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Series Review: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Star Trek: The Next Generation basically was the Star Trek when I was a kid. I hadn't even heard of the characters in the original until I was older. I grew up watching and loving this show as an intellectually gifted child because I found it mentally stimulating and advanced above most regular TV shows, and still think so.
While I like the original Star Trek series, this series seems more mature and sophisticated. It truly is the next generation, a new series for a new era. Just like the original, it was socially progressive, entertaining, inspiring, and just overall cool. And unlike the original, the main characters didn't spend half as much time engaged in petty bickering. A major gripe I have with the original is the way McCoy and Spock sound like an old married couple.
Like the old original Star Trek, this still follows the basic usual formula of: the Enterprise travels somewhere to do something, and some weird stuff happens involving some aliens, and there's some kind of mystery to solve and the clock starts ticking as stuff starts malfunctioning and whatnot, but everything's fine by the end. This new crew is a phenomenal cast of individuals who are all exceptional, and all really care about what they do.
Basically, this show is similar in formula to the old Star Trek, enough to retain familiarity, but it's different. It's less goofy humor, less of that campy 60's stuff they did in the original. They made the show more sophisticated and concerned with philosophical, moral, and political issues, as well as about deep psychological explorations of the characters and their relationships to one another. Now, the original series does have its moments like this, but Next Generation is definitely more sophisticated of a series overall.
Review and Discussion
While I can't speak for Voyager or Deep Space Nine due to insufficient data, I have sufficient data to say I prefer this to the original Star Trek. Speaking of Data, I really love all the Next Generation characters. In the original, the characters were sometimes a bit too archetypal and not as emotionally nuanced, nor did they really undergo as much character development as the characters in The Next Generation.
One of the things I liked to were the villains. 'Q' is a powerful being who sees humanity as pathetic and limited, and basically acts like a playground bully or trickster mentor to Jean-Luc. The Borg are probably the scariest villain I've seen on TV or Sci-Fi history, because of their ability to erase individual wills and personalities while assimilating sentient beings into a singly-minded collective. This brings to mind parallels with socialism and communism in the real world. Like the Borg, a communist society grinds a person's individual will away and replaces it with a slave-like devotion to the group. The Borg see this as utopian and ideal, just like communist dictators do. This is because in a society where only one mind is allowed to govern all others, dissenting voices are not heard, and criticism of the government is not tolerated. Therefore, problems with the "utopia" are not heard or taken seriously, and weaknesses and flaws in the plans of the state are ignored as "negative thinking". The Borg threaten the universe's peace and the Enterprise's mission in a way that a merely hostile alien species does not; aliens, even ones with certain grievances against the Federation, can be reasoned with, convinced to back down or to make allowances for certain things. The Borg prove, however, that reason does not work, and neither does bargaining; they will not stop short of total domination of every form of sentient existence in the universe. Scariest villains ever.
However, outside of the dealings with the Borg, the new crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise have a magnificent ability to work with other hostile parties in a cool, levelheaded way. The way Picard commands is nothing short of awesome to behold, but the rest of the crew is not far behind him in their loyalty to Starfleet and devotion to their principles. While each character brings a different set of skills to the table, they're all pros, all admirable. They have their times when the disagree with each other, but even that is elevated beyond the petty bickering sometimes seen in original Star Trek.
While I know it wasn't easy in the beginning of this series for the show's creators and stellar actors to figure out how to make a new Star Trek that's just as cool and interesting and likeable as the old one, they all did a fantastic job. This show expands many concepts that were only beginning to be explored in the first series. Next Generation is a smart show that updated the Star Trek series for changing times and expanded its universe. I think if you are a fan of the original and haven't seen this yet, give it a chance, but even if you are like I was as a kid and introduced to Star Trek through this series and not its predecessor, that's fine too.