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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Most Emotional Episodes, Ranked

Star Trek: TNG evoked a variety of reactions from its audience, with intense and action-filled narratives, and more emotionally-driven stories.

Star Trek: The Next Generation is not only one of the most well-received sci-fi TV shows of all time, but it also contains some of the best script writing in all of sci-fi television. Not only that, but the cast have exhibited exceptional acting skills that have been known to drive emotions out of the audience. The TV show evokes a variety of reactions from its audience with its episodes that range from intense, action-filled narratives to more emotionally-driven stories. From episodes that depict family bonds to episodes that address the importance of duty and honor, Star Trek: The Next Generation has its share of emotional episodes. Here are some of the most emotional episodes of the series, ranked.

Lower Decks (Season 7, Episode 15)

“Lower Decks” offers the audience a different perspective from the usual. Rather than centering around the senior officers of the Enterprise that make up the main cast, the episode follows a group of junior officers. Each of the four junior officers trying to find their place within the organization. Interestingly, the junior officers and their roles are representative of the established crew in their earlier days at the Enterprise.

The audience gets a glimpse into what it’s like to learn the ropes and slowly find your place on a starship. In addition to the different backgrounds, the episode is particularly popular with fans of the Star Trek franchise for its emotional impact. When the group of junior officers is assigned a secret mission, things start to take a dangerous turn. Certain tragic incidents in the episode act as a wake-up call for the team, which realizes the cost and the importance of duty, honor, and bravery of being a Starfleet officer.

Chain of Command (Season 6, Episodes 10 and 11)

“Chain of Command” is a two-part episode that is known among fans of Star Trek: The Next Generations as an emotionally intense episode. The second part of the episode in particular is not for those that are faint-hearted. The initial part of the episode follows Jean-Luc Picard, Portrayed by Patrick Steward, who is relieved of his duty at the Enterprise and instead is assigned to lead a covert mission.

The mission leads Picard straight into a trap, and he’s taken prisoner by a Cardassian tormentor. Not only does the episode depict brutal torture and interrogation scenes, but it also portrays Picard at his wits end. From inflicting physical to psychological pain, the Cardassian tormentor does not go easy on Picard, leading to a very intense episode. The episode can also be seen as a commentary on the use of torture by military forces. It’s safe to say that Chain of Command deals with very dark themes and can be emotionally overwhelming for some viewers.

All Good Things 1 & 2 (Season 7, Episodes 25 and 26)

Star Trek: The Next Generation finale, “All Good Things”, a two-part episode, left audiences with quite a lot of great things. The episode being the finale of the seven-season-long series already brings forth a lot of emotions, especially for fans who stuck to the series from the very start. All Good Things brings things back to a full circle, with Q at the forefront and the Enterprise crew trying to prevent catastrophe from striking.

In addition, what makes this episode particularly emotional is the milestone that Picard’s character reaches in the episode. He is finally able to trust his colleagues and attempts to expand his relationships. This is seen when he joins his senior officers during their weekly poker night. The moment is quite heartwarming, as it marks the beginning of a lifelong friendship between Picard and his colleagues.

Family (Season 4, Episode 2)

“Family” might not have the dramatic sci-fi narrative thread, but it is a deeply moving episode all the same. The episode delves deeper into Picard’s trauma; it also gives the audience a glimpse at Patrick Steward’s remarkable acting skills. Picard is back on Earth and is trying to deal with the fraught relationship between him and his brother.

The tension between the two finally bursts as they end up in a fistfight, which leads Picard to break down and eventually talk about the guilt he’s been feeling over his actions when he was part of the Borg collective. Family is emotionally intense and not only gives more insight into Picard’s relationship with his family but also into his thoughts.

The Offspring (Season 3, Episode 16)

Data is one of the pivotal characters in Star Trek: The Next Generation. He’s a Soong-type android, who’s ever curious about humanity and what it means to be human. Over the course of the show, the writers employed a variety of tricks to further expand his character. One of these ways was to give Data a daughter. Data constructs an android that he’s designed to exceed his own abilities.

The android is named Lal, which in Hindi refers to previous or beloved. The episode is quite heart-warming as it explores the bond between father and daughter. It also attempts to highlight how the experience helps Data grow as a character. Many fans argue that “The Offspring” is one of the saddest episodes of the whole series due to its ending scene, which left many in tears.

The Inner Light (Season 5, Episode 25)

“The Inner Light” is often claimed as one of the best Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes by fans of the franchise. In the episode, Picard is hit by an energy beam from an alien probe that renders him unconscious. However, while unconscious, Picard experiences an entire lifetime as an alien humanoid named Kamin. Picard-turned-Kamin is a scientist and musician who marries Elaine and even has children. It’s a rather bittersweet episode that highlights how life could have been for Picard had he made different choices. It has a beautiful, tear-jerking resolution making it worth the watch.


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