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The five worst Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes EVER!

Star Trek: The Next Generation is perhaps the pinnacle of the Trek franchise, which makes these five bottom-feeder episodes even more embarrassing.

For my money, Star Trek: The Next Generation was the pinnacle of the Trek franchise, perfecting the formula of high-concept archetypal morality plays set against an idealized future of the human race. Unfortunately, archetypal can stray into offensively stereotypical pretty easily, and high-concept can become a flat-out ridiculous gimmick in half a warp jump. These five NextGen missteps illustrate the dangers perfectly.

5. A Fistful of Datas [Video preview]

I could (and probably will) do a sublist of terrible holodeck episodes, but "A Fistful of Datas" is the magnum opus of dumb holodeck premises. Set aside the visual ridiculousness of having Worf, Alexander, Troi, and Data dress up as Old West gunmen -- how they got that ten-gallon hat to stay on a Klingon's ridged head I'll never know -- but the entire notion of a holodeck glitch that turns every single NPC within an O.K. Corral simulation into Data, complete with lethal android strength and speed, is just idiotic. I know Brent Spiner loves to do the funny accents, but I don't need to see or hear cowpoke Data throw down with spur-stomping Worf even once, let alone several times in the same episode.

4. Angel One [Video preview]

Ah, Season One NextGen, is there no cliche stereotype you can't invert to laughable extremes? What are the odds that A) there's a planet where females are the aggressive, macho gender while males are all fleshy versions of the mincing C-3PO and B) that planet names itself Angel One? About the same odds of an episode with this premise being any good. Naturally, the Enterprise crew have to rescue some rightly gendered humans from planet Mockingly Ultra-Feminist but not before Riker seduces their leader and convinces her that the men's suffrage movement is biologically inevitable. Pro tip: Any episode where it's Riker delivering the moralizing speech instead of Picard is probably a bad one, doubly so when Number One's condescending to his latest romantic conquest.

3. Night Terrors [Video preview]

Otherwise known as the "flying green Troi" episode, "Night Terrors" uses the classic immunity plot wherein only one or two cast members are spared a plot device and must solve the problem before everyone else succumbs to over-acting. In this case, the crew are plagued by a combination of lack of REM sleep and waking hallucinations that will eventually kill them unless Troi -- the only one left who can dream, and does so by floating in space under a green spotlight and shouting "where are you?" over and over again -- can figure out why. If that sounds inane, just wait until you sit through 85 or so of these scenes hoping for Troi to solve the mystery the audience worked out 20 minutes ago. Painful is the word.

2. Sub Rosa [Video preview] Everybody loves how Star Trek weds science fiction to other genres in often joyful and/or artful ways, but I'm pretty sure nobody was pining for the Trek version of a low-grade Harlequin romance. I'm very certain nobody wanted to see Dr. Crusher have psychic sex with the ghost of her dead grandmother's boyfriend, let alone see the possessed zombie version of said grandmother take a whack at Picard. The overbaked performances in this disaster push the envelope even for a series (and a franchise) that has never shied away from scenery-chewing, and the plot is worse. Watch only if Mike, Crow, and Tom Servo are seated in the front row. 1. Shades of Gray [Video preview]

Say what you will about the episodes listed above, at least they were actual episodes. The 1988 writers' strike gave us this travesty, the only clip show in NextGen history, wherein Riker spends the whole episode making faces on a hospital bed while we relive the most overwrought moments of Seasons One and Two. For added misery, Troi and Dr. Pulaski inhabit an inane frame story wherein they debate what kind of emotions make the best antivirus. Yes, seriously. This was the last time we saw either Pulaski or a flashback episode on NextGen, and that's the nicest thing you can say about "Shades of Gray." The prosecution rests.

Care to nominate an episode you think is worse than one of these fatal five? (To be fair, our list is rather blatantly Wesley Crusher-free.) Destiny awaits in the comments section.

