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"Star Trek: The Next Generation" ("TNG") premiered on September 29, 1987.
It was the first live-action "Star Trek" show since the original series ended in 1969.
It told the story of Captain Jean-Luc Picard and his crew aboard the USS Enterprise a century later.
The captain of the Enterprise, Jean-Luc Picard, was played by Sir Patrick Stewart for all seven seasons.
Stewart got his start as a theater actor and was a part of the Royal Shakespeare Company from 1966 to 1982. He then had various roles on British TV series until he was cast as the newest captain of the USS Enterprise in 1987 for "Star Trek: The Next Generation," kicking off decades of debates on who the superior captain is.
Arguably, "TNG" would never have been as successful as it was without the grounding presence of Stewart and his Shakespearean sensibilities. Some of the best episodes and arcs in "Trek" history come down to Stewart's performance, such as the iconic Locutus storyline and its aftermath in "Family," or classic episodes like "The Measure of a Man" and "The Inner Light."
Stewart, 81, returned to Picard's story in 2020 with "Star Trek: Picard" on Paramount+.
By the time "TNG" had wrapped up in 1994, Stewart had already solidified his place in the hearts of nerds everywhere. He'd go on to star in four more "Trek" movies — "Generations" in 1994, "First Contact" in 1996, "Insurrection" in 1998," and "Nemesis" in 2002 — but that wasn't his last iconic role.
In 2000, he starred as the iconic Professor Charles Xavier, aka Professor X, in "X-Men." He reprised the role in 2003's "X2," 2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand," 2009's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," 2013's "The Wolverine," 2014's "X-Men: Days of Future Past," and 2017's "Logan" — the latter of which got him some Oscar buzz.
Stewart was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2010 for services to drama.
He's played various other roles throughout his decades-long career, returned to the stage many times, and secured a Tony nomination in 2008 for his performance in "Macbeth." But Picard wasn't done with him yet.
In 2018, it was announced that Stewart would be returning to the role of Jean-Luc Picard for a series on CBS All Access — now Paramount+ — following the former captain 20 years after the events of "Nemesis." "Star Trek: Picard" premiered in 2020, will return for season two in 2022, and has already been renewed for a season three.
Picard's right-hand man and first officer was played by Jonathan Frakes.
Riker was more of the classic "Trek" rogue, similar in some ways to William Shatner's Captain James T. Kirk — namely, his penchant for getting into trouble and getting women across the galaxy to fall in love with him. But he was also a trusted colleague and friend to Picard across seven seasons and four movies. Picking up Riker from Farpoint Station is actually one of the crew's first missions in the pilot.
Before "TNG," Frakes had appeared in various episodes of '70s and '80s shows like "Charlie's Angels," "The Twilight Zone," "Hill Street Blues," and more. But he quickly became best known for "Trek."
Like Shatner and Leonard Nimoy before him, Frakes also became interested in directing, and he was behind the camera for eight episodes of "TNG," as well as episodes of spin-offs "Deep Space Nine," and "Voyager." He also directed films "First Contact" and "Insurrection."
Frakes, 69, returned for two episodes of "Picard." He's also a successful director.
Soon after "TNG" wrapped up, Frakes began hosting the series "Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction?" from 1998 to 2002. A compilation clip of him saying things are false/fiction has since become a meme.
Frakes reprised his role as Riker in episodes of "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager" in the '90s, the series finale of "Star Trek: Enterprise" in 2005, two episodes of "Star Trek: Picard" in 2020, and three episodes of "Star Trek: Lower Decks" in 2020 and 2021.
Over the last two decades, he's directed over 70 episodes of television, including shows like "Roswell," "Castle," "NCIS: Los Angeles," "The Librarians," "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.," Seth MacFarlane's loving "Trek" homage "The Orville," and, of course, the new "Trek" shows like "Star Trek: Discovery" and "Picard." Frakes will direct at least one more episode of "Picard" in season two.
Marina Sirtis played Deanna Troi, the ship's counselor and an empath.
In some ways, Troi was like the exact opposite of Spock, a character from the original "Trek" who operated solely from a place of logic. Instead, Troi was a half-human, half-betazoid, which made her an empath (able to telepathically sense people's feelings and emotions). Her place on the ship was to counsel the captain and other members of the crew.
Notably, Troi and Riker were in a relationship before the events of the show, and they eventually get married during the movie "Nemesis," before moving to the USS Titan, where Riker would finally become captain.
Her mother, Lwaxana Troi, was a beloved "Trek" side character played by Majel Barrett — aka "Trek" creator Gene Rodenberry's wife and "Original Series" cast member. Barrett also played Christine Chapel.
