I just finished re-watching all seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I saw the series when it originally aired and I would’ve watched some reruns along the way as well. It’s been awhile since then, but every episode had an air of familiarity to it. Plus it’s a different experience to consume an entire series in a few months rather than over the course of several years.
No, not every episode is great and season 7 is a bit weak, but overall I love it: 5 outta 5. Jean-Luc Picard and Data are a force to be reckoned with. In the beginning, I was struck by the sheer competency of the crew. If you like to see professionals at work, THIS is the series for you. The Enterprise is the flagship of the Federation and it shows.
Another striking theme is the preeminence of AI in the form of Lieutenant Commander Data. He’s a self-aware android that could take over the ship at-will. Because of his vast database of knowledge and computational power, he offers solutions that regularly fix complex problems — it’s kinda like a “Deus ex Machina” situation where an actual machine keeps coming to the rescue.
Funny enough though, the people of that time don’t trust autopilot all that much and prefer human intuition when it comes to navigating through difficult situations. And just to note, cyborgs are pretty much demonized in this future — humans should stay human and any systematic integration with computers is detrimental and robs humans of their humanity.
Yet another prominent theme is the nature of reality. Whereas Data demonstrates that organic humans have been superseded in the physical realm, the series essentially explains that humans should transcend the physical realm anyway, reaching different planes of existence (something Data likely cannot do). So the final frontier isn’t actually space, but existence itself.
Time and distance are mere constructs devised by limited thinking. Once this is understood, the door to greater possibilities opens up. The series ends on this note. Something else to consider, is how the series was bookended by Q, an omnipotent being that exists beyond physicality. Although others of his kind questioned the value of humanity, he was entertained by humans and ultimately cared for their continued existence and growth as a species.
And as I mentioned, that growth entails a transcendence beyond limited thinking. To progress, humanity must overcome the confines of tribalism and their propensity towards violence. And humanity won’t progress by means of technology, nor by the exploration of space, but by the exploration of their own consciousness and the expansion of understanding.