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The Genius Move That Made TNG Great Explained By Star Trek Writer-TGN

Summary

  • Michael Piller’s innovative decision to focus on the characters in each episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation transformed the show and made it beloved by fans for generations.
  • The character-centric approach had never been done before in the Star Trek franchise, and it brought a new depth and personal connection to the series.
  • This character-episode formula continued to be successful in other Star Trek series, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise, and is still being embraced in current iterations like Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.


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The genius creative move that turned Star Trek: The Generation into one of the greatest sci-fi shows ever is explained by writer Ronald D. Moore. Star Trek: The Next Generation started with a notoriously rocky season 1 that was married by massive upheaval in the writer’s room. Showrunner Maurice Hurley came in to right the ship in TNG season 2, but he only lasted one year. Executive producers Gene Roddenberry and Rick Berman tapped Michael Piller to become TNG‘s head writer in season 3, and Piller’s innovation made a huge positive difference in the quality of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In the oral history “The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek,” Ronald D. Moore breaks down the late Michael Piller’s brilliant decision to focus on Star Trek: The Next Generation’s characters in each episode. This allowed audiences to get to know Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the crew of the USS Enterprise-D on a more personal level, which is what made the characters so beloved by generations of fans. Read Moore’s quote below:

Michael’s edict was “We’re going to tell stories about the Enterprise characters.” Every show had to have an idea of whose episode it was. This week is a Worf episode, this week is a Troi episode. That focus to the show hadn’t really happened before. There had been various stories told about the different characters, but it didn’t really come from this character-centric point of view that Michael brought to the table. That philosophy guided the rest of the run.

The rest of the Rick Berman-produced series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, and Star Trek: Enterprise continued to follow Michael Piller’s character-episode formula.

Related: The 20 Best Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes of All Time


Star Trek: Strange New Worlds Continues TNG’s Character-Episode Formula

Captain Pike’s USS Enterprise crew gets character-centric episodes.

Upon Star Trek‘s return to television in 2017, the franchise embraced serialization which was becoming the dominant popular small-screen storytelling format. Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard were heavily serialized adventures about epic galactic stakes, and Discovery, in particular, focused on its lead character, Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green), to the detriment of the ensemble cast’s character development. However, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds triumphantly returned the franchise to its episodic format, with each hour focusing on individual members of the USS Enterprise crew led by Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount).

Strange New Worlds has showcased Lt. Spock (Ethan Peck) in two Vulcan-centric comedy episodes, explored Number One’s (Rebecca Romijn) history as a genetically engineered Illyrian, delved into the harrowing Klingon War experiences of Dr. Joseph M’Benga (Babs Olusanmokun) and Nurse Christine Chapel (Jess Bush), and sparked a time travel romance between Lieutenant La’an Noonien-Singh (Christina Chong) and James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley). Star Trek: Lower Decks, a loving half-hour comedic homage to Star Trek: The Next Generation, is also episodic and lends itself to personal stories about its endearing cast of junior-grade Lieutenants. Star Trek went back to the winning formula created by Michael Piller on Star Trek: The Next Generation and it’s been a great success for the shows and with audiences.

Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Strange New Worlds are available to stream on Paramount+.

Source: “The Center Seat: 55 Years of Star Trek” by Peter Holmstrom

  • Star Trek: The Next Generation

    Release Date:
    1987-09-28

    Cast:
    Patrick Stewart, michael dorn, Marina Sirtis

    Genres:
    Sci-Fi, Superhero, Drama, Action

    Seasons:
    7

    Story By:
    Gene Roddenberry

    Writers:
    Gene Roddenberry

    Network:
    CBS

    Streaming Service:
    Amazon Prime Video

    Franchise(s):
    Star Trek

    Directors:
    David Carson

    Showrunner:
    Gene Roddenberry

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