Star Trek The Next Generation Series Analysis


Star Trek TNG Series Statistics
SeriesAverage Rating# of EpisodesPoints
TNG season 14.7726124
TNG season 25.0522111
TNG season 35.8826153
TNG season 45.6926148
TNG season 55.2326136
TNG season 66.1526160
TNG season 7526130
TNG as a whole5.4178962
TNG films8.43759
TNG & TNG films5.521851021

After the financial catastrophe that was TOS but the financial cash cow that was TOS films, Gene Roddenberry said, you know what? Let's try this again. He knew that no network would pick up an original series resurrection, especially given the aging actors, but if he breathed fresh life into the show with a new cast and (hey why not?) a new century that Star Trek might finally be as much a commercial television hit as it was a critical one. The assumptions Roddenberry was working under turned out to be correct. For TNG was the "correct" show in a number of ways. A lesser show would have simply ignored the vast amount of time that had gone by in the last ~20 years and appealed solely to the old fanbase. A lesser show would have preserved the decidedly retro look of even the films in favor appealing solely to the old fanbase. Instead, TNG appeals to the next generation of science fiction viewers by boldly going where no science fiction show had gone before. A revitalized, fresh, modern Star Trek was exactly what was needed.

TNG went far beyond revitalizing the cast and the setting though. TNG was a much deeper show than TOS. TNG had its fair share of duds like TOS did, but this time around, there was a great deal less network meddling. There was also a higher budget this time around, though perhaps not so much at the beginning. So TNG was free to start writing episodes exploring very cerebral concepts right from the start. If something similar to TNG's decidedly ultra cerebral pilot Encounter at Farpoint had been proposed for the pilot of TOS, it would have been rejected. Indeed, Encounter at Farpoint shares many similarities with The Cage. Even in TNG's relatively weak opening seasons, there were a number of truly profound episodes. Both parts of the pilot of course along with Symbiosis, The Neutral Zone, The Measure of a Man, Q Who, and Peak Performance are all stellar examples. Now that Star Trek was finally given real freedom to think outside the traditional violence and sex appeal box that so plagued TOS, the second generation of science fiction was truly born.

So what exactly is the second generation of science fiction? Why doesn't TOS fall into this category and why does it all begin with TNG? Simply put, Star Trek TNG was the first science fiction show to introduce long plot threads into the story where characters and events grow and evolve significantly over the course of several episodes and do it right; in such a manner that the stories produced are timeless and do not lose their value after they're slightly antiquated. The most obvious such plot thread is the development of Worf's character and the subsequent revelations about Klingon culture, adding valuable depth to these already popular aliens. But there are many, many others. One might argue that some prior science fiction shows had done this as well, most notably Battlestar Galactica TOS, or perhaps Lost in Space. But none of those shows rose above the values of the historical era they were made in and thus become vaguely ridiculous after relatively little passage of time, as did Star Trek TOS.

After Star Trek TNG's first few seasons, it began to enjoy enormous commercial and critical acclaim. A great many other science fiction shows were conceived afterward, all of which were benchmarked by the standards set by Star Trek TNG. Because of the resounding success, the show had an enormous effect on the entire genre itself. After TNG quite literally raised the quality bar of science fiction, not a single new science fiction show which got popular afterward suffered from the problems of those in what I've defined as the first generation of science fiction. This is why I similarly define TNG as the beginning of the second generation of science fiction. And just like in first generation, Star Trek continued to dominate the next generation of science fiction. TNG quite literally defined the values of the entire generation then rode the wave for all it was worth. TNG was truly a show that went where no science fiction show had gone before.

In the end, TNG nailed down that formula. It's got just the right amount of stand alone episodes, long running plot threads, and overall depth to make a great science fiction show. It's no wonder why virtually every other show to follow TNG was almost a near perfect copy of the TNG formula. With such great characters, great writing, and marvelous originality, Star Trek had finally paved its way to success. And successful it was. TNG ran for seven marvelous seasons and continued on long after that in the form of films, producing such marvelous classic episodes such as Deja Q, The Best of Both Worlds, Family, Data's Day, Darmok, The Inner Light, Relics, and of course my favorite of the series, Tapestry. Then like the first president of the United States, TNG ended its own critically acclaimed career after seven seasons with a marvelous finale, setting a precedent for all future shows to come, rather than riding the wave until it simply fizzled out. While maybe TNG wasn't the best science fiction show ever created, it is certainly among the top contenders for such a title. A true classic.