Captain's Blog pt. 38: The Best of The Next Generation

Before we move completely on from The Next Generation side of things: so we've seen my personal favorites and discussed some of yours. But what are the best TNG episodes? As objectively speaking as possible?

My methodology: I took the top 6 of my personal faves from each season and pitted them against one another in mortal combat. Criteria used: production value, originality (or, if familiar, success at conveying core strength of concept,) script, performance, and showcasing-the-series'-best-attributes. I assigned each episode on my lists numerical values based on the above, then added them up. What follows is the end result of many rounds of battle in my notebook. (I'd show you, but I've already sent it to the Smithsonian.)

Despite their high rankings in my season-by-season favorites, I removed "Clues" and "Emergence" from consideration. I love them more than some of the episodes below but recognize I'm pretty much the only one. So, tearfully but in the spirit of noble sacrifice and science, I put them to one side.

I've made my arguments for these episodes in other blogs, so this is just a straight-up list. You're welcome, Planet Earth. Away we go.

25. Time's Arrow
24. Remember Me
23. Lower Decks
22. Captain's Holiday
21. Rascals
20. The Next Phase
19. Starship Mine
18. Schisms
17. Contagion
16. Data's Day
15. Sins of the Father
14. Phantasms
13. Thine Own Self
12. Future Imperfect
11. Conundrum
10. Ship in a Bottle
9. Darmok
8. Yesterday's Enterprise
7. Cause and Effect
6. Family
5. Tapestry
4. The Inner Light
3. Parallels
2. The Best of Both Worlds
1. All Good Things...
How about you? How are yours different?


  1. Choosing between "All Good Things..." and "The Best of Both Worlds" would be a tough one for me. Beyond that, I think you can take the titles of the remaining top 10, fling them into the air, and put them in more or less whatever order they landed in.

    My top 10, though, might have "Encounter at Farpoint" in it. I think that episode did a very good job of establishing the series. Granted, I also think I like it more than most people like it, so that may be a case more of personal bias than anything else.

    1. Encounter at Farpoint did indeed establish the series well, and I think it's quality stuff. I think it might fall in around number 40, or so, for me, personally. (I only graded about 30 episodes, then realized I had enough for my top 25, so I stopped.)

      And yeah, any of the top 10 here could credibly be swapped for the top spot, I agree.

    2. * i.e. the non-BoBW or AGT top spot, I mean, of course.

  2. I can't argue with your list, of course, it being yours, and besides, I have no problem with most of the rankings. The only difference for me would be to place Parallels at the top. It continues to linger in my mind, intriguing me long after I've forgotten the plots of other episodes. The biggest plus for me is that it sets the stage for reconciling every iteration of Trek, smoothing out continuity problems by simply obviating them. Even if the timeline was "repaired" in this episode, the mucking about with time done in the Trek universe on a regular basis is effectively explained and dealt with here. Anyway, you know how much I love Crisis on Infinite Earths, and I consider this Trek's Crisis.

    The pic for 10 made me chuckle, and then made me think. The chuckle was because I immediately thought "hey, wait a minute, are we supposed to believe Moriarty and his lady friend are gonna live in that shuttle indefinitely? Where will they take a dump?" Then it struck me that they're holograms...and THEN it hit me that this implies that the holodeck effectively "edits out" bodily functions in its creations. I guess now I can understand why Geordi and Barclay love living in their own worlds on the holodeck; besides everything else, there isn't the specter of walking in on your lady on the pot.

    The pic for Parallels looks like they're doin' the Time Warp agaiiiiiin...

    1. By the way, I imagine you'll hate me for those last two points, but I swear they leaped out at me.

    2. Why would I hate you for those last two points? I don't follow you.

    3. It's an interesting question, though I'll assume they can land wherever they need to, to do their business. (I've always assumed Moriarty and the Countess, there, are "fully functional.")

      It does bring up some of the finer points of Trek, of course, to wonder such things. It's a perfectly legitimate line of inquiry, though I do like the eventual Occam's Razor of Grant Morrison's observation from Supergods: "You don't have to figure out how Batman goes to the bathroom, because he's a cartoon character." Sometimes, I'll think of that and chuckle to myself when I start mulling such things over.

      I still think labeling "Remember Me" and "Future Imperfect" as "solipsistic" is an error/ micharacterization, but besides that one difference of interpretation, please continue to make whatever points you see fit, here there and everywhere, sir! Hellfire!

  3. I was always a big Barclay fan so I loved the Ninth Degree and Hollow Pursuits. Also I liked "The Royale" simply because its very First Generation Trek feel. I will say that your top 10 is pretty spot on and love that Inner Light made your top 5

    1. How could it not? Glad you enjoyed!

      The Royale is such a weirdly fun one. I agree it has a first generation Trek feel (though perhaps 3rd season.) In many ways, it's a terrible episode. But I always enjoy watching it, and the imagery has always stuck with me.

