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What I Learned from Jean-Luc Picard

Written by Gary North on June 30, 2014

I don’t think dramas initiate social change, but they certainly reinforce it.

The only work of fiction that I can think of in American history that visibly changed society was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. But it was a literary adaptation of an idea that was spreading rapidly: abolitionism. It reinforced an existing trend.

Because fictional presentations of an idea can grab people’s attention, occasionally we can learn some principle more readily. We have a hook on which to hang the idea.

I got to thinking of this with respect to my favorite episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I did not watch the series initially. My teenage son persuaded me to watch it after it had already become popular. He would record the show during the week, and we would watch it on Sundays. That was my day off.

I was never a Trekkie, but I enjoyed the show. My favorite character was introduced later, Lieut. Worf. Sometimes the writers gave him the funniest one-liners in the history of the series. They were funny because they came out of his mouth. Also, I was impressed with Michael Dorn’s tremendous achievement: nobody recognizes him when he goes out in public. The only other celebrity like him was Gene Simmons of KISS. I spotted Simmons’ advantage in 1975. I never saw or heard KISS, but I immediately saw what Simmons had done — and with a name stolen from an actress.


I got to thinking about the series. The three shows that I remember best all had to do with time. One was the show where there was a time loop, which is a kind of Star Trek version of Groundhog Day. It preceded Groundhog Day by one year. I am not the first person to note the similarity. The Web has lots of links to this connection. It was titled “Cause and Effect.” Of course, the time loops really weren’t, in either show. They were semi-loops. Picard learned in each successive loop, finally finding a way out. Bill Murray’s character did, too. He become a decent man: progressive sanctification. That finally let him out of the loop. All’s well that ends well.

Problem: there are no time loops. Sad, but true.

The second episode that I most recall is among the most beloved of the entire series, “The Inner Light.” A space probe gets close to the Enterprise, and it renders Picard unconscious. He then relives a lifetime of a simple man on a distant planet. It turns out that the planet had been destroyed 1,000 years earlier. The justification for sending out a probe with the built-in memories of one representative of the entire civilization was this: the planet’s people wanted to be remembered. They wanted to have a sense of significance, and they hoped to maintain this significance by means of another person’s memories. His story could give them all significance, but only retroactively. Another man might learn their story from the probe, and then impute value to it.

(For the rest of my article, click the link.)

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14 thoughts on “What I Learned from Jean-Luc Picard

  1. It’s locked, members only – can’t get in.

  2. kbreedlove50 says:

    Bummer. I like The Inner Light, too. I wonder where he's going with this. I liked Jean-Luc, but he was a we-don't-need-no-stinkin'-money one-worlder. The theme song of the show should have been Kumbaya, but I still liked it and watch it on re-runs.

  3. I find it very frustrating to subscribe to a newsletter, read an article, click on successive links to keep reading the article, and then find a dead end because you need to subscribe to yet another newsletter to finish the article. Not fun, not funny. I may unsubscribe to to this newsletter.

  4. Clay Collins says:

    I must say, I am disappointed by your membership recruiting tactics. Letting one read part (not sure if it is even half) of an article and then requiring payment to finish reading is most likely to result in anger than a paid subscription. A better way may be to ask at the end of the article, if I would like to read more to please become a member.
    I find I must give serious thought as to continuing to receive your newsletter and whether or not I provide any future financial support

  5. Hold on, you've got some prejudice on your face. Best wipe it off.

  6. Centurian says:

    Hey, for only $14.95/month you can get the rest. I support that Gary has the right to do this with his material. Unfortunately for him, I also have the right to opt not to participate. That is an expression of liberty by both of us!

  7. After the teaser preview and being locked out, I'm too annoyed to care about the rest of the article.

  8. I too am extremely disappointed in the fact that this newsletter is so shallow as to stoop to these desperate tactics. I “had” enjoyed the articles this newsletter provided. But recently, they are all about promotion of other sites and or underhanded tactics to take what little precious money I have. I’m extremely saddened and disappointed by the crap actions of this once great newsletter.

  9. Apparently it was just an error. I just tried, and it's been corrected; you can link through to the entire article.

  10. thaneeichenauer says:

    I disagree with all the complainers above. You don't have to click the link, you don't have to subscribe to North's newsletter, you don't have to pay one red cent… if you don't want to. You have been freely given a portion of a wonderful article. I found the portion North made freely available to be worth my time and effort. I am better off for it being here. If I think the remaining portion is valuable I will choose to exchange my personal property (money) for access to it.

  11. 1775Concord says:

    Uncle Tom's Cabin, OK.
    Too bad the US isn't more influenced now by 1984, Animal Farm, The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged as eye-openers for the underinformed.
    The Jungle, novel, led to changes in meat packing and later health reforms.

  12. I don't have a subscription and I was able to click the link and read the entire article. Like Susan said must of been a glitch folks. Relax, take a chill pill and don't make rash judgements.

  13. bluejacket says:

    This article had quite an impact on me, and gave me a moment of pause, and then, reflection due primarily to the fact that I saw, and remember every episode of STNG that the author referenced. Wow! Well done!

  14. Wipe your own face Shane, before you tell others to wipe theirs.