I'll get a song stuck in my head. Most times I can't think of the words and some times even the tune isn't there. Instead, it's the mere idea of a song. I'll tell someone I have a song going on loop. "Oh, which song?" he'll say. "I'm not sure." "Oh, well, what are some of the words?" "I can't think of any of them." "Well hum me part of it." "I really couldn't say. It's kinda…I don't know…" "So when you say you have a song stuck in your head, what you're really trying to say is you've got nothing." "Well…" I mutter lowering my head. "Nothing. Nothing I say," and then my friend usually laughs maniacally, shakes his head, and saunters off into the sunset.
Because I'm a nerd, today I had an episode of Star Trek stuck in my head. In a similar way, I couldn't think of any of the lines or most of the plot. All I remembered was it involved Q turning Picard into a low ranking officer, and I loved that idea. What causes a person to end up where they are? I remembered a single scene, Picard asking Riker for a chance to advance. To get it out of my head, I found the episode and watched it. It's Star Trek: The Next Generation, Season 6, Episode 15 - Tapestry.
The core of that scene went as follows. After low ranking Picard asked what they thought of him:
"You're steady…reliable…punctual," Riker said. "You see I feel I would like to move beyond…something that would even lead to command," Picard said. "Frankly Lieutenant I don't think that's realistic." --- "Hasn't that been the problem all along? Throughout your career you've had lofty goals, but you've never been willing to do what's necessary to attain them…Now we don't want to lose you. You're a very good officer" "Just not one that stands out," Picard said. "Why don't I talk to LeForge and see what I can do." "But, Command?" "Well, we'll see…"
It's not hard to imagine why this episode was stuck in my head considering how I've spent my free time for the last month. I know far too many people wrestling with the idea of potential vs. what they're currently involved in.
The final turn came from Q:
"No plan or agenda, going from one assignment to the next, never seizing the opportunities that presented themselves…he learned to play it safe and he never, ever got noticed by anyone."
Despite the bad acting and the preachiness, it had a beautiful theme of the consequences our choices make and the results they cause.
On top of that, the pacing surprised me. I'd remembered the episode starting with Picard as a low level nothing, waiting for Q to release him. However, that wasn't the episode. The first half hour was build up, showing how he could trap himself in that position. The episode only spent the last five minutes showing him as a low ranking nothing. Due to the slow build up, those five minutes resonated enough for me to remember them 6 years later.
If this episode had made Picard a nothing from the start no one would have believed it. Instead, it showed exactly what steps it took to get there, and while it wasn't the lesson I set out to watch, it's the lesson I'm glad I got. More importantly, next time this is stuck in my head, I'll be able to hum a line or two.
I was poking around, and apparently some consider this the best episode of the series. I don't know about that, but here it is for your viewing pleasure: