As The Munsters Today and The New Monkees demonstrated, it’s almost never a good idea to update TV
classics. Yet Star Trek: The Next Generation somehow bucked this trend.
Featuring a cast consisting largely of unknowns, the series debuted in 1987 to
a firestorm of promotion and heavy skepticism from Trekkies who wondered where
the hell Kirk and Spock were. After two rocky seasons packed with personnel
changes and episodes that were more often mediocre than not, Star Trek: The
Next Generation finally came into its own during its third year on the air.
By the time the show ended its run in 1994 after 178 episodes, it had ushered
in a new era of sci-fi TV and proven itself to be a syndication phenomenon
whose success rivaled that of its predecessor. But it was hardly a perfect
series. The common complaints are that it relied too much on technobabble and
was lacking in conflict amongst the characters. These are fair criticisms, but
they don’t mention the fact that some episodes were just plain idiotic. Data
wants to do stand-up comedy? Star Trek Babies? Intergalactic
stereotyping? Whoopi Goldberg? Often times viewers were left wondering just
what the hell was happening in the 24th century. Set a course for
stupidity with this look at the most inane adventures of Captain Picard and
8) The Naked Now
The first episode of Next
Generation to air after the two-part “Encounter at Farpoint” pilot, this
direct sequel to Star Trek’s “The Naked Time” has Data getting laid,
Wesley making viewers hate him and some no-name chief engineer helping to save
the day. There are inauspicious debuts and then there is whatever is going on
here. Dumb though it may be, it’s still more entertaining than Star Trek:
7) Up the Long Ladder
The above trailer makes this
episode look like a great sci-fi adventure, complete with classic Trek moralizing
about the dangers of cloning. In reality, it’s packed with the most offensive
Irish stereotyping this side of a St. Patrick’s Day frat party. All that’s
missing is Warwick Davis running around the Enterprise screaming “my gold!”
until Worf has to phaser his diminutive ass. You can check out a clip of the
defamatory fun here.
Keeping in spirit with the episode, watch it while drinking a Guinness. Or six.
6) Dark Page
During her previous Star
Trek: The Next Generation appearances, Lwaxana Troi was a sex-starved pain
in the ass. In a marked improvement, she spends much of this episode in a coma.
Lwaxana (whose name my spellcheck really wants to change to ‘Lawman’) has
suffered a mental collapse and only Counselor Troi can save her by
telepathically entering her brain…or some such malarkey. Initiating an attempt
at an emotional rescue that would make Mick and Keith proud, Deanna learns that
her mother’s breakdown was triggered by her suppressing of a devastating
secret. It turns out that Lwaxana contracted space chlamydia during a tryst on
Risa with Picard and Mr. Homm! Unfortunately, the truth isn’t that interesting.
The big reveal is actually that the elder Troi had another daughter whose death
she had been hiding from Deanna. Other than featuring an early acting
appearance by Kirsten Dunst, the only noteworthy thing about this episode is
how it gave birth to the fan theory that the writing staff’s solution for a
flimsy plot during the show’s later years was to add surreal imagery. After
viewing the episodes “Birthright, Part I,” “Phantasms,” and “Masks” you’ll
5) Galaxy’s Child
As a crap CGI alien humps the
Enterprise’s hull, Geordi tries to get it on with a visiting engineer he’s been
stalking via the holodeck (the future equivalent of Facebook).With the advice
of Whoopi Goldberg he learns how to be less creepy — but still doesn’t get any
action. Never the most developed of characters, Geordi La Forge spent the
series running diagnostics and bitching about possible warp core breaches. In
this episode he comes across more pathetic than usual, hammering home the point
that working in the final frontier doesn’t guarantee you a sex life.
4) The Outrageous Okona
People love the Data
character so much that Brent Spiner still reaps in the cash with sales of his Ol’
Yellow Eyes Is Back album. But the dirty little secret about Data is that
he’s prominently featured in some of the show’s worst episodes, including this
exercise in televisual torture. Data’s supposed to be one of the smartest
beings in the known universe, right? So who does he turn to for comedy advice?
Joe fucking Piscopo. And not Saturday Night Live-era Piscopo either. Dead
Heat Piscopo. And they say that B-4 was the retarded android.
Thanks to a transporter
malfunction, Captain Picard, Ensign Ro, Keiko O’Brien and Whoopi Goldberg are
beamed back aboard the Enterprise in the bodies of children. The kicker is that
they still have their adult personalities, which come in handy when some
Ferengis take over the ship. Physics nerds have made much out of how the
transporter accident is scientifically impossible. (Which is funny, seeing how
warp drive, starships and Klingons also don’t exist). Setting aside geeky
nitpicking, this episode spews an annoying kid power message so overwhelming
that you expect Riker to utter “I don’t know” and get doused in slime. Kids are
2) Skin of Evil
Between Creepshow 2 and
this episode, 1987 was the best year ever for murderous trash bags.
1) Shades of Gray
During its seven years on the
air, the crew of the Enterprise D overcame each obstacle and defeated every
enemy they were faced with — except one. In the vastness of space there remains
a sole undefeatable foe whose very existence causes novice space jockeys and
hardened astropilots alike to shiver. That villain is the clip show. Still
feeling the effects of a writer’s strike, the producers of Star Trek: The
Next Generation‘s decided to save money by ending the second season with an
episode that would consist mainly of previously used footage. The stupidity
doesn’t end there. The framing device for the clips has Riker getting injured
with a virus that leaves him near-death. Dr. Pulaski, being the haggard genius
she is, decides to cure him by making him remember stuff. (She was no Dr.
useless-as-ever Deanna Troi cries and states the obvious. Spoiler alert: he
lives. Shame the same can’t be said for the show’s dignity.
Robert Bricken is one of the original co-founders of the site formerly known as Topless Robot, and its first editor-in-chief, serving from 2008-12. He brought the site to prominence with “nerd news, humor and self-loathing” as its motto, raising it from total internet obscurity to a readership in the millions, with help from his savage “FAQ” movie reviews and Fan Fiction Fridays. Under his tenure Topless Robot was covered by Gawker, Wired, Defamer, New York magazine, ABC News, and others, and his articles have been praised by Roger Ebert, Avengers actor Clark Gregg, comedian and The Daily Show correspondent John Hodgman, the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Rifftrax, and others. He is currently the managing editor of io9.com. Despite decades as both an amateur and professional nerd, he continues to be completely unprepared for either the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising.