Fully Functional: Any episode with Data & Lore or their "father" Dr. Noonien Soong. (Also see the episode " Brothers" which was Acting For Three (including one stint in enough make up to make a Klingon's actor cry.) And let's not forget "A Fistful of Datas", where Data plays...a fistful of ancient Western stock-characters.
Similar to how Sisko does with baseball, Picard enjoys using Shakespeare as a metaphor for the human condition. Of course, everyone knows about Stewart's background in Shakespearean theater; he quotes Hamlet in "Hide and Q",and participates in Data's production of Henry V.
TNG had a minor in-show example: In "Descent (Part 2)" the Enterprise is forced to hide within a star's corona by using an experimental shield. The lieutenant at Tactical doesn't think that the shield will work, but is proven wrong. The actor played a different character in a previous episode who tried to make it appear that the shield didn't work.
In "Sarek", Wesley gets ticked at Geordi and taunts him by saying, "At least I'm not spending the night with a good book, like some people!" Geordi seems to take this remark rather personally.
"The High Ground" got banned from broadcast in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland due to a line about Ireland being reunited in 2024 following a successful "terrorist" campaign.
Contrary to popular belief, "Conspiracy" was never banned in the U.K. It aired on the BBC at 6pm as normal, but was very heavily edited: the scene actually ends with Riker and Picard firing their phasers at Remmick off-screen. The episode was not aired uncut in the U.K. until a few years later when Sky showed it after the 9pm watershed. However, the "exploding Remmick" scene was accidentally left intact in the 6pm showing of the flashback clip episode "Shades of Grey".
California Doubling: Lore's Rogue Borg compound in "Descent" is The House of the Book performance hall and library building at the American Jewish University, Brandeis-Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, California.
Many episodes feature Riker playing the trombone, because Jonathan Frakes really does play trombone. And the episode "Data's Day" features Dr. Crusher teaching Data how to dance, because Gates McFadden is an accomplished dancer and choreographer.
Patrick Stewart reciting Shakespeare. Well, they had to get it in there somehow.
Both Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner get a chance to show off their pipes. Picard leads his men in a sea shanty on not one, but two occasions: as an alien facsimile in "Allegiance", and in Insurrection (where he and Data sing "A British Tar" with relish).
Averted in "Qpid", where the main characters engage in some medieval fighting in a fantasy recreation of Robin Hood. Only the men were given swordfighting scenes, in spite of the fact that the two female leads, Marina Sirtis and Gates McFadden, were the only ones in the cast who actually knew how to fence.
"Patrick Stewart WILL NEVER BE MENTIONED AGAIN in connection with Star Trek!" — actual memo from Gene Roddenberry. Fortunately, Patrick had a champion in Rick Berman, director Corey Allan, and others who helped rig the auditions in his favor. From the Blu-Ray TNG reunion:
Michael Dorn: Two seasons later, he's like, "...what is he still doing here?!" Jonathan Frakes: "I told them NO!"
With the high profile of The Next Generation securing his position, Roddenberry was able to leverage more control over the tie-ins set inside his universe. His archivist, Richard Arnold, immediately began cleaning house. The on-going DC ComicsStar Trek series was immediately cancelled and retconned, replaced with a follow-up that would be much more in tune with the TV series. (Plus one that didn’t deal in as many original or “non-canon” characters.) Arnold also went to work on the novels, bringing his strict editorial sensibilities to bear. Arnold has had a number of choice comments about how he views the writers of tie-in materials, going to far as to suggest that many of the tie-in writers “had never written Star Trek”.
Berman was installed on the show by the studio as a way to keep a handle on the show: keep it under-budget, make sure that the scripts were done on time, filter out any adult material. Ultimately, Berman ended up in control because he played the politics game more effectively and Gene was completely toothless at this time, having driven away all of his allies and handed creative control over to his lawyer, Leonard Maizlish. Maizlish is the big bogeyman of the Trek world. However, he is credited with keeping the name "Data", casting John de Lancie and hiring Maurice Hurley, which resulted in the debut of the Borg.
One of Ron Moore’s complaints about TNG was that the characters were not allowed to breathe as individuals or embrace other cultures besides Starfleet. You can almost smell his disdain in episodes he penned himself.
According to his book, Resistance is Futile: Assimilating Star Trek, Ira Behr had similar frustrations. Even after Gene passed away, his in-house directorial style lingered and made it difficult to affect lasting change on any of these characters. Both Ira and Moore would jump ship to DS9. That show was scripted in large part as an adolescent reaction to TNG and Gene's somewhat cranky views.
Descended Creator: Roddenberry's wife Majel Barrett, who also played Lwaxana Troi, owned a great deal of the rights and was one of the chief executives owning Star Trek after her husband's death.
Development Gag: "The Schizoid Man" was originally to have guest-starred Patrick McGoohan; the title of the episode is the same as that of an episode from his famous series The Prisoner. Even though McGoohan did not appear in the episode, the title remained unchanged as a tribute.
