Movies + TV

Literally the Best Thing Ever: Star Trek: TNG

It boldly went where no one had gone before.

Illustration by Minna

Stephanie’s Log. Star date 021907131990. 17:00 hours. Today the Milky Way unfolded in front of me. I watched a shooting star streak through the darkness, and studied the craters of the moon and the rings of Saturn. Then a spaceship appeared and a silky British voice began to narrate: “Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before!” With that the ship lit up and whooshed away at warp speed and the music kicked in: dun-dundundun-dundundun! My world was officially rocked.

This is the log entry I might have recorded in sixth grade after my best friend Juliet* introduced me to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Since I was the kind of girl whose favorite field-trip destination was the planetarium, the intro alone sold me. Whenever I had dinner at Juliet’s house, we’d eat in the living room and watch the show with her grandparents. Juliet and I would recite the opening narration, purposely exaggerating the proper British pronunciation of “civil-i-zations,” and loudly humming along with the music until her grandpa got all, “OK, pipe down, you two.” But the opening credits are just the beginning of the awesomeness that is ST:TNG.

Let’s talk about the crew. First, my favorite, the man with the swoonworthy British accent: Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Yes, his head is as shiny and bald as cue ball, but just listen to him command “Engage,” “Make it so,” or my personal favorite, “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.” The voice! That take-charge attitude! Maybe it’s a little creepy that one of my first crushes was on a 60-year-old man, but Captain Picard was certainly more worthy of my admiration than the bad-boy types I would soon begin to fall for. Unlike Dylan McKay and Jordan Catalano, Picard is honorable, courageous, well read, and compassionate. I love watching him puzzle through a tough decision. He’s like Starfleet’s conscience, always considering the Prime Directive—the United Federation of Planets’ chief code, which dictates that there cannot be any interference with developing cultures—but occasionally violating it in life-or-death situations. Captain Picard got me interested in philosophy and had me thinking about the meaning of humanity in the episode “Measure of a Man,” when he argued that Lieutenant Commander Data, an android, was a sentient being. Juliet and I would always say that our present-day politicians could learn a thing or two from Picard, which led her to getting me this shirt once during an election year:

Data has always been Juliet’s favorite ST:TNG character. (“You’re in love with the old man!” “Well, you’re in love with the machine!” “At least neither of us is in love with the Klingon!” See what great inside jokes you and your friends can share when you’re Trekkies?) If Captain Picard is the conscience of the show, Data is its sense of humor—which is kind of ironic considering that because of Data’s design, he does not understand humor or any human emotion, and he also cannot speak in contractions. Some of the best moments on ST:TNG involve Data emulating human behavior. He tries to laugh, make jokes, gamble, go to therapy, and train his cat, Spot. There are also some incredibly sad moments, like in the episode where Data tries to build a daughter, but loses her to mechanical malfunctions.

The women on the crew, like Dr. Beverly Crusher and the half-human half-Betazoid Deanna Troi, are just as brave and active as the men. As an emotionally overwrought junior high student, I found it really empowering to see Troi use her heightened emotional awareness for good.

The range of stories told on Star Trek: The Next Generation—a blend of drama, comedy, action, adventure, and even a little bit of romance—is probably the best thing about the show. Two of my favorite episodes bridge season five and season six: “Time’s Arrow” parts one and two. In them, the crew time-travels back to 1800s San Francisco and meets up with Mark Twain and Jack London. If you’re a literature nerd like me (and Captain Picard), you will be in heaven. And since I am a literature nerd, my favorite recurring character is a villain that fits the trickster archetype perfectly: Q. He is always stirring up drama (and a lot of comedy with Captain Picard), starting in the very first episode of the series, “Encounter at Far Point,” which you can (and should!) watch on Netflix Instant right now!

