Star Trek: The Next Generation had a bold new mission from 1987-1994

Star Trek The Next Generation cast

Note: This article may feature affiliate links, and purchases made may earn us a commission at no extra cost to you. Find out more here.


Star Trek: The Next Generation took the Enterprise on a new adventure

Time – July 27, 1987

Their mission will still be “to boldly go where no man has gone before,” but when the Paramount TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation blasts off in October, don’t expect to see Captain Kirk, Mr Spock or any of the old crew at the blinking controls.

Set in the 24th century, 76 years after the original series, the refitted Enterprise will feature, along with new sets and special effects, a fresh crew — including a blind lieutenant, a super-strong android, a half-human, half-Betazoid female counselor, and a captain named Jean Luc Picard, played by British actor Patrick Stewart, 46.

Star Trek TNG crew of The Enterprise - NCC-1701D

“He is a bit older and wiser than Kirk,” Stewart observes of his character. “But like Kirk, he is strongly independent and something of a legend as an explorer.”

One of the few returning veterans is Executive Producer Gene Roddenberry. Says he: “The show will deal with problems that have arisen during the past two decades, such as terrorism and drugs.”

Roddenberry is firm about one point: the new Trekkers will never reveal what happened to the old crew. Could it be the Klingons finally won the war?

Star Trek Picard

New Star Trek crew boldly setting own galactic course (1988)

By Seli Groves – The Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts) January 23, 1988

Sometimes things happen that can’t happen — like bumblebees flying. As any aeronautical engineer will tell you, the creature just isn’t — designed right for flight. Or rivers that flow north. Not likely.

So, if you happen to see the Nile streaming past your Cairo hotel window, ignore it. It’s not there. Or successful sequels to television series that become cult classics. Impossible. Can’t be done. Dedicated fans of the original will accept anything but.

So, the fact that “Star Trek: The Next Generation” has taken over the No. 1 spot in most syndication markets from “Star Trek’ (the original series) has to be a figment of the universal imagination, no doubt caused by a Klingon mind-clouder. Therefore, this story should end right now, shouldn’t it?

Vintage Star Trek The Next Generation scenes (1)

But it won’t, because somehow, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is reality, and it is defying the odds that were once so strong you could have safely bet the farm that sequels — including those that last through a season — never achieve the same level of success as the original, even in syndication where network pressures aren’t intense and a show usually has more time to succeed.

(Cases in point: the second comings of “Leave it to Beaver” and “Gidget” pale in comparison to their predecessors.)

However, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” has become a proud successor to the “Star Trek” legend. Even die-hard and dedicated Trekkies who can’t imagine anyone aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise who isn’t a member of Captain Kirk’s jolly crew have accepted Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s courageous company of Starfleet stalwarts as legitimate explorers of the unknown stretches of the universe.

Star Trek - The Next Generation - Cast

One reason for the show’s success may lie with the fact that it doesn’t try to be a sequel to the original. It’s a show that stands on its own. (Or, perhaps I should say — it moves on its own orbit.)

Whatever it owes to Kirk and company is in line with tradition, not direct lineage.

In much the same way that the original “Star Trek” gave one a feeling that the spaceship was a latter-day sailing vessel a la the ships of history’s famous explorer sea captains such as Drake, Columbus, Magellan, et al, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” also perpetuates the mystique of the ship heading into uncharted waters to find — what?

Patrick Stewart, the English Shakespearean actor who plays Captain Jean-Luc Picard shares a sense of disciplined curiosity with his character, in the same way that Picard looks to push back the frontiers of space.

Women of Star Trek The Next Generation season 1

Stewart sees acting as a way of exploring his own potential. Where many actors use acting as a way of disguising themselves in their roles, Stewart says: “I want my work to say something about me, to contain more of my experience of the world.”

(Incidentally, for trivia buffs: there is a historical Jean Picard who may be our Captain’s ancestor; at least the genes seem to be appropriate. The real Picard was a famous French astronomer who lived in the 17th century. )

Star Trek The Next Generation - Stewart and Frakes

Picard’s crew is made up of completely credible, if not currently probable, personalities.

Not everyone is human (there’s a half-human, half-Betazoid empath, Deanna Troi, played by Marina Sirtis, and a Klingon, Worf, played by Michael Dorn) and an android, Commander Data (played by Brent Spiner) who may well be on the cutting edge of humanness.

Although there’s no doubting the fact that he’s a highly specialized robot, one senses that if Data could pray for a technological miracle, it would be to have his titanium power pack turn into a real beating heart, and his millions of massed microchips converted into a real brain.

Star Trek - The Next Generation - Data

As it is, Data describes himself as “fully functional” — a fact that was fully appreciated by his crewmate, Lieutenant Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) in one segment in which the no-nonsense security chief needed to find someone to do something about her unexpectedly, and inexplicably, highly charged libido.

