These days, when it comes to beloved geek properties of the ’80s and ’90s, the nostalgia factor is at an all time high; we’ve got Sigourney Weaver coming back as Ripley for another Alien movie, Arnie coming back as the Terminator, and even Harrison Ford returning as Deckard for another Blade Runner, not to mention the big one-his reuniting with Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And now TV is feeling the nostalgia bug as well, with Bruce Campbell coming back as Ash for an Evil Dead series, and limited “event series” planned for Twin Peaks as well as The X-Files. Even Pee-Wee Herman is coming back, via Netflix. When it comes to nerd entertainment, right now age ain’t nuthin’ but a number.
But with all of these event series coming to TV, maybe the biggest one missing, and the most obvious to return, is Star Trek: The Next Generation. Of the five live-action Star Trek series, it was by far the most popular in its original run, and at its height, a pop culture phenomenon unmatched by almost any other sci-fi series, before or since. TNG was the Star Trek series that even your mom watched. A return of the TNG cast to television would be a pretty seismic event in the word of sci-fi, and the perfect way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the franchise next year.
Sure, there are obstacles to overcome, namely how to explain away Data actor Brent Spiner’s real life age (I say just digitally de-age him like they did with Jeff Bridges in TRON: Legacy; I mean sure it looked kind of weird in that movie, but Data is an android, so it works if he’s a little off putting and doesn’t look entirely human.) And certainly Patrick Stewart might ask for a healthy sum of money to return, but none of these things are problems that can’t be overcome.
So listen up Viacom/CBS/Paramount, or whoever owns the TV rights to Star Trek right now, here are eight reasons why Star Trek: The Next Generation should come home to television. As Captain Jean-Luc Picard used to say, “Make it so”.
1. The Next Generation Cast Deserves A Better Send-Off Than Nemesis
The last time we saw the crew of the original series together was in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which was a proper and fitting send off for the original crew (instead of the dreadful Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.) Unfortunately, the TNG crew’s last film together was the less than stellar Star Trek: Nemesis. Nemesis was the biggest flop in the entire Trek movie series, and pretty much iced the whole film franchise for seven years, until the J.J. Abrams 2009 reboot. The last image we see of Picard’s Enterprise was literally as a damaged ship, sitting in dry dock for repairs, which is fitting, but sad. The crew of TNG was the most popular Trek crew when it came to television, and they deserve a better final adventure than they got with Nemesis.
2. The Next Generation Crew Works Much Better On Television Than In Movies
I think it’s pretty much accepted fact that the crew of the the original series had a much better run at the movies than the Next Generation crew did; of the six original series films, four of them range from great to very good, with only one really being flat out embarrassing (the previously mentioned Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Yes, it’s that bad.)
TNG on the other hand only really had one truly good movie among the four they did (and that’s First Contact, in case there was any doubt) and the reason is simple: unlike the original series, where Sulu, Chekov and Uhura never even had their own storylines (or in some cases, even first names) TNG was a true ensemble show, and therefore gave everyone in the cast their fair share of screen time. All of that is great for a weekly series, but in the movies, with less time to focus on so many cast members, it just translates as token moments for everyone not named Picard or Data, taking up valuable story time. The Next Generation was at its strongest on television, and that’s where they should have their real swan song.
3. The Cast Genuinely Loves Each Other
While William Shatner and the late Leonard Nimoy were the best of friends, it’s not such a big secret that the original cast didn’t all quite get along in real life like they did on screen (well, they got along with each other, but most of them seem to have a unified disdain for Shatner). In short, they weren’t quite the big happy family we all wish they were. By stark contrast, the cast of TNG absolutely love each other, and still spend time together to this day. It’s been said in interviews by various cast members from the show that part of the reason they still do so many conventions is just because they love the idea of getting paid to all hang out together and shoot the shit. So I really don’t think that getting this cast together again will be that much of an uphill battle.
