Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode Guide - Season 3

Now we’re rolling! The apex of televised Star Trek begins at around episode 7 of The Next Generation’s third season when this program became the first-ever “must-see TV” in syndication. High concept episodes like “Yesterday’s Enterprise” are paeans to the fans and sci-fi hardcores, whereas stories like “The Offsping” show TNG’s maturity into mainstream-audience viewing – a rarity for science-fiction shows in those days before the genre geeks took over entertainment.

And the whole thing culminates in “Best of Both Worlds,” a triumph of an episode habitually ranked among all sorts of “Top TV episodes” listings, Star Trek-themed or no that ultimately spawned the fantastic Star Trek: First Contact. (The best ST film, for STG’s money…)

1. Evolution – Acting ensign Wesley Crusher screws up (sigh) by unleashing a swarm of sentient nanites into the Enterprise; a war for control of the ship ensues. A really small-scale war, but still Good news: This would be the last weak script to begin a TNG season. **

2. The Ensigns of Command – Data must convince a third-generation Federation colony to evacuate their planet before the aggressive Sheliak move in. Picard’s outsmarting of the would-be new tenants in the last act is nearly worth the price of admission. ***

3. The Survivors – 10,998 of a Federation colony of 11,000 have been killed, their planet made essentially uninhabitable. So how are the two humans left able to survive, living in a pristine house? **

4. Who Watches the Watchers – See, Federation types? This is what you get for spying on “primitive” cultures Prime Directive violations all over the place (well, that and Star Trek: Insurrection). In this episode, a Bronze Age-type stumbles upon Federation observers and becomes convinced that Captain Picard is a god. (You mean he’s not?) **

5. The Bonding – On an away mission, Lt. Worf gets a Red Shirt killed. An entity attempts to comfort the Red Shirt’s young son by creating an image of his mother who offers to live with him on the uninhabited planet. The boy ultimately decides Worf is cooler, stays on the Enterprise, and disappears by the next episode. **

6. Booby Trap – Any episode of any ST series in which a character falls in love with a Holodeck character (I’m looking at you, Harry Kim) is stupid. The icky vibe Geordi LaForge gives off in this one only makes it worse. 0

7. The Enemy – As though in karmic payback for “Booby Trap”, LaForge gets to spend most of this episode on a fairly inhospitable planet with an irritable Romulan in the Star Trek version of “Enemy Mine”. ***

8. The Price – Four parties (for the record, it’s the Federation, Caldonians, Chrysalians and Ferengi) board the Enterprise so as to begin bidding and negotiations with a group offering to sell the rights to a wormhole which leads into the Gamma Quadrant. Ultimately, it is revealed that at least two of the parties haven’t played fair and that the wormhole is worthless anyway. Also, Troi falls in love but nobody cares. ***

9. The Vengeance Factor – As Picard attempts to solve the problems of the fractured Acamarian society, Riker gets the hots for an assassin and then ties on a good buzz in Ten Forward. *

10. The Defector – A low-ranking Romulan officer gets a conscience and defects to the Federation. And when fellow Romulans seek to double-cross the double-crosser, well, Picard proves too freakin’ clever for them. ***

11. The Hunted – The Enterprise is dispatched to Angosia, a planet being considered for United Federation of Planets membership. Things on Angosia aren’t as hunky-dory as the planet’s leader, who bears a strong resemblance to Zefrim Cochrane, makes it seem – particularly a pesky bunch of genetically-altered soldiers who demand, you know, rights and stuff. ***

12. The High Ground – A terrorist group whose members are slowly dying thanks to their own weaponry kidnaps Dr. Crusher for medical assistance; later they bag Picard himself in a bid to get Federation mediation for their planetary conflict. A science-fiction comment on terrorism and censorship. ***

13. Déjà Q – When is Q not Q? When the Q Continuum strips him of his power and leaves him for Picard and the Enterprise crew to deal with. A decent episode, but Q without powers isn’t nearly as much fun as Q with powers…***

