TNG: The Power of Adversaries, Seasons 1-3

Today, I was thinking about the power levels[1] of the various adversaries that the TNG[2] crew had encountered. They faced some truly powerful adversaries, like the judging trickster god Q, alongside challenges which were only challenging because they were being polite (anything to do with Lwaxana Troi or almost anything to do with the Ferengi), or because of the Prime Directive .

At the same time, they faced a number of challenges which of a relatively similar power level (Most things to do with the Klingons and Romulans), and more often than you think, the challenge was within them, or within Starfleet.

I defined ‘high-powered’ challenges as those where firing phasers would only make the problem worse, so the crew must needs turn to guile. ‘Equal-powered’ challenges are those situations where firing phasers would lead to a toss-up. ‘Low-powered’ challenges are those where phasers or transporters would solve the problem handily[3]. ‘Self-powered’ challenges are those where the conflict is inside the crew, or between crew members, or between all or part of the crew and Starfleet. So, without further ado:

Season 1 (25 episodes):
High: 10
Equal: 4
Low: 7
Self: 4

Season 1 starts with a Q episode, and of the first few seasons is the one with the most high powered adversaries. TNG also had not totally found its footing around the introspective episodes (the closest they came was the fanservice ‘Naked Now’ and Picard reliving his past on The Stargazer in ‘The Battle’), but was well on its way with a sheaf of episodes which only contained conflict because of the Prime Directive[4].

Season 2 (22 episodes):
High: 6
Equal: 4
Low: 6
Self: 6

A couple of good Klingon stories (K’Ehleyr!), we encounter the Borg for the first time, a couple of good Data stories. A workable season, reasonably even all around.

Season 3 (26 episodes):
High: 8
Equal: 3
Low: 8
Self: 7

A number of Prime Directive/Ethical stories, Riker getting himself into trouble, Tasha returns! And Tin Man(!), one of my favourites, if only for the poignant ending scene, where Tam finally finds his Gomtuu, and peace[5].

Stay tuned for the next update, where we learn that Data is actually a high-powered adversary.

Note Bit thanks to Jammer’s Reviews of TNG, which inspired and also made this a lot easier, with 3-line summaries of the episodes.

[1]Q is > 9000.

[2]Star Trek: The Next Generation.

[3]Although possibly with some casualties, in a hostage situation.

[4]Not necessarily a bad thing, just pointing it out.

[5]Also an excellent allegory to help understand people who are highly sensitive.

4 thoughts on “TNG: The Power of Adversaries, Seasons 1-3

  1. The interesting thing about the “self-powered” challenges is that Gene Roddenberry, Star Trek creator, reportedly didn’t want those in his series. He wanted to maintain his vision of a utopia where all different kinds of people worked together as a team and all the challenges were supposed to come from outside the ship. I expect you’ll see more of those type of challenges later on as Rick Berman took more control of the running of the series.

    1. It will be interesting to see how that bears out. In the first few seasons, a lot of these conflicts seemed to be ‘struggles with self brought on by external mental influence’, perhaps an excuse for the writers to push the personalities of the characters a little and maybe generate a little bit of conflict…?

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