Before "TNG," Sirtis had appeared in bit parts in films and was mainly doing theater in her native UK.
Sirtis, 66, reprised the role for one episode of "Picard" with her on-screen husband, Frakes.
Sirtis appeared in all four "TNG" films," and she also reprised her role as Troi in "Voyager," "Enterprise," "Picard," and "Lower Decks." She also appeared in an episode of "The Orville."
She's steadily worked in TV over the last two decades, appearing in shows like "Without a Trace," "Make It or Break It," "Grey's Anatomy," "NCIS," and "Scandal."
Sirtis has also had a steady voice acting career, lending her voice to "Gargoyles," "Adventure Time," and perhaps most famously, as Queen Bee in "Young Justice."
LeVar Burton played the engineering genius Geordi La Forge.
Besides Stewart, Burton was easily the most well-known member of the cast. Ten years prior, he had played Kunta Kinte in the 1977 ABC miniseries "Roots," which was nominated for 37 Emmy Awards, winning nine, including a nomination for Burton. The series finale is still the second most-watched series finale of all time, garnering at least 110 million viewers. He reprised the role in the 1988 TV film "Roots: The Gift."
When he was cast as La Forge, the chief engineering officer who happened to be blind — a big step forward in disability representation at the time — Burton had already been hosting "Reading Rainbow" on PBS since 1983. "Reading Rainbow," which Burton produced, won a Peabody Award and 12 Daytime Emmys.
From 1990 to 1996, Burton also voiced Kwame on "Captain Planet and the Planeteers" for over 100 episodes. In 1999, he directed the Disney Channel Original Movie classic "Smart House."
Burton, 64, was recently at the center of a campaign to take over as the new host of "Jeopardy!"
Like the rest of the main cast, Burton appeared in "TNG's" four feature films. He also appeared as La Forge in an episode of "Voyager," but he hasn't been in a "Trek" movie or TV show since — could we finally see him return in a future season of "Picard"?
Burton has had a successful career in Hollywood since, appearing as Martin Luther King Jr. in 2001's "Ali," playing himself in iconic appearances on both "Community" and "The Big Bang Theory," and hosting "Reading Rainbow" until its end in 2006.
Like Frakes, Burton is also a successful TV director. He's directed numerous episodes of "Star Trek" and its spin-offs, as well as episodes of "Charmed," "JAG," and "NCIS: New Orleans." He made his movie directorial debut in 2008 with "Reach for Me," starring Seymour Cassel.
After the death of Alex Trebek in 2020, fans began campaigning for Burton to take over as the new host of "Jeopardy!" Almost 300,000 fans have signed a petition to that effect. However, after a brief stint as guest host, Burton said he wouldn't be interested in taking over as the permanent host.
In October 2021, he was named next year's grand marshal of the Rose Bowl Parade.
Gates McFadden played the chief medical officer Dr. Beverly Crusher for six seasons - she was replaced briefly in season two.
Dr. Crusher was introduced as the chief medical officer of the Enterprise with a long relationship with Picard — her late husband Jack and Picard were close friends, and Picard even brought back Jack's body after death. However, as the show progressed, Dr. Crusher and Picard's relationship evolved into love and they even got married (and divorced) in an alternate timeline. We want to see Beverly in "Picard," please.
After the first season, McFadden was written out of the show due to issues with head writer Maurice Hurley and replaced with Diana Muldaur, who played Dr. Katherine Pulaski. Muldaur's character did not gel with the rest of the cast, and McFadden was subsequently brought back for season three (and Hurley was ultimately replaced with Michael Piller).
Before "TNG," McFadden was a choreography and a puppeteer involved with the Jim Henson Company, in addition to her career as an actress. She appeared in and choreographed 1984's "The Muppets Take Manhattan" and choreographed "Labyrinth" in 1986. McFadden directed an episode of "TNG" in 1994.
McFadden, 72, has appeared in episodes of shows like "Franklin & Bash," "NCIS," and "The Practice."
McFadden appeared in all four "TNG" films, though she didn't have a huge role in them, considering how her relationship with Picard was left in the series finale. Hopefully, their bond will be addressed in future episodes of "Picard."
Since the end of the films in 2002, McFadden has mainly appeared on TV. She was in four episodes of "Franklin & Bash," an episode of "NCIS," and a TV movie called "A Neighbor's Deception." She was also in a 2009 holiday rom-com called "Make the Yuletide Gay."
Michael Dorn played Worf, the first Klingon in "Trek" history to be a main character.
Worf was the first Klingon to be a main character in "Star Trek" — in three of the original films, Klingons were, if not the main antagonists, one of the secondary foes.
