The crew of the Enterprise find a wounded Borg—individuals are called “drones”—and despite their enmity, nurse him back to health. As the Borg starts to regain his individuality, taking the name Hugh, Picard and his wise bartender Guinan (Whoopie Goldberg; yes, I know, and she’s great) debate the ethics of using Hugh to carry a genocidal computer virus back to the aliens. They don’t, and Hugh rejoins the Borg, eventually (in later episodes) leading a rebel offshoot. As episodes go, this one is perfectly fine, but Hugh, played by Jonathan Del Arco, also shows up in Picard, apparently. So this is him.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: ‘Inner Light’
A mysterious probe shows up and shoots Picard—pew pew! And then … it ain’t Trek anymore. Picard wakes up on a distant planet, his own memories intact, with everyone around him recognizing him as someone else. In a typical episode that wasn’t almost six years in with a Stewart in full flourish, Picard would find a computer, figure out he was stuck in a simulation or a mind game, and bust out. Here, none of that happens. And Picard eventually just lives his new life. For years. I’m not going to tell you anything else about this except it’ll make you cry.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: ‘Chain of Command Part II’
In part I of this two-parter, Picard gets involved in some covert military shenanigans fighting aliens called the Cardassians. Doesn’t really matter what’s what, except that he gets taken captive. His vicious interrogator is another British actor who’d been around forever, David Warner, and despite the requisite funny forehead Warner brings the same courtly evil to the part that he did to Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, Sark in Tron, and, well, Evil in Time Bandits. Warner and Stewart lock their jaws onto the scenery, and Picard’s will remains (almost) indomitable.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: ‘Starship Mine’
Die Hard on the Enterprise. Picard goes into action-movie action more often than you’d expect for a thespian on the mature side of 50—I’ve still never really bought him being able to defeat a Klingon in hand-to-hand combat, honestly. Here, for science-fiction reasons, Picard is alone on the ship while a crew of thieves try to steal a valuable and dangerous space MacGuffin, and he has to rely on his guts, stunts, and knowledge of the ship to beat them.
Star Trek: The Next Generation: ‘All Good Things’
Is it cheating to recommend the series finale? Eh, probably, but it’s a great Picard-centered two-parter that, thanks to time travel, links the series’ debut with one possible future. It’s also a better two hours of Trek than most Trek movies, gets at the drive Picard has to solve problems and the evolution of his relationship with his crew. Also, since it’s where the universe left off with Jean-Luc, it’s a satisfying bridge (sorry) to Picard.
Star Trek: First Contact
The Trek movies have only rarely had the spirit of the TV show—an interesting difference between the narrative demands of hundreds of hours of television versus, back then, the self-contained two hours of a film. First Contact comes as close as any of the movies have, though, recapitulating the entertaining relationship stuff but adding hot outer-space action and turning the Borg into a credible epic-movie threat. Picard’s PTSD and guilt from “Family” are his motivation here, not entirely to his credit, and watching Stewart work all that character stuff out while hefting a phaser rifle is the fun part.