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Destroying The Enterprise In Generations Shows TNG Didn't Understand Their Own Starship

Destroying The Enterprise In Generations Shows TNG Didn’t Understand Their Own Starship

The destruction of the Enterprise-D in Star Trek Generations was a stunning moment, but the proceeding TNG movies never fully recovered from it.

Star Trek Picard Enterprise

Star Trek Generations featured the stunning destruction of the Enterprise-D, the beloved hero ship from Star Trek: The Next Generation, a mistake that hindered the proceeding TNG movies in both big and small ways. The Enterprise-D was the primary setting for all seven seasons of TNG, the Galaxy-class flagship of the Federation. In contrast to the brightly colored, highly stylized future military look of Captain Kirk’s Enterprise in Star Trek: The Original Series, Captain Picard’s Enterprise-D had a warmer, more welcoming aesthetic while also boasting the top of the line in weaponry and defense systems Starfleet had to offer in the mid-24th century.

The Enterprise-D met its end in the TNG crew’s first film, Star Trek Generations, when it was critically damaged by the villainous Klingons the Duras sisters. With a warp core breach imminent, the ship separated into its two components; the drive section exploded shortly after it was evacuated, pushing the saucer section into the atmosphere of Veridian III, where it made a spectacular emergency landing. While casualties were light, the Enterprise-D itself could not be salvaged.

Why The Enterprise-D Was Destroyed In Generations

Star Trek Generations was written by Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga, two of the more celebrated writers from TNG. Moore and Braga wanted Generations to make a splash with big, shocking events that would have never been possible on the small screen. The writers assumed the most dramatic moment of the movie would be the death of Captain James T. Kirk in William Shatner’s final performance in the role, but the destruction of the Enterprise-D ended up having the longer lasting consequences.

Beyond the dramatic effect of the ship’s destruction, Moore and Braga believed it was time to retire the Enterprise-D; the ship was created in 1987, and the writers – along with producer Rick Berman – believed the Enterprise-D was beginning to look dated by the mid-90s and wasn’t up to the cinematic scrutiny of the big screen. The starship also happened to straddle a technological threshold; the Enterprise-D was rendered almost exclusively with practical models just as the industry was beginning to wholeheartedly embrace CG effects.

All The TNG Movies Would Have Worked Better With The Enterprise-D

The next generation picard enterprise D

The destruction of the Enterprise-D certainly made for a stirring, dramatic sequence in Star Trek Generations, but the following three TNG movies all suffered from the ship’s absence in different ways. The next TNG film, Star Trek: First Contact, is almost universally considered the best film featuring Picard and his crew. Yet even in that successful film, there are aspects that would have worked better on the Enterprise-D. The Borg slowly taking over the Enterprise-D would have been a more nightmarish scenario, evoking more terror as they took over such a well known and beloved location. Picard’s declaration that he thinks of the new Enterprise-E as home also rings a bit hollow.

Star Trek: Insurrection was the franchise’s big leap into fully CG effects, and many of them were unimpressive. The Enterprise-E looked ropey and cartoonish, never approaching the majesty of the gorgeous model work of the Enterprise-D. The bridge of the Enterprise-E also lacked the character of the Enterprise-D’s; gone were the wood-paneled horseshoe tactical station and cushy beige chairs, replaced by an anodyne collection of workstations and blinking lights. And while the CG was somewhat improved, the ill-fated Star Trek: Nemesis would have had more impact as the final TNG adventure had it taken place on the more iconic Enterprise-D.

How The Enterprise-D Can Return In Star Trek: Picard

Enterprise-D returns to Star Trek Picard

Star Trek: Picard seems to understand the iconic nature of the Enterprise-D. The very first scene of the series features Picard aboard the ship with Data in a dream sequence, and Picard later stops to admire a holographic image of the ship at Starfleet Headquarters. With the cast of TNG returning for Picard season 3, many have wondered if the Enterprise-D could somehow make an appearance.

Beyond flashbacks and holodeck recreations, it is possible the actual Enterprise-D could make an appearance. A mural in Picard season 2 notes that the ship’s saucer section was in fact recovered from Veridian III and put on display in the Fleet Museum. The primary setting for Picard season 3 is going to be the new ship the USS Titan-A, but producer Terry Matalas has promised the season will feature multiple Starfleet vessels, and both Patrick Stewart and LeVar Burton have hinted that the Enterprise-D might be one of them. Star Trek Generations made a serious misstep in destroying the Enterprise-D, but it’s a mistake Star Trek: Picard can rectify nearly three decades later.

Next: Picard Season 3: Every TNG’s Character’s Next Generation

Gene Roddenberry’s classic Star Trek franchise has been widely lauded for its vision and ambition. One of the most iconic installments of the series is “The Next Generation” which aired from 1987 to 1994. Despite its many successes, the decision to destroy the Enterprise in the movie “Generations” is arguably one of the biggest missteps of the show. It played a key role in undoing much of the work that was done to establish the ship as a symbol of hope and exploration.

Why did TNG destroy the Enterprise?

In order to advance the plot of the movie, the writers felt that the crew of the Enterprise had to have achieved their ultimate goal and save the Federation. In order to do so, they decided to sacrifice the Enterprise, with the iconic ship going down in a blaze of glory. While this moment provided a tear-jerking ending to the movie, it left many fans scratching their heads. It appeared as if the writers had destroyed the Enterprise for the sole purpose of advancing the plot, without taking into consideration the impact it would have on the story.

Frequently Asked Questions about Destroying The Enterprise In Generations Shows TNG Didn’t Understand Their Own Starship

  • What was the reason for destroying the Enterprise? The writers felt that the crew of the Enterprise had to have achieved their ultimate goal and save the Federation, so in order to advance the plot of the movie they decided to sacrifice the ship.
  • Was the Enterprise destroyed in any other Star Trek movie? Yes, the Enterprise was also destroyed in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and Star Trek: First Contact.
  • Did the writers of TNG understand their own starship? Many fans of the show believe that the writers didn’t fully comprehend the significance of the iconic ship and destroyed it without giving thought to the possible consequences.


The decision to destroy the Enterprise in “Generations” suggests that the writers of “The Next Generation” didn’t fully grasp the true significance of the iconic ship. The decision weakened the mythos of the Enterprise and underlined the fact that the writers were more focused on advancing the plot than on preserving the legacy of the much-loved vessel.


The decision to destroy the Enterprise in Star Trek: Generations was one of the most controversial missteps of The Next Generation series. Many fans believe that the writers didn’t properly understand the significance of the iconic ship, and sacrificed it to advance the plot without taking into consideration the possible consequences. The decision undid much of the work that was done to establish the Enterprise as a symbol of hope and exploration and weakened the franchise’s mythos.

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Min Jin Lee

Free Food for Millionaires, Min Jin Lee's debut novel, was named one of the "Top 10 Novels of the Year" by The Times (London), NPR's Fresh Air, and USA Today. Her short stories have appeared on NPR's Selected Shorts. Her work has featured in Condé Nast Traveler, The Times (London), Vogue, Travel+Leisure, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Food & Wine. Her articles and literary criticism have been frequently anthologized. She was a columnist for the Chosun Ilbo, South Korea's major newspaper. Her family and she live in New York.
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