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10 Best Jean-Luc Picard Episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation

10 Best Jean-Luc Picard Episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation

If you’re anything like me, odds are that you’re still flying high from the recent announcement – by none other than Sir Patrick Stewart himself – of a new Star Trek series focused on Jean-Luc Picard. As recently as one year ago, a revelation of this magnitude would’ve been nothing more than a Trekkie’s daydream. But today, in a post-“Discovery is a massive hit for CBS” world, the galaxy is the limit when it comes to fresh Star Trek content. We’re entering Trek’s next “golden age” and I for one couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds.

Since we have yet to hear when the new show will air (we don’t even know when filming begins), that probably means that we’re at least one year away from laying eyes on a post-Nemesis Picard and Federation. We Trekkies are inclusive, smart, and loyal – patience, however, is not our strongest collective characteristic.

To fill the time between now and when the new show airs, most of us will undoubtedly be revisiting many a Picard-themed episode of The Next Generation. Which leads to the question which inspired this blog: what episodes would make up the ultimate Picard binge watch? Trickier still, what string of episodes could both satisfy a die-hard fan’s appetite and serve as a robust introduction to the character for a TNG-neophyte?

After some soul-searching and intensive Data-level-scanning of Memory Alpha, I’ve assembled the below list of ten episodes (I’m counting any two-parters as one episode – blogger’s prerogative). Each season of TNG is represented and every episode picked is either central to Picard’s overall story arc or serves to showcase a key character trait. So without further ado, happy bingeing Trekkies!

The ten best Captain Jean-Luc Picard episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation

1. “Encounter at Farpoint”

Season 1, Episode 1/2

The beginning is always a good place to start. While TNG’s pilot is relatively weak – particularly compared to the Trek pilots that followed – “Encounter at Farpoint” does a good job of introducing us to our deeply principled and headstrong Captain. His thoughtful and resolute rebuttal of Q and his reaction to the bizarre happenings at Farpoint establish a character willing to think before he acts.

“Encounter at Farpoint”

“Encounter at Farpoint”

2. “Conspiracy”

Season 1, Episode 25

This is one of the weirdest and creepiest episodes of TNG – and a personal favorite (that very last shot – nothing quite like it in all of Trek). While time hasn’t been kind to the creature effects of this episode, the story of an alien infiltration of Starfleet more than holds up. “Conspiracy” cements Picard as a critical thinking and skeptical leader; one who believes the protection of the Federation’s founding principles to be of the utmost importance (even if it means disobeying orders).

"Conspiracy"

“Conspiracy”

3. “Q Who”

Season 2, Episode 16

While not a Picard-centric episode, “Q Who” introduces to one of TNG’s main antagonists and to the species that most profoundly impacts Picard’s psyche and story arc. This a key moment in Federation history and an episode that sets the scene for TNG’s biggest showdown (and one of television’s most epic cliffhangers).

“Q Who”

“Q Who”

4. “Samaritan Snare”

Season 2, Episode 17

Airing immediately after “Q Who,” “Samaritan Snare” is the most surprising entry on this list. The main A-story revolves around Geordi being kidnapped by a pack of mumbling, quasi-space-pirates. However, the B-story – which takes place almost entirely in a shuttlecraft – centers on Wesley desperately trying to engage with and get to know our stoic Captain. Wesley is a proxy for the audience; until this point in TNG’s run, Picard had rarely let his guard down. When Picard finally opens up to Wesley (and us) we’re told surprising stories of a defiant youth, why he never married, and his views/opinions on a range of topics. For the first time, we see Picard well beyond the intellectual and focused leader.

“Samaritan Snare”

“Samaritan Snare”

5. “The Best of Both Worlds”

Season 3, Episode 26 / Season 4, Episode 1

Picard’s entire character arc can be divided into two-parts: pre-Locutus and post-. “The Best of Both Worlds” represents a definitive turning point for Picard (and for TNG itself). This is easily among the show’s finest hours, not just for the great story and action, but also for the ramifications for our Captain and for the entire Star Trek Universe (the events of this episode serve as the foundation for “Deep Space Nine,” for “First Contact,” and for many an element of “Voyager”). The Borg brutalize Picard and forever warp elements of his character. Picard carries the scars and trauma of his Borg-experience throughout the rest of the series and into the TNG films. The newly announced series will most definitely revisit this at some point.

“The Best of Both Worlds”

“The Best of Both Worlds”

6. “Family”

Season 4, Episode 2

Despite the episodic nature of TNG, and of television at that time, “Family” is a direct sequel to “The Best of Both Worlds.” How does Picard begin to heal after his kidnapping and forced Borg-transformation? The answer is slowly and with even more conflict. This time, the conflict takes the form of something we can all relate to: complex family dynamics. While the Enterprise is being repaired in Earth’s orbit, Picard goes home to La Barre, France to spend time with his brother Robert and his family. What he finds in France is the airing of words and grievances that had lain dormant for far too long. We’re always told Picard is a military man, not a family one. In “Family” he’s forced to deal with a situation he can’t command and he is better for it at the end.

