Star Trek TNG Season 7: My Top 5 Fave Episodes

As my husband and I are going through our second full watch of Star Trek as a couple, I thought it would be fun to report on the highlights along the way. So I decided to copy the same format as Charlene at Bookish Whimsy, who is going through her first-ever run of Star Trek and sharing her favorite episodes for each season. To compare, see her top 5 favorite episodes of season seven of The Next Generation.

I have to say, I was kind of disappointed in TNG’s final season on this rewatch. I felt like many episodes reverted back to season one days (hello “Masks” and “Genesis”). However, there were some solid episodes, I do like the final scene of the series, and I liked how there was a little bit of interconnection with DS9 (more obvious to me this time around since I was watching them together). Here are my top 5 for TNG’s final season…

5. Thine Own Self

tng7-thineownself

This episode isn’t a real standout, but I enjoyed seeing Data having to figure things out on his own, with alien people, when he had no memories and many were afraid of him. It was definitely an interesting look cultural interference and a good character study of Data.

4. All Good Things…

tng7-all-good-things

The TNG finale is mostly good. The time-hopping storyline is both interesting and a bit convoluted. But I do love the message at the end that we can do things today to change our future. (BTW, my favorite part besides the ending is Data’s future… with all those CATS! Darn you, Nemesis!)

3. Gambit, Parts 1 and 2

tng7-gambit

I like seeing Picard in a different element in these episodes, sort of like in last season’s Starship Mine.

2. Lower Decks

tng7-lowerdecks

This episode is a very character-driven episode, but instead of spotlighting a cast character, it focuses on secondary characters, some that we have never even met before. The ending is also pretty sad for TNG, and feels kind of DS9ish overall.

1. Parallels

tng7-parallels

Sometimes parallel universe storylines frustrate me, but this one is interesting to me as it deals more with actual multiverse theory instead of one alternate timeline. And it’s so easy for me to paint Worf with one brush, but to see so many facets of him in this episode and for them to all feel true was really neat.

What are your favorite episodes of TNG season 7?

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Star Trek TNG Season 6: My Top 5 Fave Episodes

In case you missed it, I did my Top 5 of Season 5 on Tumblr during my hiatus. 

As my husband and I are going through our second full watch of Star Trek as a couple, I thought it would be fun to report on the highlights along the way. So I decided to copy the same format as Charlene at Bookish Whimsy, who is going through her first-ever run of Star Trek and sharing her favorite episodes for each season. To compare, see her top 5 favorite episodes of season six of The Next Generation.

On this rewatch of Star Trek, we’re watching the episodes in the order they were aired, meaning that this season we started incorporating Deep Space Nine. This meant that it took us a longer time to finish season 6 (it feels like ages since I saw the early episodes of the season!), and it also meant that I anticipated Deep Space Nine nights and not TNG nights… oops… That makes me sad because I do love TNG, especially these later seasons, but I just love DS9 so much and have been so happy to see all the characters again. It’s going to be even worse when we’re watching Voyager episodes too… But on my with my favorites of the season! (Note: Tapestry is an honorable mention. Even though I don’t generally like those “It’s A Wonderful Life” plot elements or Q, I do think it’s a worthwhile episode.)

5. A Firstful of Datas

tng6-fistfulofdatas

I don’t particularly care for Lore (or B-4 from Nemesis, shudder), but any other time Brent Spiner gets to deviate from the typical characterization for Data, I’m pretty happy. In this one, something goes haywire and Data is all over the holodeck, but not in typical Data fashion. I also enjoy seeing Troi fitting in well with the Wild West theme of the holodeck program.

4. Starship Mine

tng6-starshipmine

Picard kicks some butt in this episode! It’s nice to see him deviate from his normal behavior, but it still feels like Picard. I’m a little surprised he doesn’t seem more remorseful about killing the baddies, but they were after him! Also noteworthy: Data’s attempt at small talk.

