LAS VEGAS - AUGUST 14: Actor Patrick Stewart, who played the character Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on the television series "Star Trek: The Next Generation," speaks at the Star Trek convention at the Las Vegas Hilton August 14, 2005 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The Dave & Chuck “The Freak” show has no shortage of nerds, from Chuck and Andy’s obsessions with Star Wars and Bigfoot, to Al’s Star Trek and comic books, it has been well documented throughout the history of the show!

Al Beck loves Star Trek. Believe it or not, he has seen every single episode of Star Trek that has ever aired on TV or streaming services. This is a bigger accomplishment (or, much more sad) than you may realize! Since the original Star Trek first aired in 1966, there have been a total of 11 different series (Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, Enterprise, Star Trek: Discovery, Picard, Star Trek: Prodigy, Star Trek: Lower Decks and Strange New Worlds), which have produce a combined 44 seasons of televising. In addition to the collection on TV series, the Star Trek franchise also includes 13 feature length films. Needless to say, there is a lot of Trek in the world (and Al, clearly, has not life).

So, where to start if you’re new to Star Trek? You can never go wrong with the original crew. The exploits of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy are legendary. But, for Al’s money, the best of all of the Star Trek series is Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG).

The original Star Trek series (TOS) was actually a failure when it first aired in the late 1960s, and was cancelled after its 3nd season. TOS acquired a dedicated fan base when reruns started to air in syndication and eventually achieved a cult status. The franchise attempted a reboot by gathering the original cast together again to create and animated version of the series, but that also proved to be a flop. It seemed that Star Trek was destined to be a 3-season flash in the pan show.

A new life was given to the franchise, much to the chagrin of many Trek fans, thanks to the massive success of the hit space opera Star Wars in the late 1970s. Star Wars did so well, that studios were scrambling to put out any sort of show or film set in ouster space to hopefully ride the wave of success created by Star Wars. Paramount realized that the owned something “kind of like that” in their archive and it already had an established fandom. Enter, for the third time, Star Trek. This time, the original cast would reunite once again, but rather than simply voicing animated versions of themselves, they would suit up in redesigned Starfleet uniforms and man their stations in a U.S.S. Enterprise refit model and star in a full-length, live-action feature film, Start Trek: The Motion Picture.

This time, revisiting the world Of Captain James T. Kirk and company was a smash success and lead to 5 more subsequent films featuring the TOS cast, This would also set the table for a return to broadcast television in the 1980s. Welcoming now to the scene, TNG.

TOS is a great TV show and Al’s love for the show and cast that started it all is undeniable. That being said, in his opinion TNG is where the creators and show runners really hit their stride and made the best product under the Star Trek banner. After 2 decades of trial and error – mixed success and failure – they finally figured out what Star Trek truly was all about.

This is Al Beck’s personal list of 5 must-see episodes of his favorite Star Trek series: The Next Generation. They aren’t necessarily “the best” and there are certainly more than just 5 episodes worthy of this list, but here is a good starting point for those new to Star Trek. Or, if you’re already a fan, here is some ammo to tear Al apart online with.

  • ‘The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1 & 2’ (S03E26 & S04E01)

    Already I am cheating on this list, but adding 2 episodes as 1, but this 2-parter is widely agreed to be the best of the best that TNG has to offer! This episode features my all-time favorite Star Trek Gillian The Borg, a race of cybernetic/organic hybrid beings who charge 1 hive mind. They’re even scarier today, after what we have already seen in the real world with A.I. technology! The image of Captain Picard as Locutus haunted me as a child (in the best way possible) and the final scene of Part 1 was the greatest cliffhanging in the entire series and it was the end of that season! Sir Patrick Stewart (Picard) wrote in his book ‘Making it So’ that in between the 3rd and 4th season, people would stop him on the street to say, “thanks for ruining my summer,” because they had 3 whole months to wait for the conclusion in Part 2! This 2-part episode is undeniably the peak of TNG, but don’t worry, they still had lots of great television left in them after this!