Directed by Cast Member: Stewart, Frakes, Burton and McFadden all directed episodes. McFadden also choreographed the dance sequences in "Data's Day", Frakes directed two of the movies, and Dorn directed several episodes of DS9.
Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: Stage actor Howie Seago, who is deaf in real life, played the deaf negotiator, Riva, in season 2's "Loud As A Whisper." The episode was actually Seago's idea; he'd approached the producers about disability representation, and cast and crew worked closely with him to create the episode. Notably, they rewrote the original ending, where Riva somehow learns to speak, after Seago objected.
Howie Seago: I told them I couldn't do that because it would perpetuate the psychological harm that's done now in forcing deaf children to use their voice whether they can or not. I didn't want hearing parents to use the show to perpetuate the oppression of their children. And they [the producers] understood that. I was expecting them to be more intractable. That was a real, honest-to-God relief for me and a credit to the producers, not only in accepting the idea but in executing and designing it properly.
Doing It for the Art: TNG's Blu-ray release was a love letter to the fans and Mike Okuda was brought in to make sure that the remastering was of the highest quality. Because TV production practices of the 80's and 90's involved shooting on film but then scanning the footage onto videotape for editing, there were no completed reels that could be used. Instead, the original raw footage was restored and scanned in its entirety and editors then did a frame-by-frame recreation of each episode. Brand-new special effects were also commissioned as needed to to better fit in with the brighter and clearer images. The end result was universally praised for its quality, especially in comparison to the divisive nature of the Original Series' use of CGI to replace effects wholesale. Unfortunately, the TNG Blu-ray didn't sell well enough to warrant DS9 and Voyager receiving similar treatment.
Is what got Patrick Stewart an audition in the first place! The casting director saw him in a play and wanted him to try out, but Roddenberry was against it - feeling Stewart was too old and too bald to play Picard. Rick Berman admitted to also having doubts, but he was at least willing to give Stewart a shot. Berman, the casting director and production manager Robert H. Justman kept pressuring Roddenberry until he finally relented to seeing Stewart audition.
A minor example having to do with the score. "The Drumhead" is the last episode to be scored by Ron Jones before the brilliant Rick Berman (not the soundest policy maker in the Trek franchise) fired him to ‘try out new composers.’ There’s a reason why people vividly remember the score to "The Best of Both Worlds" but why nobody remembers anything from the last three seasons of TNG. It wasn't until the latter half of Star Trek: Enterprise — barring the odd one-off composer managing to produce a decent score, and then usually being banned from working on the show again — that the composers were finally allowed to produce anything other than Berman's favored "sonic wallpaper."
Believe it or not, Riker's beard was the subject of intense meddling, with Rick Berman and Gene Roddenberry literally drawing on Jonathan Frakes' face as they tried to figure out how they wanted it to be styled. This went on for weeks, with bits being shaved off and hair being glued back on, until everyone decided (six episodes into Season 2) that they found a style that worked. Then Paramount issued a memo saying that they wanted the beard to be "reduced by 2%".
This hit a lot of episodes in the first two seasons, as there was a rule that a writer was only allowed to produce two drafts of any given script before the showrunner (Roddenberry early on, then Maurice Hurley until the end of Season 2) took over all further rewrites. Michael Piller quickly ditched that rule after he came on-board as showrunner a few episodes into Season 3.
Executive Veto: Apparently Tracey Tormé has originally wanted to include an Andorian in "Conspiracy", but was informed by a producer (probably Berman) that, “We don’t do antennae on this show.” As such, the Bolians were rolled in as a compromise: blue, antennae-less aliens. Later, DS9 writer and producer Robert Hewitt Wolfe reported that producer Rick Berman did not care for the antennae, and noted that, “if we’d been allowed to, I guarantee we’d’ve put an Andorian on the show so fast your head would’ve spun.“ The Andorians were finally given their day on Enterprise, appearing in several episodes throughout the series.
Exiled from Continuity: Gene Roddenberry originally ruled that none of the TOS races and worlds (Vulcans, Klingons, Romulans...) would appear in TNG. The original characters as well as their possible offspring were also forbidden. This rule was obviously relaxed from the start, with the presence of Worf and Bones McCoy in the pilot, and totally rejected by the third season which featured stories centering on all three races.
Fake Brit: Daniel Davis, who played a hologram of Professor James Moriarty and the snide British butler on The Nanny, hails from the Royal House of Arkansas.
Picard's habit of straightening his uniform is called "the Picard Maneuver" by fans (not to be confused with "the Picard Maneuver" from "The Battle").
Riker's... Unconventional method of sitting down (where he appears to mount the chair like a horse, caused by an old back injury and Johnathan Frakes' excessive height) is similarly known as the "Riker Maneuver."
The Galaxy-class starship is often abbreviated to "GCS".
Hide Your Pregnancy: Gates McFadden was pregnant throughout season 4, including during "Remember Me" which contained a couple of physically demanding stunts that she performed herself (she wasn't aware she was pregnant at that point). Later in the season she is shown almost exclusively wearing her "lab coat" and/or being filmed from the sternum up. Fortunately, Crusher often did wear her lab coat outside of the medical bay, so her sudden constant use of it wasn't quite as noticeable as this trope usually is.
In fact, Patrick Stewart was convinced by his agent that the show would be a quick failure and then he could return to Britain for theatrical auditions. For the first six weeks of filming, he literally lived out of his suitcases.
Keep Circulating the Tapes: A VERY rare positive example: The Next Level was a Blu-Ray disc containing four episodes from the series to showcase the restoration work to make it HD. One of the episodes, "Sins of the Father", had a 13 second portion (of Dr. Crusher telling Riker about Worf's nanny) that was upconverted from the standard definition tape because the restoration team couldn't find the original film for that section. After that disc was released, they found the film and had a true HD version of the portion in the episode in time for the Season 3 Blu-Ray release and is the version released on Netflix and CBS. In terms of the version with the 13 seconds upconverted from the SD tape, it will likely be gone if and when the Next Level disc goes out of print. As for this being a rare positive example... well, if you had a choice, would you take the version where 13 seconds are a (relatively well done) upconversion or the one that's completely HD? To make it better, the Season 1 set has a documentary about the restoration that talks about the story behind those 13 seconds, meaning the clip can still be seen for historical reference.
Killed by Request: Denise Crosby wasn't interested in continuing with the series, and requested to be killed off during the first season. She later regretted this choice, and came back as a guest star several times.
In the William Shatner documentary The Captains, Patrick Stewart's behind-the-scenes experiences at TNG share an odd similarity with his character. Stewart, who was stressed out over succeeding the stars of TOS and his long hours, got the cast together and told them to quit goofing off between takes ("We're not here to HAVE FUN!!"); his castmates never let him live that down. In the long run, TNG taught him to do good work and have fun doing it. This is mirrored by Picard's final line of the show when he joins the Bridge Officers' poker game.
The Merch: Next Gen had two distinct toylines. The first, by Galoob, came out during the first few seasons. It featured 3.75" figures (in scale with Star Wars) and smallish, die-cast vehicles including an Enterprise whose saucer detached. A few years later, Playmates Toys came out with its own line, which... let's just say that Next Gen was a landmark moment in toys, even more so than Star Wars. To break it down:
The figures boasted superior sculpting and articulation (though sitting down looked slightly unnatural), there were aliens and villains right in the first run, and the line made incredibly creative use of electronics, with sound effects taken directly from the show! What's more, the show itself provided more than ample inspiration for variants, including the "Holodeck Adventures" line.
Playmates also produced ship toys... gigantic ship toys, often a foot and a half in length or more, with a lot of details accurate to the studio model of the Enterprise especially. These also made use of electronics to reproduce sounds from the show and were a staple of Christmas wishlists for years. A great many sci-fi franchises which followed felt compelled to try and match these toys for quality, often with shaky results.
Playmates held onto the license with its teeth, providing lines for Deep Space Nine, Voyager, the Original Series (which got its own badass boxed-set), the movies, Enterprise, and the first J.J. Abrams movie.
Official Fan-Submitted Content: The series accepted fan-written spec scripts throughout its run. At least four made it into production, and a few more episodes were based on premises supplied by fans.
The Other Darrin: Spot. Yep. Data's first feline friend was a long-haired Somali, while later ones are played by a generic short-haired tabby. This has caused some Trek authorities to joke that Spot is a shapeshifter in disguise, or else lost his fur in a transporter accident.
It's old news now, but Dwight Schulz's transition from the half-deranged (and so half-sane!) "Howlin' Mad" Murdoch to the buttoned-down, mousey Reginald "Reg" Barclay was a novelty indeed. It paid off: Barclay is equally as — if not more — famous as his Star-Making Role on The A-Team.
Brent Spiner was primarily a comedic actor before being cast as Data. Of all the TNG regulars, Spiner probably goofed off the most between takes, which is why Data is always wearing a semi-menacing grin in behind-the-scenes footage. However, he got to cut loose in " The Outrageous Okona", which had Data practicing his Henny Youngman routine in a comedy club.
TNG had a habit of casting noted TV "bad guys" in benign or heroic roles. Jonathan Frakes is the biggest example, as his career up that point had been almost entirely villain roles. Others include Harry Groener as Tam Elbrun, John Vickery as Andrus Hagan (he'll be back as a backstabbing Gul in DS9's "Final Chapter"), Ronny Cox as Captain Jellico, Christopher McDonald as Richard Castillo, Paul Sorvino as Worf's brother Nikolai, Robert Knepper as Wyatt Miller (he would later play the heavy in VOY's "Dragon's Teeth"), and Spencer Garrett as Simon Tarses (he would go on to play one of the killer holograms in VOY's "Flesh and Blood"). No such luck for Marc Alaimo, though; he played four bad guys!
Promoted Fanboy: Whoopi Goldberg was a huge fan of the original series and has specifically named Nichelle Nichols as her inspiration for acting. Just before the second season entered production, she called Roddenberry, saying "I am a Star Trek fan, I was a Star Trek fan long before I was ever Whoopi Goldberg and I'm wondering if there's some part I can play in your show?" Roddenberry was so impressed that he re-wrote the bartender character he had intended to introduce for Goldberg.
