The fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation
saw some of the very best of all 178 shows. "Darmok" had the feel of a "classic Trek" episode, dealing with language as metaphor. "The First Duty" challenged Wesley Crusher's loyalties. The season closer "Time's Arrow" (which concluded in year 6) ranks as one of the best TNG cliffhangers, and treats fans to canon-changing story lines and tons of in-jokes. Best of all was the painfully melancholy "The Inner Light," in which Picard experiences an alternate lifetime. There were great guest stars--Paul Winfield ("Darmok"), Ashley Judd ("The Game"), Kelsey Grammar ("Cause and Effect"), Famke Janssen ("The Perfect Mate"), and Jerry Hardin ("Time's Arrow")--and as always there were contributions from Q, Lwaxana, and Barclay, too.
After the confidence of the previous two years, however, year 5 often disappointed by not seeing a good idea through to the end. Denise Crosby was swept back under the carpet in the Klingon soap opener ("Redemption, Part II"). No one could make the prospect of Deep Space Nine attractive enough to Michelle Forbes, so her fantastic performance as Ensign Ro seems wasted in retrospect. And no one could reschedule Robin Williams to guest star, so we had Matt Frewer instead ("A Matter of Time"). Of all stories to use Leonard Nimoy in, "Unification" wallowed in Romulan politics instead of anything emotionally engaging. Gene Roddenberry wanted to introduce a gay character, but mere months after his death all we got was the trite "The Outcast." This was inarguably where the series weakened, without the Great Bird overseeing what was going on. Worst of all, his hard-as-nails bad guys the Borg were given a touchy-feely side in "I, Borg." Fans and critics now appreciate that the behind-the-scenes focus had shifted from The Next Generation to the next spinoff, and it would never fully return.
The complete fifth season of the 'Star Trek' spin-off. The opening episode, 'Redemption: Part II', concludes the fourth season cliffhanger, and has Worf trying to clear his family name, while Picard travels to the Klingon homeworld to take part in the Rite of Succession. In 'Darmok' Picard experiences communication difficulties when stranded on a hostile planet with an alien captain. 'Ensign Ro' sees a headstrong Bajoran ensign, newly assigned to the Enterprise, struggling to come to terms with the laws of Starfleet. 'Silicon Avatar' has the crystalline entity from 'Datalore' return and destroy a Federation colony; one of the survivors then blames Data for the death of her son. 'Disaster' finds the Enterprise beset by a run of bad luck, leaving Picard trapped in a lift with three small children, and Keiko to go into labour in uncomfortable circumstances. 'The Game' sees Riker return from shore leave with a new game that starts to take over the crew and turn them into zombies. In the two-part story 'Unification' Ambassador Spock inexplicably disappears and then turns up again on Romulus. When it is suggested that he has defected, Picard and Data go undercover to find out the truth - a truth that involves an enemy from the past with links to former officer Tasha Yar. 'A Matter of Time' has the Enterprise visited by a mysterious man who claims to have come from the far future. 'New Ground' finds Worf learning some painful lessons about being a father. 'Hero Worship' sees a traumatised boy become obsessed with Data and try to copy his every move. In 'Violations' the Enterprise is assigned to escort a delegation of Ullian historians, a race who conduct research by probing minds. 'The Masterpiece Society' has the crew visit a utopian planet, and discover that they have betrayed the Prime Directive just by being there. 'Conundrum' finds the crew forced into fighting a war they know nothing about. 'Power Play' sees Troi, O'Brien and Data become possessed by evil spirits on an away mission. 'Ethics' has a seriously injured Worf faced with a dilemma when the only thing that can save him is an untested revolutionary medical technique. 'The Outcast' finds Riker falling in love with a member of an androgynous race whose laws forbid inter-gender relationships. In 'Cause and Effect' the ship and crew become trapped in a time-warp that repeats their destruction over and over again. 'The First Duty' sees Wesley become involved in the cover-up of an accident at the academy. 'Cost of Living' has Troi's mother return to the Enterprise and dispense her liberal views to the impressionable Alexander, much to the horror of Troi and Worf. 'The Perfect Mate' finds Picard falling in love with a woman who has been sent as a peace offering to another planet. In 'Imaginary Friend' a lonely girl's imaginary friend takes on solid form and starts to misbehave. 'I, Borg' has the crew discover a young Borg and decide to use him in a bid to destroy the Borg consciousness. 'The Next Phase' finds Geordi and Ro mistakenly pronounced dead when they are rendered invisible as part of a Romulan experiment. 'The Inner Light' sees Picard fall into a deep sleep where he lives out another man's life. Finally, in 'Time's Arrow', Data's head is discovered in San Francisco, and there is proof that it has been there since the 19th Century.