Star Trek: The Next Generation - Abridged Season Two
2x01 – The Child
2x03 – Elementary, Dear Data
2x04 – The Outrageous Okuna
2x08 – A Matter of Honor
2x09 – The Measure of a Man
2x11 – Contagion
2x14 – The Icarus Factor
2x15 – Pen Pals
2x16 – Q Who?
2x17 – Samaritan Snare
2x19 – Manhunt
2x20 – The Emissary
2x21 – Peak Performance
Despite what people generally say about the first two seasons of this show, I really liked the majority of Season Two. Thankfully, it's the only season to only have 22 episodes and the superior episodes stood out pretty plainly. Also, call me crazy, but comparing her to Season One Beverly Crusher, I like Dr. Pulaski much better. I get why others might not but she's one of the stronger characters in this season.
One thing I couldn't get out of Season Two was an overall arc to follow, so it's similar to Season One in that manner but with even less continuing plot points. I manage to pull the threads connected to Season One and overall character development out the best I can, though some good character episodes get lost along the way. It's a pretty strange exercise to remove parts of a TV show to make it "more complete" anyway.
The season opens up with "The Child", which is probably my least favorite of the bunch I selected. It's here because it alerts the viewer to Dr. Crusher's absence, introduces Dr. Pulaski, Guinan and Ten Forward, shows us that Geordi has been promoted to Chief Engineer and Worf to Security Chief, and has some decent character moments for Troi and Wesley, as well as the new doctor. I really just hated the story. I get the concept but if anyone were to be that attached to a weird alien pregnancy baby, it would be Troi.
"Elementary, Dear Data" gives us our first big taste of the true nature (and continuous eminent danger) of the Holodeck, at least in this abridgement version of TNG (I'm still mad I couldn't include "The Big Goodbye" in Season One). It also gives us a heaping dose of Data hamming it up, begins to build his and Geordi's friendship, and throws Pulaski into the mix headfirst. It also features our first truly sentient Holographic character, Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes novels, who appears again in Season Six.
"The Outrageous Okuna" is one that many people seem to really like. It's kind of like Han Solo was a playboy and flew into Star Trek. I included it more because of the exploration of Data's investigation into emotion. That it used Joe Piscopo to play a pretty unfunny comedian, I thought that was an accurate portrayal of both how Data would try to understand humor and of Joe Piscopo's actual funniness. It's a fun episode overall and I'm pretty sure that Pulaski and Guinan both show up to help Data, so their characters really get fleshed out over the first few episodes and they meld into the cast well as a result.
"A Matter of Honor" gives us Riker and oh so much of him. It really showcases his loyalty, courage, insight, and resourcefulness. I never really cared for Riker much growing up but his character is really growing on me watching through TNG. It also gives us some of the first real fleshing out of the TNG-era Klingons and how they fit into the Federation. One of the strongest of the season, in my opinion.
"The Measure of the Man" is arguably THE strongest of the season, however. Not only do we examine Data's essential personhood, but we get Picard and Riker facing off as defense and prosecution in a trial to decide such. Any fan of the show doesn't need any more explanation to know why this episode is here and any non fan should just go ahead and watch it already.
"Contagion" brings us back to the Neutral Zone and gives us our Romulan fix for the season (looks like "The Long Goodbye" is officially out). It also explores more of Picard's character, including his interest in archeology and, according to Wikipedia, his first "Tea, Earl Grey, hot!"
"The Icarus Factor" almost gives Riker his own command and makes him deal with his father, who really kind of sucks. It gives a good amount of insight though to why Riker stayed "Number One" for so long. It also has a B-plot about Worf feeling alone as a Klingon out of his culture that includes much of the other crew and brings them all a little closer together for it.
"Pen Pals" is slightly more saccharine than I care for but brings home the ethical debate about the Prime Directive pretty hard. I also think it's important that Data is the one to break it as you would suspect him more than most to be generally unwavering towards the Biggest Rule of the Federation. It shows that he IS more than a simple machine who follows orders. Subtle but significant.
"Q-Who?" has Q and introduces the Borg. Those things are important to the show for a multitude of reasons. Also, it teases that Guinan is much more interesting than she seems to be.
"Samaritan Snare" is great because it finally shows us WHY Geordi might have been appointed Chief Engineer. He's really good at that kind of stuff. The Pakleds are a great bunch of villains: at first very funny but they very effectively become menacing later on. The B-plot featuring Picard and Wesley is also very strong, giving us even more Picard back-story (and introduces his artificial heart and its origin, essential to the later Q-episode "Tapestry") and greatly deepens the two's relationship. And the ending gives Pulaski a little time to shine as she was the "best" person to perform his operation.
"Manhunt" brings back Lwaxana Troi. Her episodes are never my favorites but seeing as how showing parents almost always helps develop characters, I thought it'd be good for Deanna's development, although there's not nearly as much here as there was last season. Overall, Lwaxana's appearances are common enough to throw her in the mix, especially when the seasons are cut down and I'm trying to tie as much together as possible.
"The Emissary" gives us some Worf time and intro's his eventual baby momma. It also shows off his Klingon side a little more and his devotion to his culture without downplaying his feelings towards K'Ehleyr. And it gives us just a little more info on how the relationship between the Federation and the Klingons gets along by bringing in some Kilngons that don't know they're not fighting anymore.
"Peak Performance" sets Picard against Riker in a war game and has Data doubt himself for failing to beat a strategy expert in a strategy game. Both plots are very clever and give most of the crew something to do and accents their individual strengths and weaknesses. It also brings back the Ferengi in another attempt to make them a big, foreboding villain, so that ties it back to Season One again. It's very well rounded and a good way to finish off the season, especially when the actual finale is one of (if not the only) clip shows in Star Trek history. Although a friend of mine recently pointed out a pretty big plot hole in the episode, I still would rate it highly.
Honorable mentions for the season include "Unnatural Selection", the only Pulaski-centered episode and one that deals with the subject of genetic engineering fairly well, "The Dauphin", wherein Wesley Crusher falls in love for the first time and learns a valuable lesson about life, and "Up The Long Ladder", which addresses the issue of cloning and features a strong-willed and very attractive Irish lass who makes out with Riker.
Dishonorable mentions for "The Royale", a reasonably fun-filled romp with no real value at the end, and "Shades of Grey", for being a Riker-themed clip show where Troi looks worried and Pulaski "narrows the frequency" for 40-something minutes.