3. Rascals

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This episode is just plain fun, and the actress who plays younger Guinan seriously NAILS her character role. There is definitely some suspension ofdisbelief in how bad things get on the Enterprise before “children” have to save the day, but still a fun episode nonetheless.

2. Frame of Mind

tng6-frameofmind

This is one of those psychological episodes of TNG that just really surprised me. Riker is playing the role of a character in an insane asylum for a play on the Enterprise, yet also finds himself in an actual insane asylum, being told this he has delusions of life on a starship. My biggest complaint about this episode is that it wasn’t a two-parter that delved deeper into the story, and that none of the ramifications were ever shown.

1. Chain of Command Parts 1 & 2

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These episodes are just phenomenal; they truly make the psychology minor in me geek out. In fact, I wrote a post a while ago comparing Picard’s torture to the torture in 1984. THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!

What are your favorite episodes of TNG season six?

Star Trek TNG Season 4: My Top 5 Fave Episodes

As my husband and I are going through our second full watch of Star Trek as a couple, I thought it would be fun to report on the highlights along the way. So I decided to copy the same format as Charlene at Bookish Whimsy, who is going through her first-ever run of Star Trek and sharing her favorite episodes for each season. To compare, see her top 5 favorite episodes of season four of The Next Generation.

So this was an interesting season for me. Season 3 I felt that most episodes were pretty consistently good, and I thought I probably felt the same way about Season 4… until I looked back on the list of episodes and realized there were more “meh” ones than I recalled. Some had some things I liked about them before something weird happened or the resolution was unsatisfying. However, I came with five that I did feel were pretty consistently good. I have to say I’m a little surprised by what I haven’t seen yet at this point, so these later seasons should be good as I see some of the episodes I remember from before.

5. Family

tng4-familyAfter his experience with becoming Borg, Picard goes back to his home on Earth and visits with his family. This episode has an extremely sad undertone if you’ve seen a certain TNG movie, but it is interesting to see Picard where he grew up and interacting with his brother, who has very different interests and ambitions.

4. Redemption, Part One

tng4-redemptionI am seriously appreciating the Klingon episodes more this time around. In this episode, we get some important set-up for the future of the Klingon Empire and important development for Worf’s character. This part one doesn’t end in a real cliffhanger, but it certainly sets things up in a shocking way with something that was alluded to in a previous episode (holy Deep Space Nine, TNG has continuity after all!).

3. First Contact

tng4-firstcontactWhat I enjoyed about this one is that you get to see things from the perspective of those outside the Federation. No, it’s not told from their viewpoint, but you get to hear more of their viewpoint than you normally do in a typical Star Trek episode. You understand why someone who has never, ever heard of Starfleet would not necessarily jump at the chance to join them. You see aliens react to humans like we would to aliens. It makes for good food-for-thought.

2. Data’s Day

tng4-datasdayThis episode is a fun one. We get introduced to Spot (Data’s cat) and Keiko, who marries Chief O’Brien. I’ve actually forgotten a lot of the details of this one already, but I do remember enjoying it.

1. The Drumhead

tng4-thedrumheadThis episode was a real standout for me this season. I think a large part of it is because I found it crazy relevant for something happening in my life right now, but even so, it’s not hard to think of just how relevant this episode is, period. Immediately your mind will take you to the Salem witch trials and the 1960’s Red Scare. This is an episode that you can appreciate even without really knowing anything about Star Trek, and I highly recommend it to really anyone reading this right now. Queue it up on Netflix if you have it.

What are your favorite episodes of TNG, season 4?

Star Trek TNG Season 3: My Top 5 Fave Episodes

As my husband and I are going through our second full watch of Star Trek as a couple, I thought it would be fun to report on the highlights along the way. So I decided to copy the same format as Charlene at Bookish Whimsy, who is going through her first-ever run of Star Trek and sharing her favorite episodes for each season. To compare, see her top 5 favorite episodes of season two of The Next Generation.

Season three is definitely when TNG picks up, and I had a harder time narrowing my selection because of good options this time! I also wanted to be sure to mention an honorable mention, The Ensigns of Command, since I did have a hard time choosing it or my #5 choice.

