Ranking All The Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes (Part 3)

This post continues a discussion of ranking Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes and the first two parts can be found here (Part 1, Part 2).

118. The High Ground (TNG 312)

Dr. Crusher is kidnapped by rebels who want the Federation to be involved in their struggle.

I don’t think this episode is well-executed but I think the concept is interesting. The head rebel/terrorist, Finn, has a cool guy name but always reminds me of a merger of the two guys from Perfect Strangers which sort of undermines his persona. He talks tough and carries an even bigger phaser but warms Bev’s heart by drawing generic portraits of her face and hands (paging James Cameron). Anyway, the rebels have a super stealth personal transporter that can beam through shields but is killing them with each use. Must awesome, convenient tech also make us choose between convenience and our own physical well-being? Because it appears humanoids will always, without fail, take the convenient tech that slowly kills us and disproportionately harms the poor who cannot access it.

Anyway it’s the concept I like (though it’s better explored in other episodes across the Star Trek universe). In general, I too, like the Prime Directive. But Finn and his rebel bros raise a valid point in that the Federation’s humanitarian intervention in warp-capable, non-aligned planets’ various issues is often the same as the Federation picking a side. Even if the Starfleet vessel warps away before truly considering the impact of these things. Which is pretty much what happens in this episode. Bev and Finn raise these issues and JLP’s like “Bye!”

117. The Ensigns of Command (TNG 302)

Data tries to convince a group of colonists that they must evacuate their planet because of a Federation treaty with the Sheliak.

String quartet opening scene? I love my nerd ship. Picard most often sits with Bev at this sort of thing (he sits beside Ensign Jae the next most? which is super weird). I am generally critical of the Federation/Starfleet re-settling established populations to meet with the demands of the Cardassians, Romulans, or some other galactic power, but not in this case. This planet was uninhabited when it was awarded to the Sheliak and humans decided to settled it 20 years later. Not smart.

116. The Devil’s Due (TNG 413)

The crew responds to a distress signal from a science station on Ventax II because the planet is being terrorized by that culture’s version of the devil (allegedly).

This is a “Law & Order” episode only in the most boring sense. There’s a trial between Ardra (the Ventax Devil figure) and Picard with Data acting as judge, but mostly this episode is terrible and not very interesting. The costumes in this one are pretty fabulous though.

115. The Perfect Mate (TNG 521)

The Enterprise plays host to a peace conference in which an empathetic metamorph Kamala (Famke Janssen) is to be given as a gift to seal the deal.

This episode is pretty gross. Kamala is the perfect mate because she’s able to immediately adapt to meet the interests and desires of the men around her/her future husband and is only interested in pleasing men. Sure thing, 24th century. Like maybe this would have been interesting if it centred on Kamala’s sexual pleasure or if, despite existing solely to please men, Kamala was actually a lesbian, or had decided to abandon her people to live her own life. Something. But no, it’s your standard cementing political arrangements with marriage plot. Sigh.

Everyone around her is pretty gross too. After she starts to hit on Riker he says “I make it a policy to never open another man’s gift”. WTF is that Riker? Though immediately after he calls the bridge and says if you need me, I’ll be holodeck 4, which is the clearest indication we have to date that the holodeck is primarily used for sex.

The highlight of this episode is the Crusher-Picard breakfast (the first time we see them share a meal) and the doctor shares her concerns about the well-being of Kamala. Crusher gets a gem of a line, “that slave trader you call an ambassador,” and tells Picard maybe he should know about the things that are going on since it’s his ship. Good job, Bev.

I want to eat breakfast with that pair. Sigh.

114. True Q (TNG 606)

Q visits to test/evaluate a young intern who is actually a Q.

This is a bad episode. Q is annoying. The highlight is probably Amanda Rogers’ Jane Austin-esq fantasy where she casts Riker as a Darcy type and he wears a very tall hat?

You could skip this and still lead a happy and fulfilled life.

113. The Masterpiece Society (TNG 513)

Our intrepid crew tries to save a Moab IV colony made up of “perfect” people but the saving creates its own damage.

