In The Bonding, the crew (mainly Worf) attempt to help the child of a dead crew member process the tragic event. Trek doesn’t handle this type of episode very well under most circumstances, which is part of why The Bonding stands out. But the script deftly explores how the characters react to the situation, and the nuances of tragedy that often receive a more blunt treatment. In fact, the main weakness is the alien presence shoehorned into the plot, as if there were some quota of ‘science fiction-ness’ that needed to be reached.
Sins of the Father is our first real peak into the inner workings of the Klingon Empire. While interesting, that’s not really what makes Sins of the Father our #4, it’s the growth of Worf into the character we love. It also doesn’t hurt that the episode boasts some great moments with Picard rallying to support his crew member, and a smartly paced mystery that informs a lot of the Trek world that follows.
3. Yesterday’s Enterprise
Yesterday’s Enterprise has a lot of elements that would later make for questionable Trek: Some time travel/alternate dimension stuff, bringing a character back around that’s been gone for awhile, and a darker, more action-oriented story. This is how those ingredients can be used well. We’re provided with intriguing Federation history, subtle characterization, and a suitable send off for Tasha Yar.
James Sloyan, who portrays the titular defector in this episode, said that he liked acting in Star Trek because it was one of the few places where Shakespearean acting worked on television. Aside from the actual Shakespeare “Defector”, the episode provides a fantastic, tragic character, and a real look at the Romulan psyche, one of our favorite Trek villains.
1. Best of Both WorldsAlright, so, not really a surprise #1, but what can we say? The episode is famous for the cliffhanger, but what really sells it isn’t just that something worse than we could’ve imagined happens right at the end, it’s that the episode appears to be committing to Picard leaving the show. Most of the episode focuses on Riker and whether or not he has the stuff to be a Captain, so when Picard is captured, the whole situation feels a little more real. It’s a rare thing (especially at that time in TV) to really feel stakes like that.