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Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

86 comments
Netherhero
Netherhero

Fistful of Datas is better than a lot of the Holodeck ones just because it shows of Brett Spiner's Versatility as an actor. Loud as a Whisper is number two. it should also be second on this list.

pabel1189
pabel1189

Home Soil is a garbage episode Fistful Of Data's was good in my opinion

kevin_flynn
kevin_flynn

Okay you need to take fistful of datas off this list. That was a decent episode. Most of the data ones are. Brothers being my favorite. But my real Boo comes from lack of Masks. Did nobody see this episode? Spiner and Frakes on dvd state it was the worst production of the entire franshise. Spiner adds how horrendous his acting was. He felt noting it as acting would be an insult to the profession. I think Masks is so bad you didn't even know about it because you didn't watch it, so if you had, you'd have put it here!

vidiot42
vidiot42

I came to this site to see if anyone else thought "Shades of Gray" was the worst TNG episode ever, and to my relief, the community agrees!

ydontugivemelotsofkiss
ydontugivemelotsofkiss

Seeing as how I like or at least feel "meh, all right" about more episodes of each series than I *dislike*, I'm usually going to tend to agree more with other people's selections of favorites than least favorites. My own 'favorites' list is quite lengthy indeed. A Fistful of Datas isn't among those, but it's fun and enjoyable; I like a lot of the more humorous, "goofy," and/or Holodeck-related eps, of any of the series. What can I say? They're fun! I love seeing the characters thrown into semi-ridiculous or unusual situations. I actually really like Season 1 of TNG. Season 2 is easily my weakest. Few people would argue with Shades of Grey, the most unanimously disdained episode, being chosen as the worst of the series. Same here. I guess I'll give it a generous 3.5-4/10 just because I was a *little* more into it and less disgusted while watching it than I imagined I'd be, based upon the reviews I'd read beforehand. Angel One wasn't a particular standout to me, but oh, man. Sub Rosa and Night Terrors are actually high on my favorite-list. There is just so much that I adore about Sub Rosa, it being such a different, distinctive, memorable, crazy-intense episode (with a whole lot of my favorite character being awesome, and her actress performing insanely well.) I've written a lot elsewhere about my love of that one. And Night Terrors is another great "scary"/paranormal-ish episode, for Halloween or any other time; I'm a fan of the creepy ones, because they tended to do that very well. They felt almost like episodes of a sub-series..."Are You Afraid of the Darkness?" or something.

JoeG629
JoeG629

I agree with the #2 and #1 picks. I couldn't watch more than half of Shades of Gray. It was boring, and I'd rather watch a complete episode rather than a bunch of short clips. Every other not so good episode in the series at least held my interest to the end.

chilinut
chilinut

The worst episode is hands down Code of Honor. None of the other episodes come close. I can't stand Wesley Crusher and I still think this is far worse than any Wesley-heavy episode. That awful episode of Enterprise where the Ferengis unleashed the knock-out gas to rob the Enterprise crew was leaps and bounds better than Code of Honor. Any episode of Sports Night was better than Code of Honor. Hearing nails on a chalkboard while being punched in the face is more enjoyable than watching Code of Honor.

swiftdr
swiftdr

How could you all forget "The Price" (S03E08)? The whole episode is cheesy romance between Troi and the negotiator. All the crappy writing and cheesy romance made me want to puke!

ryan_isis
ryan_isis

Sub Rosa is so bad you should only watch if JOEL, Tom Servo and Crow are in the front row.

SBGreene
SBGreene

How masks did not make the list is beyond me. Never cross Dungeons and Dragons with Star Trek.

sjok
sjok

Any episode where Wesley Crusher single handedly saved the universe.

TBone2k
TBone2k

The fourth time the episode rebooted, someone threw the TV guide at the screen in frustration and we decided it didn't matter how they broke the "temporal causality loop", but they would, so we didn't need to watch it any longer.