      Yaaaaaaaay, brother.

  4. Here follows my hastily-assembled TNG top 25, which is 100% subjective and is something I probably won't even agree with five minutes after putting it together. But right this second, this is what I came up with:

    #25 -- Second Chances
    #24 -- The Pegasus
    #23 -- Lessons
    #22 -- Ship in a Bottle
    #21 -- The Perfect Mate
    #20 -- I Borg
    #19 -- The Drumhead
    #18 -- Deja Q
    #17 -- Conspiracy
    #16 -- 11001001
    #15 -- Who Watches the Watchers?
    #14 -- A Matter of Honor
    #13 -- Encounter at Farpoint
    #12 -- The Outcast
    #11 -- Yesterday's Enterprise
    #10 -- The Measure of a Man
    #09 -- The Offspring
    #08 -- Elementary, Dear Data
    #07 -- The Best of Both Worlds: Part II
    #06 -- All Good Things...
    #05 -- Q Who?
    #04 -- Tapestry
    #03 -- The Best of Both Worlds
    #02 -- Darmok
    #01 -- The Inner Light

    1. Solid list! Although I'd like to see the annotations for sure. Some surprising ones very high (Measure of a Man? Q Who?) and quite a few of my faves (Family, Cause and Effect, Parallels, Emergence, Conundrum, Future Imperfect, Thine Own Self, Captain Holiday) missing.

      The nature of horse races, of course, it's just interesting. Glad to hear "Tapestry" is a top 5, though.

    2. I like all of the episodes you mention; it was especially hard to leave "Family" off the list.

      "The Measure of a Man" is one of the quintessential Data episodes, and since Data is one of the best Trek characters of all, I didn't see how I could fail to place it in the top ten. Plus, a great episode for both Picard and Riker.

      "Q Who?" is just awesome. Sure, some of the Borg makeup/costuming is old-school-television wonky, but I can look past that. Q is scarier in that episode than in any other, and I really love the fact that in the end, Picard has no choice but to say, "We are not ready for this shit." I kinda wish they had never followed up on that episode (as much as I obviously love TBOBW 1 and 2). That would have made for a killer movie, for the Borg to finally show up then.

      I always loved "Conspiracy" for pretty much that same reason. It probably doesn't really deserve to be ranked that high, but it's one I just really dig personally.

    3. I'll take "Data's Day" or "Offspring" or "Phantasms" over "Measure of a Man" for quintessential Data eps, myself; there's something about "Measure of a Man" for me, it jsut doesn't strike me as a story that would actually take place in the 24th century. But, not a dealbreaker.

      I kinda hear you on how cool it would have been had "Q Who" set up the ultimate TNG movie. That'd be pretty great to retcon, even if it meant missing out on some killer TNG eps.

    4. I wish I liked "Data's Day" as much as you do. It's good, but I think the shoehorned-in obligatory crisis undermines it. Can't we just have had a nice little episode where nothing dangerous happens? Granted, I'm the guy who wishes an occasional episode would just be about exploring something.

    5. You got me thinking about that "Q Who" idea. What if the Borg only appeared in "Q Who," the show went on its merry way (maybe "Time's Arrow" played the season 3 cliffhanger role that kept the show on the air), and then the first two movies were "Best of Both Worlds" and then "First Contact?" And then the 3rd could be "Insurrection" (full power! DAMN YOU!) and then the 4th could be a "Data's Day" version of "Nemesis" where nothing dangerous happens. I could get on board with all of this in a heartbeat.

    6. I suspect that if "The Best of Both Worlds" had been the first movie -- or, better yet, the first two movies -- then "First Contact" would never have existed. I would make that swap in a heartbeat, AND second your call for replacing "Nemesis" with "Data's Day." Or with anything, really. Give me a feature-film version of "Aquiel" over that.

      I watched "Star Trek: Generations" this week and have many thoughts on it. I will try to pony 'em up on your post for it.

    7. I apologize in advance for how relentlessly and comprehensively I nitpick that one.

      Not to quibble over imaginaries, but I think it'd be a mistake to expand "Best of Both Worlds." Actually I think if you took the 2-parter and just made it a movie, maybe fleshing it out with another 10 minutes or so, then "First Contact" would make the perfect sequel. Or, if they didn't want to bring back the Borg so quickly, then "Insurrection" could've been the sequel, pissed off the same amount of people (who were / are wrong), then "First Contact" could have been the "triumphant return to form." I can see this timeline quite clearly in my mind's eye!

      "Give me a feature film version of 'Acquiel' over (that)" is gonna be my new Trek-specific method of disapproval.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Well, yeah, but only coz I put in the wrong place! Don't you go insinuating things about ME, Blogger!