The Five Ages of Star Trek: Day Three, 1987 to 1996

To finish out the 50th, TrekMovie’s Jared Whitley looks at the franchise’s five decades of history, divided by the classical “Ages of Man” – but with an appropriately Trek twist. Today he looks at the third decade and the unprecedented popularity of TNG.

As the 50th anniversary winds down, we’re looking at the various periods of Trek history, decade by decade. Yesterday, we looked at Trek’s Silver Age that was ruled by the four original series movies. We called it, appropriately, the Transparent Aluminum Age. Today we’re looking at Trek’s third decade.

Bronze Age: 1987 to 1996

The third decade of Star Trek’s existence saw the critical and commercial success of the last four movies leveraged into unparalleled popularity. With “Encounter at Farpoint” dropping in Sept. 1987, the franchise was (forgive my movie trailer cliché) back and bigger than ever.


The trial never ends … 

Because the series was released in syndication, The Next Generation circumvented network interference and was afforded greater control to tailor stories to make its fans happy rather than network executives or advertisers (since advertising for syndication was handled at the local level rather than the national). It was a good time to be a fan – especially come 1991.

The 25th anniversary saw the final outing of the TOS crew and a tie-in with Spock guest-starring on TNG. Just a few weeks before, Gene Roddenberry passed away, giving the franchise a big boost in the press. Even in his death, the Great Bird’s timing was perfect.

So much of the success of Star Trek’s Bronze Age is due to Patrick Stewart and the legitimacy he brought the Enterprise’s captaincy. I mean he literally said, “All those years of working for the Royal Shakespeare Company . . . was nothing but a preparation for sitting in the Captain’s chair on the Enterprise.” And he also named TV Guide’s most bodacious man of the year in 1992!

TNG’s popularity translated from the small screen to the large one, while successfully spinning off two more series in Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Honestly if you want to talk about a “Golden Age” of the franchise, it would be this one. Which is why I’ve named it the Latinum Age. This era came to a close with the TNG movie First Contact, which proved to be the TNG crew’s best outing.


Latinum Age

  • Start: Sept. 1987
  • End: Nov. 1996
  • Episodes: 340 – 178 (TNG), 108 (DS9), 54 (VOY)
  • Movies: 4

Return tomorrow when we enter Trek’s Iron Age!

Read the rest of the 5 Ages of Trek:
The 5 Ages of Trek – Day 1
The 5 Ages of Trek – Day 2
The 5 Ages of Trek – Day 4
The 5 Ages of Trek – Day 5
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I’d say in 1991 and 1994…”Star Trek” was again at the forefront of Pop Culture. The 25th anniversary was a big deal and that included Spock’s appearance on “ST:TNG” and a syndicated 25th anniversary special which included some early glimpses at the long awaited “Star Trek VI”. It was also at this time that ST:TNG was at their creative peak. The death of Gene Roddenberry also received a lot of mainstream attention due to the impact of “Star Trek”.
1994 was of course, the send off for “ST:TNG” and that received a lot of attention and people held last episode viewing parties. It was also the year that “Generations” was filmed and released. The fact that Patrick Stewart & William Shatner appeared together on the cover of “TIME” magazine let anyone know that “Star Trek” was a big deal.
I will add though that in my humble opinion, even though “Star Trek” was very popular in the 80’s and the 90’s and even in recent years….I think all of that still pales to the enormous obsession with “Star Trek” in the mid 70’s when millions of fans were waiting for the show to be resurrected in one form or another. Even if it was never coming back, the original 79 episodes were watched, rewatched and dissected in every way possible.

Latinum is liquid… messy. Better to stick with gold-pressed latinum.

I remember when I first heard of Star Trek The Next Generation. I was confused. I thought it would mirror TOS, with a Vulcan.

When I finally watched the premiere and the first season, it was wonderful. I would draw the Enterprise D and the Enterprise A while sitting in class or at home doing homework. Even after I left for the Navy, STTNG was still a pillar on which I could rely.

May the franchise find better footing in the New Year, and be about people, not just action. It was a vehicle to discuss social issues, political issues, and personal issues.  CBS and Paramount really messed up the 50th Anniversary with very little hyping. Star Trek deserves so much more. It helped propel science fiction into the forefront and helped scientist and inventors spark their imaginations.

