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Binge these 5 'Star Trek' episodes (and 1 movie) before 'Picard' Season 2 premieres

Boldly go revisit (see what we did thar?) these classic Picard adventures.

By Phil Pirrello

For Star Trek fans, there is life before, and life after, watching the Season 2 premiere of Star Trek: Picard.

That observation is also true for the characters on Picard, especially its namesake, played once again by Patrick Stewart, who finds himself back at Starfleet Command in the premiere before being whisked away on a borderline scary mission into the Final Frontier. That mission forces the former Enterprise captain and his pals aboard the La Sirena to travel back in time to Los Angeles 2024 in order to (shocker) save the future. Oh, and Q (John de Lancie) returns to pester Picard for the first time since the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation 28 years ago.

That's all that can be said about the new season because embargo, but we've seen the first three episodes and, yeah, it's good.

But before you check out those episodes, it would be helpful to revisit some of Captain Picard's finest hours from both the small and big screens, as the new season heavily pinches from previous Star Trek: The Next Generation story elements. We also invite you to check out a non-TNG big screen adventure, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, as the trailers for Season 2 indicate that the show employs a method of time travel that is virtually identical to the one Kirk and Spock used in the 1986 hit movie.

So in order of airdate release, here are five TNG episodes and one Next Gen movie you should binge as Picard beams down for another season.

"The Best of Both Worlds, Parts I and II" (TNG, Seasons 3 and 4)

Star Trek: The Next Generation The Best of Both Worlds: Part II Getty

Star Trek's first-ever cliffhanger is one of television's greatest. More than three decades later, fans still get chills at the end of "Best of Both Worlds, Part I" when Riker gives the chilling order to "fire" on the Borgified version of his former Captain Picard.

The wait for this iconic storyline's resolution made the Summer of 1990 a very long and agonizing one for Trek fans, but it was worth it. "Best of Both Worlds, Part I" has TNG mining similar character drama as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan did, with Commander Riker forced to confront why he keeps passing up one promotion to Captain after another — just as his Captain is taken by the Borg in a violent attempt to turn Picard into Locutus, the public face of their campaign to assimilate Earth and all of humanity. The episode is a nail-biter, thanks to a perfect script from the late writer Michael Piller. The former TNG showrunner takes a bigger-than-usual swing with the characters to tell a story somewhat outside of the series' comfort zone. While "Part II" falls a bit short of the dramatic highs of "Part I," it finds great success in dramatizing the crew's struggle to get their Captain back (even if their final solution is ultimately more convenient than inspired.)

"Family" (TNG, Season 4)

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Before this exceptional episode from TNG's fourth season, the series largely steered clear from serialized storytelling. At the time, executive producer Rick Berman and Paramount television were strongly against "sequelizing" any TNG storylines; "no serialized stories" was an unofficial "rule" of television back then. But writer Ronald D. Moore thankfully saw an opportunity to break that rule with a story that he couldn't pass up: How would Picard deal with the emotional fallout of his time with the Borg?

With no phaser battles or even a trip to the Enterprise bridge (the only episode in Star Trek's run to never have a scene set on the command deck), "Family" pulls off an engrossing hour of television that peels back the curtain on who Picard was, and who he is struggling to be, in the the aftermath of the two-parter "Best of Both Worlds." Mostly set on Earth, the episode introduces Picard's family vineyard into Trek canon, as Picard confronts his estranged brother and debates whether or not to leave Starfleet. The only person who can help Picard deal with his trauma is the last person he can stand being with, his brother. Only through their constant bickering does Picard find a sense of satisfying resolution, which gives Stewart one of his most heartbreaking scenes when he finally acknowledges the emotional scars the Borg left him with.

"Time's Arrow, Part 2" (TNG, Season 6)

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This lackluster conclusion to Season 5's two-part finale is memorable mostly for the crew of the D taking a trip back in time to save Data from his days in old-timey San Francisco being buddies with Mark Twain. Yup.