Reality Subtext: LeVar Burton would often get headaches from the devices on his temples that were used to hold the VISOR in place. Likewise, Geordi would occasionally mention headaches as a side effect of wearing the VISOR.
Probably an aversion with Worf; the DC Star Trek comics had long featured a Klingon in Starfleet named Konom, but his backstory and character are very different from Worf's and Roddenberry probably had a similar idea independently.
Data is derived from the character Xon from the cancelled Star Trek: Phase 2. Xon was a full-blooded Vulcan, the idea being that he would provide a contrast to the vanished Spock—whereas Spock was always denying his human side and embracing his Vulcan, Xon would already be secure in his Vulcan-ness and thus be more intrigued and curious about understanding human emotions. This eventually mutated into the idea of an emotionless android seeking to achieve those human emotions.
Patrick Stewart, on the lookout for the next Ex-Ms. Patrick Stewart, dated Jennifer Hetrick (Vash) during Seasons 3 & 4. They were briefly engaged during "Qpid", but nothing came of it. In 2000, six years after TNG ended, Stewart and producer Wendy Neuss did marry. They divorced three years later.
Early in the show's run and prior to her marriage, Marina Sirtis liked to have flings with male guest stars leading to the cast affectionately and endlessly teasing her about her proclivities even decades later.
Separated-at-Birth Casting: Most of the actors playing blood relatives to cast members look impressively like them. For longevity, Majel Barret very much seemed like Marina Sirtis mother, in "Man of the People" where Sirtis had aging make-up on the similarity became uncanny. There was also Jeremy Kemp as Picard's brother Robert. Then there was the child actors playing Picard, Keiko, Ro and Guinan in "Rascals," David Tristen Burken previously played Picard's nephew in "Family" while Isis Jones also played a younger version of Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act.
"Skin of Evil" was Denise Crosby's last aired episodenote other than her coming Back for the Dead in an Alternate Timeline in "Yesterday's Enterprise", with her character being killed off. In the previous episode, "Symbiosis" (which was actually filmed later), she's in the background at the end, as Picard and Crusher enter the turbolift. Just as the doors close she waves goodbye to the camera.
In "Qpid", Vash has been transformed into Lady Marian by Q. As they were filming the scene where she paces back and forth in her cell, Jennifer Hetrick tripped over her dress. The director left it in reasoning that a 24th century woman would not be used to walking in 12th-century finery.
The series had a rough ride for its first couple of seasons, mostly due to Gene Roddenberry's declining health, substance abuse, spaced-out mental state, and the ridiculously high turnover rate in his writing staff for the first two seasons. Roddenberry's lawyer took control of the writing staff for most of the first season (supposedly rewriting scripts, against Writers' Guild rules, at one point), leading to the departure of TOS mainstays David Gerrold and D.C. Fontana after he began retaliating against them for complaints (Gerrold left amicably, or so he thought, only to be blackballed after Gene "The Great Bird" Roddenberry told everyone he was fired for his incompetence). Near the end of the season cast member Denise Crosby, who got pissed off at being a glorified extra, also left.
The prototype uniforms smelled bad (spandex retains bodily oils more than the newer cloth uniforms) and gave the actors back problems.
Things got a bit better for the second season where Maurice Hurley took over the writing staff, but since a lot of TV writers chose to sit out the whole 1988-89 season after the 1988 WGA strike it left no more than about four or five writers (two of whom worked as a team) working on the show at any one point. It didn't help that, according to Tracy Torme at least, Hurley didn't get along with anybody and only differed from Roddenberry's lawyer in that he actually had writing experience. There were also rumors that Hurley had a big crush on Gates McFadden and expressed it like any four-year-old would: he had her written out of the second season (replacing her with Dr. Pulaski) when she brushed him off. It wasn't until the third season, when Roddenberry's health wouldn't allow him to even work, which allowed Rick Berman and Michael Piller to gently steal control of the production and the show started to balance out, although even then there were a few bumps along the way, including Piller managing to provoke the entire writing staff he inherited from Hurley into quitting after circulating an insensitively-worded "tips on writing for TV" memo, and Roddenberry still occasionally vetoing story ideas and throwing in bizarre suggestions.
Even by the standards of the first two seasons, the infamous episode "Code of Honor" stands out. One of the two original writers took his name off it after it was heavily rewritten, and that was before the director they hired chose to populate the aliens of the week entirely with African-American guest actors, whom he proceeded to treat like garbage (though apparently he didn't treat the main cast a whole lot better). Eventually Roddenberry decided enough was enough and canned the director, leaving the first assistant director to pick up the pieces for the remainder of the shoot... which just happened to include the episode's big action sequence. Most of the main cast members (Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner and Wil Wheaton especially) have had some rather choice words about the episode in recent years. Not to mention that many of the writers felt Roddenberry's rewrite put it beyond any chance of salvation. He had supposedly told one of the two original writers, on another episode, that the Enterprise doesn't fire warning shots ... only to add a scene in this episode where it did exactly that. Gah.
