The Star Trek: TNG Episode Every New Fan Should Watch First

By Chris Snellgrove | Published

Despite airing its last new episode way back in 1993, most of its fans agree that Star Trek: The Next Generation remains one of the best sci-fi shows in television history. However, it’s an open secret that this show took a couple of seasons to really hit its stride, and some of the best episodes rely on the audience understanding plenty of deep Star Trek lore.

That makes it hard to figure out which episode to use to introduce someone to the series, but we’ve got the answer: lure friends and family into the Star Trek: The Next Generation fandom by showing them “The Drumhead.”

The Bottle Episode That Could

One of the reasons “The Drumhead” is a great starter episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation is that it takes place entirely onboard the ship. That makes it a “bottle episode,” and while that’s usually just a way for producers to save money, it also makes for a great ep to ease new fans into the show. Without the distraction of strange worlds and really exotic aliens, this episode forces audiences to engage primarily with its plot and its characterization, both of which are completely amazing.

Not Your Daddy’s Star Trek

Another reason we recommend introducing people to Star Trek: The Next Generation via “The Drumhead” is because it is the polar opposite of most episodes of The Original Series. Prospective fans often have a stereotypical idea of what Star Trek is all about, and they imagine it involves heroes like Captain Kirk running in like a cowboy with phasers blasting.

By contrast, “The Drumhead” is a metaphorical examination of the dangers of McCarthyist persecution, and Captain Picard saves the day with an inspirational speech; in dealing with regressive social issues and solving everything with logic and reason, this episode truly underscores what The Next Generation is all about.

An Important Message Of Acceptance

Moreso than The Original Series and its movies, Star Trek: The Next Generation emphasized the importance of the franchise’s abiding philosophy: Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations. The emphasis on diversity is at the center of “The Drumhead” because the titular drumhead trial eventually focuses on the fate of Simon Tarses.

Tarses is a goodhearted young officer who lied about his Romulan heritage when applying to Starfleet Academy. When visiting Admiral Norah Satie wants to persecute Tarses for the crime of being born different,Picard steps in and delivers the ultimate core lesson of Star Trek: that denying anyone their freedom and dignity due to bigotry hurts humanity as a whole. 

A Solid Character Showcase

In addition to its crunchy themes, we recommend “The Drumhead” as the first episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that you show friends because it lets most of the ensemble cast shine. Picard gets the show-stopping speech, of course, but we also get to see Worf at both his most honorable and his most paranoid.

Likewise, we get to see Geordi LaForge and Data at their research-nerd best. We even get a fun interrogation scene that illustrates how well Riker and Troi work together; throw in some compassionate appearances by Dr. Crusher, and you have an episode that perfectly illustrates the entire ensemble.