On The Legacy Of Star Trek The Next Generation

SPACE, THE FINAL FRONTIER…
THESE ARE THE VOYAGES OF THE STARSHIP ENTERPRISE
ITS CONTINUING MISSION, TO EXPLORE STRANGE NEW WORLDS
TO SEEK OUT NEW LIFE AND NEW CIVILIZATIONS
TO BOLDLY GO WHERE NO ONE HAS GONE BEFORE

Star Trek - The Next Generation (cast)When Star Trek-The Next Generation first premiered in the fall of 1987, the television landscape was very different. Only the three major networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC) were broadcasting first-run television series. TNG was the first series ever produced with first-run episodes specifically created to be shown on syndicated TV (WPIX). It changed the face of television forever by opening up the way for syndicated TV to compete with the three major networks.

TNG was well received by critics. It made tons of money for the advertisers, regenerated the sagging Star Trek fan base and brought in new generations of fans that were born long after Classic Trek had been canceled – after just three years of its five year mission. It not only led the way for all other syndicated series but also made possible the development of new broadcast channels such as WB and UPN. To this day, TNG is considered the most successful syndicated series of all time.

I never considered TNG to be a sequel to the original Classic Trek. I always saw it as a completely new series with only a vague historical connection to the first series (starfleet, the prime directive, the starship enterprise). The command structure was different. There was no Vulcan on board and whereas Kirk was a more fiery and confrontational captain, Picard was more of an accomplished mediator at the helm of the Enterprise D.

The social commentary was now being presented by two characters: Commander Data – in his search to be more human – and by Wesley Crusher – in his search to grow up. The half-breed characters were portrayed by Counselor Deeana Troi (half Betazoid, half Human – aka the Enterprise Slut) and by Worf, the (culturally compromised) Klingon brought up on Earth, by humans.

TNG Locutus of BorgThe uniqueness of TNG for me was the Hallow Deck which opened up a whole new venue for playing with non science fiction settings within the deck of the Enterprise while it moved at warp speed through the galaxy. The other was The Borg, which presented the most terrifying adversary humanity ever faced. The TNG episode “The Best Of Both Worlds” was picked by TV Guide as the second most popular cliffhanger of all time, just behind “Who Shot JR” in Dallas. Star Trek 8 – First Contact, featuring The Borg, was the best of the TNG movies.

The linking of the original series with TNG, hinted at briefly in the premiere episode with the appearance of a very old Dr. McCoy, was fully solidified with the appearance in the third season of (Bendii-syndrome-afflicted) Sarek, in the fifth season by Spock (whose judgment had been influenced by his emotions) and in the sixth season by a very stout (in transporter-suspended-animation) Scotty. As with the Classic Trek, and the other Trek series, the characters became the most important element that contributed to the popularity of the series, as well as the special effects, and the themes covered, which were both thought-provoking and relevant.

Star Trek TNG - Enterprise DBy the time it completed its seventh and unprecedented season, it had become one of the most respected series of all time and considered among the best science fiction television ever produced. At the Emmies, it became the first science fiction series to be nominated for Best Dramatic Series. It didn’t win because even in 1994 it was difficult for the awards community to accept science fiction to be as legitimate as other forms of drama. Never-the-less, it made television history by going where no television series had ever gone before.

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