Ugh. “What if these folks who are super into eugenics get their way?” is a plot that doesn’t remotely interest me. The secondary plot in this episode is Troi hooks up with the colony’s perfect diplomat leader, Aaron Conor. While this is another example of Riker-Troi being friends and not being jealous over their respective sexual relationships, it feels repetitive. Troi feels divided between duty and her relationship and I feel like we’ve already explored this in the third season with Devinoni Ral. Who’s worse: Devinoni Ral or Aaron Conor? Devinoni Ral, easy.

112. Interface (TNG 703)

Geordi uses a virtual reality suit to explore a ship wreck and is adamant his mom is on board. Really.

So, this episode is not good. “Geordi becomes a probe” is not in itself an uninteresting concept (it’s also not, in itself, an interesting concept), but the way it plays out is boring. Geordi Probe doesn’t move fast and isn’t exploring anything too interesting. Also his suit looks like cable TV cords plugged into meat thermometers.

Anyway, we get to meet his family in this one and that’s fun since we don’t really know that much about Geordi and he’s one of the few crew members whose parents are still alive. His father, Dr. La Forge, is an exozoologist in Starfleet, and his mom, Silva, is the captain of the USS Hera. I think it’s really interesting that Geordi grew up in space with Starfleet parents, but we only get glimpse of this life. It’s a shame really. Oh, his mother’s ship went missing and while everyone else can accept that she’s dead, Geordi can’t. So he uses VR suit to Geordi Probe and try and find her. Sure.

Spoiler: she’s very dead.

111. Samaritan Snare (TNG 217)

The Enterprise is waylaid by the seemingly unintelligent Pakleds (who are actually tech thieves) who kidnap Geordi while Picard goes to Starbase Whatevs to get his artificial heart replaced.

So why, in the 24th century can’t JLP get this procedure done on his own ship? Basically he thinks it’s gross for Pulaski to see his insides and doesn’t want his crew to know his insides make him vulnerable. Ok, Jean-Luc, I’ll give you a pass this time, but you made this unnecessarily complicated.

I love the Pakleds? I know I’m not supposed too, I know I’m supposed to dislike them (there does seem to be some discrimination in the future based on intelligence, preferred knowledge systems, communication styles etc.) but I just can’t. We still quote their lines around the house: “we are far from home,” “our ship is the Mondor. It is broken,” “We are smart. You think we’re stupid, but we’re smart,” and “We look for things. Things to make us go. We need help.” I like that they take advantage of Riker’s trusting behaviour but also his irritation at his perception that they lack intelligence. I like that they’re outsmarted by a fairly simple plot instead of blown up.

There is a good scene with Wes piloting JLP to the starbase. It’s not nice because of Wes, it’s more that Teenage Starfleet Hero serves as a way to explore Picard’s youth and I like that as a plot device. I also like that Picard, the Ideal Middle-Aged Renaissance Man hates his younger self and still needs to come to terms with it. We also learn that Picard lost his heart when he was stabbed by a Nausicaan, in a bar fight, at the Bonestell Recreation Facility at Starbase Earhart, which just begs for a follow up (the absolutely wonderful S6 episode “Tapestry”). It’s one of the earliest indications we get that Picard has a fun side too.

110. The Bonding (TNG 305)

A boy is orphaned when his mother is killed on an away mission but then she reappears. Ghost mom isn’t actually a ghost, she’s an alien (surprise).

Here’s the thing: there are a lot of orphans on the Enterprise. When Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry was more involved in TNG, he enforced a fairly restrictive rule about no conflict between the crew. I suspect parental death became an easy way to give these characters some depth. Seriously, Riker’s mother dies when he’s two and his father abandons him as a teen, Troi’s father dies when she’s a child, Worf’s Klingon parents are killed when he’s a child, Data has no memory of his creator/doesn’t meet him until much later when Dr. Soong is about to die, Dr. Crusher’s parents die when she’s a child, Wes’ father dies when he’s a child, and Tasha’s parents were killed when she was five. It’s a bummer the future has such high parental attrition rates.

