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Recently I have begun the epic adventure of watching a series after its time on television. This means many hours of sitting in front of a screen, not having to watch commercials or wait a week, or a year, to see how it all unfolds. Often times when you should be writing the greatest poem you’ve ever written, you instead occasionally get sucked into some ghastly TV series with abysmal, trite acting from smarmy characters trying their best to act dramatic (and god-forbid actually funny), filling us with quiet horror. The symptoms after such excursions are as follows: A stunned sensation closely followed by confusion, acute anger, a longing to have everything you just wasted your time on erased from memory, and ending with a vow to write a letter to someone to make it stop. (One such show that fits perfectly into this category is Mental—the most offensive portrayal of mental illness I’ve ever seen, led by character posing as a wacky doctor, whose wackiness is just an extension of his ordinary narcissism. The show should have been called Cringe).

However, with a great love of X-Files, deep-space, and Patrick Stewart, I went merrily into Star Trek the Next Generation, created by Gene Roddenberry.

If you’re going to watch a lot of something, it’s best to have it be something that makes you a better person. This is the case in Star Trek. Laugh all you want about trekkies and dweebs and campy planetary sets—but you’re missing the point. One can easily live a better life with beam me up and set phasers to stun on their lips.  I’m finding myself constantly bringing TNG up in conversations about politics and human tribulations. For example, in Star Trek humans are no longer concerned with personal wealth (there is no actual money thus no marketing or advertisements) or material needs. True, 2010 is not a time when food and perfect martinis can be conjured up out of computer. Nor do we have the luxury of extra planets in which to cut down on over-population. But the human race in Star Trek (as well as many other interstellar races in the show) are now concerned with fulfillment of human potential. They’re curious. Their mantra is always the Prime Directive. The Prime Directive dictates that there can be no interference with the internal development of pre-warp civilizations, consistent with the historical real world concept of Westphalian sovereignty. This important law saves them from being imperialists.

In other words, we need to be more like Captain Picard. In stressful times he drinks Earl Grey and reads classic literature. He charges around the ship emulating bravery, reason, intelligence and finesse. All the main characters are extremely competent, trustworthy (there’s no locks on the doors they just open when you walk up to them. But I have yet to see a bathroom on the set) Finally, there is always some good, dry humor sprinkled throughout episodes.

Here are some good clips. Absorb. Indulge. Engage.

Klingon Men Read Love Poetry

Data trying to understand human humor

Captain Picard\’s Speech

Earl Grey. Hot.

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Bianca is a poet and artist, and is the author of the chapbook Someone Else's Wedding Vows from Argos Books. She has been published in such magazines as Best American Poetry 2011, Conduit, and American Poetry Review. She is the cofounder and editor of Monk Books. Her next book, Antigonick, a new kind of comic book, and collaboration with Anne Carson, will be out in 2012 from New Directions. She lives in Brooklyn with the poet Ben Pease and their cat Commander Riker.

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  • Christopher Phelps April 13, 2010, 3:50 am

    So my first comment on this blog is — damn it — a shout out to Star Trek, The Next Generation (TNG), which I grew up watching. But that’s only fitting, as I took my values from it in more ways than a child realizes until later.

    TNG is that rare creature in the sci-fi world: remotely plausible. TNG’s take on our future is neither utopian nor dystopian but nuanced, hopeful, plucky, capable of self-correction.

    Besides the Prime Directive and the obsolescence of an economy based on scarcity, there are other lessons the TNG future learned. Like how to integrate technology without abandoning our humanity to it. There is little genetic manipulation, for example. Future medicine is careful to distinguish disease from diversity (Star Trek’s way of commenting on issues of heteronormativity). This is made easier by the presence of so many alien species. When there are so many kinds of normal around, it’s harder to insist there is only one, or two, or few.

    I’ll stop here, for now. But thanks for doing this.

  • kevin marshall August 8, 2013, 1:15 am

    big ups to TNG – best series ever in the trek universe

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