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Cheerful Episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation and The Original Series

Updated: May 29

Star Trek is one of those series that I watched right from school and all the way through college. I usually stuck to The Original Series and The Next Generation though.

The episodes on both Star Trek franchises had similar plot structures - one major plot and a subplot that may or may not be connected to the larger plot. Another recurring motif was the seriousness of the series, with the crew and starship always dealing with impending doom or peril.

Every once in a while, however, they would break their serious streak with one or two feel-good episodes. These had the crew deal with a relatively manageable problem without any real danger, and a lot of happy vibes going around.

Cheerful Episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation (TNG)

TNG ran for six long seasons of around 24 episodes each, hence it made sure to one every season when possible. Here are some of my favorites.

1. The Outrageous Okona S2 E4

The Enterprise NCC-1701-D picks up Thadiun Okona (played by William O. Campbell) - a free-spirited trader and gets stuck between two planets' governments in the process. The tone of the whole episode is playful and fun and the Federation ship is never in any danger throughout the plot.

The episode explores how sometimes, people earn bad reputations through very little fault of their own, and as long as you are pure of heart things will work out. (or something like that).

It's fun to see how a "life of the party" personality interacts with the ship's crew, and how the Enterprise is patient even when threatened by people who can't really hurt them. Basically, a bit of a soap opera vibe is going on here throughout.

2. Data's Day S4 E11

One of my personal favorites, Data's Day explores the Enterprise through the eyes of Brent Spiner's Data. It starts with a light melodic intro letting the viewers know they can just kick back and relax as this will be a light and bubbly episode that will make you feel good.

You catch Data on a particularly relaxed period on the Enterprise here, with the main plot revolving around Keiko and Miles O Brien who are getting married. They were a botanist and a transport chief respectively.

Through preparing for their marriage as the father of the bride for Keiko and a friend of Miles, Data discovers the complex emotions at play in such a massive undertaking. Data helps Keiko with cold feet, learns to dance, and serves as a go-between for Keiko and Miles.

One thing you observe in this episode is while Data is cold and emotionless on paper, he actually exhibits the AI version of human emotions which is extraordinary. Data's view of the world around him is always muted, emotionally, but he "feels things" nevertheless.

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3. The Inner Light S5 E25

One of the cheerful episodes of Star Trek that is beautiful yet a bit disorienting at first, but gets enjoyable with time is the plot where Picard lives a third of a lifetime in just 25 minutes! As time goes on he realizes what is happening in his new life - meanwhile, the crew tries to pull him back to the now.

Picard lives the life of an astronomer and has a daughter and son while trying to save a planet on the brink of collapse.

There is at least one callback to this episode where he jams with a beautiful musician is an acoustically resonant part of his ship. He plays the flute which he would learn in this episode where the dead planet of Kataan designed a space probe to beam their history to one chosen person. This was the Ressik community's effort to be remembered as a race and not be forgotten.

4. Up the Long Ladder S2 E18

One of the few episodes where Captain Picard laughs out loud in earnest, Up the Long Ladder is a great episode that's a lot of fun. The planet Bringloid V broadcasts an automated distress call when solar flares threaten life on the planet.

There are two colonies on this planet called the Bringloidi and the Mariposans where the crew of the SS Mariposa was the first batch of people from the Earth sent for colonization several centuries earlier.

While the Mariposans are on the cutting edge of technology even after centuries, the other splintered colony resorts to the time-tested methods of farming and agriculture. The major difference between the two colonies is that the Mariposa colony is composed of clones while the Bringloidi lead normal lives with genetic diversity.

With time, a dark secret is unveiled about one of the colonies but the ending is anything but serious! There is a lot of hilarity due to the difference in tech advancement along with other sub-plots within this great episode. The ending sees the leaders of both the colonies coming together to solve each other's problems.

5. Manhunt S2 E19

Gene Roddenberry's wife Majel Barrett is an honored fixture in the Star Trek franchise playing Nurse Christine Chapel in TOS and Lwaxana Troi the Betazoid. She is also the pleasant voice of the computer in TNG.