5. The Defector

tng3-thedefectorThis was one of those episodes that left me feeling kind of depressed in the end, but it was pretty poignant. It reminds me a bit of the DS9 episode “Duet.” I really don’t want to say too much to spoil the episode for those who have not seen it, but there are some interesting twists in it.

4. Sins of the Father

tng3-thesinsofthefatherI’m not a big fan of Klingon episodes, so I was surprised how much I liked this one. I have a feeling I got much more out of it this time around than I probably did the first time, simply because now I’m familiar with Worf’s journey, and his family is a big part of that journey (and I don’t just mean blood family). I also love what Picard does for Worf in this episode.

3. The Hunted

tng3-thehuntedI have a definite love for the psychological episodes of Star Trek, and this one explores the fascinating psychological idea of engineering a group of people a certain way, in this case, to be soldiers.

2. Yesterday’s Enterprise

tng3-yesterdaysenterpriseFirst off, from a purely productional standpoint, I love the dark lighting of the other timeline’s Enterprise. Second, we see another version of Tasha who is just so much more awesome for some reason. And third, there’s just something about this story, that I can’t really explain, that is just plain great. It’s a fan favorite so clearly I’m not alone.

1. The Best of Both Worlds

tng-thebestofbothworlds2Just as a note, this is a wicked cliffhanger two-parter that comprises the season three finale and the first episode of season four. For the sake of simplicity, I am including both parts in my season three recap (though Charlene waited until season 4). I mean, I don’t know what to say about this episode other than the first time I watched it I was just FLOORED. It was the first really huge risk I feel they took in Star Trek and it worked really well. This time around, instead of watching parts one and two in the same fashion they were originally aired, we watched the enhanced Blu-Ray that edits the episodes together as one seamless film. Even when you know the outcome, you still feel the tension in these episodes. It’s one of the best stories of The Next Generation, period.

What are your favorite episodes of The Next Generation, season 3?

Star Trek TNG Season 2: My Top 5 Fave Episodes

As my husband and I are going through our second full watch of Star Trek as a couple, I thought it would be fun to report on the highlights along the way. So I decided to copy the same format as Charlene at Bookish Whimsy, who is going through her first-ever run of Star Trek and sharing her favorite episodes for each season. To compare, see her top 3 favorite episodes of season two of The Next Generation.

Season two is DEFINITELY better than season one! Thankfully, it was a little easier to come up with a top 5 this time, and I even conjured up a few honorable mentions: The Royale, A Matter of Honor, and Q Who? (because as annoying as Q is in that episode, it is important). Here are my top 5…

5. The Dauphin

tng2-thedauphinSo the weird-demented-looking-bear-creatures are a little strange, but this episode just made me smile because I actually enjoyed watching Wesley be all smitten over a girl. I also love everyone’s reactions to Wesley’s crush and their attempts at doling out relationship advice. I think Guinan ended up saying it best at the end of the episode!

4. The Icarus Factor

tng2-theicarusfactorI almost didn’t choose this one because I really don’t care for the main storyline about Riker and his dad and how much they hate each other and want to be macho and blahblahblah. But O’Brien has some fabulous one-liners that made the episode (“No kidding, I know her too, but we don’t do that.”), plus John Tesh is a Klingon and pokes Worf with a pain-stick! Oh yes, and Worf yells in Data’s face: “Be gone!” Basically, I love every part of this episode that is secondary to the main plot.

3. Elementary, Dear Data

tng2-elementarydeardataI don’t love the ending of this one because I think it shows poor judgment on Picard’s part, but I enjoy Data exploring his inner-Sherlock!

2. Manhunt

tng2-manhuntI almost didn’t choose this one either because, ugh, Lwaxana Troi, but then I thought about it and I realized I actually really enjoyed this one! Piccard is just perfect in his reaction to Lwaxana and that dinner scene just really made the whole episode. I also love how Lwaxana casually saves the day.

