Taking a break from the usual posts concerning movie reviews, I am shifting my attention… albeit briefly… towards the small screen. I’ve watched a lot of television in my life, beginning with the early days when it was cartoons on Saturday/Sunday mornings and music videos during the week on MTV, when that channel actually aired music videos and they were some seriously creative stuff! In all that time, I’ve seen a lot of stuff that I wish I’d never tuned in to watch. However, I’ve also watched certain half-hours and hours of television so compelling that I still think about them to this day. I could probably spend several days mapping out a list of potential favorites, expanding it into a list so long that I could spends months (or years) of my life trying to talk about it all. This is simply not necessary.

When it comes down to it, there are five hours of television which I can single out as having the biggest impact on my viewing experience. Like all lists, everyone’s going to have his/her own opinions about what should/shouldn’t make it onto lists like these, and I respect that. I also believe it to be a futile argument, because we’re all different folks out there, and so it could only be by some strange coincidence that someone else could name the same five TV episodes I’m about to. Also by coincidence, each of the five deals with the subjects of death and/or defeat. Always good for dramatic effect, and certainly in the case of these five. I’m only including episodes of TV series which aired during my lifetime, and only from shows I followed through to the end. Thus, there will be no Westerns, no episodes of “M*A*S*H,” etc. In no particular order, I’ll be referencing key plot points from each of the five shows, so it is now that I give my first and last warning to those reading up to this point: THERE BE SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

 

The Best of Both Worlds

Star Trek: The Next Generation – SEASON 3, EP. 26, “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I”

Original Air Date: June 18, 1990

I’ve been a “Star Trek” fan since the age of four. Whether I’m supposed to be referred to as a “Trekkie” or a “Trekker” I leave up to you, because I gave up trying to figure that one out years ago. But I digress. I’ve been a TNG fan since the original airing of the pilot episode in the autumn of 1987, yet even I can admit that the show took a while to find its footing. By Season 3, the writing was much improved, and the actors had established their roles as fully-developed individuals which required no overacting whatsoever, excepting in the case of deliberately comedic adventures. There was nothing funny about their original encounter with the cybernetic hive mind known as the Borg, which occurred in Season 2’s “Q Who?” It was then that viewers knew who the chief adversary of the Enterprise crew was meant to be. The moment finally arrived in the final episode of Season 3, ominously titled “The Best of Both Worlds.”

For two years, Starfleet, the Romulan Empire and others have been discovering whole colonies within their territories destroyed, each believing it to be the work of their sworn enemies. None among them could have suspected or anticipated that an unstoppable force from the other side of the galaxy was truly responsible. A chance encounter with the Borg sent Starfleet into a frenzy, scrambling to prepare for the inevitable assault on Earth. They knew where the Borg were likely to strike, but not how. With the Enterprise hiding from the Borg inside a nebula, Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) turns to advice from Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg), a being of extraordinary age and wisdom who serves as bartender on the Enterprise. She’s also the only person on the ship who has escaped the Borg’s wrath and lived to tell about it, a more fortunate fate than that of the majority of her race. She warns that Humanity is in for a similar fate, and that the only possible victory may simply be to survive. Shortly after being forced to leave the nebula by the Borg, the Enterprise is boarded and the captain kidnapped from the bridge. An away team discovers the reason for his capture: The Borg have made Picard one of them!

Up until this point, “Star Trek” had only flirted with the concept of a two-part episode once before, with the original series’ glorified clip show, “The Menagerie.” That aside, this franchise had been all about stories which resolved themselves in 60 minutes (or less, minus the commercial breaks). “The Best of Both Worlds” marked the first time either existing “Star Trek” TV series had tried its hand at a cliffhanger. This meant that viewers were to sit on their thumbs for the entire summer, contemplating just how in the hell their beloved crew was going to will their way out of the mess they were in. It was truly agonizing for me. At only eight years of age, this was my first encounter with a cliffhanger, and no other has surpassed it in terms of sheer drama. Before the age of the Internet, and without access to any publications which might leak any hints, I would remain clueless until the show returned for its fourth year.

Routinely, “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I” shows up at the top of fan polls for favorite episodes in the show’s run and with good reason. Among other things, it’s the most theatrical of all “Star Trek: The Next Generation” episodes, the first sign that this cast was worthy of a shot at the big screen. The second TNG feature film, “Star Trek: First Contact” serves as a sort of sequel to the events of this and the following episode, albeit with some revisionist history. For me, the one outstanding moment of the show’s seven-year run is that final image of the assimilated Picard threatening his former crew, and Commander Riker responding by giving the order to fire on the Borg vessel. I told actor Jonathan Frakes this much when I met him in person in May at the Fanboy Expo in my hometown of Knoxville, Tennesee. There were other, much more thoughtful and more cleverly-written episodes in the series’ run, but it is “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I” which sets the bar, and continues to be one of my five favorite TV episodes of all-time.

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Comments
  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Good choice! I was not eight but thirty-eight years old, and the image of Picard-Borg remains with me until this day as well! Sends cold chills up the spine!!!

  2. Snarko Tron says:

    K-Towner here as well. Which year was Frakes at the Expo?

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