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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Star Trek: The Next Generation is pretty different from the original series. While the first series broke ground for addressing important social issues, The Next Generation is more focused on pure entertainment than social commentary. It's plenty of fun; the special effects are a vast improvement over the original; and many episodes do try to make a larger point, but in general the goal is simply storytelling. And that's just fine. The show contains frequent sci-fi violence, but for the most part it's bloodless. Swearing is infrequent, as is romance.
What's the story?
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION stars Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) as the unflappable captain of the new Enterprise. He is a calm and organized leader -- a sharp contrast to the original Star Trek's James T. Kirk (William Shatner). While TNG is about mankind's ongoing quest to promote peace and tranquility, it's also about having adventures in space. These adventures take the lively crew to far-flung planets and into the past and future. All the while, Picard wrestles with the Prime Directive -– his oath to help people and fix problems without imposing his own will on others.
Is it any good?
The real accomplishment of this series is that it managed to create an entire future universe that seems plausible, is nearly religious about maintaining internal consistency, and is loads of fun to watch. Star Trek: The Next Generation is much bigger than the original series -- the bridge, where much of the action takes place, is bigger, the crew is bigger, and even the Federation seems to cover more of the galaxy. Each episode seems to introduce a new race of people (or creature -– or even entity), so viewers might need a guidebook to keep track of which ones are allies and which are hostile. (Fortunately, the series was so popular in its seven seasons on the air that several of those books are available.)
TNG gradually created an elaborate canon of Star Trek lore, which has been replicated in three additional spin-off shows. This complex, finely nuanced interior literature gave the series a strong foundation for storytelling, and many of the episodes have complex, intriguing plots and profound social undercurrents.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the Prime Directive in Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is never interfere in the natural pace of another race's development, because it's almost certain to permanently alter their evolutionary path, and not always for the better. Do you agree with this approach? Does it have any parallels in real life? Are there times when doing what seems like the humane thing can have negative consequences?
What is the appeal of the Star Trek shows? How are some of the other Star Trek shows and movies different from and similar to each other? Which one is your favorite?
This series, like the original series, has a lot of diversity in its cast. Why does having diverse media role models matter?
- Premiere date: September 28, 1987
- Cast: Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, LeVar Burton, Patrick Stewart
- Network: Syndicated
- Genre: Science Fiction
- Topics: Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, Space and Aliens
- Character Strengths: Communication, Courage, Empathy, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
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