Star Trek: The Next Generation is my favorite series of the franchise. It may not be the best (ST: DS9 - aka The Wire in Space) or the wildest (ST: TOS - aka Luck is a Skill) or the most heartfelt (ST: VOY - aka Janeway is Space Hermione) or the worst (ST: ENT - aka George Bush Hates Star Trek) but it does hold the distinction of being the single weirdest series of all the franchises.
It was the only post TOS series that didn’t have a single/continuous season or series arc (excluding the could-be-argued “Q” episodes), carrying on the original series’ character driven monster/planet/space problem of the week formula coupled with a bigger budget and special effects, allowing for some seriously mad episodes detached from any arc requirements that literally have you screaming, “WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING!”
And no matter how bizarre, I gobble it up - they’re astronauts in the year 2365 exploring the very edge of known space, of course it’s totally plausible they’d have to argue contract law in a legal battle against the devil! It’s space baby!
And in appreciation of those ludicrous episodes, here are my top five most WTF episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
5) Time’s Arrow (5x26/6x1)
I’m a HUGE fan of Star Trek time travel episodes, but this one is absolute nonsense from start to finish. This adventure involves a species of glowing aliens whose only food source is human brain waves so they travel back to the late 1880s to kill and eat homeless people (not yet).
And through a series of unfortunate events Data gets sent back in time where he uses poker, Guinan on her Rumspringa, and true grit to stay alive long enough for the Bridge Crew to go back and save him (not yet).
And thankfully they all manage to get back to where and when they’re supposed to be, blow up the aliens, and there’s no disruption to the timeline (NOT YET).
Oh, I almost forgot to mention that halfway through this little adventure LITERARY GIANT MARK TWAIN BEAMS HIMSELF ABOARD THE ENTERPRISE AND JUST CHILLS (Say it with me now: What the fuck?!?).
This was a SEASON CLOSER/OPENER - they had TWO episodes to flesh out this mystery and that still wasn’t enough time to explain what was going on.
It felt like the studio had a made-for-TV Western movie go under and were left with a ton of props they needed to use so the TNG writers were like, we got something and clearly met the challenge flawlessly.
4) Sub Rosa (7x14)
This episode is basically a Scottish-themed gothic romance novel on overdrive, like Outlander in the year 2400.
Rocked by the recent passing of her 100-year old grandmother, a woman that had literally raised her, Dr. Beverly Crusher finds solace in the one last tie to her grandmother, the pages of her personal journal where she openly wrote about banging her 30-year old boy toy, and Crusher reads EVERY. LAST. ENTRY.
And she’s INTO it, like the sentence, “I did fall asleep reading a particularly erotic chapter in my grandmother’s journal,” was openly said and no one involved in the conversation (one of which being a certified therapist) had any issue with it!
And to add a little extra WTF to the episode, it turns out the boy toy is actually a ghost that’s been living in a candle holder that GENERATIONS of women on Crusher’s mom’s side have all had TORRID AFFAIRS with. ALL OF THEM - the last being Crusher’s grandmother, and the newest being CRUSHER HERSELF. Yes, this is an episode of Star Trek where Crusher has SEX with a GHOST, many, MANY times!
Obviously the ghost is evil and Crusher ends up having to kill him and then just has to live with knowing her entire family has banged the same man.
3) Genesis (7x19)
This is my favorite Barclay episode in the whole series as it involves everyone’s favorite hypochondriac finally getting sick with a real disease for real this time! And, in what will definitely lead to a bump up in numbers of scheduled visits to Troi for counselling, the treatment Crusher gives him causes a ship wide medical disaster: everyone starts de-evolving back to prehistoric versions of themselves.
We then jump to Picard and Data who come back to the ship after running an errand and find out they have to battle dinosaur-era versions of their coworkers.
The most WHAT THE FUCK moment of this episode is definitely the plot involving Worf, who’s regressed back into some kind of meat-eating rock monster and has killed NUMEROUS shipmates during several rampages. And I mean he REALLY killed them. Picard and Data find the helmsmen with his literal spine broken and his chest clawed out. Imagine spending years dedicated to the dream of being in Starfleet, busting your ass to get posted as the pilot to the flagship, only to get eaten by a Geodude!
How is the entire ship not constantly bringing up the fact that they all de-evolved that one time? I’d have asked for a transfer back to an Earth posting in a heartbeat - there wasn’t even an encounter that caused it, it was just aggressive medicine!
