We may earn a commission when you buy through links in our articles. Learn more.

Star Trek TNG’s best episode almost brutally killed Data and Wesley

Star Trek The Next Generation is one of the best TV series of all time, and the greatest episode of all nearly killed famous characters Data and Wesley Crusher.

Wil Wheaton and Brent Spiner as Wesley and Data in Star Trek The Next Generation

Star Trek The Next Generation is one of the all time great TV series, but that wasn’t always the case. Tasked with the impossible job of being a sequel to the original Star Trek series with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, TNG struggled to get off the ground and debuted with a pretty awful first season, before marginally improving for its return with season 2.

Season 2 has some of the best episodes to be found in the whole Star Trek series, with the likes of Q Who, Peak Performance, The Measure of a Man, and Elementary, Dear Data. But it also has some of the worst Star Trek episodes ever (we’re looking at you, Shades of Grey), and the show didn’t fully hit its stride until season 3.

The average quality of the show drastically improved, and it ended with a bang with The Best of Both Worlds (surely one of the best TV series cliff-hangers of all time?). But, the best episode of the season – heck, the best TNG episode ever – has to be Yesterday’s Enterprise. Set primarily in an alternate timeline, Yesterday’s Enterprise tells the story of the Enterprise-C and its sacrifice to prevent a future war.

As the story reaches its climax the USS Enterprise-D is forced to confront three enemy Klingon ships (K’vort-class battlecruisers, to be precise) in order to protect Rachel Garrett’s C and enable its sacrifice. In doing so, Picard’s ship takes an absolute pounding.

USS Enterprise-D defending C against Klingons Star Trek TNG Yesterday's Enterprise

It manages to take out one of the Klingon ships, but as the battle heats up and the D’s shields drop, the starship’s bridge begins to fall apart. Consoles blow up in the faces of the crew (as they always do) and (inexplicably) rubbles falls from the ceiling. A fire breaks out. Shockingly, Riker’s is struck by debris and collapses to the ground, dead; his neck ripped open.

Just as the ship is about to completely explode, the C makes it back to the past and corrects the Star Trek timeline. Peace is restored.

But, while it was shocking enough to see Riker on the floor, dead, the original plan for the episode was even more brutal, and far more gruesome. In original vision for the episode, as the battle between the Enterprise-D and the Klingons reached its heart-pumping conclusion, both Wesley Crusher and Data were killed alongside Riker.

YouTube Thumbnail

Their deaths were eventually cut from the episode due to budget and time constraints, as well as fears over their suitability for TV. Data would have been electrocuted to death by his console, after a hit from a Klingon ship. Meanwhile, Wesley would have been decapitated (!!!) by debris, leaving Picard as the lone survivor on the bridge staving off the Klingon attack.

Of course, the two Star Trek characters would have remained alive in the main timeline, but seeing their deaths (and in such graphic fashion) would have been a hugely shocking moment for audiences. Data was a fan-favorite, not unlike Spock, while many felt equally strongly a (though less positively) about the prodigal Wesley Crusher. Still, perhaps such brutal drama would have been more suited to a different Star Trek show, like the spin-off Deep Space Nine.

Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher Star Trek TNG

For more on Star Trek, you can find out why Colm Meaney needed persuading to the join the Deep Space Nine cast, and why the original Captain Janeway actor quit for a bizarre reason. Or, keep up to date with the franchise by seeing what’s going on with the Strange New Worlds season 3 release date, Lower Decks season 4 release date, and potential Star Trek Legacy release date.

If that’s not enough, see our guides on the Star Trek The Next Generation cast, and the best way to watch the Star Trek movies in order, and find out what’s new on Paramount Plus this month if you want to go beyond Star Trek.