25 Years of Star Trek: The Next Generation (Stories I Like)

When Star Trek: The Next Generation began, it wasn’t a great show.  It was awkward and clumsy and uncertain.  But as far as science fiction TV was concerned, it was kind of the only option you had.  So I stuck with it, as best I could.  I missed much of Season Two because that was when I went to college, so my viewing was pretty sporadic.  There’d been a writer’s strike that year, which didn’t help either, and neither did the fact that the opening story of the second season (if memory serves) was a recycled script featuring one of my least favorite characters impregnated by a mysterious rapid-growing space alien.

But then I began to hear about other episodes later in that season, and in the third – stories that were strong, challenging, and truly dramatic.  And then I caught an episode called Yesterday’s Enterprise in my sophomore year dorm room, and I knew I was watching something special.

I’d always been a fan of the original Star Trek series, and I think without a doubt that original series had the best moments of any Star Trek incarnation, and developed the best relationships.  Nothing since has ever held a candle to the Kirk-Spock-McCoy dynamic, and made you feel in the same way that these characters really knew each other.

But I’d say that of all the history of Star Trek, that it’s Next Generation that has had the best episodes.  Stories like the aforementioned Yesterday’s Enterprise, as well as The Best of Both Worlds, Darmok, Measure of a Man, The Offspring, and many others come to mind as examples of solid and effective mixes of good plotting, characterization, thematic development, production, and performances.

Of course, in a way, Next Generation had the worst episodes of any Star Trek series as well.  When the old Star Trek was bad, it was usually still sort of funny or mesmerizingly kitschy to watch (Spock’s Brain, anyone?  Or Kirk reciting the Declaration of Independence, etc.)   When Next Generation got bad, it usually just got plain boring.  The titles of these stories mostly escape me for now, but I remember Riker risking his Starfleet career because he’d fallen in love with an androgynous creature, or Data getting possessed by an entire population…?

But recently, I realized that it’s actually been a long time since I’ve seen most of these episodes.  In fact, I realized that Star Trek: The Next Generation actually debuted nearly 25 years ago!  And that prompted me to think about going back and watching all those episodes again – even the really bad ones – and blogging about what I saw.  It’s a bit of an investment, but it’ll be interesting to see how these stories have dated.  You can check out these posts starting here.

The actual 25th birthday of Next Generation is in September.  I don’t think I’ll have gone through the entire series at that point.  I may not have in a whole year from now, or even longer.  We will see.  But I’ll do my best to accomplish it in less than seven years.  That’s how long it took them to make the entire thing, so hopefully watching it and writing about it, even with a busy schedule, comes a bit easier.

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