- "Encounter at Farpoint" features one of the most tear-jerking moments in Star Trek history: Data's "special assignment" to escort a "rather remarkable man" on a tour of the Enterprise-D. What makes it so duct-damaging? That man was DeForest Kelley as Dr. McCoy from the original series, who would only appear two more times before his death (in the fifth and sixth movies, which premiered after TNG).
Data: I will.
McCoy: You treat her like a lady, she'll always bring you home.
- "The Inner Light" has been known to reduce grown men to tears.
Eline: Now we live in you. Tell them of us...my darling.
- Both the episode "Sarek" and Mark Lenard's last scene as the aforementioned character in "Unification I" are beautifully sad in their portrayal of the tragic degeneration that comes with age to even the greatest men.
- Kevin Uxbridge's confession at the end of "The Survivors": he was a Douwd posing as a human who had fallen in love with a human woman, Rishon, and lived on a distant Federation colony world. One day, the Husnock, a savage warrior race, attacked the colony. Kevin was a pacifist and refused to fight while Rishon joined the other 11,000 colonists in defending their world. The Husnock wiped out the colonists and Kevin, in a moment of grief and rage at Rishon's death, obliterated all fifty billion Husnock in the universe with a single thought. Horrified, he sentenced himself to exile on the planet with only an illusion of his wife for company.
Picard: Captain's Log, Stardate 43153.7. We are departing the Rana system for Starbase 133. We leave behind a being of extraordinary power and conscience. I'm not certain if he should be praised or condemned, only that he should be left alone.
- O'Brien talking his former captain out of his crusade in "The Wounded."
Maxwell: I'm not going to win this one, am I, Chief?
O'Brien: No, sir.
- The last fifteen minutes of "Dark Page."
- Before "Dark Page," there was "Half A Life," which had Lwaxana fall in love with a man from a species who kill themselves at sixty, to spare them and their families from the ravages of age, and he's days away from his sixtieth. She almost convinces him to stay alive with her, but his daughter begs him to come home, to be buried with her mother, to be surrounded with those who love him when he dies, and he can't do it. Not only does Lwaxana, after all of her raging against it before, go along with it, she goes with him.
- Then there's "Darmok," in particular the scene where Picard recounts The Epic of Gilgamesh to the dying Captain Dathon, and with it, they finally understand each other.
Picard: Enkidu fell to the ground, struck down by the gods, and Gilgamesh wept bitter tears, saying "He who was my companion, through adventure and hardship, is gone forever."
- Data deactivating Lore in "Descent, Part II," even though Lore is a monster.
Lore: I...love you...brother.
- The death of Lal, Data's daughter, in "The Offspring."
Lal: I feel...
Data: What do you feel, Lal?
Lal: I love you, Father.
Data: I wish I could feel it with you.
Lal: I will feel it for both of us... thank you for my life.
- Admiral Haftel, who had been sent to take Lal away, standing in the corridor on the edge of tears talking about how Data had worked so hard and so fast (beyond Haftel's ability to even see what he was doing) to try and save her. He may have been a Jerkass to Picard and Data, but he wasn't all bad.
- The Expanded Universe novel Star Trek: Immortal Coil examines what happens when Data can feel it. The grief at the deaths of Lal, (by that time) the Juliana Tainer android, and even Lore never went away, but instead dropped on him like a ton of bricks. As before, he suggests that he should turn off the emotion chip to return to his normal efficiency. Picard, as before, talks him out of it, telling him that he has to process his feelings, not hide from them. And he should know.
- The closing speech of "Tapestry."
There are many parts of my youth that I'm not proud of. There were loose threads...untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads...it unraveled the tapestry
of my life.
- "Family," whose Fan Nickname is "The Best of Both Worlds Part III," has a few:
- Jean-Luc's breakdown after a fight with his brother Robert.
: You don't know, Robert, you don't know. They took everything I was
. They used me to kill
and to destroy
, and I couldn't stop them! I should have been able to stop
them! I tried. I tried so hard
. But I wasn't strong enough! I wasn't good
enough! I should have been able to stop them. I should, I should
Robert: So, my brother is a human being after all. This is going to be with you a long time, Jean-Luc. A long time.
- To put this into proper context, Picard had just come out of a mission where he had been mind-raped by the Borg and turned into one of them in order to not only assimilate him to the Borg, but also utilize him and his knowledge of Starfleet in order to destroy Starfleet and the very people he'd sworn to protect. One can only imagine the kinds of horrors that he had to endure. One scene in particular is when he is being "upgraded" and a Single Tear falls down his cheek, revealing to some degree just how harrowing of an experience it was. This scene effectively shows us what kind of horrors he had to endure to protect not only the people he cared about, but Starfleet and every single citizen belonging to the Federation.
