Get ready to boldly go where no one has gone before… again! Star Trek: The Next Generation first hit our TV screens all the way back in September 1987, and proved to be an extremely successful offshoot of the classic 60s sci-fi series which gave the franchise a whole now lease of life.
If you’re interested in reading 30 facts you might not have known about the show, then read on as we “make it so”…
30. George R. R. Martin almost wrote for the show
Back in 1987, writer George R.R. Martin had been writing science fiction short stories and novels for more than 15 years, as well as doing some work in television. This led him to apply for a position in the writing room for an early season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, Martin was rejected by a junior producer who didn’t understand what the show was about.
This unnamed producer felt Star Trek: TNG was primarily a “people story” and that Martin’s hard sci-fi background rendered him unsuitable. As wrong-headed as this was, Martin went on to enjoy success writing TV’s Beauty & the Beast before launching his epic fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, adapted for TV as Game of Thrones.
29. Deanna Troi’s character design initially included four boobs
Marina Sirtis’ character of Counsellor Deanna Troi was at times criticised for being over-sexualised. However, her costuming and character design were initially going to be far more unorthodox: creator Gene Roddenberry originally wanted her to have two sets of breasts, as well as having her struggle with an overactive libido.
Happily, D.C Fontana (one of the show’s female writers) was able to get Roddenberry to see sense. Fontana argued, “Four in a row? They had better be small. Two banks of two? Do you know how much trouble women have with the normal number—keeping them out of the way of things…?”
28. Patrick Stewart did all his torture scenes in the nude
One of Star Trek: TNG’s darkest plotlines came with season six’s Chain of Command. This two-parter sees Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard captured by the Cardassians and systematically tortured by Gul Madred (David Warner). While this torture is not graphically violent, it is psychologically intense and played very seriously.
Both Stewart and Warner had a background in British theatre, and they approached the episode as seriously as any Shakespeare play. To ensure that his torture scenes had the right amount of gravitas, Stewart insisted on a closed and private set, and actually filmed all of his scenes entirely nude.
27. Teleportation was invented as a quick budget fix
The transporter room was always an iconic part of the original Star Trek, but it became especially important on The Next Generation for the simple reason of keeping costs down. For its first few seasons, ST:TNG had a shockingly low budget, resulting in low-quality costumes and very limited money for special effects, which is a problem for a science fiction show.
As it would be too expensive to show crew members climbing into smaller spaceships to fly down to whatever planet they were visiting, simply showing them vanish from the ship and instantly appear on a planet’s surface was considerably more cost-effective.
26. Denise Crosby stole food from the Cheers set next door
ST:TNG’s low budget in its early days also affected day-to-day working conditions for the cast and crew. The show’s craft services (that’s the food, for those not in showbusiness) were terrible, with the actors often going hungry throughout the long shooting day. This compelled some more mischievous cast members to go further afield for nourishment.
The actors would sometimes slip out and raid the craft services of other, higher-budgeted shows shooting in the Paramount lot. Denise Crosby later admitted to repeatedly sneaking onto the set of hit sitcom Cheers in search of food. Reportedly neither she nor any other actors were caught in the act.
25. Levar Burton’s costume caused him constant pain
The character of Geordi La Forge was born blind but was able to ‘see’ with the use of a hi-tech visor. Unfortunately, this miraculous accessory that brought sight to the character of Geordi had the exact opposite effect for actor Levar Burton. The visor’s wrap-around design meant that it put pressure on Burton’s temples, making it uncomfortable to wear.
As well as suffering tension headaches, Burton was also (ironically) unable to see through the visor, meaning he was constantly bumping into things on set. As the series continued, the actor pushed to include more scenes in which he didn’t have to wear it, dubbing the visor “a living hell.”
24. Wil Wheaton was offered an in-character promotion instead of a raise
Anytime a TV show proves successful, it’s commonplace for the principal cast to have their salaries reviewed, and typically increased. However, when Wesley Crusher actor Wil Wheaton requested a raise, the network execs had an odd response: rather than give him more money, they would promote his character from Ensign to Lieutenant in the show.
Wheaton was incredulous at the offer, and allegedly replied: “So what should I tell my landlord when I can’t pay my rent? ‘Don’t worry, I just made Lieutenant’?” Wheaton got the pay rise sometime later, but his poor relationship with the producers led him to quit the show by season five.
23. Patrick Stewart wore a toupée at his audition
When Patrick Stewart was first suggested for the role of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry rejected the actor outright, saying that he envisioned a younger actor with a full head of hair in the role. Not to be deterred, Stewart asked if he could audition anyway, since he already had a toupee that he wore when roles called for it.