“Family”

“Family”

7. “The Drumhead”

Season 4, Episode 21

If there’s a setting – aside from the bridge of a starship – that really allows Picard and his principles to shine, it’s a courtroom. I’m of the school of thought that there’s no such thing as too much Picard ‘monologuing’ and “The Drumhead” is among the best of examples of it. An explosion goes off on the Enterprise and sabotage is suspected. The episode moves quickly through an extremely unnerving series of events that sees many crew members, including Picard himself, questioned and accused of treachery by a ruthless, Javert-like, Starfleet Admiral. Steadfast in his convictions and resolute in resolve, Picard never waivers and he and his principles ultimately win the day.

“The Drumhead”

“The Drumhead”

8. “I Borg”

Season 5, Episode 23

Even though this is a story about Geordi and the relationship he develops with an injured Borg Drone, “I Borg,” is a key point in Picard’s overall arc. After giving orders to develop and infect the drone with a virus that could critically cripple the entire Collective, Picard begins to question the morality of using a young, wounded Borg as a biological weapon. Picard ultimately decides against it – much to his surprise and the ire of Starfleet. One can’t help but wonder, given the death and destruction the Borg would continue to inflict if our Captain would make the same decision twice?

“I Borg”

“I Borg”

9. “Tapestry”

Season 6, Episode 15

“Tapestry” is one of my favorite episodes of TNG. Picard basically dies and wakes up in an afterlife ruled (or at least managed) by Q. Q gives our Captain a chance to relive, and “correct,” past-mistakes – the key mistake being none other than a fight with a mean group of Naussicans during Picard’s defiant youth (the main story Picard told Wesley back in Season 2’s “Samaritan Snare”). Picard learns that he is, like all of us, the sum of his experiences and that that incident, along with others, ultimately made him the person he is. “Tapestry” is Star Trek at its best.

“Tapestry”

“Tapestry”

10. “All Good Things…”

Season 7, Episode 25/26

If the beginning is a good place to start, then the end is a good place to finish. TNG’s finale is one for the ages. A perfect bookend to “Encounter at Farpoint,” “All Good Things…” sees our Captain travel back and forth through time – thanks again to Q – in an attempt to solve the mystery of how he could possibly be the reason for humanity’s annihilation. TNG’s last episode is a time-bending tale that perfectly showcases Picard’s resolve, determination, and his fidelity to both his crew and the principles of the Federation.

So what did you think of the above list? Is it worthy of your precious binge watching hours? Should I have included a Dixon Hill episode? How’s “Who Watches the Watchers” not on the list? What about “Captain’s Holiday”? “Chain of Command?” Let me and the rest of the TrekNews.net crew know your thoughts in the comments section below and on social. As always, thanks for reading and LLAP.

“All Good Things...”

“All Good Things…”

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Written By

When not drinking coffee or watching Star Trek (or other sci-fi), Carlos spends his time running around London working on several projects. He has incredibly rambunctious boy-girl twins (his wife foolishly did not let him name them Luke and Leia). You can follow Carlos on Twitter @doublemacc.

33 Comments

33 Comments

  1. Devin Serpa

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Whoa whoa. No “The Inner Light”? Trek 101 fail.

    “The Drumhead” is definitely up there, maybe his best. His monologue speech in the hearing.

    Also “The Measure of a Man” and his conversation with Guinan re. slavery.

    • Diego Thoms

      December 13, 2019 at 10:14 am

      Totally agree. The inner light is my all time favorite of all ST franchise.

  2. Chris Rasdale

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Hi,

    That’s a great list of Picard-centric episodes, but what about ‘The Inner Light.’ and ‘Attached.’

    They’d be near the top of my personal top ten list.

  3. Data

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Neither Stewart or anyone else of the team said it will be a show focused on Picard! They just talked about him because Stewart was there to announce the show and it’s obviously his character. The other potential characters just were not introduced at that point. I see no reason why the rest of the tng cast should not return!

  4. jimv1983

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Four of those episodes had the worst character in Star Trek history.

  5. keithfinnie

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    A good list. I would include Yesterday’s Enterprise.

  6. theodore antonopoulos

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    encounter at farpoint is a terrible episode with a picard that is way too stiff. I don’t see how this episode trumps the inner light or chain of command. Fail indeed.

  7. Star Wars Dad

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    This absolutely should include “The Inner Light.” As well as “Chain of Command, Part II.”

