Star Trek: The Next Generation
Let’s start by being controversial: the J.J. Abrams Star Trek “reboot” is amusing but little more than fodder for the summer blockbuster popcorn season. As for the original series, which I devoured as a kid, seeing those episodes every now and then kindles nostalgia. But although it was groundbreaking television in its day, and often tackled significant subjects, there is something quaint about the original “Star Trek” vision of the future as the Great Society writ galactic, complete with a swinger as starship captain.
Sadly, I never made time for “Enterprise,” and having only caught episodes here and there of “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager,” I have no right to an opinion. As its stands, my favorite iteration of Gene Roddenberry’s saga is “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” originally broadcast from 1987-1994. “The Fourth Season Blu-ray” and “Star Trek: The Next Generation—Redemption Blu-ray” have recently been released.
The producers of “Next Generation” often left viewers with long, anxious waits between seasons— cliffhangers. Season Four begins with part two of the Borg, those dwellers inside a curious interstellar cube whose mission is to “assimilate” all other cultures. The Borg may have been a prophesy of the near future, a society where everyone is wired into everyone else, a hive mentality whose surrender of individuality and constant connectivity is marked by the Bluetooth-like implements covering a quarter of their heads. “We only wish to raise the quality of life for all species,” says the captive Jean-Luc Picard a.k.a. Lucutus of Borg. Spoken like a blind-sided, technophile futurist!
As in all versions of Star Trek, the screenplays of “Next Generation” touch on important topics from humanity and technology to prejudice, politics and war. What makes “Next Generation” outstanding is the character of Captain Picard and the actor that played him, Patrick Stewart. Stewart emerged from the Royal Shakespeare Company, a face often seen in the background of British TV and a minor character in David Lynch’s Dune. He filled the captain’s chair with a much-needed undercurrent of urbanity and intelligence. He never showed off his depth, it was apparent in most every scene. Marina Sirtis (who played Counselor Troi) credits his professionalism with raising the level of the cast.