Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’- S06E19 – Lessons

In the nineteenth episode of the sixth season of The Next Generation, I did not expect the unexpected. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Well, this is something I didn’t expect because Star Trek so routinely refuses to do anything like this with their episodes. I think that “Lessons” would be even more effective if the writers of The Next Generation had ditched their whole non-serialized format and given Picard a chance to pursue something beyond this episode. But one of my frequent complains about Star Trek has been their constant use of the same storytelling device: someone on the Enterprise falls in love in a short amount time. It is the kind of all-encompassing love that takes most people years to develop, but it usually happens in one 24-hour period. Then, it’s threatened! Something happens! Everything is awful! And then the other person dies or has to go away, and it’s all very tragic, and no one is ever allowed to have a relationship on this ship because… I don’t know. Who would even try after all these tragic occurrences?

We’ve all seen this unfold on this show time and time again. The details might be different, the resolution might differ slightly, but at the end of the day, the romance is there, and then it’s gone. We’re asked to suspend our disbelief in order to accept the tension or the stakes, and then it’s all washed away by the end. As “Lessons” began to slowly unfold, I expected the exact same story. From a distance, it’s really not all that different than other uses of this trope, but that’s because the details are what matter here. This is a very slow episode, but it’s done specifically to get us to believe. Unlike practically every other romantic-themed episode in this show’s history, the script for “Lessons” proves to us that these people were attracted to each other, that they fostered a relationship, and that they actually grew to love one another.

Of course, that means that a significant portion of this story is dedicated just to the build-up. Like I said, this is a very slow episode of the show, but I think it has to be. That’s part of the reason why this is so memorable. We get to see Picard flirt; we get to see the spark of attraction in him towards Nella Daren; we get to see the duets and how that builds respect between these two people. These sequences are long, detailed, and filmed beautifully. And truthfully, they’re unlike all the rushed moments I’m used to for these stories. I think this matters! I think it paints the growth of this relationship in a realistic light that feels refreshing.

Yet it’s not until nearly a half hour into “Lessons” that the conflict arises. I think that the episode suffers from that in one sense because it’s not the most exciting thing imaginable, but at the same time? I don’t want to lose all the cute flirting and the musical sequences. They’re done so well! I think this speaks to what I said earlier: limiting these stories to non-serialized narratives makes them feel incomplete at times. But I did like that this episode asks a very serious question about what is ethically right for Picard to do in this situation. Will he become biased in favor of Nella? Will his judgment be clouded if he dates someone under his command?

I think those are really important questions to ask, and I think it’s admirable of the show to have Picard raise them! He’s aware of the power dynamics at hand, and he wants to proceed in a way that doesn’t abuse them. (Ahem… Kirk, you could learn a lesson from this.) He consults both Deanna and Riker about his conduct. And when Nella is sent down to the Federation outpost to help with the evacuation, Picard has to challenge his own perception of events. Is he worried more than usual? Is he concerned about sending her to the outpost because he cares or because his judgment faulty? Where do you draw the line?

I think the ending of “Lessons” is perhaps the saddest of all the romance-themed episodes we’ve seen because in this instance, there is some quiet serialization going on here. Picard has made a choice in being who he is. As Dr. Crusher says at one point, his life is private for the most part. He chooses to be alone, he doesn’t seek out companionship, and he almost always places his responsibilities as a captain over everything else. After falling for Lt. Commander Daren, he starts to question his loyalties, not in the sense of betraying Starfleet, but in where his energy is directed. He worried about Nella, more than he worried about most other people under his command. It was his duty to send her on the away team, since she was the most qualified, but could Picard do that every time she was needed? Or would he be too close to her to be able to deal with the anxiety that it caused?

At the end of this, he chooses loneliness. He chooses his career. He chooses Starfleet. That doesn’t mean that Nella is out of the picture completely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we never saw her again. She’s most likely not going to be part of Picard’s life in any significant way. Is that the “lesson” referenced in the title? I think so. Perhaps Picard would be best suited with someone who isn’t in Starfleet. Even then, how could someone like that ever be a part of Picard’s life? I can’t imagine how, which is too bad because DR. CRUSHER IS RIGHT THERE. RIGHT. THERE. She even got a shot of her being sad in this episode! Come on, The Next Generation. Make it happen!

The video for “Lessons” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be seasons 1 & 2 of The 100, Death Note, and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
This entry was posted in Star Trek, The Next Generation and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.