With 178 episodes spread across seven seasons, rewatching Star Trek: The Next Generation means setting aside a significant amount of your free time. But if you don't have the spare hours to go through it from beginning to end again, here's a unique way to revisit the show.
Rather than watching every episode back to back, pick a theme – whether it's holodeck mishaps, time travel, or extra-dimensional prankster Q – and watch every episode that features it. It's fun to observe the imaginative ways in which the writers play with these concepts, and a fresh way to experience the series.
You don't really need a reason to revisit The Next Generation – it's arguably the greatest Star Trek, with some of the best writing, characters, and thrilling two-parter episodes in the show's long history. But with Star Trek: Picard season 2 arriving next year, which will see the return of the mischievous entity Q and Picard's old pal Guinan, there's never been a better time to rejoin the crew of the Enterprise-D and relive those classic adventures all over again.
Only now, with the help from our handy themed episode guide, you can do it without having to take a week off work.
- How to watch Star Trek in order
- Star Trek: Discovery season 4: what we know
- Is Section 31 still happening?
Encounter at Farpoint (S1E1) / Hide and Q (S1E10) / Q Who (S2E16) / Deja Q (S3E13) / Qpid (S4E20) / True Q (S6E6) / Tapestry (S6E15) / All Good Things (S7E25/26)
For a character who only appeared in eight episodes, Q made a huge impact on The Next Generation. This devious, godlike being loves toying with other species – particularly humans, which results in several memorable encounters with the Enterprise-D. When Q appears in an episode, you know something weird and wonderful is about to happen, whether that's Picard being sent back in time to relive his youth, or a mariachi band inexplicably appearing on the bridge.
Picard describes Q as 'next of kin to chaos', a typically poetic way of saying he's a prankster on an epic scale. In 'Qpid' (S4E20), he transforms Picard into Robin Hood and teleports the crew to a medieval Sherwood Forest. In 'Hide and Q' (S1E10), he temporarily grants his powers to Commander Riker. These are just a few of his twisted experiments, which make for some of the most fun (and silly) episodes of TNG. Who knows what Q will get up to in Picard season 2?
We'll Always Have Paris (S1E24) / Time Squared (S2E13) / Cause and Effect (S5E18) / Time's Arrow (S5E26) / Time's Arrow, Part II (S6E1) / Tapestry (S6E15) / Timescape (S6E25) / Parallels (S7E11) / Firstborn (S7E21) / All Good Things (S7E25/26)
Nothing flexes the imaginations of The Next Generation's writers quite like a time travel episode. In the magnificent 'Time Squared' (S2E13), the Enterprise finds a drifting shuttle with a duplicate of Picard in it from six hours in the future. And in the equally mind-bending 'Cause and Effect' (S5E18), the ship gets stuck in a time loop, ending with the Enterprise's destruction – and the crew have to relive their final moments over and over again until they can break it.
Even though members of the Federation are bound by the Temporal Prime Directive, which forbids meddling with the space-time continuum, there are several moments in TNG where the crew skirt dangerously close to breaking it. This is dangerous and potentially universe-ending for them, but entertaining for us. Time travel episodes can also be pretty funny, such as 'Parallels' (S7E11), where a baffled Worf finds himself on a subtly different version of the Enterprise.
The Big Goodbye (S1E12) /11001001 (S1E15) / Elementary, Dear Data (S2E3) / Booby Trap (S3E6) / A Matter of Perspective (S3E14) / Hollow Pursuits (S3E21) / Future Imperfect (S4E8) / A Fistful of Datas (S6E8) / Ship in a Bottle (S6E12) / Homeward (S7E13) / Emergence (S7E23)
Episodes about the holodeck malfunctioning are always fun, and make you question the reasons the Federation allows such a dangerous form of entertainment on its ships. In Elementary, 'Dear Data (S2E3)', Data and Geordi role-play hilariously as Sherlock Holmes and Watson, and battle Sherlock's nemesis Moriarty, who becomes aware that he's a holographic construct. And in 'The Big Goodbye' (S1E12) we first meet Dixon Hill, Picard's hard-boiled detective alter ego.
The holodeck appears in some form in many more Next Generation episodes, but in these it's the focus – and where, inevitably, something goes horribly wrong and ends up threatening the lives of the people using it. Seeing the crew of the Enterprise enjoying some well-earned leisure time (especially Picard) is a nice break from the usual stuffy naval formality, and them hanging out in historical settings such 1940s San Francisco is never not entertaining.
Q Who (S2E16) / The Best of Both Worlds (S3E26) / The Best of Both Worlds, Part II (S4E1) / I, Borg (S5E23) / Descent (S6E26) / Descent, Part II (S7E1) / Star Trek: First Contact (Movie)
The Borg play a much larger role in Star Trek: Voyager, but their relatively limited presence in The Next Generation makes their rare appearances all the more impactful. This terrifying race of cybernetic humanoids, connected by an insect-like hive mind, become one of the Federation's most powerful enemies. Journeying through the darkest corners of the galaxy in immense cube-shaped ships, they assimilate organic species and turn them into mindless drones.
We get our first terrifying glimpse of the Borg in the episode 'Q Who' (S2E16). Q teleports the Enterprise-D next to one of their cubes, and the crew watches in horror as a drone beams aboard the ship, deflects Worf's phaser, and casually accesses the ship's computer. It's clear from this moment that they're dealing with a highly advanced race, which comes to a shocking head in the legendary two-parter 'The Best of Both Worlds', where Picard is assimilated.
Datalore (S1E13) / The Measure of a Man (S2E9) / The Offspring (S3E16) / Brothers (S4E3) / Data's Day (S4E11) / In Theory (S4E25) / Hero Worship (S5E11) / A Fistful of Datas (S6E8) / The Quality of Life (S6E9) / Birthright (S6E16) / Birthright, Part II (S6E17) / Descent (S6E26) / Descent, Part II (S7E1) / Phantasms (S7E6) / Inheritance (S7E10) / Star Trek: Nemesis (Movie)
Data is one of The Next Generation's most beloved characters, and with good reason. His endearing naivety, quirky personality, and amusing attempts to become more human form the basis of some of the very best TNG episodes. Data appears in every episode of TNG except the Picard-centric 'Family' (S4E2). But watching all the episodes listed here – and the 1996 movie First Contact – is the best way to experience his arc and learn about the story of his creation.
Data's relationship with his brother Lore is a highlight of the series. While Data admired humans and enjoyed forming relationships with them, Lore saw himself as superior. He had more advanced emotional programming than his kind-hearted brother, which led to instability. Lore is basically Data's evil twin, which results in some great moments of comedy and drama, beginning in the episode Datalore (S1E13) and ending in two-parter 'Descent' (S6E26/S7E1).
Star Trek: The Next Generation is streaming on Paramount Plus in the US, and Netflix in the UK.
- Star Trek: Strange New Worlds: what we know about the next new Trek series