The Next Generation Cast Guide (and What They’re Doing Now)

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When Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted in 1987, it felt like a long shot to succeed. The beloved original Star Trek crew was still wildly popular in reruns and a thriving film series, but would fans accept a sequel series set a century after the initial show and featuring an entirely new cast? The answer turned out to be a resounding yes, and TNG, as it is affectionally known by fans, went on to birth an entire extended Trek universe that continues to thrive today.

Set in the 24th century, Star Trek: The Next Generation chronicles the adventures of the crew of the Enterprise-D starship as they — like their predecessors before them — explore strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no man has gone before. Here is your guide to the cast of the series, taking a look back at the characters they played on the sci-fi classic (and, in some cases, are still playing!) and offering a glimpse at what they’ve been up to recently.

RELATED: Star Trek Timeline Explained, Including Two Kirks, Two Different Prequels, and the Return of Picard

Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart)

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Image via Paramount

Every ship needs a captain, and the Enterprise-D’s is Jean-Luc Picard. Finding someone to follow in the footsteps of William Shatner’s James T. Kirk was never going to be an easy task, and Gene Roddenberry, the creator of both the original series and TNG, was wise to land on an actor with a completely different energy about him. Stewart, a well-regarded British stage actor with a smattering of film and TV credits, made Picard the anti-Kirk – a stern tactician who is more interested in victory through diplomacy than throwing a punch. Thanks to Stewart’s commanding presence, Picard became a pop-culture icon, with the character anchoring seven seasons of TNG, four feature-film spinoffs, and a recent revival/spinoff series — fittingly titled Star Trek: Picard — that is currently streaming on Paramount+. (Season 2 debuts early next year.) In between playing Picard, Stewart headlined another franchise when he portrayed Charles Xavier — Marvel’s Professor X — across five X-Men films. Most recently, he played Merlin in 2019’s kid-based Excalibur tale The Kid Who Would Be King and stepped into the role of Bosley in the Charlie’s Angels reboot released that same year.

Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes)

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Image via Paramount

Whereas Picard is usually calm and collected, Commander William T. Riker, the ship’s first officer, can be more of a hot-head. As played by the at first unbearded, but later very bearded Frakes, Riker is a crucial member of the Enterprise crew who can lead the away team or stay behind to captain the bridge in the event that Picard gets assimilated by the Borg or something. While on the show, Frakes began pivoting to a career behind the camera. He directed eight episodes of the series as well as two of the Next Generation cast’s big-screen adventures – Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection. Elsewhere within the Trek universe, Frakes has helmed multiple episodes of Deep Space Nine, Voyager, Discovery, and Picard, and he has been an in-demand TV director for years, having called the shots for shows such as The Librarians, Burn Notice, and Leverage. He returned to the role of Riker for two episodes of Picard in 2020 and has also voiced the character in Star Trek: Lower Decks.

Data (Brent Spiner)

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Image via Paramount

Designed to sort of be the “Spock character” on TNG, Lt. Commander Data is a highly advanced android who serves as the Enterprise’s second officer and spends most of the series trying to understand what it means to feel emotions and be human. The friendship that develops between him and Picard proves to be one of the series defining relationships, and Spiner briefly returned to the role for season one of Picard. Spiner continues to work regularly as a TV and voice actor. He recently appeared in six episodes of Penny Dreadful: City of Angels and, in 2016, reprised his Independence Day role of Dr. Brackish Okun in that film’s sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence.

Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton)

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Image via Paramount

When The Next Generation launched, La Forge worked as the Enterprise’s helmsman, but in season two he shifted to the role of chief engineer, where he served for the remainder of the show’s run. Geordi is blind but is able to “see” using a distinct metallic visor that covers his eyes and feeds electromagnetic scans into his optic nerves. Geordi struggles with his disability at times but rarely lets it interfere with the job at hand. Outside of TNG, Burton is probably most known for hosting the PBS education series Reading Rainbow for 21 seasons. He’s an accomplished TV director and also hosts Levar Burton Reads, a podcast where he narrates a different piece of short fiction in every episode. If it were up to Twitter, Burton would currently be the new host of Jeopardy!, but, sadly, his considerable fanbase will have to be content with the five episodes of the game show he guest hosted in 2021.

