Actually, when you get down to it, "Sarek" is my personal favorite episode of Next Gen, which is in turn my favorite Star Trek series. I mean, I understand that "The Best of Both Worlds" is the episode that is most emblazoned in the hearts of fans everywhere, which holds the standard for the Enterprise D just as firmly as "The Trouble With Tribbles" does for the original ship. And frankly, I love every single second of TBOBW, it just has less of a cumulative effect on me.
So the things I love about "Sarek" are multifold. And it's really rather weird that I loved the episode so much, given that it came out before I really started appreciating things beyond the scope and coolness of a given crisis. It's a very down-to-earth plot, about a Great Man (er, Vulcan) who is trying for one final success before retirement. His minor psychic abilities exist for greater complication, but this mostly leads to some really interesting character interactions among the main cast. But really, the entire rest of the episode plays a distant second fiddle to the climax. Instead of a plot resolved by photon torpedoes, it was resolved by a mind-meld with Captain Picard, which allowed the titular ambassador to borrow some of his self-control, and transfer his teeming emotions to the captain.
Normally, this would be a rather silly end to a show. Except...Patrick Stewart is a MAJORLY good actor. And although science fiction is a genre that is generally less rewarding to good actors than, say, Shakespeare or Oscar-bait movies, this episode is a marvelous exception. Even as a kid who knew little about the deep emotions brought out by regret and years of life, the few minutes in which Picard took Sarek's mind sent shivers down my spine that I recall to this day.
And it's not the only episode that had a great emotional effect on me. I almost couldn't finish watching the episode where Data creates a daughter for himself, heartbroken about her coming death...but my parents convinced me that the closure given by the last act of the episode would help my sadness--and, of course, they were right.
Anyway, I decided to go to YouTube and search out the episode. I hoped for a clip of Picard's emotional breakdown. Instead, I found a 5-part upload of the show. And then I had to weigh a decision--would something I liked so much as a child wind up being sadly disappointing on growing up? But of course, I knew that I would end up deciding to watch the episode, so skipped out on the actual debate.
And in the end...the show is chilling. I realized, on watching it, that I really *wasn't* fully appreciating the show. It was excellently put together; the exposition was mostly unforced and quite reasonable. Everything fit perfectly into the mythos of Vulcans established earlier in the show--and in fact was driven by the "pride" the Vulcans feel on their control over their emotions. All without going in depth about how this fits into the various things we know about the most popular alien race of Star Trek.
In the end, I guess it's just good to find out that the things you loved as a child don't always suck twenty years later...