To the delight of Star Trek
fans everywhere, the stellar second season of The Next Generation
(1988-89) belonged to Lieutenant Commander Data. As the Enterprise-D's resident android, Data (in the Emmy-worthy hands of Brent Spiner) would gain legal sentience in the season highlight "The Measure of a Man," and his increasingly "human" personality would refine itself in such diverse episodes as "Elementary, Dear Data" (Data as Sherlock Holmes), "The Outrageous Okona" (a misfire, but worthy from the Data perspective), and "Pen Pals." While Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher) took a sabbatical of then-unknown duration (gracefully replaced by original Trek guest star Diana Muldaur as Dr. Pulaski), the remaining bridge crew would match Data's vitality: Riker grew a handsome beard and proved his command potential; Worf became richly nuanced in "The Icarus Factor," and met his match (and mate) in guest Suzie Plakson's fiercely Klingon sexpot K'Ehleyr; Wesley matured admirably, despite continuing fan disapproval; Betazed culture emerged as Troi locked horns with her eccentric mother, Lwaxana (Majel Barrett, in a recurring role); and La Forge made good on his promotion to chief engineer while Chief O'Brien (Colm Meaney) flawlessly rode on Geordi's coattails.
In a crucial series development, Guinan (special guest Whoopi Goldberg) revealed a connection to Q in her helpful capacity as Ten-Forward's enigmatic host, while Q himself (John DeLancie) precipitated the Enterprise's first, fateful encounter with the Borg (in the suspenseful "Q Who?"). Through it all, Patrick Stewart brilliantly intensified all of Picard's renaissance qualities (especially in the dazzling "Time Squared"), exploring the captain's facets with equal measures of curiosity, fascination, amusement, courage, and philosophical insight. Despite its lame finale with the money-saving clip-show "Shades of Gray," season 2 charted a warp-nine course to the even better season 3. --Jeff Shannon
The entire second series of the first 'Star Trek' spin-off. In 'The Child' Troi is impregnated by an unseen alien while sleeping and soon gives birth to a rapidly-ageing child. 'Where Silence Has Lease' sees the Enterprise trapped in a hole in space by an alien entity wishing to conduct experiments on it. 'Elementary, Dear Data' has Data and Geordi play at Holmes and Watson on the holodeck, but their holographic Moriarty assumes its own identity and threatens to take over the ship. 'The Outrageous Okona' finds the Enterprise playing host to the larger-than-life Captain Okona. 'Loud as a Whisper' sees Troi helping deaf mute mediator Riva to end an age-old galactic conflict when his three assistants, without whom he is unable to communicate, are killed. In 'The Schizoid Man' Data takes on characteristics of brilliant cyberneticist Dr Ira Graves after witnessing his death on an away mission. 'Unnatural Selection' has the Enterprise attempt to warn a genetic research station of the outbreak of a rapid ageing disease. 'A Matter of Honour' finds Riker forced to serve as first officer on a Klingon vessel as part of an exchange scheme. In 'The Measure of a Man' Riker is forced to prosecute Data in a court of law when the latter attempts to resign from Starfleet. 'The Dauphin' sees Wes Crusher get into trouble after falling in love with Salia, a young alien woman who is soon to become Dauphin and thus end civil war on her home planet. 'Contagion' has the Enterprise cross the Romulan Neutral Zone in order to aid the USS Yamato, whose computer systems have failed mysteriously. 'The Royale' finds Riker, Data and Worf exploring an apparently barren planet and discovering a casino. In 'Time Squared' Picard doubts the safety of the Enterprise when they pick up a Federation shuttle containing... Picard, sent back in time from six hours in the future to warn of a catastrophe that has yet to occur. 'The Icarus Factor' sees Riker shaken by a reunion with his father, whom he has not seen for fifteen years. 'Pen Pals' has Data reveal that he has broken the Prime Directive after befriending an alien girl. 'Q-Who?' finds the Enterprise transported to a far-flung Universe, where they encounter the relentless part-human cybernetic beings known as the Borg. 'Samaritan Snare' sees both Picard and Wesley travelling to starbase Scylla 515 - the former for cardiac surgery, the latter to sit his Starfleet exams. In 'Up the Long Ladder' the Enterprise crew are forced to mediate in a conflict between the Bringloidis, whose planet is on the verge of destruction, and the Marisposans, a clone race who wish to copy Riker and Pulaski's DNA. 'Manhunt' has Troi's mother Lwaxana arrive on the Enterprise and sets her sights on Picard, who seeks refuge in his holodeck Dixon Hill programme. 'The Emissary' finds Worf reunited with former lover K'Ehleyr when she arrives as ambassador to a shipful of Klingons who are not aware that the war with the Federation is over. In 'Peak Performance' Riker takes charge of an old Starfleet vessel, the Hathaway, in a war game against Picard and the Enterprise. Finally, in 'Shades of Gray', Riker has to fight for his life when his nervous system comes under attack from an alien organism.