Parenting a Starship (S01:E18)

I’m examining the impact Star Trek: The Next Generation had on my formation. The introduction to this series can be seen here.

Coming of Age

While Wesley takes his entrance test for Starfleet Academy, Captain Picard endures a secretive and stressful investigation from a visiting admiral.

What stands out for me are two very important actions from Captain Picard:

A) In one instance, a distraught young man has stolen a shuttlecraft to run away from his problems on board the ship. Picard makes contact with him just as a major malfunction happens on the shuttle. Picard remains calm and talks the boy through his life-threatening emergency, even while managing a stressful situation of his own. But more than that, he also speaks very kindly and compassionately about the young man, forgiving him for a rash decision and treating it as an opportunity for growth.

B) When Wesley fails to win a spot at the Academy2 3, and expresses the disappointment he expects everyone to have of him, Picard encourages Wesley to “measure [his] success and failure from within”, and comforts him. He ends the conversation by inviting Wesley to continue their shared mission together.

Despite his famous dislike for and discomfort with young children, Picard repeatedly shows himself to be a nurturing man, capable of great parenting skills. Indeed, he approaches his leadership role as being partly about good parenting: in this case, forgiving mistakes, treating failures as a chance to learn, and encouraging and providing for growth opportunities for the people in his charge. He was honestly my first role model for learning nurturance and right relationship. I’m reminded of how much power there can be in the stories we tell ourselves, and I’m grateful I had these.

1. From
2. As an aside, I was vividly reminded of Wesley’s psychological exam from this episode years later, when I took my psych testing for ordination. Thankfully, I wasn’t required to drag anyone through the spewing futuristic wreckage of an explosion. But I totally would have been able to calculate the proper matter:antimatter ratio on any word problem they gave me.
3. Hey, while we’re on the subject of asides, this is the longest conversation Worf’s been given to date, providing Wesley with a pep talk before his psych exam. I enjoyed his “only fools have no fear” line then and now.

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