What I like about this episode is all that backstory comes to the fore as the crew try to help Jeremy Aster comes to terms with his mother’s death. Picard has a moment of growth with kids when he places his hand on Jeremy’s and tells him no one is alone on the Enterprise. Worf, who is taking Lt. Aster’s death pretty hard because he led the away team and he’s reminded of his own loss, really tries to work with Jeremy. It’s a glimpse of his paternal side and he even participates in the R’uustai ritual with the boy, which makes Jeremy a member of the House of Mog. Wes gets in on the act, telling Jeremy and JLP how mad he was at Picard when his father died and how he’s worked through those feelings. We get Bev and Wes talking about Jack. It’s just a good episode for lingering emotions and pain.

109. The Outcast (TNG 517)

Riker falls for a member of an androgynous race.

Ugh. This episode is all sorts of messy. Riker falls in love with Soren, who is a member of an androgynous race but reveals to Riker part way through the episode that she’s always been drawn to femininity and is, in fact, female and attracted to Riker. Eventually, her people find out, there’s a hearing, and Soren undergoes psychotectic therapy (which sounds like something Congressional Republicans would mandate) and that’s the end of it. Apparently this episode was supposed to be about homophobia/gay rights and it fails miserably on that front. After all, Soren is female and attracted to Riker, and in her conversations with Dr. Crusher and Riker about human sexuality, homosexuality is never brought up. In fact, it’s actually about a heterosexual couple, so, not gay then. In some ways it’s very much of its time (1992), well before the late-90s arrival of a few gay characters on TV.

I think it does work better as a discussion of gender identity, but the episode is rarely discussed as such (nor was it intended to be such an episode despite the obvious gender implications of the plot). I think there are ways in which Soren’s struggle to vocalize her gender would resonate more now than it did then and I think her discussion with Crusher about being female (in which Crusher responds that she’s never really thought about it, she just is) mostly holds up as an illustration of the differences between the way some cis and trans folks think about gender (mostly holds up as much as a 45 minute episode that refuses to use words like “gay” and “trans” can). As a species, the J’naii suffer from certain conventions in depictions of androgyny (whiteness, masculine appearance as default depiction of “genderless” etc.) which the writers had an opportunity to break away from but didn’t take (nor do I expect this from a 25-year-old show).

Worf also makes some sexist “women are weaker” comments during a poker game which doesn’t really fit with his usual love of strong women. Some of the criticism of this episode centres on the fact that Riker wouldn’t actually be attracted to an androgynous character/a character who doesn’t present as stereotypically female. I think that’s sort of crap? I mean, Riker often goes for partners who pass standards of conventional feminine beauty but he’s also flirted/had sexual relationships with several more masculine (while still attractive) women throughout the series. When asked to define what he looks for in a partner by Soren, Riker discusses the importance of an intellectual/emotional connection (more than anything this seems to be what keeps bringing him back to Troi?) and I think that this works in terms of his relationship with Soren. Riker seems to enjoy their conversations and intellectual exploration of gender and sexuality too. Really though, isn’t Riker always interested in interspecies mating rituals? Yes. Like, he also just really likes sex and that’s ok in the 24th century (and now too). I think that if his character was written now, he’d be bi or pansexual but he was first on screen in 1987 based off a character created in the 1970s, so there are limits to how he’s depicted. Anyway, Star Trek needs to do much better when addressing LGBTQ issues in the new series.

108. Transfigurations (TNG 325)

The Enterprise crew rescue a critically injured alien who suffers from amnesia but is undergoing a major transformation.

Kudos to Geordi for volunteering to be part of a neural link with the alien without asking Dr. Crusher any clarifying questions about the procedure or dangers all because he wants to help save an injured alien. The Federation, man.

Bev names her patient John Doe and that’s sort of boring to know that “John Doe” is still being used to identify patients/bodies without known names in the future. Like surely the Vulcans have a better system we could be using?

