Re: Did TNG's Early Scope Shrink?
The reason the ship had families aboard was because it was meant to spend as much as 15 years away from a familiar port, and few would be willing to commit that much of their lives away from their families, so the ship had to be a full, self-sustaining community, almost a mobile space habitat, rather than just a workplace. The show started at "Farpoint," the most distant Federation port in the galaxy, and the ship was supposed to just keep going farther out from there, literally going where no human had gone before.
The way you describe it, it could have been like Deep Space Nine regarding character interactions and development.
A movie aiming low should not be praised for hitting that target.