Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode Guide - Season 4

This is the season of Next Generation that grabs you by the throat directly after resolving the most spellbinding cliffhanger in American TV history (Quick: Do you remember how “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II” begins? Funny, that) and just simply does not let go of the attention for 25 episodes thereafter. Season 4 of TNG includes some of the best character-driven ST episodes ever, some of ST’s best (or worst, depending on perspective) head trips ever, cadres of Klingons and Wesley’s departure.

1. The Best of Both Worlds, Part II – Acting captain Riker’s attempt to destroy the Borg vessel commanded by Picard-cum-Locutus fails. The Borg go on to lay waste to 39 ships at the Battle of Wolf 359, now infamous in Star Trek lore. A heroic away mission in which nearly every crew member gets a fist-pumping moment, Picard is rescued and his connection to the Borg is used by Lt. Commander Data to stop another impending attack. Epic, edge-of-the-seat stuff. *****

2. Family – After the adrenaline-pumping space battle action of “Best of Both Wolds” comes this quiet, character-centric story much loved by ST:TNG fans. While Picard revisits both the family vineyard and a contentious relationship with his brother, Worf hosts his extremely proud and enthusiastic adoptive Russian parents, and Wesley receives a hologram message from his father. *****

3. Brothers – And since Brent Spiner doesn’t appear at all in “Family,” he gets three roles to play in this episode, certainly every Data groupie’s favorite. Data’s creator Dr. Soong summons the android to his planet, and the signal also attracts Data’s “brother” Lore. A tour de force performance by Mr. Spiner. *****

4. Suddenly Human – An Enterprise away team finds five soldiers of the Talarian army requiring medical attention. However, one of them is discovered to be human and appears to have been a victim of abuse. thereby triggering a debate as to the young man’s proper place. **

5. Remember Me – Dr. Crusher’s head trip: Crew members suddenly begin disappearing, along with any memory of them to anyone aside from Crusher, until she is the only person left aboard the Enterprise. Gates McFadden kills it with all the extra screen time given her character, much of which involves her monologuing. And “Computer, what is the nature of the universe?” is probably her best line of dialogue ever. ****

6. Legacy – Ishara Yar, sister of dearly departed comrade Lt. Yar, calls on the Enterprise to help resolve conflict on a Federation colony. Naturally, she is – get this – not what she seems. And Data proves that, when crossed, no one can be colder than an android. **

7. Reunion – Ambassador K’Ehleyr, Worf’s former love, returns with child in tow (guess whose). Picard and she begin in attempts to avert a full-on civil war within the Klingon Empire. Spoilers: They aren’t very successful, and things end badly for K’Ehleyr. This episode also includes the first appearance of Gowron, the gleefully insane popeyed Klingon chancellor. ***

8. Future Imperfect – Commander Riker’s head trip: Sixteen years in the future, he’s captain of an Enterprise with Ferengi ensigns and higher technology – plus he’s got a son. And he remembers none of the past 1½ decades…****

9. Final Mission – Before Wesley departs the Enterprise for Starfleet Academy, Picard has him take part in a simple away mission which rapidly goes south. Kinda one note stuff in general. **

10. The Loss – If you disliked the Counselor Troi character before this episode, you’ll despise her during this one. When the Enterprise encounters two-dimensional beings, somehow Troi loses her empathic abilities. This causes her to whine about her uselessness, bitch about her terrible personal tragedy and act haughty to the limited non-empaths. *

11. Data's Day – I downloaded the subspace news today, oh- boy… more service to Data fandom with a nicely done day-in-the-life vignette. Seen through the eyes of Data are a strange incident involving a Vulcan ambassador and Romulans. Also, the wedding of Miles and Keiko O’Brien. ****

12. The Wounded – Aaaaand introducing the Cardassians, big bad of Deep Space Nine! Federation starship captain Maxwell, a former commander of O’Biren, has taken it upon himself to act against Cardassians along the Cardassian-Federation border. A fairly straightforward story with a neat twist at the end. ***

13. Devil’s Due – One heck of a sexy devil claiming to be an ancient goddess “returns” to an unsuspecting planet to recoup a contract legendarily made between the planet’s rulers and her 1,000 years ago. ***

14. Clues – The entire Enterprise crew’s head trip: After awakening from a ship-wide bout of unconsciousness, those on the ship slowly realize they’ve been robbed of a whole day. ****

