Sunday, May 25, 2014

Nostalgia Theater: Star Trek: The Next Generation Warps to the Finish Line

Seven years ago in this space, I marked the twentieth anniversary of the premiere of seminal syndie sci-fi sequel Star Trek: The Next Generation, which launched to much ballyhoo and a whole lot of skepticism (most especially from me) in fall of '87. Well, by the time the The Next Generation's seventh season had rolled around, most of that skepticism had long since dissipated, and it had blazed a trail unlike any other before it. Not only were its ratings such that it was regularly ranking alongside the top network shows of the week, not only did it launch a successful spin-off the previous year, but a raft of sci-fi pretenders sprang up, both on network and in syndication, hoping to capture just some of its magic.

Related: Nostalgia Theater: Star Trek Edition

Of course, with the costs of keeping any long-running skein in production, much less an effects-heavy science fiction show, coupled with the increasing wanderlust of the cast (plus home studio Paramount's own desire to transition the Enterprise-D onto the big screen to replace the just-retired original Trek crew), it was decided early on that The Next Generation's seventh year would also be its last. This in turn led to a year-long celebration (or funerary march, depending on your degree of fandom) as Next Gen wended its way toward the finale in May '94. That episode, carrying the painfully on-the-nose title "All Good Things..." aired twenty years ago this past Friday. Here's a promo hyping it up:

I remember being at the close of my freshman year of high school when "All Good Things..." aired, and it was a big deal. Not big like the Cheers finale that had aired the previous year, but certainly in my little geek circle at the time, big. With a story by writers Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga that saw Patrick Stewart's Captain Jean-Luc Picard tossed back-and-forth in time, from the "present" to the era of the series' premiere, to a dark future where the Enterprise crew has grown distant and resentful of one another. Of course, in a remarkable bit of universal convergence, exactly two decades later, Patrick Stewart is once again starring in a story about trying to prevent a dark future from materializing. Anyway, it all culminated in a pitch perfect coda. Check it out below:

Moore and Braga discuss the finale and the lead-up to that moment in detail here, and it certainly felt like a perfect way to put a pin on seven seasons and 178 episodes. If that was the last we ever saw of the Next Generation crew, it would have been just fine. Of course, it was common knowledge by then that their first feature, Star Trek Generations, was due to hit theaters less than six months later, robbing the finale of a certain degree of finality. Star Trek: The Next Generation's theatrical voyages would continue on-and-off until 2002, with some highs, but mostly lows. Nonetheless, there's no denying the success that followed in its wake. It brought the franchise longevity (with TV Trek continuing all the way until 2005) and created a lasting, immortal legacy as one of the greatest series of all time.

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