Here is a curated list of the Top 15ish episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in roughly chronological order. I’ve flipped the order of “Q Who” and “The Measure of a Man” because the entire series starts with a Q episode (“Encounter at Farpoint”) and ends with a Q episode, so it seems fitting to bookend this best-of list the same way. And “Q Who” has two of the essential antagonists of the TNG series. I also think it is good to encounter Data in another way before “The Measure of a Man.”

EpisodeIMDB RatingRankSeasonEpisode
Q Who8.97216
The Measure of a Man9.1629
Yesterday’s Enterprise9.23315
The Offspring8.515316
The Best of Both Worlds: Part 19.32326
The Best of Both Worlds: Part 29.2441
Cause and Effect8.99518
I Borg8.810523
The Inner Light9.41525
Chain of Command, Part I8.328610
Chain of Command, Part II8.98611
Lower Decks8.714715
All Good Things…9.15725

This list includes “Chain of Command, Part I,” even though it is ranked #28, because it’s essential viewing for “Chain of Command, Part II.”

Of the Top 5, four are present in one of the first polls conducted after the series ended; the only difference is the Viewers Choice Marathon included “Relics” (#17) in their Top 5, loving it more than viewers have in subsequent years.

Why the Top 15 rather than the Top 10? I couldn’t leave “Darmok” off (#13) nor “Lower Decks” (#14)—as it inspired the series of the same name—and “The Offspring” (#15) is a powerful episode as well.


Unsurprisingly, none of the Top 15 episodes are from season 1. The first season suffered from a writer’s strike and struggled to find its voice. 

Will Riker without the beard and with the beardAs part of my rewatch of Star Trek in chronological order, for the past year, I’ve been “binging” ST:TNG, watching the series from June 16, 2023, to May 14, 2024. (This pace will not fit most people’s definition of binging.) The first half of the first season was so bad that when I started my rewatch it took me months to get through: according to IMDB, the first thirteen episodes have an average rating of 6.5, compared to 7.0 for the final twelve episodes. And, of course, the sharp uptick in quality after season 2 has led to the trope Growing the Beard.

IMDB Rating
Season 16.75
Season 26.88
Season 37.54
Season 47.53
Season 57.60
Season 67.69
Season 77.17

But let’s put this into further context. The quality of seasons 3 to 6 matched the quality of TOS seasons 1 and 2.

  IMDB Rating
TOSSeason 17.7
TOSSeason 27.5
TOSSeason 36.9
TASSeason 16.6
TASSeason 26.6
TNGSeason 16.8
TNGSeason 26.9
TNGSeason 37.5
TNGSeason 47.5
TNGSeason 57.6
TNGSeason 67.7
TNGSeason 77.2


Having watched the series in its original run, I was surprised to come across quite a few episodes I’d never seen (“Rascals,” for one). Then I realized I have a different relationship to TNG episodes then TOS episodes. In the 1970s, we had five television stations (ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and a local UHF station). There wasn’t much to watch, but Star Trek was on every day. I had the James Blish novelizations of every episode. I had Bjo Trimble’s Concordance. I bought fanzines and a series of books of essays on Trek. TOS episodes were like holy scriptures, constantly poured over.

When TNG ran, I was in college, got my first job, got engaged, got married, bought a house, had two kids—so I didn’t see it every week. My wife and I watched it (all her boyfriends had been Star Trek fans, lol). And when ST:TNG ended, there was Voyager and DS-9. So I didn’t rewatch TNG.

Random observations:

  • The first season had four chief engineers.
  • The crew need to fix their bad quarantining practices, which seem especially painful having lived through COVID lockdowns.
  • Stop letting guests roam the ship! Maybe you need a guest quarters deck for Ferengi, metamorphs, and others you encounter – not a prison, but not giving access to the rest of the ship. Maybe the computer should alert you when guests go to off-limits locations?
  • Maybe the computer should alert you when crew members mysteriously disappear from the ship? 
  • Maybe the computer should alert you when people have medical emergencies?
  • Guinan is, to my surprise, one of my favorite characters.
  • Few TNG regular characters are that interesting to me. I don’t think any of them are among my favorites at their position across the entire franchise.
  • Embarrassing amounts of technobabble. I don’t remember this ever being so painful in TOS.
  • I still love the episode “Heart of Glory” (ranked #95).
  • It was fun to watch the show and recognize shots that are now memes. For instance, the episode “Quality of Life” poker game has the two Geordi poses from that famous meme.
Geordi saying no to: "A popular meme"
Geordi sayings yes to: "A Star Trek version of that meme"
  • I would totally read a collection of essays on the Prime Directive in ST:TNG. 
  • The seventh season had so many “family” episodes, with each unhappy family being unhappy in its own way. Two episodes about Data’s “family,” an episode about Geordi and his mom, about Troi and her mother’s past trauma, about Worf’s human stepbrother, about Beverly’s grandmother, and about one of Picard’s past romantic entanglements.

Now that I’m done with my rewatch, I don’t think I’ll ever repeat it; the series is huge, and I don’t watch that much TV. It took me nearly a year to watch this, as it was. Prior to this rewatch, I had rewatched the Bajoran/Cardassian episodes as prep to rewatch DS-9, I had rewatched all the Romulan episodes (as a superfluous warmup to the first season of Picard), and I had shared random episodes with my youngest, based on allusions to them from Lower Decks episodes (e.g., “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra”). So I think I will take similar thematic approaches to any rewatches.

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