Star Trek: The Next Generation is regarded by many to be the best of the Star Trek TV shows. The fact that The Original Series had helped to propel the franchise to an iconic status helped The Next Generation immensely, as the show was able to run for seven seasons without being canceled, which gave the cast and the writers the time they needed to mold the show into the epic that it became.
It wasn't easy for The Next Generation to find its feet, as the first season of the show was notoriously terrible compared to everything that came after it, with the triple threat of "The [Bare] Now," "Code of Honor," and "The Last Outpost" almost sinking the show before it could find its audience.
The Next Generation improved a great deal with each following season, but there were still clunkers hidden among the classics. There were a lot of long-running storylines in The Next Generation that took place over the course of seasons and these had the potential to be either incredible or terrible.
We are here today to determine which storylines helped The Next Generation to become one of the greatest TV shows of all time and which ones almost sank the show before it could find its footing - from the original Ferengi and their rodent combat style, to the arrival of one of the most feared enemies of the Federation.
Here are Ten Storylines That Hurt Star Trek: The Next Generation (And Ten That Saved It)
20 The Original Ferengi (Hurt)
Star Trek: The Next Generation was originally planned to exclude all of the notable races from Star Trek: The Original Series, which meant that we wouldn't see any Klingons, Romulans, or Vulcans on the show. These plans were swiftly dropped, but the writers decided to introduce new races to act as villains on the show, with the Ferengi originally intended to replace the Klingons as enemies of the Federation.
The original Ferengi were impossible to take seriously, as their debut episode involved them bouncing around like animals. The idea of the militaristic Ferengi also failed to work and they were gradually downplayed as villains of the show before they were reimagined in Deep Space Nine as a commerce-obsessed race, which was a far better fit for them.
19 Worf Losing & Regaining His Honor (Saved)
Star Trek: The Next Generation brought the viewers closer to the Klingon Empire than ever before, which was mostly due to the prominence of Worf, who became even more important to the show when Denise Crosby left.
Worf was a Klingon with an outsider's perspective of his native culture, as he spent most of his life living in the Federation. It's through Worf's eyes that the viewer learns the truth about the "honor" of Klingons and how truly deceptive and underhanded they could be in the pursuit of power.
The story of Worf losing his honor due to the plots of the Duras family and later regaining his honor when siding with Gowron offered some of the most insightful looks into Klingon society in the history of the franchise. It was these storylines that helped to make the Klingons so popular with the fans, to the point where there are many who root for the Empire over Starfleet.
18 Sela Going Nowhere (Hurt)
Denise Crosby asked to be written out of Star Trek: The Next Generation, due to how unhappy she was working on the show. Crosby's departure led to Tasha Yar meeting her fate during the first season of the show.
Tasha Yar would return in the form of alternate realities and time travel plots, one of which involved an alternate version of Tasha appearing in the past of the Star Trek universe and giving birth to a half-Romulan daughter named Sela, who would also be played by Denise Crosby.
The debut of Sela was used a cliffhanger ending of the fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, yet her role in the story was minimal and could have been performed by any other Romulan character on the show. Sela only made four appearances in the show and was never treated as a major character within the story.
17 Moriarty Redeems The Holodeck Episode (Saved)
The holodeck episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation were a mixed bag, as they mainly existed to offer temporary genre shifts for the show (such as allowing the crew to experience gangster or western storylines) and their quality varied. The recurring element of the "holodeck malfunction" that caused the games to become deadly also quickly grated on the fans.
The exception to the bad holodeck episodes was "Elementary, Dear Data" and "Ship in a Bottle", which introduced the hologrammatic version of Professor James Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes novels.
The Enterprise computer created a version of Moriarty that was meant to be smart enough to challenge Data, yet Moriarty grew sentient and he learned the truth about his artificial status. The story of Moriarty's redemption (yet still being wicked enough to oppose the Enterprise crew) was one of The Next Generation's best.
16 Pulaski Messing With Data (Hurt)
Gates McFadden left Star Trek: The Next Generation after the first season, which led to her being replaced by Diana Muldaur, who played Dr. Katherine Pulaski.
Dr. Pulaski became the new chief medical officer aboard the Enterprise, but the fans didn't readily accept her replacing Dr. Crusher, which led to an outpouring of support for Gates McFadden and her eventual return to the show.
The main reason why Dr. Pulaski didn't work as a character was due to a running storyline of her belittling Data due to him being an android. The idea of Dr. Pulaski slowly warming up to Data worked on paper, but Data was already becoming one of the most popular characters on the show and Dr. Pulaski's attitude towards him only vilified her in the eyes of the fans.
15 Barclay Isn't Perfect (Saved)
The Federation is meant to be an idealized version of human society, which can make it difficult for TV show writers to come up with dramatic tension between different characters.
