What other 1980s TV show spun off so many big-screen movies? Or is about to spin off two new outer space games for PC, Xbox 360, PSP and DS? Or has a world-wide fan club that still goes to conventions dressed up in fantastically detailed home-made costumes? Of course, it’s no surprise that Star Trek: The Next Generation was and is such a success. The show, based on the most awesome first generation TV show of all time, the original Star Trek, successfully continued the unbroken excellence of Gene Roddenberry’s sociological storytelling.
Star Trek: The Next Generation began airing in 1987, and got off to a slightly rocky start based on two main things; the whole set of new characters, and the new design of the Enterprise star ship. It was a bit difficult for Trekkers (Star Trek fans) to accept a new design because in the original series, Captain Kirk loved the ship itself in an obsessive sort of way, and so most of the viewing fans adopted the same mindset. As with most updated series in the TV and movie industry, a new cast of characters is usually not well received at first by ardent fans of the original series who became emotionally attached to the original actors.
These two problems, not unexpected, were overcome within the first few months because of some completely new Roddenberry concepts and because some of the new elements in the series shadowed past elements. An example of a new concept that was Roddenberry-esque was the idea of the Holodeck. Trekkers instantly saw this as just the sort of platform Roddenberry could use to present current social issues in disguise and turn them into good storytelling – the Roddenberry hallmark. An example of a new element shadowing a popular past element is the android character Data, who, to Trekkers, obviously mimics the Spock role in the original series – an outcast-type persona who fights against prejudice just by being himself, and thus becomes an integral character in the cast.
It is the great storytelling masking soul-searching portrayals of current social and ideological issues that makes Star Trek: The Next Generation a worthy continuation of the original Star Trek series. This kind of creativity has infused all the Star Trek family of TV shows, movies, video games, computer games, books and other media that have been produced ever since. Ultimately the great social value of Roddenberry’s work is what made Star Trek: The Next Generation the best TV show of the 80s.