Today, Star Trek: The Next Generation stands as one of the most beloved, critically-acclaimed science-fiction series in TV history. Over seven seasons and four feature films, Star Trek: TNG set a new precedent for sci-fi storytelling starting in 1987. With incomparable writing, and a strong ensemble cast, the show proved that the franchise could move beyond Captain Kirk and Spock while keeping the spirit of the original Star Trek alive. Long before interconnected universes took over pop culture, TNG established the blueprint for expanding a pre-existing fictional universe. Even though this era ended with 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis, TNG remains an essential piece of the iconic franchise.
While the last decade of Trek has been defined by its cinematic outings, the franchise is set to return to its serialized roots with the upcoming prequel series, Star Trek: Discovery. While that streaming series will explore Trek’s pre-Kirk era, CBR is taking a trip back to Trek’s future to see what the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation are up to today. While some veterans of the Trek franchise have infamously been typecast, the members of the TNG crew have continued to do meaningful work in the entertainment industry and beyond since their time aboard the Enterprise ended.
15. PATRICK STEWART (CAPTAIN JEAN-LUC PICARD)
After a career largely spent onstage or in supporting roles in films like David Lynch’s Dune and John Boorman’s Excalibur, Sir Patrick Stewart took command of the Enterprise as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Picard brought a Shakespearean gravitas to his diplomatic Starfleet officer that made him one of Star Trek’s most iconic characters.
In 2000, Stewart took on the role of Charles Xavier, Professor X, in Bryan Singer’s X-Men. After appearing in seven X-Men films, Stewart announced that he was retiring from the role after James Mangold’s Logan in 2017. Stewart was knighted in 2010, and his career has continued to flourish onstage and on screen with notable roles in Jeremy Saulnier’s 2015 thriller, Green Room, and as the lead in the provocative comedy Blunt Talk. In addition to his extensive voice work on shows like American Dad, Stewart has been an outspoken political activist.
14. JONATHAN FRAKES (COMMANDER WILLIAM RIKER)
As the Enterprise’s first officer, Jonathan Frakes’ Commander William Riker was confident, charming and fiercely loyal to his crewmates. Like some of his castmates, Frakes directed several episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. He went on to direct two Trek films, 1996’s Star Trek: First Contact and 1998’s Star Trek: Insurrection, and directed episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager.
Since TNG‘s adventures ended, Frakes has continued to work regularly as a director on series like Leverage, NCIS: Los Angeles and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. As a voice actor, Frakes was the villainous mastermind David Xanatos on Gargoyles in the mid-1990s, and he currently appears as Star-Lord’s father, J’son, in Guardians of the Galaxy. From 1998 to 2002, he also hosted the paranormal anthology series Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction. Frakes is set to return to the Trek universe as a director on Star Trek: Discovery.
13. MARINA SIRTIS (COUNSELOR DEANNA TROI)
After small roles in British television and films like Death Wish 3 from the notorious production house Cannon Films, Marina Sirtis joined Star Trek as Counselor Deanna Troi. With her empathic abilities, the half-Betazoid counselor was a receptive confidant to the Enterprise’s crew and served as a valuable asset during diplomatic negotiations.
After Star Trek: The Next Generation ended, Sirtis reprised the role of Counselor Troi on Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise. Since then, she’s continued to work in film and television, with guest-starring roles in dramas like NCIS and Scandal. As a voice actor, Sirtis played the evil Demona in Gargoyles from 1994 to 1997. More recently, Sirtis voiced the mind-controlling DC Comics villain Queen Bee in Young Justice and currently appears as the villain Cosma on Cartoon Network’s O.K. K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes.
12. LEVAR BURTON (LIEUTENANT COMMANDER GEORDI LA FORGE)
Long before he took to the stars, LeVar Burton was already a famous name thanks to his star-making turn as Kunta Kinte in the seminal 1977 TV miniseries Roots. As Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge, Burton played the Enterprise’s Chief Engineer on Star Trek: The Next Generation. After directing a few TNG episodes, Burton went on to direct episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Enterprise.
Outside of Star Trek, Burton’s most famous role was as the host of the children’s literacy series Reading Rainbow, which ran from 1983 to 2006. In 2012, he helped revive the series as a digital service. More recently, Burton started a podcast called LeVar Burton Reads, where he reads short stories for an older audience. He’s also worked as a voice actor, most notably as the earth-controlling Kwame in Captain Planet and the Planeteers from 1990 to 1996.
11. DENISE CROSBY (LIEUTENANT TASHA YAR)
Although she was originally cast as Counselor Troi, Denise Crosby became Lieutenant Tasha Yar in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. After her Chief Security Officer took on a more minor role, Crosby left the show and Yar was unceremoniously killed off. As the show progressed, Crosby returned on a few occasions as Yar and her half-Romulan daughter, Commander Sela.
