Star Trek: TNG wasn’t taken seriously
When Star Trek: The Next Generation was in production and fans of The Original Series learned of its upcoming release, they weren’t all happy with it. In fact, many of them thought TNG wouldn’t come anywhere close to the wonder that was the original Star Trek. Often, those fans referred to themselves as “real Trekkers” who didn’t think TNG should even be considered a part of Gene Roddenberry’s legacy. After all, where was Captain Kirk, Spock, or Dr. McCoy? If the series didn’t have them, it wasn’t Star Trek.
Ronald D. Moore, one of the writers for TNG, told The Hollywood Reporter that for the first couple of seasons, the show wasn’t taken seriously as Star Trek. He talked of going to conventions that clearly identified fans who were diehard original Trek fans and wouldn’t even consider watching the new series.
"What people forget now is in the first couple of seasons of Next Generation, we were sort of not taken seriously as Star Trek. The fans were split on the acceptance of the show. You would go to conventions and there would be bumper stickers and t-shirts that basically said, “I’m a real Trekker. Forget the bald guy.” Stuff like that. We were the second-tier Trek."
One episode of TNG caused the tide to turn
Though the series managed to keep its head up and get renewal for seasons two and three, there still wasn’t a fully established fan base. But the third season series finale changed all that. For the first time, TNG ended on a cliffhanger, one that could have changed the entire dynamic of the show had Patrick Stewart not returned as Captain Picard.
When “The Best of Both Worlds, Part I” aired, TNG got the attention it hadn’t been receiving from the press. The cliffhanger got people talking. A Starfleet captain had been assimilated by the Borg. No one had come back from an assimilation on the series. So the questions began buzzing. Was Patrick Stewart leaving the show? Would Captain Picard remain a Borg drone?
Admittedly, the episodes had gotten stronger beginning about halfway through season three. “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” “Offspring,” “Sins of the Father,” and “Sarek” were some of the best , if not the best, episodes of the season. So viewers were finding the show, but it hadn’t had its ah-ha moment…until “The Best of Both Worlds.” The first part of this episode remains consistent in its high ranking for top episodes of the series and even won an Emmy for “Outstanding Art Direction for a Series” and “Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series”. It opened a door that had never been opened before and left viewers wondering: would Star Trek actually kill off one of its captains?
When season four began, over twelve million viewers tuned in to discover Picard’s fate, and it was the highest-viewed season until season five eclipsed it. Needless to say, The Next Generation was never considered second-tier again.