Gates McFadden was essentially fired from the show between the first and second seasons, after some rather stern disagreements with one of the producers (which is understandable considering how infamously troubled that season was.) The mountain of fan letters pouring in (and the ouster of that producer) lead to her coming back.
The series tried hard to avoid this (the music avoided any style that had been popular since the end of the Jazz Age, for example), but the hairstyles, the spandex costumes ("spacesuits" as the cast called them), the set design (especially the oft-criticized "hotel lobby" look of The Bridge and the infamously bland beige and rust carpeting and wall paneling), the "Dustbuster" phasers and the presence of a psychotherapist as a command-level officer firmly fix the early seasons of the series in the 80s. Later seasons went to a wool gabardine two-piece spacesuit, a more angular and weapon-like phaser and modified Counselor Troi's duties in an effort to try to bring the show out of the 80s, but some of the more aggressively period-fixing design choices were stuck through the entire show.
Possible, despite real-world politics, given Trek's timeline with the Eugenics Wars and World War 3.
In "The Royale", Picard refers to Fermat's Last Theorem as having been unsolved for over 800 years. Whoops. This was later corrected in the DS9 episode "Facets".
Also in "The Royale", debris from a NASA spacecraft, which according to this episode took part in a mission in the mid 21st century, are beamed aboard the Enterprise. However, the NASA "Worm logo"◊ seen on the debris was actually replaced by the "Meatball logo"◊ in 1992.
Wag the Director: Patrick Stewart wasn't too thrilled with his stodgy, preachy, apparently sexless Captain in Seasons 1-2, and intimated that he might leave the show if something wasn't done about it. (Actually, the phrase he used according to Ron D. Moore was "there isn't nearly enough shooting and screwing on this show.") The vacation episode, "Captain's Holiday," was tailored-made to please Patrick.
Stewart auditioned for TNG three times. Once for Data and twice for Picard. Once bald and once wearing a hairpiece.
Edward James Olmos was offered the part of Jean-Luc Picard, but declined due to his contractual obligations. Stephen Macht also auditioned for the role, but would later star in "The Circle" and "The Siege", a DS9 two-parter. Yaphet Kotto was also considered.
Marina Sirtis and Denise Crosby were originally going to play Yar and Troi respectively, but switched roles at the last minute.
The writers considered having Riker die in "Second Chances", to be replaced by his transporter duplicate. The ranks of the characters would be changed accordingly, with the new Riker remaining a Lt. Commander. It was a way to introduce a new character (of sorts) while using the same actor. It's one of many examples of extensive character development that was proposed but rejected on the series.
According to Jeri Taylor, at one point Geordi La Forge was planned to be revealed as the product of alien experimentation on his mother, and an episode was planned to involve said aliens returning to retrieve him. According to her, it was conceived to give him some needed character development, but was rejected, probably because it would have weirded out viewers. Even stranger, the concept was almost revived in VOY, with Harry Kim planned to have a very similar backstory, but it too was rejected. The idea would eventually be used in a fashion for Sisko in the final season of DS9.
The Borg were planned to be insectoid aliens but the special effects budget wouldn't cut it. The insectoid aliens seen in "Conspiracy" were in fact planned to be The Borg.
The writers considered crashing the ship's saucer section on a planet as the cliffhanger ending of Season 6, but the budget didn't allow for it. This was eventually used in Star Trek: Generations instead. Separating the saucer itself was planned to be a much more common tactic, but again effects expenses meant it was only used four times. In addition, halfway through season one it had become painfully obvious that saucer separation was time-consuming and destroyed the pacing, a major issue when it was supposed to happen halfway through dramatic battle sequences.
The original idea for the season 6 cliffhanger was to be a two parter titled "All Good Things" that would have had Starfleet all of a sudden decommissioning the Enterprise and splitting the crew up. On the way back to Earth, the Enterprise would be attacked, have to use the saucer separation with the lower half blowing up and forcing the saucer section to crash. If this sounds familiar, it should. Besides re-using the name for the series finale they wrote, the crash sequence was used in Generations, where due to the film budget, was most likely used to greater effect. The reason this concept was ditched was because the producers and Paramount had no desire to shake up the series (especially as the first feature film was already in the works) or to destroy the Enterprise-D (to keep it for the aforementioned film) despite the fact that much of the writing team wanted to destroy the ship and replace it with a sleaker, "cooler" ship. This probably was the motivation for the beefed-up future Enterprise-D in "All Good Things..." and most certainly the motivation behind the Enterprise-E.
Several attempts were made to introduce the Mirror Universe into TNG. Even Jerome Bixby, the writer of "Mirror, Mirror", submitted a script that would have served as a sequel. It was apparently rejected because it called for guest appearances from TOS. In general, Rick Berman and Michael Piller were disinterested in TNG revisiting the Mirror Universe because they felt the concept was too cheesy and out-of-date for the series. DS9, being staffed by fans of TOS, would eventually re-visit the Mirror Universe to mixed results, with ENT also re-visiting it to surprisingly greater effect, with its Mirror two-parter being its most popular episodes. The non-canon novel "Dark Mirror" released in 1993 (which ended up influencing ENT's foray into the Mirror Universe) and the IDW comic "Mirror Broken" released in 2017, which both explore alternate takes on the Mirror Universe Enterprise-D are pretty popular, so it's interesting to speculate how TNG would have handled the concept.
