Well, since I dedicated my last post to the ten best episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I figured it was only fair to devote this one to the worst episodes. And as much as I love this series (it's my all-time favorite), buy did they have some stinkers.
It pains me to do this (especially since I had to go back and rewatch some of these in order to refresh my memory), here are the absolute worst episodes, ranked in order from "best" to worst:
#10. The Royale
This was back in the first season, when the series was still stealing ideas from the Original Series and hadn't yet found its own voice. Because of that, I can kind of forgive the first season for its truly terrible episodes. But this one is particularly stupid.
The crew beams down to a planet that... I dunno... based some room on an old, cliched crime novel they found in an old Earth spaceship. Yeah, it's a rip off of A Piece of the Action, that classic episode of the Original Series. So why did that episode work while this one is a piece of crap? To begin with, Action took place on an entire planet with a whole civilization based on mobsters from America's past. This episode pretty much only takes place in one room. And it's just not fun, it's not clever, and it's completely unoriginal.
Next Gen's 7th season is one of its most enigmatic and controversial. By the time most series reach a 7th season (if at all), they tend to run out of ideas. Next Gen's finale season actually suffered from having too many ideas. The show's writers decided to get cerebral, high concept, and metaphysical. This writing style gave us some of the best, most original, and brilliant episodes of all time (like Genesis, All Good Things, and Parallels), but mostly it just sucked. And no episode better captures the essence of season 7 than Emergence.
Honestly, I don't understand this episode. You won't understand this episode. I have a feeling the writers didn't understand this episode. It has something to do with the Enterprise's computer becoming self aware (yeah, that's right), which manifests itself by filling the Holodeck with various mobsters, hillbillys, and train conductors. Huh? Yeah, that's right... it's a Holodeck episode. Can anybody tell me why the Holodeck even has "safety parameters" if they are always accidentally being shut off?
Anyway, this episode makes no sense. But, even worse than that, it's just boring. And that's unforgivable.
#8. Force of Nature
This was Next Gen's attempt at an episode with an envirornmental theme. A couple of aliens mysteriously appear and tell the Enterprise crew that warp travel may be destroying the fabric of the universe! Seriously? You really want to take one of the most fundamental plot devices of the entire Star Trek universe and reveal that it has actually been hurting the universe all this time? It's an itriguing story idea to be sure, but come on. That's just too much. We didn't need that.
So from this episode on, just about every episode has some line about how "Starfleet has agreed to let us ignore the warp limitations for this mission." If this episode reveals that warp drive hurts the episode, and imposes standards on its use, why ignore that for the rest of the series? And every other series that came after?
#7. Dark Page
I like Majel Barrett. I think she's a charming, handsome woman and her contributions to Star Trek over the years (both behind the scenes and on camera) can't be denied. According to all sources, her input helped Roddenberry create and mold the series, she has appeared in almost every incarnation of the series, and I would NEVER want to watch any incarnation of Star Trek that didn't have her voice as the ship's computer. Her voice IS the voice of Starfleet and is every bit as iconic as the Enterprise, Spock's Ears, or the shape of the com badges.
But boy is she a horrible dramatic actress.
I can understand what they were thinking when they wrote this episod. The character of Lwaxana Troi has never been used as much more than comic interest and they wanted to show a different, darker side to her. Ok, nice idea in theory, but the script sucked and Barrett's performance just wasn't good enough. Barrett is wonderful in the funny episodes, and Lwaxana troi is a wonderfully fun character, but who needed to see her breakdown emotionally over the death of her first child? We just didn't need to go there, especially not when the episode was so hokey.
This episode is notable for the appearance of Kirsten Dunst in one of her first acting performances. But that's about it.
Also, why does that one alien guy look just like Kevin Nealon? We really need two actors in this world who look like Kevin Nealon? And why is Lwaxana's subconscious reality based on the corridors of the Enterprise? She doesn't live there. Because the producers were too ship to build another set, that's why. Stupid.
