Star Trek: Picard -- the essential Trek episodes to watch before the new show
Catch up on these classic moments in Star Trek, The Next Generation and Voyager before Picard beams onto screens Jan. 23.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Star Trek: Picard is a brand new show with a brand new style never before seen in Trek. But it still has decades of
history to draw on, so we've chosen the essential classic episodes and movies to refresh your memory of the heroes and villains making their long-awaited return in the new show.
Picard's release date is Jan. 23, launching exciting new voyages on CBS All Access in the US and
Video elsewhere in the world (Disclosure: CNET is owned by
). Following on from Star Trek: Discovery, the new series sees Patrick Stewart lead a crew of new faces (and a few familiar ones) as The Next Generation's iconic Captain Jean-Luc Picard leaves the Enterprise to tackle the Borg, the Romulans and assorted fresh threats.
A quick warning: We won't give away any spoilers for the new show, but the selection of episodes could reveal which elements of Trek are featured in Picard. If you'd rather go into Picard totally fresh, bookmark this article and come back after you've watched the premiere -- you can then come back and fill any gaps in your memory banks by watching the episodes below.
To start off, these crucial episodes and movies remind you of vital backstory and set up the themes and threads that Picard explores. They spotlight the Borg, the Romulans, synthetic humans -- and of course Captain Picard himself. Plus they're all utterly fantastic to watch.
The Best of Both Worlds
The Next Generation season 3 episode 26, season 4 episode 1
Possibly the best cliffhanger ever glimpsed on television, The Best of Both Worlds was the unmissable story where The Next Generation truly came into its own. The Enterprise crew face off against the Borg, a threat that truly seems unstoppable -- even assimilating Captain Picard himself! Picard's transformation into a sinister cybernetic schemer called Locutus of Borg remains a peerlessly scary and exciting bit of television, and it also created a compelling thread for Patrick Stewart's character that continues through future episodes, films and into the new series Picard.
The Measure of a Man
The Next Generation season 2 episode 9
Data is on trial for his life -- or rather, to determine whether he's alive at all. This masterful early episode of Star Trek explores the theme of what defines humanity, with Patrick Stewart delivering stirring speeches and showing the depth of the connection between Picard and Data. It also introduces us to cybernetics expert Bruce Maddox, filling in background detail on the development of synthetic beings.
The Next Generation season 5 episode 23
The new Picard series features some very familiar faces, including Troi, Riker and Data. But there's another old face joining the show too: Hugh the Borg, played again by Jonathan Del Arco. In this gripping episode, the Enterprise finds a young Borg drone cut off from the cybernetic hive mind, and Captain Picard must decide whether to send him back as a weapon.
The Enterprise Incident
The Original Series, season 3 episode 2
You've got to get some Original Series action in there, and The Enterprise Incident is the perfect foundation to Picard. Captain Kirk goes rogue to take on the Romulans in a twisty game of cat and mouse. Not only does it give us a memorable early look at the villains who feature in Picard, it also gives us a thrilling twist on familiar Trek by showing what happens when the captain uses tactics that aren't exactly whiter-than-white -- which parallels Jean-Luc Picard's new adventures outside Starfleet.
Star Trek: Nemesis
2002's Nemesis is the latest Next Generation adventure, although to be honest it probably isn't anyone's favourite Trek movie. Apart from the novelty of seeing a very young Tom Hardy playing a clone of Picard, the main reason to watch Nemesis is to catch up with the big events that echo into Picard's storylines. The Enterprise crew discover a relatively crude android prototype known as B4, relations with the Romulans take a turn, and one of the crew makes the ultimate sacrifice. Oh, and Data sings the song "Blue Skies." Now you're caught up, it's time to watch a far superior Next Generation big screen outing...
Star Trek: First Contact
Now this is how it's done! Action, adventure, a touch of horror, and Patrick Stewart having a whale of a time doing both action and acting. First Contact is fast and fun but also dramatically compelling as it focuses on a Captain Picard still dealing with the trauma of being Borgified years ago.
Watch this: Star Trek: Picard cast on the Borg and why this isn't just a TNG rehash
Once you've seen the essential episodes, these classic episodes fill in more important backstory for Picard.
The Next Generation season 3 episode 16
This third season episode introduced another android, created by Data himself. Data treated this new synthetic being as a daughter, naming her Lal and teaching her to process emotions. The first episode of Star Trek to be directed by a member of the cast -- Jonathan Frakes -- The Offspring once again explores the theme of what it means to be human, and to extend that meaning to others.
Voyager season 3 episode 26 and season 4 episode 1
Captain Picard isn't the only Trek hero overcoming their past as a part of the Borg collective. Voyager hit its stride when it introduced Seven of Nine to the crew, replacing her hive mind cybernetic implants with a series of very tight outfits. Seven of Nine returns in Picard, so check out her first appearance here.
Children of Mars
This short film, part of a series of spin-off episodes exploring new aspects of the Trek universe, sets up one of the biggest new plot points seen in Picard. What happens on Mars at the Utopia Planitia shipyards -- and will the galaxy survive?
Once you're in the mood, these amazing episodes keep the Trek action going. These are just some of the classic episodes that put the spotlight on Picard or touch on similar themes.
The Next Generation season 6 episode 26 and season 7 episode 1
Hugh the Borg returns in cliff-hanger two-parter Descent, alongside Data's evil twin Lore. It's not as gripping as Best of Both Worlds, but it does feature a fun clash between the show's leading synthetic life forms.
The Next Generation season 4 episode 2
After the epic scale of Best of Both Worlds, this episode told a much smaller and more personal story. Captain Picard recuperates at his brother's vineyard -- which is where the new series also begins.
Voyager season 15 and 16
Seven of Nine and the Borg Queen face off in this exciting two-parter.
The Next Generation Season 7 Episode 4 and 5
This two-parter gives a rare glimpse of Picard operating undercover in the grey areas of the galaxy, with no gleaming starship or devoted crew to help. It's a little taste of how the new show delves into Picard taking off the famous uniform and getting his hands dirty.
The Inner Light
The Next Generation Season 5, Episode 25
This standalone episode doesn't have much to do with Picard, but it's just great TV. Captain Picard is hit by a mysterious probe and finds himself living in an entirely different world with no memory of the Enterprise. It's heartrending stuff. There aren't any cyborgs or space battles, but it's still Trek at its finest.
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