14. Star Trek Deep Space 9 – The Dominion, The Founders and the Jem’Hadar
The most consistent villains and story arc within any Trek franchise, the Dominion are first mentioned in the 2nd season of DS9 when Quark goes to the Gamma Quadrant seeking fortune in the episode “Rules of Acquisition”.
Events quickly escalate and the Dominion Wars begin and run throughout the series adding characters, villains and allies along the way. The story becomes so involving and complex as well as entertaining, you cannot stop watching once you begin.
15. Star Trek: The Next Generation – Guinan
There was a lot of talk when Academy Award-Winning actress Whoopi Goldberg joined the cast of The Next Generation in season 2. Goldberg was a fan of the original series and admired actress Nichelle Nichols who played Lieutenant Uhura.
Guinan was the barkeep of the Enterprise lounge “Ten-Forward”, but she was also much more than that. She was an ear to listen and offer advice even to Captain Picard. She became involved in away missions and was turned into a child in the episode “Rascals”.
16. Star Trek: The Next Generation – Data Laughs
After the climax of the 3rd season episode, “Deja Q”, where the omnipotent being is stripped of his powers and is forced to take refuge aboard the Enterprise to protect him from his many enemies, Q decides to give one last gift to a member of the crew being Lieutenant Commander Data. Data bursts into uncontrollable laughter much to the delight of the rest of the bridge crew. The results are one of the funniest Trek moments of all time.
17. Star Trek: Prelude to Axanar
“Axanar” is a fan-made 21 minute short film based in the Star Trek universe which was released in 2014 after a very successful campaign on Kickstarter making over $100,000. It is filmed in a documentary style and stars Richard Hatch and Kate Vernon from the “Battlestar Galactica” reboot as well as veteran Trek Klingon actor J.G. Hertzler.
It depicts the aftermath of the Federation and Klingon Wars as told by those involved. Based on good reviews and a successful premiere at the San Diego Comic-Con, a feature film was planned. Unfortunately, in December 2015 Paramount Pictures filed a lawsuit against the filmmakers saying their production used “immeasurable copyrighted elements of Star Trek including its settings, characters, species and themes.”
Hopefully, things will be worked out and an “Axanar” film will eventually be produced.
18. Star Trek: The Next Generation – “The Best of Both Worlds”
Consistently voted the best season cliffhanger and one of the greatest TNG episodes of all time, this season three ender has the Federation going up against their cyborg enemies, The Borg, like never before. Federation officer Lt. Commander Shelby comes aboard the Enterprise as they investigate a missing colony.
The inevitable confrontation with the Borg occurs and Captain Picard is captured and then assimilated. The crew tries to board the Borg cube vessel in a rescue attempt, but fails. “Locutus of Borg” is born and orders the Enterprise to surrender or be assimilated themselves. What will they do?
19. Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Brothers”
Data is summoned back to the home planet of his “father”, Dr. Noonien Soong, so he may receive the emotion chip which was planned for him. Unfortunately, his evil “brother”, Lore, also received the summons and returned as well. Through some deception, Lore is given the chip by mistake and departs. The acting from actor Brent Spiner in this episode is particularly fine as he plays triple duty here. The result is a compelling and tragic episode.
20. Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Relics”
Star Trek is great at nostalgia and incorporating various incarnations of the show together seamlessly quite often. Same is the case in this episode. In investigating 75-year-old transport vessel wreckage, it is discovered a transporter signal has been stuck in continuous loop so the signal would not degrade.
Once materialized, it turns out to be the original Mr. Montgomery Scott (James Doohan). He forms a quick friendship with new Enterprise engineer Geordi LaForge, however, quickly discovers time has passed him by and his knowledge is no longer necessary.
He then has to make some decisions as to how to spend the time with the rest of his life.
This is a poignant, touching episode especially since the original 1960s U.S.S. Enterprise bridge was recreated for this episode.
21. Star Trek 2009 – Spock – The Ice Creature
When the new/old or old/new Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) gets stranded on an ice planet chased by a weird creature, who comes to his rescue as he tumbles into an icy cave but the original Mr. Spock, Leonard Nimoy.
Everyone knew going into the film Nimoy was scheduled to appear; however, you get lost in the pace of the film and forget until he finally appears and then you think to yourself “Oh yeah, Nimoy is in this”. The scenes Nimoy is in are memorable and it gives the J.J. version somewhat of a validation.
22. Star Trek: The Next Generation – “I, Borg”
When a downed Borg ship is discovered, the lone Borg survivor is brought aboard the Enterprise for medical assistance. The youth, calling himself “3rd of 5” is initially monotone stating the familiar “you will be assimilated”. He is unable to telepathically contact his collective, so he begins to develop an individual personality and eventually takes on the name “Hugh” as given to him by Geordi LaForge.
A plan is quickly formulated to infect Hugh with a computer virus and return him to the Borg. Once reconnected to the central mind, he would infect the entire Borg species rendering them dormant and easy prey for the Federation. The moral implications of such “genocide” are contemplated feverishly by the crew as their final decision is reached.
The episode wrestles with a lot of moral issues and shows the Borg in a much different, softer light.
23. Star Trek: The Next Generation – “Chain of Command”
Captain Picard and others are assigned to a dangerous away mission bringing them close to Cardassia. After Picard’s capture, he is brought to see the Cardassian commander, Gul Madred played by Trek veteran character actor David Warner.
The exchanges between the two are epic with Madred torturing Picard while trying to assess the details of the mission. Maded tries to break the captain showing him five lights and asking him “How many lights do you see?” Picard replies “There are four lights”.
Rarely in a TNG episode does Picard get to release so much emotion. Normally he is reserved and controlled. Patrick Stewart shines playing Picard as vulnerable in this episode.
24. Star Trek: The Next Generation – “The Measure of a Man”
In this memorable 2nd season episode, Commander Bruce Maddox boards the Enterprise hoping to understand the androids inner working better to aid him in recreating his positronic brain. His true motives are quickly revealed as he actually wants Data to return with him to Starfleet headquarters and be disassembled.
The true issue is whether Data is actually a life form? Or what is the definition of life? These complex issues play out during Data’s trial.
The episode is written flawlessly giving us much to think about and ponder.
This episode is also the first which features the crew’s famous poker game.
25. Star Trek: The Next Generation: “The Inner Light”
My personal favorite TNG single episode finds Captain Picard controlled by a mysterious probe as the crew fights to try and understand what is happening to him and how to save his life.
Unknown to them, Picard is transformed into Kamin, a scientist on a distant world and is forced to live out 40 years of his life gradually forgetting most details of his life as a Starfleet Captain.
After his life ends, it is revealed although he thought it was 40 years, it was mere minutes for the crew. The probe was designed so the lives on the planet who were long since dead would not be forgotten.
Unlike other loud, involved episodes, the simple emotional story here made many fans rejoice and this episode ranks as one of the series best.
26. Star Trek: The Next Generation: “Yesterday’s Enterprise”
Every Trek series had at least one “alternate timeline” or “alternate universe” episode and this was a good one. It marked the return of Tasha Yar who had been killed off two seasons earlier and featured the “Enterprise-C” which had been presumed destroyed years earlier.
Once the Enterprise travelled through a rift in space, Guinan goes to Captain Picard and tells him something doesn’t feel right, but she can’t put her finger on it. In the new timeline, the Federation is at war with the Klingpn Empire and the war does not go well. The Enterprise C travelled through the rift and barely escaped an encounter with the Romulans.
The interplay between Tasha Yar and Guinan is especially good in this episode since, if the correct timeline was allowed to occur, they should not have met.
This type of episode always makes you think and that is probably the point.