One of the great joys of geek parenting is exposing your kids to the things that you love--the things that make you a geek. One of the great fears of geek parenting is that your kids won't like them. I don't expect my two sons to fall in love with my own geeky obsessions, but I want them to be able to at least understand why I love them so much. After they loved the 2009 "Star Trek" reboot (and "Into Darkness"), I figured it was time to introduce them to one of my favorite series, "Star Trek: The Next Generation." 

 

I did expose them to the ten or so best episodes of "Star Trek: The Original Series," but that was more an exercise in Knowing Your History than in trying to brainwash them into loving that series. My TNG goals were very much along the lines of brainwashing. With that in mind, and having a nearly encyclopedic knowledge of the series, I figured I'd edit out the worst episodes, focusing on the best from each season. I had the best episodes in mind before we started our run, but as we went down this path together, ended up taking out some that I would call good episodes...but that they wouldn't like. I also added more Wesley Crusher-focused episodes when they responded to him. I was a year older than my oldest son when the series started in 1987; I remember liking Wesley at the time -- and I don't have anything against him now. Here are the episodes we watched from all seven seasons of "Star Trek: The Next Generation," along with some commentary based on how my boys reacted to each season. This journey took us over a year to complete--thanks to Netflix and now Amazon Prime (they've got the blu-ray transfers) for making it all possible.

 

Season One Encounter at Farpoint screengrab

Season 1

  • "Encounter at Farpoint"
  • "Where No One Has Gone Before"
  • "Datalore"
  • "Conspiracy"

 Yeah. Four episodes. The series got off to a slow enough start, but watching my boys roll their eyes at some of the effects and the slower pace of the stories, I was worried I'd lose them. Like just about everyone I know, they latched onto Data as the first character they really loved, while everyone else needed to grow on them. I was shocked that they hated Tasha Yar. I had planned on several more episodes from season one, but when they didn't like Tasha and weren't really into Q or even Captain Picard, I figured we needed to speed things up. Now that we've completed the run, they want to go back and fill in some gaps--we'll be doing that with six more season one episodes. 

 

Data and Geordi as Holmes and Watson

Season 2

  • "The Child"
  • "Elementary Dear Data"
  • "Unnatural Selection"
  • "The Measure of a Man"
  • "Contagion"
  • "Time Squared"
  • "Q Who"
  • "Up the Long Ladder"
  • "The Emissary"

 These episodes moved several of the characters forward in the estimation of my boys, but Data's still their favorite. They liked him enough that when they met Dr. Pulaski, they were rightfully offended at her use of "data" as his name instead of "Data." I expected that. I didn't foresee that they'd love Counselor Deanna Troi as much as they did. Part of that is undoubtedly that Marina Sirtis is a lovely actress, but they also responded to her Betazoid empathic "powers," and even her job as a counselor on the ship. This season introduced us to the Borg, who they loved and hated and were intrigued by. Perfect. 

 

Tasha Yar on Yesterday's Enterprise

Season 3

  • "Evolution"
  • "Who Watches the Watchers"
  • "The Bonding"
  • "Booby Trap"
  • "The Enemy"
  • "The Defector"
  • "Deja Q"
  • "Yesterday’s Enterprise"
  • "The Offspring"
  • "Sins of the Father"
  • "Captain’s Holiday"
  • "Tin Man"
  • "Hollow Pursuits"
  • "The Most Toys"
  • "Sarek"
  • "The Best of Both Worlds I"

By season three, it didn't take more convincing to get them to watch some TNG. Thus, from this point on it became an exercise in culling a handful of clunkers from very strong seasons. My personal favorite episode of this season and one of the best in the series is "Who Watches the Watchers," but they didn't latch on to that one as much as I would have liked. This season is very Romulan-heavy, and I appreciated my boys falling in love with their sneaky Romulan-ness. They loved Data's daughter Lal, they loved Lieutenant Reginald Barclay, and they even came to love Tasha Yar in "Yesterday's Enterprise." Because who doesn't? 

 

Data and Beverly in "Data's Day"

Season 4

  • "The Best of Both Worlds II"
  • "Family"
  • "Brothers"
  • "Remember Me"
  • "Future Imperfect"
  • "Data’s Day"
  • "Clues"
  • "Galaxy’s Child"
  • "The Nth Degree"
  • "Qpid"
  • "The Drumhead"
  • "The Host"
  • "The Mind’s Eye"
  • "In Theory"
  • "Redemption I"

This is another really strong season, although it seemed to have more "slow" episodes than others. I was worried I'd lose the kids on some of them, but even more introspective ones like "Family," "The Drumhead," and "In Theory" had them paying more attention to the characters and scripts than I had expected. They liked the mysteries in "Remember Me" and "Clues," which started off the "weird shit" episodes to come in later seasons. Their favorite from this season was "Data's Day," partially because they love Data, partially because it was heavy on Miles O'Brien (he gets married to Keiko), and my son Miles understandably loves Miles. He wasn't named after him, but he wasn't not not named after him, either.   

