Today exactly 30 years ago, on 28th of September 1987, a very important event for Star Trek, for the science-fiction-genre and even for TV-series overall took place: The 1st airing of „Star Trek: The next Generation“, in German „Raumschiff Enterprise: Das nächste Jahrhundert“ (Starship Enterprise: The next century).
And exactly 5 years ago, on the occasion of the series 25th anniversary, I already wrote a big anniversary-tribute for – in my eyes – one oft he 3 greatest science-fiction-series ever.
So it was a bit of a challenge to me, considering what to write about the Next-Generation 5 years later. Maybe a little bit like a priest, considering what to say on next Sunday’s sermon.
Very briefly, what the core of TNG is to me, in the Wordrap:
- Started in 1987, 18 years after the end of the original series, in the fictional universe it takes place approximately 80 years after the original Enterprise.
- New, modern ship, new crew, new frame-conditions, new enemies.
- Much more serious, more sophisticated, morally superior and more realistic than the original series.
- Achieved a very high quality-level, both in terms of plot and actors, as well as in terms of staging and effects.
Today however I want to focus on aspects that I didn’t (or too little) shed light on last time and of course on new ideas that grew in me since then.
TNG – the best Star-Trek-series?
In 2012 I wrote, that to me TNG is the best of all Star-Trek-series. While this is true it still was premature.
Because Next-Generation to me ist he best Star-Trek-series, but ex-aequo. It shares it’s top-position with Deep-Space-Nine (DS9).
And the position as my favourite science-fiction-series it additionally shares with Babylon-5 (B5).
TNG, DS9 and B5 are also my personal all-time favourites among sci-fi series.
And: All 3 within only 5 months celebrate important anniversaries – DS9 and B5 at the beginning of 2018 each become 25 years old.
But what distinguishes the new starship Enterprise from and what does it better than other sci-fi-series?
- In terms of moral it has reached the highest level in the whole Star-Trek-universe – and probably also in the entire science-fiction-genre.
In follow-up trek-series however the moral level declined more and more.
- The "intellectuality" also reached its top-level at the next generation.
In no other Star-Trek-series the main protagonists are focussed more on science and even more on art and culture.
- And of course: The Captain.
As one of a very few fictitious-characters, Jean-Luc Picard has made it becoming a moral authority.
TNGs tolerance and Picards moral as a model for today
The moral-authority Picard is particularly important in our current era.
As today more than at least very long time ago our society is becoming more and more polarized.
Foreigners versus natives, poor versus rich, leftists versus rightists.
Tolerance, peacefulness, but at the same time also the constructive striving for solutions and resolute consequence (again) have to become cornerstones of our society.
Tolerance of course has to hold true for dissidents. Also and especially then, when other people go in a completely different direction in terms of their ideology or their believes as yourself.
In plain terms:
All us have to accept the legitimacy of strong left (i.e. Die Linke, KPÖ) or strong right political-parties, even then, if we see things completely differently.
And if we aren’t in favour of these positions, then we constructively have to elaborate better points of view.
Jean-Luc Picard always managed being tolerant towards different and dissident beings, while at the same time also consistently remain faithful to his own positions and ideals. Exemplary!
Multi-Viewing and 2nd-Screen
Since Tele5 has become the German-language Star-Trek-channel in 2011 and also aired Star Trek: The next Generation for long periods since then, I watched the episodes of the series many, many times, mostly as a background-program during other activities.
The more often you watch a series, the more details you notice and the more profound you recognize the big picture.
Of course you recognize certain stylistic-elements and artifices of the show-runners then. And of course in some situations you realize the series age – however even after umpteen times just in quite a few ones. Even today the Next-Generation still is a great and for the most part still very up to date piece on television. Of course, Science-Fiction, but much more than that.
Whether moral-episodes like "The measure of man", "The Drumhead" and "The Pegasus" or action-episodes like "Redemption", "The best of both worlds" or "The Nth degree". Even in the 2010s years this is still great television!
And above all the Internet offers enormous options for further extending and deepening you knowledge – of course also about the new Starship Enterprise.
It's almost unbelievable what Star-Trek-sources are available in the net:
Fan pages, forums, wikis, podcasts and much more.
Not least because of that I was able getting a good overview especially about the series' guest-actors. Some of these have had several roles – which was hard to recognize especially in case, when they played some aliens. And unfortunately, in the meantime, some of them have died.
Thinking at Star-Trek and the 2nd-screen especially 2 website are outstanding in the German-speaking-countries from my point of view:
The German version of thewiki "Memory-Alpha" and the podcast "Deutscher Star Trek Index" (DSI).
Some of the activities in the 2nd screen and in offline-hardcore-fan-scene definitely are exaggerated to me.
There are Trekkies respectively Trekkers, who seem to have forgotten that Star Trek is fiction. They use to escape into an illusory world and omit standing up for a better world in the here and now, so that the vision of a better future becomes reality also in real life.
Wrap-up and final words to 30 years Star Trek: The next Generation
First of all I again want to hint you on my 25 anniversary tribute from 2012. You only get the big picture of my thoughts by reading both of my TNG-tributes.
TNG was and is not only a great science-fiction-series. It paved the way of a whole genre into a new era. Because back then in the early 1990s, together with X-Files and perhaps Twin-Peaks it initiated the golden era of the phantastic-genre (science-fiction, fantasy, mystery), which reached peak of success in 1995/1996.
Even 30 years after its debut the series still is up to date, in terms of plots as well as in terms of narrative-technique. Quality prevails!
Specifically because of its intellectuality and its high moral standards – above all the moral authority of Jean-Luc Picard – the series should also foster a certain attitude in the fan's minds.
As I said above for the future I very much wish the fans of the series not only to enjoy the great, demanding entertainment, but also to bethink tolerance towards dissident thinkers – especially towards those with a different worldview.
Anyway I am very fond celebrating this big anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation and I very much hope, that hope that the series is going to find new fans the next 30 years and not only entertains them well, but also animates them to constructive reflections.