It's not easy to boldly go where a pop-culture phenomenon had already gone before.
When "Star Trek: The Next Generation" launched Sept. 26, 1987, original series creator Gene Roddenberry was aboard, but this Enterprise had no Kirk, Spock or McCoy. No Scotty to beam anyone up. Instead, there was a bald tea-drinking captain with a French name and an English accent, a golden-eyed android at the helm alongside a blind navigator and, wait, is that a Klingon?
Fans, whose loyalty to the original crew had made "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home" a box-office hit a year earlier, did not exactly embrace them.
"You're all cheering now," actress Marina Sirtis told an April convention that celebrated the show's 25th anniversary with a full-cast reunion. "But when we started, you weren't happy." Fans warmed up to her character, Deanna Troi, and crewmates by the third season, Sirtis recalled at the event in Calgary, Canada.
The celebration continues Monday at movie theaters across the country, where fans will converge for a special double feature -- and two first-season "TNG" episodes from a Blu-ray collection will go on sale the next day.
Though these early episodes didn't produce love at first sight, "Star Trek" fans eventually embraced Patrick Stewart's Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, who somehow made bald sexy and Earl Grey hot. Equally engaging was Brent Spiner's android, Data, in his quest to be human. "TNG" gave us the virtual-reality playground called the Holodeck, the omnipotent trickster Q and the dreaded Borg. And just as the original series' sci-fi setting let it metaphorically tackle topics like Vietnam and racism, "TNG" explored terrorism, homophobia and other issues.
Great storytelling and the chemistry that evolved between the characters and cast propelled them through 176 episodes over seven seasons.
In 1994, a year after the show wrapped, its success had launched the first of four "TNG" movies and two TV spinoffs, "Deep Space 9" and "Voyager" -- all in production at once. Jonathan Frakes, who'd moved from Will Riker's seat as first officer to the director's chair, remembers hearing one assistant asking another, "How much do you pay your Romulans?"
The multimillion-dollar merchandising machine was in overdrive, too, churning out video games, toys, novels and, of course, action figures. Frakes, who gave samples to his son, said a manufacturer mistakenly sent him a Gumby figure. "Do you work with him, too, Dad?" the boy asked.
After the last "TNG" film, "Star Trek: Nemesis," was a box-office disappointment in 2002 and the last spinoff, "Enterprise," was canceled after just four seasons in 2005, the enterprise's engines seemed to have given out.
Today, as J.J. Abrams works on a sequel to his 2009 "Star Trek" film reboot, the 25th anniversary is once again filling convention halls.
"It's amazing," Frakes said.
Resistance, Trekkers will likely conclude, is futile.
To boldly go ...
WHAT "Star Trek: The Next Generation 25th Anniversary Event" brings to the big screen in high-definition two first-season episodes, "Where No One Has Gone Before" and "Datalore."
TICKETS Buy at area theaters or at fathomevents.com.
IF YOU CAN'T GO The first-season Blu-ray set goes on sale Tuesday with enhanced picture, sound and special effects (suggested retail, $130), and the second season is due out in the fall. The show remains in syndication and can be seen on BBC America, but don't expect the HD versions to appear until more seasons have been completed.