Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode Guide - Season 1

In September 1987, the most eagerly anticipated TV series of all-time was finally broadcast. With a cast filled out by a group whose only kinda sorta recognizable actor was Levar Burton, known for his role in the massive mini-series Roots of 10 years previous. This was, of course, Star Trek: The Next Generation and anyone would tole you back then that he/she believed this experiment would last seven years and four feature films -was lying!

Little evidence of The Next Generation’s future success could be seen in that first season of 1987-88; on the whole, the 26 episodes were, let’s say, a mixed bag. The two-hour debut was strong enough, ticking off the boxes in introducing characters and smoothly explaining the “generational” differences which had occurred between the original series and the new. Toward the end of the season, TNG actually had a member of the bridge crew die in action, as though to emphasize that TNG was a new kind of Star Trek.

When the final episode of ST:TNG season 1 finished, however, there was no doubt about one thing: This was definitely a worthy successor to the Star Trek universe. The episodes are as followed:

1-2. Encounter at Farpoint – Essentially everything and everyone in the new ST universe is introduced in this premiere episode, which also includes the first appearance of pan-dimensional trickster Q and the only instance of Captain Jean-Luc Picard muttering “merde.” ***

3. The Naked Now – In what today might be called a reboot of the original series episode “The Naked Time,” an Enterprise away team boards a ship, contracts a disease whose symptoms resemble drunkenness and infects the crew. Said crew goes on to act very silly indeed, and not very much like drunk people at all, really. *

4. Code of Honor – The “fight to the death” tope and Lt. Yar’s badassery both get a workout in this one, wherein Yar is abducted by some insignificant planet’s warlord. **

5. The Last Outpost – This introduction to the hypercapitalist Ferengi shows us a completely different (and way lamer) bunch of aliens than we’d eventually expect. Oddly cool whip laser guns, though… *

6. Where No One Has Gone Before – Recalling the original series pilot “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” the Enterprise somehow warps out and ends up in a bizarre bit of universe in which inane thoughts take on physical form. Luckily, the mysterious Traveler shows up to get them back (gee, the Voyager folks sure would’ve appreciated his help, eh?) *

7. Lonely Among Us – As the Enterprise passes through a nebula, a disembodied alien enters the ship, takes corporeal possession of a few crew members in turn and induces a murder. This latter bit elicits Lt. Commander Data’s first emulation of his fictional hero, Sherlock Holmes. ***

8. Justice – On a neo-hippie utopia planet, Wesley is given the death sentence for a very minor crime. The focus on Wesley is a minus for the episode, but Patrick Stewart does nice work with his lectures on notions of crime and justice. ***

9. The Battle – A Ferengi captain seeks vengeance against Picard for a battle in which Picard’s previous ship Stargazer destroyed a Ferengi ship in battle. In the second appearance by the Ferengi, they’re still shadows of what they’ll become, but the Picard backstory is good stuff. ***

10. Hide and Q – The intergalactic Loki is back in a rather simplistic tale: Commander Riker is offered the powers of the Q, which works out well for a while but nearly turns the earnest first officer into an Insane God! of the original series. **

11. Haven – Majel Barrett plays her fifth different character in the Star Trek mythos, Counselor Troi’s flamboyant Betazoid mother Lwaxana Troi. In this episode, Lwaxana arrives with her peers, the Millers, whose son Wyatt will be wed to Troi in an arranged marriage. And there’s something here about a virus as well. **

12. The Big Goodbye – Setting a trend that would be stupidly continued throughout this series and way too much of Star Trek: Voyager, this episode introduces the malfunctioning holodeck trope Some nice bits about the nature of existence, but not much else. **

13. Datalore – Brent Spiner in a double role? Now we’re talking! An Enterprise away team discovers a disassembled android on Data’s former homeworld. Once rebuilt, the android identifies itself as Lore, basically the 1.0 to Data’s 1.1 (this was years before the B4-related nonsense in Star Trek: Nemesis and Star Trek Guide is ignoring that BS, anyway). ****

14. Angel One – It’s the Enterprise crew versus the Lady Land trope! Or, alternatively, it’s Commander Riker versus the Amazons! Something like that. And oh yea- there’s a bit in here about a virus as well…**

15. 11001001 – Weird little computer-specialist alien dudes the Bynars seemingly sabotage the ship while Picard and Riker are, in most unlikely fashion, distracted for several hours by a holodeck character which has – get this – somehow exceeded her programmed parameters. A half-clever script that would set the tone for later twisty-turny single-episode TNG plots. ***

16. Too Short a Season – And here’s a crack at the reverse-aging trope: A legendary admiral ages himself young due to some pharmaceutical/chemical/genetic tomfoolery. And, yeah, really not very much to this one. *

17. When the Bough Breaks – Years before Children of Men, there was this episode. The planet of Aldea is a world long thought lost but in actuality was merely kept from detection via massive cloaking device. It is revealed to the Enterprise, whose denizens soon find out that the Aldeans are sterile and interested in stealing all children aboard the Enterprise to keep their culture alike. (How about just Wesley Crusher, guys? Will you settle for that…?) *

18. Home Soil – A silicon-based lifeform appears to be offing Federation scientists looking to ready a planet for settlement. And you can pretty much guess how things unravel from there … **

19. Coming of Age – A character-driven episode: Each of the Enterprise bridge officers is investigated by Federation officials while Wesley takes the Starfleet Academy entrance exam (he fails, dammit). A conspiracy within the Federation is presented, a tantalizing hint which would pay dividends in future episodes. ***

20. Heart of Glory – Klingon fans get what they want in this episode, as a ship of the galactic bad boys seek to relive the glory days of the Empire – like when they were at war with the Federation – by taking the Enterprise. ***

21. The Arsenal of Freedom – A bit of a one-note story about most of the bridge crew trapped into use as pawns for weapons-testing systems. **

22. Symbiosis – One of the first of the post-TOS stories to annoy viewers with intricacies of the Prime Directive, which was really given way too much respect by the likes of Picard and Janeway in particular. As for Lt. Yar’s “Just Say No” speech, well, she gets her karmic payback for that silliness in the next episode, doesn’t she? **

23. Skin of Evil – Most of the senior officers beam down to a TOS-looking planet, where Lt. Yar is iced by a living embodiment of evil impulses (or “a pool of Metamucil,” as Brent Spiner once referred to it). **

24. We’ll Always Have Paris – “Forget Paris” might have been a better title for this rather empty story of Picard, a former love and her husband’s dangerous scientific experimentation. About the best that can be said for this episode it that at least there’s no holodeck. *

25. Conspiracy – The unfortunately incredibly generic title hides an interesting story that would pave the way for many a Federation-based conspiracy storyline in TNG. “Conspiracy” also feels a bit rushed; had this run in a later season, much more screen time would certainly have been devoted to this subplot. Bonus points for the best line of dialogue in season 1: “We seek … peaceful co-existence.” ***

26. The Neutral Zone – Enter the Romulans, who come off more badass in TNG than any other Star Trek series. The Enterprise is sent to the titular galactic area to deduce why Romulan ship or ships are destroying Federation outposts. ***