Welcome to our quick overview of essential Star Trek episodes and movies. If you're planning on watching the premiere of Star Trek: Picard this Thursday, this guide will help you prepare.
Do you agree with all our choices? Are there other episodes you recommend more? If so, let us know in the comments below. Are you excited about the new series? Let us know about that, too.
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A Starfleet cyberneticist, Commander Bruce Maddox, wants to examine, disassemble, and possibly reproduce Data. He believes that a fleet of Datas could serve Starfleet and provide an advantage. This results in a court case where Picard defends Data's right to be a person.
Given that the Star Trek: Picard teasers show numerous shots of Data and the Short Trek Children of Mars talks about a synth attack on Mars, this seminal work on the rights of artificial beings is worth watching.
Picard's Enterprise encounters a spacial rift and all of a sudden, we see a much more militaristic Enterprise and crew. Time had been altered and in this timeline, the Federation was fighting for its life. The grabber here was that Tasha Yar, previously killed off in the original timeline, was alive and well -- although both she and Guinan felt something was wrong.
Yesterday's Enterprise is one of TNG's seminal great episodes. It also gives the audience a chance to see Picard in a more military role than usual.
Picard is captured by the Borg and transformed into Locutus of Borg. These two episodes, which include the season-ending cliff-hanger where Picard is first shown as Locutus, take the audience through a roller coaster ride of the capture and eventual recovery of Picard.
This is the episode that changes everything for Picard. As Locutus, Picard was responsible for the destruction of the fleet and loss of thousands of lives at Wolf-359. He retains the anger and guilt of this event and we're sure to see some of that play out in the new series.
A quantum filament disables the Enterprise, stranding the crew in different areas of the ship. Picard is giving three young science fair winners a tour of the Enterprise.
This is one of my favorite episodes because it shows folks stretching out of their comfort zones and doing what needs to be done. Troy, marooned on the bridge, takes command of the Enterprise. Meanwhile, the little kids help a wounded Picard and overcome their fears.
This is an episode worth watching just on its own merits, but also keep in mind that the three children Marissa Flores, Jay Gordon Graas, and Paterson Supra should be about 35-40 at the time of Star Trek: Picard. Will we see them in the new series? Keep an ear out for those names.
Riker and Picard face off in a battle simulation. Riker's ship has been purposely disabled, but Wesley Crusher cheats and gives Riker the advantage. This comes in handy when the Ferengi attack and Riker comes to the Enterprise's rescue.
While the main plot involves the battle, a subplot revolves around Data's ability to defeat the test administrator in a game of Strategem. Picard's relationship with Data is showcased as Picard coaches Data in how to both lose and win.
Riker, Data, Yar, Dr. Crusher, and Picard -- in one of his rare away missions -- are down on a planet. Beverly and Picard fall into a pit and are cut off from the rest of the team. Meanwhile, on Enterprise, Geordi La Forge (still a lieutenant at this point in time) is the ranking bridge officer.
This episode is instructive for a number of reasons. We get to see Geordi prove his mettle in command while we begin to see the depth of Picard's relationship with Beverly. Interestingly, the teasers haven't shown either Crusher or La Forge, so we're hoping Star Trek: Picard sheds some light on those characters.
Star Trek has long been known for shining a mirror on social issues, highlighting them through the lens of science fiction. Outcast tells the story of a hermaphrodite species and what happens when someone in that species feels gender identification.
While this episode is unlikely to tie directly to the plot in Star Trek: Picard, it does showcase issues of identity and rights, a topic that may get considerable play given the Star Trek: Picard emphasis on synth conflict. Outcast is a worthy, thought-provoking episode.
Pop quiz. Can you Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon this episode to The A-Team, and back? Give up? Melinda Culea plays Soren, Riker's love interest in this episode. Melinda Culea also played Amy Allen in the A-Team. Dwight Schultz played "Howling Mad" Murdock in the A-Team. And Dwight Schultz also played Reginald Barclay in TNG.
The Pegasus was one of the last broadcast episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It centered around a ship -- the Pegasus -- lost to Starfleet. Riker served on her as a young officer and her former captain, now an admiral, has beamed onto the Enterprise with a mission to recover her.
