Sunday, May 29, 2016

Top Ten List - The Next Generation 10 Favourite Episodes

I was re-reading some of my old blog posts from my personal blog, The Mighty Elroy, and came across a Top Ten List. It was from two years ago, and it was celebrating 20 years since the TNG aired its final episode. I talked about other things in the blog (my daughter's birth, my mother's legacy), but the ending was all about Picard and his crew. There were many great episodes in that series, and as I read through the list, I marveled at how had it was to choose my favourite Top 10. 

I had many great memories of TNG because this is the series that I grew up with. This is the one that my whole family watched together for seven years. Dinner time on whatever night TNG was on usually ended up with all if us grabbing our plates and moving into the living room where the TV was. We watched every episode in reruns as well, and while there were some that were definitely groan worthy, I have fond memories of all of them. So, here is the Top 10 list of MY Favourite Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. First, a bit of background. In my original posting of this, I said that these are not necessarily the ones I thought were the "Best" episodes, just the ones I enjoyed the most. Two-part episodes were counted as one. Feel free to tell me your favourites.

10. Conspiracy - This was a neat little first season episode. I am not a fan of gratuitous violence, but I have to say watching a guy's head explode on TV was cool. This episode was so different from everything else in Season 1 that is was refreshing and bold. I loved that Picard was involved in the fireworks. I really wish they had followed this up in later seasons.

9. Lower Decks - After ranking a first season episode, it seems fitting to have a final season episode next. The TNG episodes often revolved around the senior officers (understandably so), and they often brought in reoccurring characters such as Barclay, Ogawa, O'Brien, etc. to round out how the ship was really a ship of over 1000 people. Lower Decks to me was an episode about the little guys. It tied in a few story lines from earlier episodes but showed what I think most of fans would have loved to experience: being a part of the crew.

8. The Measure of a Man - From Season 2 this episode, in my eyes, showed the first real strength in using great story telling and character development while at the same time providing social commentary. Powerful performances from Brent Spiner, Patrick Stewart, and Johnathon Frakes helped push this episode to the #8 spot. 

7. Unification - Not only do we get another great performance from Mark Leonard as Sarek, but we finally get to see Leonard Nimoy reprise his monumental role of Spock on TNG. This was a highly anticipated two-part story that sadly aired just after the death of Trek creator Gene Roddenberry (both episodes were dedicated to him) but also weeks before Star Trek VI, and provided a great hype for the new film. Throw in Sela (Denise Crosby) and a Data-Spock tag team and you have a whole lot of fun.

6. Relics - Always a fan favourite, Relics returns James Doohan as Scotty to the Trek world. For me this episode is great not just because of the connections made between TNG and the Original series but because the central TNG character was my favourite Geordi La Forge, the blind chief engineer, who sadly was rarely the main focus of any episode. Yes, it made sense that Geordi and Scotty would team up, but it is nice to see that they did so in a great way.

5. The Inner Light - OK, it's getting tough now. A lot of fans may start to cry foul that this timeless classic episode only made it #5 and not the Top 3, but I have my reasons for ranking others higher. Suffice it to say even if you are not a Trek fan, this episode is one that almost anyone can enjoy. Again, it shows how great Trek can be when the focus on telling good stories. The special effects and cool moments all take a back seat to a good story and this episode shows that such effects are not necessary.

4. Yesterday's Enterprise - One of the best time-travel/alternate universe stories that brought back my beloved Denise Crosby back as Tasha Yar. Now, I mentioned in the last one that special effects are not necessary when you have a great story, but this episode had both and were used effectively. I also like the foundations that were set for future stories, from minor things such as Worf drinking prune juice to big surprises such as the blond half-human Romulan Sela. I wish they could have shown more of how the Enterprise D crew met their fates during the final battle (apparently they were supposed to kill Wesley and Data), but it is exciting.

3. The Best of Both Worlds - I don't care about who shot JR or Mr. Burns, or who survived the terrorist attack in Dynasty, or even the Season 3 finale of LOST, this is THE BEST season cliffhanger of all time. Great development. The only thing that keeps it from higher was the slightly weaker second part.

2. All Good Things - Definitely the best series finale in not only Trek history but in almost all of TV. It bookends the series with beauty and logic, reuniting old fan favorites like Tomalak, O'Brien, Yar, and of course, Q. I always wished that they would have done a movie with Q, but if this is as close as they will ever get, then I am satisfied with it. The end scene with the poker game is brilliantly executed and is a nice way to lead us into the TNG movies.

Before I get to #1, I would like to state again that this was not an easy list to compile for no other reason that Next Generation was such a fun show to watch. Many great episodes did not hit my Top Ten. The honorable mentions (in order of broadcast) are: Skin of Evil, Sarek, Brothers, Qpid, Darmok, Disaster, I Borg, the First Duty, Rascals, Tapestry, Face of the Enemy, Starship Mine, Descent, and Genesis.

1. The Offspring - I can already hear fellow Trekkies questioning this choice of Data creating a daughter being #1 so let me explain. This is MY favourite list. I readily admit that if I were to rank the best episodes I would place it lower (but still top ten). What gives it the top spot for me is two things. First, there is a line that Data gives as he expresses to his daughter Lal about why he strives to be human when he will never accomplish the goal. He says that it is the journey that one makes that is important, not the actual destination. As a young man it struck a cord with me that resonates to this day. The second is the love a father has for his child. As I grew older and became a father, this episode has come to mean a great deal more to me and cements itself at the top spot.

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