By the events of "TNG," Dorn's character Worf had enlisted in Star Fleet and slowly became one of the series' best and most beloved characters, as well as the chief security officer. He went on to star on "Deep Space Nine" for four seasons, from 1995 to 1999.
Before the show, Dorn had appeared in shows such as "CHiPS," "Knots Landing," and "Days of Our Lives."
Dorn, 68, has been in more episodes of "Star Trek" than any other actor.
Overall, Dorn played Worf for 272 episodes and four films, more than any other actor in "Trek" history. The character was so popular that there were even talks to continue his story in his own show, called "Star Trek: Captain Worf" in 2012, though they never came to fruition.
Besides acting "Star Trek," Dorn also directed three episodes of "Deep Space Nine," as well as an episode of "Enterprise."
Like many of his co-stars, Dorn has had a successful voice-acting career. He used his voice in "Dinosaurs," "Superman: The Animated Series," "I Am Weasel," "Kim Possible: A Stitch in Time," "Regular Show," and "Arrow," among others. Most recently, he voiced Battle Beast in "Invincible."
Dorn appeared in two of the "Santa Clause" movies as the Sandman, and he was also in "Ted 2." In real life, he's also an accomplished pilot.
Wil Wheaton played Wesley Crusher, Dr. Crusher's son and a controversial character.
Poor Wesley. It couldn't have been easy losing your dad at such an early age, only to be dragged onto a spaceship with the man who survived instead — a man who pointedly hated kids to boot. But that was Wesley's plight, and it didn't make for a very enjoyable character. He was written off as a regular after season four, at which point he went to Starfleet Academy. Wesley reappeared in the final season for a send-off.
The year before Wheaton began appearing in "TNG," he starred in the classic '80s film "Stand by Me" alongside River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, Jerry O'Connell, Kiefer Sutherland, and John Cusack — all future stars in the making.
Wheaton, 49, currently hosts the "Trek" after-show "The Ready Room."
As Wesley wasn't a hugely beloved character, he only appeared in one scene of one film, "Nemesis." He didn't even speak.
But Wheaton hasn't let the haters stop him from having a successful career. He's appeared in dozens of TV shows and movies, and he hilariously played himself across 17 episodes of "The Big Bang Theory." He also had a recurring role on "Eureka," another recurring role on "Leverage," and a talk show on SyFy called "The Wil Wheaton Project."
Wheaton has also acted in many web series, including "Welcome to Night Vale." He's also had great success in voice acting, most recently voicing the Flash in "Teen Titans Go to the Movies."
He also hosted the web series "TableTop," in which he and guests play a game (like Settlers of Catan or Pandemic) each episode, which aired from 2012 to 2017. Currently, he hosts "The Ready Room," the official "Star Trek" aftershow that features interviews with the cast and crew.
Brent Spiner played Data, an android who was on a quest to become more human.
While most of the characters on "TNG" were almost entirely original, Data was clearly conceived as this show's version of Spock, another character who struggled with the concept of humanity.
However, as the show went on, Data solidified himself as his own character with his own fascinating back story (Lore and Dr. Soong, anyone?) and a heartwarming desire to become human.
Before the series, Spiner enjoyed a successful career in theater, originating the role of Franz/Dennis in "Sunday in the Park with George" and starring as Aramis in "The Three Musketeers." He also appeared in six episodes of "Night Court."
In 1996, he appeared in the huge sci-fi blockbuster "Independence Day."
Spiner, 72, had a large role in "Picard," 18 years after his character's death in "Star Trek: Nemesis."
Spiner appeared in all four "TNG" movies. In fact, his character might have had the most complete arc, when you take in his sacrifice at the end of "Nemesis." He also played an ancestor of his character's creator, Dr. Arik Soong, in four episodes of "Enterprise's" fourth season.
In 2016, Spiner reprised his role as Dr. Brackish Okun in the sequel "Independence Day: Resurgence." Over the years he's appeared in dozens of TV shows, including "Friends," "Star Wars Rebels," "Ray Donovan," "The Goldbergs," and "Warehouse 13."
Spiner has also voiced two iconic Batman villains. He played the Joker in an episode of "Young Justice," and he voiced the Riddler in "Justice League Action."
In 2020, Spiner reprised his role as Data in "Picard," appearing as the character in dream sequences and as a virtual consciousness throughout the first season. He also appeared as a descendant of his creator Dr. Altan Inigo Soong, and as a similar android named B-4 who was originally introduced in "Nemesis." Spiner, most likely as a member of the Soong family, will return in season two.
Denise Crosby only starred in one season of "TNG" as Natasha Yar.