Even though the Enterprise crew is out there battling enemies like the Borg, who want to turn everyone into robots, you don’t get the sense that a bleak dystopian future lies ahead of us. I love to daydream about the technology they have in the 24th century: the funky silver banana clip that Chief Engineer Geordi La Forge (played by LeVar Burton of Reading Rainbow fame!) wears to cure his blindness, the replicator that Captain Picard’s tea comes from, the holodeck where Data solves mysteries as Sherlock Holmes, and the teleporter that could have taken me to visit Juliet in an instant after she moved 90 miles away in eighth grade. But the bond that was sealed during many hours of ST:TNG marathons kept our friendship alive. And so I urge you and your friends to check out this show, the greatest in escapist TV and, literally, the best thing ever. ♦

* That’s not her real name, btw.

42 Comments

  • MissKnowItAll March 19th, 2012 7:11 PM

    Star Trek is a beautiful amazing place. My favorite though was Star Trek Enterprise. It had an awesome kick ass lady captain and an inter-galactic human Klingon romance.

    • toridori69 March 19th, 2012 8:11 PM

      You’re thinking of Captain Janeway from Star Trek Voyager.
      Captain Archer from Enterprise I’m pretty sure is male.

      • tellyawhat March 19th, 2012 8:37 PM

        Captain Kathyrn Janeway = Katharine Hepburn = AMAZING

      • SparklyVulcan March 19th, 2012 9:12 PM

        @tellyawhat: Ermm… Kathryn Janeway was played by Kate Mulgrew. :)

      • tellyawhat March 20th, 2012 2:04 AM

        @sparkly vulcan: It was not a literal equal sign, it was a “did ya ever realize how much Kate Mulgrew resembles Katharine Hepburn and Mulgrew starred in a one woman show in which she played Hepburn and the Captain’s first name is Kathryn and isn’t that cool” equal sign.

      • MissKnowItAll March 20th, 2012 6:23 AM

        oops. Sorry, got my star trek confused

      • Pashupati March 21st, 2012 3:45 PM

        On the other hand, Enterprise’s got T’Pol.

  • MissKnowItAll March 19th, 2012 7:11 PM

    Data is a total dreamboat

  • Nicole March 19th, 2012 7:17 PM

    fun fact! the actress who played data’s daughter in “the offspring” also played lizzie mcguire’s mom

  • Moxx March 19th, 2012 7:21 PM

    THIIIIS
    <3 Data my babby <3

  • Nicole March 19th, 2012 7:22 PM

    also, patrick stewart is a hunk and a half

  • Moskje March 19th, 2012 7:33 PM

    First: There’s a cat in Star Trek? How cool!

    My boyfriend had tried to force me to watch this show for ever, but this article actually makes me interested so that I might even want to watch it someday (it will take me some time to get out of denial). Great article, Stephanie :)

    • Stephanie March 19th, 2012 11:46 PM

      YES, that cat is hilarious! And I am glad I actually made you interested. Anaheed said the same thing to me and I was proud. It is my mission to CONVERT AS MANY PEOPLE TO TREKKIES AS I CAN. I am convinced it will save humanity.

  • filmfatale March 19th, 2012 7:42 PM

    In “real life”, Patrick Stewart has worked to end domestic violence and help women who have been in abusive relationships. For that alone, he gets mad props from me.

    • SparklyVulcan March 19th, 2012 9:11 PM

      He’s kinda an amazing guy, isn’t he? :) Plus he’s Professor X!!! He always gets to be the logical but human voice of reason and compassion. Awesomeneessss.

    • Stephanie March 19th, 2012 11:44 PM

      I did not know that! This totally makes me love him even more.

  • Marguerite March 19th, 2012 7:52 PM

    one day im going to the international space station, i don’t really want to be an astronaut, but somehow, im going to get there.

  • tellyawhat March 19th, 2012 8:04 PM

    Has anyone ever visited the Hilton’s Star Trek themed hotel in VEGAS??

    The first time I went I was 16 and a Ferengi tried to buy me from my dad! We were in a restaurant a lot like Quark’s where there are just Ferengis and Klingons hanging out and lots of bubbly, foaming crazy space age drinks. And soooo many Star Trek weddings.

