Star Trek: The Next Generation is the gold standard in '80s/'90s TV science fiction. It proved that the original Star Trek wasn’t a fluke, and that it could age like fine wine, tackling difficult subjects in the best tradition of its predecessor.
However, even the biggest fans of TNG know that there are aspects of the show that don’t compute, and make absolutely no sense to anyone who’s just come to the series via streaming platforms.
Season one must be intolerable to someone trying to watch TNG for the first time, and season two continues to be crazy for most of it. However, even throughout the series, there are plot elements that just don’t make sense.
They start with Patrick Stewart playing a French captain, and end with his ship somehow having families aboard, when The Enterprise regularly encounters ship-destroying anomalies and firefights with alien vessels.
The point is that, while groundbreaking, TNG flew by the seat of its pants, and didn’t realize how crazy certain aspects of its plots were.
Even big plot points got forgotten while the series found itself, then supported its spinoffs. None of them would exist without the framework that TNG built, but almost none of them drew on the crazier aspects of their parent series.
With that said, here are the 15 Things That Make No Sense About Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The show ignores a lot of plot and character threads that it brought up in its first few seasons.
In season one, TNG establishes that Geordi La Forge is blind and requires his visor to see. It’s part eyewear, part cybernetic implant, and it lets him view normal light along with various other wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The first season also establishes that using the visor causes Geordi intense pain because of the sheer amount of sensory input it forced onto his brain.
This seems like a major thing that would affect his character for the rest of the series... but it doesn’t.
Past season 1, nothing about Geordi’s actions makes him seem like his visor causes pain.
In fact, it’s never mentioned again, even in plots where it would seem really relevant, such as when Romulans use Geordi’s visor to brainwash him in “The Mind’s Eye”.
Over the course of the episode “Conspiracy”, Picard realizes that a parasitic alien race has taken over the minds of some of his most trusted friends in Starfleet, including some admirals.
He and Riker uncover a massive conspiracy by alien worms to take over the Federation.
The episode ends with them phasering the mastermind behind the plan until he explodes, but nothing else comes from this.
Nobody files a report and nobody mentions that Starfleet Command was just torn up by phaser fire.
After Riker and Picard explode the main source of the parasites, one would think that they’d send a message to everyone to warn them of the parasite threat, and how they can seemingly assimilate anyone in Starfleet.
However, they message precisely no one.
Transporters are like the magical matter-erasing Swiss Army Knives of the Star Trek universe. Pages 1 through 200 of Starfleet’s medical handbook should basically read: "transporter?”
In season 2, the transporters are able to heal Dr. Pulaski of a rapid-aging illness because they store the blueprints of a perfect physical copy of each person who transports.
This allows Dr. Pulaski to reboot to before she got super-old super-fast.
In the episode “Rascals”, where Picard and an away team are turned into children by an energy anomaly, transporters are able to turn them back into adults at the end... somehow.
Also, in the episode “Second Chances”, we learn that transporter accidents can clone human beings. In this instance, Riker had to deal with a second Riker who had spent eight sad, trombone-less years alone, thinking that he’d been abandoned when his ship had departed.
How is this possible?
Every TV show has growing pains, and each show typically takes a season or two to find their voice, get all of their characters straight, and stop doing weird stuff.
TNG was no different-- the first season was mostly horrible, quickly burning off any good will that its audience had toward a new Star Trek series.
The adventures of the Enterprise-D over the course of TNG’s first two seasons were mostly forgotten after Maurice Hurley and Gene Roddenberry were booted off of the series.
Geordi’s visor pain, Pulaski, and saucer separation were relegated to the dustbin of Star Trek lore.
However, Tasha Yar, and her significant demise, had ramifications for the rest of the series, and gave TNG some much-needed gravitas, letting fans know that even major characters could pass away.
It’s not Wil Wheaton’s fault. He was given an absolutely insufferable character to play, and used every tool in his actor’s toolbox to make Wesley Crusher an interesting character in TNG.
It was the writers’ and Gene Roddenberry’s fault, constantly trying to shill his character. Case in point: in the first two seasons, Wes, despite not even having entered Starfleet Academy, has a posting on the bridge at navigation and conn.
Keep in mind that being posted on the Enterprise is like getting to work for Google in the Star Trek universe, and then Larry Page telling you that The Internet is yours, to do with as you please.
The Enterprise is the flagship of the Federation, representative of its values and power. Wes only really gets to be on the bridge because the captain has a crush on his mom.
Poor Marina Sirtis spent the better part of a decade trying to make something out of the under-written character of Deanna Troi.
The episodes that actually gave her a meaningful role in the plot or a chance for her character to grow are few and far between, and it didn’t help the audience take her seriously given that she was almost always in skin-tight spandex suits when every other Starfleet officer around her was in uniform.
It wasn’t until “Chain of Command” parts one and two, that a Starfleet officer finally told Troi to put a uniform on, and it was a godsend for Marina Sirtis.
She was excited to finally wear something that wasn't as revealing, and to be involved in away teams and mission-critical storylines.
In TNG, the holodeck creates a simulated environment for the purposes of entertainment. It uses forcefield and replicator technology to make its scenarios extra-realistic.
If you lift something in the holodeck or eat something in the holodeck, the ship produces that item to keep the experience genuine. This includes bullets.
In the first season of TNG, Picard has the holodeck recreate his favorite detective novel and invites Crusher, Data, and a historian from the Enterprise to join him.
Unfortunately, things go awry when the holodeck safeties stop working and the holographic bullets become real.
It seems absurd that any space navy would put a thing on one of their ships for entertainment given the fact that it could easily malfunction and accidentally take the life of a crew member.
