>Between TNG and DS9,I agree that DS9 was the better series.
It hard to compare them really, since they have different tone, different style and different characters overall. Both series share same philosophy but done absoluetly drom different sides of view. However I may say that yeah, DS9, exept a couple of first episodes is more "mature" tv series - and in therms of plots, and in therms of in-universe lore. Good example is Nog character - a lot people point out that this is wastley "done right". But hell. never watch this serises side-by side. late TNG seasons - you already feel characters, you feel at home when watching them, characters become more mature, plots continues and more interesting, while DS9 already different, but early episodes plus for that they different also not on level of late TNG so you may assume that DS9 is total shit. So it better finish TNG and at least first of it's movies, and then move to DS9 after some time.
>While TNG episodes can be watched in any order
I'd say not mutch. It still far from be very connected and a lot episodes have little connection, but there continiuty is much stronger than TOS. I can - and I often do - watch TOS in random order, but I can't say same for TNG. There still something happening, something changing, style of TVseries changed, characters with each episode remember more from previous ones, some characters die permanetly and at the end of series there so many things you will not get if you watch in random order, like Picard playing music on fluite.
>Honestly I find it harder to separate the good episodes from the bad with DS9, because I mostly think of that one in terms of the story arc
There not much really BAD episodes, if we tell in therms of what I consider A BAD episode by TOS/TNG standarts. Exept early ones, where I remember particular episode - NEW SPECIES ARRIVED AND THEY WANT PLAY GAME AND THEY PLACED CHARACTERS INTO THE GAME - c'mon it is like repeating of worst early TNG and late TOS episodes.
>I also had no idea Phase II had influenced TNG so much
Well, this is funny story with Phase-II that this series had no chances to happen. In early 70s was not money even for cartoon. In mid 70s they got money and start already doing something, but this series will never be as glorious is it planned - in many ways it was more conservative mix of TOS and new things. When they given much, much more budget and was forced to make movie, it finnaly start look how it should be.
Nowdays I feel lime motion picture with all it's floas still my favorite movie of all. Roddenberry really wanted make Space Oddysey, but better since 60s. And now he did it. He used pilot episode plot for Phase II, alttered it and did awesome movie with awesome atmosphere, style, and new feel. I don't even metion music and speccial effects: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHjLsvEOeS0&t=2s
they worked soo hard on it. It not the super best already, even by it's time, like in mine opinion cheap as hell Alien was best as spessial effects for 1979, but if only this came out in like 1973...
But price for it was there will be no TV series - ironicly he killed all his new characters in this movie that should play major role thought all Phase-II