    BTW, Star Trek: The Experience is my favorite ride (tied with Indiana Jones) EVER. You get walk aboard a replica Enterprise and are surrounded by actors and you FEEL like you are really hanging out, being transported through some time rift by some vengeful Klingon fighting and your trying to get back to Vegas in 2003 so that your great-great-grandchild Captain Jean-Luc Picard can be born and save the universes. I am all about world creating. Also, I got a neat digitally altered photo of the Enterprise crew of which I was one.

    Also, pretending to be Geordi by covering my eyes with a headband provided many hours of entertainment throughout my childhood.

    • Stephanie March 19th, 2012 11:48 PM

      I did visit the Star Trek themed Hilton a few years ago. I heard it is gone now :( :( :( Quark’s bar was the best. I have some great geeky pics of me and my husband with a Klingon, a Borg, and a Ferengi.

      Oh yeah, I too played the pretending to be Geordi game!

      • tellyawhat March 20th, 2012 2:17 AM

        I know, I was so sad to hear that its gone. RIP Star Trek Hilton. It was like a little time capsule of early nineties futurity.

        Ahhh, Borgs are so scary. I would try to hide whenever I saw them. I couldn’t really handle the Borg ride and am a little bit happy knowing that it doesn’t exist anymore.

        You should totally post your interspecies Star Trek pic. :)

  • appledarling March 19th, 2012 8:08 PM

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoBoMvY0U10

    Stretching… with Beverly and Troi… one of the best scenes EVER.

  • ladyknight March 19th, 2012 8:18 PM

    My Aunt did makeup for this, and my Uncle did makeup for other Startreks!

  • SparklyVulcan March 19th, 2012 9:09 PM

    As my username suggest, I’m a trekker too. :) I love TNG, and I totally thought of it when I saw the months theme of ‘exploration’. I love how it explores ethical stuff as well as scifi ideas. I think everyone would benefit from watching Star Trek. :) It definitely expands your horizons.
    PS, I love Data and Picard. :) They’re both amazing. and I nearly cried when Wesley left to go to Star Fleet Academy… he reminds me alot of my boyfriend (coincidence? or not?)

  • Adrienne March 19th, 2012 10:31 PM

    YES! I love Data. :)))

    http://theaverageasiangirl.blogspot.com

  • Stardustmite March 19th, 2012 10:47 PM

    AHHH!!! IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING??? IS THERE REALLY ANOTHER HUMAN BEING WHO FELL FOR THE ANDROID WITH THE ADORABLE SMILE???

  • KinuKinu March 19th, 2012 11:01 PM

    I ♥♥STAR TREK!!!!
    I’m a trekkie and proud of it.I love all the franchises except for the last one which was the prequel to the original.I did not feel the love.STAR TREK IS AWESOME!!!!!
    It comes a tad behind TENGEN TOPPA GURREN LAGANN(sorry…geeking out)and that’s REALLY PURE EPIC-NESS.
    IM A GEEKY,TREKKIE,ANIME-FREAK!!!
    p.s. I got a shirt that says trek yourself before you wreck yourself:https://encrypted-tbn2.google.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcTtfoWr81L8M3KL2o2h9MV19de4rh8ibWZWC9jN08rs5n59zYGS7w hee hee

  • Casey March 19th, 2012 11:44 PM

    OHMIGOD I love this!! My dad is a big Next Generation fan, so when we started watching some episodes during the summer, I got hooked!

    I am seriously in love with Data. Like. Really.

    http://thebowandthebutterfly.blogspot.com

  • hallecat March 19th, 2012 11:44 PM

    no mention of the one and only wesley crusher???? THE MOST ADORABLE BOY GENIUS EVER!!!! travesty!!!!!!!!

