On Stardate 41153.7, I was introduced to the command of this new captain of the Federations new flagship Enterprise-D, commanded by the former Captain Jean-Luc Picard. In 1987, this was not my first experience with the Star Trek franchise, but it was the first time I became aware of the kind of man I wanted to become as I got older. Even at a young age I was enamored by this new captain’s intelligence, sense of honor and duty, loyalty to the people he served with, and the dignity and respect he exuded by his mere presence. He was not the more adventurous and futuristic swashbuckling predecessor of the former Constitution Class Enterprise but had a more familiar command style reminiscent of serving aboard an 18th century frigate. He was, “the very model of a modern major general”, “and his fist was ever ready for a knock down blow”, but his sense of compassion and justice for others was as much an inspiration to me then as it is now. Though being a fictional character of great renown, Picard is a man certainly worth remembering and has a career worth celebrating.
Captain Picard Day, a tradition that began on the Enterprise by the ships teachers was not an occasion met by the captain with any degree of exuberance. His lack of comfortability in the celebration was evident by the constant look of perturbation throughout the scene as he surveyed the affections displayed in the conference room where traditionally it was a place meant to develop strategy, intimate meetings, and diplomatic events that might shape the direction of an entire civilization. Arrayed before him were eclectic forms of praise and likenesses meant to honor the man whose career shaped the Federation though he could not bring himself to understand what its purpose was. The very idea of his being considered a role model was alien and even considered laughable when he found himself in the embarrassing position of having to explain the festive and brightly colored banner noticed by Admiral Blackwell over the viewscreen. The only time he managed a smile during the scene was when he awkwardly attempted to diffuse what he may have thought was the admiral’s distaste and explained his position to the children on his ship. Though he would not easily accept this honor, many who served with him knew him to be quite exemplary.
This human captain had the command of a more diverse group of officers than did Admiral Kirk who of course shared his command with only one-half alien Mr. Spock. Though Kirk's crew certainly met the definition of diversity, most all came from the same species and came from the same civilization that had already evolved beyond the barriers that separated them by nationality and ethnicity. This aspect of Admiral Kirk’s crew for the mid to late 1960’s was certainly thought provoking and ahead of its time, this new captain however had to contend with a multi species crew, and despite there being humans, not all were completely human and not all came from the same planet with the sobriquet, “paradise”. Captain Picard often found it difficult to address what should be his own healthy natural feelings towards others of his species such as his constant and most certainly complicated, “will they won’t they” flirtation with the ships doctor and bonding with her son. His romantic relationship was most obviously dedicated to his career and the guiding principles of the Federation that included the fundamental rights of sentient beings and the dignity and value of all life forms.
Data, his Chief of Operations, as well as Mr. Worf, his Chief of Security, benefited most from the admirable qualities of their commanding officer and later friend. As Data is one of my favorite characters not only in Star Trek but in all of science fiction, I shall speak of their relationship today. On Stardate 42523.7, the episode, “The Measure of a Man”, Mr. Data was put through the harrowing and undignified process of having to prove that underneath the layers of tripolymer composites, molybdenum-cobalt alloys, cortenide, duranium, and bioplast sheeting piloted by a positronic brain, that Data was in fact a self-aware, thinking, feeling, life form. Though his executive officer Commander Riker, against his wishes demonstrated with great veracity that he was nothing more than a machine, however advanced, he had no right under Federation law regarding self-determination. With some assistance, Picard’s counter argument was not to argue the relevance if he was created in a lab and composed of synthetic materials but to assist Mr. Data in expressing his emotional attachments and to explore our own definitions of what sentience meant. Earlier, with the help of his enigmatic friend Guinan, Picard then explored during the hearing what it meant to have a person be robbed of their right to choose and what that might mean for what could become a race of beings whose lives were disposable.
This case that was won in favor of Mr. Data, as well as many other examples, personifies the kind of man Jean-Luc Picard continues to be to this day in the new series and demonstrated the importance of celebrating his life. Service and duty were and still are one of Picard’s greatest strengths. While his service and duty to the uniform and the guiding principles of the Federation as he commanded his starship was what he was professionally known for, personally, his service to the people who inhabit the galaxy and duty to his friends continues to make him remarkable and memorable. Captain Picard Day was not a celebration he looked forward to nor was it something he understood. But throughout his long and distinguished career and beyond his retirement, Captain Picard Day remains important to those of us who know him well and continue to take part in his adventures as we celebrate the role model he has been for many of us for decades.
Captain Picard Day is celebrated on June 16th: "Engage!"
Charles Tyrrell, guest blogger for the fandombar.com Community bLog
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