Where to Start With Star Trek: The Next Generation

There’s only one rational response to celebrating today’s 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and that’s to sit yourself down and watch at least one episode. But where to start? The problem with ST:TNG is that the question of where to start is more than a little complicated…

Here’s the terrible secret about The Next Generation: The first year is kind of terrible. At first I thought that, perhaps, I was being a little too harsh on it – I’m not the biggest fan of the series, and, I figured, perhaps there are some odd charms that I’m missing because I’m not one of the hardcore – and so I asked Twitter for some guidance, only to receive a quick affirmation of my original feeling: For those looking to make a start on the show today, you might do well to skip that first year.

(That’s not to say that there aren’t any good episodes that year, but they’re few and far between, and even the best don’t compare that well with the average episode from, say, season three or four.)

The second season, too, may be better left untouched, at least to start with, if the Twitteratti are to be believed. That’s a fair assessment; although the show had improved greatly on its first outing, too many things are still falling into place to be able to convince the uninitiated. The second season makes for a fine place to back up and revisit once you’ve decided that you actually like this whole Next Generation in the first place, but considering everyone is still wearing their onesie costumes and there’s a replacement doctor for the whole year, maybe it’s not a good place to throw yourself into without some immunization.

So, the third season, then. The beginning of the show’s prime period (which, I’d argue, runs through the end of the fifth season, although some have argued for much of the sixth), it’s a fine place to begin in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s evolution. The episodes in this season are uniformly strong in terms of writing, and often downright great (I’m a sucker for something like “Yesterday’s Enterprise” or “Captain’s Holiday,” I admit), with the best cliffhanger of any Trek two-parter – I’ll arm-wrestle anyone who says differently! – in the season finale “The Best of Both Worlds.” By this point in the show’s run, the actors were comfortable enough with the characters and their fellow cast to offer up performances that are assured and even a little playful at times, and the special effects have evolved to a point where, from our modern point of view, they’re not embarrassing to watch.

Season three is, I’d argue, the best starting place for newcomers to the show. Thanks to the procedural nature of the show, it’s not as if you’re missing a lot of backstory or continuity (And what little you are missing will be recapped in the episode, for that matter, so you have little to fear), and you still have many seasons ahead of you to enjoy moving forward before you have to start wondering whether or not to go back to the dark days of the first couple of seasons.

It seems strange to have to suggest a place to start for a show that feels as big a part of the genre landscape as Star Trek: The Next Generation, but it’s a show that went off the air eighteen years ago – and, therefore, hasn’t really been seen in its prime for an entire generation. Even though I may prefer Deep Space Nine in terms of the best shows of the Trek franchise, I still think that The Next Generation is something that deserves to be seen, to be treasured. Just skip the first two years, and you’ll understand why soon enough.

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Comments

  • Fireballxtc

    Watch all of them. But watch the first few series blind, stinking drunk.

  • http://twitter.com/NeGDarkfall Jayson Zwirner

     or a bit stoned will work too after 3 you can go sober and be good

  • jrau18

    Where to start? In the trash.

    “There’s only one rational response to celebrating today’s 25th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and that’s to sit yourself down and watch at least one episode.” I find it incredibly hard to believe that’s the only rational response! What a load of shit! RAGE

  • Stevens61310

    So–it took 7 paragraphs to say–”It’s bben 25 years since this series aired. The first 2 seasons are mediocre. Start watching in the third season.” ? Is that about right??

  • Kwsupes

    Spot on Graeme, the first two years are not that great. Though “Conspiracy” one of the last eps of season one is evidence of what the show would become the rest of the first season was lame. Season Two as you said was better, I mean come  on “Elementary Dear Data” and “Q Who?” were great eps too, but Season Three is where the show got consistent and they finally gave the crew decent uniforms. 

  • MZ

     1. The first season being generally considered the weakest is not a terrible secret. It’s pretty common knowledge. I’m sure people are now born with that knowledge already in them.

    2. If your twitter followers didn’t bring up “Measure of a Man” or “Q Who” for second season episodes that can easily go in anybody’s top 10 list, then they’re as clueless as you and you shouldn’t be relying on their recommendations.

  • SLC

    The first two seasons were pretty good at the time, but TNG overlaps the transition in television from episodic to continuing storylines.

  • Amitverse

    Does it need to be said that you should watch the first season before you watch ‘All good things’?

    Still one of the greatest series finales imho.

  • stpatrick67

    Fascinating.  Trash the first two seasons which were done by Gene Roddenberry.  I understand constructive criticism but did you really give any.  To start a new Star Trek series where you have such a loyal, okay fanatic fanbase, there is a lot of pressure.  To survive for more than a season or two given that the show needs to have better special effects and the stories need to explore new concepts and planets than the first series.  I’m sorry to do that and survive is a success, not trash.  I think there is a little something for everyone (fan or not) within the first two seasons.  I was never a fan or the original series, yeah, I’d seen some episodes, hard not to when your older brother is a true blue fan and back then we (my family) only had two TVs (one color and one black and white).  The first episode I ever saw of ST:TNG was “Skin of Evil” and at first I thought the new series was just like the old.  There is a dilemma involving the crew and a planet and a crew member dies but by the end of the episode I found that this new series wasn’t like the old and it made me curious to see more which I did.  I still haven’t seen most of the original series but I respect where this series came from.
    The series reinvigorated the franchise and spawned the other series, books, toys, etc.  I do agree that ST:TNG seemed to get better with each season so it gives those new to it something to look forward to but I don’t think the first two seasons are trash or should be skipped.

  • Marz

    Thanks for this!
    My Next Generation Guide Person left me with an ominous “Just don’t start at the beginning”, and I wasn’t sure what to do from there.
    I considered foregoing her advice and starting with Season 1 anyway, 
    because, I mean, how bad could it be? 
    But then, remembering the final season of TOS, I thought, 
    BAD. IT COULD BE REALLY, REALLY BAD. 
    So, 3rd season it is! 
    I CAN’T WAIT!!!!!!!!! *opens Netflix tab*
    Thank you!