These are the voyages of Star Trek: The Next Generation which warped on to the television screens exactly 30 years ago (if you are reading this on September 28). The second TV series in the more than 50 year-old the franchise would not have had its longevity without this iconic science fiction series.
Now I had planned to rewatch all seven series of TNG and do a three part series of articles but I fell short by two seasons. What? I’m a busy guy. In lieu of this grandiose plan I decided to just talk about what I love about the series. So with a SPOILER ALERT (not sure you all need one but what the heck) here is TNG at 30 in three slices. Engage!
Part 1 – The Characters
Star Trek The Original Series (TOS) mainly focused on Captain Kirk, Mr Spock and Dr Leonard “Bones” McCoy but The Next Generation gave each character their moment in the Vulcan sun. And each of the bridge crew were interesting and had something to offer. Sure Wesley Crusher was a know-it-all brat in season one but he got better as time went on. Deanna Troi was a bit useless at times but she was still a likable character. Geordi was a brilliant engineer even if he did not have the best luck with women. Crusher was a caring doctor who fought for what she believed in, even going up against the captain a few times. And Riker was full of energy and likability and was more of horn dog than Kirk whose ways of seduction were usually part of some scheme.
But the most interesting of the bridge crew was the trio of Worf, Data and Captain Picard. Through Worf we learned about Klingon culture and saw this fierce warrior in battle, in love and as a father. With Data and his quest to be human we were impressed by his feats of strength and speed, laughed at his unintentional humor and cried when his “daughter” died. And Jean-Luc Picard! Forget that he was the least French Frenchman ever. He was a no nonsense kind of man who would say “come” when his door chimed instead of “come in.” He was a pillar of strength, a man of poise and duty that was even more interesting when his humanity was exposed. An explorer and an adventurer who would not be afraid to arm phasers when the situation called for it. With Picard in the captain’s chair you could feel safe exploring strange new worlds.
Part 2 – The Species
In TOS most of the aliens looked human and even the Klingons just had some heavy bronzer. In TNG, while we still got human looking aliens, we had a lot more interesting looking new life. The Klingons got a makeover with some cool ridges and a much richer warrior culture. The Romulans were back too and they were more devious than ever. And we also had new kids on the block like the greedy Ferengi, the militaristic Cardassians and the most epic Trek villians ever, the Borg. These collective cybernetic terrors were the greatest threat the Federation ever faced and, though they appeared in Star Trek: Voyager, they were never as intimidating and implacable as they were in TNG.
We also had giant species like the ship-like “Tin Man”, micro-species that messed with the ship’s systems or those creepy crab things from the episode Conspiracy. Freaky! And then there was the omnipotent Q who began as a villain but then became something of a hilarious nuisance. No one shook things up on the ship like good old Q.
Part 3 – The Stories
The best thing about TNG is the quality of the stories. Like all great science fiction it would take real world issues and present them in compelling and interesting ways. You had tense war episodes like the brilliant Yesterday’s Enterprise, Redemption and the perfect The Best of Both Worlds, philosophical episodes like The Measure of Man, The Drumhead and The Hunted, hilarious episodes like Deja Q and Qpid, beautiful and touching episodes like The Offspring and The Inner Light, the latter so good that it transcended television and became art.
Sure there were a few duds over the seven years but these were rare. And the show was stuffy at times and sometimes too cerebral but it always made you think and often stretched your imagination. It showed us where we could go and what we could be. A wonderful future filled with engaging characters, interesting aliens and thought provoking themes. And three decades later it is still a great watch and worthy of binging. Make it so!