  • anonymouse March 20th, 2012 12:29 AM

    I prefer Voyager to TNG but Patrick Stewart is kind of a fox… he’s so logical, and well read. But in the Star Trek/ Star Wars debate I’m definitely on the Stargate SG-1 side. lol. Dr. Daniel Jackson is so frellin’ (sorry..been catching up on Fascape lately) cute! Also, Sam Carter from SG-1, Zoe Washburn from Firefly, and Janeway from Voyager, are totally my feminist icons!! Yay for Science Fiction!

  • steph.anie11 March 20th, 2012 12:39 AM

    I grew up watching star trek with my dad. It is a great show to bond over!

  • Susann March 20th, 2012 12:39 AM

    Literally the best thing ever!

    http://fashioninpepperland.blogspot.com

  • Tamara March 20th, 2012 1:58 AM

    YES. STAR TREK. YES YES YES.

    ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh <3

    TNG kept me company during my first year at uni which was a very lonely time and TOS and TAS kept me company in my year off after HS graduation when i was re-cooperating from a long hospital stay/illness.

    UGH. I JUST HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS FOR THIS FRANCHISE.

    EVERYONE NEEDS TO WATCH TOS AND TNG BECAUSE OF REASONS OK.

  • doloreshaze March 20th, 2012 2:59 AM

    Good times! Yes I definitely had a crush on Data, too… and Spock, in the original series…emotionally closed off male characters just do it for me I guess, haha

  • eliza dolittle March 20th, 2012 4:39 AM

    oh god why did you have to mention data’s daughter, I CAN’T GO OOOON *wails*

    and dude, the end of season 3 when picard is assimilated by the borg, and the next episode he goes to visit his brother in france, and they fight in the mud which turns into them laughing together which turns in jean-luc crying his little heart out while he mourns his loss of control and humanity??? SWEET JESUS I LOVE YOU NEXT GEN

  • Minnah March 20th, 2012 8:59 AM

    Occasionally I read posts on Rookie that make me go ‘whoa man, get out of my head’. This is one of them!
    My personal favourite Jean-Luc moment is when they visit a sex/relaxation planet, and he whips out teeny terry towelling shorts, and proceeds to rock out and also have scenes with other characters without becoming thigh-concious.

  • whitneymr March 20th, 2012 1:48 PM

    https://twitter.com/#!/TNG_S8

    You can thank me later.

    • eliza dolittle March 21st, 2012 6:52 AM

      “Worf demands honor and cinnamon buns.” WHAT SWEET BLISS IS THIS

  • I.ila March 20th, 2012 6:11 PM

    I had to do a lab report on genetics in plants and I titled it “The Next Generation”

  • sttefaaa March 20th, 2012 6:25 PM

    Space is always interesting topic for me.. always..

  • Ben March 21st, 2012 6:50 PM

    I watched star trek last night! I tried the next generation first but then when back to the original because spock was in it. It’s really cool! I was thinking it would be funny to have a star trek puppet show where spock was a spoork because i was playing with one at KFC.

    http://bensstylecorner.blogspot.com/

  • emilyowls March 22nd, 2012 3:51 PM

    out of all the star treks i have only watched TNG. its the only one for me, :’) but then i feel awk when i dont know anything about the other ones so cant truly call myself a “trekkie.” :(

    also, i sorta had a crush on riker…… beards are so entrancing. pahah. and wesley cuz i mean… he was the only teenager so how could i resist?

  • FrankOHaraLives June 20th, 2013 1:09 PM

    Oh My Gosh!

    Long time reader – first time poster only to squeel over the AWESOMESAUCE that is this post and to agree that ‘Yes, ST:TNG is in fact, Literally the Best Thing Ever’

    Sidebar – The Ensemble Studio Theatre in LA (where Gates McFadden aka Dr. Crusher aka Jim Henson’s lead choreographer) is artistic director has a tumblr of just Dr. Crusher dolls doing rando things and it is FABULOUS: http://ensemblestudiotheatrela.tumblr.com/