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Unresolved Plotlines In Star Trek: The Next Generation

Launching in 1987 to great fanfare, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" revived the original "Star Trek" series with a new crew in stories and adventures aboard an all-new Enterprise. The series ran until 1994 and spawned four feature films with the same cast. Across its seven seasons, audiences would get more than 150 self-contained stories that were usually tied up within each episode's allotted 45 or so minutes. 

But every now and then, a story slipped through the cracks, whether from an open-ended conclusion that teased a possible return for a villain, a relationship that was never followed up on, or a character's personal journey that simply fizzled out over time. Some have been addressed off-screen, and in some cases, a deleted scene may have tied things up. Elsewhere, "Star Trek: Picard" helped to finish up a number of dangling plot threads from "Star Trek: The Next Generation," from the fate of ex-Borg Hugh to the android research of Bruce Maddox, two unresolved stories that surely would have made this list if not for 2020's new series. 

Still, plenty of story elements remain incomplete nearly 30 years after the show concluded, and we're here to give you a sampling of some of the unresolved plotlines left hanging at the end of "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

What happened to Lore?

Introduced in "Datalore," the android Data's evil twin brother Lore was also created by Dr. Noonian Soong. Though blown out into space at the end of that episode, he would resurface in "Brothers," where it is revealed he was rescued by a Pakled ship. After stealing Data's emotion chip, Lore escapes to parts unknown, only to return one final time in the Season 6 cliffhanger, "Descent." In this episode, he leads a group of ex-Borg and uses his emotion chip to manipulate Data into betraying the Enterprise.

At the conclusion of this story, Data defeats Lore with the help of the Enterprise crew and takes back his emotion chip, while Lore is deactivated and dismantled to prevent him from returning again. But what happened after that? In a scene in the "Star Trek: Picard" episode "Remembrance," Dr. Agnes Jurati shows Picard what remains of Dr. Soong's work and shows only the body of Data's third duplicate, B-4, from "Star Trek: Nemesis." No mention is made of Lore, forcing us to wonder what happened to his dismantled body. Given Lore's penchant for survival and the fact that his body isn't shown in "Picard," is it possible he found a way to escape and have further adventures in the "Star Trek" universe?

Interdimensional incursion (Schisms)

"Schisms" was a borderline horror story that saw members of the crew suffering PTSD and recalling disjointed images of captivity they couldn't fully remember. With Counselor Troi's help, they are able to piece together their missing memories and discover that a race of inter-dimensional aliens has been abducting crew members for gruesome torture. Unable to survive in our dimension, the aliens appeared to be attempting to find a way to exist in our universe by means of medical experimentation on the abducted crew members. To find the aliens and recover those they had taken, Riker arms himself with a subspace homing device — and a stimulant to stay awake — and fights them off in time to save a wounded ensign and return home.

Geordi and Data are able to close the portal the aliens used to abduct the crew and prevent any future incursions into our realm. But in the episode's closing moments, it's heavily implied that the aliens' intentions were anything but peaceful, and another invasion attempt could come. Unfortunately, we'd never hear from them again, and it's too bad because "Schisms" is one of the most satisfyingly creepy episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation." It would have been interesting to learn more about the inter-dimensional alien race that was torturing the crew of the Enterprise.

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Ethan interrupted (Future Imperfect)

A mind-bending joyride, "Future Imperfect" begins with Commander Riker awakening 15 years in the future as captain of the Enterprise, but with a major gap in his memory. While the ship is on a diplomatic mission to make peace with the Romulans, he's confronted with his new future life that involves a wife who has died and a teenaged son named Ethan he doesn't remember. But nothing adds up, and we quickly realize it's all some kind of ruse. At first, we think it's a Romulan plot to steal Federation secrets, but then we meet the real "Ethan," a lonely alien child whose mother left him stranded on the planet to escape invaders. Using a kind of hologram technology, the child — who's real name is Barash — created a lifelike future for Riker to live in and keep him company.

At the end of the episode, Riker makes it clear that the child doesn't need the deception, nor does he need to be alone — he and the Enterprise will take him in and give him a new home. The closing shot has Riker taking Barash back to the ship with him, but we never see the alien child again. Did he call the Enterprise his new home? Was he deposited at a starbase only to get lost in the Federation foster system? It's unfortunately never made clear.

Robin Lefler, gone for good?

Actress Ashley Judd portrayed Ensign Robin Lefler in two episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" during its 5th season, taking center stage in the episode called "The Game." In the episode, Wesley Crusher comes back from Starfleet Academy for a little vacation, and the two seriously hit it off romantically (the two actors have some genuine chemistry together). Unfortunately, Wesley's visit coincides with a sinister invasion plot by an alien woman using an addictive game that brainwashes the crew. Thanks to being distracted by their hormones, Wesley and Robin are two of the only people left who haven't been affected, and the episode's climax sees a chase through the ship as the brainwashed crew try to force them to play the game and join them in their takeover of the Enterprise and the Federation.