The crew of the Enterprise is made up of the best and brightest that Starfleet has to offer, which can make it hard for the audience to feel akin to the characters on the show, as everyone is a genius in their field.
Reginald Barclay proved that everyone serving on the Enterprise wasn't perfect and that there were still interpersonal issues happening in the future. Barclay was one of the best engineers aboard the Enterprise, yet his nervous disposition and lack of confidence held him back for many years. It took the help of the other members of the Enterprise crew to bring Barclay out of his shell, which resulted in one of the most engaging and human storylines in The Next Generation.
14 Worf & Troi's Romance (Hurt)
There are TV shows that use a long-running "will they won't they" romance between two characters to build tension and increase audience interest, like Rachel and Ross in Friends, or Daphne and Niles in Frasier. One way to keep these storylines interesting is by bringing in other romantic interests to act as roadblocks to the coupling that the audience wants to see.
It was obvious from "Encounter at Farpoint" that a romance between Riker and Troi was on the cards, yet the writers felt that she should be in a relationship with Worf, despite the two being so incompatible that no one bought it.
Marina Sirtis has been openly critical of the choice to put Troi and Worf together, as she felt that the writers ignored the personalities of both characters in order to make the relationship fit.
13 The Betrayal Of Ensign Ro (Saved)
The story of the planet Bajor and its occupation by the Cardassians was a major plotline in Star Trek that dominated Deep Space Nine, but the seeds of those episodes were planted with Ensign Ro's presence on The Next Generation.
Ro Laren was a Bajoran who joined Starfleet and rose up through the ranks, until earning a spot on the Enterprise. It seemed as if Ro was loyal to the crew, but her experiences on Bajor during the occupation led to her betraying Starfleet and joining the Maquis Resistance movement.
Star Trek often portrayed the members of Starfleet as always holding on to their ideals, yet Ro Laren was an example of someone who saw those ideals challenged and chose a different path. It's just a shame that Ro never appeared again (and was effectively replaced by Kira on Deep Space Nine), as a reunion between her and Picard following her defection would have made for an incredible episode.
12 Wesley's Starfleet Career (Hurt)
Wesley Crusher rose through the ranks of Starfleet in an unconventional way, as he was able to gain firsthand experience from the crew of the Enterprise due to the fact that his mother was serving on the ship, which presented him with several annoying opportunities to save the day.
The fans were briefly saved from Wesley's antics when he entered Starfleet Academy, but he just kept coming back to check-in with the audience about how his career was doing.
The rise of Wesley Crusher's career, coupled with the fact that it went nowhere, was one of the most disliked storylines in the history of Star Trek.
11 Q Loves To Mess With The Enterprise (Saved)
Star Trek: The Next Generation opened with a visit from Q, who was a wicked creature with godlike powers, yet he seemed more interested in messing around with the Enterprise crew than he was with destroying them. Q was the trickster god who loved to put mortals through the wringer for his own amusement, in the same manner as the likes of Loki.
The bookended story of The Next Generation and the final revelation about the meaning of the trial in the first episode is part of what made the show so special and it made the audience examine Q and his actions in a different light. Was Q really out to harm the Enterprise or was it all an act to prepare the Federation for the horrors that awaited them in space?
10 Hugh & The Borg Nuke (Hurt)
Hugh was a Borg drone who slowly began to form a new identity of his own after being separated from the Collective.
The issue with the Hugh storyline is due to the concept of the Federation developing an invasive program that could wipe out the Borg once and for all, but Picard refuses to use it on moral grounds.
Captain Picard might be too kind to commit that level of harm on the Borg, but there are plenty of other people in Starfleet who lack such scruples, most notably the members of Section 31, who would have no problem wiping out the Borg when given the chance. The idea of there being an easy way to annihilate the Borg that never gets used is something that had to be ignored with Star Trek going forward.
9 Data's Family (Saved)
Data was originally believed to be the only Soong-type android left in existence until it was revealed that he had a brother named Lore, who was found in pieces in Soong's lab.
The idea of there being an evil version of Data who used his brilliant mind to further his own goals was a great one and it turned him into one of the best recurring villains in the show.
Data's family also briefly expanded in "The Offspring," when he created a daughter named Lal. The story of the brief life of Lal was one of The Next Generation's best of all time and is still one of the saddest episodes in the history of the franchise.
It's just a shame that the planned episode involving Lore reviving Lal never came to pass, as it would have briefly brought Data's family together.
8 Vash's Whirlwind Romance (Hurt)
"Captain's Holiday" was created because Patrick Stewart wanted to include a bit more intensity in The Next Generation. It seems that the short shorts he wore in the episode were effective, as the woman who played his love interest would go on to become his fiance for a time.
Captain Picard met a feisty archeologist named Vash during the events of "Captain's Holiday" and the two began a love affair that lasted until the end of the episode, which was later briefly rekindled in "Qpid."