After Yar’s death, Crosby went on to have supporting roles in films like 1989’s Pet Sematary and 1998’s Deep Impact. In 1997, she produced and starred in a documentary on Trek fandom called Trekkies, which spawned a sequel, Trekkies 2 in 2004. Since then, she’s guest-starred in shows like The X-Files, Mad Men and The Walking Dead, where she led a group of cannibals as Mary. Crosby recently had a recurring role on the Showtime drama Ray Donovan and has expressed interest in making Trekkies 3.
10. MICHAEL DORN (LIEUTENANT COMMANDER WORF)
Although he was only supposed to play a minor recurring role, Michael Dorn’s Lieutenant Commander Worf quickly became one of Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s most popular characters. After he became the Enterprise’s Chief Security Officer, the only Klingon in Starfleet was at the center of several major stories.
After TNG‘s TV adventures ended, Dorn joined the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as Worf in 1995, where he was the station’s Strategic Operations Officer for four seasons. While Dorn went on to have recurring roles in live-action shows like Castle, he’s worked as a prolific voice actor. After appearing in Gargoyles, Dorn voiced the armored hero Steel and the villain Kalibak in DC Animated Universe shows like Justice League. More recently, he had a recurring role in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as the villain Captain Mozar and voiced the mysterious Prometheus in the fifth season of Arrow.
9. GATES MCFADDEN (DOCTOR BEVERLY CRUSHER)
Before Gates McFadden joined Star Trek: The Next Generation as Doctor Beverly Crusher, she worked as a puppet choreographer for the Jim Henson Company in the 1970s and 1980s. Although her character served as the Enterprise’s Chief Medical Officer, she was fired by showrunner Maurice Hurley after the show’s first season. After Hurley left the show, McFadden’s doctor returned for the remainder of TNG‘s voyages.
After her stint on Trek ended, McFadden had recurring roles on the 1990s’ sit-com Mad About You and in the early-2010s legal drama Franklin & Bash. Despite that, most of McFadden’s post-Trek work has been off-screen. She has taught at several colleges including Harvard University, Brown University and her alma mater, Brandeis University. From 2009 to 2014, she oversaw Los Angeles’ Ensemble Studio Theatre as its Artistic Director.
8. DIANA MULDAUR (DOCTOR KATHERINE PULASKI)
Unlike most of her castmates, Star Trek: The Next Generation wasn’t Diana Muldaur’s first appearance in the sci-fi franchise. Muldaur appeared as astrobiologist Doctor Ann Mulhall and the telepathic Doctor Miranda Jones in two separate episode of the original Star Trek. After Gates McFadden was fired, Muldaur’s Doctor Katherine Pulaski replaced Doctor Crusher as the Enterprise’s Chief Medical Officer in 1988. Muldaur’s strong-willed Leonard McCoy-esque character left the show at the end of its second season.
While Muldaur had already had a decades-long career in film and television, one of her signature roles came shortly after her time on TNG. From 1989 to 1991, Muldaur played the vicious lawyer Rosalind Shays in an Emmy-nominated role on the legal drama L.A. Law. Starting in 1992, she voiced Doctor Leslie Thompkins, Batman’s longtime ally, on Batman: The Animated Series before retiring from acting to live a more private life.
7. BRENT SPINER (LIEUTENANT COMMANDER DATA)
Even though Brent Spiner’s Lieutenant Commander Data was an android, his ongoing quest to become more human was the heart of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Thanks to Data’s inquisitive demeanor, the Chief Operations Officer eventually became one of Star Trek’s most popular characters. In addition to Data, Spiner portrayed the android Lore and Data’s creator Doctor Noonien Soong in TNG.
After his time on the Enterprise ended, Spiner played Doctor Arik Soong, the ancestor of Data’s creator, on a few episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise. Spiner has continued to work regularly in science-fiction, with recurring roles in series like Threshold and Warehouse 13. Spiner’s eccentric Doctor Brackish Okun was a supporting player in the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day, and he played a significant role in 2016’s Independence Day: Resurgence. In his voice over work, Spiner has voiced several major comic characters, including the Joker on Young Justice.
6. WIL WHEATON (ENSIGN WESLEY CRUSHER)
Wil Wheaton’s teenage Ensign Wesley Crusher was one of the most divisive characters on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Thanks to his curiously advanced genius, Doctor Crusher’s son irked many fans with an outsized presence in the show’s early years. Although Wesley made a few subsequent guest appearances, Wheaton left the regular cast during the show’s fourth season.