It's notable for Picard purposes, however, in the ways that the story expands upon the enigmatic Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) and her transcends time-relationship with Picard. "Time's Arrow, Part II" deservedly affords Guinan significant screen time as the past version of herself gets involved in Picard's mission to the point where she seems to change the two's histories. It is strongly implied that this is the first time the two good friends have ever met, even though Picard can't quite recall the specifics of their introduction prior to the episode's events. With the former Enterprise commander going back in time yet again, after making a pit stop at Guinan's new bar (which is named after her old one, Ten Forward, as seen in the trailers), "Time's Arrow" is essential viewing.

"Tapestry" (TNG, Season 6)

Tapestry Star Trek **Spotlight** PRESS

Star Trek goes full It's a Wonderful Life with "Tapestry," which is arguably the best of the standalone Q episodes.

After a near-death experience, Picard is shown the life he could have lived had he played it more "safe" in his youth. The path not taken leads Picard away from command and into a blue uniform with a career so unremarkable, even Troi struggles to find something nice to say about it. On the road to nowhere fast, Picard turns to Q for a second chance to get back the only life he knows, even if it means dying to get it. "Tapestry," written by the inestimable Ron Moore, takes an almost Twilight Zone-y approach in telling this story, which is full of heartfelt moments and surprisingly laugh-out-loud comedy. The lesson Picard learns here, about how rewarding taking risks can be, is a universal one — which explains why "Tapestry" often finds its way near the top of fans' "must-watch" lists.

"All Good Things..." (TNG, Season 7)

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Written by Brannon Braga and Ronald D. Moore, "All Good Things..." proved to be a better cinematic-worthy adventure than The Next Generation crew's first movie, Star Trek: Generations. The briskly plotted, feature-length episode — and its complex storyline involving paradoxes and second chances — finds a disoriented Picard struggling to uncover why he is moving back and forth through time. He slips in and out of three key time periods: The past, just before the launch of Enterprise-D's first mission; the present, and the future. In the future, Picard is a very retired, very old man who runs his family's vineyard. He also is afflicted with a debilitating neurological syndrome that makes it hard for his former shipmates to believe him when he starts pulling a Sliders across multiple timelines. Picard's mission — which, of course, is being manipulated by the omnipotent Q — forces the captain to convince all three versions of his crew to work together in each timeline in order to stop an anomaly from unraveling existence as we know it. (Be on the lookout for a similar anomaly at play in the opening salvos of Picard S2, which also seemingly takes a page from this finale's playbook by dropping the unsuspecting Picard into another alternate future that holds more questions than answers.)

TNG gives the beloved cast and their characters a perfect final episode that brings them together as a family in ways the series left surprisingly unexplored for most of its run. As impressive as the action is in "All Good Things," especially the scene where the futuristic Enterprise-D flies on its Z-axis while blasting newly-mounted phaser cannons, the episode's best scenes are the quieter ones spent with these characters. The finale truly shines in its final moments, when Picard joins his crew for the first time at their regular poker game. Picard's arrival at the poker table resonates with his crew as deeply as it does for fans, which is a testament to the finale's commitment to giving Next Generation the emotional send off it deserves.

Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

Borg Queen Star Trek First Contact

What better way to prep for the Borg Queen's return than with her first appearance?

Somehow, Picard's greatest nemesis (which was co-opted by Voyager to be Janeway's, too) gets roped into Picard's plot to go back in time and change history for the better. Which is ironic, given that First Contact centers on the Queen's efforts to erase the Federation, and therefore Star Trek itself, from history by going back in time, Terminator style, and stop it from ever being born. Her target? Humanity's first contact with an alien race, which paves the way for Starfleet and its space-based efforts. A vengeful Picard, still stewing over his experience as a Borg, and the struggling-with-human emotions Data are all that stand in her way as the Borg and the crew of the new and sleek Enterprise-E must stop their most lethal enemy from rewriting the past.

The Borg Queen is poised to play a pivotal role in Season 2 and is clearly a wild card for Picard and his crew. Her loyalties will likely be constantly shifting, which makes Picard's job that much harder.

Can't wait to see how it all plays out.

Star Trek: Picard airs Thursdays on Paramount+.