5 Revolutionary Discoveries In Star Trek: The Next Generation That Were Completely Overlooked

By the 24th century the Federation has solved most of the problems that plagued mankind. They got so good at it that they solved some problems without even realizing it.

Just The Facts

  1. Star Trek often creates pseudo-scientific solutions out of the blue to solve other pseudo-scientific problems.
  2. Sometimes they would use them again.
  3. Often they would forget they ever existed.
  4. Current theory holds that the second cargo bay on Enterprise-D was for storing the weekly deus ex machina.

To Boldly Go...Or To Go Boldly, If You're Not Into Splitting Infinitives...

Star Trek: the Next Generation was arguably the best of the five Star Trek series to date (six if you count the animated series).

Which, for several good reasons, we don't.

It grappled with ethical problems and moral consequences that television today wouldn't touch, in between exploring strange new worlds and turning the wide open vistas the original series started into a cohesive cosmographic geography. It is one of the only Treks where science is far more likely to solve the day than heroics - albeit Star Trek pseudoscience - and outwitting an adversary is more common than outgunning them.

In fact, Star Trek TNG got so good at solving problems in an hour that they actually solved several without ever realizing it, such as that time...

5) Commander Riker Produces a Perfect Clone

The Episode

Season 6, Episode 24: Second Chances.

In one of the most reviled episodes by most fans (which is not fair, considering how many focused on Wesley Crusher) the Enterprise hits up a planet Riker already visited eight years ago as a lieutenant on the Potempkin. Upon arrival they discover another Will Riker, dressed in yellow and wondering why the hell he got left down there so long.


It turns out that years ago a distortion caused by interference was making Riker's transporter signal degrade. The transporter chief at the time used the novel approach of splitting the transporter beam, because why the hell not? The result: one Riker beamed up, another got left behind.

The second Riker hangs around, tries to get used to stuff, hits on Troi, and eventually takes the middle name Thomas and goes off to join the Maquis, because, again, why the hell not?

The Discovery

It's too bad everybody was so glad to get rid of their spare Riker that nobody noticed this is PERFECT CLONING TECHNOLOGY!

Fascinating in a dystopian sort of way.

Thomas Riker is a perfect clone of William Riker, right down to the genetic predisposition to swagger and the wooden delivery of his lines. Unlike other clones, this one has absolutely no genetic degredation over time. This very problem is what plagued Shinzon, a clone of Picard that was so defective it destroyed not only the Romulan Empire but an entire franchise.

"He looks just like Picard! Bald! That's spot on!"

See, perfect cloning is one of the few things they still can't do in the Star Trek universe. Errors creep in after long enough, like making a xerox of a xerox. This process of "replicating fading" caused the collapse of the entire Mariposan civilization who utilized it as their major method of reproduction. So you think they'd be a little interested in tracking down that transporter chief on the Potempkin and checking what the hell he did so they could do it again. Or at the very least, preventing a third Riker from appearing.

4) Moriarty Solves Overpopulation

The Episode

Season 6, Episode 12: Ship In a Bottle

In a previous episode Professor Moriarty, the long-time rival of Sherlock Holmes, was accidentally given sentience on the holodeck in an attempt to create an adversary who could outwit Data, an android so intelligent he was never able to identify basic conversational idioms. Like the original Moriarty, this one also kept coming back after you thought he was gone. After hanging out with his program shut off, Moriarty has figured out how to utilize the holodeck. He does so to get the crew's attention and announce that he wants out.

"I'm here, and the only bathroom on this ship is here. You see the problem."

Then, in a rather clever twist, he creates a hologram of the entire Enterprise on the holodeck, a hologram so convincing that Picard unwittingly gives out his command codes, which Moriarty then uses to take over the ship. Fortunately, they are able to get him to transfer his program to another area of the ship, which they then isolate, giving Moriarty a virtual universe of his own to explore without endangering the ship.

The Discovery

The holodeck actually solves every problem ever, the only one being how to stay on the holodeck. As Scott Adams pointed out, the holodeck will be the last invention mankind makes, because it allows for instant gratification on all things, all the time.

Fortunately that hasn't happened by the 24th century. The holodeck has massive limitations, not the least of which is its tendency to go haywire and try to kill everyone inside it at least once a season. But for simple recreations it is rather amazing. Moriarty was able to trick not only Picard and Barclay, but also Data, whose android senses are far superior to a human in every way. Not only did he convince one person they were in an entire starship, but three separate people, all of whom went off at various points in different directions.

All in a checkerboard space about the size of a racquetball court.

Just because this was created by an evil madman is no reason to discount the potential benefits (the same reason we use velcro today). Moriarty showed that you could keep several people in a space this size without them ever running into each other or even realizing they were on a holodeck. Imagine what that would mean for housing real people? There would be absolutely no need to go colonize other planets at all, not when you could house a hundred people in something the size of an officer's quarters. And especially not when they could adjust every aspect of it to their liking, since they are, after all, in the holodeck.

And speaking of Moriarty, how about the fact that....

3) The Enterprise Created Sentient Artificial Life . . . Three Separate Times!

