The Inner Light ... is not on this list
What? This is the classic Picard-has-a-heart episode! (Well, uh, no that would be the next one.) It won a Hugo! It introduced this awesome song?
How can you not include it?
Well while the episode has oodles of heart and is very well made, there are a couple things I don’t like about. The main one is the Macguffin. The idea of that this satellite just happens to beam its memory ray into Picard, through their shields and everything, stretches plausibility too much for me – and it doesn’t have any character significance.
Here’s what the narrative device should have been: they find the satellite and beam over a lot of artifacts from it. Picard, Beverly, and Data are examining them and Beverly is going on about what Wesley is learning at the academy or something. Data notices Picard seems uncomfortable or something and, once Bev leaves, he admits that he often wonders about his “life that could have been but wasn’t” and family and children et al. Then Data makes some comment that’s insipid but full of child-like wisdom and leaves him alone. Then Picard finds some artifact which hits him with the memory ray.
Or something – just a little better context methinks. Maybe it’s nitpicking.
An episode that does have a great narrative device (the near death experience) is Tapestry:
Picard and Q demonstrate that they work better as friends than they ever did as adversaries, as the two (plus a pitch-perfect script by Ron Moore) carry the best episode in the franchise’s history. This episode also sets the stage for the series finale.
For more watch SF Debris’s review here. I own a signed copy from Ronald Moore!