Star Trek : The Next Generation – Encounter at Farpoint 1.01

Encounter at Farpoint

Picard begins his captaincy of the new Enterprise. First task: solve the mystery of Farpoint Station. The crew is fully assembled for the first time, as Riker, Dr Crusher, and Wesley join the ship. And Q makes his first appearance, holding court against mankind with Picard as its representative.




Q’s First Charge

Simply appearing on the bridge, Q disrupts the Enterprise’s mission and eventually makes his charges against them clear:

Q:But you can’t deny, Captain, that you are still a dangerous, savage child race.
Picard:Most certainly, I deny it. I agree we still were, when Humans wore costumes like that 400 years ago.
Q:At which time you slaughtered millions in silly arguments about how to divide the resources of your little world. And 400 years before that, you were murdering each other in quarrels over tribal god images. Since then, there has been no indication that Humans will ever change.

Picard truly believes humans have evolved past human brokenness. Sin is no longer a problem in his eyes. Not only do I disagree with Picard based on my Christian beliefs, I also would argue that he’s wrong based on the actions of other humans in his own time period. The crew of the Enterprise gets along with each other for the most part, and they pursue knowledge and peace. But what are humans up to outside the Enterprise? And are things always so perfect, even on the Enterprise?

Supporting Q’s First Charge

If you peak at the next episode, ‘The Naked Now,’ you’ll see the basic desires of the new crew exposed. Infected by an inhibition-killing virus, the crew reveals what’s underneath their prim 24th century perfection. Wanton sex, despair, and jealousies are quickly unveiled. None of those may be enough to condemn the crew in their own courts. But in Q’s court, which looks deeper and acknowledges motivations, they would be found guilty on the spot.

Why do people kill other people? Why are wars started? Do wanton sex, despair, and jealousy have anything to do with it? Oh yeah! Find a war – even any of the supposed religiously motivated wars – and look at the source of the conflict. You’ll find someone sleeping with the wrong person or wanting the land that belongs to the other guy or some other jealousy that exploded into full-blown war.

Throughout the series, little jealousies are revealed. Little problems that don’t generally cause major conflicts, but are made of the same stuff that major conflicts are.

Geordi unintentionally mocked the integrity of a woman he’s never even met by basing a holodeck character on her. His inappropriate behavior stirs reasonable anger in the woman.

Barclay is a bundle of nerves, humiliating his coworkers and captain by creating a holodeck simulation in which they all appear fools. He does this because he misinterprets their orders in a work situation as judgments on his person. Does that seem like a reaction from someone within a race that is supposedly perfect? If Barclay is moved to have sexual fantasies of his coworker, and mocks his boss in private, what might the non-Starfleet population of the time be up to? Without the ordered lifestyle, wouldn’t tools like holodecks be used for even more devious puposes?

That's not very nice either. Understandable, just not very nice.

In Deep Space Nine, Commander Sisko harbors resentment for Picard, for the deaths he committed while he was unwittingly working for the Borg. Where does resentment fit in with 24th century evolutionary perfection?

The most glaring example of the failure of Picard’s theory is the classic Voyager episode ‘Equinox.’ It is discovered that another federation starship was carried into the Delta Quadrant by the same alien force that transplanted Voyager. This other ship, filled with Starfleet officers, has been killing aliens to gain speed on their journey home.

Disregarding any violation of God’s law the crew of the Equinox is at least in violation of their own law. According to the Bible, every person will have to answer for their violations against God’s law, even the people who didn’t believe in him. But just imagine every person is subject only to their own standards. Picard and the Equinox and everyone else is guilty in that sense. They can’t even manage to follow their own basic laws, let alone God’s!

Q’s Second Charge

Q’s initial claim that humans are a savage race seems proven. Even if we accept Picard’s defense, that humans have progressed beyond war, Q’s next charge cannot be denied:

Q: “And later, on finally reaching deep space, Humans found enemies to fight out there, too. And to broaden those struggles, you again found allies for still more murdering! The same old story all over again!

Supporting Q’s Second Charge

It’s true isn’t it? Hasn’t the search-and-discover mission of Star Trek usually been sidetracked by the fight-and-destroy aspect? Don’t get me wrong – I love a good Star Trek space battle. But it’s a little sideways isn’t it? Fighting Klingons and Romulans and Ferengi and Andorians until they eventually join the Federation looks a lot more Roman than United Federation of Planets.

I’ve always scratched my head at the philosophy behind Star Trek. It’s the future and everyone gets along. Okay. So what are the stories about? Every episode they encounter some mean alien. So everyone doesn’t get along then?

Just the humans get along with each other, the aliens are the ones that are jerks.

Convenient.

Picard’s Defense

And what is Picard’s answer to the two charges against his race? It’s so backwards, it’s laughable.

Picard: “No, the same old story is the one we’re meeting now. Self-rightous life-forms who are eager, not to learn-but to prosecute to judge anything they don’t understand or can’t tolerate.

When I rewatched this recently, I was actually confused.