#6. Angel One.
Oh man. Now we're really getting into deep shit territory. This episode is terrible no matter how you look at it. The Enterprise has to beam down to a matriarchal society to save some Federation hostages, or something. Of course, Riker has to dress up like a cheap cheap gigolo and attempts to seduce every chick on the planet. It doesn't work.
#5. Sub Rosa
As much as I like and respect Majel Barrett, I like and respect Gates McFadden even more. She's a beautiful, talented actress and the one episode that she directed (Genesis) is one of my all time favorites. But still, Dr Crusher episodes are always the pits. It's not her fault, it's the fault of the writers and producers who never gave her anything to do. Her character just wasn't interesting or explored enough, so the few episodes that centered around her character always fell flat.
And this episode, some kind of weird gothic ghost story, was just terrible. It didn't feel like a Star Trek story, it wasn't engaging, and it's completely forgettable. In fact, I don't even rememeber it enough to hate it as much as I think I do.
Let's just move on.
#4. Code of Honor
This episode is so bad. Tasha Yar (remember her?) is kidnapped by Space Africans! The king of the Space Africans wants her to join his harem, or something, and she has to fight one of his wives to the death, or something. It's just terrible and borederline racist.
#3. The Chase
I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate this episode. This is one of those ridiculous "retconn" stories that attempts to solve a problem that was never actually a problem to begin with. Why do all of the alien races on Star Trek look humanoid? Well, according to this episode, it's because an original, progenitor race sprinkled their DNA across the galaxy, allowing the Humans, Romulans, Klingon, etc to evolve with similar traits.
Come on! Who really had a problem with the fact that the alien races looked humanoid because, you know, they were all played by human actors? And even forgetting the pointless premise, the episode itself is just hokey, bland, and boring.
#2. The Game
What the hell? The entire Enterprise crew (with the exception of Data, Wesley, and... Ashley Judd?!) become addicted to a ridiculous looking VR game that gives you an orgasm every time you put a disk into a funnel. Lord how I wish I was making that up. There are few scenes in Star Trek history more uncomfortable than when Wesley watches his mother orgasm over and over again and then attempts to force him to play along with her. And I'm not making that up either.
Sure, they don't actually say that the game makes you orgasm, but just watch the performances of the actors and you can figure out what they were going for. I've seen pornos where the actors gave more subtle orgasms than these. Also, the game is first introduced to Riker when he's in bed, making love to a woman with a giant butt on her forehead. Remember the Buttmans from In Living Color? Apparently that skit was ripped off by the writers for Next Generation.
I also love how the only person who doesn't give into the temptation of playing this videogame is the biggest nerd on the ship. Seriously? Wesley of all people won't play a videogame that gives you orgasms? Then again, who needs that when you get to mack on Ashley Judd. I bet John Frakes was pissed after he learned that Will Wheaton got Ashley Judd while he had to role around in bed with one of the Buttmans.
What a piece of crap.
And if that clip wasn't gross enough, check out the opening teaser where Riker got it on with the Buttman chick:
And here's a BONUS clip:
#1. Shades of Gray
Are you kidding me? Next Gen actually resorted to a clips episode? And for their second season finale of all things? The writers of the best sci-fi show of all time actually ripped off a money-saving idea from Family Ties?
Here's the plot in a nutshell: Riker is stabbed by some alien plant (or something) that kills him by bringing up bad memories (in other words, distressing clips from previous episodes), and the only way the doctor can cure it is be bring up good memories (happier clips from previous episodes). There's seriously about 15 minutes of new footage in this episode, the rest is all clips from earlier episodes.
According to what I've read, this episode was put together in just 3 days because of the impending writers strike of 1988, but that's still no excuse. This isn't just the worst episode in Next Gen history, it's the worst episode in Star Trek history. And, yes, that means it's worse than Spock's Brain, the last episode of Enterprise, and all of Voyager.