Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3, Episode 26
Original Air Date: June 18, 1990
The Borg have invaded Federation space, and sooner than anyone expected. The Enterprise and her crew must stop them. To add to the stress, Riker has been offered his own command aboard the USS Melbourne and questions arise as to why he has been reluctant to take this obvious next step in his career. An ambitious lieutenant commander, Shelby, is on board to help with the Borg crisis and she is not shy about pointing out Riker's shortcomings.
"The Best of Both Worlds" has been called by many not only TNG's best but even one of the best American television episodes of all time. I'll admit that it's good but I'm not quite on board with such extraordinary praise. In fact, I'm not even sure it makes my short list for the series. One reason is that, full disclosure, I've historically struggled to stay awake through the entire thing. While that may be more a coincidence than a reflection of quality, it's not exactly a point in favor. The impact of the season-ending cliffhanger was also minimal for me the first time I watched it as I knew there were still several more seasons and movies to go. I will acknowledge, though, that the story is probably the most important one for the series and certainly for the character of Picard even if it may not be my personal favorite.
I promise to stay awake through all of it this time! Perhaps I will reserve my final judgment until after "Part 2."
Thoughts on Season 3
The Next Generation found its footing in Season 3. The best episodes qualify as genuine classics and, just as importantly, the worst aren't nearly as clunky as what we'd seen before. Beverly Crusher came back which was an excellent development. It looks like we're in it for the long haul.
Favorite Episode: "The Offspring"
This is, in fact, my favorite episode for the entire series. Data becomes a father and experiences his most quasi-emotional growth as a result. It was the second of a particularly masterful three-episode run for the series. Massive credit goes to guest star Hallie Todd, first-time screenwriter Rene Echevarria and first-time director Jonathan Frakes.
Least Favorite Episode: "Evolution"
"Evolution," the season premier, is a Wesley episode - not a good starting point. Plus, I found the guest star, Ken Jenkins, rather annoying. But like I said, even the worst aren't so bad anymore. "Evolution" has some fun Guinan development. Speaking of...
Favorite Recurring Character: Guinan
Get used to seeing her in this space. Her "You're not supposed to be here" line in "Yesterday's Enterprise" is one of Trek's all-time greats. My only regret is that they couldn't use her more often.
Favorite Blast from the Past: Sarek
Mark Lenard returned as Sarek, Spock's father, in the episode "Sarek." This was a big deal for the series, big picture. Gene Roddenberry, wanting the new series to stand on its own merits, was reluctant to allow even references to the original show. "Sarek" was the first crack in that resolve.
Favorite Guest Actor, One-Shot: Hallie Todd
Tough call. Dwight Schultz is a strong runner-up. (As with Moriarty in Season 2, Barclay doesn't qualify as a recurring character yet.) But performing Lal, Data's android daughter, was the taller order. From the moment she first feels pain to when she says her final touching good-bye, she achieves a mesmerizing range of emotion, all within the convincing restraints of the character. Oh, and when she grabs Riker to kiss him! It's a brilliant performance.
While "The Best of Both Worlds" is ultimately more of a Riker story, it marks the beginning of Picard coming into his own. He was the leader of the show from the beginning. Now he gets to spread his wings.
We'll get the last major personnel move soon, too.