Zogg
Zogg

Maybe you simply forgot about it? I remember sitting there for ages, waiting for the story to start, when suddenly the end credits appeared!

yooper
yooper

One of my favourite characters on the series was 'Q' He really added a great new dimension to the show. I remember while first watching the events of 9/11 on TV and wondering if this were a dream, the line from 'Q' popped in my head at that moment "This is about as real as your so called world gets"

nemesis77
nemesis77

It is understandable that the first season was very uneven, as Gene Roddenberry was trying to find the right path for the new show. I think the hiring of Melinda Snodgrass as the story editor/script consultant on the second and third seasons really gave the show a boost, as she set the tone for intelligent, interesting and original stories from the writers, and the middle years of the show were the best, in my opinion. The last few years were problematic, as producer Rick Berman seemed to lose interest and hired a bunch of hack TV writers who dusted off old rejected scripts from other shows and repurposed them as bad holodeck episodes. (I think these same writers were responsible for the latter ST:Voyager episodes in which the ship exploded every week but then someone went back in time and averted the disaster.) As for the worst character, sorry you Wesley haters, but Guinan just did not fit into this show at all. She was only there because Whoopi Goldberg asked to be on the show. Mick Fleetwood wanted to be on the show too, but at least he only played a mute fish alien for one episode.

yooper
yooper

I am and still am a big STNG fan, but I forget the episode (or too lazy at the moment to look it up online) where the crew for some reason gets real horny of pairs up and starts getting jiggy with it. The depressing part was when Data actually gets some, this show is focused towards hapless nerds, you don't want a machine getting lucky if you aren't. :)

SDRidout
SDRidout

that's made everyone forget "Genesis" (ep. 170)? Especially disappointing coming so soon after "Masks" (ep. 168).

DDXDavid
DDXDavid

I have another one. "The Chase." An episode with a huge buildup to an ending that "explains" the origins of most of the Trek races. I'm surprised it's not already mentioned. One of the few episodes that I have no problem with changing the channel right before the ending.

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

I've always thought TNG had possibly the widest range between its best and worst episodes. I mean, from "Inner Light" to "Skin of Evil"? Everything, the writing, the acting, the direction ... can anyone think of another series with THAT wide a spread in quality?

Slayer_
Slayer_

I mean, I can understand why TOS didn't have any automated hallway turrets, anything computer controlled would end up killing all the red shirts. But TNG had no excuse, and apparently it was never difficult to capture the ship even though it had 1000 people on it. Just think of how many boarding parties would be thwarted by a simple automatic stun gun mounted in a hallway? Considering it usually only took 10 people or so to capture the ship...

seanferd
seanferd

There must be quite a few more bad episodes, so I can't even begin to suggest one or two that might be worse than what is in this list. And probably better for my state of mind if I don't think about it.

sboverie
sboverie

The worst episode was the one where they killed off one of the original crew from the first season. I think her name was Crosby and she played the security officer (better played by Warf); the actress did not like the limited role and quit. The character was killed by a pool of black slime and the end of the episode was the long video goodbye from the character to the crew.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...where after it's discovered that their warp-drive technology was destroying subspace, that Star Fleet imposed a warp-speed limit. Real subtle, guys.

Slayer_
Slayer_

If you only saw masks you would think it was a cheesy sci fi show. Really masks wasn't any worse than your average TOS episode. Fist full of data's on the other hand, is another stupid episode around a stupid premise. Sadly Jay will never make that bad holodeck episodes list as he no longer contributes to TR.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Dude, have you met the community here? Having us agree with you shouldn't be a source of relief! :D

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

By default, any episode with Q was a good one, and therefore doesn't belong in a discussion of the worst ones. Wait patiently for Jay's upcoming 'Best Episodes' discussion.

yooper
yooper

When Picard and Data go into Data's quarters and see Spot transformed into an Iguana with a cat collar that did it for me!

nemesis77
nemesis77

I thought that "The Chase" was a great episode. I especially liked the ending, where the mystery was not about some superweapon, but about the origins of the various humanoid races. It certainly helps explain why most aliens that are encountered are bilaterally symmetrical bipeds.

