The announcement of Leonard Nimoy’s death rocked the world of many these past few weeks. If you’re unaware of who Leonard Nimoy is, he was the actor who famously portrayed the highly-logical Vulcan, Spock, in the original Star Trek series. It was Nimoy’s character that made popular the phrase “Live Long and Prosper,” along with the distinctive hand symbol that went along with this sentiment.
Though I’ve never seen an episode of the original Star Trek series, I greatly respect Nimoy and his work. He was described as a kind human being, with great compassion that was so unlike his TV persona that he was truly extraordinary. I know my sentiments are just noise in the sea of condolences for this man, but in honor of him, I’d like to introduce you to one branch of the Star Trek universe that I am more acquainted with: The Next Generation series. So, to make light of a sad situation, I give you my character guide to the awesome world of Star Trek: TNG.
If you know anything about Star Trek, you’re more than likely aware of the war that rages within this fandom; that is, which captain is best? William Shatner’s Captain Kirk, or Patrick Stewart’s Captain Picard? For me, I can’t say no to Patrick Stewart. Not only is he an amazing film/television/stage actor, but he is by far one of the classiest men in this world. His class carries over to his role as Captain Picard, who is a smart, sophisticated, and lovable character. Earl grey tea? Why yes, I will engage.
Beard or no beard, Cm. Riker is the debonair Casanova of the Star Fleet crew. With wit and intelligence, along with some awesome trombone skills, Picard’s Number One is one of my Number Ones in this show. Played by Johnathan Frakes, it is said that the actor suffered a back injury, which gave him his infamous “Riker Lean.” Cm. Riker is often parodied on Twitter, and the results are beautiful. Oh, and by the way, I will always prefer a beardless Riker ❤
If I can commend TNG for one thing (and I can commend it on several things), it would have to be for its strong female characters. One such character is Deanna Troi, played by Marina Sirtis. Troi is a natural empath, due to the fact that she is half-Betazoid. Because of her empathetic abilities—meaning that she can sense feelings in others—she is the Enterprise’s counselor. But don’t let her role fool you; Troi is a trained Star Fleet officer, and knows how to take care of herself. She can get out of a sticky situation like nobody’s business, all while displaying great charisma and wisdom.
Michael Dorn’s character of Worf is, surprisingly, very lovable. Worf is a Klingon, and Klingons are not exactly the most likeable characters in the Star Trek universe. Being a trained warrior, Worf is not someone to mess with; no wonder he’s the head of ship security! As tough as he may seem, and as odd as he may appear, Worf is no barbarian. Due to his professional role, he comes off as rough around the edges, but he’s a secret softy when the time is right. He a Klingon anyone can love…or like strongly.
No, you’re not tuned in to some themed episode of Reading Rainbow, but that is LeVar Burton playing Lt. La Forge! La Forge is a technical and equipment engineer who works in the operations system of the Enterprise. La Forge is also the only blind character on the show, hence the Cyclops-esque visor that he wears. Despite his disability, he is exceptionally smart and hard-working, as well as very caring and perceptive to any troubles that might arise in any of the other characters.
I have the biggest soft spot of Data, as he is my favorite character in the show. Yes, I love Riker, but Data is so entertaining that it’s hard not to love him. Cm. Data, played by Brent Spiner, is an android, yet he longs to learn and experience human emotions, thoughts, and feelings. Being very logical, Data is comparable to Nimoy’s Spock. Not surprisingly, Data is very knowledgeable of technical systems, which is why he works in the operations and engineering department with La Forge. As cold and unfeeling as Data may seem, he is often the most human character on the show, displaying great innocence and sympathy. He also has a cat named Spot, how can you not love him?!
Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher is yet another strong female character on TNG. Incredibly smart and perceptive, Dr. Crusher is often a useful resource for knowledge and advice on the ship. Portrayed by Gates McFadden, Dr. Crusher is a very well-respected figure. In some episodes, Dr. Crusher tries to balance her professional life with her personal, and struggles with finding femininity in a male-dominated universe. Though there is a strong female presence in the world of TNG, the women have to keep their cool in the face of adversity to uphold their professional standards. But Dr. Crusher proves that any woman in a professional environment can also find moments to truly be herself without refrain or judgment.
Every show has that one character, or characters, who are mocked and ridiculed. In the original Star Trek series, it was the constantly dying Red Shirts; in TNG, it’s Wil Wheaton’s Wesley Crusher. Wesley, though, is a great character. He just wasn’t written well, nor was he taken seriously. As the son of Dr. Beverly Crusher, Wesley wanted to be a member of the Enterprise, and was given the role of ensign. But I love Wesley, despite what some fans might say about him. He’s an endearing fixture to the TNG universe, and gives the show an adolescent perspective of the universe. Love him or hate him, he’s inevitably become a very iconic figure in the whole of the Stark Trek universe.
If you ever get the chance to watch anything related to Star Trek, I highly recommend it. I know that the whole fandom has quite the stigma around it, but guys, it’s not what you think. They are highly enjoyable shows and movies, and have continually changed pop culture over the past 50 years. Despite what some may think about the shows, or the fandom, Star Trek teaches us acceptance, the power of knowledge, and lets us know that we have the power to boldly go where no one has gone before.
“Of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most…human.”