- The moment above is enough to quantify as its own Tear Jerker, seeing as how Picard is desperately trying to hold on to what remains of his humanity and fight like very few could. Needless to say, both of these scenes are tear-inducing in their humanity and horror.
- Jack Crusher's message to Wesley.
Jack Crusher: Hello, Wesley. As I make this recording, you are about ten weeks old. I wanted you to know who I am today. This Jack Crusher won't exist by the time you're grown-up. I'll be older, more experienced and, hopefully, a little wiser. But this person will be gone, and I want you to know who I was when you came into the world. When I see you lying there, in your crib, I realize I don't know the first thing about being a father. So let me apologize for all the mistakes I'm about to make. I hope you don't grow up resenting the fact I was gone so much. That comes with this uniform. I don't know if I can explain why Starfleet means so much to me. Maybe you'll understand when you get this recording. Maybe you'll even want to try one of these on. But you'll probably be a doctor, like your mother. You're only a baby, but it's remarkable. I see in your face all the people I've loved in my lifetime—your mother, my father and mother. Our family. I can see me in you, too. And I can feel that you're my son. I don't know how to describe it, but there's this connection, this bond. I'll always be a part of you, Wesley. Well, I hope this makes some sense to you. I'm not sure that it does to me, but maybe I'll do better next time. I love you, Wesley.
Wesley: Goodbye, Dad.
- Worf's parents concern for his recent discommendation.
- The ending of "Brothers."
Crusher: They're brothers, Data. Brothers forgive.
- Made sadder by the eventual relationship turnout with Lore and Data. Lore did eventually forgive Data, but still ultimately re-programmed him for use of his own ends, and once restored, Data was forced to fuse Lore's positronic net, killing him so he wouldn't hurt anyone else.
- K'Ehleyr being murdered in "Reunion," with Worf and Alexander arriving just in time to watch her die.
Worf: You have never seen death. (Alexander shakes his head) Then look...and always remember.
- There is also how her last moments of life are putting her, Alexander, and Worf's hands together, making sure that, regardless of Worf's discommodation, they have this moment of being truly together.
- Let's also not forget the end of the episode, after Worf tells Alexander that he's going to stay with Worf's adopted parents.
Alexander: Are you my father?
Worf: Yes...I am your father.
- Years later, in the otherwise average episode "Firstborn," we get a grown-up Alexander's perspective on K'Ehleyr's murder:
Adult Alexander: And then you howled in rage, and said "Look at her. Look upon death, and always remember." And I always have.
- The ending of "Lower Decks," especially when Worf sits down with all of Sito's friends to reminisce and mourn her death.
- Nurse Ogawa's startled, dismayed gasp on hearing of her death on the com system sells it.
- Picard's announcement of Sito's passing is thoroughly depressing. For one, it's the sad realization of just how often Picard, and Kirk before him, has had to make this solemn announcement. Not to mention that Picard is obviously especially heartbroken over inadvertently leading a promising young ensign to her death.
- The end of "Silicon Avatar": Dr. Marr has just killed the Crystalline Entity in order to avenge her son Rennie, who was killed by it several years prior. Data, who has many of his journal entries, tells Dr. Marr that Rennie was proud of his mother's career and would have been sad that she'd thrown it away for revenge. This situation plus her expression of remorse...tear-inducing.
- The end of "The Defector," in which the eponymous character commits suicide after a serious Kick the Dog moment, realizing that he can never see his wife or daughter again, and it was all for nothing.
- The end of "The Outcast" when Riker arrives too late to save Soren from the operation that wipes out her gender identity (her species is androgynous, and views gender identification as a perversion).
- "Here's to ye, lads." Hell, whenever Scotty isn't being epic or funny, he's bringing up the Manly Tears in "Relics."
- Ro Laren talking about her childhood in "Rascals."
- Ro talking about the torture and death of her father while she watched.
- In "Preemptive Strike," Ro tells Macias this story:
Ro: My father...played the klavion. When I was very young and afraid of monsters under my bed...my father would play for me. He said the sound of the klavion had special powers. Monsters were afraid of it, and they'd disappear whenever they heard it. When I listened to the music he played for me...I was never afraid to go to sleep. When he died, I realized...even he couldn't make all the monsters go away.
- The Heroic Sacrifice of the third Exocomp in "The Quality of Life."
