I remember feeling trapped in a house party in 1987. The parents were downstairs drinking wine and playing Trivial Pursuit, while the kids clustered upstairs around a small color TV set. That evening’s program happened to be the pilot of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and within moments, an eight-year-old boy was ensconced in sci-fi bliss.
The show’s 25th anniversary has rekindled my appreciation for the Star Trek universe. My generation grew up with The Next Generation in the same way that our folks experienced the adventures of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Some say that TNG would never fly in today’s television world. Was it too cerebral? Did it really matter? TNG was devoid of the flashy and vulgar nonsense of newer programming. The show was far more than science fiction—it was drama, theater, action, comedy, romance, and a high-tech joyride.
What could have been a silly copy of the original series took time to earn an audience. Skeptical Trekkies were proven wrong. There was no denying the sleeker curves of the new Enterprise or the IKEA woodwork on the main bridge. The characters were fresh: an android looking for humanity, a Klingon with anger management issues, an empathic counselor, a blind helmsman, and a superb Shakespearean captain.
Once again, American viewers took weekly trips to the final frontier. There were plenty of nebulae and Class-M planets to go around. The Next Generation was an open classroom for all ages. We learned the art of basic diplomacy. We tried to make neighbors out of former enemies. Perhaps the best lesson? Humanity isn’t perfect, but we strive to better ourselves and conquer our limits.
We can gladly set The Next Generation in the upper echelon of quality programming. There is something to be said for stories that become a genuine, life-changing experience. Modern stories like Lost and Firefly also strive for a similar cult following with a philosophical undercurrent, but only Star Trek has evolved into five TV series, eleven films, and the real phenomenon of becoming a household name. As a writer, I’m forever thankful for the television experience that has made me smarter, wiser, and always eager for the Great Adventure.