Watching 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' on Netflix

Considering the growing popularity of “Star Trek,” both the episodes of the old series and its movies through the 1970s and early 1980s, it was all but inevitable that a spinoff TV series would happen. The concept of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was that the series takes place 80 years after the end of the famous five-year mission. The ship on which the show takes place would be called the Enterprise, but a more advanced version.

Some parts of the old formula were preserved. The bridge crew was still ethnically (and xenologically) diverse. Enterprise would still go where ”no one has gone before” (replacing the word “man” to fit a more gender-equal 1980s.)

Some changes, though, were made to fit not so much the times as the whims of show creator Gene Roddenberry. The new Enterprise would be big enough to include the families of crewmembers, a rather off-putting idea, considering the constant danger the ship was in episode after episode. Interpersonal conflict would be downplayed.  The Federation had achieved something akin to utopia.

The first season was a considerably rocky one. The conflicts Roddenberry, who had begun to believe his own press, had with the writing staff have become the stuff of legend. Some of the episodes, such as the one in which the crew visited the planet of the blond, buff people were frankly howlers. And everyone learned to hate the character of Wesley Crusher, the teenage son of the ship’s chief medical officer, a development that had an unfortunate effect on the career of Wil Wheaton, the actor who played him.

Fortunately, many of the issues that marred the first season were resolved by the second season. By the third season, when Roddenberry stepped back from day-to-day involvement with the series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” really hit its stride. The show ran for seven seasons and, like the first series, spun off a number of big-screen movies.

Stand-out performances include that of Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who spoke with Stewart’s British accent because the actor could not manage a French version without seeming to be a caricature. Brent Spiner, as the android Commander Data, a being who wanted to become more humor, lent depth to a character that might have been one-dimensional in the hands of a less skilled actor. Michael Dorn, as the Klingon Lt. Worf, elevated what had been a stock villain species in the original show to a fully-formed alien with his own code of honor.

“Star Trek: The Next Generation” was, on the whole, a worthy addition to the franchise. The show is well worth the watch as it is now available on Netflix, for people wanting to revisit their younger TV experience or for someone wanting to see it for the first time.