Also for sure now whenever things get wild people immediately ask the computer where Worf is and then head towards the opposite direction!
2) Code of Honour (1x4)
I don’t even know where to start with this episode.
Basically the Enterprise needs a vaccine to save a planet from a plague and the only people who have it are space Africans, whose leader looks like a genie and kidnaps Tasha Yar in order to make her a second wife, and his first wife gets so pissed they have a battle to the death to pick the one true wife.
The idea for going along with the space Africans’ shenanigans seemed to be centered around the idea that it’s a breach of the Prime Directive and/or manners if they don’t go along with it. Which is never an issue in later episodes and I think this misadventure is the reason Picard goes full Kirk whenever it gets too hairy, which is the only thing about this episode I’m thankful for!
What’s wild is they picked this as the THIRD episode of the FIRST season of the new Star Trek show!?! It’s like your senile grandpa watched Dune and Black Panther back to back and then tried to tell you the plot of either of them. The entire thing is cringe start to finish and feels like a leftover episode from the Original Series that they slipped in for filler. But be it the 60s, 90s, or now, you can’t help but wince and whisper “what the fuck” as you watch this episode.
1) Conspiracy (1x24)
This episode has the distinction of being in my top-5 favorite Star Trek episodes of all time but that doesn’t mean it’s not weird!
This is the conclusion of a storyline that was casually brought up 6 episodes prior and ended in the revelation that a cabal of sinister brain worms were secretly taking over Starfleet.
And these brain worms made it far in their plan, like FAR-far. They had managed to get most high-ranking officers on Starfleet’s executive board AND several important ships, their most recent attempt being the Enterprise. They were literally a couple of weeks away from successfully infiltrating the most powerful space force in the Alpha Quadrant, and were ONLY BARELY found out by a snooping Captain Picard.
And thank Allah for Picard - he and Riker are apparently the ONLY ONES IN ALL OF STARFLEET who have a clue what is going on, and go full on Fast and the Furious through the halls of Starfleet Headquarters before stumbling across the Queen Worm, who they kill, along with her host in a sequence that has a better head-exploding scene than Scanners!
And then the two high five and go back to the ship, having stopped the devious campaign by killing half of their leadership!
I guarantee there were a LOT of promotions and brain scans for the next few weeks as Picard casually mentions that the brain worms all died once their Queen Worm did, meaning a bunch of captains across the galaxy collectively stroked out!
And then during the final seconds of the show, Data tells the Captain that the Queen Worm had managed to send a BEACON message towards an uncharted region of space. And then nothing about this is ever brought up again.
A bunch of BRAIN WORMS just managed to almost take over Starfleet and your next move isn’t building SEVERAL ARMADAS and laying waste to that entire region of space?? You’re worried about the Cardassians, Klingon, Romulans and Borg, but don’t bother to follow-up about the BRAIN WORMS THAT MANAGED TO ALMOST TAKE OVER STARFLEET?
WHAT THE FUCK!!???
HONOURABLE MENTION: Icarus Factor (2x14)
The A-storyline of this episode is Riker and his dad coming to terms with the death of the only woman both truly ever loved - their wife/mom, which sounds normal enough on the surface. And how do they finally put aside 30-years of resentment, regret and rage: through anbo-jyutsu, a one-on-one blind-folded American Gladiator-esque armed combat. TALK ABOUT FAMILY DRAMA, but I’ll be damned, it worked!
Midway through the fight Riker yells at his dads, “You should have been the one to die, not her,” which is a gut-punch of a thing to say to your dad, and it all literally ends in a hug and with Riker knowing his dad did the dirty with his co-worker, Pulaski!
The equally strange B-story gives us Sad Worf who is unable to complete the second part of Klingon puberty because he doesn’t have anyone to celebrate it with. So in order to cheer up the foreign exchange student, Wesley, O’Brien, Pulaski, LaForge and Data throw him a little puberty party in the holodeck.
And by party, I mean they all watch Worf get stabbed and electrocuted by “painstiks” for ten minutes and then everyone drank prune juice.
This is in the middle of a work day, mind you - they all watched a BDSM session and then went to a meeting about the new payroll process. And they let a 15-year old boy watch this too! What the fuck? Sometimes, there’s too much diversity…