Everyone knows about "Blood and Fire", but another episode with similar themes was planned involving Wesley Crusher having an alien friend named "Los" from Starfleet Academy, who was from a species that could change sex at will. This would have led them into having a sort of LGBT style relationship, with the episode exploring complex sexual themes. It was pitched by Rene Echevarria, but rejected likely for being too sexual and outside of mainstream audiences comfort zone (which resulted in a gay couple being axed by Echevarria's first episode "The Offspring").
Wesley Snipes was considered to star as Geordi LaForge. Tim "Tuvok" Russ also auditioned for the role. He came that close to getting it, too.
Among the actors that auditioned for Riker were Jeffrey Combs and Vaughn Armstrong - both of whom became pretty well-known to viewers regardless.
How much better would "The Outcast" have been if the actors playing the sexless J'naii were male instead of female? Jonathan Frakes criticized the staff for not doing that and making the message of the episode that much stronger.
Maurice Hurley's original plan with the Borg was for season 2 to be a story-arc involving the Federation teaming up with the Romulans (and others) to fight off the Borg and defeat them once and for all. One wonders how that would have turned out and what effects it would have had on the franchise.
The "anti-time future" in "All Good Things..." was originally going to involve Picard and co. having to steal the Enterprise D from a fleet museum, as a homage to Star Trek III. The sequence would have involved the crew having to go through a museum tour in disguise, with docents getting their names wrong and gawkish tourists annoying them. According to Brannon Braga, it was rejected for being too silly. Ron Moore regretted not being able to keep this in the script, and referenced the concept on Battlestar Galactica (2003).
"All Good Things..." was originally going to feature four time periods, the fourth being the events of "The Best of Both Worlds", with Picard as Locutus. This was Braga and Moore's attempt to have the Borg featured in the series finale, which they felt should appear as villains, and have the episode be a follow-up of sorts to the infamous two-parter. Michael Piller felt that four time periods were too confusing, so they chose to ditch it instead of replacing one of the other time periods. Braga and Moore feel "Star Trek: First Contact" was a superior follow-up anyway, so they don't regret canning the Borg here.
The writing team tried several times to write a sequel to "The Best of Both Worlds" but nothing went further than the concept phase, because no one could think of another clever way to defeat the Borg. Eventually they gave up and opted to tell a very different Borg story with "I Borg", where the crew rescues a lone drone who eventually gains individuality and rejects being a Borg, being named "Hugh". It paid off, as the episode proved popular enough to get a follow up in the two parter "Descent" and served as the template for Seven of Nine on Voyager. Hugh was apparently even planned to appear in early versions of "All Good Things". Of course, BOBW would eventually get a proper sequel with the film Star Trek: First Contact, which unsurprisingly is the only TNG film most fans actually like.
"Yesterday's Enterprise" was originally conceived as two separate episodes, one fittingly enough also titled Yesterdays Enterprise and the other unnamed. In the original Yesterdays Enterprise, the Enterprise C also accidentally comes forward in time. However it causes no changes in the timeline when discovered by the Enterprise-D, and the entire episode would have centered around Picard having to make a decision to send it back and preserve the timeline, where they would lose a hopeless battle or risk altering time by keeping them in the present. The other episode would have involved Sarek and a group of Vulcans revisiting the Guardian of Forever to go back to Vulcan pre-history. They would have fucked up the timeline and accidentally killed Surak, creating a timeline where a violent Vulcan race had arisen. They would have eventually discovered and merged with their Romulan offshoots to form a Vulcan-Romulan Empire and would have rampaged across the galaxy, exterminating the Klingons and fighting the Federation (who formed without them) in a bitter war the Federation was losing. The episode would have even featured the alternate universe Vulcans planning to use the Guardian of Forever to alter Earth's history and prevent the Federation from ever forming, which sounds a lot like Star Trek: First Contact (which even the writers Trent Christopher Ganin and Eric A. Stillwell have pointed out). Sarek would remain unaffected, be captured by the Enterprise D where after a mind meld with Picard, is allowed to return through the Guardian of Forever and take the place of Surak to preserve the timeline. Both episode pitches were received well, but Michael Piller suggested merging the ideas together, and Ronald D. Moore ended up changing the Vulcans into Klingons and using the episode to explain how the Klingons and the Federation became allies (which funny enough is contradicted a year later with the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which eventually had to be reconciled with this episode).
Ira Steven Behr and Ronald D Moore wanted to feature more gruesome deaths for several characters at the end of "Yesterday's Enterprise", including Data being electrocuted and having Wesley Crusher graphically decapitated by debris! Riker's on-screen death was also supposed to be more gruesome, with his throat slit and spurting blood. To make things even darker, the Klingon commanding the ships doing all this damage would have been Worf! So he would have been brutally murdering his friends essentially, for our "viewing pleasure". Moore and Behr were disappointed this wasn't filmed, which they claim was because the producers didn't want to depress audiences, though it was also likely cut due to the graphic nature of the violence.