Regardless, John is a good sort of dude, perfectly agreeable and his neural transfer with Geordi has finally given Geordi the confidence to interact with Christy (remember her?) and the two seem to go on several dates during this episode (unsurprisingly Riker notes the change in La Forge). There’s some hints of Bev being romantically interested in her patient too (no Bev).

My favourite part of this episode is definitely the introduction of Chief O’Brien’s recurring kayaking shoulder injury.

107. A Matter of Perspective (TNG 314)

Riker is charged with murdering a scientist, Dr. Nel Apgar, and Picard holds the extradition hearings in the holodeck where they can watch holodeck recreations of everyone’s version of events.

This is a “Law & Order” episode and it’s fine. The concept is interesting, using the holodeck to present evidence in a trial and in the process, inadvertently figure out what happened (Dr. Apgar is trying to make Kreiger waves, a potentially powerful new power source and the crew realize he has actually figured out how to do it because the holodeck recreation of his lab is causing damage because it).

Anyway, too much of this episode is conventional. Obsessive scientist who’s actually a bad dude? Check. Characterizing Riker as sex crazed? Check. Allegation of sexual assault ignored? Check.

The best part is the art class that opens the episode. Picard and a few other junior officers are painting in a set that is clearly the observation lounge but not the observation lounge. Anyway, Data comes in and critiques their art, complementing the ensign and lieutenant but just slamming Picard (Picard’s painting is Not Good). This is what Data says to him: “While suggesting the free treatment of form usually attributed to Fauvism, this quite… inappropriately attempts to juxtapose the disparate cubistic styles of Picasso and Léger. In addition, the use of color suggests a… haphazard melange of clashing styles. Furthermore, the unsettling overtones of proto-Vulcan influences…”

So many things: first, Data, you’re not wrong. Second, what else was he going to say?! Third, I must know more about the aesthetic concerns of a culture in the process of shedding its emotions, so please, tell me more about the proto-Vulcan influences.

They’re painting a nude model. Who is this lady? What is her day job on the ship? Or is she one of the civilians on the ship? I suppose in the 24th century nudity isn’t a big deal, it just seems weird that they don’t do this in a holodeck. For starters, a holographic model can hold poses longer, doesn’t get cold, and would be more flexible. You could add more muscle, less muscle, hair, provide instant props etc. You could also add more models as needed. Take it to the holodeck, Picard.

106. The Host (TNG 423)

Bev has sex! First with Ambassador Odan and then Odan’s essence/consciousness in Riker’s body.

How did it take four seasons for Dr. Crusher to have a true romance/hook up episode? I mean, Bev is smart, funny, interesting, stimulating, she researches and dances, has a position of authority, is attractive, and has super hair. I’m sure there’s some way I can blame this on Wes.

Anyway, this episode opens with Bev and Odan being super affectionate in a turbolift and Data being a buzzkill. I like the way this episode opens because even though we’re just being introduced to Odan he already has backstory with Bev/has been on the shop for a while and that gives a weight to their relationship. All of which is important for the writers to make us believe it’s not really weird that after the Odan symbiont (spoiler the host body with the wavy hair DIES!) is put in Riker, Bev and Riker have sex. Everyone seems ok with this in later episodes too. Riker and Bev never mention it and seem fine with each other, it never comes between Troi and Bev which is nice as well. Sometimes the 24th century is cool.

Can we talk for a minute about how the costume folks never miss an opportunity to put Riker in blue? I get it, it brings out his very blue eyes. But it’s not just any blue. The blue medical and science personnel wear for instance wouldn’t look nearly as good. Anyway, I’m here for Riker’s blue silk pajamas.

105. Loud as a Whisper (TNG 205)

The Enterprise transports a deaf mediator to Solais V, to negotiate the end of that planet’s civil war.

Number one thing the Enterprise does is act as a fancy transport ship, especially for diplomats. Which is fine I guess, but it seems like the flagship of the Federation probably also has other things to do? I mean, for significant galactic negotiations, sure, ferry some diplomats, but his mission feels more like mediator Riva would just take the nearest Bolian transport to Solais V.

