30 years ago on this day, Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered with its two-part pilot episode, “Encounter At Farpoint.” And ever since, the show has had a profound effect on my journey through life.
I was lucky enough to catch it on its premiere night, not quite as eager in the beginning. But something drew me, being a mixed cast of characters on a big starship, seeking out new life, new civilizations, and boldly going…. On this new starship, the NCC-1701 Enterprise D, held an android seeking humanity in itself, a mighty alien warrior eager for new challenges, a blind engineer expanding his self in science and technological advancement, a ship doctor balancing her work with the challenges of single motherhood, a ship counselor with empathic abilities often not very helpful, a charming first officer, and a captain who seeks the peaceful, diplomatic, humanitarian solutions to every problem.
This would go on for seven years, and four movies. Star Trek: The Next Generation became a show I grew up with, identifying with much of the crew on their journeys and moral dilemmas. To me, the show was about finding self in seeing what’s out there. For the crew and the journey, establishing humanity’s place in the Alpha Quadrant as a member of the Federation; ever-exploring and spreading peace along the way while interacting with new alien species. Each crew member had an ongoing quest to reaffirm their place on the bridge as an individual and team. Through them as inspiration and admiration, I often dealt better with relatable challenges in school, social explorations, and direction in life.
So, I love Star Trek: The Next Generation. Here are my top five favorite episodes in no particular order:
- Darmok – Picard is trapped on a planet with an alien with a very complex language system. The challenge puts Picard’s communication skills to a great test, with the solution being finding common ground and learning about each other.
- Q Who – The omnipotent Q throws the Enterprise into a distant uncharted space, where they meet the Borg. The experience is a lesson in humility for humanity, with new and iconic challenges to come.
- Yesterday’s Enterprise – An awesome episode with much of everything packed in; time travel, an alternate reality, epic ship on ship battles, revealing history connecting the classic series with the new, crew members put in new roles, moral dilemmas, high stakes.
- Chain of Command Part II – a gut-wrenching episode where Picard is held prisoner and tortured, physically and mentally. The acting between Picard and his Cardassian captor is intense, with an unforgettable ending. How many lights are there?
- “The Offspring” – Data creates an android daughter for him, in a continual effort to be “human.” This raises dilemmas and challenges on multiple levels, in a new role he must take on as a father and protector. A mix of emotions results with twists and turns, leaving me as a viewer feeling sad in the end for a fictional character whose existence didn’t last.
Overall, I love Star Trek: The Next Generation for what it was to myself, and what it gave to its growing audience – a vision of the future for a possible destiny in the stars, where the exploring and bonding with the universe and ourselves will never stop. With that, I best recall that epic last line of Captain Picard from its very first episode, that still remains a most important marker for us all…