I am not really sure how anyone could choose Kirk over Picard in any sort of competition because Picard is simply an amazing human being. He prizes integrity and truth above all else, with loyalty a close second (personal loyalty and honor come before loyalty to the Federation, whose authority he is willing to question if he believes that they are wrong). Patrick Stewart imbues him with natural gravitas, and he is at his best when portraying a broken man, which he gets the opportunity to do multiple times. Riker, his Number One, is eminently likable, even if he's a bit caddish at times; if Picard is the dad, then Riker is the cool big brother. Jonathan Frakes occasionally gets to show his chops when Riker gets meatier stories about his conflicted loyalties, struggling with his personal ambition and his duty to the Enterprise. Data, predictably, was one of my very favorite characters because he's an android who wants to be human! Brent Spiner is fucking fantastic, and the show takes full advantage of his skills by allowing him to play multiple characters and show different sides of Data. Worf, surprisingly, was also one of my very favorite characters because he's a Klingon who has grown up in a human world, and thus he experiences a huge cultural conflict, wanting to stay true to his Klingon roots despite preferring some of the beliefs he's learned from humans. Worf episodes were usually strong because of his ongoing story, and Michael Dorn took what could have been a simple RAWR WARRIOR character and made him someone far more complex. Dr. Crusher is always the smartest human in the room (also the hottest), and I loved how her scientific mind constantly worked to solve problems. Gates McFadden sold her as a strong, independent, intelligent woman with a sharp sense of humor. LaForge also worked problems with science, and I loved his friendship with Data. LeVar Burton rarely got to do more than be amiable and knowledgeable, but he did that well! Troi, uh, sensed really obvious emotions with her mind. Marina Sirtis, uh, did the best with what she had.
The core main cast acquitted themselves well, but the show also had great recurring characters, like John DeLancie's Q, space trickster, and Whoopi Goldberg's Guinan, space bartender. Special credit to Whoopi Goldberg for turning a cryptic advice-giving cipher of a character into one of the most memorable figures in the show, thanks to her warm presence and sense of infinite knowledge, like she was a retired Doctor. And of course familiar faces continually turned up in guest roles (Ashley Judd??).
Over the course of seven seasons, TNG told a lot of different kinds of stories, and I enjoyed most of them. Holodeck episodes were usually a good time, especially when Data played Sherlock Holmes. I loved how both the holodeck and the transporter were basically story phlebotinum, able to malfunction in new and interesting ways when it would make for a cool story. The show dipped into the time travel well quite a bit too, usually to good effect. New alien races provided a source of material as well, and aliens were generally denoted by looking completely human except for, like, a fucked-up brow ridge. Since that's how evolution works! My three favorite episodes were "The Measure of a Man," "Remember Me," and "Darmok," each notable in its own way, but I loved a lot of episodes and admired the storytelling. The show often faltered with two-parters, either setting up more than it could pay off, or stretching a one-episode plot to two, but I still mostly enjoyed those as well (I finally know why it matters that THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS). And endings, boy, does this show know how fuck up endings. Even though it's more serial than the original series, and the various ongoing plotlines and callbacks were awesome, it is at its heart an episodic show, meaning things have to return to the status quo at the end, so there's usually a rushed resolution, and then some meaningful exchange as characters look out into the stars and the episode abruptly ends. Thankfully, the series finale is easily one of the best ever, beautifully tying the series together and giving the characters a proper sendoff.
I am going to miss my spaceship babies, but I skipped half the episodes, so they will always be there, waiting for me! I've gone where no one has gone before (except, uh, most of everyone), and I'm already itching to go back.