Much like any other series that lasted for multiple seasons, Star Trek: The Next Generation had it’s amazing episodes, mediocre episodes, and then there were episodes that were just abysmal. Many fans are in agreement as to which episodes those are in all three categories, so here I present to you the episodes I believe to be the worst. They’re presented in no particular order, but if you do decide to binge TNG, feel free and just fast-forward on to the next one. And thankfully, except for a couple, most of the truly bad episodes happened early in the first two seasons, allowing TNG to get them out of its proverbial system.
Code of Honor (Season 1, Episode 3)
This episode, which aired very early in the first season of TNG, is almost universally despised by fans, critics, and the cast & crew. Reason being, the racist overtones of the episode are obvious, in that the Ligonians are all portrayed by black actors, a point which was not lost on Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry when he fired episode director Russ Mayberry for this casting decision. There was universal agreement among the cast that this episode was a horrible piece of racist crap of an episode, and you can definitely tell their discomfort while they were filming it. In fact, most of the cast actively sought to have this episode pulled from syndication and streaming services, with limited results. Honestly, this sort of overt racism, has no place anywhere in sci fi.
The Naked Now (Season 1 Episode 2)
Another very early first season episode, this was an obvious retread of a TOS episode with a nearly identical title in which, like this episode, everyone gets drunk on the ship and shenanigans ensue. Even though Roddenberry tried to avoid doing an overt copy/paste of old TOS episodes, he could almost be forgiven in this case due to the ongoing writer’s strike, but that still doesn’t stop fans from considering this to be a rehash of the Original Series, and a rather naked attempt (no pun intended) to try and steal the thunder of its vaunted predecessor.
Angel One (Season 1, Episode 13)
Much like Code of Honor, the fans, cast & crew had a great deal of problems with Angel One, this time with it’s overt sexist and misogynistic overtones. On a planet where some rather Amazonian-looking women are the dominant gender and men who couldn’t survive a slight breeze are the fairer sex, it was originally conceived as a commentary on the ongoing Apartheid struggle, but this was completely lost on everyone, as even the cast were embarrassed by the not so subtle sexual direction the episode went, especially when Cmdr. Riker pulled an impression of Capt.. Kirk to seduce to leader of Angel One, the aptly titled “Elected One”. Seriously, couldn’t the writers come up with a better title than that? And much like the racism of Code of Honor, sexism is really something that doesn’t belong in modern sci fi shows.
Sub Rosa (Season 7, Episode 14)
Sub Rosa is rare in that it occurs during the final season of The Next Generation, when the series was, ostensibly, at its peak. There’s very little about the episode that makes any kind of sense within the bounds of Star Trek, given that they would have gone beyond believing in ghosts, especially ghost lovers that get passed from one woman to the next in a family line for centuries across the stars. Still, the fact that the writers tried to combine a ghost story with what is essentially a badly derivative romance novel you pick up at the grocery store checkout line written by a 12 year old trying to emulate the Twilight saga, this episode is routinely voted among the worst episodes of the entire Star Trek canon, since ghost stories and sci fi don’t mix that well at all!
Shades of Gray (Season 2, Episode 22)
You can almost forgive the writers for the episode Shades of Gray being a clip episode, and a terrible one at that. Almost.
For context, by the time Season 2 of The Next Generation was coming to a close, the season had gone so over budget, largely due to episodes like “Q Who”, which very effectively introduced the Borg, that the production team was scraping the bottom of the barrel for whatever money was left. This meant they had little choice but to use existing sets and show clips of previous episodes to fill in for time. This, combined with a writer’s strike earlier in the season, shortened the season from 26 to 22 episodes, meant that this was the season finale, and definitely not the one they wanted to end the season with.
The result was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad excuse a sci fi episode which was voted among the worst episodes of any Star Trek series, and was so bad, most of the cast & crew were simply embarrassed by it.
Justice (Season 1, Episode 7)
Oh no, Wesley’s in trouble, whatever shall we do? This episode is another example of the where the writers were still very much struggling to get out from under the shadow of The Original Series, and a poor episode is the result. It centers around Wesley being accused of a crime on a planet that is for all intents and purposes, a paradise for the inhabitants, who run around half-naked, greet visitors warmly, and pretty much do whatever it is they wanted, whenever they wanted, allowing visitors to largely do the same.