Dr. Selar (from "The Schizoid Man" and repeatedly referenced) was originally intended to be a recurring character and would develop a romance with Worf, since there was a drought of Vulcans on the show and pairing one up with a Klingon sounded interesting. But this was scuttled when K'Ehleyr was introduced later the same season. Incidentally, both characters have similar names (seriously, try sounding them out) and were played by Statuesque Stunner Suzie Plakson.
The Enterprise was originally going to be the seventh rather than fifth ship to bear the name, and was referred to in the script as the Enterprise Seven rather than the Enterprise-D we know and love.
Originally it was going to be Picard hopping between realities in "Parallels" but Brannon Braga thought Picard's relationships wouldn't change much from reality to reality, and thus would be less jarring, so he decided to make it happen to Worf instead.
The writers considered bringing back Denise Crosby as Tasha in one of the alternate universes, but decided against it, feeling it'd be redundant after "Yesterday's Enterprise".
The Q Continuum were originally going to be many people with the same face. This portrayal is rather apparent in "Encounter at Farpoint", with each change of costume Q goes through usually resulting in a change in attitude and demeanor. However, by Q's next appearance, this particular idea seems to have been dropped, with Q acting as a single individual, and later episodes (and Star Trek: Voyager) introduced additional members of the Q Continuum.
The writers didn't know what to do with Troi in Season 1, even omitting her from four episodes just to save themselves the trouble. Marina Sirtis has said she was nearly let go after Season 1 because of this. She was only kept on because Denise Crosby had already left and Gates McFadden would soon decide to leave.
At one point Wesley Crusher was planned as a female character named Leslie Crusher, as the TNG creators thought the teenaged boy genius was too much of a cliché. (They were probably right.) Although considering that a female genius would have been Mary Sue, it was kind of a no-win situation.
Ronald D. Moore considered bringing Captain Jellico back to be the commander of the Enterprise in the Alternate Timeline presented in "Tapestry".
One of the people who was considered a favorite for the role that eventually became Tasha Yar was Rosalind Chao, who later portrayed Keiko O'Brien.
Patrick Stewart's contract was up for renewal at the end of season three, and he waffled a bit over whether he would continue with the show. Hence, "The Best of Both Worlds Part 1" was constructed around the possibility of losing Picard (with no forward planning on how to resolve the story either way).
Beverly was supposed to be the ship's schoolteacher—not doctor. According to David Gerrold, this was changed when he suddenly suggested it during a lunch and the other present writers saw the benefits (such as complicating the Ship Tease with Picard and not having to create a separate character to be the doctor).
The series was originally going to have a mostly-original main theme, composed by Dennis McCarthy, which actually did get recorded. The producers didn't particularly like it, however, and so swapped in Jerry Goldsmith's theme from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, albeit still keeping a good chunk of McCarthy's theme, which in the final version plays until the show's title card appears.
Gene Roddenberry wasn't actually the first person Paramount turned to when they were looking to create the series. They first approached Harve Bennett, who had replaced Roddenberry as producer of the TOS films starting with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but he wasn't interested. Then they commissioned a proposal from Greg and Sam Strangis, but Paramount let them go after disliking the pitch for a "Starfleet Academy" series that they came up with. At this point, Roddenberry's lawyer, Leonard Maizlish learned that Paramount were shopping around for pitches for a new series, and threatened them with all hell if anyone but Roddenberry was allowed to create the new series, eventually leading to the one we got.
One of the very early ideas tossed around was for the captain to be a hologram. We'd have to wait until Voyager for a similar idea to make it in.
Geordi originally had a Jamaican accent, and Troi was going to be a non-humanoid alien.
Picard was originally going to have hair and a French accent. The latter was dropped, according to Stewart, due to sounding too silly.
Word of Saint Paul: The Star Trek The Next Generation Technical Manual, in its entry on the Captain's Yacht, includes an out-of-universe sidebar that says "Patrick Stewart informs us the yacht is named Calypso after Jacques Cousteau's vessel", in a way that suggests that, as far as the writers of the Manual are concerned, he should know. This was never confirmed on screen, since the Enterprise-D yacht was never used (or even confirmed to exist), but was nodded to in Star Trek: Insurrection, where the yacht on the Enterprise-E is called the Cousteau.
Also from the technical manual, Rick Sternback had a pet idea for "Cetacean Ops" — literally, navigation research that's being handled by a dozen dolphins being overseen by a couple of whales — in huge underwater tanks throughout the ship. It got a mention in "Yesterday's Enterprise" and "The Perfect Mate", but goes otherwise unregarded by other writers.
Working Title: Star Trek A New Beginning, Star Trek A New Generation, Star Trek The New Generation and Star Trek Enterprise 7 (the latter title is explained by the fact the ship was to be known as the Enterprise 7 rather than the Enterprise D).