- Tasha's funeral in "Skin of Evil," as she gives a series of goodbyes to all of her friends.
- And then there's Data's question after the service:
Data: I find my thoughts are not for Tasha, but for myself. I keep thinking how empty it will be without her presence. Did I miss the point?
Picard: No...no, you didn't, Data. You got it.
- Picard Break Them by Talking of Armus. Armus tries so hard to Don't You Dare Pity Me!, but it's obvious it's a pathetic, lonely bereft thing that has no choice but to rage and hurt.
- The early scene in the Ready Room in "The Most Toys": The Enterprise crew believe Data to be dead, the victim of a shuttle explosion; this scene is filled with Geordi, and even Riker and Picard, trying to fight against the notion that Data is dead. But the clincher, the line that starts the waterworks, is from Hamlet, which after Riker has left, Picard reads from his gift to Data, the collected works of Shakespeare: "He was a man, take him for all in all; I shall not look upon his like again."
- Later in the episode, Worf has been promoted to Data's old post and now sitting in his seat. As they investigate an unexplained occurrence (which, as we all know, is business as usual), Picard very casually asks Data for his thoughts on the situation before remembering he's not there anymore. Picard had been handling the situation of Data's death far better than anyone on the ship, but after making this slip-up, in front of the entire bridge crew, you can see from the look on his face how much he really does care.
- In "Loud as a Whisper," after the death of Riva's chorus, he suffers a Despair Event Horizon, realizing that, for the first time in his life, he has no way to communicate with anyone.
- The ending of "Who Watches The Watchers": Nuria wishing Picard good journeys and asking him to remember her people is very tear-jerking in a heart-warming way and so moving and so deeply felt. His laconic answer ("Always") is in the same vein.
- Commander Remmick's fate near the end of Season 1. He's first introduced as a Jerkass who is trying to find everything wrong he can with the Enterprise, but only because he was tasked to act that way. After truly finding nothing wrong at all, he expresses his wishes to serve aboard the Enterprise for his next tour of duty. Only for him to unceremoniously be possessed by the mother parasite and blown up in a completely gruesome manner in "Conspiracy."
- The fates of Roga Danar and the other Super Soldiers in "The Hunted" before the Enterprise arrived. They had been genetically modified to be the perfect soldiers, but when peace was declared, they were deemed too dangerous to be around normal people and were institutionalized on the planet's moon. Throw in that this episode was an allegory for Vietnam veterans (and is still a very relevant issue today) and it only gets worse.
- "Ensign Ro" (Season 5, Episode 3), focusing on the Bajorans. Both the description of their plight (driven out of their home into camps, oppressed, tortured) and the visuals of the camps themselves, and the recognition that this has been the state of affairs for generations and they've had nothing but empty promises to compensate. To anyone who's been to Palestine and to the camps there, much of the episode is physically painful to watch, and the parallels are far too apparent not to appear deliberate.
- Anyone who suffers anxiety will relate to Reginald Barclay, no more than when he spells out why he's escaping into holodeck fantasies, especially Barclay's last line.
Barclay: You don't know what a struggle this has been for me, Commander.
Geordi: I'd like to help, if I can.
Barclay: Being afraid all the time, of forgetting somebody's name, not knowing what to do with your hands. I mean, I'm the guy who writes down things to remember to say when there's a party. And then when he finally get there, he winds up alone in the corner trying to look comfortable examining a potted plant.
Geordi: You're just shy, Barclay.
Barclay: Just shy. Sounds like nothing serious, doesn't it? You can't know.
- In the episode "Parallels," the Enterprise from a universe in which the Borg have completely taken over the Alpha Quadrant, contact the Enterprise-D to BEG them not to send them back. When they are refused, they choose to attack the Enterprise-D of the prime universe. They know that this alone would destroy them by overloading their weapons, but even this is preferable to returning to that hell. We are so used to seeing the Enterprise fighting with determination and conviction. To see the crew we know and love, all of them, even Riker, driven to the point of desperation and suicide by the Borg, is probably the hardest scene in the episode, if not the entire series in general.
- The last lines of the series. Picard, having just finished a game of Timey-Wimey Ball tennis with Q, comes to the weekly poker game for the very first time. He sits down, tells them that he was actually quite the shark in his day...then pauses, puts the deck down, and looks around at his friends:
Picard: I should have done this a long time ago.
Troi: You were always welcome.
Picard: So, five-card stud, nothing wild...and the sky's the limit.
