Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William T. Riker
Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
LeVar Burton as Lt. Commander Geordi la Forge
Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
(Season 1) Denise Crosby as Lieutenant Tasha Yar
(Seasons 1-3) Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
By 1987, there had been a live-action series, an animated series, and four full-length movies, all starring the original cast. It was then decided that it was time for a new series. Headed by Gene Roddenberry in the first couple of seasons but not after that due to his health, this series has a similar premise but takes place a full hundred years after the original. McCoy does make a guest appearance, as do Spock, Scotty, and Spock’s father, but for the most part, they tried to avoid too many connections to the past. This show sought to stand out on its own.
For one thing, the role of the Captain becomes very different from the original. Jean-Luc Picard isn’t young, aggressive, all that good with the ladies, or even very strong. Diplomacy and thinking are what he does best. Lower-ranked officers Data and Worf are the heavy hitters of this show.
By most accounts, Roddenberry wanted the original to be a character ensemble. The network nixed the idea but by this time, Roddenberry had built up enough clout and respect to make this vision a reality. Most episodes focus on a specific character. Data and his attempts to be human probably being the most frequent candidate. Other character studies include Riker turning down command posts because he prefers the Enterprise, Worf trying to maintain his Klingon values despite having spent the vast majority of his life among humans, and Troi’s embarrassment by the annual visits of her mother, Lwaxana.
TNG is probably one of the less action-packed Treks out there. Plot and technological mishaps are center stage. Romance also occurs often. Some even call this “Star Trek for women.”
Compared to the original, TNG takes a different path in galactic politics as well. The Klingon Empire is now an ally of the Federation, albeit a somewhat embarrassing ally. You see, the Klingons are a violent, Dark Ages race of warriors while the Feds are basically a hippie pipe dream.
The most frequent villainous races are the devious Romulans, super-capitalistic Ferengi, and fascistic Cardassians. The prime antagonist, however, was Q. Q is a omnipotent being with a patronizing fascination with the crew of the new Enterprise. He sets up puzzles for for our heroes to get through, one of which takes them to Sherwood Forrest as caricatures of Robin Hood and his Merry Men.
The performances are pretty good, Patrick Stewart in particular. No Shatner overacting here.
If the truth be told, this show had a rather rocky start. This was due to a writer’s strike and the fact that Roddenberry was in bad health. I think the first season was alright, but the second was pretty bad. Thankfully, a shakeup was right around the corner and the series became very well-polished, although some episodes in the last season (particularly that one where the crew mutates) are pretty bad. It’s Q Who, the episode in which they encounter the Borg, in which the show turns around. The Borg are of course race organic machines with a single mind and the ability to “adapt” to lasers, making them all but unbeatable. In fact, the Enterprise actually loses in this episode. A season later, Picard (spoiler) gets turned into a Borg himself, making for a betrayal of a sort.
One very annoying character is Wesley Crusher. I can understand that they wanted someone for the kids to relate to, but I don’t know about this character. His smile makes me cringe when I see it. But he leaves for the academy in the fourth season. No biggie.
A very admirable spin-off. Here’s hoping that the new version someday gets around to this.
Overall: 8 out of 10