1. The Measure of a Man

tng2-measureofamanThis is certainly the most thought-provoking episode of the season, and it is episodes like this that make science fiction and Star Trek so great. Can a machine be more than property, and be seen as equal to human? Good food for thought and great character development as well.

Also in season two: O’Brien has arrived, and I just love him! Colm Meaney could be seen around the Enterprise on season one, but he was just a nameless guy on the ship. But now he’s got a name and coming into his own as the secondary character Chief O’Brien, who will later become a main character on Deep Space Nine!

Also, Wesley isn’t annoying in this season! He definitely matured between seasons, but he hasn’t reached that irksome stage that he comes into later when he really thinks he knows everything.

And lastly, we have Dr. Pulaski. She actually only annoyed me in some episodes, mostly in earlier ones when she bullied Data. But she wasn’t bad in all of them, as I remembered her being, but I’m still ready for Dr. Crusher to return.

What are your favorite episodes of The Next Generation Season Two? 

Star Trek TNG Season 1: My Top 5 Fave Episodes

As my husband and I are going through our second full watch of Star Trek as a couple, I thought it would be fun to report on the highlights along the way. So I decided to copy the same format as Charlene at Bookish Whimsy, who is going through her first-ever run of Star Trek and sharing her favorite five episodes for each season. To compare, see her top 3 favorite episodes of season one of The Next Generation (she couldn’t quite come up with 5 this season, and I can’t blame her). 

Ahh… early TNG. It’s not the best. We’re already getting a glimpse into things that annoy me in multiple Star Trek series: Q, Troi’s mom, and Ferengi. There was also a lot of set-up for Wesley ALREADY which really surprised me. They really wanted him to be special, apparently, and threw Tasha under the bus to the point where the actress asked to get killed off. I’ve got to say, I liked Tasha more this time around than I did the first time. I’m not sure if it’s because of seeing Denise Crosby at a convnetion or what. Anyhow, all that said, there were a few decent episodes this season, but let’s just say I’m definitely anticipating the later seasons and some of my favorite episodes that are to come.

5. Symbiosis

tng-1-symbosisThere are some things in this episode that bother me, and I don’t just mean the stuff that’s supposed to make you uncomfortable, but main characters saying dumb things and logic flaws. Despite this, however, it still has an intriguing premise that gets you to think about interfering with other cultures when one is exploiting the other.

4. Haven

tng-1-havenI’d be lying if I said I thought this was a really good episode, but it’s quite entertaining, mostly for Troi telling her mom off. I also find the arranged marriage trope an interesting one sometimes.

3. The Neutral Zone

tng-1-theneutralzoneThe biggest problem with this episode is that there is really pretty equal time for the actual Neutral Zone plotline (which you think would be the more dominate story given the episode title) and the subplot about three frozen people from the past who are recovered by the Enterprise (without Captain Picard’s knowledge… come on, Data, that’s sketch…), and really, these probably should have just been two different episodes because neither felt fully fleshed out. I feel that basically the main point of this episode as the season one finale was to set-up future conflict with the Romulans, but they weren’t feeling daring enough for big cliffhangers yet. (If this had been a later Deep Space Nine episode, OMG, stuff would have gone down.) So mostly, I like this episode for its potential.

2. Conspiracy

tng-1-conspiracyThis is another episode that I like mostly for the potential of what could have been (what still could be if they ever make a new Star Trek show that is set during/after Voyager time), however, it was stronger than The Neutral Zone. In this episode, we see that a species has infiltrated some high-up Starfleet officers, and while the immediate threat is neutralized at the end, there’s an open-ended something that hints more certainly can come. Apparently it was supposed to be explored again but alas, has not been. But it really should be because I’m curious! This episode gets negative points though for the gross-alien-creature-inside-people deal though. Is that really necessary?

1. Coming of Age

tng-1-comingofageI remembered this episode from my previous watch and was surprised that it was first season. This is actually a pretty decent Wesley episode, in fact, it might be the best Wesley story of all TNG, but I guess I’ll have to watch the other seasons again to say for sure. It’s certainly better than Justice. In this one Wesley learns what it takes to get into Starfleet, and acts more mature and less annoying than his usual season one self. I’ve decided to give this episode the top spot for this season mostly because I find it the most memorable.

