There are a few fandoms that have stuck with me even as I've gotten older. One of the earliest memories I have is of watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with my dad. For me, Star Trek: The Next Generation isn't exactly a fandom--it's a part of life. I have a deep love for this series and its characters. Here are my reasons why it's a valued part of the Star Trek universe, as well as why you should give it a try if you haven't already.
1. Captain Jean-Luc Picard
While Kirk was the original Starfleet captain and truly a legend, Picard managed to give him a run for his money. As the first captain I ever watched, Picard holds the key to my heart. He's level-headed, level-headed, and calm. I admire that he always tries to do the right thing. He also isn't afraid to make the hard call when necessary. He's everything I aspire to be.
Most iterations of Star Trek follow a basic formula, and one of those formulas is having an emotionless, logical character on the ship. For The Original Series, this was Spock. For Deep Space Nine, it was Odo. For Voyager, it was Tuvok. For Enterprise, it was T'Pol. And in The Next Generation, the logical, emotionless character is Data.
Even with his lack of emotion, Data is one of the sweetest characters on the show. His ongoing quest (other than exploring the galaxy, of course) is to understand humanity and emotions. One of his biggest struggles is that he doesn't have emotions, and he desperately wishes he could feel. (Which in turn produces feelings in my own heart.) It's awfully sad and adorable to watch Data go through the myriad of adventures on the Enterprise.
From a storytelling standpoint, Data's purpose, as well as the purpose of emotionless characters in Star Trek, is to provide another lens with which to view humanity. It helps us understand why we do the things we do, and it helps cast a different light on the human experience. As a young kid, my experiences were colored by Data's portrayal on the show, and his characterization changed me for the better.
3. The characters
The thing that irks me most is that I don't have time to go into detail about every single character. Suffice it to say, there are very few characters on The Next Generation that I actually dislike. From the standoffish Worf to the mysterious Guinan to the warmhearted O'Brien, there are so many personalities and character types to love. The dynamics with which the Enterprise's crew interact are impressive and almost unparalleled. The Next Generation is one of the best ensemble shows we've ever had, and while it has its flaws, the show handles almost every character and story line with grace.
4. The story lines
Speaking of, the story lines on The Next Generation are complex in the best of ways. There are often two-part episodes and long-running story arcs, especially in the later seasons. The Next Generation continues to expand on the Starfleet universe, bringing seven seasons worth of new aliens and new conflicts. A lot of the stories revolve around space politics (and very fleshed-out politics at that, for being a fictional world), but some of them revolve around the characters: their history, present, and future. For all of its good plot lines, the characters are the heart of the show. More than that, the heart of show is humanity, in all its forms--black, white, and gray.
(Yes, there are two of them!)
However, some of the greatest story lines on Star Trek are humorous. The holodeck is a place where any world--and anything--can come to life. This leads to some funny and interesting circumstances. Beyond the holodeck, our characters have gone back in time, met Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), and met duplicate versions of themselves. They've even gone head to head with Moriarty (yes... that Moriarty). Nothing is too wild for Star Trek, and it's interesting, not to mention hilarious, to see what can happen.
5. The symbolism
If you think Star Trek is just a show about space, you'd be wrong. At its core, Star Trek is a show about the human condition. As such, Star Trek writers have not shied away from deep and intense subjects. They use metaphors, symbolism, and parallels to help create a deeper universe--and help us understand our own.
My favorite symbolic episode of TNG is episode 5x02, "Darmok." (source)
6. The theme song and gorgeous opening sequence
For both Star Trek and its cousin Star Wars, musical theme songs are a vital part of each series. They get lodged in our minds and bring back the nostalgia of Star Trek whenever we hear them. For me, the theme song for TNG is exactly that way--an iconic reminder of the good memories Star Trek holds for me. If you need me, you can probably find me humming this theme song to myself and dreaming about the stars.
Star Trek: The Next Generation was groundbreaking both in the world of television and my own personal life. If you'd like to check it out, all seven seasons are on Netflix. What are you waiting for?
Have you seen The Next Generation? Why do you love it?