Best '80s Television Show: Star Trek Next Generation
As published at Associated Content.com
By Laura Brestovansky
If anyone had told me in the late '70s that in 2009 I would
be voting "Star Trek Next Generation" as the best television show of
the '80s, I would have said they were nuts. Yet, looking back, that is the only
assessment I can really make for several reasons
A little background first: I am not a Trekkie or a science
fiction fan by any means. While I enjoyed the first three "Star Wars"
movies that came out, I was bored by the others. I occasionally like a good
fantasy story, but I'm not really into laser battles, starships and aliens.
When news came that Star Trek was going to be revived, I
yawned. I had been too young to really appreciate Captain Kirk and his crew. I
thought the sets and the aliens were hokey and I could not understand two of my
male classmates who were Trekkie enough to sew their own "Star Trek"
uniforms (in home economics class, no less) and wear them in public.
When "Next Generation" debuted, I did not watch at
first. As fate would have it, in late 1987, I married a science fiction fan and
we began watching regularly. I don't think I was immediately hooked but the
show grew on me. Here's why:
Next Gen's cast was great. Patrick Stewart's Jean-Luc Picard
was a commander to follow: intelligent and authoritative. Jonathan Frakes as
Commander William Riker, was a devilish but talented second-in-command (and
easy on the eyes). Brent Spiner added an
interesting touch as Lt. Commander Data, an android learning to be human. Michael Dorn as Security Officer Lt. Worf was
amusing to watch as a Klingon constantly befuddled by human ways. In later
years, Colm Meaney as Engineering Chief Miles O'Brien and his wife Keiko
(played by Rosalind Chao) added a new touch with family life on the U.S.S.
Enterprise. And who can forget Michelle Forbes as Ensign Ro, a Bajoran?
Hard-core Trekkies criticized Next Gen for its lack of
action. "Where Kirk fires a laser, Picard conducts a meeting," some
said. However, the variety of the plot lines made the show worth watching week
after week. For me, there are too many memorable episodes to mention, but those
are immediately come to mind include:
* The episode in which Picard lived an entire lifetime on an
alien planet in the space of a few minutes in reality.
* The episode, "Kahless," in which Worf believes
he saw the Klingon version of the Messiah addressed a serious issue in an
entertaining, thought-provoking way.
*The episode in which Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton) and Ensign Ro
believing themselves dead and watching invisibly as the remaining crew planned
* The episode in which Keiko O'Brien gives birth while the Enterprise is under
attack with a very uncomfortable Worf assisting. "Congratulations! You may
now give birth!" he announces.
Also the continuing
threads were fun to consider: Would Riker and Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina
Sirtis) ever get together (or would Worf take over)? Likewise, what about
Picard and Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden)? How human would Data actually
become? Would Q ever one-up Picard once and for all?
It's clear the cast enjoyed making the series. There are
several episodes in which it's very clear they probably had to shoot a scene
several times to get it without breaking up in laughter. Episodes on the
Holideck were always a fun break from seriousness of exploring new worlds.
Creator Gene Roddenberry's wife, Majel Barret's, occasional turns as Troi's
overbearing, outlandish mother were a hoot.
In our household we still joke about "cellular peptide
cake – with mint frosting" and blue "synth-ale." I cannot heat
up water for tea in the microwave without saying "Tea. Earl Grey.
Hot" the moment before the oven beeps, imitating Picard's favorite chore
for the replicator.
That's not to say the show was perfect. McFadden looked way
too old to portray the "30-year-old" Dr. Crusher. At times, the plots
carried the "We are the World," pro-diversity, theme to a
sugar-coated extreme. It took a long time to get Troi into a real uniform and
out of the revealing mini-skirts and catsuits she wore at first.
However, overall the show was a fun ride that we still watch
occasionally and still appreciate. It's almost enough to make me don makeup and
go to a convention. (I wonder if my former classmates could make me a costume?)