    HONORABLE MENTION: ‘Q Who’ (S02E16) the first appearance of The Borg.

  • ‘Deja Q’ (S03E13)

    Q is a member of the Q Continuum and he is an all-knowing, all-seeing, omnipotent being who can manipulate and exist in all of space-time at will. Q can be a polarizing character; although he is widely considered a fan favorite, there are those who (understandably so) are not fond of godlike characters in entertainment. However, thanks in no small part the brilliant performance on actor John de Lancie, Q is my personal favorite recurring character in the series. This episode in particular is extra special, because as a punishment by the Continuum, Q no longer has any of his powers and has to adjust to being a mortal for the first time in his existence. There are a lot of wonderful comedic moments in the episode, making it one of my top picks!

  • ‘The Measure Of A Man’ (S02E08)

    TNG really didn’t hit its stride until the 3rd season, but there are definitely some gems in the first 2 years before the show truly became great. This is one of those great earlier episodes. In this episode, one of the main characters Mr. Data, is forced to fight for his right to make his own important life choices. Mr. Data, you see, is an android. A one-of-a-kind, self-aware humanoid machine who was built in a lab. As I mentioned, he is the only 1 of his kind, so a cyberneticist at Star Fleet wants to – literally – discover what makes Data tick so they can hope to create more androids like him. The cyberneticist’s research would most likely involve pulling Data aparat to examine his individually pieces. Is this simpler disassembling a machine, or is it dissecting a living being? That is the question this episode addressed, is Data sentient? Just 1 episode among many featuring the social commentary that Star Trek is famous for.

  • ‘Unification, Part 1 & 2’ (S05E07 & S05E08)

    Another 2-parter, but a difficult episode to leave off of the list! There are a few cameos made on TNG by the crew of the original Enterprise, one of the most profound being the return of Leonard Nimoy in his iconic role as Mr. Spock. Being a Vulcan – one of the more famous races of aliens to be featured throughout the history or Star Trek – his lifespan far exceeds that of a human. So, even though it has been nearly a century since we saw Spock as the science officer aboard Kirk’s enterprise, he is still alive in the TNG era and has taken on the role of ambassador. In ‘Unification’ the current Enterprise crew must help Spock accomplish a secret and difficult mission involving the Romulans, one of the Federation’s most devious and cunning foes. Some of the most special moments in this 2-part epic are the interactions between Spock and Data, as Data is clearly to the TNG Enterprise what Spock was to the TOS Enterprise in many ways.

  • ‘All Good Things…” (S07E25)

    This probably the most controversial pick on this list, because there are so many episodes of TNG that are so much better and more important that ‘All Good Things…’. So, why is it on the list? Partially because it is the final episode of the series, More than that, however, is the fact that ‘All Good Things…’ is probably the best of all of the series finales in all of Star Trek and it is clever how this final episode brings the entire TNG series full circle to it’s pilot episode, which aired in 1987. In the show’s first episode, we meet the Q Continnum for the first time and they put humanity on trial. Captain Picard and the crew of the Enterprise prove to Q and the rest of The Continuum that humanity deserves to exists and that we are more than just parasites, traveling throughout the galaxy. In this final episode, Picard finds himself jumping through time. We will start off in present day at one moment, wake up in the past in others and he will even find himself tending to grapes at his family’s vineyard in the future. While he is trying to work out the whys and hows of his trip through time, he eventually finds himself back in the very same court room from the first episode of TNG, in the midst of a trial, which is being presided over by none other than Q himself. It turns out that humanity has been on trial this entire time. Did Picard prove to Q the value of humanity and our right to exist? You could jumpe to the end and find out, if you wish, but I recommend watching the entire series instead. It’s a hell of a ride and one of my all-time favorite TV show!

    HONORABLE MENTION: ‘Encounter At Farpoint’ (S01E01) The journey (and the trial) begins!

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