The Pegasus has some interesting parallels with The Philadelphia Experiment and the USS Eldridge. According to the movie plot, a new invisibility technology was being tested on the Eldridge, which resulted in the ship being knocked out of time. Some sailors were shown melted into the ship itself. Likewise, Starfleet was conducting banned cloaking device experiments on the Pegasus, which was found embedded in an asteroid.
There is a direct tie between this episode and Star Trek: Picard. Teasers for Picard showed the banner for Captain Picard Day, which was happening at the very beginning of the Pegasus episode. Moreover, there are issues with cloaking devices, Romulans, and Picard's conflicts with the Starfleet admiralty. Could be a lot of foreshadowing here.
I, Borg is mandatory viewing for anyone planning to watch Star Trek: Picard. Jonathan Del Arco plays Hugh, a Borg broken out of the hive mind. Del Arco reprises the role of Hugh in Star Trek: Picard.
The plot revolves around Picard's conflict over whether to use Hugh to return a killer virus to the Borg collective. During this time, Hugh bonds with Geordi (whom he calls his friend) and with Picard. By the end of the episode, he no longer says "we" in the Borg way, but refers to himself as "I."
This two-part cliff-hanger episodes has many of the ingredients we expect to see in Star Trek: Picard, including Data's ability to feel, his evil brother Lore, and the return of Hugh (Jonathan Del Arco, reprising his role as Hugh as a member of the Picard cast).
The episode ends with Hugh planning to form his own collective. We're sure to see details of how that turned out in Picard.
Not only is this episode about Ambassador Spock's attempt to unify the Vulcans and the Romulans, the episode also weaves together threads from Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard along with the movies Star Trek: Nemesis and the 2009 Star Trek "Kelvin timeline" reboot.
Not only do we see Leonard Nimoy's Spock once again, but also the final appearance of Mark Lenard's Sarek. A much younger Sarek, of course, is a major character in Discovery. Fun fact: Sarek was Spock's father, but Mark Lenard was only seven years older than Leonard Nimoy.
The final broadcast episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation jumps Picard backward and forward in time, showing what may be his future in 25 years (or, pretty much exactly when Star Trek: Picard takes place).
Of course, since the timeline is eventually changed, the prognostications of Picard's future will be wrong -- especially when it comes to Data being alive and well, and teaching at university. We know Data dies in Nemesis and from the teasers, we're pretty sure Picard will deal with that loss.
Our favorite quote from the two-part series ender is this, spoken by Picard: "I prefer to look on the future as something that is not written in stone. A lot can happen in 25 years." Indeed, it can.
Nemesis was the very last time we saw Jean-Luc Picard on screen (at least until the Star Trek: Picard teasers started to drop). In it, Romulan rebel leader Shinzon, who is somehow a clone of Picard, kills off the Romulan senate. Highly improbable bad things happen, but the movie -- which is the last of the TNG films -- ends with Data sacrificing himself to save the crew.
That might be the end of Data, but before he died, he downloaded his personality into a more primitive version of himself named B4. This will definitely figure into Picard because the teasers have shown Data (or B4) parts in a drawer.
Look, this is one of the worst Star Trek movies, but if you want to be complete about the TNG crew before Picard, you should watch it anyway.
The Star Trek reboot movie starring Chris Pine as Kirk forked the Star Trek franchise into the prime and Kelvin timelines. Star Trek: The Next Generation and Picard are both in the prime timeline, while the Pine/Kelvin movies are treated as alternate-universe canon.
That said, the reboot introduces the destruction of Romulus as a key plotline. In fact, time is altered because Leonard Nimoy's Spock travels back in time, meeting Zachary Quinto's Spock in the alternate timeline. Don't worry. There won't be a test.
The take-away is that Romulus was destroyed in the prime timeline and Picard will deal with the aftermath of that destruction.
This Short Trek shows two girls with parents who are working on Mars when the planet suffers a devastating attack by synths. This short takes place many years after the time of TNG and even Nemesis, but because it shows Picard as an admiral, it takes place some years before the events of the Picard series.
It's not my favorite Short Trek (many of which are just delightful), but this is the prologue the production team wanted you to have going into Picard, so it's worth a watch.
While digging up images for our Picard gallery, we found this. StarTrek.com tries to explain it. No, it doesn't have anything to do with Picard (we hope), but once seen, you can't unsee it, so we had to share.
That said, I'll be on my couch glued to the screen on Thursday. I do miss Captain Kirk, but I'm incredibly glad we get to see Picard once again.