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Getting Started with Star Trek - A TNG Filler Guide

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Star Trek is a massive franchise with more than 50 years of history under its belt, and its appeal has only grown over the years. This mostly has to do with the release of the Star Trek reboot in 2009 under J.J. Abrams. However, if you're like me and didn't grow up on anything other than brief mentions of the TNG crew, getting into the franchise having only seen the Abrams movies, you are in for quite a challenge. Because of how incredibly dated it is, going back to watching the original series is a jarring experience at best, and not something I would recommend for first timers to the Star Trek universe. The original 6 movies are a more modern experience, but they don't do much to establish the universe the story takes place in, thus not actually preparing a new viewer for what can only be described as the Star Trek experience. While Enterprise may start at the beginning of the story, and Voyager and Deep Space 9 might be focused on establishing their given environments, the one show that can truly be relied on to bring viewers into the world of Star Trek is probably the one you've heard the most about - Star Trek: The Next Generation. This 7 season show uses themes of exploration to give the character a window into situations that are as new to them as they are to the characters in the show itself, all while using those characters to build an overarching setting that exists outside the ship on which most of the show takes place. However, TNG does not always do this. Indeed, quite often it enjoys wasting the viewers' time with episodes that have nothing to do with previous encounters, and will never be mentioned again in later episodes. Sometimes it does this well. Other times..... not so much. Either way, this mass of filler would be intimidating to many newcomers trying to get a sense for the setting and narrative of Star Trek. I know it intimidated me when I first approached it. That's why, after going through the entire series, I have compiled a list of episodes of TNG that pertain to the overall narrative of the show itself, while excluding ones that do not contribute to it. Some of these will be small references to character developments. Others will be drastic setting or character altering events. I need to make this clear however, this is NOT a list of what I would consider to be "good" episodes of TNG. Many of the episodes on this list are good, great even. However, there are some less than stellar episodes that will also be on this list. On the flip side, there will also be some genuinely good episodes that will not be here, as they do not contribute to the narrative in any way. With that massive preamble out of the way, let's get into the list:

SEASON 1

S1E01 - Encounter At Farpoint
S1E02 - The Naked Now
S1E04 - The Last Outpost
S1E05 - Where No One Has Gone Before
S1E08 - The Battle
S1E09 - Hide and Q
S1E10 - Haven
S1E12 - Datalore
S1E18 - Coming of Age
S1E22 - Skin of Evil
S1E24 - Conspiracy
S1E25 - The Neutral Zone

SEASON 2

S2E01 - The Child
S2E08 - A Matter of Honour
S2E09 - Measure of a Man
S2E16 - Q Who
S2E19 - Manhunt
S2E20 - Emissary

SEASON 3

S3E01 - Evolution
S3E07 - The Enemy
S3E10 - The Defector
S3E13 - Deja Q
S3E15 - Yesterday's Enterprise
S3E16 - The Offspring
S3E17 - Sins of the Father
S3E18 - Allegiance
S3E19 - Captain's Holiday
S3E21 - Hollow Pursuits
S3E23 - Sarek
S3E24 - Menage a Troi
S3E26 - Best of Both Worlds (1)

SEASON 4

S4E01 - Best of Both Worlds (2)
S4E02 - Family
S4E03 - Brothers
S4E06 - Legacy
S4E07 - Reunion
S4E09 - Final Mission
S4E11 - Data's Day
S4E12 - The Wounded
S4E19 - Nth Degree
S4E20 - Qpid
S4E21 - Drumhead
S4E23 - The Host
S4E26 - Redemption (1)

SEASON 5

S5E01 - Redemption (2)
S5E03 - Ensign Ro
S5E04 - Silicon Avatar
S5E05 - Disaster
S5E07 - Unification (1)
S5E08 - Unification (2)
S5E10 - New Ground
S5E14 - Conundrum
S5E16 - Ethics
S5E19 - The First Duty
S5E20 - Cost of Living
S5E23 - I Borg
S5E24 - The Next Phase
S5E25 - Inner Light
S5E26 - Time's Arrow (1)

SEASON 6

S6E01 - Time's Arrow (2)
S6E04 - Relics
S6E06 - True Q
S6E09 - Quality of Life
S6E10 - Chain of Command (1)
S6E11 - Chain of Command (2)
S6E14 - Face of the Enemy
S6E15 - Tapestry
S6E16 - Birthright (1)
S6E17 - Birthright (2)
S6E19 - Lessons
S6E20 - The Chase
S6E23 - Rightful Heir
S6E24 - Second Chances
S6E26 - Descent (1)

SEASON 7

S7E01 - Descent (2)
S7E04 - Gambit (1)
S7E05 - Gambit (2)
S7E06 - Phantasms
S7E07 - Dark Page
S7E08 - Attached
S7E09 - Force of Nature
S7E10 - Inheritance
S7E11 - Parallels
S7E12 - Pegasus
S7E13 - Homeward
S7E15 - Lower Decks
S7E18 - Eye of the Beholder
S7E20 - Journey's End
S7E21 - Firstborn
S7E22 - Bloodlines
S7E24 - Preemptive Strike
S7E25 - All Good Things....

I hope you found this list useful, whether you were exploring TNG for the first time, or returning to some familiar ground. I am far from an expert in terms of Star Trek lore, so if you see anything that I missed, I would very much appreciate that information as it will allow me to update this list to better help those looking to begin their voyage in the final frontier.

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You forgot S5E02 Darmok. Outside of the actual season opener and closer this episode is a capstone of the season along with Inner Light.

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I considered Darmok for a long time. I'll admit it was a toss-up whether I should put it on the list or not. I decided not to put it on the list because the one thing that could have carried over was vague and felt like a technicality. Unlike the flute in Inner Light, from what I could find, the dagger at the end of Darmok never makes another appearance outside of this episode. If that is not the case and I am missing something then I'll gladly add it to the list.

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