“Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship – Enterprise. It’s continuing mission: to explore strange, new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. And to boldly go where no one has gone before!”
If one were to ask me what my favorite sci-fi television show from the ’90s is, I would look them square in the eye and say Babylon 5. I would then pedantically explain that Star Trek: The Next Generation is technically an ’80s show, because it came out in 1987. Blah, blah, blah (sound of me getting sucker-punched) … I’m just joking here, folks. I love Star Trek.
All kidding aside, I want to take a moment to celebrate 30 years of Star Trek: The Next Generation, one of the greatest sci-fi TV shows out there. The show debuted Sept. 28, 1987, as a first-run syndication program. For those unfamiliar with the term, it simply means the show played across multiple networks in syndication.
The first season started out with a bang, but for the most part was rough and a bit on the cheesy side, with a few notable exceptions like the pilot, “Encounter at Fairpoint,” and “Conspiracy.” Season 2 is where most fans seem to agree the action picks up and by Season 3, it’s truly amazing. I once read an internet comment stating “if Riker has a beard, then it’s worth watching.”
During “Encounter at Farpoint,” the viewer is introduced to the brand-new, Galaxy-class starship Enterprise and the crew. Captain Picard is sent on a mission to the new and mysterious Farpoint Station not only to rendezvous with his new first officer, but to investigate the mystery of the station. Along the way, he’s stopped by a strange entity known as Q, who decides to put humanity on trial. This simultaneously sets up the series as something completely different from the original AND introduces a very important character to the franchise.
The series continued for seven seasons, most of them quite good. Several iconic alien species are introduced: the terrifying, technological Borg, the greedy Ferengi, and the Crystalline Entity. The “Spock” role is taken over by the android Data, who evolves within a unique character arc. Riker is a more-competent Kirk. The viewer meets characters from the original series — Spock, Sarek, Bones and Scotty — throughout the series run.
Two other Star Trek series were born from the success of TNG: Deep Space Nine and Voyager. These shows continued the ideas, storylines and universe set forth in TNG and are an important part of any Trekker’s viewing.
The TNG theme music, first heard in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, is now iconic. The effects at the time were quite good (leaps and bounds above Babylon 5) and newer high-definition releases of the show have remastered/modernized a great deal of the graphics and effects used in the show.
Overall, I think the show stands up well today and I’m always willing to watch and rewatch its episodes. I’ve even begun to build scale models of ships from the show. Then, there’s the excellent RPG from Modiphus, which has incredible miniatures in addition to a fun rules set.
So, load up your favorite episode of TNG, brew up a cup of Earl Grey tea (hot!) and engage in revisiting this superb slice of science fiction.