Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Reading Guide

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Longtime Vaka Rangi readers may remember that I have a small tradition of making episode guide/reading list posts whenever I finish covering Big Eras of the project. The hypothetical situation is that someone who is new to the show and yet for some reason *doesn't* want to marathon binge-watch it as is the standard way of consuming TV these days could theoretically be interested in my recommendations for the best stories so as to emphasize the cream of the crop while avoiding filler and missteps. Each entry has a link to my essay on the story for those who might want to revisit them.

I first did something like this when, following a joke Kevin Burns made to me about Futurama, I was challenged to find "20 Good Episodes" of the Original Star Trek. TOS fans will likely be annoyed as there's probably more episodes from that show one could recommend (and I *still* would have chosen different episodes after publishing Vaka Rangi Volume 1), but I wanted to limit myself to 20 following the conceit of the game so I was far harsher in my choices than I might otherwise have been. I didn't do a list post for the Animated Series, but really, you're pretty much good with anything on that show that wasn't written by Margaret Armen.

After I finished Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 1, I did another post to drive home my argument that the inagural year was very unfairly maligned and in truth had a robust crop of stories that deserve anyone's attention. That post also has a list of my picks for the best episodes from the Dirty Pair TV series, as I had recently finished watching it for the first time and was about to start on the Original Dirty Pair OVA Series.

The Dirty Pair franchise itself got what in many ways is the prototype of the post you are about to read today: A master post of all my favourite stories I'd experienced so far, with links to where you could get your hands on copies of your own. It's not linked from Eruditorum Press, but it's still archived at my old blog. The links to my essays on all these old posts do link back to the old site, but all of my essays are archived right here too and can be read by searching or following the tags. It's a bit dated now (especially the webstore links, though Dirty Pair should still all be on YouTube), but my picks are still pretty much the ones I'd pick today.

And so now, having come to the end of a long and winding road revisiting Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, it's time to give this phase of the project the same dues. Listed below, for your reading pleasure (or perhaps displeasure), are what I consider to be the best Star Trek stories between 1987 and 1996, including TV episodes and comic books. Each episode title links back to the EP version of my essay on that story, with the disclaimer that these are not the final versions of these pieces. Any and all are subject to change and revision as I work on editing and compiling the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine books over the course of the next year. If you want the true Vaka Rangi Star Trek experience, these are the stories to track down.

A few observations...

  • TNG Season 1 is better than Seasons 2, 3 and 4. Almost combined. It is also better than Season 5, though just by a couple episodes. Season 5 itself is way better than I thought it was when I was rewatching it, probably because I was just coming off of...
  • TNG Season 4. Which is, as I strongly suspected, the single worst year in the show's run. Seasons 2 and 3 are better by virtue of one story apiece. Season 2 looks unfairly bad by comparison in the list because I didn't include any comics that year. But it's still kinda bad.
  • TNG Season 6/DS9 Season 1 and TNG Season 7/DS9 Season 2 are the joint best years in either show's history. Even without including DS9's episodes, TNG Season 6 and 7 would still be that show's clear pinnacle. Season 6/1 comes across as slightly stronger and 7/2 comes across slightly weaker, mostly because I shunted that year's crop of comics into the next section and DS9 has more opportunites to screw up.
  • "Season 7B/2B", my obtuse self-indulgence thought experiment that imagines an entire third joint TNG/DS9 season comprised entirely of comic books, is better than any single television season except its two direct antecedents.

Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are both available on your favourite streaming sites last time I checked, but fans who want a little bit more are enthusiastically encouraged to check out the Complete Series of Star Trek: The Next Generation on Blu-ray. That's available on Amazon here, though the separate UK version might be a cheaper import depending on where you live, and it's region free to boot. For me in the US, it's rather striking difference of $113 versus $60, though that doesn't take shipping into account (and I already have the single season releases as, you know, I blogged about them), and Canadian fans are apparently stuck with a bit less of a deal at $140 versus $130.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine is on DVD, but it has a very poor transfer and I'd wait to see what gets announced in 2018 for its 25th Anniversary.

