Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 4 review

4×01 “The Best of Both Worlds, Part 2”

Captain Riker.

This episode does a lot, but putting Riker in the center seat, making it seem like that could be permanent, and really dealing with that might just be the most important. It’s really great to see what things would be like with Riker permanently in charge, and it lets us feel Captain Picard’s absence more keenly.

We also get another incredible Guinan scene out of it. She barges into the ready room, takes Picard’s chair (which Riker had been visibly hesitant to do), and does what she does best: tells him what he needs to hear. “You must let him go, Riker. It’s the only way to beat him. The only way to save him. And that is now your chair. Captain.”

And Riker finally sits, the music swells, and we’re given a moment to absorb the fact that he’s really the captain now. This, more than Hansen announcing his promotion, more than the fourth pip on his collar, more than everyone calling him “captain”… this really makes it feel real.

Anyway, after that it’s just a small matter of the chilling Wolf 359 graveyard scene, Riker’s daring plan to kidnap Locutus/Picard back from the Borg, and then figuring out how to leverage his knowledge into a strategy to defeat them. No big deal.

(S-Rank)

4×02 “Family”

There’s a bunch of housekeeping here. I appreciate that Counselor Troi mentions in a conversation with Beverly that she’s going on vacation with the newly-demoted Commander Riker! Their relationship is really quite lovely, and I appreciate all the little crumbs that TNG throws at us every now and then that indicate that it’s still something of a going concern, even if their exact status is unclear. It’s also really adorable to see Worf’s parents fretting over him and him being all Worf about it. And getting some continuity with them being worried about his emotional state following his discommendation by the Klingon high council.

The majority of the episode is about Picard and his brother’s frosty relationship finally thawing a bit. It’s quite believable that they have so much tension given that they grew up in an abusive household together, and even though Robert comes off as a mega asshole I really do have quite a bit of empathy for him. I’m glad they work their issues out to an extent. And Picard’s nephew René is such a great character!! I really love their interactions.

All in all, a great episode, and a much-needed breath of fresh air for everyone, especially Picard as he works on recovering from his trauma.

(B-Rank)

4×03 “Brothers”

A much better continuation to the Data/Lore storyline than its introduction in Datalore. And seeing Data just totally singlehandedly take over the Enterprise was chilling, I feel like they have quite a few security holes to plug there.

(B-Rank)

4×04 “Suddenly Human”

This is one of those episodes where Picard & co have to be frustratingly stupid in order for the episode to make its point. But in so doing the episode actually gives us one of the best explicit depictions of ethnocentrism I’ve ever seen on television, so I’m actually completely willing to allow it. Actually, this is often the case with episodes where Picard & co are dead wrong, it just gets really frustrating when it sometimes feels like they have to learn the same lessons over and over? But then again the audience probably has to learn those lessons over and over, so it’s probably best that the show functions this way.

Like, yeah, ideally the Federation woulda gotten rid of the last vestiges of this sort of chauvinism by the 2300s, and Starfleet crews in particular are meant to be exemplary models of the Federation’s values, but I’m willing to allow some dramatic license here because, like I said, it really is the best way to dramatize these sorts of ethical issues to an audience that just isn’t even close to there. And Captain Picard’s apology at the end of the episode rules. And the kid literally stabs him and his first reaction is “whoa wow what did I do wrong” and as soon as it’s explained to him he immediately takes steps to not only make it right but publicly apologizes in a way that explicitly accepts ownership for what he and his crew did wrong.

Despite the dramatic necessities that the episode has to uphold by having him fuck up, Picard remains an absolute paragon of good ethics. That doesn’t mean always being right, but it does mean handling being wrong with grace and humility, and it’s moments like this that really reinforce to me how much I want to work on being more like him.

(A-Rank)

4×05 “Remember Me”

Wow, this season starts out on some kind of roll.

Remember Me is one of those high-concept episodes that really sticks in your memory. It’s also a Crusher episode that actually lets her, you know, do stuff instead of just sort of… exist. (Or fuck a ghost after reading a particularly erotic chapter in her grandmother’s diary. Don’t worry, we’ll get there in a few seasons.)

