My favorite TV series of all time is Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG). It was a big deal before it came out. I had been a Trekker for years at that point and people were talking about this new series that was coming out, all in the wake of the theatrical films’ success and public desire to see some more Trek on the small screen.
And this was before the internet that there was buzz about this show. It’s pretty incredible looking back because it seems like that isn’t possible. But I remember a lot of people were talking about it. It was going to be the next big thing and while it struggled in the first two seasons, once this show “got its legs” it was unstoppable.
TNG is the highest rated syndicated television program of all time. It spun off three more Star Trek series and four feature films. What other show can lay claim to such numbers? None. People will consider The Original Series (TOS) to be the father of Trek and of course it is but it was really TNG that cemented Trek as one of the biggest, if not the biggest Sci-Fi franchise of them all.
Continuing the adventures of The U.S.S Enterprise, TNG kicks off almost a century later, where Klingons are allies, the Enterprise crew includes full families, and new and more varied aliens races are discovered and terrible wars are fought. TNG is everything TOS was, space exploration, great character development, deeper discovery of the galaxy, and so much more.
TNG took all that worked in TOS and expanded and more thoroughly explored what it means to be human in a universe of stars and races of beings that defy explanation. They meet Q, a race of Godlike beings capable of anything and everything above and beyond human thought.
They encountered new alien races like the Borg, a cybernetic hive mind race of frightening creatures hell bent on capturing and assimilating any and all people they encounter. One of the best films in the series, First Contact, has the Borg as the central villain.
The Romulans, first seen in TOS, become the main villain from TNG and these evil offshoot of the Vulcans give Captain Picard and crew all they can handle and more. This evolution of them and the Klingons, how each race grows and develops further is just one aspect of TNG that took something that started with TOS and was expanded into deeper territory.
At 178 episodes, TNG crushed TOS output of a mere 80 (counting the original pilot, which many fans do not). Yes, TOS laid the groundwork and built the world, but without the scale and scope of TNG, Star Trek would simple not be the venerable franchise it is today.