Posted by: rebeccajrobare | July 6, 2017

The Temptation of Knowledge: “Lonely Among Us”

Mission Summary: The Enterprise passes through a nebula that lights up with strange energy patterns. They don’t have time to investigate, however, because they are transporting two groups of delegates — predator and prey species — to a peace conference. While Lt. Worf is working at a sensor control, he is zapped by blue lightning emanating from the panel. Lt. LaForge calls Dr. Crusher to Engineering; when Worf comes around, he attacks LaForge, Crusher, and another crew member who has come to assist. Crusher sedates him, and Worf is transported to Sickbay.

Counselor Troi comes to check on the situation as Worf is coming around. She tells him that Crusher will explain what happened, but Crusher instead wanders off in a daze — unseen by Worf and Troi, the same blue lightning that attacked Worf has now entered Dr. Crusher. Crusher visits her quarters, where Wesley is working on warp theory. After listening for a little, showing an unusual level of interest in warp theory, she wanders to the bridge, citing the need to do research when Cpt. Picard questions her presence. While she works at a science terminal, the blue-lightning entity passes out of her and into the computer, where it interferes with the helm and warp drive. It returns to engineering, killing Assistant Chief Engineer Singh, who is trying to fix the drive, and then returns to the bridge, where it takes the opportunity presented when Picard puts his hand on the helm control to enter Picard.

Picard orders the return of the ship to the nebula, despite already being late to deliver the increasingly difficult delegates to their conference. He refuses to explain the order, and claims to be “too busy” to help Riker manage the delegations, leading Riker, Crusher, and the other senior crew members to become concerned about whether he has become unfit to command. Concerned, they request Picard report to Sickbay for medical and psychiatric exams. Picard retorts that he is too busy, and orders instead the examination of the senior crew members. They follow this order, and when Crusher returns the reports to him, he leaves them carelessly on his desk. But she has now figured out what has happened, with help from the hypnosis sessions Troi facilitated with her and Worf to recover their own memories of contact by the electric entity.

The entity has merged itself with Picard, and now that it has been discovered, it announces its intentions to the Bridge as a whole: Picard has agreed to partner with it. In return for taking the entity back to its nebula, the entity will take Picard with it in energy form, to explore the galaxy as a dual being unbound by physical form. Picard has submitted a resignation to Starfleet. The crew attempt to prevent him, but Picard, with the entity in tow, beams out into the cloud.

They search for him, but they are already late, and his resignation has been tendered. Riker reluctantly gives the order to resume course to the peace conference, but something goes wrong. A message comes through on the helm: the letter “P.” Picard, now an energy being himself, has returned to the ship, unable to maintain the merger with the original entity. In desperation they attempt to beam him back using a stored pattern to give physical form to his mind’s energy. The strategy works, and Picard finds himself in the transporter room, confused – he has no memory of what has transpired.

On Leadership: This mission finds the Captain suborned by an energy being, but uniquely, he agrees to its presence because it is able to offer him the thing that no one else can: Pure exploration, unencumbered by the limits of matter. No command decision made during this mission compares against this single, enormous dereliction of duty. This reveals a tremendous amount about Picard. He joined Starfleet to explore the galaxy. While he is an experienced career officer, now in command of an enormous new ship, and fully aware of the responsibilities he has to Starfleet, the Federation, the crew under his command, and their civilian families under his care, he would give it all up for the chance to explore further than Starfleet will ever take him. We see Picard’s ultimate motivation — and it’s pretty noble, in my opinion. Not love, not wealth, not celebrity, but knowledge. More than that, a knowledge he turned down during the prior mission in part because the opportunity for exploration in that case would have put those civilians in danger (see https://rebeccajrobare.com/2017/06/30/where-no-one-has-gone-before/). This time he can act in a way that puts only himself at risk. While distracted from his ordinary work, he announces his intentions and resigns rather than abandoning his crew without a word. Even while acting out of selfishness, Picard manages to be responsible.

This is instructive, because we all have that thing we would quit our day job for. It might be art, travel, study, or love, but we all have something that would drive or inspire us to make a radical change to our life. For many of us, quitting that job would require discussion with spouse or children first (and if not, a serious explanation afterward!), but Picard does not have a spouse or children to consider. He is respected by his crew, with friendships beginning to form as much as is possible for a commanding officer, but he is not close to them in the way of a family, and certainly he can trust that Riker will be a responsible captain until Starfleet assigns another officer to the post.

It doesn’t work out, however, and Picard is lucky in that he is able to return, apparently without consequences. (He says to the Bridge crew that he has submitted his resignation to Starfleet, but as he is able to easily resume his post I suspect that he had set a file to e-mail at a particular time in the near future.) Most of us are not so lucky; when we burn bridges they stay burned. Ultimately Picard is able to walk away from his command, and then walk back, and I have to wonder what Starfleet Command thought when they reviewed this mission recording! Regardless, I think I have to consider the final lesson of this mission to be self-knowledge: what would stir my heart and mind to such an extent that I would walk away from my life as it is? Which aspects of my life would I be willing to give up? (Not my spouse and children — I don’t think that thing exists — but I could imagine, for example, taking my spouse and children to a Mars colony, or adopting a more minimalist lifestyle in exchange for the opportunity to travel the world with them.) That degree of self-knowledge can be useful to us: first, we can structure our lives for the attempt to live as we truly want, and second, we will recognize our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity when it comes along.

What would you give up for the thing you want the most?

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Responses

  1. After I originally commented I seem to have clicked on the -Notify
    me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every
    time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment.

    Is there a way you are able to remove me from that service?

    Thanks a lot!

  2. I don’t see any way to change your notifications on my end — you don’t even show up on my follower list, so I can’t remove you from there. You may need to modify that yourself in your settings, but I will check with a WordPress expert to see if there is a way to change the notifications you receive from my blog that I am unaware of.


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