Anyway, Riva looks like a wonderful lion. Full red beard and feathered, red hair makes him more of a Mufasa rather than a Scar. Seriously, it’s like as if Ellis from Die Hard was a ginger (Hey Picard, I negotiate million dollar deals for breakfast. I think I can handle this Eurotrash.) He wears this wonderfully pleated blue cloak that looks like the jacket version of Kai Winn’s Sydney Opera House hat. Love it.

Riva is deaf and uses a chorus to communicate, which is sort of interesting, but the only chorus in my mind is this one. Anyway, Riva’s kind of gross in that he hits on Troi from the start, ignoring JLP to talk about her beauty while she’s on the job. He’s persistent, uses his diplomatic powers to get her to go to diner, and during the dinner (that she attends to be friendly/professional it seems) he dismisses the intellect and wisdom members (who were interesting to Troi) of his chorus leaving the passion member. This is sexual harassment, but unfortunately the Enterprise doesn’t have an HR department.

On the planet Riva’s chorus is executed and it’s kind of gross (it’s like their skin melts and you get to see their innards!) and Riva is left unable to communicate. What follows is Troi, using her empathetic abilities, and Data, using his knowledge of sign language, try to learn to communicate with Riva and get him to go back to negotiating (the folks involved in the Civil War will only work with him). I always find it interesting when Data and Troi work together to solve any sort of communication issue (this happens 3 times? I think) because it’s an interesting interplay of differing intelligences and Troi’s knowledge, so often maligned, comes through in these scenes as valuable and necessary.

Eventually, Riva beams down with the intention of teaching everyone sign language and consequently, create a treaty by learning to truly communicate which is a cool way to build peace.

I know there were those in the disability community who didn’t like La Forge’s portrayal of blindness (because he could still see with help of the VISOR) and there’s a moment in this episode where Geordi and Riva bond that is supposed to be empowering as they state how happy they are as people? Anyway, that moment is sort of undone when Pulaski calls Geordi into sickbay to tell him he could have a surgery to get ocular implants (which he gets in First Contact). Geordi’s declined this sort of vison before (when Riker Q offers it in the first season) and just said to Riva that he’s happy with who he is, but now he is considering this? And they don’t revisit this plot point in the episode. It doesn’t make much sense other than the episode was running short on time so the writers were like “this is the one with disability right? Add more disability!”

104. The Arsenal of Freedom (TNG 121)

Picard and an away team of virtually everyone of consequence are trapped on a planet with a deadly, automated weapons system, while Geordi, in command of the Enterprise engages in battle with the system in orbit.

This is probably higher than it should be, but it’s one of the few watchable episodes from the first season and it’s one of those “put people together who aren’t usually together/put people in positions they’re unaccustomed to episodes” and I enjoy this as a storytelling technique in episodic television.

It’s one of the last “Maybe Geordi’s a bridge officer?” episodes and I think that’s a good thing. La Forge is a good leader, we see that in this episode. He’s generally encouraging and supportive and listens to his subordinates. But I do like that he becomes Chief Engineer in season two. He probably could have been a decent command option, but in engineering he gets to be creative, intelligent, and imaginative and I think that’s important to see. Not only that, he gets a dedicated space. Engineering becomes his domain and he wears it well, especially when evacuating his crew during a coolant leak (why did the writers think they didn’t need a single chief engineer who was part of the main cast in season one?)

103. The Big Goodbye (TNG 112)

Captain Picard and co. kill some time on the holodeck and of course get stuck.

With a stressful diplomatic mission ahead, Picard takes some time to relax and enters the holodeck for the first time. Holodeck Amazement Syndrome lasts until about season five of TNG and it’s in full effect in this episode (by first season DS9 we just accept that everyone uses it for sex, the future is jaded).

Anyway, what program does JLP run? A Dixon Hill story. Dixon Hill is a detective solving crimes in San Francisco in 1941. Which is all sorts of awesome because it means costumes and Picard wearing a fedora and trench coat and holy hell can he pull off that look. It’s also fun that Picard, who is into classical music, Shakespeare, archeology, and Latin, also loves pulp fiction, which rounds him out.

