Posted in Monday Mayhem

From Utopia to Dystopia

I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation lately—benefits of having a Netflix subscription. So far, I’m halfway through Season 4, and by the time you read this, I will have blown past Season 5’s premier. Having watched the series during its first run back in the late 80’s, early 90’s, I’ve come to appreciate all the hard work that went into the show. From props, makeup, set design to story, music and characters, there is a bit of everything for everyone.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Crew
Star Trek: The Next Generation Crew

First, I will have to agree with you that it’s a strange conversation to talk about space, aliens and worlds from a far distant galaxy for my Monday Mayhem post. The thing is, I’ve always found something interesting when I watch Star Trek in that it has appealed to my sense of optimism. No one can say The Next Generation wasn’t way ahead of its time.

For instance, tablets of every size grace the hands of all those aboard. Many scenes with Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) features him in his ready room reading a report on what looks like a prototype for an iPad. He then quickly switches to a small device that looks like an iPod touch. From there, he scans the small display standing upright on his desk—again, another prototype for LCD monitors.

It is evident Star Trek is forward thinking in design and intent. Even today, the show does not look dated in any way. It still has lessons for all of us who are looking for something that would put life into perspective.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Captain Jean-Luc Picard

My biggest lesson I’ve gleaned from many of the show’s social commentaries is that the Prime Directive rules. For those unfamiliar with the Prime Directive, it is a moral code devised by the United Federation of Planets to prevent members from interfering with cultures, either at the cusp of development, or unwilling to have outsiders to work with them in any way. The idea is meant to discourage Federation members from imposing rule on a less than developed civilization against their will.

Funnily enough, many civilizations, in the context of progress and time, are not looking to change, but want to remain stagnant—drawn in their own ways, unwilling to progress from the ameba stage—whether intelligent or not.

One of those civilizations in the show, for example, is the perfect utopia. Visitors to the planet notice the difference immediately. The stark contrast of it citizens wearing a minimal amount of clothing in comparison to their visitors is intentional. Also, their laws are simple to follow and provides a sense of security to all those who follow the law. The planet, however, has one flaw. It isn’t immediately visible. If anyone breaks the law, even the least of these laws—perhaps accidentally stepping on a flower in a greenhouse—the sentence is quick and immediate. Death.

For this planet, the Prime Directive is a no-no. They will handle their own affairs in their own way.

And that’s what I’ve learned most from Star Trek—you cannot help those who do not want help. Try if you may, a person convinced against their will is of the same opinion still.

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Have you watched any of the Star Trek shows or movies? What have you learned from the series?

Posted in Wednesday Warriors

Captain Jean-Luc Picard

There isn’t a Star Trek episode I haven’t seen. There isn’t an actor from the multiple series or of the many movies who I don’t know their name. I grew up with Star Trek. I love the idea of universal peace and a Prime Directive that includes not interfering with third-party affairs. The technology may look dated, but the overall ideas remain valid even today. Can anyone argue that the idea of the tablet and cell phone did not come from the series?

Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard
Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard

For today’s Wednesday Warriors, I would like to take a few minutes to talk about Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

When Captain Picard took the helm of the newly christened U.S.S. Enterprise, he knew he had a crew capable of great things. For instance, his first officer William Riker (Jonathan Frakes) graduated Starfleet Academy with the ability to navigate a starship into a manual dock. The second officer, Commander Data (Brent Spiner), an android, can do what humans can’t do, but wishes he could become human nonetheless. Counsellor Deeana Troy (Marina Sirtis) is equally amazing as Jean-Luc’s telepathic aid. She has rescued the captain on more than one occasion by sensing the feelings of others. Then there are the other crewmembers that although they may occupy side stories, play an important role in the Captain’s compliment.

Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Captain Jean-Luc Picard

As for Captain Picard, his focus is on the Prime Directive. The rule simply stipulates that no member of Starfleet shall interfere in the domestic policies of societies or civilizations, no matter how primitive or advanced they are. The rule also prevents the captain from interceding on behalf of a weaker civilization, should the threat of war mean the extinction of their entire species.

Picard abides by a strict code of ethics that other captains would do well to adopt. Characteristics such as loyalty, integrity and honor are the captain’s currency for a disciplined life. Part of his duties is to instill a sense of confidence in his crew in order for them to act in accordance with their pledge to his leadership.

I can think of two examples that would emphasize Picard’s ability to lead.

First, the captain and Riker become prisoners of Bynar, aliens that have melded their intellects with computers. They have captured the ship and Picard enacts his right not to allow the ship to fall into the Bynar’s hands. Riker didn’t have to think twice. Realizing he would die, he follows the captain to take action against the Bynar threat by enabling the vessel’s self-destruct sequence.

Second, has all to do with how the captain takes a young ensign under his wing and rears him as his own son, leading his growth, which eventually leads to a placement into Starfleet Academy. Often times, Picard appears as a totalitarian, but it is necessary since his goal is to train the boy Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) in the way he should go.

There are other instances I could use to show how Picard as a leader, but I’ll save it for some other time. For now, I’ll leave you with the this thought:

If there was no Star Trek, do you think we’d have cell phones or tablets?

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Are you a fan of Star Trek? What do you think of Jean-Luc Picard?