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"Star Trek: The Next Generation" is headed for TV's final frontier, but Paramount Communications Co. hopes that ending the hit series will help the franchise live long and prosper.

The move to cancel the syndicated show after seven highly rated and lucrative seasons reportedly came as a surprise even to the show's cast and crew.

But Paramount is said to be eager to phase out the franchise's current "Star Trek" movie crew in favor of the younger "Next Generation" group.

The first "Next Generation" film arrives in theaters in December. Then in January, Paramount will launch its new TV network, to be anchored by a new "Star Trek" series called "Voyager." "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine," which bowed in early 1993, will continue to run in syndication.

Paramount is already prospering from the sold-out finale, fetching upwards of $700,000 per 30-second unit, believed to the highest commercial rate ever paid for a syndicated TV series.

The final episode starts running tonight in some markets.

Helping to hype the series finale: a sweepstakes cross-promotion with TV Guide and a novel based on the last episode.

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