Worf (Michael Dorn)

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Image via Paramount

Maybe no one stands out on the Enterprise-D bridge more than Lt. Commander Worf, a Klingon officer whose distinct forehead ridges defined the Klingon look from TNG forward. Worf is a character who often feels trapped between two worlds — the Klingon culture he left behind and the Starfleet crew that became his family. He is named the ship’s chief security officer after the death of Tasha Yar and eventually became the first main character to jump to a spinoff show when Dorn joined the cast of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine following TNG’s finale. More recently, Dorn has contributed voice work to shows such as Invincible, The Lion Guard, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis)

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Image via Paramount

Along with Worf, Troi is the other prominent alien in the show’s crew. Though she’s half human, her Betazoid half allows her the gift of empathic telepathy, which she often puts to good use as the ship’s counselor. Prior to being reunited as part of the Enterprise crew, Troi and Riker were a couple, and though the show often teases that the two may one day rekindle their relationship, they don’t formally get back together until the TNG cast had moved onto the big screen. Sirtis reprised the role of Deanna in Picard, where Troi and Riker continue to be happily married. She continues to act regularly in movies and on TV, having recently appeared in episodes of genre shows The Orville and Titans.

Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden)

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Image via Paramount

Dr. Crusher is the Enterprise’s chief medical officer in Season 1 of TNG, vanishes in Season 2 when she is suddenly transferred to Starfleet Medical, but then returns for good in Season 3 when she’s reinstated aboard the starship. The back-and-forth was the result of behind-the-scenes drama which resulted in McFadden being fired from — and then rehired for — the series. Crusher is responsible for patching up the crew, and she also serves as a potential love interest for Captain Picard. McFadden’s last on-screen credit was an episode of NCIS in 2017, although she’s also had a long career as a choreographer. (Fun fact: She was the director of choreography and puppet movement for Jim Henson’s Labyrinth!)

Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton)

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Image via Paramount

Almost certainly the most divisive member of the cast, Wesley is the son of Dr. Crusher and joins her on the Enterprise. At first, he is a nuisance to Picard (and sometimes the audience), but as time goes on Wesley becomes a valuable member of the Enterprise community and is eventually named a ship ensign. Wheaton left the series following Season 4, although he would continue to make guest appearances as Wesley down the road. He has gone on to have a diverse career as an actor, writer, and Internet personality. He notoriously played a fictionalized version of himself on The Big Bang Theory, where he recurred as Sheldon’s arch nemesis across 17 episodes. Wheaton is currently back in the Star Trek fold, hosting the Trek-based aftershow The Ready Room.

Katherine Pulaski (Diana Muldaur)

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Image via Paramount

Dr. Pulaski becomes chief medical officer during Dr. Crusher’s one-season absence, but the character departs the series when Crusher returns for Season 3. Muldaur recently appeared in Sidney Furie’s docudrama Finding Hannah, her first on-screen acting appearance in nearly two decades.

Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby)

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Image via Paramount

Yar is the Enterprise’s chief security officer during season one, but Crosby was unhappy working on the show, which led to Yar being killed near the end of that season. The character does reappear a few times thanks to some time-rift shenanigans, and Crosby eventually tackles a second role on the show when she guests in heavy makeup as Sela, Yar’s half-Romulan daughter. Crosby continues to act and recently had multi-episode runs on The Walking Dead, Ray Donovan, and Suits.

Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg)

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Image via Paramount

Guinan is a warm and wizened bartender who’d serve you a drink in the Enterprise’s Ten-Forward lounge and maybe throw in some sage advice at no cost. A fan favorite, she’d appear in 28 episodes of the series, and Goldberg is slated to the role during season two of Picard. (Although we’ll see how they handle Whoopi’s aging as Guinan is an El-Aurian, an alien species that ages slowly and can live for multiple centuries.) Here on planet Earth, Goldberg has been a host on the daytime TV talk-show staple The View since 2007.

Q (John de Lancie)

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Image via Paramount

Also returning for season two of Picard is de Lancie as the enigmatic Q, a godlike being who takes delight in toying with Jean-Luc on The Next Generation, often putting the human race itself on trial. Q appears in eight episodes of TNG, including the series premiere and finale. De Lancie has worked steadily as a TV and voice actor over the years, and in 2019 wrapped up his run voicing Discord on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, a character that was loosely based on Q.

KEEP READING: Why James Cromwell’s Zefram Cochrane Is One of the Best ‘Star Trek’ Performances

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Robert Taylor
(34 Articles Published)

Robert Brian Taylor is a writer and journalist living in Pittsburgh, PA. Throughout his career, his work has appeared in an eclectic combination of newspapers, magazines, books and websites. He wrote the short film “Uninvited Guests,” which screened at the Oaks Theater as part of the 2019 Pittsburgh 48 Hour Film Project. His fiction has been featured at Shotgun Honey, and his short-film script “Dig” was named an official selection of the 2017 Carnegie Screenwriters Script and Screen Festival. He is a features writer at Collider and also writes and podcasts about film and TV at CultSpark.com.

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