4. It Could Return Star Trek To Its Proper Place On Television
At the end of the day, no matter how popular the J.J. Abrams Star Trek movies are, Trek really and truly belongs on television. It’s been a decade since the last Star Trek series went off the air, and with the 50th anniversary of the franchise coming up next year, it’s high time that CBS, the owners of the TV portions of the franchise, announced a new series for television. I imagine that cable or even Netflix would be the proper place in this day and age for a new Trek show to find its home.
Recently, it’s been suggested that a new Trek series could take the True Detective approach, with anthology seasons, having a different crew every year, attracting high profile talent each time. And what better way to kick off a series like this than a reunion of the Next Generation crew for one last go round? Imagine this scenario: It’s the launch of the Enterprise-F, a new state of the art Federation flagship, and a soon to retire Jean-Luc Picard’s last time in the captain’s chair. Although working with mostly a new crew, circumstances force him to reunite with his old crew of the Enterprise-D. Future seasons could take this new Enterprise even further in time, with different crews over several decades, but reuniting the TNG crew for season one could lure back many casual viewers to the franchise.
5. It Could Tie In To The Next Generation’s Series Finale “All Good Things”
The series finale of The Next Generation, “All Good Things”, is still one of the best series finales of all time, and showed us glimpses into the future of the Enterprise-D crew some 25 years down the line. Well, it’s very nearly twenty-five years since that episode aired, so it would be interesting to see what parts of the TNG crew’s present matches up with the alternate future presented in “All Good Things.” Did Picard still get Space Alzheimer’s? Did Worf become a bitter governor of a Klingon outpost (after his ambassadorship given him on Deep Space Nine dried up of course)? Did Picard and Beverly Crusher get married, then divorced? Did Riker still get all fat? (well, we know that part’s true). It would be a treat for longtime fans to see where the timeline fell in line with “All Good Things,” and where it diverged.
6.You Could Bring Ronald D. Moore Back To The Franchise This Way
Writer/producer Ronald D. Moore, former executive producer of the reboot version of Battlestar Galactica and current executive producer of Outlander, started his television career on The Next Generation, and later, Deep Space Nine. A good argument can be made that the Trek franchise really started to get good as soon as he came on board, and started to get fairly crappy when he left it. While I don’t think that you could lure Moore back to Trek for another seven year stint on the show, I don’t think a special eight to ten episode reunion of the TNG crew would be out of the question.
7. It Could Bring Some Closure To Deep Space Nine And Voyager As Well
While there’s no doubt that The Next Generation was the crown jewel of the Star Trek franchise in terms of ratings and overall popularity when it originally aired, it would be disingenuous to say that follow up shows Deep Space Nine and Voyager didn’t have a large fanbase of their own. Both shows never got the huge mainstream penetration that TNG had, but still, both ran seven seasons and spawned their own followings… just not ones large enough to spawn a movie series.
Since both of those shows take place during the same TNG era timeline, it would be conceivable that a TNG reunion could give us updates on some of the characters and situations from both of those shows.In fact, a Next Generation event series could give a proper conclusion to the whole 24th Century portion of Trek, and lay the foundation for the franchise to boldly go into the future, like the 25th Century and beyond.
8. It Might Be The Only Way We’ll Ever See Deep Space 9 And Voyager In High-Def
Over the last few years, the folks at CBS have done an jaw-droppingly incredible restoration job on all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation, spending three years and a reported $20 million dollars to bring the series up to modern high definition standards. Unfortunately, not enough Trekkers bought the series on Blu-ray, calling into question whether a similar upgrade will be done for Deep Space Nine and Voyager.
It’s possible that a return to television for Star Trek could be the thing to convince CBS to upgrade the other two shows to high definition, especially if a TNG reunion were to include some Deep Space Nine and Voyager elements in it. Regardless, the entire Star Trek television library should be preserved for the future, and right now, a new high profile Star Trek series on the air might be the only way to ensure that.
Previously by Eric Diaz: