On September 28th 1987 the 1st episode of "Star Trek - The next generation" (TNG) – in German-speaking countries "Raumschiff Enterprise – Das naechste Jahrhundert", has been on air in the United States. Around 21 years after the original Starship Enterprise it’s successor had taken over command in the Star Trek universe.
And this event now is almost unbelievable 25 years ago.
I must confess that I am a science-fiction fan. Especially the Star Trek universe is very exciting in my eyes. I've seen the first episodes of the new spaceship Enterprise around 1990 when I was staying at my aunt in the summer holidays. At that time my parents did not yet have satellite television. It took until 1994 when the series really started for me.
The next generation to me is the best of all Star Trek series. And it was TNG that has lifted the pop-cultural phenomenon "Star Trek" to the peak of success in the 1990s and that has pave Star Trek’s way into the 21st century.
On the fascinating stage of space Star Trek shows characters that are experiencing exciting adventures with a pinch of humor and thereby promoting peace and progress.
The next generation stands also for high demands:
The claim always to deal with social, scientific and political issues under the highest moral considerations.
Especially Captain Picard does refer to this claim. A school-mate told me in the 1990s that Picard to him is a kind of moral authority.
In addition to the captain Data stands out of the ensemble. The Android who wants to be humanlike is a very popular character and an ingenious whizz kid.
Also Commander Riker has had many good moments with his rather loose manner.
Together with Deanna Troi, Worf, Dr. Crusher and Geordi LaForge the result is a great ensemble of actors.
A further component of success is the large pool of well elaborated, recurring minor characters. And these are not only embodied by good but often also by well-known actors. A movie star like Whoopi Goldberg does not volunteer for a supporting role at any TV-series.
A very high level at the characters make-up, special effects and scripts completes the basic recipe of success.
However, it must be said that the series has had to develope:
Season 1 has reached only a moderate level almost across the board. The series often was a "rehash" of original Star Trek too much and had too little profile of it’s own.
That has improved already with the 2nd season and up from the 3rd season the new Enterprise has hit top form.
TNG’s popularity has lifted Star Trek to the peak of success in the 1990s: in addition to a TV-sequel with 2 further series ("Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager") from 1994 to 2002 the new Enterprise has continued it’s journey also on the big screen.
In the 2000s the great success for the "Next Generation" as well as for Star Trek as a whole has been over.
The 2009 Star Trek movie with a new Kirk and a new Spock however has been appealing to many people. It’s storyline takes place in a completely distinct universe and in addition around 100 years before the Next Generation.
10 Years after the new spaceship Enterprise’ last journey and 13 respectively 11 years after the end of "Deep Space Nine" respectively "Voyager" from my point of view it’s highest time that the adventures of this time line find their continuation on the TV-screen.
For not “burning-out” Star Trek I have in mind not to run a new series but to make 1-2 90-minute two-part TV-movies every year.
Old, well-known characters from TNG, DS9 and VOY could perform as well as new characters.
As title "Star Trek - 25th Century" would be perfect.
But how much ever I like Star Trek – it still entertains me and stimulates my mind – I also have to emphasize one thing very clearly:
Star Trek and science-fiction in general is not reality, it is an illusory world.
And nobody should escape reality by going in an illusory world.
We are living in turbulent times, facing many threats: financial crisis, environmental problems, increasing anti-democratic tendencies.
And if ever there shall be a positive future like the one on the new Enterprise, all of us have to commit engagement in our private-lifes as well as in political and social issues.
In this sense: "Engage" - for the next 25 years.
Update 04th October 2017
Last week Star Trek: The next Generation has celebrated 30th anniversary. And not only myself but also many other people still consider it just excellent.
For me this was also a good opportunity for extensively dealing with TNG. I have done so and this is the result:
- I have added an image to this article - previously it was "imageless".
- I have written an even more comprehensive 30th-anniversary-tribute to the new Starship Enterprise this year.
Finally my attitude 5 years later is still the same: TNG also in the 2010s still is a strong piece of television!