Why do they exist? The ten worst episodes of TNG

Let’s face it, even a series as beloved as TNG has its bloopers. In fact, quite a few episodes are questionable on the quality front. But what I wanted to highlight here was the real stinkers, the episodes that you had to force yourself to sit through. If Trek fans weren’t also the kind of people who have to watch things to completion, we’d probably collectively seal these episodes in a concrete bunker and never speak of them again.

Qpid

I am not a merry man!”

Q wants to understand romance, and to that end, he casts Picard, Vash and the senior bridge crew as Robin Hood and his Merry Men. It sounds painful, and that’s exactly what it is. Why would we ever want to see Jean-Luc Picard in a silly hat and tights, trying to win the heart of Maid Marion, whilst the bridge crew mostly sit around in the forest? This isn’t a fun romp, it’s headache-inducingly stupid.

Rascals

Then next thing you know – bam! They’re bouncing on the bed.”

A spatial anomaly defies physics more than usual and turns Picard, Keiko, Ro and Guinan into twelve-year-olds. As if the average children episode wasn’t bad enough, this one comes with an utterly stupid plot about the Ferengi taking over the Enterprise and child-Picard et al saving the day. it’s cringeworthy, stupid, and by the end you’ll want to deck adolescent Picard.

Shades of Grey

“My great-grandfather was once bitten by a rattlesnake. After three days of intense pain, the snake died.”

To its shame, even Star Trek has a clip show, and this is it. An “oops, we’ve run out of money” tacked onto the end of the second season, Shades of Grey sees Riker infected with a parasitic life form. The only cure is to stimulate the memory region of the brain – cue endless clips from the first two seasons. It’s not even trying to be good – it’s just an attempt to fill 42 minutes.

The Child

“I don’t mean to be indelicate… but who’s the father?””

Deanna Troi is impregnated by an energy being and gives birth to a rapidly growing child. Yes, it’s a creepy tale of space rape in which Troi is treated less as a person and more as an incubator. The male crew members debate about her pregnancy as if she wasn’t in the room with them, and no one cares about how Deanna might feel about this intimate violation. It’s a horrible story to tell to young female sci-fi fans – in this idyllic future where humanity has an amazing Federation and travels the stars, getting space-raped is still a very real threat.

Sub Rosa

That candle has brought nothing but misery and bad luck to your grandmother.”

In this rejected Mills and Boon plot, Beverly Crusher falls in love with a spirit that lives inside a family heirloom. Cue Beverly becoming defensive, withdrawn and addicted to the orgasms the spirit can give her. Not only is it out of character and downright ridiculous, but the episode is set on the colony of New Scotland, where awful accents and character stereotypes abound.

Code of Honor

“Ah, I see. You too understand the proper value of women!”

TNG never quite got there on women’s rights, but this season one episode was one of the worst. When Tasha Yar is abducted by a planetary leader who wants to make her his wife, all the worst stereotypes come into play. He’s a black man from a tribal culture, so there’s your racism right there; meanwhile, his existing wife is jealous of Yar and angry with her for something that isn’t even her fault. Blame your stupid, greedy husband! Worse yet, instead of supporting her friend and colleague, Troi pretty much bullies Yar into admitting that deep down she likes having the eye of this strong, virile, man. Give it a rest.

Force of Nature

Effective immediately, all Federation vessels will be limited to a speed of warp five.”

Star Trek attempts to do an ecological story, but the heavy-handed morality play makes this episode grindingly slow. Worse yet, the outcome of the episode is that warp drive is damaging the fabric of space and we must now all obey a galactic speed limit. Star Trek is meant to be a wondrous future – while I’m all for telling stories that have a real-world moral to them, this is a step too far.

The Royale

I hold no malice toward my benefactors. They could not possibly know the hell they have put me through… for it was such a badly written book, filled with endless cliché and shallow characters… that I shall welcome death when it comes.”

The trouble with having an episode about getting trapped in a reality based on an awful book is that you subsequently trap your viewers in a reality based on an awful book. In this episode, an away team visits a mysterious hotel on an otherwise uninhabitable planet, and get trapped in a recreation of a pulp novel. It’s hellish for all concerned, but the only way to get out is to finish the story – both for the away team, and for the viewers.

Manhunt

Yes, it’s something Troi warned me about when we first started to see each other. A Betazoid woman when she goes through this phase… quadruples her sex drive.”

Lwaxana Troi returns to the Enterprise in the middle of “The Phase” – a time in the life of a middle-aged Betazoid woman where her sex drive quadruples and she becomes desperate for a partner. Lwaxana is often played as the unbearable mother-from-hell, and this is one of her worst outings, in which she basically throws herself at anything with a penis, before settling on a holographic man as her ideal mate. Throw in Picard’s foray into the Dixon Hill holodeck program, and you might find yourself too embarrassed to watch. Oh, and Mick Fleetwood appears as a fish-alien from a race so stupid that it’s okay to be openly racist towards them.

Aquiel

I bet the dog did it.”

The above is not a quote from the episode, but something my viewing companion said while we were watching it. To be honest, there are a number of episodes as dull as this one, but I picked it out because that quote sums up a rather lacklustre piece. Having not been creepy enough toward Leah Brahms, Geordi falls in love with Lieutenant Aquiel Uhnari after reading her personal logs, only to discover that she is in fact alive and a possible murder suspect. It’s all fine, though, because actually the murderer is her dog, who is really a shapeshifting life form that gets unceremoniously killed at the end. There’s also a brutish Klingon, and a sense that a posting to a communications relay is really, really bad for your career.

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