The 5 scariest episodes of ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’
Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 – 1994) is one of the best examples of how sci-fi series shouldn’t immediately be dismissed due to genre. Philosophical, dramatic, hilarious, and at times downright Shakespearean, TNG completely holds up to this day.
It remains so popular that we’re getting a sequel series (kind of) in the CBS All Access series, Picard. The Film Daily writers room consists of major fans of TNG, so we’re marking off the days until Picard premieres. Anything to see Sir Patrick Stewart in space again!
If you’re a fan of sci-fi and Star Trek looking for some prime Halloween viewing, then TNG has some absolutely perfect episodes to check out. While The Next Generation went all over the place in terms of genre and tone, it could be legitimately scary at times – turn on all your lights and hide under your blankets scary.
So put on your Trek uniform and gather your Halloween candy: here are some majorly scary Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes to check out.
5. “Conspiracy” S1E25
Star Trek: The Next Generation was one of those shows that got better and better with time. The first season is definitely on the “work in progress” side of the spectrum. While the series is still getting its sea legs at this time, it does feature an effectively scary episode with a conspiracy theory brought to life.
Picard (Stewart) gets a comm from his old friend that alerts him to a conspiracy at the highest levels of Starfleet – and then gets killed. The event sends the Enterprise’s captain and crew on investigation that proves the truth of the revelation.
There’s a conspiracy in Starfleet: strange alien bugs infect the high-ranking Admiral Quinn (Ward Costello) and attempt to infect other members of the Enterprise, especially Riker (Jonathan Frakes). Obviously, the crew of the Enterprise saves the day with some special effects that are impressive for the era. There’s a great homage to Alien as one of the bugs pulls a chest-burster exit from its host.
For the most part, people tend not to believe in conspiracy theories. This episode takes the fear of them actually being real to its most chilling level. To cap the episode, the bug has friends in a distant galaxy and they know where Starfleet is. Spooky!
4. “Night Terrors” S4E17
Insomnia plagues a lot of people, but it’s no laughing matter. In its very effective season four episode “Night Terrors”, TNG shows just how things can go off the rails when people haven’t slept enough.
The Enterprise finds lost Federation ship the Brattain, which has been missing for a month. The crew is dead save for one Betazoid member who has gone catatonic, and everything appears functional. For some reason, the ship just won’t move.
The longer the crew of the Enterprise is stuck there with the ship, the more strangely they begin to act, experiencing anger and hallucinations. Due to the anomaly they’re stuck in, the crew has not entered REM sleep, which is vital to achieve full rest. Data and Deanna Troi are the only two unaffected by it.
“Night Terrors” thrives on atmosphere in order to get your blood pressure up. The setting of a ship with a lone, utterly unresponsive survivor is the perfect beginning to a scary story.
There’s an eeriness to the whole affair that you can’t quite shake, especially with the sanity of the majority of the crew at stake. The longer they stay, the more likely it looks that they’ll meet the same fate as the Brattain.
3. “Schisms” S6E5
You’ve heard stories about people being abducted and experimented on by aliens. Whether or not you believe them is up to you, but they can be pretty unnerving. You would think in a future where aliens are known to humans, such things wouldn’t happen.
You would be wrong. “Schisms”, one of the later episodes of TNG, definitely proves this.
The crew of the Enterprise experiences strange dreams, new irrational fears, and loss of time & sleep. When they reconstruct what fragments they do remember, there’s a dark room with an operation table. They then learn that there have been changes to their bodies, like Riker’s arm having been severed and reattached.
They realize they are being kidnapped from their beds and experimented on. When a crew member dies from these mysterious experiments – his blood was replaced with a liquid polymer! – a typically heroic Riker volunteers to be taken in order to free a remaining crew member that is still missing.
“Schisms” is horrifying on several levels. First, there’s that fear you have of a place that’s supposed to be safe (your bed, your home) being violated. Second: waking up and knowing something happened to you, but having no memory of it. Third: the thought of being taken for experimentation purposes is chilling in and of itself.
Star Trek’s future scenario largely promises peace and optimism, but this episode reminds us that some very real fears can come to life in the worst ways.
2. “Frame of Mind” S6E21
Some of television’s best episodes make you question the reality of what you’re watching. Are the images on the screen “real”, or are we seeing the solipsistic experiences of just a single character? One of the best episodes of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer makes you question that.
“Frame of Mind” is definitely one of the darkest and most ambitious episodes of any Star Trek franchise. Commander Riker is starring in a play, also called Frame of Mind, which questions the nature of sanity. Then he wakes up in alien insane asylum, shunting back and forth from the Enterprise to the asylum.
The entire episode plays on both Riker’s and the audience’s perceptions of what is assumed as real. The episode provides a perfectly plausible explanation of aliens messing with Riker’s mind while he was captured during a mission.
And we still can’t help but question what is the true reality of the situation. Is the Enterprise real, or is Riker still in the asylum the whole time?
1. “The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1” S3E26
“The Best of Both Worlds” is considered one of the best Star Trek episodes of all time. The first part (of two) is the scariest episode the show ever aired.
The Borg are terrifying: as humans, the loss of individuality and autonomy are concepts that appear over and over again in our horror stories. Being overtaken bodily and mentally is one of the most unconscionable acts one can imagine. The Borg remain more terrifying than the Klingons or any number of other non-cyborg Star Trek foes.
The Borg are relentless, cold, and calculating; they’ll assimilate all into the Borg hive mind. They cannot be reasoned with. They only way to stop them is to destroy them, even if it means killing those who have been taken against their wills.
What really makes this episode scary is that perfect cliffhanger. Beloved Captain Picard is kidnapped by the Borg from the deck of the Enterprise. When the crew encounters a Borg ship, they’re introduced to Locutus of Borg, an assimilated Picard wiped away of everything that made him Picard.
And then: cut to black.
It’s one of those moments that stays within the collective consciousness of pop culture forever. A large part of that is the horror at seeing our favorite stalwart hero overtaken by a foreign, malevolent force. You know Picard as a person by this point. You know how this is the absolute last thing he would want. Overhanging it all is the imagined terror of him having gone through the assimilation process.
This period of his life is something that haunts Picard later in the series. His actions as Locutus dog his footsteps as he wrestles with what happened to him. The chills of this episode top the list because they stay with the audience for a long, long time.