9 August 2004 | colonel_green
To boldly go where no one has gone before.
Nearly twenty years after the original Star Trek was cancelled by NBC, Gene Roddenberry and Paramount sought to capitalize on the enormous success of TOS in syndication and on the big screen. Roddenberry decided to make the new series with few connections to the original, so that it could stand on its own. Many fans didn't like the idea of new characters, but Roddenberry pressed ahead, and Star Trek: The Next Generation was born. British stage actor Patrick Stewart assumed the role of Frenchman Captain Jean-Luc Picard, bringing gravitas, phenomenal acting skills, and an English accent that would become the boon of many jokes; Jonathon Frakes became William T. Riker, the Kirk-esque "Number One" with a love for the ladies and jazz; Brent Spiner was cast as Data, the android who envied human emotion; Gates McFadden was Dr. Beverly Crusher, the CMO with a complicated past with Captain Picard; Wil Wheaton was her irritating son Wesley, who would long annoy the fans; Michael Dorn brought a distinct presence to the recurring role of Klingon officer Worf, so much that he was promoted to regular. Marina Sirtis looked good as Deanna Troi, the psychiatrist who had once been involved with Riker; LeVar Burton was cast as Geordi LaForge, the blind Conn Officer; finally, Denise Crosby was Security Chief Tasha Yar. Also in the pilot was an unnamed conn officer played by Colm Meaney, who would later become Transporter Chief Miles O'Brien.
The first two seasons were of average quality, but they did a good job of setting up the characters and expanding the Trek universe. The series gathered its own following, although it continued to exist in the shadow of TOS. Q became an ongoing presence, appearing twice more after the pilot. His third appearance had him introducing the crew to the Borg, the fearsome cyborgs who would become Trek's most famous villains. Denise Crosby left TNG near the end of the first year, saying that her character wasn't being given enough to do. The producers also removed Gates McFadden's Dr. Crusher, introducing Dr. Kate Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) to induce more conflict. The fans did not take to Pulaski, so McFadden was brought back for the start of Season Three. That season was when TNG really came into its own, ending with the reappearance of the Borg. The Borg abducted Captain Picard, and turned him into one of them; Riker, now in command, gave the order to destroy the Borg Cube, while Picard was still onboard. That was the greatest cliffhanger in TV history, and TNG received a great deal of media attention as a result. Droves of new viewers tuned in for the fourth season premiere, which many perceived as a bit of a letdown after all the hype; but the viewers stayed, and TNG soared in the ratings, producing more and more quality episodes. While it did lose a bit of steam in its final year, it finished with an incredible series finale, All Good Things..., and then launched a movie franchise of its own.
TNG Top Ten Episodes: Conundrum; The Next Phase; Data's Day; The Best of Both World Parts I & II; Redemption Parts I & II; Reunion; The Defector; Face of the Enemy; The Pegasus; Elementary, My Dear Data;