It’s genuinely chilling watching everyone on the ship disappear around the doctor, but it’s pretty heartening that everyone on the crew, especially Captain Picard and Counselor Troi, is so supportive and determined to get to the bottom of what’s going on.

(A-Rank)

4×06 “Legacy”

Apparently the rival faction in this is called the Alliance? So I can only imagine that the faction the Enterprise crew is working with is the Horde, so the lack of hot orcs is truly inexcusable.

So, the Enterprise receives an urgent distress call from a Federation freighter. By the time they arrive, the freighter has exploded, and the crew has had to bail out to a nearby planet. Which just so happens to be the late Tasha Yar’s homeworld. So, as previously alluded to, the Enterprise crew starts working with one of the two warring factions, and one of the members of the faction turns out to be Tasha’s sister, Ishara.

Ishara ends up working closely with the crew–especially Data, and the crew reluctantly grows to rely on her more and more. This ends up being a pretty Data-focused episode, and it’s interesting to see his relationship with Ishara grow closer, and tragic to see her betray him. He handles himself admirably throughout, and I appreciate that the episode pretty blatantly thinks it’s bullshit that Data “doesn’t have feelings.” And I really, really like the advice Commander Riker gives him at the end of the episode about trusting people and being willing to get hurt. It was a really great character moment for both of them.

(B-Rank)

4×07 “Reunion”

This picks up the plot threads from “The Emissary” and “Sins of the Father.” Every episode in these arcs rules, and this one is no exception. It also introduces Gowran and Alexander who will continue to be two extremely important characters in this show and even continuing into DS9. And it’s the first appearance of the Vor’cha-class attack cruiser, one of my favorite ship classes.

My one real complaint is that I absolutely hate K’Ehleyr getting fridged, but aside from that this episode is phenomenal. And although I don’t like the big picture story choice of killing her off, I did really appreciate her being a badass investigator (the super dramatic music for this part was badass, also) and standing her ground when Duras came to confront her.

Worf’s fight with Duras was great, and cathartic. I understand why Picard had to yell at him afterwards, but I don’t know. I still feel like Worf was in the right even if he didn’t follow the letter of Starfleet regulations.

(A-Rank)

4×08 “Future Imperfect”

“You’re incapable of that level of incompetence.” “No you can’t don’t even try.” “I said shut up. As in close your mouth and stop talking.”

Honestly even if this episode were nothing but Riker teeing off on everyone, it would rule. Legendary.

Fortunately we also get a fake future Enterprise with Riker in command, but that ends up being a ruse within a ruse. Also lots of Romulan involvement which is always fun!

Honestly this is one of the most memorable episodes of the show. It’s not one of my like top, top favorites, but I always look forward to it when I’m rewatching the show.

(A-Rank)

4×09 “Final Mission”

Ensign Crusher is finally accepted to Starfleet Academy to cover for Wil Wheaton departing the show (and it’s honestly a sensible story development for the character). So Captain Picard has him accompany him on a mission that ends up stranding both of them on an inhospitable planet.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise must help avert a planetary disaster. Always nice to see Riker in command, but the real meat of the story is definitely on the A plot. In particular there are a couple really touching moments between Picard and Wesley, especially Picard telling Wesley he’s proud of him. Awww.

(B-Rank)

4×10 “The Loss”

There’s some terminology issues (Deanna calls abled people “normal people”), but the way Deanna’s loss of her empathic abilities is handled is honestly pretty fantastic. And she tees off on Captain Picard in a way that explicitly expresses several frustrations with the condescending treatment disabled people often face, and likely educated quite a few people in the audience at the time.

On top of that, this has yet another truly great Guinan conversation. I always wanna say she isn’t in enough episodes, but every time she’s in one she just knocks it out of the park, so maybe she’s in exactly the right amount.

(B-Rank)

4×11 “Data’s Day”

If we could not have one of our few women of color recurring characters introduced via her marriage to an established white guy recurring character, that would be great, thanks.