- The episode "Future Imperfect." Riker wakes up from a coma 16 years in the future, and learned that he has a 16-year gap in his memory due to a brain disease, and he may never recover his memories. Among the memories he lost were the memories of his wife and son. Not to mention that his son effectively lost his father.
- The truth is an even greater Tear Jerker. The "future" was a simulation played by an alien child named Barash. His people were wiped out by an unknown foe, and his mother hid him in a cavern with holotechnology and replicators, which would give him everything he wanted. Except it could not give him companionship, and he had been stuck inside alone for what may have been many years.
- The death of the life-form in "Galaxy's Child," after the Enterprise fires on it in self-defense, given the radiation it was emitting. The shock and horror of having killed an innocent and unknown life-form that may simply have been trying to say "hello" is palpable in Picard's expression.
- Worse still, the crew quickly learns it was actually a mother protecting her yet-to-be-born baby.
- A rather understated moment from the episode "The Drumhead." In the ending scene, Picard delivers an Aesop that Norah Satie was likely always evil and had, for years, been "cloaking herself in good deeds." Now this may be a case of Alternate Character Interpretation, but it appears to be more complicated than that. From the beginning, we're told that Satie had come out of honorable retirement. Then we learn from tidbits here and their that, while her father was a good man and a fair judge, he may have not been the best father (having debates at dinner every night and not letting the kids leave the table till they'd hashed out every possible viewpoint isn't exactly the same as playing baseball and reading bedtime stories). So it's possible that Satie hadn't been hiding a secret desire to be malicious as Picard speculates, but merely someone who'd cracked under pressure after already being old, tired, and out-of-the-loop for so long. With all this in mind, her broken, quivering state at the end of her Villainous Breakdown becomes something quietly tragic. And everyone leaving the courtroom around her, leaving her alone in a Villainous BSOD, just underscores it.
- The final scene from "In Theory." After getting out of a lackluster relationship, Ensign Jenna D'Sora tried pursuing a relationship with Data, only to eventually realize that she left a man who barely showed emotion to her for a man who was incapable of having real emotions. She has to dump him, and the coldness of Data's response ("Then I will delete the appropriate program.") just guts her.
- In "The Measure of a Man," Riker is looking at Data's blueprints and schematics. He finds something he can use against Data in the upcoming hearing, so he smiles. But then his face falls as he realizes that he now has a weapon to destroy one of his closest friends, and duty obligates him to use it. Here are some screencaps: Riker pleased◊ and Riker bummed out◊.
- Also from that episode, during the trial Picard brings up Data's moment of intimacy with Tasha. Data actually has a little memorial of her. And when asked to define his relationship with Tasha, Data just says they were "intimate". It's one thing to make someone talk about having feelings for someone on the spot, but another still when they can't even properly say it.
- In "Hollow Pursuits", the look on Reg Barclay's face when Captain Picard refers to him as 'Mr. Broccoli' in front of the entire bridge crew. He looks absolutely crushed, probably because he knows about the nickname and how much the crew despises him, but he never thought the Captain would sink that low. The saddest thing is that it was an honest mistake. Picard had explicitly told Riker to nip the nickname in the bud and had been one of Barclay's staunchest supporters in private when others wanted have him transferred off the Enterprise.
- The fact that our heroes are the ones advocating Barclay, who many in the audience can immediately sympathize with, be transferred is its own tearjerker. Sure, they're saying it from the perspective of superior officers who are concerned that he can't handle the pressures of working on the Enterprise, a ship known to house the best of the best within Starfleet, and which is often in dangerous situations that need everyone performing at 100%, but they're still saying 'we think he doesn't belong here.'
- Season 7's "Interface" isn't very happy to begin with, centering around the possible loss of Geordi's mother and his subsequent denial. But there's one remarkably sad scene where Riker tries to talk it out with him, and relates this story of his late mother:
Riker: My mother died when I was a baby. All I have is pictures, and the stories that my father used to tell me about her. I begged him to tell those stories over and over. When I was five and I went to school, I started to tell my new friends those same stories, pretending that she was alive. Then I started believing that she was alive, that she'd just gone away, but that she was coming back. The teacher got wind of this, and she and my father had this talk with me. They told me, it was important to accept the fact that my mother was dead, and that she wasn't coming back. And all the hoping in the world wouldn't make it so. In my mind, that was the day that my mother actually died. I cried all that night.
- "All Good Things..." doesn't linger on it, but at one point in the past, Picard starts issuing orders, and reflexively gives ones relating to security to Worf, rather than Tasha. She protests and he corrects himself, but there's a moment where you can see him regretting that he is attempting to keep the timeline intact, which means that she's going to die within a year.