6 Lessons from Star Trek TNG

I'm a big fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was by far the best series of the franchise, although Deep Space Nine had some excellent seasons and episodes as well. You know you're a Trekker when you refer to classic episodes for guidance in life. Here are some notable lessons from some classic episodes:

1) Ensigns of Command- In this episode, Data must convince human colonists to evacuate their world, because the Federation has ceded it to the Sheliak. Meanwhile, Picard has to negotiate with the Sheliak for more time to evacuate the colonists, otherwise the Sheliak will "eradicate the human infestation."

This episode was a classic lesson on how to negotiate, hardball. Picard tries to appeal to the Sheliaks' compassion, but discovers that the Sheliak have none. Picard eventually resorts to looking at the treaty between the 2 races:

"Let's look at that treaty. They've been beating us over the head with it. Let's see if there's something in there we can use to our advantage."

Sure enough, Picard finds a clause within the treaty that postpones Sheliak colonization for a few months and buys the colonists some more time for the move. It's a lesson in labor relations.

Bottom line: Whenever something is in dispute at work, always look at the union contract.

2) Relics- Scotty from the original series is brought back after being suspended in a transporter for 75 years. Scotty meets Geordi and gives him some sage advice:

Geordi: "I told the Captain I would have this diagnostic done in an hour."

Scotty: "And how long will it really take you?"

Geordi: "An hour."

Scotty: "Oh, you didn't tell him how long it would really take, did you?"

Geordi: "Of course I did."

Scotty: "Oh, laddie, you have a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker."

Bottom line: Underpromise, overdeliver.


3) Tapestry- Here's the Star Trek version of "It's A Wonderful Life." In this episode, Picard dies from an energy blast to his artificial heart and meets Q in the afterlife. Q asks him how he got the artificial heart, and Picard relates that he was stabbed in the heart when he got into a fight with some Nausicaans during his time at the academy. Picard expresses regret over having been a womanizing hellion in his younger days.

Q gives him a chance to relive that time and change the course of his life. Picard doesn't fight the Nausicaans, and he doesn't get stabbed through the heart. Q brings Picard back to the present, where he is alive and well but no longer a captain. He's a lowly Lieutenant, junior grade, conducting mundane experiments in the astrophysics department with an unremarkable career.

Picard protests to Q, "I can't live out my days as that person! That man is bereft of passion... and imagination! That is not who I am! [...] I would rather die as the man I was than live the life I just saw."

And Q responds:

"The Jean-Luc Picard you wanted to be, the one who did not fight the Nausicaan, had quite a different career from the one you remember. That Picard never had a brush with death. Never came face to face with his own mortality. Never realized how fragile life is or how important each moment must be. 

"So his life never came into focus. He drifted through much of his career, with no plan or agenda, going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves. He never led the away-team on Milika III to save the ambassador, or take charge of the Stargazer's bridge when its captain was killed. And no one ever offered him a command. He learned to play it safe – and he never, ever, got noticed by anyone."

Bottom line: Things happen in your life for a reason and make you who you are.

"There are many parts of my youth that I'm not proud of... there were loose threads... untidy parts of me that I would like to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads... it had unraveled the tapestry of my life."- Captain Jean-Luc Picard

4) Measure of a Man- In this episode, Data's status as a life form is called into question. A Starfleet scientist wants to dismantle Data and analyze how he was constructed so that he can make more androids. Data refuses to undergo the scientist's examinations and a judicial hearing is established to determine Data's status: is he a sentient being or is he just a walking toaster and hence property of Starfleet? Dialog between Guinan and Picard puts things in perspective and raises the question:

How do we treat others who service us?

Guinan: "Consider that in the history of many worlds there have always been disposable creatures. They do the dirty work. They do the work that no one else wants to do, because it's too difficult or too hazardous. And an army of Datas, all disposable? You don't have to think about their welfare; you don't think about how they feel. Whole generations of disposable people."

Picard: "You're talking about slavery."

Guinan: "I think that's a little harsh."

Picard: "I don't think that's a little harsh, I think that's the truth. But that's a truth that we have obscured behind a... comfortable, easy euphemism. 'Property.' But that's not the issue at all, is it?"

5) All Good Things... - The final episode of TNG has to be one of the best series finales of any TV show. Series finales are usually sappy, awkward and overly sentimental. This episode served not as goodbye (since movies were on the way) but as a tribute to the characters of TNG and to the series itself.

In the series finale, Picard is shifting back and forth among 3 different time periods: the past, present and future. Picard is aware of an anomaly that threatens the existence of the Universe, and in each time period, Picard leads the crew to find this anomaly.

We find out, however, that the very act of looking for this anomaly creates it.

Bottom line: Seek, and ye shall find. So be careful what it is you seek.

6) The Best of Both Worlds- The Borg serves as a blatant metaphor for racial and cultural assimilation. Seriously. You've got pasty white guys dressed alike saying you'll be assimilated. If that ain't a blatant metaphor, then I don't know what is:

"Resistance is futile. We wish to improve ourselves. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service ours."

Bottom line: Rage against the machine.


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