Star Trek: The Next Generation remains the gold standard for Star Trek on television. It's by far the most mainstream iteration of the show, and arguably the most successful in terms of viewership - besides Discovery. It launched the golden age of Star Trek on television, fleshing out the universe The Original Series so wonderfully introduced into into something that launched and sustained four movies and no less than four other series, two of which ran for their own very respectable seven season runs.
Regardless of what series happens to be your favorite, TNG is has left a legacy behind that's indisputable in its influence, reach and endurance. That said, like any long-running show, it was far from perfect at times, and we have the internet to thank for pointing out some of the funnier ways TNG stumbled on its way to greatness.
This list highlights memes that have brilliantly pointed out some of the inexplicable plot holes and cringeworthy moments in Next Generation. There aren't many, and as fans of the show, we feel a little bad pointing out its faults. On the flip side, we're family at this point, and if you can't point out when the rules that govern your family's universe have been eschewed in favor of servicing the plot, who can?
Here are 15 Star Trek Memes That Prove TNG Makes No Sense.
15 REALLY? TRORF?
Worf and Troi, the ship everyone wanted to sink. There have been more infuriating relationships in Star Trek history (Chakotay and Seven spring to mind), but these two are always in the running for worst pairing in any Star Trek romance debate and there are several good reasons for that.
First of all, Troi was Worf’s son’s counselor, and so by extension, Worf’s. They had plenty of sessions together where talk of Alexander’s issues merged with talk of Worf’s, as happens with any family counseling. It would be considered inappropriate by even the loosest interpretations of psychological protocol for Troi to start a relationship with Worf.
Then there’s the fact that Troi and Riker had been dancing around each other literally since the pilot, and their relationship got no resolution in the series finale, despite strong audience interest. Worf and Troi have always felt out of place, and this meme sums up why.
14 DON’T ASK A KLINGON TO CATSIT
During the episode, “Phantasms”, a TNG classic during which Data dreams and Freudian references abound, Data is voluntarily confined to quarters after attacking Counselor Troi in a turbolift. He turns out to be right, but before anyone can figure that out, Worf shows up to his quarters to confiscate the android’s phaser. While he’s there, Data thinks it’s a good idea that Worf should confiscate Data’s cat, Spot, as well, just in case.
There are two problems with this ultimately very funny sequence. First, Data seems genuinely concerned with Spot’s care, specifically that Worf must “Tell him he is a good cat and a pretty cat.” The sentiment feels awfully sincere for someone without any emotions. And if Data was that concerned about his cat, why would he ask a grump like Worf to take care of him and whisper sweet nothings into Spot’s ears? That’s a job for Riker.
13 THE STRANGE CASE OF WESLEY CRUSHER AND WIL WHEATON
Now that we think about it, for a character as reviled as Wesley was, it is a bit odd that Wil Wheaton’s managed to parlay that into such popularity. Given how savage Trek fans can be, it wouldn’t have surprised us if Wheaton had washed his hands of fandom altogether. Like any good sport, he’s always run with Wesley’s cringeworthy status and never loses an opportunity to poke fun at himself.
By all accounts, Wheaton’s experience working on TNG would’ve inoculated him against the negative fan reception the character received. He became a good friend to Gene Roddenberry and the legendary producer took the young actor under his wing and treated him more like a son than a colleague. The two were so close that Gene Roddenberry’s actual son has expressed frustration that he didn’t get the same level of attention from his father.
12 WASN'T TROI AN OFFICER?
Much has been made of Counselor Troi’s wardrobe over Star Trek: The Next Generation’s seven seasons. In the pilot, she wore an unfortunate jorts/unitard combo that was thankfully abandoned by the second episode - just for her, though. There were still a couple of unlucky engineering gents who had to run around in that getup before it was officially retired. Then she sported a series of civilian outfits designed to show off her “assets.”
While one could make the fairly weak case that Troi’s position as counselor necessitated a slightly less formal outfit, it’s blatantly obvious she was a stunner and having her wear a traditional uniform would interfere with displaying her curves.
Marina Sirtis admits to being miffed about this inexplicable deviation from protocol and was delighted when Captain Edward Jellico insists she put on a regulation uniform in “Chain of Command Pt. 1”.