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

Someone might say TOS, but i think even "City on the Edge of Forever" to "Spock's Brain" isn't as wide a gap.

yooper
yooper

Remember, the Enterprise was a research vessel and didn't really have the defenses other ships in the fleet had. Basically, it was like a bunch of grad students with a boat load of grants and set loose to do what ever, just checking in now and then. I know that's not the best analogy, but it's weapon systems were minimal at best.

bboyd
bboyd

Oh and we can use internal shields to block hallways defensively but god forbid they stop teleporting we would loose a massive plot device to get those ten super beings on the ship to board in the first place. The bouncy walls and subsequent overacting about it always annoy my sensibilities. As for stun guns how about projecting the invisible force field that just stuns the $^&@# out of them. Then instead of acting surprised at a new invisible wall they fall to the ground with a new hair style!

jos.paglia
jos.paglia

...was how we forever referred to that episode! Or, if the full reference was required: "Tasha Yar was killed by a big puddle or tar!"

Dknopp
Dknopp

Maybe it was just the writing on the early shows, but she seemed to ruin every episode she was on.

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

Continuing the proud Hollywood tradition of "preventing" an actor from returning to a spurned series by killing the character off. Of course, this being Star Trek, that isn't as effective an F-U as it would be on mundane shows. Between time travel and alternate realities, Tasha/Crosby appeared in 4 episodes after this one.

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

Moral Allegories work better when they aren't quite so bludgeoning and pedantic

kevin_flynn
kevin_flynn

I dunno. I am not saying fistful was a top 10 or anything but IMO it beats masks hands down. I don't think I've ever watched (even when it aired) masks start to finish. I just cannot endure it. My main point was, any one of the 5 he listed could be replaced with masks. (okay maybe not shades of grey)

Slayer_
Slayer_

It was supposedly the most heavily armed for its time. But it was also meant for research and exploration, the idea of having families on board was to keep the crew happy on long voyages. Sadly, the Enterprise never actually went on a long voyage. Also, when you know you are heading into battle, such as to defend the Romulan/Federation border, etc. Why would you take the saucer section? Just leave it behind and only take your needed crew on the star drive section.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Though her re-appearance with the Romulans was a good twist.

DukeCylk
DukeCylk

I contend that this episode changed everything for Star Trek. I think they saw the audiences psoitive rection to the war like world rather than campy sci-fi. Their uniforms changed after that and then they met the borg. Sci-Fi on TV changed after that episode. Unfortunately they didn't listen to Geinan who warned them that this is wrong this sn't a ship of ware there are supposed to be families on this ship - this timeline must cease to exist!

sboverie
sboverie

I remembered her last name but not her first name or the name of her character. The reason she quit the show was that her character was supposed to be security officer but she mostly just talked to computers. I think this was parodied in "Galaxy Quest" as well as other characters.

JohnMcGrew
JohnMcGrew

...was that he could pull this kind of thing off without being so patronizing.

Slayer_
Slayer_

It's a Holo deck failure. A really odd one that actually insults data by showing at random a computer image can have all of data's abilities. All holo deck failures are the worst episodes.

yooper
yooper

I was watching a good episode IMO Q WHo and when they go to fire at the source of the tractor beam holding them, the first two shot are fired randomly then the third nails it dead on! Picard explicitly said, "Fire on the source of the tractor beam and the still missed!!

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

with any kind of reliability. Star trek ship to ship battles were always unwowing me.

seanferd
seanferd

There are sites dedicated to really bizarre and amusing auto-correct escapades.

seanferd
seanferd

"Romanians". This adds a hilarious dimension to imagining all Star Trek Romulan encounters replaced with Cold-War era Romanian stereotypes.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I still get goose bumps when Picard goes in to that "Let's make sure history never forgets the name 'Enterprise'!" speech. If someone doesn't like this one, they don't like Trek in particular, space operas in general, or sci-fi as a genre. Try mysteries or Harlequin romances.

Jay Garmon
Jay Garmon

Gotta be careful, though. Don't want to tip my hand for the upcoming Best of TNG list.

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