Among the purest representations of what Star Trek is all about, 'Darmok' is near enough a masterpiece. It's a beautiful look at the language barrier between two people when you don't understand how the other person communicates. It's exciting, at times bewildering and ultimately sad.
Of course, it's got issues. The concept of the language based around metaphors seems inherently flawed (how do you have a normal conversation with someone? How do you order a meal off a menu? How do you potty train your child? How do you teach your children the stories in the first place?) but it also works because the point is we find it incomprehensible. It's alien. There are ways to answer my questions (maybe the aliens have some telepathic abilities, or pass down genetic memories) that really don't matter in the grand scheme.
Patrick Stewart is on top form as always, but he's given a run for his money with guest star Paul Winfield as the alien captain. There's also a brief glimpse of a very young Ashley Judd in what looks to be her first ever on-screen acting job, and she will return in the future.
It's a compelling mystery episode with tension and excitement. The crew of the Enterprise all have great scenes trying to solve the problem while Picard struggles to understand his companion and how to stay alive. Also, I really love the uniform jacket that Picard wears here for the first time.
I consider this to be one of the 10 best ever TNG episodes.
Wow. Wouldn't have thought that the episode would rise up THAT much. Truely a wonderful episode. Started a bit annoying because of the strongly limited language of the Tamarians – hard to imagine that you can reach such a technology level with that limited use of words. But it got better once Picard started to understand what Dathon wanted to tell him all the time. You could really hear the desperation in Picards voice the moment the Enterprise tried to beam him up. Really nice and touching!