I remember seeing Star Trek TNG on TV when I was a kid in the mid-90s. It was in syndicated reruns by that point, and it was always on TV when I got home from school — usually it came on right before or after Full House, which I would watch. My mom wouldn’t let me watch Star Trek because she found all the alien make-up a bit scary and off-putting.
Over the last couple of years, I watched the series from beginning to end together with my husband, who had watched it when he was younger. I fell in love with the show, and it occurred to me that one of the reasons for it may be the fact that it frequently borrows from the mystery genre. Usually, the mystery depicted in an episode is more of the “What’s happening? And who/what is responsible for this happening?” variety. However, the episodes I list below are more directly inspired by the murder mystery/detective genre.
If you’re a die-hard mystery fan who’s never watched any science fiction, I recommend the following Star Trek TNG episodes to ease you into the SciFi genre:
1 & 2 : The Dixon Hill holodeck episodes
“Capt. Picard and some of his crew are caught in a deadly trap on the holodeck as a result of a ship=wide scan from an alien race.”
The Captain of the Starship Enterprise, Jean-Luc Picard, is a huge fan of Dixon Hill detective stories and likes to spend his leisure time playing the role of this detective on the holodeck. The holodeck is basically a giant room that you can program to project interactive holographic images for an immersive experience.
Dixon Hill is a fictional hard-boiled detective inspired by Humphrey Bogart movies that first appears in the Season 1 episode “The Big Goodbye” [S01E11]. Capt. Picard reprises the role of Dixon Hill in the Season 2 episode “Manhunt” [S02E19], as well as the 1996 film sequel Star Trek: First Contact.
3 & 4 : The Sherlock Holmes holodeck episodes
“When the crew has a bit of leisure time, La Forge programs the holodeck to create a Sherlock Holmes mystery for Data to unravel.”
Data is the name of an android crew member who is always interested in new experiences and challenging himself. He first puts his detectives skills to the test as Sherlock Holmes in the Season 2 episode “Elementary, Dear Data” [S02E03], and reprises the role when a glitch in the programming awakens Professor Moriarty in the Season 6 episode “Ship in a Bottle” [S06E12].
5 : A Matter of Perspective [S03E14]
“The widow of respected scientist Dr. Nel Apgar accuses Riker of seducing her and killing her husband.”
This episode borrows two common tropes found in detective stories: that of someone trying to clear their own name; and that of trying to reconstruct the events leading up to the crime in order to discover the truth.
6 : Clues [S04E14]
“After passing through a wormhole, the crew uncovers clues that they were unconscious for more than the 30 seconds they were led to believe.”
While this is not a murder mystery, it is nonetheless a story which attempts to reconstruct certain events and unravel the mystery of what happened. There is also a brief Dixon Hill scene at the beginning of this episode, although it’s not a major plot point.
7 : Conundrum [S05E14]
“When an approaching alien ship wipes their memory, the crew struggles to put back together what happened.”
Similarly to Season 4’s “Clues”, Season 5’s “Conundrum” deals with memory loss. Watching this is sort of like watching an episode of Columbo: you do it because you want to find out how and if they’ll successfully discover and reconstruct the facts.
8 : Aquiel [S06E13]
“Murderous intrigue abounds for the Enterprise when one of the crew aboard a subspace communications station is believed dead.”
This episode features another actual murder that is being investigated. The problem is that one of the crew members falls in love with the primary suspect and tries to clear her name. In order to follow the clues and solve along to this mystery, you definitely need an open mind about the fact that life in space is not like life on Earth.
9 : Suspicions [S06E22]
“Dr. Crusher puts her career on the line to prove a scientist’s theoretical new shielding technology which may have cost him his life.”
I personally love this episode, and it’s the one that inspired me to compile this list. There is a suspicious death that the medical officer decides to investigate, and includes a twist ending that could only be achieved in this sci-fi/murder mystery blend.
10 : Eye Of The Beholder [S07E18]
“While investigating a crew member’s suicide, Troi is overwhelmed by strange visions.”
The one thing you need to know about Troi is that she is half Betazoid, a species that communicates telepathically. This episodes relies on her telepathic abilities in order to reveal to her clues of a past crime.