Star Trek Guide

Star Trek: 10 Most Important TNG Episodes To Watch Before Picard

Seldom has the captain of a Federation starship inspired such confidence, integrity, and courage as the valiant leader of the USS Enterprise-D, Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Upholding diplomacy in the face of violence, justice in the face of tyranny, and morality in the face of iniquity, he was a symbol of all that is best about the Star Trek franchise. He not only carved a place among the finest captains in Starfleet, Captain Picard is a figure that has transcended his fandom.

He's become a pop culture icon that represents doing the right thing whatever the cost, either standing up for the rights of the downtrodden or inspiring them to stand up for themselves. The empowering speeches and contemplative lessons that were so much a part of every episode of TNG have helped shaped the moral fiber of science fiction fans the world over. Let's look back on the best Picard moments in TNG  with these ten essential episodes, preparing us for Star Trek: Picard, premiering in early 2020 only on CBS All-Access.

10 Family

In the fifth season, after Starfleet defeats the Borg, the crew of the Enterprise disembarks for some much deserved shore leave on Earth. Picard goes to Chateau Picard, where his brother and nephew have been dutifully tilling the Picard family vineyards for generations in France. This quieter episode focuses mainly on Picard's personal history and how his "family" helps him cope with the atrocities he committed after being assimilated by the Borg Collective.

The loss of his brother and nephew in a later episode is compounded with the guilt he felt as Locutus, when his mind was violated for Starfleet secrets against his will and used to end thousands of lives. Both experiences traumatized Picard for the entire series of TNG, and are key to understanding why he took over Chateau Picard in the new series.

9 The Measure Of A Man

Regarded as one of the greatest examples of Picard's undeterred fight for the rights of every individual, this episode from Season 2 focuses on the android Data and the violation of his agency. Starfleet has ordered him to be disassembled for research, but rather than acquiesce to their request, he vows to resign. Starfleet feels he is considered property and doesn't' have the right to make that choice.

The resulting trial sees Picard defending Data's basic rights for free will and the ability to make his own decisions. The gripping court room scene when Picard explains why Data has the right to such liberties is not only powerfully moving, but a formative moment in his friendship with Data, which will feature prominently in the new series.

8 The Defector

In Season 3 of Star Trek: Next Generation, the Enterprise takes a Romulan defector aboard seeking asylum from the Romulan homeworld. He is none other than Admiral Alidar Jarok, hero of the Star Empire who claims to carry vital information about a Romulan invasion. Understanding Picard's recognition of Jarok's courage despite his personal misgivings of his species will be vital when considering the Romulan presence on Picard.

Since the new series is set after the destruction of Romulus, there will be possible waves of Romulan refugees, contingencies of the Romulan Empire, and facets of Romulan-Federation interactions that will highlight the dynamic diplomacy between Picard and his old nemesis from this episode.

7 The Offspring

After returning from a conference on artificial intelligence, Data decides to apply a few of the theories and methods he's learned. He constructs an "offspring" of sorts, an android similar to himself that he will raise as his own "daughter". It's another way for Data to be less alone in the universe, and to practice the very "human" act of child rearing. He names her "Lal".

When Picard learns of Lal's existence, he's very upset with Data for not consulting him. Even so, he doesn't believe in Starfleet's right to take Lal from Data's care if he doesn't wish it. Picard is willing to put his Starfleet career on the line for Data's right to have a child, a point which may figure prominently in the new series and the identity of the mysterious young woman introduced.

6 The Best Of Both Worlds, Parts I & II

In this exciting two-part season 3 finale and season 4 opener, the Borg Collective decides that the best way to assimilate the entire Federation is to assimilate the captain of its flagship, Captain Picard. Probing his mind for Starfleet tactics and strategies, they are nearly unstoppable by the time they begin their conquest. They are eventually defeated, but at a great cost to Picard.

Picard is reminded at various other points in the series that he is directly responsible for the loss of 11,000 lives. He is haunted by it, and rarely does a member of Starfleet brass let him forget it. But he is seen as a victim of circumstance, whereas the rest of the Borg are seen as enemies. This will give key incite into his desire to meet with Seven of Nine concerning Borg refugees in Picard.

5 The Drumhead

When a Klingon exchange officer aboard the Enterprise is suspected of sabotage and transferring sensitive information to Romulan spies, a witch-hunt ensues. A prominent Starfleet admiral comes out of retirement to help Picard track down the truth, but Picard begins to suspect that what began as a simple inquiry will descend into hysteric paranoia, where personal liberties are truncated under the guise of improved security for all.

This is one a sterling example of how much integrity Picard maintains even when his back is against the wall. Even when he is placed in front of the tribunal, with his every false step publicly and viciously scrutinized, he holds firm, and remains a calm beacon of hope in a turbulent ocean of self-righteous zealotry.

4 The Inner Light

One of the most moving and awarded episodes of TNG, this episode features a "What If" scenario that allows Picard to experience what sort of life he would have if he'd never been a part of Starfleet. When an alien probe comes in contact with the Enterpise, Picard is pulled into the life of a man on a planet whose people will soon die off.

He lives out an entire life span with a wife, children, and grand children, before waking as though from a dream, with his memories the only relic of a lost civilization. Picard is an intensely private man, who has often sacrificed his personal life to better serve his crew. This episode shows the great depth of caring Picard is capable of, which we may see more of in the new series.

3 Chain Of Command, Parts I & II

In Season 6, Picard is sent on a dangerous away mission, which leaves the Enterprise under the authority of a captain with an altogether different sense of leadership. The new captain is gruff, dismissive, and lacks the nuance and complexities of Picard's methods. Meanwhile, Picard's mission goes awry, and he is captured by Cardassians who hold him in a facility for interrogation.

Not only does this episode show what the Enterprise would be like without its captain, it shows the strength of his psychological stamina. While he is tortured, mentally and physically for Starfleet intel, he doesn't allow himself to be broken, even if it means his freedom.

2 The Chase

Picard has always had a deep fascination and love of archaeology, which is put to the test in this episode from the sixth season. He must race against several other species (Klingons, Romulans, etc) to decipher clues that lead to the location of answers to questions that have puzzled them for thousands of years. What they find may shatter the very fabric of the Star Trek universe.

While the other species surrender to petty egoism and ethnocentrism, Picard reminds them that it is their differences that make them special, and their commonalities that make them similar. He stresses the importance of setting aside differences in favor of pursuing common interests, thereby lessening the strain of xenophobia's suspicion and mistrust.

1 All Good Things

While some Star Trek series have had lackluster finales, this isn't one of them. Star Trek: The Next Generation got a wonderful send off, featuring Picard and the crew of the Enterprise proving once and for all to the Q continuum that humankind has potential. They jump in and out of time in an effort to stop a temporal anomaly, and interact with many other versions of themselves along the way in an effort to understand its cause.

This episode reveals many different futures to Picard, and he gets to see the eventual outcomes of many different decisions for each member of the crew. When his timeline is restored, he finally sees the crew for what it has become; his family. He urges them to cherish the time they have together, and makes a grand gesture in that vein by finally joining the bridge crew's poker game.