Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered 35 years ago, in a very different pop culture landscape for geeky TV fare. Sure, in 1987 we had all kinds of sci-fi and fantasy movies on the big screen. But on television, apart from children’s cartoons, it was almost a desert. So if sci-fi was your jam, chances are you’re in for it TNG every week, even in those rougher, early seasons. But what if TNG was airing now, in 2022, in the age of Twitter and Tiktok? These are ten shocking moments from the iconic series that would destroy the internet if they aired today.
Tasha Yar Dies/”Skin of Evil”, Season 1, Episode 23, 1988
In the original star trek, a name in the opening credits of the series meant you were safe from harm. Only unnamed “red shirts” were taken out by aliens on an away mission. When they killed security chief Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) with an alien hand gesture in the episode “Skin of Evil,” the fan base gasped.
Most viewers who watched this episode had no idea that Crosby would be leaving the show, let alone that her character Tasha Yar would die in such an unlikely way. And it signaled that just being in the show’s main cast wasn’t a safety net from potential harm. Space was dangerous for everyone, even the main characters.
Whoopi Goldberg joins the cast/”The Child”, Season 2, Episode 1, 1988
In 1988 Whoopi Goldberg was a big movie star. She had made her big screen debut in the award-winning film The colour purple, and starred in comedy hits like Jumpin Jack Flash. So many viewers were shocked to tune in to the season 2 premiere TNG and see Whoopi had joined the cast in a recurring capacity as the company‘s new alien bartender named Guinan.
Goldberg was a great trekker and strongly courted Gene Roddenberry for a role on the show. At first he didn’t think she was serious because she was already a big movie star. Why would she want to be in a syndicated sci-fi show? She convinced him that Lt. Nichelle Nichols’ Uhura in the classic series was part of her inspiration for getting into acting. Goldberg’s supplement to TNG Cast at this point in their career certainly shocked many viewers. If it happened today, people would be posting like crazy, “Wait, is that really Whoopi serving Wesley Crusher drinks??
Tasha Yar Returns/”Yesterday’s Enterprise” TNG Season 3, Episode 15, 1990
A few months into the show’s groundbreaking third season, TNG unleashed another cracker episode with “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. In this alternate timeline story, a cosmic anomaly warped the timeline, resulting in a new reality where Tasha Yar never died and still was company security chief. The timeline change takes place within the episode’s pre-credits moments and will no doubt leave viewers confused and flabbergasted. This episode also finally gave viewers the story of one of the previous ones company between Kirk and Picard, which would have caused a lot of fan squeals online today.
Spock’s Father Appears/”Sarek” TNG Season 3, Episode 23, 1990
Aside from a cameo appearance by DeForest Kelley in the pilot episode, TNG avoided all characters from the original series. Almost three seasons TNG stuck to that rule until this episode where a certain Vulcan appeared on the bridge. No, not Spock. (That’s later). The shocking first Conditions connection on TNG was from Sarek, Spock’s father, played once again by Mark Lenard. Fans were no doubt surprised to see the 200-year-old Vulcan ambassador appearing in two previous ones Trek movies. Today, after waiting for so long, we are sure for now TNG The connection to the classic show would have set social media on fire.
“I Am Locutus of Borg”/”Best of Both Worlds” TNG Season 3, Episode 26, 1990
This was the first cliffhanger in the season finale to end star trek story, and when the current Captain William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) said, “Mr. Worf…fire!” on the Borg ship, left us hanging for months, Trek Fandom was beside itself. Would Riker really kill his beloved commander? If this aired today, internet reactions would compete game of Thrones‘ Red Wedding. It was such a big deal back then.
Worf kills Duras/”Reunion”, TNG Season 4, Episode 7, 1990
For three seasons, Lt. Worf (Michael Dorn) the company a resident Klingon warrior, was always on the verge of unleashing all his ferocity on an enemy and destroying them once and for all. But he always adhered to the rules of conduct as a Starfleet officer. That is, until season four’s “Reunion,” when the Son of Mogh broke all the rules and killed his rival Duras in a ritualistic battle.
Mind you, Duras robbed Worf of his family honor the previous season and in this episode murdered Worf’s lover K’Ehleyr in cold blood. Usually our main characters come back close to actually killing their enemies, but not this time. Fortunately, Worf only received one reprimand on his record. (Essentially, Jean-Luc just slapped him on the hand). Even he knew Duras was coming, but it was a shocking moment in the normally squeaky clean world of TNG.
Tasha returns again! Or not?/”Redemption”, TNG Season 4, Episode 26, 1991
Although she was only a regular cast member for one season TNG, it seems Denise Crosby kept popping up for the show’s most exciting moments. Not a bad job if you can get it. After a groundbreaking Season 3 finale, the Season 4 finale needed to do something just as stunning. In the final moments of Redemption, Denise Crosby emerges from the shadows in full Romulan regalia.
“Tasha Yar is alive again?? And a Romulan? Say what?” That was the fandom’s reaction at the time, and something that would certainly have made social media take off today. The next season’s premiere revealed that Crosby played Sela, not Tasha. She was the daughter of alt-timeline Tasha from ” Yesterday’s Enterprise” and a Romulan (don’t ask). But that cliffhanger ending to season 4 got everyone talking at the moment. We can imagine all the spoiler tagged posts today.
Leonard Nimoy’s Spock Appears/”Unification, Pt. I” TNG Season five, episode seven, 1991
When TNG was announced, most fans didn’t consider it “legitimate”. star trek due to the lack of original cast members involved. It took many seasons for some die-hard fans to accept TNG as real Trek. This is despite stellar ratings and the show eventually becoming a critical darling.
But in the fifth season TNG received the ultimate seal of approval when Leonard Nimoy starred as Mr. Spock in a special two-part event episode, “Unification.” This performance was well publicized, even in the media before the Internet. But seeing Spock and Picard and Spock and Data interact was a moment fans have been waiting for for years. Today’s internet would have exploded just like Kirk’s company in Star Trek III
“There. There. Four. Lights!”/”Chain of Command, Part II”, TNG Season 6, Episode 11, 1993
“There are four lights!” Even if you aren’t TNG Fan, you’ve probably seen the meme of a disheveled Patrick Stewart with those words scrawled on it. Well, those words come from an unusually heavy and serious two-part episode of Season 6, “Chain of Command.” In this episode, Picard was captured by a cruel Cardassian commander (David Warner). He physically and psychologically tortures the captain, nearly breaking him.
It’s a masterpiece from Sir Patrick, one of the best he’s ever done on the show. To see such a harrowing display of cruelty was not only very unusual TNG, but TV in general at the time. Had it aired today, fans online would have been in deep shock, demanding an Emmy for both Warner and Stewart.
The Grand Finale/”All Good Things” TNG Season 7, Episode 26, 1994
Series finales always get a lot of attention because we assume they’re a final essay about the series. These days, every time a show ends, it all boils down to “did it make it through the landing or not.” Spring, TNG’s The final episode, All Good Things, definitely screwed up the landing, and writers Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga designed an episode that covers the early days of the series (hey, it’s Denise Crosby again!), her present, and pays homage to their future.
The time travel story of All Good Things provided a glimpse into the lives of all our beloved characters 25 years into the future. Everyone was talking about it back then, and it was still what everyone would tweet about TNG It went off the air in 2022 rather than 1994. Interestingly, it’s now been 25 years in real life and we’ll soon see what that all is TNG Crew is up to the third season of Star Trek: Picard. We’d bet ten bars of gold-pressed latinum that if we saw them all together again, the internet would crash.