The comics are, unfortunately and predictably, the hardest to track down. There was a terrific DVD-ROM collection of every pre-IDW Star Trek comic ever released by Git Corp in 2009 (which is where I first read many of these wonderful stories), but it seems to be out of print and very rare now. All I can say is keep your eyes peeled and that I wish you the best of luck.

With all that said, I present to you the Vaka Rangi curated Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

 

1987-1988

 

  1. “Encounter at Farpoint”
  2. “Haven”
  3. “Where No One Has Gone Before”
  4. “The Last Outpost”
  5. “Lonely Among Us”
  6. “The Battle”
  7. “Too Short a Season”
  8. “The Big Goodbye”
  9. “Datalore”*
  10. “11001001”
  11. “Home Soil”
  12. “Coming of Age”
  13. “Heart of Glory”
  14. “The Arsenal of Freedom”
  15. “Symbiosis”
  16. “We'll Always Have Paris”
  17. “Conspiracy”
  18. “The Neutral Zone”
  19. “Spirit in the Sky!”
  20. “Q Factor”
  21. “Q's Day”
  22. “Q Affects”

 

1988-1989

 

  1. “Where Silence Has Lease”
  2. “Elementary, Dear Data”
  3. “Loud As A Whisper”
  4. “A Matter Of Honor”
  5. “Contagion”
  6. “The Royale”
  7. “Time Squared”
  8. “Q Who”
  9. “Peak Performance”

 

1989-1990

 

  1. “The Bonding”
  2. “Booby Trap”
  3. “The Vengeance Factor”
  4. “The Hunted”
  5. “Yesterday's Enterprise
  6. “Sins of the Father”
  7. “Tin Man”
  8. “Transfigurations”
  9. “The Best of Both Worlds”
  10. “The Gift”
  11. “The Pay Off!”
  12. “The Noise of Justice”
  13. “The Impostor”
  14. “Whoever Fights Monsters”

 

1990-1991

 

  1. “The Best of Both Worlds, Part II”
  2. “Remember Me”
  3. “Data's Day”
  4. “The Wounded”
  5. “Devil's Due”
  6. “Night Terrors”
  7. “Half a Life”
  8. “Redemption”
  9. “The Lesson”
  10. The Star Lost Part 1: “The Flight of the Albert Einstein
  11. The Star Lost Part 2: “Mourning Star”
  12. The Star Lost Part 3: “Trapped”
  13. The Star Lost Part 4: “The Barrier”
  14. The Star Lost Part 5: “Homecoming”
  15. “Thin Ice”

 

1991-1992

 

  1. “Redemption II”
  2. “Darmok”
  3. “Ensign Ro”
  4. “Silicon Avatar”
  5. “Unification I”
  6. “Unification II”
  7. “A Matter of Time”
  8. “Hero Worship”
  9. “Conundrum”
  10. “Power Play”
  11. “Cause and Effect”
  12. “The Next Phase”
  13. “The Inner Light”
  14. “Time's Arrow”
  15. “Bridges”
  16. “Bone of Contention”
  17. “Separation Anxiety”
  18. “Second Chances!”
  19. “Strange Bedfellows”
  20. “Restoration”

 

1992-1993

 