So what was Wesley’s crime, you ask? Falling into some recently planted flowers. An offense so minor, most judges (on Earth at least) would laugh the prosecutor out of court for bringing it before them. But because this was Star Trek, there had to be a major issue, in that on this particular planet, the one, sole, single, solitary punishment for any transgression, from jaywalking to capital murder was an immediate death sentence.
Many fans found the episode the be banal, predictable, and almost insulting to their intelligence. Plus, some of the dialogue was unintentionally embarrassing and groan-worthy of any sci fi show… “I’m with Starfleet, we don’t lie!”
Up The Long Ladder (Season 2, Episode 18)
This is another episode that is an embarrassment to the name of Star Trek, since it portrays yet more negative stereotypes in space, namely those of the Irish. It portrayed the Irish male settlers of a wayward Earth colony as drunkards who were only interested in getting away from their wives, marrying off their daughters as soon as humanly possible, and portrayed the women as overbearing and headstrong, browbeating their husbands into submission while the other colony, more technologically advanced was full of their own technological superiority, and only too eager to kidnap people and violate them just to get what they want.
Watching the episode, I felt legitimately bad for actor Colm Meaney, who was born & raised in Ireland, and had to act in the entire episode, but as he wasn’t part of the main cast of TNG, he couldn’t do much about the horrid, and honestly racist, script, which again has no place in sci fi IMHO. The dialogue in the script was so bad, in fact that at one point, Patrick Stewart burst out laughing on camera, and had to stifle his laughter at the absurdity of it all. This actually made it into the episode, where Stewart, still in character as Picard, and doing his best to not continue laughing, ad-libbed a line about bowing to the absurd.
The Last Outpost (Season 1, Episode 4)
This episode is where we get the first actual look at the Ferengi. They were alluded to in the pilot when Picard mentioned to Groppler Zorn whether the Ferengi would find him as tasty as their previous host, attempting to introduce them as a legitimate threat and worthy successor to the Klingons in TOS, but this episode shows them to be anything but. The Ferengi proved to be much too comical, with their gyrations and mannerisms exaggerated to such a degree that thankfully, portrayals in later seasons and in Deep Space Nine were seriously toned down, and few, if any, of the original concepts from these early portrayals of the Ferengi making it out of the first couple seasons of TNG. Honestly, can you imagine Quark, Rom and Nog, talking, gyrating and generally carrying on like that throughout all seven seasons of DS9? I sure couldn’t.
Menage a Troi (Season 3, Episode 24)
Where do I begin with this one? I felt almost as embarrassed having to watch this episode as I’m sure the actors did having to act through the episode. Yet again, we find ourselves with a Ferengi, this time, a particular Ferengi named Tog who’s become infatuated with Lwaxana Troi at a conference over Betazed. Every time she spurns his amorous (and quite frankly creepy) advances, it only further motivates him. He finally decides to kidnap her, and bonus, he also manages to kidnap Deanna and Riker while he’s at it, since they just so happen to be there as well on shore leave. Suspension of disbelief aside at Tog managing to kidnap an ambassador and two ranking Starfleet officers from one of the core Federation worlds, he furthers their humilation by relieving both Troi women of their clothing, as he is primarily interested in Lwaxana’s formidable telepathic abilities. Needless to say, the trio manage to escape through a combination of cunning, guile, and of course, Wesley Crusher figuring out the problem and saving the day.
Oh yes, and let’s not forget, that perhaps the one saving grace of the episode is that it did give us the meme of Capt. Picard with his outstretched arm, which happened when he was adlibbing the Shakespearean speech while trying to save the trio from the hands of the Ferengi. Other than that, this particular episode really has no redeeming qualities, and is usually one I just fast forward right through to the next one when I binge watch TNG.
Masks (Season 7, Episode 17)
I dare this episode to make less sense. The crew finds a comet that’s actually a ship of its own, which proceeds to infest the Enterprise & Data and make them go full Apocalypto? And in order to talk to & save Data (as well as the rest of the ship & crew), Picard has to don a mask and play out a melodrama millions of years old.
Especially the fact that this episode is in the seventh (and final) season of the show, and towards the end of the season makes me think the writers were beginning to get desperate for ideas, and this was the best they could come up with in a pinch.
Don’t get me wrong, some of the visuals were actually not that bad, if a bit obvious with the Mesoamerican references, despite being from something that was supposedly millions of years older than humanity. That still doesn’t save it from being an episode that just doesn’t make any damn sense in the context of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It might have worked as a filler episode in The Original Series, but not in TNG to be honest, and that’s why it made my list.