The Episode(s)

Season 2, Episode 3: Elementary, Dear Data

Season 3, Episode 1: Evolution

Season 6, Episode 9: The Quality of Life

"That is not Lore. In actuality, the green screen itself has gained intelligence."

Everyone makes a big deal about how Data is an artificial life form, but the Enterprise has run into several aritifical life forms and even created a few of their own. Sentient life in the Star Trek universe is so prevalent that it can arise spontaneously from homemade appliances, from a child's science project, even from poor grammar!

The Exocomps were machines that could analyze a situation and create a proper tool to respond to that situation, that eventually gained sentience. The Nanites were an experiment by Wesley that ran amok and nearly wrecked the ship before they evololved to the point of understanding the destruction they were causing and went off to found their own civilization. And Moriarty, as noted earlier, was created when Dr. Pulaski asked the holodeck for an opponent that could outwit Data, rather than an opponent that could outwit Sherlock Holmes, and the computer created a sentient James Moriarty with knowledge of the 24th century and his own place within it.

"At least we can be fairly certain this fucking rock isn't aliv--nope, wait, it's a Horta."

The Discovery

Artificial. Sentient. Life.

Made very, very easily. WAY easier than all of Dr. Soong's work. It almost comes as a shock that Data's daughter Lal didn't survive. It would seem all he had to do is download his memory banks into a toaster and it would begin spontaneously reciting bad poetry odes to his cat.

"Felis catus is your taxonomic nomenclature, an endothermic quadraped carniverous by nature."

2) Chief O'Brien Discovers the Process for Eternal Youth and Immortality

The Episode

Season 6, Episode 7: Rascals

Picard, Guinan, Keiko, and Ro are beamed through an energy field and arrive on the transporter deck as children. After just long enough to fill an episode, they are all returned to their original age.

The Discovery

Unlike most problems that result in age-changes in science-fiction, this particular accident had absolutely no downside other than turning adults into kids. They were not going to continue de-aging until they turned into infants, nor were they stuck as children. Dr. Crusher specifically stated that if left alone the will age normally. They do not even regress emotionally. Guinan and Ro indulge in being children for a time, but their memories and emotional reactions are entirely those of their adult counterparts. The only noticeable disadvantage is that Picard feels people won't take him seriously being so young. And honestly, that has as much to do with being named Jean-Luc.

So where's the down side? Assuming Picard doesn't want to beat Kirk for youngest captain in the history of Starfleet, there absolutely is no downside, as long as it is desired. Guinan spends the entire episode enjoying being 12 instead of 400+, because it is awesome. Ro gets to have a childhood she never knew, and if she wants can re-enlist in Starfleet without all the trouble that was on her permanent record. Keiko must adjust to being a mother at twelve, but her husband Miles, while having trouble dealing with this, completely overlooks the advantage that, if he waits a few years, he'll be married to his wife at the absolute prime of her sexual development. Picard undoubtedly has a strong enough personality to carry off captaincy at such a young age, certainly with such a stalwart crew, or could just pretend he's from a species that looks human but ages slower (hell, he can add latex to his forehead and make one up; who's gonna call him on it? There are people who float!).

But while Picard may long for joint pain and hearing loss, plenty of us would love to go back to being kids, especially with access to our current bank accounts.

Imagine: hit seventy or eighty, go through the transporter, come out fourteen years old again but with all your old memories. Not only is this eternal youth, but also eternal life. Crusher never says there is any danger in them doing this again, nor any limit. Just keep hopping back and stay a kid forever!

1) Riker Gives Up Omnipotence After a Day (War, Disease, and Death Remain)

The Episode

Season 1, Episode 10: Hide and Q

Q, a mischievous omnipotent being who delights in appearing to the Enterprise crew in the guise of John de Lancie, gives Riker the chance to become a Q himself. Riker has trouble not using those powers, decides to get rid of them, but not before offering all his friends a gift, all of which they refuse.

"Well, Commander, I really would appreciate Jeri Ryan walking around in a catsuit, but maybe in a few years after my testicles have descended."

The Discovery

So...make Data alive, make Wes an adult, give Geordi eyes...That's great, Will.

Ya think maybe you could do something about making the Romulans and the Klingons peaceful? How about creating a cure for every disease? A functional transwarp engine? Turning a hundred thousand planets within easy access to Earth into inhabitable Class-M worlds? Howsabout using some of that omniscience to predict how big a pain in the ass the Borg or the Dominion are going to be to everybody?

The point is that RIker basically had a genie lamp with limitless wishes and he set his sight so very, very low. In one day he could have wiped out war, disease, famine, plague, and death, shot the galaxy's technological development forward by centuries, and still had time for a snack. And don't say he didn't have the power; when Amanda Rogers went through exactly the same situation five years later, she reversed hundreds of years of ecological damage for one planet without blinking. Surely Riker could have put a bit of thought into how to use his power before giving it up.

In Conclusion...

As should be obvious by the sheer amount of bitching, I am a total Trekker, one who acknowledges that complaining about Star Trek isn't a bug, it's a feature. The people like me who kvetch and nitpick about every little inconsistency are the ones who love it enough to watch it again and again to spot them in the first place.

Why, we didn't even mention the episode where they totally proved intelligent design, and another where they totally proved evolution...

And that we all descended from horrible spider monsters.