In TNG she plays an influential diplomat Lwaxana Troi who is Deanna Troi's mother and a much more powerful empath than her daughter. In this completely hilarious episode, Lwaxana is going through "The Phase" which is the Betazoid version of menopause, only this stage of her life causes her sex drive to "quadruple or more" according to Deanna.

To ensure she does the honorable thing, Lwaxana focuses all her new-found energy on a single mate to be selected from the Enterprise roster. This makes Picard target number one in Lwaxana's eyes, and Riker a distant second.

Meanwhile Picard has to juggle between dodging the strong advances of an influential Betazoid diplomat and escorting a pair of Antedean delegates to the conference on the planet of Pacifica.

As usual Picard finds creative solutions to fulfill his responsibilities while keeping all the parties involved happy. Lwaxana Troi on the other hand undergoes a minor embarrassment while also casually saving the day and Picard's butt without even trying!

I love how much affection Gene Roddenberry had for his wife and he depicted her as this enigmatic character who was so beautiful yet intelligent and came with a host of traits and skills that are unmatched.

6. Ménage à Troi

You might notice a bit of a theme here with most episodes involving Majel Barrett in Star Trek TNG being light-hearted and cheerful. This particular episode is somewhat of a Barrett special with her breathing some much-needed life and fun into the serious series.

At a party commemorating a Betazed conference, Damon Tog, the Firengi captain hits on Lwaxana Troi who rejects him as loudly as possible. Tog, unphased by the rejection, abducts Lwaxana with her daughter Deanna and Riker by beaming them back to his ship the Krayton.

Meanwhile, there are a couple of interesting subplots playing out on the enterprise with Worf struck by a childhood infection and Wesley Crusher ready to leave for the Starfleet Academy.

Captain Picard Quoting Shakespeare to woo and rescue Lwaxana Troi from the Firengi

This episode is so enjoyable because no one dies on the ship, there are no lethal stakes, and there is humor in almost every scene in this laugh-riot episode. You also get to see Picard ham it up with him quoting Shakespeare in an overly dramatic fashion.

7. Devil's Due S3 E13

This episode explores the factual basis of religious beliefs and orthodox customs along with mythological beliefs. The planet Ventax II is in a state of profound panic with its residents fearing a prophecy about their version of a Devil coming to collect its price for the prosperity it offered.

Enter the Enterprise and Captain Picard who straight up senses the presence of a "flim-flam" artist. What unfolds is a battle of wits and superior technology against the proverbial devil and the Captain who can take the devil head-on.

Devil's Due Season 3 Episode 13 of Star Trek The Next Generation

A lot of humor arises from the awkward situation that Ardra, the Devil of Ventax II, puts the Captain in. There is a lot of innuendo from Ardra that Picard calls "Vulgar and Crude." You also get to Data burst into a bit of a laugh which is a rare sight in itself.

8. Rascals S6 E7

The episode has more of a Home Alone feel, considering that small kids try to save a big ol' starship. When Picard, Ensign Ro, Guinan, and Keiko are returning from a trip to the planet Marlonia back to the ship a transporter malfunction turns them into their 12-year-old selves.

Michelle Forbes as Ensign Ro, Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan,  Rosalind Chao as Keiko O'Brien in Star Trek The Next Generation

While physically these four are children, they still retain their adult brains and experiences. This is the source of the comedic element throughout this episode and makes the whole thing very enjoyable.

As the situation develops, the ship's chief of medicine Dr. Wesley Crusher convinces young Picard to relinquish command of the ship to Commander Riker. Meanwhile, The Enterprise is surrounded by a couple of Klingon Birds of Prey, and the Ferengi board the prized Federation ship.

David Birkin as Young Jean Luc Picard

Picard teams up with the other children on the ship and uses his physical appearance in highly creative ways to take back his ship in a spectacular manner. You get to see tender moments between the hardened Ensign Ro and Guinan as children and then adults. You also see Worf's son play a vital part in taking the ship back.