It would be similar to Sony releasing a version of Playstation VR that might accidentally stab you in the eyes when you put on the goggles.
In season 7 of TNG, the Enterprise is taken over by two alien scientists, Rabal and Serova, who insist that the warp drives of every vessel in the galaxy are tearing apart the underlying fabric of space-time, known as subspace in the Star Trek universe.
Picard states that the Federation Council has established a warp speed limit of Warp 5 to mitigate the damage and to prevent it from progressing.
It’s great when a show imposes limits on itself to force its writers and actors to be more creative. However, it’s less great when the show and every show after it seems to completely forget said limitation.
Just one episodes later, in “The Pegasus”, an admiral lets Picard know that they don’t care about the warp speed limit. By the end of the series, starships are going beyond warp 10, and Deep Space Nine and Voyager don’t even mention the limit.
By now, Sir Patrick Stewart has made such a mark on pop culture that we only know him as an English actor. In the X-Men movies, American Dad, and the Ted movies, we’ve gotten used to his lilting, Shakespearean affectations coming at us in a British accent, with his native Yorkshire accent occasionally creeping in to his lines.
However, in TNG, he plays Jean-Luc Picard, who is established as not just French, but extremely French, with a family that has owned a French vineyard for generations.
Stewart even peppers some French into his dialogue in the first season. In the episode “Family”, we learn that his brother, who is also French and runs the vineyard, somehow also has a British accent.
Apparently, during preproduction, Sir Patrick Stewart tried to do a French accent, and everyone (including Sir Patrick) agreed that it was terrible.
Dr. Katherine Pulaski was the chief medical officer on board the Enterprise for season 2 when Gates McFadden left.
McFadden came back in season 3, but for one season the show has a character who could best be described as “Robot Racist Lady McCoy.”
It’s clear that the writers miscalculated trying to introduce a character who was like Dr. McCoy from the original Star Trek, and took all of his prejudice but none of his heartwarming qualities.
Pulaski was inexplicably prejudiced against Data in what was clearly supposed to parallel with McCoy’s playful, sparring relationship with Spock.
The difference was that the rest of the main cast treated Data as an equal, and rightfully so, and as a result Pulaski came off as bigoted.
Every replicator at Starfleet Headquarters must dispense crazy pills on the hour because admirals in Starfleet seem to be either insane or outright villainous.
In TNG alone, we have Admiral Jameson, an elderly man who injects himself with an experimental age-reversing drug that eventually takes his life. We also have retired Admiral Satie, who goes full McCarthy and starts a witch-hunt for Romulan spies that leads to one of the most shaming Picard speeches in the series.
Additionally, we have Admiral Pressman, who violated a treaty between the Federation and the Klingons to test an illegal cloaking device that led to his ship being both half-blown-up and phased into an asteroid. This was after he was chased off of it by his own crew who mutinied after they discovered how crazy his plan was.
How on Earth were any of these characters able to become admirals?
One thing that Gene Roddenberry prided his franchise on was showing a future where humanity had moved beyond material concerns.
He wanted to show a future where humans no longer used money because they had no need for it, and all of Earth’s children had moved to a post-scarcity economy, where no one would ever need money ever again.
However, the trouble here is that almost all other species still use money. This doesn't just include the Ferengi, who are basically caricatures of capitalism, but the Klingons, Cardassians, and Romulans don’t subscribe to the Federation’s peace, love, and replicators model of economics.
TNG doesn’t dwell on the complexities of operating in a galaxy that still uses currency, preferring to give speeches and trade in lieu of actually paying other civilizations.
Data is the most emotional emotion-less android that’s every walked the halls of Starfleet. Technically, he has no emotions by design of his creator, but he’s Geordi’s best friend and displays more grace and understanding than almost every other human on the show.
He even applied to and graduated from Starfleet Academy. However, Starfleet itself questions his humanity and personhood in season 2’s “Measure Of A Man”.
Season 2’s Dr. Pulaski goes so far as to question whether he should be in sickbay when Troi is giving birth. Also, in “The Most Toys” in season 3, his captor treats him not much better than an automaton, assuming that he's incapable of feeling.
However, anybody who’s watched “Data’s Day” knows that, despite his own self-doubt, Data has emotions, so why do the rest of the crew pretend that he doesn't?
One of the best things about Star Trek series is the idea that aliens and humans can find common ground, and the language barrier that normally interferes with that is removed because humanity has invented a universal translator in the future to allow them to interact with almost any alien species.
Only some alien words somehow make it through the universal translator.
Klingon words tend to make it through, as well as curse words and idioms in other languages, and it’s unclear why.
Maybe the Federation’s universal translators are more sensitive to the languages of their immediate allies. However, it still doesn’t make sense why they wouldn’t simply work harder to translate the words of the Klingons, or the Bajorans, or the Ferengi, especially when understanding them could make intergalactic politics a whole lot easier.
In the very first episode of Star Trek: TNG, the Enterprise encounters a god-like life form known as Q who puts all of humanity on trial.
He continues to menace and help the Enterprise throughout the rest of the series.
However, because he almost ended the lives of everyone on the Enterprise the first time he met them, the crew should have pulled into port and said, “Okay! Everybody non-essential, get out, this show is gonna be dangerous.”
For some reason, throughout the series, the Enterprise-D had several families aboard, despite the fact that they could have perished at any given time.
That’s right, it’s basically a space-faring military base, with the wives/husbands and children of officers actually in the ship.
This means that every time they go toe-to-toe with a Romulan Warbird, the stakes are way higher. Yet, through all of the crises that the Enterprise-D goes through, they never once think to drop off the families at a Starbase for safety.
Can you think of any other things about Star Trek: TNG that don't make sense? Let us know in the comments!