I set a challenge for myself a couple years ago, to watch all the Star Trek series and movies in chronological order, and then review them for you all. I had already watched pretty much all of them over the years, in the order they were released, but it had been sporadic. I really wanted to see them all, even the antiquated TOS in the order they happened in that universe. The Memory Alpha wiki helped a lot with that. Their episode guide has navigation for just that series, or all series in order, which is what took much longer for TNG. Not only is the series longer than Enterprise or TOS, but in season 6 of TNG the series begins to overlap with DS9 so that delayed my completion of the series. Same thing happens early on in DS9 when it overlaps with Voyager. So, if you do it like I do it helps to use the episode guide in the wiki to follow along.
Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered in 1987, 20 years after the end of the original series that spawned the franchise. 27 million people sat down to watch the two hour pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint”. They were pulled into a 7 year adventure that, to many, is the best that Star Trek ever was. The series ran until ’94, spawned 4 films, and a plethora of other media. The series revitalized a fandom, and expanded the fan base beyond just about any other following. There’s no doubt that much of what we have in Sci Fi television today is compared to, and measured against Star Trek, and TNG especially.
As far as production quality goes, we are talking about a show that premiered 30 years ago. At the time it was top of the class for effects, sets, and costuming when it came to television. Being a retrospective, that’s what we really have to compare it to. However, I did see some of the episodes in the remastered hi-def and they looked great. Updated effects, sound, and resolution made the already good material pop. I would recommend, if you do go back and watch the show, pick up the remastered edition. Especially if you’re watching it on a hi-def or wide screen TV. The original format just doesn’t look good at all on modern TVs. Overall the show’s creators and production team delivered a sci fi show ahead of it’s time, and is only now topped by more advanced effects and techniques that just weren’t available 30 years ago.
Like the original series, TNG stuck to the idea of a show that isn’t just about the cool ships, lasers, and aliens. It’s very much a show about humanity, our place in the universe, and our nature. The original series was accused of being too cerebral, and eventually cancelled. The studios thought then that people just wanted space action and adventure. The time between shows, and the growing following of the original series showed that people did want a show that challenged their minds as much as having a space adventure. Thankfully the studios listened. That’s not to say every episode is a gem. Most are good, a few are great, but the series itself does suffer from a couple of flaws. The biggest story problem, and most noticeable to me, was that there was little internal conflict between the crew. The writers skirted that line a few times, having some minor conflict, but nothing major. Having that restriction on conflict be a part of your story criteria is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it looks like we’ve evolved socially to a point where people never have arguments. On the other, it comes off a little fake and hard to believe. On a ship, that is basically a city in space, no one is at odds with anyone else? It was always one of those things that wasn’t obvious, you just knew something was off. It all seemed just a little too neat when it came to interpersonal affairs on the ship.
Breaking down each episode would of course be too much. There are gems in all seven seasons like I said. Some of the best I remember involved Q, like ‘Q Who’, or the Borg as in ‘Best of Both Worlds’. ‘Darmok’ and ‘Unification’ are great, and ‘I, Borg’ was a very thought-provoking episode. The debate will probably last as long as people remember the show, on which episodes were the best. They’ll be just as heated, and endless as the arguments over whether Kirk or Picard is the better captain. It’s Janeway by the way. Over all the series is great, and arguably the best that Star Trek has had.
So really, this is just a look back at what is now a classic science fiction show, not really a breakdown of every episode and element. I think it holds up, even today, due to writing and interesting characters. I think the show could have done with a little more internal conflict to make the world they live in seem a little less tidy; a little more real. For its time the special effects are great, and are still good compared to some of the stuff we see on TV today. As of this writing a trailer for Star Trek Discovery was just released, and it looks interesting, but I’m still holding my opinion for the most part. I’m not happy about the premium release plan at all, so we most likely won’t see it unless it goes to a streaming service like Netflix. If you’re a fan of Trek you’ve probably already seen TNG, but if you haven’t seen it, or seen it all go give it a watch. Instant streaming on Netflix gets you every episode, and it’s quite a fun journey. If you haven’t really watched much Star Trek, but you’re looking for a place to get started I honestly think this is it. I loved the original series, but it can be a hard watch for people who aren’t already fans. Give it a shot, I think you’ll enjoy it.