    And “The Drumhead” is great, but his most astounding courtroom performance is in “The Measure of a Man.”

    I’ll just let him explain:
    “You see, he’s met two of your three criteria for sentience, so what if he meets the third. Consciousness in even the smallest degree. What is he then? I don’t know. Do you? (to Riker) Do you? (to Phillipa) Do you? Well, that’s the question you have to answer. Your Honour, the courtroom is a crucible. In it we burn away irrelevancies until we are left with a pure product, the truth for all time. Now, sooner or later, this man or others like him will succeed in replicating Commander Data. And the decision you reach here today will determine how we will regard this creation of our genius. It will reveal the kind of a people we are, what he is destined to be. It will reach far beyond this courtroom and this one android. It could significantly redefine the boundaries of personal liberty and freedom, expanding them for some, savagely curtailing them for others. Are you prepared to condemn him and all who come after him to servitude and slavery? Your Honour, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life. Well, there it sits! Waiting. You wanted a chance to make law. Well, here it is. Make a good one.”

  8. Adam Pearle

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    The Inner Light. Chain of Command. Darmok, for crying out loud.
    If your description of an episode includes some version of “even though it’s not really a Picard episode,” leave it off your list of top 10 Picard episodes!

  9. Todd Burroughs

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    THE INNER LIGHT! And ATTACHED!

  10. Gruven Tom

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Family was tops on my list. The acting in Unification 1&2 with Sarek and Spock was outstanding as well!

  11. John S

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    This is a pretty poor list. Samaritan Snare? I Borg? Hardly call them Picard episodes. Wouldn’t really put Encounter at Farpoint on there either.

    Would definitely have Chain of Command as a contender.

  12. DaytonOhio72

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Eh – bad list. Here’s mine in no particular order….

    The Measure of a Man
    Family
    Devil’s Due
    Who Watches the Watchers
    Darmok
    The Inner Light
    Chain of Command
    Tapestry
    Starship Mine
    Allegiance

  13. shade421

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    No the inner light?

  14. Zarar Malik

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    This moron has no Idea of TNG. He is the Wikipedia expert that u find these days. Far point is crap. Only a moron would not include inner light or measure of a man or yesterday’s enterprise or that episode where that child becomes Picard number 1. Or that episode with an alien women bonds with Picard but she has to marry some other person.

  15. John Carson

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    All Good Things and Inner Light are my top 2…. I’m a little surprised of many that made the list. Yesterday’s Enterprise was very memorable, too

  16. Forrest

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    ‘The Inner Light’ is by far the best episode. Followed by ‘Elementary, Deat Data’

  17. Unnamed Gorn Commander

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Pretty good list, I would swap inner light for I Borg, the Randian discovery by Hugh of his individuality was ok, but given the Borgs intent to assimilate the entire human race, the story fails the plausible test as they would not have sent him back to the Borg, they would have phasered his aśs out of existence!!!

  18. Andrew D Thompson

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    How can Inner Light not be in this list.

  19. pony_trekker

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Shaka, When the Walls Fell

  20. ccpony

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Where’s “The Inner Light”? Sorry Boss. You’ve lost all credibility.

  21. Kenneth Becker

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    The inner Light missing is just wrong, but Chain of Command Part II is an even worse travesty.
    “There. Are. FOUR. LIGHTS!”

  22. Batty Cat

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    The Inner Light, of course. Measure of a Man. Chain of Command 1 & 2…

    The list goes on and on. Also, Best of Both Worlds is more of a Riker thing.

    You’ve seen TNG before, right?

  23. D Shade

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Darmok wasn’t included, so this list is terrible. I consider that episode the quintessential Picard, and it’s one of the episodes where Patrick Stewart really got to flaunt his ability. (imo)

  24. Dan Griffin

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Where was “The Inner Light” ? Epic list fail

  25. Phil Wiermann

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Chain of Command Pt II, anyone?
    THERE! ARE! FOUR! LIGHTS!

  26. laura starrett

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    For me, the very best JLP-centered episode is the one where he lives an entire life on a dying planet–he has been chosen to carry the memory of their long-dead civilization–and wakes up on the Enterprise 20 minutes later. It’s a beautiful story and allows Picard to have something he professes to miss–a family.

    ps Hard to think of anything from s1 as “the best” …

  27. Jason Chapman

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Starship Mine, basically the closest Star Trek got to Die Hard .

  28. CineCal

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    No “Contagion”? How’d that one not make the list?

  29. Raiderblack

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Inner Light would be a fine addition and yes Chain of Command.

  30. markgann

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Great list

  31. Jake

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Um, conspiracy is season 1 episode 24… Fail?

  32. Melody Mackey

    August 22, 2019 at 8:31 pm

    Loved your list. Good job.

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