Thanks to their ingenuity, of course, they're able to thwart the plot and save the ship, but the episode closes with the two young officers very much in love and promising to stay in touch once Wesley returns to Starfleet Academy. But despite Wesley appearing a few more times on the show and in the final "TNG" movie, Lefler is never mentioned, and we never see her again.

Disappearance of the phasing cloak

Two different episodes of "The Next Generation" focused on the development of a new and potentially devastating piece of technology, the "phasing cloak." The new technology would allow ships and people to not just become invisible but also to pass through normal matter, making them virtually undetectable and indestructible. And it's being developed by both sides of the Federation/Romulan rivalry, too, with it first appearing in "The Next Phase." In this episode, an accident aboard a Romulan ship in distress makes Geordi LaForge and Ensign Ro cloaked and phased for the duration of the adventure. It reappears in "The Pegasus" in a story where a rogue Starfleet Admiral reveals that his old ship, once thought destroyed, had been using an experimental version of their own phasing cloak.

It's perhaps one of the biggest advances in "Star Trek" technology during the "TNG" era, and it disappears without mention the rest of the series; it's also absent in "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager." Admittedly, a Romulan treaty supposedly prevented the Federation from using cloaking devices, but the Romulans and other "Trek" powers seemingly had no such stipulation. Technology of such magnitude seems too important to not mention again, so it's possible that the writers felt the MacGuffin was just too universe-altering to be brought back and thus shuffled it off to the annals of "Star Trek" trivia.

Scotty's next adventures

The series premiere of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" famously included a brief cameo by an exceptionally aged Dr. McCoy from "The Original Series" as a passing of the torch from one crew to the next. Mr. Spock's father would pop up in a 3rd season entry, and of course, Leonard Nimoy himself would reprise his role of Spock in a two-parter that saw him attempt to re-unify the Vulcan and Romulan people. In the 6th season episode "Relics," the series would get one more visit from the classic "Star Trek" series in the form of Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott. Discovered trapped in a transporter loop for over 75 years, they beam the injured Scotty aboard, who reveals he jerry-rigged the transporter to keep himself alive when his ship crashed into a massive Dyson sphere. 

The episode is a touching story of getting older and ends with Scotty embracing life again, promising not to retire just yet. It's heavily implied that he still has more adventures ahead, with Picard and crew loaning him a shuttlecraft to get him started. While "Star Trek: Discovery" would tie up the story of Spock's attempted reunification, we never learn what Scotty got up to after leaving the ship. A handful of non-canon books and comics have chronicled Scotty's possible future exploits, but there's still a lot of story left untold on screen. 

Guinan and Q

Joining the series in the show's 2nd season, Oscar Award-Winner Whoopi Goldberg played the enigmatic Guinan, who tended bar, listened, and acted as Captain Picard's greatest confidant. Meanwhile, John de Lancie meanwhile played the omnipotent Q, a supreme being who made his first appearance in the show's premiere episode and would annoy the crew on and off until the series finale. But in the Season 2 episode "Q Who" — the one that also introduced audiences to the Borg — Guinan and Q come face to face, and it's obvious that it's not their first meeting. Guinan seems well acquainted with the all-powerful trickster, while Q is surprisingly intimidated by the purple-hatted bartender, describing her as "dangerous." Guinan even makes a mysterious hand gesture in a defensive posture that seems to suggest that she may have powers and abilities that could combat the Q — something nobody has ever been able to do.

But while it's made clear that Q and Guinan have a history, it's never once revealed what that history might be. His description of her as a dangerous imp leads one to believe it was not a pleasant history, and the pair may have had more than one confrontation. With Season 2 of "Star Trek: Picard" reported to include appearances from both Q and Guinan, perhaps we're finally going to get some answers.

Ro Laren's Maquis fight

Actress Michelle Forbes joined the "Star Trek" family as recurring guest star Ensign Ro Laren in the show's 5th season in what was likely an attempt to shake up the cast with a malcontent officer who didn't get along with the rest of the crew. Ensign Ro was serving time in a Federation penal colony when she was recruited by a corrupt Starfleet admiral who secured her release in exchange for her assistance locating a Bajoran terrorist. But with Picard's help, they expose the admiral and put a stop to his plans to supply Cardassian militants with illegal weapons and ships. Impressed by her integrity, Picard offers her an assignment on the Enterprise, and there she would stay for two seasons before supposedly departing for special training at Starfleet.

She'd return in the penultimate episode of the series, "Preemptive Strike," where Picard recruits her to infiltrate the Maquis terrorist organization that is raiding and attacking Cardassians and putting the Federation treaty with them at risk. But Ro soon comes to sympathize with the Maquis and opts to join them at the end of the story. While we do know the final fate of the Maquis, we never hear what became of Ro following her defection, or if she was one of the handfuls of survivors of their destruction at the hands of the Dominion who ended up in prison, as mentioned in the "Star Trek: Voyager" episode "Hunters."