Since leaving the Enterprise, Wheaton has found success in a number of fields. As an actor, Wheaton has had recurring roles in Eureka, Leverage and as an exaggerated version of himself on The Big Bang Theory. He has also built a considerable following online through his writing and his game-focused web series, TableTop, which completed its fourth season in 2017. Although his televised geek culture talk show, The Wil Wheaton Project, was canceled after one season in 2014, he’s voiced Aqualad since 2003 on Teen Titans and Teen Titans Go!
5. COLM MEANEY (CHIEF MILES O’BRIEN)
When Colm Meaney appeared as a minor character in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s first episode, his character didn’t even have a name. That was quickly remedied, and his Chief Petty Officer Miles O’Brien evolved into one of Star Trek’s most relatable characters. While he didn’t have the biggest role on TNG, the beleaguered Transporter Chief married and started a family with his wife, Keiko, on the Enterprise.
After a recurring role during TNG‘s first six seasons, Meaney left to join the main cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in 1992. Even though Meaney’s character was promoted to Chief Engineer, O’Brien’s notoriously bad luck continued to haunt him. Outside of Trek, Meaney has appeared in films as diverse as 1997’s Con Air and the 2011 comedy Get Him to the Greek. From 2011 until 2016, Meaney portrayed railroad tycoon Thomas “Doc” Durant in the western drama Hell on Wheels.
4. MICHELLE FORBES (ENSIGN RO LAREN)
After a successful guest appearance in the fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Michelle Forbes joined the show’s cast as the recurring character, Ensign Ro Lauren. Partially created to fill the void left by Wesley Crusher’s departure, the rebellious Bajoran navigated the Enterprise and introduced several concepts that would become central to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Although Forbes never appeared in another Star Trek series, she’s worked steadily, with supporting roles in feature films like 1996’s Escape from L.A. and 2015’s The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. On television, Forbes had lengthy stints on critically acclaimed dramas like Homicide: Life on the Street, The Killing and 24. Along with minor roles in modern cult classics like Lost and Battlestar Galactica, Forbes has continued to appear in well-regarded genre shows like True Blood, Powers and Orphan Black.
3. DWIGHT SCHULTZ (LIEUTENANT REGINALD BARCLAY)
In the 1980s, Dwight Schultz rose to fame as Captain “Howling Mad” Murdock, The A-Team‘s resident wild card. After five seasons of over-the-top action, The A-Team ended, and Schultz joined Star Trek: The Next Generation in a recurring role as the put-upon Lieutenant Reginald Barclay. Although he was usually cast as one of Trek’s more comedic characters, Barclay overcame severe social anxieties and solved engineering problems with ingenious solutions.
After TNG, Barclay made a few appearances in Star Trek: Voyager, where he played a key role in establishing contact with the titular long-lost ship. Outside of Star Trek, Schultz has voiced main characters in cartoons like Ben 10 and Chowder. Since 2000, he’s also been an especially prolific video game voice actor, with roles in franchises like Mass Effect, Fallout and Final Fantasy. He’s also voiced several superheroes and villains, including the grotesque Professor Pyg in 2015’s Batman: Arkham Knight.
2. WHOOPI GOLDBERG (GUINAN)
After earning her big break in Steven Spielberg’s 1986 film, The Color Purple, Whoopi Goldberg has had a decades-long career that’s touched almost every area of pop culture. Inspired by Nichelle Nichols’ Lieutenant Uhura in the original Star Trek, Goldberg played the bartender Guinan starting in Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s second season. While Guinan was only a recurring role, Goldberg’s quiet portrayal as the ancient El-Aurian made her an essential font of wisdom and advice on the Enterprise.
Outside of her Star Trek work, Goldberg has had an expansive career with appearances in well over 150 productions. She had central roles in well-remaindered films like 1990’s Ghost and 1992’s Sister Act. For the past decade, Goldberg’s most visible role has been as the sometimes controversial host of The View, a long-running daytime talk show.
1. JOHN DE LANCIE (Q)
While Star Trek: The Next Generation’s cybernetic aliens, the Borg, tried to assimilate the universe into their homogeneous Collective, TNG‘s most powerful foe, the omnipotent Q, was utterly unique. Starting with TNG‘s first episode, “Encounter at Farpoint,” John de Lancie played the all-powerful trickster with a mix of inhuman menace and goofy charm in a recurring role.
As Q, Lancie also tangled with the crews of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. In addition to writing several “symphonic plays,” Lancie has worked as a guest star in dramas like The West Wing and Stargate SG-1. He also had a small but heart-breaking role as air traffic controller Donald Margolis in Breaking Bad. Since 2011, Lancie has voiced the villain Discord on My Little Pony: Friendship in Magic, and he produced Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony, a 2012 documentary on the show’s fandom.
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