Let me guess… the last era of the reboots will be entitled “Red Matter Age” LOL

Not so sure about 1997 to 2005 though… “Omega Age” comes to mind, but then, it was just an insignificant VOY episode. “Trellium Age” maybe, the stuff that powered the Xindi Death Star…”Thalaron Age” for Nemesis? Very difficult to make up my mind…

How about the “Age of Decline”?

Wow its crazy just how much Star Trek happened in this period. I would have to agree this was the ‘Latnium’ age of Trek. I didn’t realize just how much Star Trek happened in these ten years but we got:

-Two TOS films
-Two TNG films

For a lot of Trek fans this was probably the most exciting time to be alive because Star Trek was not just relevant again it was branching out in ways no one really saw coming. I think for a lot of us when TNG first came on, it was just OK but not great but the potential was there. Then it finally hit it stride and never looked back.

But I remember at the time thinking that would be it for Trek. We will get have TNG, they will probably go into films but that would be it. It never even occurred to me there would be a third Star Trek show. And then a fourth. All happening within just a few years of each other. I still remember reading the paper one morning and there was an announcement of some show called Deep Space Nine coming. It didn’t say what it even was just it was being made. I was so excited, I honestly thought it was a new movie coming. When I heard it was a show I was in shock. And then it was just SO different from TOS/TNG it made me more excited. A bit worried because a show on a space station honestly sounded boring but still curious. And it ended being my favorite Trek show today. Still is.

When Voyager came around it just made sense. TNG was going into films and while people liked DS9 it didnt have the same TNG vibe, which was both good and bad. Honestly watching Caretaker I was super excited about it. It was fun to have a new ship not named Enterprise that looked super cool (take notes Discovery_ in a different part in space. I liked it was a woman Captain. It was further spanning out Star Trek and was cool it was going to run with DS9. Yes the show turned out to be a mixed bag but I always liked it. I saw the issues people had with it but it was a fun show for me with a lot of interesting stories. But yes it couldve been better in some ways. But I think when 7 or 9 showed up the show got more interesting. Some say for better, others worst but she made Star Trek (partly) cool again.

But yeah this was SUCH an exciting time for Star Trek. TNG came and made new fans of it. Then DS9 came on. TNG went into its first film bringing back Kirk and Voyager was on the horizon. We had two Trek shows running and a new film every few years. Its basically did what a lot of comic book fans have been experiencing a few years now with big films to keep them excited with endless shows to keep them involved every week.

This era defined Trek in a lot of ways, mainly not making it just about Kirk and company for the first time. It took a chance setting it 100 years away from them and it paid off big. And this is the era that has produced the most shows and films to this day. I would love for Trek to be this big again. Some will argue it probably got TOO big but not me. Today Marvel makes 2 films a YEAR and has 5 TV shows on. As long as the quality is there you can make as much as you want and people will turn up for it again and again.

Its a bit sad to me the ‘later’ Treks from Enterprise, the KT films and now sadly Discovery has all been about looking back instead of going forward because for ME this era defined Star Trek as taking bold new chances putting it in another period, on a space station, away from the Federation, etc. That was taking Trek in new places and not just revisiting old ground just in a new package like all these did or doing. But its nice to see Trek still going just the same. Hopefully we’ll return to taking real chances again and not just playing it safe like a lot of these are doing.

It was over kill though. At the very least Star Trek on Tv should have ended in 2001 for a few years.

Well I agree by the time Enterprise came around, sure. But you have to blame good ole greed on that. People give Rick Berman so much crap but he actually told the studio after Voyager ended Star Trek should be off the air for a few years and just focus on the films. The studio disagreed and not only wanted a new show they originally wanted it right after DS9 ended. He got them to at least wait until Voyager ended but they smelled the money.

But I think up to Voyager it was fine because they had two successful Trek shows running at the same time and while their ratings were lower they were still strong so there was an appetite for Trek for most of its run.

…and here is where Roddenberry re-invented the wheel, for better or worse.

the best thing from this era was the opening out of the ‘trek’ universe to give us the big picture about the alpha quadrant.

kirk would lock horns with the occasional Klingon or romulan hostile in the OS whereas picard and sisko got to go up the food chain to deal with the political arena on Qo’noS and Romulus.