Picard goes back into the program after calling a staff meeting to basically nerd out about the holodeck (in truth it’s about that upcoming diplomatic mission). He decides to invite Whalen, a 20th C historian (TOS had a historian and early TNG had one, I want more Starfleet historians please), is invited along and Data decides to invite himself. Picard immediately regrets this when he invites Crusher and she looks amazing in her big hat. This is also the start of Data saying he’s from South America (later episodes a Frenchman) when interacting with humans from the past/holohumans from the past, which is kinda gross.

Anyway, obviously everything goes to hell. The holodeck safeties break, they can’t leave, Whalen, obviously gets shot and spends the rest of the episode dying (spoiler they get out of the holodeck just in time). The villain of the piece, Cyrus Redblock, tries to leave the holodeck, makes it to the hallway and then starts to disintegrate feet first. Sure. That’s not how the tech works, but whatever.

After this you think the holodeck would be permanently offline but no, they keep going back.

102. Masks (TNG 717)

A culture archive/library begins taking over the Enterprise.

If you like episodes where Brent Spiner plays multiple characters/personalities, this one’s for you. Korgano is probably my favourite personality.

Artifacts from this culture start appearing all over the ship including in Troi’s quarters. Crusher suggests that one of these sculptures might be from a secret admirer and Troi’s super into the suggestion which is a little odd given that it would mean that someone entered her quarters without her knowledge, overriding security protocols, and is leaving crap on her table. I’d probably investigate, but whatever.

101. The Neutral Zone (TNG 126)

The Enterprise rescues three 20th century humans from cryo stasis, and then is ordered to the neutral zone where Starfleet is reintroduced to the Romulans.

Ever wonder what Gul Dukat would be like as a Romulan? Well, then this episode is for you (the Romulan Commander Tebok is play by Marc Alaimo, the same man who plays Dukat). Holy hell is the businessman from the 20th century excessively annoying. The country music star who likes to party is also sort of annoying, but harmless, and the woman, Clare, seems to be the only one grasping the reality of their situation. It’s sort of a disjointed episode, but isn’t bad for the first season, though is a strange as season finale.

100. Where No One Has Gone Before (TNG 106)

An engine experiment sends the Enterprise to the edge of the universe and the crew has to rely on an alien known as the Traveler to get back home.

Kosinski, the engine specialist is such a knob, but it’s fun watching basically everyone on the entire ship call him out for it.

I find the Traveler to be an interesting character. I like that he’s not a commanding presence, I like that he thinks differently from every Starfleet officer we meet, I like that he’s able to make himself disappear using only the powers of his mind.

We get to see various crew members’ hallucinations and that’s always fun.

99. The Price (TNG 308)

The Enterprise is the setting for Barzan wormhole negotiations.

An “Enterprise Hosts Various Alien Dignitaries” episode. The negotiations are background to a love story between Troi and Devinoni Ral. Ral is sort of creepy and tries to use his relationship with Troi to get into the head of fellow negotiator Riker (who’s representing the Federation). I mean, that’s just shitty and Troi deserves better. Plus there’s an oily foot massage scene and somehow the combination of the oil and those Enterprise metallic sheets is just too much for me.

But, we do get a nice scene where Ral is trying to fuck with Riker’s head and Riker’s like “if you make Deanna happy, that’s so wonderful!” and Ral gets a little flustered. I really like the Riker-Troi happy for each other friendship with the occasional hook up (there’s some evidence Riker and Troi occasionally have sex off screen?) and like the moments where this friendship is respectful of consent and boundaries.

This is the one with the Crusher-Troi exercise session that takes place in a hallway (budget!) and features wonderful leotards.

98. A Matter of Time (TNG 509)

A time traveller visits the Enterprise, chaos and theft ensue.

