By the mid-1980s, the Star Trek mythos had proven so commercially viable that Paramount announced plans for a new Star Trek series for television. Once again supervised by Roddenberry, Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in first-run syndication in 1987 and went on to become one of the highest rated syndicated shows in history. Set in the 24th century, this series followed the adventures of a new crew on a new Enterprise (earlier versions of the ship having been destroyed in the movie series). The series was extremely successful at establishing a new story world that still maintained a continuity with the premise, spirit, and history of the original series. On the new Enterprise, the command functions were divided between a more cultured Captain, Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), and his younger, more headstrong "number one," Commander William Riker (Jonathan Frakes). Spock's character functions were distributed across a number of new crew members, including ship's counselor and Betazoid telepath, Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), the highly advanced android, Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner), who provided the show with "logical" commentary as ironic counter-point to the peculiarities of human culture, and finally, Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn), a Klingon raised by a human family who struggled to reconcile his warrior heritage with the demands of the Federation. Other important characters included Lt. Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), the ship's blind engineer whose "vision" was processed by a high-tech visor, Dr. Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), the ship's medical officer and implicit romantic foil for Picard, and Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton), the doctor's precocious son.
Running for 178 episodes, Star Trek: The Next Generation was able to develop its characters and storylines in much more detail than the original series. As with many other hour-long dramas its era, the series abandoned a wholly episodic format in favor of more serialized narratives that better showcased the expanded ensemble cast. Continuing over the run of the series were recurring encounters with Q, a seemingly omnipotent yet extremely petulant entity, the Borg, a menacing race of mechanized beings, and Lars, Data's "evil" android brother. Other continuing stories included intrigue and civil war in the Klingon empire, Data's ongoing quest to become more fully human, and often volatile political difficulties with the Romulans. This change in the narrative structure of the series from wholly episodic to a more serialized form can be attributed in some part to the activities of the original series' enormous fan following. A central part of fan culture in the 1970s and 1980s involved fans writing their own Star Trek based stories, often filling in blanks left by the original series and elaborating incidents only briefly mentioned in a given episode. Star Trek: The Next Generation greatly expanded the potential for such creative elaboration by presenting a more complex storyworld, one that actively encouraged the audience to think of the series as a foundation for imagining a larger textual universe.
Despite the show's continuing success, Paramount canceled Star Trek: The Next Generation after seven seasons to turn the series into a film property and make room for new television spin-offs, thus beginning a careful orchestration of the studio's Star Trek interests in both film and television. The cast of the original series returned to the theater for Star Treks 5 and 6, leading finally to Star Trek: Generations, in which the original cast turned over the cinematic baton to the crew of Next Generation. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in January of 1993 as the eventual replacement for Next Generation on television.