The character of a duplicitous archeologist who is also a gorgeous woman would have felt more appropriate in an Indiana Jones or spy show, yet Vash felt out of place in The Next Generation and her presence seemed more like a hamfisted attempt to inject some romance into the show than anything else.
7 Tomalak's Rivalry With Picard (Saved)
The Romulans were a recurring enemy throughout The Next Generation, before entering an uneasy alliance with Starfleet and the Klingon Empire in Deep Space Nine in order to face the Dominion. Captain Picard often had to deal with Romulan schemes, especially those involving the Neutral Zone.
One of the recurring foes of the Enterprise in The Next Generation was Commander Tomalak, who represented every conniving and duplicitous aspect of the Romulans. Tomalak was a great foil to Captain Picard and Riker, as he tried to lure them into various traps in order to further his schemes and elevate his own position among the Romulan military.
It's a shame that we didn't see more of Tomalak, as it felt as if his position on the show was usurped by Sela, who was another wasted opportunity of a character.
6 Worf's Son Keeps Coming Back (Hurt)
Kid characters on TV shows usually only work when they are the focus of the series. You couldn't remove the kids from Malcolm in the Middle, but adding kids to shows like Married... with Children and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air only made them worse.
It was revealed in "Reunion" that Worf had a son with K'Ehleyr, named Alexander, who he had never met before. When K'Ehleyr is slain by Duras, Worf became Alexander's guardian and he lived on the Enterprise along with the families of other crew members.
Alexander was a recurring character in The Next Generation and his episodes were usually terrible, partly because he suffered from the Anakin Skywalker syndrome of being a little too young (in terms of the actor's age) to be engaged in the events taking place on the show.
5 Sarek's Decline (Saved)
Sarek was one of the few characters from Star Trek: The Original Series to appear in Star Trek: The Next Generation, which was possible due to the fact that Vulcans have an incredibly long lifespan.
The storyline of Sarek in The Next Generation deals with the ravages of time and of how a powerful Vulcan could have all of his control stripped away by the effects of age.
Mark Lenard reprised the role of Sarek in Star Trek: The Next Generation and it was his incredible performance that helped to cement the legacy of the character, as Lenard gave us a tragic glimpse into the life of a great man who was brought low by a neurological condition over which he had no control and was forced to lose his grip over the emotions that he had fought so hard to hide.
4 Lwaxana Troi (Hurt)
There were times when Star Trek would fall back on the tropes and stereotypes of regular TV shows in the search for episode ideas, which is partly why Harry Mudd was created, as the writers wanted the Enterprise crew to face an interstellar con man.
Lwaxana Troi seemingly only existed to be every overbearing mother stereotype rolled into one. Why would you want to watch a science fiction show when you could see Lwaxana complaining about how her daughter isn't married yet? These episodes were often accompanied by her insatiable grandmother routine, where she tried to get together with the likes of Captain Picard in nauseating ways.
The real reason why Lwaxana Troi existed was so that Gene Roddenberry could put his wife in the show, which is a sweet gesture that the audience had to pay for.
3 Data's Quest For Emotions (Saved)
It didn't take long for Data to become one of the most popular characters on The Next Generation. The idea of an android being the most capable and intelligent member of the crew, yet lacking in any emotions was an intriguing variation of Spock's story in The Original Series. Spock had to constantly keep his raging emotions in check, while Data was incapable of feeling them at all.
The story of Data's emotional development, his love life, and the questions over whether he was even classed as a sentient being made for some of the best episodes of The Next Generation.
It's just a shame that Data become so obnoxious when he finally had his emotion chip put in. It might have been for the best if his quest to become a real boy had never ended.
2 The Traveler Loves Wesley (Hurt)
Wesley Crusher was one of the most disliked characters in Star Trek: The Next Generation, with many people referring to him as Gene Roddenberry's very own Mary Sue, with intelligence far beyond his years and everyone around him seemingly greasing him up for the incredible destiny that he surely had ahead of him.
The most overt of Wesley's admirers was the interdimensional being known as the Traveler, who treated Wesley as if he was some kind of space messiah in training and appeared in several episodes in order to guide Wesley to his reality-hopping destiny.
The Traveler did end up taking Wesley out of The Next Generation until the movies, so he did do at least one good thing during his time on the show.
1 The Borg Threat (Saved)
Star Trek: The Next Generation had a notably rocky first season, with many people on the cast convinced that the show would be canceled at the earliest opportunity.
The second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation was when the show started to improve and the moment that really helped separate the show from its predecessor happened in "Q Who," with the introduction of the Borg.
The Borg were like no other villain in the history of Star Trek. They could not be reasoned with and they possessed no emotions at all, save for the desire to assimilate all life.
The Borg represented a new kind of threat for the Federation and it was one that the Enterprise was ill-equipped to deal with, which helped to define the story of The Next Generation going forward, as all of the rules of engagement had to be thrown out of the window in the face of assimilation.