I’ve got to say, in season one (and from my memory, in all of TNG really), Data really steals the show. I feel Brent Spiner really had Data down from the start and I came to love him all over again very quickly!

If you’ve seen season one of The Next Generation, which episodes are your favorite?

1984, Star Trek, and the Psychology of Torture

This sounds like a cheery subject, doesn’t it?

As I mentioned in my mini-review of 1984, about two-thirds of the book did very little for me. In the third part of the book, however, when Winston was arrested and tortured to become indoctrinated to the ways of the Party, I was much more intrigued. And what especially intrigued me was there were some similarities to an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation I remembered in which Captain Jean-Luc Picard was being tortured and interrogated by a Cardassian. In case you’re wondering what a Cardassian is…

Just so we’re clear…

The Number Four

I think you’ll soon see the similarities as well. Here’s a conversation from the Star Trek episode Chain of Command, Part II:

“How many lights do you see there?”
“I see four lights.”
“No, there are five.”
“I see four lights.”

And from 1984:

O’Brien held up his left hand, its back toward Winston, with the thumb hidden and the four fingers extended.
“How many fingers am I holding up, Winston?”
“Four.”
“And if the Party says that there is not four but five – then how many?”
“Four.”

Madred,_four_lights

But of course, it doesn’t stop there for either Picard or Winston. And just so you can understand the full context of these conversations, both men are starved, naked or near naked, have been beaten or degraded, and both experience pain when they give the “incorrect” answer…

“I know nothing about Minos Korva.”
“But I’ve told you that I believe you. I didn’t ask you about Minos Korva. I asked how many lights you see.”
“There are four lights.”
“I don’t understand how you can be so mistaken.”

“Four.”
The word ended in a gasp of pain. The needle of the dial had shot up to fifty-five. The sweat had sprung out all over Winston’s body. The air tore into his lungs and issued again in deep groans which even by clenching his teeth he could not stop. O’Brien watched him, the four fingers still extended. He drew back the lever. This time the pain was only slightly eased.
“How many fingers, Winston?”
“Four.”
The needle went up to sixty.
“How many fingers, Winston?”
“Four! Four! What else can I say? Four!”

The Psychology of an Interrogation

In the 21 hours of psychology classes I took in college, I learned a few things about how we as people are influenced, for better or for worse. When it comes to this sort of situation, where someone is trying to bring something out of a person who may be very strong and unwilling to provide such information, certain tactics are used. The idea is to transform you from who you are to someone else.

The Stanford prison experiment was a study conducted by Phillip Zimbardo that took place in 1971, where the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or a prison guard proved shocking to all involved. In this experiment, normal college students who volunteered to take part in the study for some money were assigned to either be a prisoner or a prison guard, and to play out their roles in a “jail” that was at Stanford University. Just how quickly the students truly seemed to transform into their roles prisoners and prison guards, and how Zimbardo even got sucked into it himself, was shocking to me personally as a college student when I studied the incident.

Just by playing the role of a prison guard, college students grew power-hungry and beat the prisoners. Just by playing the role of a prisoner, college students grew depressed and rebellious. Things got so bad so quickly that the experiment had to be cut short… after only five days. Tactics that were used included: shock (prisoners were blindfolded and taken to their cells), humiliation (prisoners were stripped naked), and a transfer of identity (they wore prisoner uniforms, shackles on their feet, they were assigned a prisoner number, and their heads were shaved). Some of these elements can be seen in 1984 and Chain of Command. In the latter, Picard is stripped naked and is left suspended by his wrists. He is told:

“From this point on, you will enjoy no privilege of rank, no privileges of person. From now on, I will refer to you only as Human. You have no other identity!”