Yar's death was one of the biggest shocks of "TNG" and proved this wasn't going to be like the original show — deaths weren't just reserved for "red shirts" here. No one was safe.
In actuality, Crosby asked to be written off the show, as she "was miserable. I couldn't wait to get off that show. I was dying." And so, her character was killed in the season one episode "Skin of Evil" by a malevolent tar-like creature. Yar would reappear two more times, in a season three episode called "Yesterday's Enterprise" (an all-timer), and the series finale.
Crosby also appeared in three episodes as a character called Sela, a future half-Romulan daughter of Yar's from an alternate timeline.
Before the show, Crosby, the granddaughter of Bing Crosby, had appeared in films like "48 Hrs.," "Pet Sematary," two "Pink Panther" films, and multiple episodes of "Days of Our Lives."
Crosby, 63, recently appeared in 10 episodes of "Suits."
Crosby didn't appear as Yar in any of the "TNG" films, but that doesn't mean she's totally stayed away from "Trek." She produced and presented a 1997 documentary about "Trek" fandom called "Trekkies," and its 2004 sequel "Trekkies 2." As of 2017, there were plans for a third installment.
She's also appeared in multiple direct-to-video movies, in addition to her roles in "Southland," "Ray Donovan," "The Walking Dead," "Suits," and most recently an episode of "Creepshow" on Shudder.
Colm Meaney had a recurring role as the transporter chief Miles O'Brien.
Meaney appeared over 50 episodes of "TNG" as O'Brien before he switched over to "Deep Space Nine," which he starred on from 1993 to 1999. His character got much more to do on the spin-off, though he did get married in a season four episode called "Data's Day," and he eventually had a child in the season five episode "Disaster."
During his run on "TNG," Meaney also appeared in a 1993 film called "The Snapper." He was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance.
Meaney, 68, continued to play O'Brien in "Deep Space Nine" through 1999.
After wrapping up his role in "Deep Space Nine," Meaney went on to be nominated for a Gemini Award in 2002 for his role in Canadian series "Random Passage." He also appeared in three episodes of "Stargate Atlantis," the miniseries "Alice," two episodes of "Men in Trees," and more.
Meaney was also nominated for a Saturn Award in 2013 for his role in "Hell on Wheels," appeared in 10 episodes of "Will" in 2017, and most recently appeared in "Gangs of London" and "The Singapore Grip," both British series.
He's had success on the big screen, as well. He was nominated for the Irish Film and Television Award for Best Actor in 2007 for "Kings," and he has been in other films like "Law Abiding Citizen," "Get Him to the Greek," "Tolkien," "Seberg," and "Pixie."
Meaney's currently filming a new miniseries called "The Serpent Queen."
Whoopi Goldberg won an Oscar for "Ghost" as she was recurring on "TNG" as Guinan, an alien bartender who was hundreds of years old.
Goldberg had already been nominated for an Oscar (for "The Color Purple" in 1985) and had won a Grammy for Best Comedy Album in 1985 (Whoopi Goldberg: Original Broadway Show Recording), and had been nominated for an Emmy for her performance on "Moonlighting" in 1986, when she was asked if she wanted to appear in "TNG" as Guinan, an alien bartender in the ship's lounge who acted as a sounding board for many characters.
She actually asked to be on the show due to her "Trek" fandom, which stemmed from seeing Uhura, a Black woman, in a position of power in the first "Star Trek" series. Goldberg appeared in 28 episodes across seven seasons.
At the same time, Goldberg was becoming a true A-lister. In 1990, she starred in "Ghost," which eventually won her an Oscar. In 1992, she starred in the classic "Sister Act" and its sequel the following year.
Goldberg, 65, accepted a personal invitation from Stewart during "The View" to return as Guinan in season two of "Picard."
Goldberg appeared in two of the "Next Generation" films, "Generations" and "Nemesis." During that time, she also appeared in films like "The Lion King," "Girl, Interrupted," "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella," and "How Stella Got Her Groove Back."
In 2002, Goldberg secured her Tony Award win for producing "Thoroughly Modern Millie." That same year, she completed her EGOT by winning an Emmy for Outstanding Special Class Series. She's also hosted multiple award shows, including the Tonys and the Oscars.
Goldberg has consistently acted in both TV and movies in the 2000s, appearing in "Glee," "The Middle," "Toy Story 3," "Nobody's Fool," and more.
Since 2007, Goldberg has hosted "The View," which won her her second Emmy — she won Outstanding Entertainment Talk Show Host at the 2009 Daytime Emmys.
During an appearance on "The View," none other than Patrick Stewart extended an invitation to Goldberg to reprise her role as Guinan during season two of "Picard," which she emotionally accepted.
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