Most jarring of all is James Cromwell as the leader of a potential new Federation alliance world in "The Hunted", when he later played Cochrane in Star Trek: First Contact.
He also played Zaglom Shrek in "Birthright", and Hanok in "Starship Down" (DS9), though you can't see his face in those.
Marc Alaimo appeared as a minor Rubber-Forehead Alien in Season 1's "Lonely Among Us"; Romulan Commander Tebok later that season in "The Neutral Zone"; a 19th century gambler in Season 5's "Time's Arrow"; and most notably, he played the first-ever Cardassian in Star Trek, Gul Macet in "The Wounded". Marc Alaimo would become, in Deep Space Nine, Gul Dukat, the main adversary of Captain Sisko.
Max Grodenchik as the very typical conniving, treacherous Ferengi Sovak in "Captain's Holiday"; better known for his later role as the very atypical (and somewhat dim) Rom from DS9.
Armin Shimerman played both Letek, one of the first Ferengi ever shown onscreen in " The Last Outpost", another Ferengi, Bractor in " Peak Performance", and the better known Quark — from Deep Space Nine. He also briefly appeared in "Haven" as the Betazoid Gift Box, though it's a bit hard to recognize that one.
Look out for the future Tuvok (Tim Russ) playing a human terrorist in "Starship Mine" (and, ironically, being the recipient of a Vulcan nerve pinch.) He also plays an unnamed human bridge crew member in the 23rd century in Generations.
Robert Duncan McNeill, Voyager's Tom Paris, as Nicholas Locarno in " The First Duty". (The character of Locarno was the inspiration for Paris.)
The Voyager creators say they didn't plan to hire the same actor; once they realized they had, they considered making McNeill Locarno on Voyager, but reformulated him into Paris, feeling that Locarno "couldn't be redeemed enough" (read: they didn't want to pay royalties) for what they planned with Paris.
Hey, that Ferengi doctor in "Ménage à Troi" sure sounds a lot like Neelix... At one point on Voyager ("False Profits"), Neelix is forced to get makeup and surgery so that he looks like the Grand Nagus of the Ferengi, and the actor pulls it off again with great aplomb. Said actor would go on to be one of the 'first' Ferengi ever, in the ENT episode "Acquisition".
Also, keep an eye out for Phillips in Star Trek: First Contact. He is the holographic maître d' who tries to boot the Borg out of his club, saying they aren't dressed properly.
Patricia Tallman, known for playing Lyta the telepath on B5, has a Memory Alpha entry as long as Patrick Stewart himself. Before she got her break, she was a stunt double◊ for the female leads on TNG (barring Whoopi), along with a few on DS9. She also has uncredited roles as a petty officer ("Power Play"), a Klingon (Generations), and a space siren in Star Trek: Voyager ("Fortunate Son").
She only had two speaking roles in Star Trek: one of the hijackers "Starship Mine", and the fake Romulan in "Timescape."
W. Morgan Sheppard is a name which may be familiar to you: Star Trek, Babylon 5, and even Doctor Who. He's first seen here in "The Schizoid Man" as Data's 'uncle'. You can also watch him as a Klingon in Star Trek VI and the Ahab-like alien in VOY's "Bliss".
Most recently, he was told to get stuffed (figuratively speaking) by Zachary Quinto in the Abrams Star Trek movie.
Roy Brocksmth had one-shot appearances here and in DS9: As a Zakdorn in "Peak Performance" and a Bajoran smuggler in "Indiscretion". His most famous role, however, is Dr. Edgemar in Total Recall (1990).
James Sloyan is an authoritative actor who has played four aliens, usually with some sort of dark secret attached. He also died often: Admiral Jerok in "The Defector" (suicide), Future!Alexander in "Firstborn" (erased from history), and Jetrel in the eponymous VOY episode (terminal disease). He also had a recurring role on DS9 as Odo's "father", Dr. Mora.
Eric Pierpoint had guest roles in all four spinoffs: a shape-shifter who attempted to try it on with Picard (" Liaisons"), a Starfleet Captain in "For the Uniform" (DS9), the Klingons' answer to Judas Iscariot in "Barge of the Dead" (VOY), a big game hunter in "Rogue Planet" (ENT), and a Section 31 honcho during the Terra Prime arc (ENT). He is probably best known for his role as Det. Francisco in the cult show Alien Nation.
John Vickery had a good hit rate: Going from a (mute) Betazed in "Night Terrors", to a Cardassian Gul in four episodes of DS9, to Klingon prosecutor in an ENT episode, "Judgement". Babylon 5 aficionados know him as Neroon.
Suzie Plakson as Selar, K'ehlyr, and the female Q on Voyager, to name one.
Urban Legend of Zelda: The operator's manual for the Star Trek: The Next Generation pinball mentions a "secret Video Mode" in the gamenote allegedly a version of Breakout, and there are two operator settings to control it. Problem is, no one knows how to activate it, and it's unclear if the mode is actually enabled in the final game or not. It can sometimes be seen on the display in the game's attract mode, however.