Following the 79-episode run of Star Trek: The Original Series — a wildly popular show that has resounding implications on culture to this day — Gene Roddenberry created the live action sequel series Star Trek: The Next Generation in 1987. The show follows the 24th century adventures of the captain and crew of the USS Enterprise as they explore the Milky Way galaxy.
Celebrated actor Patrick Stewart leads the cast as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, a leader with more gravitas, maturity, and wisdom than his fiery predecessor, Kirk.
Also rounding out the main cast is Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker; Brent Spiner as Lieutenant Commander Data; Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf; LeVar Burton as Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge; Martina Sirtis as Lieutenant Commander Deanna Troi; and Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher.
This sequel series had a considerably longer run that its origin series, spanning seven seasons and 178 episodes.
While every long-running series has its duds, Star Trek: The Next Generation has many, many consistently well-rated episodes. Since listing all the ones you should watch (and re-watch) would take all century, here are 12 of the best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes.
Season 1, Episode 24: "Conspiracy"
8.1 IMDb rating
Eager viewers might have reasonably expected that Star Trek: The Next Generation would avoid the pitfalls and struggles typical of a new TV series, given the success of the original series. However, it became clear almost right away that the show might encounter some turbulence:. When major networks refused to guarantee a full first season, Paramount execs turned to the independent stations still running Star Trek reruns for distribution.
While the independent route was a success — the pilot reached 15.7 million households, according to Nielsen — Star Trek: The Next Generation had other issues to work through. Many viewers (and even some of the show's writers) had issues with the show’s direction. They found Season 1 too stiff, too trite, and too invested in overwrought metaphors.
While its 8.1 IMDb rating isn't among the highest for the show overall, "Conspiracy" is a rare bright spot in what is generally considered the worst of the show's seven seasons. The episode departs from the self-seriousness that turned off some viewers to tell a horror story about officers giving strange orders that evokes the 1956 film Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It helps usher in a turning point for the series, which found its footing in Season 2 and went on to become the classic we know today.
Season 2, Episode 9: "The Measure of a Man"
9.2 IMDb rating
After the series’ premiere season, Star Trek: The Next Generation came back strong with several highly-rated episodes.
Among them is “The Measure of a Man,” which tackles issues of android ethics. While the crew is on a short leave, Commander Bruce Maddox announces his plans to dissemble Data to explore how he functions. Lacking confidence in the procedure, Data refuses and subsequently resigns his commission.
In a bid to continue with his plans, Maddox drags Data into the center of a judicial inquiry about whether or not the android is entitled to make his own decisions, or if he is merely a piece of property.
Season 2, Episode 16: "Q Who"
9.0 IMDb rating
Another beloved episode of the second season, “Q Who” features the omnipotent being who was introduced in the series’ very first episode. Back again to rattle the crew, Q sets about trying to prove that Picard and his crew need him on their side.
To prove his point, he transports the Enterprise 7,000 lightyears away, where the crew encounters the formidable Borg for the first time.
Faced with the new and dangerous threat, Picard is forced to determine if Q really is their only hope.
Season 3, Episode 15: "Yesterday’s Enterprise"
9.2 IMDb rating
In this mid-Season 3 episode, Star Trek: The Next Generation mixes things up with some classic space-time continuum antics.
While observing a wormhole-like celestial anomaly, the crew of the Enterprise witnesses a starship pass through it. Shockingly, the ship is actually an earlier version of their ship—called the Enterprise-C—which is commanded by Captain Rachel Garrett.
History changes upon the ship’s arrival, leading to a reality in which Picard and his crew are worn down from a 20-year war with the Klingon Empire. Only Guinan knows that something is amiss.
Season 3, Episode 26: "The Best of Both Worlds"
9.4 IMDb rating
The Season 3 finale, “The Best of Both Worlds,” doesn’t pull any punches. When the crew is called to investigate a distress call on an outer-most colony of the Federation, they discover nothing but a crater in the ground where a town used to be.
When it’s uncovered that the Borg are behind this vicious attack, Picard and his crew attempt to navigate the threat. But when Picard refuses to board the Borg ship for discussions, he finds himself kidnapped and slated to be transformed into a Borg himself.
Season 4, Episode 1: "The Best of Both Worlds Part II"
9.3 IMDb rating
The Season 4 opening episode is a follow-up to the last season’s closer, and keeps audiences just as captivated.
The Borg have not only absorbed Captain Picard into their force, but have also obtained his knowledge.
Commander William Riker is left in charge of the Enterprise as the Borg set out for Earth. But with the Borg now wielding the advantage of Picard’s knowledge, the Enterprise crew scrambles for an unexpected way to defeat them.
Season 4, Episode 26 and Season 5, Episode 1: "Redemption"
8.4 IMDb rating
"Redemption" is a two-part episode that details a civil war between rival factions of Klingon leadership. Part I, which was the Star Trek: The Next Generation's 100th episode and the Season 4 finale, shows Picard laced to throw his support behind one of two candidates for Leader of the Klingon High Council.
In Part II, the premiere of Season Five, Picard and the Enterprise crew are forced to deal with the fallout from his choice. As the Klingon civil war rages, Picard is placed in charge of a blockade along the Romulan-Klingon border to ensure the Romulans can't seize on their neighbor's state of unrest.
However, the Romulans have already began to pull strings from the shadows. Picard must discover their plot and expose it before it's too late.
Season 5, Episode 18: "Cause and Effect"
9 IMDb rating
Late-Season 5 episode “Cause and Effect” delivers another sci-fi staple—the time loop.
At first, the crew of the Enterprise is unaware of the day-length loop they’re stuck in. As the Enterprise nears a temporal distortion that another Federation ship is leaving, their evasive maneuver results in the destruction of the Enterprise.
Yet as the crew relieves the day and their demise again and again, a sense of déjà vu begins to creep in.
Season 5, Episode 25: "The Inner Light"
9.5 IMDb rating
Though there are episodes ranking close to the rating of “The Inner Light,” this Season 5 episode is still the highest rated of the entire series.
As the Enterprise approaches a strange object, Captain Picard falls unconscious. When he awakens, he finds himself in a small village with an unfamiliar life.
Married to a woman named Eline and supported by a friend named Batai, Picard is the village eccentric with the delusion of being a starship captain. Though he moves forward with a long and full life, the planet he inhabits is dying.
Season 6, Episode 15: "Tapestry"
8.9 IMDb rating
After a fight leaves Captain Picard with injuries so severe that his artificial heart fails, his mind connects with Q as Dr. Crusher struggles to keep him alive. Q gives Picard a review of all the mistakes and negative consequences he’s inflicted with his actions, and offers him a chance to go back for a second chance.
Picard travels backwards to correct an early mistake, but the ripples of this choice lead to an unsatisfying existence.
Season 7, Episode 11: "Parallels"
8.9 IMDb rating
Yet another must-have trope, this episode features alternate realities. As Lieutenant Worf returns from a holiday in the Klingon Empire, all is not right back on the Enterprise.
All around him reality is shifting, leaving his world in a constant state of flux. As the only one who’s aware of these strange shifts, he’s thrown into the deep end of a life he doesn’t know or fit into.
Season 7, Episode 25: "All Good Things…"
9.2 IMDb rating
As the last episode of this long-running, beloved series, it’s only fitting that “All Good Things…” is among some of the best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes.
Captain Picard finds past, present, and future colliding as he shifts continually through different time periods.
As he cycles through the Farpoint mission, his present, and a future in which the Enterprise-D crew is greatly affected by changes, he finds help against the spatial anomaly from the always-mischievous Q.