Star Trek TOS

The Original Series was a more somber show with a consistently serious theme. Most episodes even started with a slightly ominous tone and were very on-brand for TOS as space was portrayed as dangerous and exciting. But this doesn't mean that they did not have series episodes that were light and fun and devoid of danger.

Some may consider Assignment: Earth in Season 2 to be a light and frothy episode but I think the Tribbles episode nails the happy-go-lucky theme best.

1. The Trouble with Tribbles S2 E15

The Trouble with Tribbles episode was one of the funniest and most light-hearted plots in the entire TOS run. The Enterprise NCC-1701 gets a priority 1 distress signal from a Federation outpost which means disaster or something worse.

When Kirk goes to check things out and finds all the fuss is about hybrid wheat and the claim to Sherman's planet, he isn't happy.

You get to see that Scotty is a workaholic, cares more about the ship than Kirk, and is really funny. There is also the famous hamster-kitten substitute - the Tribble that the crew of the Enterprise falls in love with and lots of hijinx!

One of my favorite scenes in this episode is Spock holding a Tribble close to his head and stating that its trilling produces a calming effect on humans and to which Vulcans are immune. You can see his voice going from firm to soft and ending in a hushed tone, and him exiting the room in partial embarrassment.

2. I, Mudd S2 E8

The Enterprise is hijacked by an incredibly realistic android named Norman who takes the ship and its crew on a joyride to an unknown world "ruled" by Harry Mudd, the well-known scamster and degenerate.

While Harry Mudd seems to be in control of an army of androids, most of them being pretty women, he is thoroughly frustrated. He is exhausted by the androids' endless questions and curiosity. Mudd scrapes up a shoddy plan to commandeer the Enterprise and take over worlds with his army of androids.

But things take a massively comical turn for the worse with the androids revealing plans of their own and Captain Kirk and his crew outsmarting Mudd and the androids with great ease.

Mudd with Norman Android

There is almost nothing serious about this episode except the way that punishment that Captain Kirk punishes Harry Mudd which I thought was cruel and unusual.

3. A Piece of the Action S2 E17

One of the lighter episodes in Star Trek TOS, "A Piece of the Action" is a take on the life of a mobster in the 20's. When the Enterprise is ordered to investigate another missing Starship near the planet Sigma Iotia, they get to see firsthand the cultural contamination perpetrated by the Horizon ship.

It turns out that the Iotians have based their entire culture on a single (fictional) book left behind by the Horizon named "Chicago Mobs of the Twenties." You see the structural organization of the Mafia in place of a formal government, everyone is great suits and firearms all around.

A clueless mobster transported out of his hous

Captain Kirk, Dr. Mc Coy, and Spock all get embroiled in an enjoyable hijinx without much danger as they use their vastly superior technology and negotiation skills to defuse the situation.

Kirk Explaining A Piece of the Action to Bones and Spock

No one dies in this episode, there is no hint of real danger and almost everyone involved in this mission has a great deal of fun!

4. Assignment: Earth S2 E26

This episode was supposed to lay the groundwork for a major spin-off franchise which never came about. You get to view Robert Lansing as Gary Seven imposes his commanding screen presence while trying to save the Earth from Armageddon.

The Enterprise time- travels to the Earth in 1968 for research purposes and in the process of observation, they transport a mysterious person onto the transporter pad.

While Kirk and Spock are in a dilemma about whether to trust Gary Seven, they ensure they take the best course of action while keeping the status quo. A few interesting bonuses are the voice-operated machinery, the early form of Alexa, and a cool super-computer.

Wrapping Up

These were my picks for the most cheerful episodes of Star Trek TNG and TOS. If you feel there were more comedic episodes in TNG than TOS it is because of the sheer volume of episodes and seasons in TNG.

This list was aimed at people who think that the Star Trek franchise takes itself too seriously. If you think other episodes can be added to this list, do let me know in the comments.

Originally posted on 16th April 2022 and updated 29th May 2024

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