15. First Contact – The Next Generation was always at its best when tweaking the cliched trope just a tiny bit; “First Contact” is a prime example of this, with the “aliens walk among us” storyline reversed, with Riker the mysterious outsider disguised as local. Includes a brilliant cameo from Bebe Neuwirth, a nurse whose interest in the alien isn’t strictly … scientific. ****

16. Galaxy's Child – The Enterprise mistakes a huge-ass, space-dwelling creature that the crew mistakes for a hostile ship. They kill the beast, only to assist in birthing a space calf which imprints on the Enterprise. Needless to say, Captain Picard is not amused when the being latches onto the ship for some breastfeeding. In a subplot, Geordi LaForge meets the actual scientist behind his obsession-inducing holodeck program in “Booby Trap” and further ickiness ensues. The man plot we’ll give ***, the subplot gets another 0.

17. Night Terrors – The crew (except Data, natch) is slowly driven mad by nightmares, while Troi has only recurring nightmares. It’s up to Data and her to solve both this problem and that of the grounded Enterprise. ***

18. Identity Crisis – Why does LaForge get saddled with all the lame plots? In this one, he morphs into a member of an alien species with fluorescent veins. Because spores or something. *

19. The Nth Degree – TNG tweaks the tropes again: In “Nth Degree”, Lt. Barclay becomes a pawn (with an IQ in the thousands) of aliens who have a different way of seeking out new life and new civilizations… ***

20. Qpid – Q is back, as is Vash (of “The Captain’s Holiday”). For no serious reason, Q plays around with Picard and the crew, making them play out a twisted version of the Robin Hood story. To say that Worf’s “I protest – I am not a merry man!” is the line of the season would be an understatement, but his subsequently “Sorry” is criminally underrated as well – still hilarious after multiple viewings. ****

21. The Drumhead – Season 4 of TNG sees the Federation grow increasingly insidious. “The Drumhead” has members of the Enterprise crew all the way up to Picard investigated by a fanatical admiral on a McCarthy-like witch hunt for Romulan collaborators. ***

22. Half a Life – Since when does a second banana get the chief plotline in a TNG episode? When she’s played by Gene Roddenberry’s wife, that’s when! A Dr. Timcin boards the Enterprise to work on experiments to save his planet’s sun, and Lwxana Troi immediately sinks her claws in. She charms him, distracts him from the work (just trying to save a planet here, after all) and eventually puts up a storm upon discovering that he intends to soon commit the ritual suicide demanded by his culture. *

23. The Host – Introducing the Trill, about to made a lot more commonly-known (not to mention more fun) on Deep Space Nine in the personage of Dax. In “The Host”, Dr. Crusher falls for the Federation negotiator Odan, who turns out to be a bit of a 2-in-1 deal, i.e. a humanoid host housing a cantaloupe-sized alien. When the humanoid body meets with terminal misfortune, Odan is first transferred bodily into Riker, which Crusher figures isn’t too bad. Finally, Odan comes to rest in the body of the female Kareel, which Crusher feels is too big a leap to make, attraction-wise, but with which 21st-century TV producers would definitely have gotten plenty of mileage… **

24. The Mind’s Eye – Perhaps in retribution for featuring in “Identity Crisis”, Romulans kidnap LaForge while on shore leave and then brainwash him, Manchurian Candidate-style, to act as a sleeper assassin. Klingon ambassador Kell is also aboard and his interplay with Worf advances the happenings within the Klingon Empire. ***

25. In Theory – A cutesy episode focusing on Data’s attempt at getting romantically involved with an ensign that looks a bit like Linda Hamilton. An hour drippy with sentiment and hackneyed relationship jokes is made bearable by Brent Spiner, who could make just about anything short of Independence Day II watchable, and some funny contributions from the others. **

26. Redemption, Part I – No way could the Next Generation producers match the awesomeness of the season 3 cliffhanger, but “Redemption” is pretty awesome stuff nevertheless, particularly for Klingon devotees. Picard brings the Enterprise to Q’onoS for his participation in the formal confirmation of Gowron as leader of the Klingon High Council, while Worf attempts to clear his father’s name. Meanwhile, the Duras sisters conspire with Romulan forces to overthrow Gowron and his allies. Civil war breaks out in the Klingon Empire and, in what looks like the mother of all twists, the leader of the Duras sisters’ allies appears to be … Tasha Yar? ****