14. A Matter of Perspective – As it turns out, the holodeck can be useful. Picard gets to play defense attorney again when Riker is accused of a murder he (naturally) didn’t commit; the Captain and Data employ the holodeck to help reconstruct events and crack the case. ****

15. Yesterday's Enterprise – A classic that not only thrilled and amazed Star Trek fans, but helped show American TV what that wacky continuity thing could do. The long-since destroyed Enterprise “C” emerges from a rim in space, thereby changing history. In a (televisual) instant, the familiar Enterprise “D” morphs into a warship, fighting a losing war with the Klingon Empire. Guinan, who senses that Lt. Yar should not exist at all and yet is somehow key to winning the war, convinces Picard that the Enterprise C must be sent back through time to *lose* a battle while assisting the Klingons, an act of heroism that thaws relations between Klingons and Federation. Excellent stuff. *****

16. The Offspring – Lt. Data creates an android which he thinks of as a Data. Well funnier and far less nauseating than the idea sounds on paper. And the meeting between Riker and Data’s “daughter” Lal is one of the single best scenes of season 3. ****

17. Sins of the Father – In an attempt to clear his father’s name after the Klingon High Council’s accusations of complicity with the Romulans, Worf, along with Picard, appears before a tribunal to plead the case. This episode introduces Worf’s brother Kurn and the devious House of Duras, who’d make it all the way to Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Generations, respectively. ****

18. Allegiance – Aliens replace Picard with a doppleganger while placing the real Picard in an (almost) inescapable trap along with three others, each of a different species. After Picard deduces everything, he delivers a swell comeuppance to the captors. ****

19. Captain's Holiday – As though not badass enough already, Picard becomes a 24th-century Indiana Jones while ostensibly enjoying some R&R. Mix in Ferengi and time-travelers to make one dandy romp of an episode. ****

20. Tin Man – What appears to be the transportation of a friend of Troi’s to a simple first-contact mission gets complex quickly when Romulans appear on the scene and a nearby star gets set to go supernova. ***

21. Hollow Pursuits – This introduction of the perpetually nervous fan favorite Lt. Reginal Barclay features the former “Howling Mad” Murdock having to get a grip and assist the Enterprise with its mysterious technical difficulties. ***

22. The Most Toys – A dude named Kivas Fajo, perhaps in an attempt to make Comic Book Guy of The Simpsons jealous, swipes Data off the Enterprise bridge so as to add the android to his “collection.” ***

23. Sarek – Spock’s father, a staple of the Star Trek mythos since at least Star Trek III, shows up on the Enterprise in rough shape, as he’s suffering from a terminal disease. Picard assists the Vulcan in his ambassadorial mediation. ***

24. Ménage à Troi – Star Trek Guide doesn’t know what’s more execrable about the tile of this one: The feeble attempt at a very bad pun or the sheer misleading of its implication. In any case, “Meange” is quite a funny episode featuring Ferengi kidnapping Riker, Troi and Troi’s mother. Wesley (!) discovers where they’re being held and Picard must act as though Lwaxana is his lover, threatening to destroy the Ferengi ship in a jealous rage. It almost enough to forgive the stupid title. ****

25. Transfigurations – In another “more than he seems” plotline, the Enterprise finds a human-looking guy with fantastic powers – and some enemies. **

26. The Best of Both Worlds, Part I – “We have engaged the Borg.” In case you’ve never heard it before, here it is: The height of Borg badassery, with concomitant awesome performances by all characters up to and including guest first officer Commander Shelby. The Enterprise comes face to face with a Borg vessel that has assimilated an entire Federation colony, only for the Borg demand that Picard come aboard. Picard is then assimilated, to be used as an information-providing tool to conquer Federation worlds from Earth on down. Now captaining the Enterprise, Riker reckons the Enterprise can destroy the Borg cube with Picard – now dubbed Locutus – aboard. He gives Lt. Worf the command: “Fire!” *****