Sometimes Picard says words and names differently than everyone else, like “Lal”. I feel like Penthara IV, the nearly-doomed planet in this episode, is one of those words. The main plot of this episode is Dr. Aldous Leekie Berlinghoff Rasmussen, who claims to be from the 26th century (spoiler: he’s actually from the 22nd!) comes back to witness the Enterprise’s mission, but actually wants to steal tech. He’s a jerk and gets what he deserves (trapped in the 24th century where there are replicators).

97. Encounter at Farpoint (TNG 101, 102)

Pilot episode. The Enterprise goes off on its first mission, to Farpoint station on Deneb IV but gets interrupted by Q, an omnipotent being.

As far as pilots go, this one’s ok. We get introduced to all the main characters, we solve a little mystery at Farpoint station, we expose Groppler Zorn as a fraud, and we get to see some jellyfish aliens in space. Cool.

The problem with this episode is the Farpoint part doesn’t line up that well with the Q aspect, it feels tacked on (because the Q part was tacked on to push it to a two-hour premier because of Paramount’s wishes). I like the idea of humanity being put on trial for its historical sins (even if that’s a bit Klingon) and I really like Q’s judges robes (why are his lips purple when he’s a judge?). But then we sort of forget this aspect of Q’s first encounter with Picard and co. and he pops up here and there. I think that’s fine because humanity passing this test and therefore now interesting the Continuum seems reasonable for the arc of the series.

This episode gets significantly better once you watch the series finale “All Good Things”. We get hints that the trial never ends, most notably in season 6 “Tapestry” but the way this series is bookended with Q’s trial of humanity is terrific and makes this episode so much better on rewatch.

96. First Contact (TNG 415)

Riker is injured during an undercover mission, forcing an earlier-than-anticipated first contact with the Malcorians.

So one of the things that happens in this episode is injured Riker, realizing everyone has gotten quite suspicious of his body/story at the hospital is propositioned by a Malcorian who really wants to have sex with an alien and will help him escape in return. We don’t get confirmation that they had sex, though it’s implied. At the very least, she holds up her part of the bargain. It’s an awkward scene and Riker is very injured so it seems like sex would be pretty painful.

Anyway, the best part of this episode is Mirasta Yale, a Malcorian scientist. She is so earnest and committed to knowledge and exploration and you just end up being so happy for her that she gets off the planet in the end and gets to leave on the Enterprise (Spoiler: she never sees her people again).

Also, fix your First Contact procedure, Federation. The “duck blind/we’re going to spy on you” approach gets compromised on multiple occasions (and in Insurrection) and just seems unnecessary in with 24th century tech? Plus, we never go back and see how much this contact fucked up these worlds (my guess, a lot!)

95. Peak Performance (TNG 221)

Riker and Picard take part in a war-game simulation that turns dangerously real.

This is a pretty straightforward episode that has a suspenseful space battle requiring Riker to use his guile. It’s reminiscent of the battle between the Enterprise and the Reliant in Wrath of Khan and we don’t get enough of this kind of cerebral space fight in Star Trek.

94. A Matter of Honor (TNG 208)

Participating in an officer exchange, Riker serves as first officer on a Klingon ship.

I like this episode a lot. It should probably be higher but I’m not interested in changing all the numbers around.

Klingon ships are fun and learning more about Klingon culture is super fun. Worf provides Riker with some insider info (shout out to Worf’s adoptive parents who seem to have gone to great lengths to help Worf learn about his Klingon heritage) like how their may come a time when it will be Riker’s duty to kill the captain.

Anyway, what I like about this episode is it shows how Riker is willing to try new things and that of all the crew, he might be the least prejudiced/open to new experiences. There’s a scene where Riker is having a Klingon feast in Ten Forward before leaving and is enjoying himself immensely. But then Pulaski comes in and slams Klingon food (even though she’s apparently interested in Klingon culture) and JLP shows up and makes a pouty face like he was just told to eat something terrible like mushrooms (I hate mushrooms). Riker enthusiastically joins in on the dinner banter on the Klingon ship, and instinctively knows when to challenge the Klingon captain.

Wait, I know why this fell in my rankings because the B plot features Wes making a new friend (and also Wes racial stereotyping — all Benzites look the same!)

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