9) All Good Things...
Synopsis: Capt. Picard finds himself mysteriously jumping between different points in his lifetime... not to mention a time-traveling anomaly, another plot by Q and a paradox that threatens the very existence of the human race.
Why I Love It: This two-hour episode was the finale of the TV show, and it did not disappoint. Some great dramatic moments here, not to mention a glimpse into the future (well, the possible future) of the characters and of course that scene of the future Warship Enterprise giving a pasting to some hapless Klingons. Would have been higher on the list if not for the horridly overused, cliche "main-character-knows-something-no-one-else-does-but-they-all-think-that-he's-gone-insane" plot device that dominates the middle part of the episode.
Synopsis: Worf is lost in a realm of ever-changing realities, each an 'alternate version' of the way his 'real' reality could have turned out.
Why I Love It: Just overall, this episode already has a solid, intriguing story which does an amazing job of showing just how easily the forces of luck or happenstance can dramatically shape our future. However, what really blew me away is the last fifteen minutes, when the 'barriers between realities' give way to a surreal meeting of hundreds of completely different Enterprises, including one from a future where the Federation has fallen to the Borg...
Synopsis: The Enterprise crew, having lost the memories of their identities to a powerful new weapon, find themselves manipulated by an alien race into fighting its war for them.
Why I Love It: An extremely interesting episode both for examining just how blindly mankind will at times follow its orders, and, particularly, for showing the true identities of the various senior staff members without memories of rank or past relationships to interfere. Oh, and of course it answers the immortal question: "Who, if everyone started out even, would have sex with Riker FIRST?" (Don't worry, it's not Picard)
Synopsis: Lt. Worf resigns his Starfleet commission to fight for Chancellor Gowron in a civil war that has split the Klingon Empire in two, and Capt. Picard must lead a Starfleet task force to keep a new Romulan adversary from taking advantage of the situation.
Why I Love It: First off, this two-part episode is one of the very few ST: TNG episodes that concerns itself with a real war, military history being a favorite hobby of mine. In addition, we have several important events happen, including the finale of the ongoing plotline concerning Worf's family honor, the end of the dynasty of House Duras and of course the emergence of Commander Sela as an adversary of the Federation, as well as some quite cool battles between the warring Klingon houses.
5) The Measure of a Man
Synopsis: To prevent Data from being disassembled for research, Capt. Picard must prove in a court of law that he is indeed a living being, not the property of Starfleet, and deserves the rights guaranteed to other sentient life forms.
Why I Love It: A wonderful, tightly-written script and some great acting on the parts of Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner and Jonathan Frakes. Raises the question of what it truly means to be 'sentient' and of the fine line between 'research' and 'exploitation'. It also doesn't hurt that I'm a big fan of shows involving court trials (A Matter of Perspective almost made it onto this list).
4) Q Who?
Synopsis: To prove that the crew of the Enterprise is unprepared to face the dangers lurking 'out there' in the universe, Q throws the ship into the Delta Quadrant of the galaxy, where they come across a chilling new enemy.
Why I Love It: Well, of course, this episode marks the introduction of the deadly, emotionless, H.R. Giger-esque Borg. Most of this episode is fully dedicated to this epic event, and I very much appreciated that it's not compressed to only a few minutes. The whole encounter is just done very, very well. I also must mention the superb line by Q near the end of the episode that more or less sums up the journeys of the Enterprise-D for me: "It's not safe out here... it's wonderous... but it's not for the timid."
3) Yesterday's Enterprise
Synopsis: A subspace anomaly that throws the long-gone Enterprise-C into the future also has disastrous effects on the present, placing the Enterprise-D in the middle of a raging war with the Klingon Empire... A war that the Federation is losing.
Why I Love It: Just a fantastic episode. The set design, the costumes, even the differences in character are perfectly done to accentuate this new grim reality of a Starfleet slowly collapsing before an onslaught from the Klingons. Tasha Yar's side story is excellent, the acting by all involved is superb and the special effects are top notch. However, what really put it over the top as one of my all-time favorites is the valiant last stand of the Enterprise against insurmountable odds near the end of the episode. The sight of Capt. Picard, alone on a ruined bridge, the corpses of his friends around him, still refusing to give up, still fighting to the end, was truly stirring.
2) The Best of Both Worlds
Synopsis: The Borg have arrived... and this time there may be no stopping them.
Why I Love It: This two-parter is the episode most commonly given as ST: TNG's fans' favorite, and for good reason. The whole way, it conveys a sense of drama and suspense like no other TNG episode ever has. Everything about the Borg, from their ship to their voice has a dark, horrifying quality and it cements them as one of Star Trek's most memorable enemies, even though they were only prominently featured in six TNG episodes (Q Who, TBoBW Pts 1 & 2, I Borg, and Descent Pts 1 & 2). The words of Picard, now Locutus of Borg: "Your life as it has been is over. Your species will adapt to service... US" remain in my mind as the standard of the heights of drama this show could reach at its best.
1) The Inner Light
Synopsis: A mysterious alien probe links itself with Capt. Picard, causing him to live a lifetime as a member of a long-dead society in his mind in the span of only a few minutes.
Why I Love It: A somewhat unconventional choice for #1, this is an episode that seldom finds its way very high on top ten lists. However, upon recently rewatching this episode, I had no doubt in my mind as to what my top choice would be. This is all the more remarkable when you notice that I tend to favor the 'adventure' ST: TNG episodes over the 'personal' ones, but this one is just too good. The powerful writing, acting and atmosphere that permeate this entire episode are, to me, unmatched in anything else I have seen, be it TV show or film. Patrick Stewart's exceptional performance takes center stage and is only accentuated by the realization that the life he lives as a Ressican, the life of a husband and father, is a life that the 'real' Picard will probably never experience. This episode made me mourn for a civilization that never even existed, and that in itself is an accomplishment deserving of the meager praise I can impart on it by making this episode #1 on my list of the top ten best ST: TNG episodes.