1 9 8 7 – 1 9 9 4 (USA)
178 x 60 minute episodes
Over the years there had been numerous rumours that Paramount Pictures would bring Star Trek back to TV – the Star Trek motion pictures had become money-makers for the studio and the ancillary marketing of anything that could be associated with the series and films had become quite lucrative.
Finally Star Trek: The Next Generation reached the air in 1987, 18 years after the original had ended with the man whose vision had been responsible for Star Trek in the first place, creator Gene Roddenberry, back as executive producer of the new series.
Set in the 24th Century, 78 years after the original Star Trek missions, these were the new voyages of the USS Enterprise, now upgraded to Galaxy Class and with a new captain and crew onboard.
The new Enterprise was much larger than its 23rd Century predecessor – more than twice as long and with eight times as much interior space. Accordingly, the ship’s crew, which now included children, numbered more than 2,000 people (Captain Kirk’s crew had numbered 430).
Commanding the Enterprise was Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), a more formal, fatherly, and much less emotional leader than Captain Kirk had been on the original series. Picard was far less inclined to heroic actions than his predecessor, James T Kirk, and preferred to let the “Away Teams” deal with a crisis, usually led by Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) – better known as ‘Number One’.
This probably makes much more sense – why would you put the commanding officer’s life at risk at every sniff of danger? You listening, Shatner?!
Riker and half-Betazoid Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) – who could sense the emotions of any living creature telepathically – were former lovers with the potential for rekindling their romance. Other officers on Picard’s staff were Lt. Geordi La Forge (Levar Burton), the blind helmsman who could ‘see’ with the aid of his VISOR glasses (which looked like a banana wrapped around his head); Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn), the ship’s Klingon officer (the Federation had made peace with the Klingons in the decades since Kirk’s Enterprise had fought them); Lt. Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby), head of security; Lt. Cdr. Data (Brent Spiner), a pasty-faced android with total recall and the desire to become more human; and Dr Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), the ship’s medical officer with a soft spot for the captain.
Dr Crusher’s son, Wesley (Wil Wheaton), a brilliant and inventive youth who wanted eventually to become a Starfleet officer himself, helped get the crew out of jams on more than one occasion.
When Tasha was killed by an alien in the spring of 1988, Lt. Worf assumed the duties of head of security. In the fall of 1988 Dr Crusher, who spent one season as head of Star Fleet Medical, was replaced by Dr Pulaski (Diana Muldaur). Geordi became chief engineer that season, with Wesley becoming an apprentice helmsman.
Also showing up in 1988 was Guinan (comedienne Whoopie Goldberg), the mysterious and incredibly intuitive humanoid bartender in the Enterprise‘s ‘Ten Forward Bar’.
Late in 1990, Wesley left the ship to enrol at Starfleet Academy. Early in 1993, transporter Chief Miles O’Brien (ex Z Cars actor Colm Meaney) left the Enterprise to become chief operations officer on Deep Space Nine, the space station that was the setting for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the third Star Trek series.
The sexist attitudes of the original series were gone in TNG, with many of the new 1000 strong crew being women, many of them in positions of command.
However, the cast was more earnest, less interesting, and less humorous than the original cast – The Politically Correct Gestapo may have actually killed off elements of what was so great about the original show.
The last original episode of TNG had a very surrealistic quality about it. The mysterious Q (John de Lancie), a superbeing who had been in the first episode of the series and had shown up on a number of occasions to test Picard and the crew, was back. His goal was to put Picard through another “test to expand his intelligence”.
Q caused Picard to shift between the present, the time of his first arrival on the Enterprise, and the future, when he was retired and divorced from Dr Crusher, whom he had apparently married.
Late in 1994 Star Trek: Generations, the film that bridged the new series with the original Star Trek, arrived in cinemas.
Make it so, Number One . . .
Capt. Jean-Luc Picard
Cmdr William T Riker
Lt Cmdr Data
Lt Cmdr Geordi La Forge
Lt Tasha Yar
Ensign Wesley Crusher
Dr Beverly Crusher
Counsellor Deanna Troi
Dr Kate Pulaski
Chief Miles O’Brien
Ensign Ro Laren
Dr Elissa Ogawa