11 THERE WAS ONLY… ONE COUNSELOR?
Counselor Troi gets dragged almost as much as Wesley Crusher and that’s always annoyed us. The idea that Starfleet would have a counselor on the senior staff weighing in on tactical decisions made a strong statement to 80’s and 90’s audiences about the undeniable importance of mental health in all aspects of life – especially high-stress military situations. That said: why was there only one of her?
The Enterprise D carried 1000 souls at any given point in time. Dr. Crusher had medical assistants coming out of her ears, so why didn’t we ever see a single other mental health professional pinch-hitting for Troi or at least being directed by her? It seemed to undercut her importance that there were few enough patients that she could handle them all herself.
If and when the Enterprise is ever attacked, there’s almost always an order from Picard or Riker to put shields at maximum. Then, over the course of the battle, the shields drop with ever hit until someone figures out a way to defeat whoever was dumb enough to fire on the Federation flagship. That said, there was virtually no reason that if the shields were up, they shouldn’t be dialed to 11 at all times.
If the Enterprise existed in the 21st century, we could always argue that she operated on some kind of power-saving mode that only allowed for shields to be raised to maximum in cases of dire need. But TNG took place during the 24th century and while they hadn’t discovered inexhaustible power, it’s not like they tried to conserve energy in any other capacity (see: unlimited use of replicators and holodecks).
9 AREN’T THERE REGULATIONS ABOUT STUFF LIKE THIS?
The most likely reason Troi and Riker never got it together enough to actually get together on the show was that they were TNG’s resident dreamboats.
After some thorough research, we’ve determined Riker's magic number hovers somewhere around 3478 (we’re compensating for what we didn’t see), and many of those women were not humanoid. But surely there would be problems with this kind of behavior, wouldn’t there? If only when it came to diplomacy.
Take Soren in “The Outcast", for example. While they don’t actually get intimate, Riker pushes her to break some serious social norms in pursuit of a relationship he just began. While the statement on gender restrictions was one of the more socially resonant (and utterly necessary) moments in TNG, it still feels ridiculously irresponsible for Riker to push Soren to do something that would have far-reaching consequences he definitely wouldn’t have stuck around to help mitigate.
8 SOMEONE HAD TO
Don’t get us wrong, Q’s antagonistic relationship with the Enterprise crew, particularly Picard was one of the highlights of TNG’s run. The character began as a cynical representation of God that enjoyed toying with the Enterprise crew because their journey to evolve beyond their barbaric roots amused him in its (according to him) futility. Then Q went through his own evolution from nemesis to something in between an adversary and an advocate.
That said, he still missed no opportunity to take potshots at the Enterprise crew (specifically Worf and Riker’s intelligence). But when he tried the same tactics on Sisko during his one visit to DS9, Sisko put a stop to that business by socking Q in the nose during a boxing competition. Q seemed to get the picture and never visited the station again. So why didn’t Worf ever get to land a punch? He certainly had motive.
7 THE RULE THAT’S ALWAYS BROKEN
Star Trek wrote themselves into a very famous hole when they made the point that captains are not “permitted” to join away teams. The reasoning is sound – the captain’s responsible for the welfare of the ship and her complement and he can’t do that effectively if he’s down on a dangerous planet. But the same logic should apply to the senior staff. It would make sense for one department head (like the XO) to beam down with a team to provide leadership, but not, like, five of them.
Unfortunately, when your principle cast is the senior staff, things get narratively difficult. Take “Skin of Evil”, for example. Worf, Geordi, Tasha, Riker, and Troi all beam down. Two of them are compromised and the Head of Security is destroyed. That doesn’t stop other episodes from putting several members of the senior staff on one, easy-to-eliminate team. But if it’s between that and endless redshirts, we’ll take it.
6 GUINAN HAS SOME ‘SPLAININ’ TO DO
It’s not that we didn’t enjoy the El Aurian listener that ran Ten Forward, but we remain perplexed that canonical Star Trek never explained the strange powers her species possessed. Not only did they have longer life spans than Vulcans, they were also in possession of mad skills that scared Q.