Spiner, who hails from Houston, Texas, feels that anything that happens aboard the Enterprise is possible. He describes himself as a believer in extraterrestrial life, “and I’ll continue to believe,” he says, until the concept is disproved.

Vintage Star Trek The Next Generation scenes (3)

“Star Trek: The Next Generation” is, for Brent Spiner, a currently fictional representation of what is probably going to be — or should be — reality in the future.

“I’m one of those people who believes mankind will find all the answers out in space, but the first step is to get off this planet.

“The sun is going to burn out eventually, and we’d better be someplace else as a race of people by the time that happens. I think,” says Spiner, adding, “that’s why everybody digs (the show)… they know it’s a part of all our futures and represents a vision of hope.”

MORE: Actor George Takei on life during – and after – Star Trek

Marina Sirtis, the English-born actor who plays Commander Troi, has always been interested in space and is sure she once sighted a UFO. The experience left her with a deeper appreciation of what might possibly be out there.

Vintage Star Trek The Next Generation scenes (4)

Denise Crosby finds it remarkably easy to understand someone like Tasha Yar, the security chief of the Enterprise. At first glance, it seems difficult to imagine the two women having very much in common.

Denise is the granddaughter of the late Bing Crosby, with all the trimmings that would go with that birthright.

Tasha, Denise says: “Comes from an incredibly violent Earth colony where life was a constant battle for survival. She can fight and she knows her job. But she has no family, is emotionally insecure, and somehow feels she doesn’t quite belong on this ship of seemingly perfect people.”

So how does Denise feel she can relate to this woman?

“My grandfather,” she says of Bing Crosby, “was a Hollywood legend. Growing up with that wasn’t exactly normal or typical either, and I think that helps me understand Tasha’s imbalance and insecurities.”

Vintage Star Trek The Next Generation scenes (2)

Michael Dorn plays the only full non-human in the crew. If some of us expected to find a Vulcan to carry on Mr. Spock’s tradition, we were disappointed.

But it was only logical, as Mr. Spock would have said, for a Klingon to come aboard a Federation ship at some time. So why not now, only 85 years after Spock served as a Starfleet officer?

After all, as we Trekkies know, Vulcans and Klingons are related races — and as Spock often pointed out, Vulcans were once as violent as Klingons. So we know it’s perfectly rational to have a now-pacified Klingon in the crew.

Michael Dorn, a dedicated Trekkie who plays Worf, credits producer Gene Roddenberry for creating his character as a symbol of humanity’s continued progress toward peace between and among all people.

Star Trek TNG - Michael Dorn as Worf

“Gene believes there’s good in everybody — even Klingons,” Dorn says.

The fact the Worf looks so different from everyone else doesn’t bother Dorn. “He’s an outsider, but that’s okay because he knows he’s superior to these weak humans, but he never lets the other crew members see that, because he’s a soldier first and a Klingon second.”

Levar Burton, who earned an Emmy nomination for his role as Kunte Kinte in “Roots,” is a longtime “Star Trek” fan.

His character, Geordi LaForge, is described as being blind from birth, but is able to see with a special VISOR (Visual Input Sensory Optical Reflector) worn over his eyes.

“I’m told,” Burton says, “that he’s named for a disabled long time ‘Star Trek’ fan who passed away.”

Levar Burton - Geordi ST TNG

Burton, who made his first impact playing a character from a past that represented some of the worst aspects of human history, has a special feeling for this show about the future.

”I’ve always appreciated Gene Roddenberry’s approach to science fiction,” he says. “His vision of the future has always included minorities — not just blacks, but Asians and Hispanics as well.

MORE: Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols talks space, race, singing & more in these vintage interviews

“He’s saying that unless we learn to cooperate as a species, we won’t be able to make it to the 24th century.”

Other members of the cast (or crew) feel similarly about the series. Jonathan Frakes, who plays Commander William Riker, Gates McFadden, who plays chief medical officer, Dr. Beverly Crusher, and Wil Wheaton, who plays Crusher’s whiz-kid son Wesley, all feel the show is special.

Star Trek TNG - Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher

In many ways, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” is a family show. The premise indicates that whole families are said to be living aboard the spaceship as it moves through decades-long tours into unexplored space.

As for the crew itself, human, humanoid, android — all seem linked by a sense of family. They represent the very possible next step in our Social evolution, and maybe that’s why we want to be with them on their voyages through our future.

Vintage Star Trek The Next Generation publicity still - The Enterprise

Star Trek: The Next Generation opening credits/theme

YouTube video

PS: If you liked this article, please share it! You can also get our free newsletter, follow us on Facebook & Pinterest. Thanks for visiting and for supporting a small business! 🤩 


You might also like...

The fun never ends:

Comments on this story

Leave a comment here!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.