However, when Stewart gave an audition in the wig it went poorly, so midway through he removed it and continued his audition as his natural, bald self. The producers realised they’d found their man, and only one episode – season five’s Violations – required the actor to wear a wig.
22. Brent Spiner says Data’s name caused Americans to change how they pronounce the word
At the first ST:TNG script reading, Patrick Stewart addressed Brent Spiner’s character Data in the British pronunciation, “Day-tah,” and the rest of the cast followed suit. However, unbeknownst to Stewart, Roddenberry had actually meant for Data’s name to reflect the American pronunciation of the word, “Dat-uh.”
Brent Spiner believes this decision changed the way most Americans say the word, with “day-tah” now being the more common pronunciation. (However, it should be noted that this is also the way the name of Ke Huy Quan’s character Data is pronounced in 1985 movie The Goonies.)
21. Patrick Stewart got impatient when his American co-stars messed around
As a British film and theatre actor who hadn’t really worked on US television before, Patrick Stewart wasn’t used to people wasting time or laughing on set. His younger, most American co-stars often goofed around, which at first enraged the more formal and serious Stewart. Eventually he relaxed, but in the early episodes things got tense at times.
Commander Riker actor Jonathan Frakes recalls, “Sir Patrick took the work very seriously. If we fooled around on set, which we were want to do – we meaning the Americans in the cast – and if he was not in the mood, he’d let us have it.”
20. The ‘Picard Manoeuvre’ was a result of wardrobe malfunction
ST:TNG’s first season gave its cast one-piece jumpsuits which were impractical and uncomfortable, leading the actors to demand comfier two-piece suits on season two. Unfortunately though, these new outfits came with their own set of problems, such as the fact that the jackets would constantly shift and ride up whenever the actors moved around, sat down, or stood up.
Patrick Stewart came up with a genius way to combat this, and even integrated it into his character. Whenever Picard stood up from his chair, he would give his jacket a sharp tug downwards, in order to stop it from riding up. This practical movement turned into a recognisable character tick, and was soon dubbed ‘The Picard Manoeuvre.’
19. One episode was banned
When the third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation to air in the UK, one episode was skipped over: episode 13, The High Ground, in which an Enterprise crew member is kidnapped by terrorists. It was not the theme of terrorism itself that caused the episode to be banned, but rather something Data says when talking about times that direct action tactics have been used to bring about the end of a conflict.
Data says that Ireland was reunited in 2024 thanks to the use of violent tactics and direct action, which was considered too provocative a statement back in 1989. The High Ground was eventually shown in the UK in 2007, but it has yet to air in Ireland itself.
18. The final episode had record-breaking viewing figures
Star Trek: The Next Generation began airing on September 28th 1987, and ran until May 23rd 1994. It ran for seven seasons, over seven years, and 178 episodes were made. As its fanbase grew, its viewing figures gradually increased, until it was regularly watched by 20 million people – more than such TV hits as Wheel of Fortune, Cheers and L.A. Law.
Unsurprisingly though, it was the final episode that saw record-breaking viewing figures. The final episode, the ‘All Good Things…’ two-parter, saw Picard jumping through time to wrap up the show’s loose ends. It was watched by over 30 million viewers.
17. Levar Burton used to fall asleep on set
Star Trek: The Next Generation is hardly a show without action, but there was also a lot of sitting around on the ship, talking. While this gave the show its more philosophical bent, with an emphasis on words over action, it meant the cast often had little to do except sit and wait – meaning it was easy for those with less to do to drift off.
Actor Levar Burton, who played Geordi La Forge, said that throughout the first season of the show, he often found himself falling asleep on set – and because of the visor covering his eyes, no one noticed!
16. Gene Roddenberry was infamously difficult to work with
Creator of Star Trek Gene Roddenberry is considered by many to be a genius, who made an invaluable contribution to both the world of TV and the genre of science fiction as a whole. However, this does not mean that Roddenberry was particularly easy to work with, nor did his deep interest in and passion for Humanist philosophy make him more amicable.
The Star Trek creator was infamous among the writing staff for his dictatorial manner, temper tantrums, jealousy and intolerance. When he passed away in 1991, many of those working on The Next Generation were quietly relieved at the greater creative freedom they were subsequently allowed.
15. Picard’s flute was sold at auction for $40,000
Picard’s flute from the episode ‘The Inner Light’, considered by many to be the show’s greatest moment, was sold at auction and originally only valued at $1,000. It went on to sell for $40,000, with Denise Okuda, co-writer of the auction catalogue, being quoted as saying “that’s the item people say they really have to have, because it’s so iconic to a much-beloved episode.”
Picard’s flute playing is a reoccurring motif throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation, but Patrick Stewart never actually learned how to play the flute. Most of the time, Stewart was simply moving his hands around to emulate the correct finger position while making no noise at all, and the music was dubbed in later by professional musicians.
14. Mick Fleetwood had a totally unrecognisable celebrity cameo
Throughout Star Trek: The Next Generation’s run, several celebrities made guest appearances on the show. One of those big name cameos came from one of the biggest rock stars of the time, Mick Fleetwood, drummer and co-founder of the band Fleetwood Mac. However, even his biggest fans probably wouldn’t be able to spot him.
Fleetwood was in season two episode Manhunt as an Antedean, a fish-like species of alien. Naturally this meant the rock star had to wear extensive prosthetic make-up, rendering him totally unrecognisable.
13. The show’s creator never would have greenlit The Best of Both Worlds
Towards the end of his life, Star Trek: The Next Generation creator Gene Roddenberry was forced to take a less active role in the series due to his declining health. The show’s staff took advantage of this by pushing ahead with a storyline Roddenberry never would have agreed to: The Best of Both Worlds, the two-parter which ended season three on a cliffhanger resolved at the start of season four.
The episode is considered one of the most famous and beloved episodes of all of Star Trek, thanks to its bold decision to have Captain Picard assimilated by the Borg. However, its plot and content contradicted Roddenberry’s strict mandate that there should be no interpersonal conflict between members of the crew.
12. Picard recently returned to our screens in his own series
Star Trek: The Next Generation finished in 1994. The show’s cast then reprised their roles in four movies beginning with 1994’s Star Trek Generations, before things came to an unceremonious end with 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis. This, for some time, seemed to mark the end of Patrick Stewart’s involvement with the franchise.
However, 2018 saw the then-78-year-old Stewart announce that his return in new TV series Star Trek: Picard, a darker and more political take on the story world than previously seen. 2023 will see this spin-off series come to an end after three seasons, with most of the original Next Generation cast returning.
11. Whoopi Goldberg was never credited for her work on the show
A recurring guest star on Star Trek: The Next Generation was Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan, the mysterious, seemingly all-knowing bartender of the Enterprise’s bar Ten Forward. However, despite being a well-known and recurring character played by an actress who was already relatively well-known, Whoopi Goldberg was not credited for her work on the show at the time.
Goldberg landed the role after contacting the producers requesting a role. She had to wait an entire year to hear back about her request, since the producers assumed she must have been kidding about actually wanting to act in Star Trek.
10. The Ferengi were supposed to be the main villains but it was decided they were too funny-looking to be scary
In the original Star Trek, the main antagonists were the Klingons, but in the interests of a progressive perspective, the Next Generation showed us they had since made peace with the Federation (hence the presence of Michael Dorn’s Worf on the Enterprise crew). As such, they needed a new alien threat, and originally this was meant to be the greedy, money-hungry Ferengi.
However, that fell apart when the Ferengi were introduced, and audiences found them too comical to be taken seriously as a threat. Eventually this resulted in the creation of a far more memorable and genuinely scary adversary in the form of The Borg.
9. Patrick Stewart had never seen Star Trek before he was cast as Picard
On his casting in Star Trek: The Next Generation, Patrick Stewart was often referred to by reporters as “an unknown British Shakespearean actor.” However, it wasn’t just a matter of TV viewers being unfamiliar with the actor; Stewart himself also knew nothing of the franchise he was being asked to become the new figurehead of.
The actor has since admitted that on auditioning for the show, he had never seen the original Star Trek, nor did he know anything about how fiercely dedicated the show’s fans were. This may have helped Stewart in the short term, as it meant he was unaware of the angry reaction his casting initially received from Star Trek devotees.
8. Producer Maurice Hurley was so bad to work with, several people quit
Creator Gene Roddenberry wasn’t the one on Star Trek: The Next Generation who proved difficult to work with. One of the senior producers on the show, Maurice Hurley allegedly proved such a pain that numerous people quit the show specifically to avoid working with him, including several writers and – most dramatically – Dr. Crusher actress Gates McFadden.
Writer Herbert J. Wright confessed to leaving the show specifically because of Hurley, who he said was there “basically playing drinking buddies with Gene Roddenberry.” Another write, Tracy Tormé, left to start his own sci-fi series Sliders, and according to Tormé it was Hurley’s treatment of Gates McFadden that caused McFadden to leave the show after the first season.
7. Data’s job was changed because the android makeup clashed horribly with his original uniform colour
Originally, Brent Spiner’s Lt. Commander Data was supposed to be the Chief Science Officer on the Enterprise, but his job was changed for purely visual reasons. This role – which was the same one Leonard Nimoy’s Spock had taken in the original series – necessitated the character wearing a blue uniform.
However, once they had Spiner in the pale-skinned, yellow-eyed make-up required to make him an android, they found that the blue uniform clashed horribly with his overall look. They found that the gold uniform looked better, and so Data became the Chief Operations Officer instead.
6. Patrick Stewart objected to having pets on the Enterprise because of the show’s philosophy of liberty for all species
Aboard the Enterprise in Next Generation, there are a couple of animals seen running, or swimming, about: a ginger cat named Spot, and a fish named Livingstone. The cat belongs to Data, while the fish belongs to Captain Picard. No big deal, you might think, but Patrick Stewart actually offered strong objections to his character keeping a pet.
Stewart’s objections were purely philosophical, arguing that the show’s philosophy of liberty and freedom for all beings would include animals. Brent Spiner also objected to Data’s scenes with Spot, on the far simpler basis that he just wasn’t a cat person.
5. Gene Roddenberry didn’t want Worf in the show
Worf, a Klingon warrior who is the first member of his race to join Starfleet, is a hugely important and interesting character on Star Trek: TNG. However, if Gene Roddenberry had his way originally, there would have been no Worf on the show, as the series creator was against the idea of bringing back alien races from the original Star Trek.
Roddenberry eventually relented, realising how many unique story opportunities having a Klingon aboard the Enterprise would allow for. Michael Dorn was cast, and proved so popular in the role that he later reprised Worf on spin-off series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
4. The Enterprise schematics originally didn’t include bathrooms
Star Trek: The Next Generation is set in a utopian future, where those born blind can be made to see, humans can have robotic limbs, and intergalactic space travel is a breeze. Even food can be replicated into existence at a moment’s notice. However, not all human inconveniences have been eliminated, as people still need to go to the bathroom.
Despite this, bathrooms are very rarely seen, whether the cast are on the Enterprise or somewhere else entirely. The suspicious lack of bathrooms is actually part of a decades-long Star Trek running joke, as in The Original Series, schematics of the Enterprise were released that did not have any bathrooms at all.
3. Frustration with their characters led both Denise Crosby and Gates McFadden to quit
In the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Denise Crosby’s security chief Tasha Yar and Gate’s McFadden’s chief medical officer Dr. Beverly Crusher were two of the main characters on the show. However, neither would return in the show’s second season, quitting over their lack of character development, boredom with the material and tensions with the producers.
Crosby’s exit proved most final, as Tasha Yar was unexpectedly killed off in the show’s 23rd episode, Skin of Evil. Dr. Crusher, meanwhile, was quietly replaced by Dr. Kate Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) at the start of season two. However, this replacement character was not accepted by fans, and McFadden returned in season three. Crosby, meanwhile, came back as another character, the villainous Sela.
2. LeVar Burton hosted a Reading Rainbow and Star Trek crossover
Before joining Star Trek: The Next Generation, LeVar Burton was best known as the host of Reading Rainbow, an educational show for children in which celebrities read books out loud. Burton was an instrumental part of the show from its inception: he introduced the celebrity readers and toured locations relating to the theme of each book every episode.
From 1987 onwards, Burton worked on Reading Rainbow and Next Generation in tandem, which once resulted in a unique and cherished crossover entitled Reading Rainbow: The Bionic Bunny Show, which featured a behind the scenes look at Star Trek: The Next Generation presented by Burton himself.
1. It was once the longest-running American live-action sci-fi show ever
Star Trek: The Next Generation ran from 1987 to 1994, and had seven seasons under its belt by the time it ended. In terms of general television, that doesn’t exactly count as a record-breaking, long-running show, but science fiction shows tend to have much less longevity. At the time, it was the longest-running sci-fi series ever.
In the end, Star Trek: The Next Generation only held this record for a short time. It was soon tied by both of its successors, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1993 – 1999) and Star Trek: Voyager (1995-2001). However, the record for longest-running sci-fi series was eventually broken by The X-Files, which ran for 11 seasons.