and we get to learn a good deal about his life before the Enterprise.

Timescape - "The Enterprise is caught in temporal stasis, and on the brink of destruction by a Romulan ship."

Picard gets space madness and draws a smiley face in a cloud of gas. Its always fun to see a time travel type episode where we're not actually visiting the past/future, but instead a tangled, half-frozen messy knot of time.

Descent I - "The crew encounter a group of Borg acting individually, and Data briefly experiences emotions. Professor Stephen Hawking makes a guest appearance."

The episode begins with Data chilling with Stephen Hawking, Isaac Newton, and Albert Einstein. It's a super corny opener, but one of my favorites in the series. As for the rest of the episode, it's really not one of my favorites. I feel like a lot of bad decisions were made here and the Borg never truly feel threatening after this point. Closes out Lore's plot arc. Part 2 is the final time we see the Borg on Next Gen aside from its second theatrical film, First Contact, which I feel continues to dilute the threat of the Borg until they are thoroughly neutralized during Voyager.


  1. It's a great episode, but I always resent Tapestry's suggestion that Picard would have been an utter failure, not just professionally but as a man, if he had become MERELY the astronomer on humanity's #1 interstellar supership. Yeah, the moral of the story is something about boldness and taking risks, but the writers sure are dumping hard on the lives of pretty much everyone who isn't the President.

    1. That is pretty uncomfortable! I like to blame Q for making his life look worse than it would in order to make sure he learned a Life Lesson and came back to being captain.