Nerd Factor: Goodbye Star Trek: The Next Generation?

Dr Mike ~ UL Communication Studies Professor

For the past nine weeks, the third season of Paramount+’s Star Trek: Picard has told such amazing stories that I had not realized something. I knew that the show only had ten total episodes and I’ve been wondering how they will wrap up this amazing plot that has, among other things, reunited the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I got so excited though that I hadn’t thought about it—this is the end. 

Back in 1987, I watched “Encounter at Farpoint,” the pilot episode of Next Gen in the dorms. It was a Monday night and I was in my dorm room. I could not get enough people excited about the new program that they would allow me to take over control of the dorm lounge television. I probably watched on my lawn chair, a little way to stretch out before my small color television. 

And I loved it! 

After all, new episodes were unusual things. The last new live-action episode aired in 1968 when I was just a baby. The last cartoon episode aired in 1974 when I was just a kid. Sure, there had been four motion pictures up to that point, but everything on television was re-runs, re-runs, and more reruns. 

Don’t get me wrong. I love those old shows, but this was new Trek—new cast, new characters, new Enterprise. 

Next Gen had many rough edges. Looking back, I sometimes wondered how it had survived those first two seasons. By season three though, it was boldly going warp factor 9. What made it work though were the characters. The show felt more like a contemporary ensemble series in that it was willing to focus on the main cast. 

Slowly but surely, those upstarts became part of the legend. Captain Picard, “Number One” Will Riker, Data, Worf, Counselor Troi, Geordi LaForge and Dr. Crusher became crucial parts of Trek. The series wrapped up in 1994 with “All Good Things.” And we knew it would not really come to an end because more movies were planned, keeping our new heroes in the limelight until 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis underperformed at the box office. 

Next Gen had so much success that it inspired several more spin-offs. Trek was back in a way that it truly had never been before.

Still, I would always want to see the crew. They might pop up in various Trek shows, but they really needed to be together. That’s why the first two seasons of Star Trek: Picard were good, but in a frustrating way. I wanted the gang back together, not just brief cameos and glimpses. 

I won’t spoil a single moment here, but this third and final season has been nothing short of incredible. The third and fourth episodes of the season, “Seventeen Seconds” and “No Win Scenario,” were without a doubt some of the best Trek stories ever made. The show is running on brilliant plots and carefully woven nostalgia. 

Now, that old title will come true. All good things must come to an end. Thirty-five years are winding down. I expect an entertaining resolution. I worry about tragic endings and character sacrifices. I know this, but I don’t want it to end. I want a happy ending for these characters. I hope that somehow we see more of these old friends.

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