Personally I think the mission originally intended for the E-D -- spending 15 years in uncharted space, making new discoveries, never dealing with the familiar races or politics back home -- could've been more interesting than the series we ended up getting. It's basically the sort of mission undertaken by the Titan
in the novels I and others have written about that ship, so naturally I have an affinity for it. But I'm not sure we ever really could've gotten that series. As others have pointed out above, even in the first season we had plenty of episodes about diplomatic or medical relief missions, or dealing with crises involving Federation citizens or border incidents with the Romulans. I guess the writers just couldn't think up enough stories that took place in uncharted space and didn't deal with familiar races and interstellar politics. So the focus of the show shifted, and might inevitably have done so even if the original creative staff hadn't been replaced. In that sense, maybe the "university village in space" idea (as I like to call it) was one that never would've worked out.
Although come to think of it -- why does nobody ever complain about the fact that they had civilians and family members on Deep Space 9? That station was hardly safe; it was in the most strategically important and contested part of the quadrant. So how come you never hear people raising the same objections to Jake and Keiko and Molly -- not to mention civilians like Quark and his family -- being on the station that they raise to families and civilians aboard a Starfleet vessel? Isn't that a contradiction? If fans can live with it on DS9, why can't they live with it on TNG?