Wesley's destiny

Right from the very beginning of the series, Wesley Crusher was declared a child prodigy with a special destiny. This is partially why many fans over the years have disliked the character, who often came across as a know-it-all genius and living MacGuffin. Still, he had a very clear path ahead of him, or so claimed the Traveler in his very first appearance in "Where No One Has Gone Before." In what was one of the first ongoing character stories, the Traveler tells Picard to help nurture the young boy and encourage his talents. Picard, despite his dislike of children, does so, and Wesley the wunderkind grows from a wide-eyed naive child into a brilliant, talented Starfleet officer. 

But on his return in the 7th season installment "Journey's End," Wesley comes back from Starfleet Academy with a sudden chip on his shoulder and is ready to quit Starfleet altogether. After another visit from the Traveler, we learn that this is not his path, and in the end, Wesley transcends his corporeal existence and goes on a metaphysical journey with the alien visitor. Normally, we might consider this enough resolution, but in the fourth "TNG" film, "Star Trek: Nemesis," we see Wesley once again, and he's shown back in Starfleet with little explanation. What happened to his adventures with the Traveler, and what was his destiny that had been spoken of so many years before? He apparently gave up his god-like power and returned to serve aboard a starship again, despite his earlier claims that it wasn't the right path, and audiences will never know why.

Troi and Worf's inexplicable romance

At the opening of the series, we learn that Commander Riker and Counselor Troi used to be a couple, and at one point, were destined for marriage. On a few occasions, it even seemed like they might rekindle their romance, but the pair remained just good friends through the show's seven seasons. We later saw both Troi and Riker getting involved with other people, from visiting diplomats to secret terrorists, but no pairing made any less sense than when Troi became involved in a passionate romance with the ship's resident Klingon, Lieutenant Worf. Though the writers did a decent job of setting it up by showing them becoming close friends, beginning with the Season 5 episode "Ethics" — followed by the discovery of an alternate reality in which they're married in "Parallels" — the fact is, the two never felt like a good match. 

But just a year after the series finale, where they're seen sharing a kiss, Worf would make the jump to the sister series "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," where he is shown as an eligible bachelor with no mention of his split from Counselor Troi. Riker and Troi themselves get back together in the movie "Star Trek: Insurrection" and tie the knot in its sequel. The wedding ceremony would have been the perfect time to mention off-hand how things between Worf and Troi had not worked out, but we get no such reference, and we're left to wonder what happened to the mismatched lovebirds.

Takeover of the Federation

Famous for its graphically gory climactic scene that has Commander Remmick's head explode from phaser fire, the 1st season episode "Conspiracy" sees the crew of the Enterprise become the target of an alien takeover. Captain Picard is first warned of danger by three fellow starship captains at the start of the episode just before a visiting admiral brings with him an alien space bug that can control people's minds, turning Starfleet officers into little more than puppets. The Enterprise heads to Earth to warn them, but it's too late: Starfleet's top brass have already been taken over by the mind-controlling bugs. But thanks to a daring plan by Riker and Picard, they're able to stop the alien "queen" and foil the takeover plot.

What's often overlooked about the episode is its ending, which sees Remmick — the host body for the alien leader — sending a mysterious signal out into space before he is killed. Just before the credits roll, Data makes note of the signal, calling it a homing beacon aimed at an unexplored part of the galaxy (presumably the home of the alien bugs). We then pan out of the ship and into space, where we hear the sounds of the electronic signal, giving the clear impression that the danger is far from over and a renewed attack on the Federation is imminent. Of course, no follow-up episode was ever produced, and we never found out anything more about the invaders.

Warp speed limitations

In the heavily allegorical episode "Force of Nature," a pair of alien scientists board the Enterprise to make a startling claim: the technology that powers every starship's warp engines — that have been used for hundreds of years — actually have a damaging effect on the fabric of space, and if they don't curb their use of warp soon, it could end life in the galaxy as we know it. When Picard and the Enterprise are left unconvinced, one of the scientists breaches his own warp engines and causes a catastrophic tear in subspace that makes warp travel impossible in the region, proving their claims once and for all.

The parallels with human-made climate change are hard to deny, and in the wake of the episode's events, Starfleet issues orders for all starships to limit their speed to Warp 5 until a solution can be found. A handful of subsequent episodes make passing references to Starfleet, allowing them to exceed the limitations for critical missions, but the issue is never really resolved. Over on "Deep Space Nine" and "Voyager," nobody follows the restriction, and it's never given an on-screen mention. Perhaps the limit on warp was too restricting for writers, too, because they opted to abandon it altogether with no explanation.