I saw this pattern when reading Unbroken as well, the true story of a WWII pilot who was taken to several Japanese POW camps. Prisoners were degraded from human to less-than-human, to the status of an animal or even worse. The Japanese culture is high on honor, and to lose one’s honor and dignity is the greatest insult, and that is what they did to their enemies during the war. Laura Hillenbrand wrote:

The Pacific POWs who went home in 1945 were torn-down men. They had an intimate understanding of man’s vast capacity to experience suffering, as well as his equally vast capacity, and hungry willingness, to inflict it. They carried unspeakable memories of torture and humiliation, and an acute sense of vulnerability that attended to knowledge of how readily they could be disarmed and dehumanized. Many felt lonely and isolated, having endured abuses that ordinary people couldn’t understand. Their dignity had been obliterated, replaced with a pervasive sense of shame and worthlessness.

A True Change in Nature

Captain Picard is offered the chance to go… but is told if he does so, his chief medical officer Beverly Crusher will be interrogated. Picard cares for Beverly very much and refuses to let this happen, so he stays. Winston does not immediately say anything to betray his lover Julia, but when he is about to be inflicted with the worst torture he can imagine, he exclaims:

“Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia! Not me! Julia! I don’t care what you do to her! Tear her face off, strip her to the bones! Not me! Julia! Not me!”

This is what we are led to believe is the end of Winston’s indoctrination, at least until the very end of the book, which I won’t give away. But his ending is not happy. In fact, at one point after he is released, he finds himself writing:

2 + 2 = 5

…one of the things that his interrogator was trying to tell him was true if the party said so. Picard, on the other hand, as he is being released from his interrogation (as his ship the Enterprise has come to save the day) he shouts out in defiance to his interrogator:

“There… are… FOUR LIGHTS!”

Though Picard’s ending is happier, and I do believe in the end he was a much more noble man, the two are not as different as it might seem. Winston had this experience:

“Just now I held up the fingers of my hand to you. You saw five fingers. Do you remember that?”
“Yes.”
O’Brien held up the fingers of his left hand, with the thumb concealed.
“There are five fingers there. Do you see five fingers?”
“Yes.”
And he did see them, for a fleeting instant, before the scenery of his mind changed. He saw five fingers, and there was no deformity.

And at the end of Chain of Command, Picard has this conversation with the Enterprise’s counselor:

“What I didn’t put in the report was that at the end he gave me a choice – between a life of comfort or more torture. All I had to do was to say that I could see five lights when, in fact, there were only four.”
“You didn’t say it?”
“No! No. But I was going to. I would have told him anything. Anything at all! But more than that, I believed that I could see five lights.”

It Doesn’t Just Happen in Fiction

It’s easy to chalk all this up to these stories being fictional, that this would not happen in real life. But the Stanford prison experiment suggests otherwise. The identity of those college students were truly lost in five days’ time. It’s been seen elsewhere as well. Patty Hearst, daughter of publishing giant William Randolph Hearst, was kidnapped by a guerrilla group and ended up aiding them in theft, not seemingly out of fear of what they would do to her otherwise, but from a conversion to their side. Afterwards she seemed to have a change of heart again and was fully pardoned by President Clinton.

Here’s a brief interview with one of the students involved with the Stanford prison experiment:

Needless to say, I think both 1984 and this particular episode of Star Trek did a great job of portraying how convicted men can become desperate, and how a good interrogator wears them down. It’s not fun to think about but I do find it fascinating. And it again, it makes me think of Unbroken, particularly the title. Louis Zamperini was broken, not just once but many times. But after a time, after it was all over, he was able to overcome the torture and heartache he went through, able to forgive a particular Japanese commander he had hated and had wanted to kill. From Unbroken:

On an October afternoon, Louie stepped out of an army car and stood on the lawn at 2028 Gramercy Avenue, looking at his parents’ house for the first time in more than three years. “This little home,” he said, “was worth all of it.”

To ease the load of this post a bit, here’s a cute picture of hugging kitties:

I have no idea what question to ask, but I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on the subject! I’m also curious as to how you feel about more posts where I incorporate Star Trek and/or psychology into a discussion about a book.