  1. “Time's Arrow, Part II”
  2. “Realm of Fear”
  3. “Schisms”
  4. “A Fistful of Datas”
  5. “Chain of Command, Part I”
  6. “Chain of Command, Part II”
  7. “Emissary”
  8. “A Man Alone” (or “Past Prologue”)
  9. “Past Prologue” (or “A Man Alone”)
  10. “Ship in a Bottle”
  11. “Aquiel”
  12. “Face of the Enemy”
  13. “Dax”
  14. “The Passenger”
  15. “The Nagus”
  16. “Starship Mine”
  17. “Vortex”
  18. “Battle Lines”
  19. “The Chase”
  20. “The Storyteller”
  21. “Frame of Mind”
  22. “Progress”
  23. “If Wishes Were Horses”
  24. “The Forsaken”
  25. “Dramatis Personae”
  26. “Duet”
  27. “Timescape”
  28. “In the Hands of the Prophets”
  29. “Descent”
  30. The Worst of Both Worlds Part 1: “The Bludgeonings of Chance”
  31. The Worst of Both Worlds Part 2: “The Belly of the Beast”
  32. The Worst of Both Worlds Part 3: “The Armies of the Night”
  33. The Worst of Both Worlds Part 4: “And Death Shall Have No Dominion”
  34. “Old Wounds”
  35. “Pickpocket”

 

1993-1994

 

  1. “Descent, Part II”
  2. “The Homecoming”
  3. “The Circle”
  4. “The Siege”
  5. “Gambit, Part I”
  6. “Gambit, Part II”
  7. “Phantasms”
  8. “Melora”
  9. “Dark Page”
  10. “Rules of Acquisition”
  11. “Necessary Evil”
  12. “Second Sight”
  13. “Inheritance”
  14. “Parallels”
  15. “Armageddon Game”
  16. “Sub Rosa”
  17. “Shadowplay”
  18. “Masks”
  19. “Playing God”
  20. “Eye of the Beholder”
  21. “Profit and Loss”
  22. “Firstborn”
  23. “The Wire”
  24. “Crossover”
  25. “Emergence”
  26. “All Good Things...”
  27. “Tribunal”

 

1994-1996

 

  1. “Companionship”
  2. “Of Two Minds”
  3. “Bodies of Evidence”
  4. “Requiem”
  5. “Requiem II”
  6. Hearts and Minds Part 1: “For the Glory of the Empire”
  7. Hearts and Minds Part 2: “On the Edge of Armageddon”
  8. Hearts and Minds Part 3: “Into The Abyss”
  9. Hearts and Minds Part 4: “Masters of War”
  10. “A Matter of Conscience...”
  11. “The Deceivers”
  12. “The Truth Elusive”
  13. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine The Next Generation Part 1: “Prophets and Losses”
  14. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine The Next Generation Part 2: “The Wormhole Trap!”
  15. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine The Next Generation Part 3: “Encounter with The Othersiders!”
  16. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine The Next Generation Part 4: “The Enemy Unseen”
  17. “Blood & Honor”
  18. “Terok Nor”
  19. Ill Wind Part 1
  20. Ill Wind Part 2
  21. Ill Wind Part 3
  22. Ill Wind Part 4
 
*Only if this is your first watchthrough, as it's essential setup for “Silicon Avatar” and “Descent”. Because otherwise this is a straightforwardly dreadful episode.

Comments

James A. Mullins 6 months, 1 week ago

To me I really don't think season one is in your opinion better than the next three seasons. What struck me upon first watching season three in order after the first two seasons is that everything seemed to get better in terms of production values, the way it was shot and lit etc that made the first season feel flat and stilted. Do you really like the first seasons of a show far more than what it turns into?

My favourite TNG seasons and two that I think are the absolute best are 3 and 6. I do agree that 2, 4 and even 5 felt patchy overall and they have many mediocre/forgettable episodes than classics.

I've personally gone through and watched all of TOS, TNG and yes even the entire run of DS9 past Season 3 aka everything you Josh hate about it becoming that I personally absolutely love and have enjoyed immensely. No offence, but I really disagree with a lot of your views in terms of the direction DS9 went.

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Frezno 6 months, 1 week ago

Having gotten advance viewing advice from Josh on my own voyages through TNG (and now DS9!) I can vouch for the quality of this curated method. Good god, I'm honestly surprised at how few S2 episodes were in this though. Looking over the ones you skipped, I can't say you're incorrect in skipping them... I'm just surprised there were that few. Then again, I did them like six months ago so.

Anyway, you cool kids wanting to get into TNG: This is a good list to follow.

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