This is a fantastic episode regardless, I always like epistolary episodes of shows and Star Trek doesn’t use it as a device nearly often enough. And this is a really cute Data episode so I’m not gonna trash it too badly just to sacrifice it on the altar of Wow I Hate How They Write Keiko.

And that’s before we even get in to the whole Romulan subplot which is, as always, fantastic.

(A-Rank)

4×12 “The Wounded”

This is another one that I feel like I probably like a lot more than most people, mostly stemming from the fact that this introduces one of my favorite Federation starship classes of all time, the Nebula-class. It also introduces the Cardasdians, which will pay dividends down the line.

This is also the first instance of Miles O’Brien, Space Racist, and his interactions with Keiko in this one are just painful, soooo yeah. Not really a fan of that aspect. Still.

(A-Rank)

4×13 “Devil’s Due”

Yeah, I’m not super attracted to Ardra, but her language and behavior had me feeling super subby for pretty much the whole episode. And Captain Picard gets to do some quality space lawyering, so that’s always fun!

(A-Rank)

4×14 “Clues”

The Dixon Hill cold open was fantastic (I love Guinan so much, you guys), and even better as a lead-in to a fantastic mystery plot. And Data gets to do that whole detective summation thing where he explains everything that happened! And the fact that people find mystery plots inherently compelling is actually part of the solution to the mystery? There’s just so much to love about this.

(A-Rank)

4×15 “First Contact”

A phenomenal first contact episode that explores all the different moving parts to a first contact and shows what one going wrong can look like but not in a really boring “war, grr” kinda way. Captain Picard has to balance a lot of competing priorities here, and he does so with grace and the one time he fucks up he apologizes and refuses to pass the blame to the person who gave him bad advice because it was ultimately his decision.

I do have some issues with the way the conflict is resolved… kind of? But also kind of not? It kinda depends on whose perspective you look at. Like, from the planetary government’s perspective, I think “people aren’t ready for X” is pretty much always a bullshit take and situations where people make that claim need to be confronted with more courage. From the Enterprise’s side, though, I appreciate how Captain Picard accepts the decision and applies the Federation’s principle of noninterference.

Also, lady that was thirsty for Riker because he’s an alien: I SEE YOU. I wish your approach hadn’t strayed quite so far into dubcon territory, but I SEE YOU.

(A-Rank)

4×16 “Galaxy’s Child”

If it weren’t for the continuation of Geordi’s incel storyline this would be rated a lot higher. The B plot is about the Enterprise accidentally killing a space whale, and the horror and remorse Patrick Stewart manages to convey without even a whiff of melodrama are just kind of staggering. Luckily, there’s a happy(ish) ending when the crew manages to atone by delivering the space whale’s baby via a phaser-scalpel “C-section,” but things briefly go wrong when the baby imprints on the Enterprise which leads to Riker giving us an epic tier grin of amusement.

Buuuuut yeah. Plenty of secondhand embarrassment is found in Geordi’s story, and then the episode empathizes with him way too much and Dr. Brahms is actually kinda apologetic towards the end of the episode??? And just… yeah. Ick!

(C-Rank)

4×17 “Night Terrors”

I love episodes that are largely space mysteries to solve. Also the REM sleep deprivation is genuinely scary while simultaneously being kinda hilarious/adorable at times. And THANK YOU for doing the obvious thing and making Data acting captain while that was going on.

This episode rules.

(A-Rank)

4×18 “Identity Crisis”

Another Geordi damsel in distress episode. Nice to see him interacting with a woman in a way that doesn’t give me a serious case of the creeps. The scene in the holodeck where he’s piecing together the mystery is one of my favorite Geordi scenes.

I also really like the scene where Dr. Crusher points out that Data is worried about Geordi, and Data does his usual “I am an android, I am incapable of catching feels” speech, and Crusher is just having none of it. Honestly, the more we rewatch, the more I’m convinced the show knew “Data doesn’t have feelings” was a bullshit take.

(B-Rank)

4×19 “The Nth Degree”

Definitely a better Barclay episode than “Hollow Pursuits.” I don’t have a lot to say about it, it’s just kinda there, but it’s the kind of “just there” where the show is at middle-seasons form so it’s better than some of the best episodes of earlier seasons.

