As much as I love the original Star Trek, it didn't take long for me to realize that The Next Generation was a significant step up for me. No, it's not because I have some fascination with the 1980s, nor is it because of the upgraded effects (I find the cheesiness of the original quite charming). It was more because it took something that was great and expanded on it without constantly retreating back into safe territory. This show took w little while to get its footing, but once it took off, I was more than hooked. The ideas were expansive, the characters more fleshed out -- this was its own show. It didn't need prior material to make it great, it was just great.
So before I keep gushing about how much i love this show in an unfocused way, let's get that focus back. I'm gonna hone in on my favorite episodes of the show. I planned to make a top 25 at first, but that would have been impossible for me to do without feeling like I was leaving out a lot of stuff I really loved. So here are 50 instead.
50. 'Redemption', Parts I & II
Season 4, Episode 26 / Season 5, Episode 1
Though it's nearly impossible to match the cliffhanger in 'The Best Of Both Worlds', this is the next best season finale/opener in the series by my estimation. Worf episodes are usually pretty great, and while this one takes a bit of a detour once the Romulans are introduced, the Klingon scenes here are still awesome. But if Denise Crosby wasn't in this episode, it would have been made much, much higher. It wasn't just her character(s) that sucked: it was her acting.
49. 'The Emissary'
Season 2, Episode 20
Another Worf episode, this one far less serious and significant storywise, but more entertaining. K'Ehleyr is one of my favorite Klingons in the show (although she's only half-Klingon) even if just for the fact that she's able to get under Worf's skin like no one else. Their scenes together are great, and this episode really helped solidify Worf as one of the best characters in the main cast. It's fun and a great character building episode.
Season 7, Episode 8
I guess I'm just a simpleton, but I enjoy myself a good romantic will they/won't they story. But what makes this one work so well is in how tactfully it was presented and how well it services the characters involved. Picard is very emotionally closed off and Dr. Crusher, while flirtatious at times, is generally far too distracted to think about relationships. This episode gave them an open look into each other's thoughts and feelings, and I think it worked wonderfully.
47. 'Dark Page'
Season 7, Episode 7
I find Lwaxana Troi incredibly annoying (she reminds me a lot of Lisa's mom from The Room, minus the breast cancer) as I assume most people do, but that doesn't mean she wasn't central in a couple really strong episodes. This is the final appearance she makes in the series, and Majel Barrett did a fantastic job at conveying a ton of emotion in it, almost reading the irritation she caused earlier on. The Trois usually bore me, but not here.
Season 1, Episode 7
It's weird to me that so many people hate this episode, as I find it the first clear example of the differences between Captains Kirk and Picard. This is a slow, diplomatic episode wherein Picard is forced to struggle with his duty to follow the prime directive at the risk of having to essentially sacrifice Wesley Crusher. While most people would've probably enjoyed seeing him die, I found the conflict here quite enthralling. This is an episode that truly evolved the show.
45. 'Thine Own Self'
Season 7, Episode 16
One of the few great Data episodes of the last couple seasons, as he finds himself stranded without his memory in a peaceful village with a container of radioactive materials in his possession. Watching Data slowly build up his memory and realize what has happened is both emotional and tense, while he faces an angry mob of villagers bent on seeking revenge for the unexplained sicknesses he brought with him. It's a tight story with great writing and characters.
44. 'Samaritan Snare'
Season 2, Episode 17
I really wish there were more episodes featuring the Pakled, which easily stand as one of the most hilarious species in all of Star Trek. These guys are hilarious, as they kidnap Geordi and force him to work on their ship so they can be strong. They could take a lesson or two from the Ferengi in how to more effectively deceive people, but regardless, this is one of the funnier episodes in the show, and listening to these bumbling idiots-with-a-gun talk gives me great joy.
43. 'The Battle'
Season 1, Episode 08
Aaaand speaking of the Ferengi, here is their second appearance in the show, and one of the best episodes featuring them in all of TNG. Picard goes through some serious mental trauma here (and believe me when I say it only got worse for him) as he is manipulated by a mind-controlling device operated by a vengeful Ferengi. In a show filled with themes of memory and manipulation, this episode handled these ideas well very early on.
42. 'Silicon Avatar'
Season 5, Episode 4
An excellent sequel episode with a revenge story that's both difficult and completely understandable. The Crystalline Entity which first appeared in 'Datalore' has continued traversing through space, devouring all life in its path. Dr. Marr, whose son was killed by this entity, joins with Data in an attempt to find and communicate with it in an attempt to understand this unique life form. Letting Marr take center stage was a great move, and her arc is fantastic.
Season 5, Episode 2
As much as half of my brain loves this episode, the other half is too cynical and critical not to acknowledge the issues I have with the logic behind the very concept of it. This is an episode entirely focused on language and the attempts being made by two people to understand each other when a universal translator fails to. It's thoroughly confusing to start and difficult to dissect without coming across various issues, but the intent and creativity of it is more than enough to make me love it.
I hope to have part 2 ready within a few days, so check back soon to see what I've got. Let me know what you think, I like getting comments occasionally.