It’s officially The Next Generation‘s 30th birthday today, counting its on-air premiere—even as, we always say, it actually “premiered” across a whole week until Oct. 4, Monday through Sunday, in various markets. And later to the rest of the world, of course. I said as much on TNG‘s 25th anniversary —and wow, look: we’ve been in the Blog Era that long!
Someone just asked me in an interview what TNG‘s standout quality might be among the Treks—and, bless me, if 2017 didn’t put a filter over my eyes so that I instantly blurted out “intellectualism,” as a positive mass goal (not a pointer to elitism). Not that the other series didn’t value rationality, of course, but embodied in Picard we had an ambassador/scientist who took opinions and talked first before shooting—or manged to find a Third Way out of the box of the week.
Those are all Starfleet hallmarks , of course, but they just seemed to find an elevated presence in the body of Picard & Co. on TNG.
It was a pre-9/11 time… much less the post-9/11 time of today where visceral, “dark and gritty” reactions are finally receding as a common backdrop to storytelling. Discovery is starting dark, but is that just a trope—and will it end up there? The light at the end of the tunnel is always brightest when the cave is darkest.
So here’s to TNG— the series that brought us bald captains, allied and non-cardboard Klingons… as well as Ferengi, Pakleds, Bajorans, Cardassians and of course Borg … “therapists on the bridge” and “carpet on the walls”… the PADD, the replicator and the skant … and a whole new paradigm of Trek storytelling. Its non-Kirk-centric format terrified the naysayers in 1987 before everyone realized what a gift the “80 years in the future” concept did to break open Trek’s potential as a built universe with so many corners to flesh out …ahead and back of it, in time.
On a personal note, TNG inspired this non-fiction writer to take another crack at “MyStar Media” and desktop publishing a database that became a little best-seller called the TNG Companion and a viable ticket into the madness of Trek HQ in Los Angeles, and permanent residency in Trekland and all that has come since. I owe TNG so much.
Looking back at “Farpoint,” it had its creakier moments—but just like today, fandom was so hungry for new weekly Trek that viewers stayed patient—and then exploded in numbers when the shakedown cruise finally ended in Season 3 and the quality hit critical mass under Michael Piller. TNG became a cultural thing and begat so much more, not all of which even carried the Star Trek banner.
Just ask all makers of Earl Grey tea. Hot or otherwise.
(And yes, here’s how WE celebrated. In the best copy-&-paste-flier tradition. On Oct. 4:)