Every Star Trek fan knows the best Captain Picard in The Next Generation episode is probably “The Inner Light.” Or wait… is it “The Best of Both Worlds”? Maybe it’s “Family”? (You know, the one where he rolls around in the mud with this brother in a very famous wine vineyard.)
In any case, coming up with a list of the very best Picard-centric TNG episodes is either very easy or very hard. But, what about the episodes that might not be on everyone’s top ten lists? Which great Picard episodes are just out of sensor range, but are fantastic nonetheless?
Here are five excellent episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation featuring Sir Patrick Stewart’s Jean-Luc Picard being amazing. And the best part is, none of these episodes are on everyone else’s lists, meaning, you either haven’t seen them in a while, or, betters still, you’ll be binging where you’ve never binged before. Engage!
5. “Conundrum,” (Season 5, Episode 14)
Better known as “the one where everyone gets amnesia,” this episode is excellent because it demonstrates what a great guy Picard is even when he doesn’t know that he’s the Captain.
Usually, when Picard is in a subordinate position, he’s kind of pissed off. (See: every single meeting he has with admirals who are his boss. Also: “Tapestry.”) But, in this episode, we see Picard act as a member of a team. And, even when he does find out he’s the Captain, he’s not a jerk about it. The scene where he gives Worf a break for pretending to be the Captain is priceless.
4. “Who Watches the Watchers?” (Season 3, Episode 4)
When a pre-industrial society accidentally sees members of the Enterprise crew, they start to worship a God in the sky called “the Picard.” When people talk about The Next Generation being all about ethical dilemmas, and Picard grappling with the non-interference rules of the Prime Directive, it doesn’t get much better than this.
3. “Gambit Parts 1 and 2” (Season 7, Episodes 4 and 5)
Remember when Picard becomes an undercover smuggler who goes by the name of Galen? No? Well, you’re in for a wild ride. In a two-part episode of TNG that feels like it shouldn’t even exist, Jean-Luc joins a gang of tomb-raiding criminals who are trying to get the parts for an evil weapon that predates the dawn of time.
It’s basically like weirdo Star Trek aliens looking for the Vulcan version of the Infinity Gauntlet, but with a dash of sci-fi archaeology. Never forget that Picard’s “hobby” was what Indiana Jones did for a full time job. (Also, never forget that Patrick Stewart and Harrison Ford have the same birthday: July 13. And yes, Ford is younger, but only by two years.)
2. “The Big Goodbye” (Season 1, Episode 12)
The chances that anyone has rewatched this episode recently are pretty slim, if only because no one ever talks about it. Ever. The reasons for this episode’s relative obscurity are probably connected to it being in Season 1, which is mostly bad. Second, it’s a holodeck episode, which, if you’re gonna watch a holodeck episode, you’d just watch “A Fistful of Datas?” right? (Just kidding, a “Fistful of Datas” is pretty bad, even if Patrick Stewart did direct it.)
Anyway, “The Big Goodbye” is the quintessential TNG holodeck episode because it freaking introduces the concept of Picard playing dress-up as the faux-hard boiled detective Dixon Hill. The idea that Picard is into noir fiction is a deeply interesting part of his character, and something that defines his leadership in really cool ways. In other words, Picard is cool in this episode. Is it corny? Yes. Does it all work? No. But, remember when Picard says “step on it?” at the end of the episode? Yeah, eat your heart out, Disco Captain Pike.
1. “Starship Mine” (Season 6, Episode 18)
Morgan Gendel famously wrote the Picard tear-jerker, “The Inner Light,” but he also wrote the Picard-meets-Die Hard episode “Starship Mine.” When the Enterprise is scheduled for cleaning (really) a group of terrorists sneaks onboard to try and steal some trilithium from the Warp Core.
Because Picard random went back to the empty ship to get his horse saddle (really) he’s the only one on the ship, and has to fight the gang of space thugs all by himself. One of the bad guys is played by Tim Russ, who, would later go on to play the Vulcan Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager. So , when Picard does the vulcan nerve pinch on Tim Russ, it’s the ultimate prescient chef’s kiss moment in Star Trek, maybe, ever.