The 10 best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes (with and without Riker's beard)

28 February 2023

Star Trek: The Next Generation, which premiered in 1987, quickly became a cultural phenomenon and solidified itself as one of the most beloved sci-fi shows of all time.

With its groundbreaking special effects, strong ensemble cast, and thought-provoking storylines, the show captivated audiences and garnered a devoted fanbase.

However, it wasn't until the second season when the show really hit its stride, and it all started with one facial hair change.

Commander William Riker, played by Jonathan Frakes, began to sport a beard in the show's second season, a move that signalled a shift in the series' tone and quality. The addition of the beard to Riker's character coincided with the show's move towards more serialized storytelling and an exploration of deeper philosophical themes. The beard quickly became a topic of conversation among fans and critics alike, and many saw it as a sign of the show's creative resurgence.

riker beard star trek best episodes

In this list, we will explore the ten most popular episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as voted by fans. From iconic moments to emotional performances, these episodes have stood the test of time and continue to resonate with audiences today. So, sit back, relax, and boldly go where no one has gone before, as we explore the very best that Star Trek: The Next Generation has to offer.

You’ll note too, most of these episodes feature Riker’s beard in some shape or form…

  1. "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1" - June 18, 1990 (Season 3, Episode 26) Directed by Cliff Bole

Considered one of the most iconic episodes in Star Trek history, "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1" introduces the Borg, a cybernetic species whose goal is to assimilate other cultures. The episode features an intense cliffhanger as Captain Picard is abducted by the Borg, leaving the crew of the Enterprise in shock and despair. Viewers were captivated by the dramatic storyline and the introduction of such a formidable villain. Fun fact: The cliffhanger left fans waiting in suspense for months until the conclusion aired in the following season.

  1. "The Inner Light" - June 1, 1992 (Season 5, Episode 25) Directed by Peter Lauritson

In "The Inner Light," Captain Picard experiences an entire lifetime of memories in the span of minutes when he is struck by a mysterious probe. The episode explores Picard's emotional journey as he navigates this alternate reality, raising philosophical questions about the nature of memory and what it means to live a fulfilling life. The episode's poignant storytelling and Patrick Stewart's masterful performance earned it critical acclaim and a devoted fan following.

  1. "Yesterday's Enterprise" - February 19, 1990 (Season 3, Episode 15) Directed by David Carson

In this episode, the crew of the Enterprise discovers a temporal rift that causes a shift in the timeline, bringing them face to face with a version of the ship from an alternate universe. The new reality is a dark one where the Federation is at war with the Klingons, and Tasha Yar is still alive. "Yesterday's Enterprise" features intense action sequences, high stakes, and a memorable guest appearance by Denise Crosby as Tasha Yar. The episode's exploration of alternate realities and their consequences resonated with viewers, making it one of the most popular episodes of the series.

  1. "The Measure of a Man" - February 13, 1989 (Season 2, Episode 9) Directed by Robert Scheerer

In "The Measure of a Man," Data's status as a sentient being is put on trial when a Starfleet officer seeks to have him disassembled for study. The episode raises complex ethical questions about the nature of life and artificial intelligence, and explores the relationship between Data and Captain Picard. The episode's thought-provoking storyline and strong performances from the cast made it a fan favorite and a standout episode of the series.

  1. "All Good Things..." - May 23, 1994 (Season 7, Episode 25) Directed by Winrich Kolbe

"All Good Things..." serves as the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation, as Captain Picard experiences jumps through time to stop the destruction of humanity. The episode features appearances by fan-favorite characters and explores themes of destiny and the passage of time. The finale was a critical and commercial success, providing a satisfying conclusion to the beloved series and leaving fans with a sense of closure.

6 . "Chain of Command, Part II" - December 17, 1992 (Season 6, Episode 11) Directed by Les Landau

"Chain of Command, Part II" is the conclusion to a two-part episode that sees Captain Picard captured by the Cardassians and subjected to torture. The episode features powerful performances from Patrick Stewart as Picard and David Warner as Gul Madred, the Cardassian interrogator. "Chain of Command, Part II" is widely regarded as one of the most intense and emotional episodes of the series, exploring the themes of leadership and sacrifice.

  1. "The Offspring" - March 12, 1990 (Season 3, Episode 16) Directed by Jonathan Frakes

In "The Offspring," Data creates a daughter, Lal, who begins to develop emotions and a sense of identity. The episode explores the relationship between Data and his creation, as well as the ethical implications of creating artificial life. "The Offspring" is a standout episode for its emotional depth and the performances of Brent Spiner as Data and Hallie Todd as Lal.

  1. "Cause and Effect" - March 23, 1992 (Season 5, Episode 18) Directed by Jonathan Frakes

In "Cause and Effect," the Enterprise becomes stuck in a time loop, repeating the same events over and over again. The episode features a unique narrative structure, as the crew attempts to break free from the loop and solve the mystery of what is causing it. "Cause and Effect" is widely regarded as one of the most inventive and engaging episodes of the series, with a thrilling storyline and memorable visuals.

  1. "Darmok" - September 30, 1991 (Season 5, Episode 2) Directed by Winrich Kolbe

In "Darmok," the Enterprise encounters a species with a language that is incomprehensible to the crew. Captain Picard is beamed down to the planet with the alien captain, and the two must learn to communicate and work together to survive. "Darmok" is a standout episode for its exploration of language and communication, as well as its emotional depth and strong performances from Patrick Stewart and Paul Winfield.

  1. "Q Who" - May 8, 1989 (Season 2, Episode 16) Directed by Rob Bowman

In "Q Who," the omnipotent Q sends the Enterprise to a distant part of the galaxy, where they encounter the Borg for the first time. The episode marks the first appearance of the Borg, who would go on to become one of the most iconic villains in the Star Trek universe. "Q Who" is a fan favorite for its introduction of the Borg and its exploration of the dangers of encountering a vastly superior alien race.

Agree or Disagree?

Check out the best episodes from Star Trek: Enterprise


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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