As a lifelong fan of Star Trek dating back to the original series, Star Trek: The Next Generation became a shining beacon on an alien hill and validated the years of letter-writing campaigns to the studio that fans often conducted, as well as attending Star Trek conventions across the country where dedicated fans could immerse themselves in the universe of the original Star Trek. It’s not a stretch to assume that the strong fan base caught the attention of studio executives when they first considered a relaunch of the series.
The advent of The Next Generation represented the culmination of a journey (dare I say, “trek?”) that started when the original series ended after only three years. It began in 1966 and ended much too soon in 1969. However, the original series flourished on small, syndicated television stations across the nation, keeping fans engaged and hopeful.
It wasn’t long after its cancellation that a growing groundswell of fans organized their efforts and began a campaign to return Star Trek to the airwaves. The fan base grew large, a considerable accomplishment in the years before the Internet.
Star Trek films began to appear in theaters, but there is a difference in the feel of a feature film and a recurring series of one-hour episodes. A weekly series kept the audience engaged from week to week and built an even stronger fan following, leading to several additional series in the franchise.
By my count, there are five legitimate Star Trek series:
1. The original series
2. The Next Generation
3. Deep Space Nine
Those of you who are paying attention might note the absence of several spin-offs, such as:
2. Short Treks
4. Lower Decks
I have excluded these in my personal count, mostly because they are not on broadcast television, but are exclusive to CBS All Access. I also eliminated the animated series because, well, it’s a cartoon.
The Next Generation broke onto the airwaves in 1987, back in the days when you had to watch it when it came on, or miss that episode, having then to resort to waiting for the summer rerun to see those you had missed.
Plenty of people watched The Next Generation. By its fifth season, it reached over 11 million viewers, and for good reason. The episodes explored a wide field of topics and tackled issues such as whether artificial intelligence could be considered a life form (in the form of Data, the unique android) and often introduced the audience to a menagerie of new aliens, like the acquisition-hungry Ferengi.
The holodeck became a Star Trek fixture, allowing crewmembers to explore computer-generated worlds, and the series also explored Klingon culture in depths, and let’s not forget the introduction of the Borg!
The other series in the franchise holds a special place in my heart, and I never miss an opportunity to binge-watch an entire series in a month, but The Next Generation, being the first to bring a returning Star Trek to the airwaves, makes it special.
Live long and prosper!