Remember Q? The omnipotent being who was part of a race of omnipotent beings that charged themselves with maintaining universal order? When we first see the two face-off in “Q Who?” it’s clear that Guinan’s a nemesis he fears.
But her powers of intimidation (or whatever) seem to only apply to the Q – the El Aurians were decimated and scattered by the Borg, a species Q has no problem controlling. And that doesn’t explain her ability to perceive the changing nature of the universe as she does in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. It's not like we really mind, though – it’s more interesting than frustrating.
5 GEORDI’S LACK OF GAME
On a show where every male lead got some play during their time on the ship - including the android - it stuck out like a sore thumb that the handsome, intelligent kind Chief Engineer of the Federation flagship never got a girl.
The closest we ever saw Geordi La Forge come to romance was a failed date with one of his underlings that morphed into a pseudo relationship with a hologram, and finally, the woman behind said hologram appearing on the ship only to reveal she was married - and very uncomfortable with the fact that Geordi made out with her hologram.
This guy was a huge catch and it made absolutely no sense that he’d be so hapless when it came to romance – not when he had Will “Broken Zipper” Riker to give him advice.
4 DATA WAS DANGEROUS
Data served as kind of a mirror to humanity during TNG’s run. His attempts to explore humanity allowed audiences to see everyday human conflicts through a different lens. That’s the most likely reason Data never went off the reservation and used his considerable abilities to destroy everyone around him.
Don’t get us wrong, we’re not upset that Data didn’t exist to service the exhaustive “robot evolves beyond its creators and tries to terminate them” trope, but just considering that raises a few questions. Data was stronger, faster and better that everyone on board, and not even when he was compromised in “The Naked Now” does he ever attempt a destructive move.
The show kind of implies that his lack of emotion contributes to his passive nature since Lore’s emotions induce him to despise humanity and attempt to destroy them, but it feels like a flimsy explanation.
3 NO FOUNDATION IN THE 24TH CENTURY?
Data was one of the most advanced pieces of technology in existence when the events of Star Trek: The Next Generation take place. He’s an artificial being that’s “fully functional” – so much so that he’s judged to have enough free will to earn a commission in Starfleet and operate as an officer aboard the flagship. He’s also unique in the universe, aside from his brother, which we take to mean that Dr. Soong’s creations were so advanced no one’s been able to replicate them.
In a society that can create lifelike holograms, regrow skin, and achieve crazy feats of surgical reconstruction, it seems more than a little strange that Data would have had to wait until he encountered the Borg for the umpteenth time to get some more human-looking skin.
2 IF HE WASN’T A PROBLEM BEFORE…
It’s more than a little suspect that once Data started using his emotion chip that the only problematic emotion we ever saw him feel was fear. Sure “Descent” saw him levy animosity at his friends, but he was being manipulated by Lore, so it’s hard to count.
Once he started using it on the regular after the events of Generations, surely there would have been at least one or two moments when Data’s superior intellect would’ve gotten the better of him and he would’ve made some kind of disparaging remark at the expense of the rest of his team.
Data had an innocent characterization before the the emotion chip, but that was due to the fact that he wasn’t corrupted by human competition and jealousy. Once it was in full use, we would’ve liked to have seen the android develop imperfections like the rest of us.
1 THE LCARS IS REMARKABLY EFFICIENT
We’re not saying it’s totally outside the realm of possibility that Data could execute incredibly complicated and unrelated commands using a small number of keystrokes, but it’s a lot to swallow. Frankly, the only time the keystrokes seemed to match up with results was in the transporter room, when we could very clearly see Chief O’Brien initiate the transporter and complete an action.
Granted, there’s only so much world-building we can expect from a show that had to produce over 20 episodes a season and whose objective was to use science fiction to speak to current social issues and offer aspirational solutions.
TNG was great at backing up much of its technobabble with actual science (the navigation directions “bearing xxx mark xx” are legitimate ways of setting a course). It was still fun watching actors punch keys when it was clear said strokes were sourced from the actors’ imaginations.
Do you have any nonsensical Star Trek: The Next Generation memes to share? Leave them in the comments!