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NextGen20

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"Thou art directed to go back to thine own solar system immediately!"

The year was 1987. I was a decade old but approaching my eleventh birthday. Sixth grade had just started. And so had one of the shows that became a staple in my life.

Star Trek: The Next Generation (NextGen) celebrated the 20th anniversary of the airing of its first episode, "Encounter at Farpoint" yesterday. Today, I celebrate the first anniversary of my watching it. Running for seven of my most formative years, NextGen remains one of my favorite television series ever produced.

I remember being frustrated with the show early on wishing that there were more phaser fights or space battles. The show was much more intellectual than most shows at the time and initially, shared many of Gene Roddenberry's humanistic viewpoints. I had my favorite moments though. For the first couple years, I watched the show on "tape delay." As it came on late Saturday night, I usually watched it Sunday afternoon. In fact, for the first three years or so, we taped the show and saved it. So I would rewatch those episodes over and over again. How many times did I watch a drunk Data play with the dominoesque computer chips in engineering? How many times did I watch the crew be taken over by their dreams as they reached the edge of existence thanks to the mysterious Traveler? How many times did Damon Bok use his Ferengi mind control device to trick Picard into attacking the Enterprise? How often was Riker almost seduced by the powers of the Q? How many times did I see the introduction of Lore, Minuet, and the Holodek? How many times did I watch Yar die? How many times did I watch the reintroduction of the Romulans or the true, yet never resolved, cliffhanger about the conspiracy at Starfleet?

The second season had a rough start as the writer's strike caused some weak scripts to make it through the gate at the beginning. But, despite having some of the weakest episodes, season two contained some particularly strong stories. "Measure of a Man" shines as probably the greatest of the season where Picard and Riker are pitted against each other into proving whether or not Data is sentient. "Matter of Honor" gives one of the greatest insights into Klingon culture by allowing us to watch Riker join the crew of a Klingon ship. While a weak episode, "Q Who?" brings back Q and introduces us to the Borg who would go on to be the most deadly new enemy in the NextGen era. The season ends weak with a clips episode, but is preceded by "Peak Performance" which once again pits Riker and Picard against one another, but this time in a friendly war game scenario. (This episode was actually one of the last episodes I ever watched since I missed it its first go around due to a power outage.)

I could go on, but by this time, Next Gen had hit its stride. It's easy to love "Sarek," "Yesterday's Enterprise," "Deja Q," "The Enemy," and "Best of Both Worlds." And certainly the show was a phenomenon by season four. To this day, the average person probably knows who Data is.

It's those first two years that I celebrate today though. My love for this show was there at the beginning. If you only like the pretty NextGen where Riker has a beard and the uniforms are snazzier, then I won't say you aren't a fan of this show. But if you love the early stuff, too...then I definitely agree that you are a true fan of this show.

And as I went from a sixth grader all the way through a senior in high school, I watched that show faithfully every week. And I'd say I miss it now, but I don't. I own them all on DVD.

Happy anniversary Star Trek: The Next Generation. You were my Star Trek.

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