I wondered, “Why is Picard condemning himself like this? He’s just emphasizing Q’s charges by admitting that he’s self-righteous, and eager to prosecute.” It took me a second to realize that he was making those claims not against himself, but against Q.

Think about those words applied to Picard though. It fits. It is the same old story. It’s just the next generation of the same old story. Self-righteous humans eager to dominate the galaxy with their version of goodness, their version of respect, their version of honor and dignity and peace.

Picard smugly asserts that his race was barbaric (in those centuries past, including the one in which this story was filmed), but has since reformed.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Picard. He’s one of my favorite ever characters. His attitude in this first episode is intolerable though.

Isn’t avoiding judgment for past wrongs exactly self-righteous? Picard’s species is guilty of committing horrible crimes – and continues to commit more of the same kind of crimes. Instead of accepting judgment, he demands that the judge is out of order.

Judgment

If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.” – Picard

Couldn’t have said it better, Captain.

We, the human race, are found guilty.

Sentence

It seems unfair perhaps for Picard to take the burden for the sins of his species? If it meant the survival of the human race, I could see him taking the punishment. People are supposed to be good in the 24th century, so I could see Picard dying for good people. Very rarely would one die for a righteous person, but it’s possible.

But if Q is right, and people are bad, then Picard would never die for bad people, would he? His love for the human race seems based on its ability to improve itself. If we didn’t have that ability, Picard might not be interested.

How great would his love be if he did die for the human race when they were still barbarians though? It wouldn’t make sense, but it would demonstrate that Picard really did love humans, not just their accomplishments.

Former Christian-killer Paul wrote to the Romans, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Even though we are unable to improve ourselves in any deep way, God loves us. Even though we can’t change our standing before the, God intervened and removed the punishment for us, by taking it himself.

In this Star Trek we have a picture of a pernicious, bored, and limited judge. He is judging an arrogant representative of a continually failing race. If Picard is found guilty, he probably deserves it. If he’s found innocent, that’s just as well because the judge doesn’t really have authority to judge him anyway.

Compare this show to the real situation, with God the creator as judge. Here is the creator of the universe and everything in it judging the part of creation that he gave the most to. He gave us sentience and wit and his own image. And we willfully ignore and even mock him. Even the people that claim to know him ignore him. Imagine saying to him, “This is the same old story. Self-righteous judges, eager to condemn.”

We have no place to say that. Because, unlike Q, God is righteous. And we are not. And we’re living in his universe.

Just as the judge is about to pass sentence, his very own son jumps in and shouts, “His sentence was already carried out! On the cross! I loved him while he was still trying to start wars and while he was still fantasizing about Deanna Troi, like Lieutenant Barclay did before him.”

Instead of having to prove our goodness by doing good works, like Picard had to relieve the Farpoint alien to impress Q, we have only to acknowledge Jesus to step between us and our deserved judgment.

**********

Next week on

Geeks of Christ

Trek Tuesday

Deep Space Nine : Emissary

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2 thoughts on “Star Trek : The Next Generation – Encounter at Farpoint 1.01

  1. Great article! I’ve always been and will likely always be a big Trekkie (claim the name!), but I do always harbor reservations about its unabashed secular humanism. Still, I can enjoy it and learn from it, even if the lessons are the opposite of what it sets out to teach.

    The point you raise about the Federation being imperfect is actually one reason I grew to like (after some resistance) DS9 – we find out that humanity is, in fact, still fallen and sinful, after all in episodes like “In the Pale Moonlight” and the whole Section 31 thing.

    All that being said, I do appreciate Trek’s emphasis on the good in humanity, when so much sf is bleak and pretty much totally down on the species (looking at the modern BSG here). I do believe we are fallen, but I also think the image of God, however scarred and obscured by sin, remains; and we are capable of doing some good, however limited.

    I also liked your bringing up the idea that “Q” is what most people think of when they think of God as Judge – and how God is definitely not like that! If Q were like God, Q would have gotten out of the judge’s throne and joined the crew as a human voluntarily (not like he was involuntarily made human in a later episode) in order to lead them to a better life. Karl Barth talked about God in Christ being “the Judge judged in our place.”

    Looking forward to your review of and reflections on Emissary!

    • Thanks for your thoughts and compliments!

      I am eager to dig into DS9. I’ve only seen a handful of episodes prior to this project. I’m finding it far better than I ever expected it to be. My recent introduction to Enterprise has not been as positive…

      Humanism: I toyed with using these articles to demonstrate TULIP, using TNG’s humanism to reflect Total Depravity and each other four series to represent one of the other Calvinist beliefs. Maybe Perseverance of the Saints could be illustrated using TOS and their screen longevity (25 years playing the same characters).

      I decided that would be a little over the edge.

      I do appreciate your comments and interest in this project. Hopefully the extra-length articles won’t scare you or other readers away – more manageable posts coming soon! I’m discovering that each pilot show and each special episode demands a more thorough review, running 1500-2000 words. And each regular episode review is only running about 500 words.

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