If you’re even remotely interested in science fiction and television, chances are pretty good that someone has recommended you watch Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Unless you’ve seen it and are sure you don’t like it, that person was right: you should watch it!
But we don’t blame you if you find it somewhat daunting—considering Star Trek: The Next Generation has hour-long episodes and lasted for seven seasons.
If you’re not sure where to start, or if you’re a longtime fan looking to rewatch a few excellent episodes, here are the best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes you should definitely watch.
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1. “Measure of a Man”
The Next Generation was still finding its feet in the second season, but “Measure of a Man” was one of the first truly great episodes of the series.
This episode focuses on Lt. Commander Data, specifically his rights as an android, when a scientist who wants to dismantle him to create copies of him.
2. “Q Who?”
Q made his debut in the series debut episode “Encounter at Farpoint,” but this episode is where John de Lancie really begins to shine in his role. Q tries to prove that the crew of the Enterprise needs him as an ally. How? By putting them in incredible danger.
Normally, episodes of The Next Generation that feature Deanna Troi’s mother Lwaxana are groan-worthy—and this one is too, but in a way that works.
Lwaxana is on the prowl for a mate (hence the episode title), and Captain Picard is doing his best to avoid her. This episode also features a cameo from Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood.
4. “The Defector”
If you’re a fan of the recent The Next Generation follow-up show Star Trek: Picard, this season three episode is a must see. It gives excellent background on the Romulans, and also just happens to be a great episode on its own merits.
5. “Deja Q”
Yep, another Q episode. This one is unusual, as Q spends most of the episode without his powers aside from his intellect.
After seeing him as a near-omnipotent antagonist in other episodes, seeing Q dealing with human problems is strangely satisfying, even if he does regain his powers by the end.
6. “Yesterday’s Enterprise”
Whenever time travel pops up out of nowhere in a sci-fi show, you know it’s probably going to be a good episode. This is especially true with “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” a fan and cast favorite that features a new take on the death of a character from season one.
7. “The Offspring”
This is another episode that ties well into Star Trek: Picard. It’s also the first episode of the episode directed by a cast member, in this case Jonathan Frakes, whose directorial touch makes this episode (in which Data creates a daughter for himself) a favorite of numerous cast members.
8. “Captain’s Holiday”
As the title implies, this episode begins with Captain Picard taking a vacation, only to be drawn into an almost Indiana Jones-style adventure. It also happens to feature time travel—which, again, almost always makes for a great episode.
9. “Best Of Both Worlds”
“Best Of Both Worlds” is more or less legally required to be on any list of the best episodes of this show. This two-parter that spans season three and season four sees Picard captured and assimilated by the Borg…
…and a cliffhanger that had fans impatiently waiting for season four to begin. This two-part episode is so good that it was released as a standalone Blu-ray disc.
This episode isn’t the first episode to feature Data’s brother, Lore, but it’s the best. If you’re a fan of Data (is it possible to watch this show and not become one?), this is a must-watch for the background the episode gives to his character.
11. “Data’s Day”
Speaking of Data, “Data’s Day” is about, well, Data’s day. This is one of the funnier episodes of the show, as well as essential viewing if you plan to watch Star Trek: Deep Space Nine thanks to its focus on Miles and Keiko O’Brien.
12. “I, Borg”
Here’s another episode that provides great background for Picard. “I, Borg” sees the Enterprise crew find an injured Borg and initially decide to use him as a weapon against the Borg. Instead, he starts to develop free will and even takes a name: Hugh.
13. “The Inner Light”
While “Captain’s Holiday” lets us see a slightly different Picard we don’t normally see on the show, “The Inner Light” shows us a radically different Picard. The Captain literally lives another life while only a few minutes pass for the rest of the crew.
Another Q episode, but with a much different tone than normal. After Picard dies (yes, you read that right), Q gives him a chance to go back in time and change events, It’s A Wonderful Life-style.
Of course, nothing goes as planned. Writer (and later Battlestar Galactic creator) Ronald D. Moore told fans this was one of the best episodes he’d written.
It was tough not to round out this list of episodes with “All Good Things,” the final episode of the show, but that’s kind of a bummer.
Instead, we’ll go with “Genesis,” one of the weirdest episodes of the show, which sees most of the crew turned into primitive beings including a spider, a venom-spraying mega-Klingon, and cavemen.
Can’t Get Enough Star Trek?
Narrowing down the entire run of Star Trek: The Next Generation to the 15 best episodes is effectively impossible, because it means leaving out a ton of great episodes.
If you’re really looking to get into the series, start from the beginning and watch it all. Yes, the first two seasons can be a little rough, but the plot points they set up will pay off seasons later.
If that’s not enough Star Trek for you, can stay knee-deep in outer space without even being in front of your TV: