Stardate 43989.1. Eighteen months after the USS Enterprise's initial encounter with the Borg (a collection of half humanoid, half machine beings) the Federation is again threatened. Insufficiently capable of defending itself against the overwhelming invasion force, Starfleet assign Borg expert Lieutenant Commander Shelby to the Enterprise. Picard is abducted by the Borg who assimilate him into their consciousness in an attempt to pre-determine Starfleet tactics in response to their invasion.
In 1987, some 20 years after the original series had ended, Star Trek: The Next Generation
was launched into a decade renowned for its materialistic greed, but also for its hesitant steps towards a more unified world order. Creator Gene Roddenberry revised his vision of humanity's future accordingly, shifting the Trek
timeline 80 years on and reinventing the new Starship Enterprise as an Ark-like exploration vessel full of families, schools, soothing recreational facilities and a maternally pacifying computer voice (Roddenberry's wife, Majel Barrett). The Next Generation crew were not soldiers, but scientists and diplomats. Unlike the fiercely individualistic Captain Kirk, Patrick Stewart's patrician Captain Jean-Luc Picard was a model team leader: no matter how desperate the crisis, he ensured that everyone got to sit round the Conference Room table and talk it over. And in a true late-1980s touch, a key member of the Bridge crew was psychoanalyst Counsellor Troi, always on hand to discuss everyone's feelings.
Season Two saw the welcome introduction of the cybernetic horror that was the Borg. Originally a powerful symbol of technological misuse in an otherwise technologically utopian universe, ultimately their hive-like existence served to reinforce the message that everyone would be much happier as a team player. Even renegade super-entity Q (John De Lancie) relied on Picard as much as his fellow god-like playmates; Data followed Pinocchio and Spock in a quest to discard what made him an individual; and there was even an episode that rationalised why all aliens basically looked alike (we're all one big family). Even the slogan change to "Where no one has gone before" acknowledges that there's no "one" in a team. But for all its earnest political correctness and an over-reliance on "technobabble", good stories played by an appealing ensemble cast were at the heart of the show's success. After seven successful seasons, "All Good Things" finally came to an end. Until Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, that is. --Paul Tonks