(B-Rank)

4×20 “Qpid”

Freaking adorable. Captain Picard gets caught between both of his embarrassing exes. I love the Robin Hood nonsense, I love Vash being back and being a giant brat, I love all of it.

Also, Worf’s “Sir, I protest! I am not a merry man!” is justifiably one of the most well-loved lines of the series, but there’s a hella underrated exchange where Riker asks Picard what Q wanted, Picard says, “He wants to do something… nice for me” with visible discomfort, and Riker immediately responds, “I’ll alert the crew.”

(A-Rank)

4×21 “The Drumhead”

Picard space lawyering against a space Joe McCarthy-type is a pretty great concept for an episode, and it’s executed fantastically well here. So glad to see him putting himself on the line to protect his crew members, as always. 10/10, very good space dad lawyer.

(A-Rank)

4×22 “Half a Life”

Pretty easily the best Lwaxana episode, and I don’t even hate Lwaxana episodes as much as some people. The ending where she beams down with her boyfriend to attend the ritual she deeply disagrees with because “it is the custom for your loved ones to join you at this Resolution, is it not?” was deeply moving.

I also appreciate that Picard & friends are committed to the strict cultural relativism implied by the Prime Directive while simultaneously being willing to agree to give Timicin asylum immediately upon being asked. There’s a lot of great balancing of priorities and principles going on in this episode, and the kind of honest, constructive conflict between well-meaning people that has always been the show’s hallmark.

(A-Rank)

4×23 “The Host”

The ending just absolutely murders this episode for me. And it’s a shame, because Jonathan Frakes does such an incredible job playing Riker as Odan’s temporary host, and this is technically the introduction of one of my favorite species in all of Star Trek (through I vastly prefer the way they’re depicted in DS9 and beyond), but the ending is just so dang homophobic it’s such a hefty splash of cold water.

On a much happier note there’s a hella cute background character around this period of the show that throws serious enby vibes. They show up a lot in this one and the following episode.

(C-Rank)

4×24 “The Mind’s Eye”

A fantastic Geordi damsel in distress episode plus Data kicking ass as an investigator plus Deanna actually doing a good Psychology at the end of the episode. Yeah, it doesn’t hold a candle to Discovery in terms of actually dealing with the lasting effects of this kind of trauma, but it’s still more than we usually get.

Also yes a big part of why I like this episode so much is because I want the Romulans to strap me into that bondage chair, shut up.

(A-Rank)

4×25 “In Theory”

I hate, hate, hate the A plot in this one. Data experiments with dating a crewmember who seems super interested in him but not actually interested in him. The only part of this I genuinely like is when he’s asking the crew for advice, especially Commander Riker.

The B plot is fine, though it did have me saying “dark matter doesn’t do that” way too many times.

(C-Rank)

4×26 “Redemption, Part 1”

Part 2 is definitely the stronger part of this two-parter, but this is still pretty fantastic. As a huge Worf fan, I really love the Worf/Gowron/Duras plot arc. My only real complaint about this episode is the idea that women can’t serve on the Klingon High Council is a patently ridiculous notion imo, and doesn’t feel consistent with what else we know of Klingon culture. So, I guess there’s exactly one (1) thing I like about Discovery’s depiction of Klingons than TNG’s.

On a plus side we do get the introduction of the uber-femdommy Duras Sisters in this one. If they could beat me up and step on me while telling me how dumb they are I would really appreciate it thank you.

On the whole this episode is fantastic, and the Klingon Civil War brings a lot of lingering plot threads to a head. Taken as a whole, this two-parter is pretty easily one of my favorites of the franchise.

Worf’s sendoff is genuinely emotional even though you know he’ll be back if you know literally anything about the show. And revealing Sela as the mastermind of Geordi’s brainwashing a few episodes ago and the Duras Family’s ascension here is a hell of a note to close out part 1 on.

(A-Rank)

S-Rank: 1
A-Rank: 15
B-Rank: 7
C-Rank: 3
D-Rank: 0
Average: 3.31 (B-Rank)

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