How “The Next Generation” Made Me A Star Trek Fan

I’m pretty happy right now. That’s because it was recently announced that Patrick Stewart will be once again playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Now, for the youngins who are confused and only know Patrick Stewart as Charles Xavier AKA Professor X from the X-Men films, I’ll let you know that before he was cast in the iconic role, Patrick Stewart was already cast in another iconic role and that was as the Captain of the USS Enterprise-D int he ’90s sci-fi series, Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s been around 15 years since he stopped leading the Enterprise-D to boldly go where no man (and woman) has gone before but, in a recent Star Trek convention, none other than the man himself came up to the stage and announced that he was returning to the role that made him the star that he is today and I can’t be any happier.

Thinking about it now, if it weren’t for Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the rest of the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I don’t think I would even be a fan of the show, let alone the entire franchise. The Next Generation was my real first contact with anything Star Trek related and it was the show that made me understand why there are so many Star Trek fans all over the world. So, indulge me for a few minutes while I take a trip down memory lane on how I became a fan.

Truth be told, I was actually against Star Trek when I was younger as I was more of a Star Wars fan than anything. I was already familiar with Star Trek but the only things I’ve seen related to the franchise were the first two film: Star Trek: The Motion Picture and The Wrath of Khan. I was unimpressed with both as a kid who grew up watching fantastic space battles, people fighting with laser swords and being able to float things using some mysterious force that connects everything and everyone in is Star Wars. Star Trek, for me at the time anyway, was slow, plodding and boring since it just had a whole bunch of talking.

I never really gave Star Trek a second though for the longest time. That is, until one day, one of my friends was raving about this new show he saw the other night on local Philippine television. The gist was the episode he saw had a mysterious being who had magical powers and played tricks on the people in this gigantic spaceship. While I don’t remember the particulars of how he described it, what I do remember was how excited he was talking about it. It was like something totally brand new and unique and I guess I got caught up in the excitement as well because I asked him what’s the name of the show. It was Star Trek: The Next Generation. Thinking about it now, I think he was talking about “Hide and Q,” which was the episode where Q grants William Riker abilities like the ones in the Q Continuum.

Oddly enough, the first episode I really remember watching from Star Trek: The Next Generation was “Justice.” I say it’s odd because Justice was the 8th episode of season 1 while “Hide and Q” was the 10th. I don’t know what time wormhole I traveled to but it’s possible that the local television station didn’t really care what episode they aired or if they showed them out of order. Remember: this was the time when countries like the Philippines had to have foreign shows shipped to them so we’d get them extremely delayed. So, while waiting for the next shipment of episodes, they’d show replays in the interim. It just may have been one of those cases.

Despite the episode not having a zany being with seemingly magical powers, I was amazed by the story told in Justice. One of the things that struck me was the storyline with Wesley who accidentally broke a greenhouse and destroyed the flowers. Apparently, the punishment for that crime (and any other crime) is capital punishment. This did lead to a weird story with Jean-Luc Picard talking with that civilization’s god (some highly advanced entity) saying that there must be exceptions for true justice to be carried out.

This actually struck deep in me for two reasons. The episode actually taught me that there are some cultures that may be totally alien to me. Their rules may not make sense to me but it makes perfect sense to them and vice versa. I never really thought of the world in that way as I only saw the world around me and didn’t care about the other cultures and lifestyles all around the world. The second thing I took away from the episode was actually the main moral lesson, which is actually linked to the previous thing I learned. That is there are always exceptions to the rules and there have to be at times as nothing is absolute. Okay, granted “Justice” is a pretty corny episode when compared to the other Next Generation episodes but, hey! It made me want to watch more episode but I would say I was just a fan of the show and not Star Trek in the broadest sense.

The episode that really got me hooked was “Skin of Evil.” This is the episode where Security Officer Tasha Yar dies. In hindsight, her death was rather stupid and nonsensical but that’s what made it all the more shocking! While shows like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones made it the norm to kill off main characters, this definitely wasn’t the case during the time The Next Generation was aired. You expected the entire cast to survive and return by the next episode or, at the very least, sent to some faraway hospital to rest and recuperate. So seeing one of the main cast members, who appeared in practically all of the episodes I’ve seen so far, simply perish and actually stay dead was amazing and made Star Trek: The Next Generation stand out because, if they can knock off one of their regulars, anything can happen!

After getting hooked on The Next Generation, I went on to go watch the first Star Trek series with Kirk, Spock and McCoy. As I was older by this time, I did start to appreciate the characters a whole lot more and did understand the stories told much better. Even the first two Star Trek movies that I didn’t like as a kid became much more palatable to my preteen brain, which craved for more substance than the laser blasts and fantastical space adventures Star Wars game me. Okay, Star Trek: The Motion Picture is still pretty bad but at least it had an adequate sci-fi story that I could appreciate. Wrath of Khan felt more deep because, by this time, I knew who Khan was and understood why he hated Kirk.

Even so, I will always credit my love for Star Trek thanks to my classmate and my exposure to The Next Generation. I can’t say that I’m a super hardcore Trekkie/Trekker because I didn’t watch Deep Space Nine when it was airing locally but my ears will pique a little bit whenever I do hear something Star Trek related. It looks like I’m not the only one who has fond memories of The Next Generation as Seth Macfarlaine’s The Orville series heavily borrows from the atmosphere of the series that featured the crew of the Enterprise-D. I’m honestly glad he made a show that really feels like The Next Generation as it feels much more like that Star Trek I remember than Star Trek: Discovery, the “official” Star Trek show that CBS is producing.

And I’m obviously not the only one who waxes nostalgia over The Next Generation as The Orville managed to grab The Next Generation audience better than Discovery ever did. CBS did hear the fans say how much the appreciate the Orville over Discovery, which is probably why they’re getting Patrick Stewart to return as Jean-Luc Picard in his own Star Trek series. Hopefully, they can make that show manage to capture the same feeling I felt when I saw The Next Generation all those years ago. Make it so.

Are you a Star Trek fan? How did you get hooked on the franchise? Let me know in the comments section below!

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