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‘Star Trek: TNG’: a misnomer?

Captain Kirk retired from Starfleet in the year 2293. Jean-Luc Picard assumed command of the Enterprise-D in 2364. That’s a gap of 70+ years. Even in an era when lifespans have lengthened dramatically,[1] it’s a stretch to call Picard’s crew “The Next Generation.”[2]

Then again, “Star Trek: A Subsequent Generation” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.


  1. Memory Alpha suggests that the average human lifespan had lengthened to 120 years by the TNG era. A 137-year-old McCoy visits the Enterprise-D in the newer series’ pilot episode.  ↩

  2. Technically, the “next generation” was already serving in Starfleet at the tail end of the Kirk era.  ↩

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Ship of fools: Star Trek TNG’s (socially awkward) Enterprise.

If Star Trek: The Next Generation accurately depicts humanity’s future, get ready for some very awkward conversations. The show’s main characters all struggle socially. Consider:

  • Worf would rather eat you than meet you.
  • LaForge’s best friend is a robot, he intimidates his employees, and he makes out with holograms.
  • Picard can’t relate to the crew unless he’s bossing them around. He only deigns to cavort with his underlings at the series’ very end.
  • Data’s whole M.O. is making social faux pas.
  • Dr. Crusher’s bland bedside manner only reminds us how much we miss Pulaski.
  • Wesley’s a gangly, self-conscious teenager. And those sweaters!
  • Even Riker (supposedly the Enterprise’s smooth operator) can’t sit or stand like a normal person.

I can’t wait for our Star Trek future! Impossibly powerful technology. The eradication of poverty. And… unbearably uncomfortable dinner parties.

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Trek envy

J.J. Abrams’s Star Trek reboot focused on the franchise’s original characters: Kirk. Spock. McCoy. Scotty.

It must feel unfair to the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. After all, in terms of sheer screen time, they’ve got the original cast beat. We have many more hours of Trek with Picard at the helm than with Kirk. Yet no one’s seriously considering a TNG reboot. And even hard-core fans would squirm if Abrams tried to shoehorn Troi or Geordi into the alternative timeline established by the new movies.

That hasn’t stopped the actors from trying. Every so often, Brent Spiner or Jonathan Frakes shameless pitch themselves for the next Abrams flick. “Of course they could bring me back!” they protest, “It’s Star Trek, for God’s sake! A malfunctioning transporter! A clone experiment gone wrong! Time travel! You fans should write letters demanding my character’s return!”

This sort of self-promotion irks me, for several reasons. First, it reeks of desperation. Open groveling breaks my heart. Second, it proves how little these actors understand storytelling. Fan service does not a good plot make. Finally, such role-grubbing seems ungrateful. Where’s the respect for the fictional universe that brought them international fame and commercial success?

Then again, maybe they shouldn’t be grateful. Trek has a way of hijacking actors’ careers. Once you’re typecast as the childlike android or the chair-challenged commander, it’s tough to earn a non-Trek gig.[1] You’re doomed to attend an endless series of nerdy conventions, answering the same questions again and again. There’s only so many times you can wax eloquent about Wesley’s sweaters or Riker’s beard before you go mad.

It’s no wonder that the TNGers hunger for a more mainstream spotlight.


  1. The only notable exception is Patrick Stewart, whose British theater connections (and sheer awesomeness) kept his career from going Picard-centric.  ↩