 

Kelsey Grammer in Cause and Effect

Season 5

  • "Redemption II"
  • "Darmok"
  • "Ensign Ro"
  • "Silicon Avatar"
  • "Disaster"
  • "The Game"
  • "Unification I"
  • "Unification II"
  • "A Matter of Time"
  • "Hero Worship"
  • "Violations"
  • "The Masterpiece Society"
  • "Conundrum"
  • "Power Play"
  • "Cause and Effect"
  • "The First Duty"
  • "Cost of Living"
  • "The Perfect Mate"
  • "I, Borg"
  • "The Next Phase"
  • "The Inner Light"
  • "Time’s Arrow I"

Season five brought Ensign Ro, more mysteries, more time travel, and more Data -- it may be my favorite season in the series, and my boys loved it. One of my proudest moments as a geek dad was when they loved the episode "Darmok" -- which is basically about learning to communicate. It's about grammar. Syntax. I was worried it would be either too boring or too esoteric, but they dug it. A few months later Miles said "Miles. And Dad. At the cabin." to remind me of something. My heart grew three sizes. Their favorite episode of the entire series is "Cause and Effect," where the Enterprise is caught in a "causality loop," and the episode resets four times in 44 minutes. They saw how cool it was, and how it combined most of what they love about TNG in one great show.

 

Cardassian in Chain of Command

Season 6

  • "Time’s Arrow II"
  • "Realm of Fear"
  • "Relics"
  • "Schisms"
  • "True Q"
  • "Rascals"
  • "A Fistful of Datas"
  • "The Quality of Life"
  • "Chain of Command I"
  • "Chain of Command II"
  • "Ship in a Bottle"
  • "Face of the Enemy"
  • "Tapestry"
  • "Birthright I"
  • "Birthright II"
  • "Starship Mine"
  • "Lessons"
  • "The Chase"
  • "Frame of Mind"
  • "Suspicions"
  • "Second Chances"
  • "Timescape"
  • "Descent I"

This season is uneven, but they were liking the series so much, we watched most of it anyway. They were excited to see Professor Moriarty again, and loved the solution to that particular problem. They liked Alexander (Worf's son) more than I ever did. They hated replacement Captain Edward Jellico as much as I did for insisting Deanna put on a standard Starfleet uniform, and they hated the Cardassian's torture of Picard in those same episodes. That was one I wasn't sure if I'd show them or not...it's pretty intense for kids on the one hand, and I didn't want them to make fun of Patrick Stewart's over the top (good, brilliant, but over the top) acting in the second part. They loved it. They got how broken he was, and how brutal it was--but were still able to joke later that "THERE...ARE...FOUR...LIGHTS!!!" It was appropriate at the time. 

 

All Good Things Poker scene

Season 7

  • "Descent II"
  • "Phantasms"
  • "Attached"
  • "Force of Nature"
  • "Inheritance"
  • "Parallels"
  • "The Pegasus"
  • "Lower Decks"
  • "Thine Own Self"
  • "Masks"
  • "Eye of the Beholder"
  • "Genesis"
  • "Journey’s End"
  • "Firstborn"
  • "Bloodlines"
  • "Emergence"
  • "Preemptive Strike"
  • "All Good Things…"

I think a lot of season seven is kind of silly. Wrapping up characters (Ro and Wesley), introducing weird relationships (Troi and Worf), some preachy episodes (Force of Nature)...they kind of stick out as out of place. There's not much better than "Lower Decks," and deepening Picard and Beverly's relationship (always felt more genuine than out-of-left-field Worf and Troi fling), and of course the series finale. 

 

All told, this was one of the more fun "geek projects" we've had as a dad and kids. I was hoping they'd like it, but didn't think they'd love it. Now we've watched the first two TNG movies, and they liked "Generations," and loved "First Contact." I haven't told them the final two in the series go downhill. Hopefully they'll like them more than I do. They want to revisit some TNG episodes, but they want to watch "Deep Space Nine" next. I don't know that series as well, although I can defend it as being my favorite Trek series. It might take some research to see which episodes we watch and those we skip--the story arcs make it harder to take standalone episodes and make them work. I'll let you know how it goes. 

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Tags: Star Trek , sci fi , Parenting , Star Trek the Next Generation , TV