TNG: S6E19: “Lessons”

In which I try something new and it winds up being a bit of a downer. 

Picard is wandering around on the bridge during the night shift to do some work. Incidentally, one of the advantages of the night shift is that the stellar catrography department (or other science divisions) can get communications blackout time that doesn’t disrupt standard operations. Given the ability to do warp factors at any interval, they can probably calculate velocities that always ensure the daylight shift is on duty when scheduled interesting things happen.

My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;

Instead of making his call, Picard tries to do some research, but the library computers are also down so Stellar Cartography can do things. Instead he’s going to go read a book and have some tea, but even the replicators are down for some reason. If they need every scrap of spare power for some reason, that’s one thing, but if it’s going to be something like quantum interference on scanning bands, they better think again because there have to be replicators somewhere on the ship recycling air. Looks like we’re going to find out, as once you interrupt the captain’s teatime you’re going to get a visit.

Scientists engrossed in delicate work get some leeway – the lead cartographer has no way of knowing that Picard just walked in when she snaps at him. Apparently, the door opening ruined the whole project. In a stunning display of courage, she not only fails to apologize for the inconvenience, but also berates him on his choice of tea.

The blackouts were, in fact, to calibrate precision gravitational readings that will allow the prediction of new star systems. While there’s a long wait, it seems like Picard and LtC Daren will just have to figure out how to fill the time.

Her hair and bone structure remind me a lot of Beverly Crusher. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will, And Will to boot, and Will in over-plus;

Whoever hath her wish, thou hast thy Will,
And Will to boot, and Will in over-plus;

Next morning, Picard is all abuzz about the exciting cartographic potential of whatever podunk nebula they’re whizzing by today. Will knows exactly why Picard is suddenly interested in this topic. Picard even serves Nella Daren’s herbal tea blend to Beverly at one of their breakfasts. He’s talking up his new infaturation and her interests to one of the two people who’s allowed to relieve him of duty.

So now I have confessed that he is thine,

So now I have confessed that he is thine,

Also, Nella is playing piano at the concert in Ten-Forward which Picard is attending. Whose job is it to move the chairs around and transport in the piano? Man, do they even physically move the chairs?

After the concert, Beverly clearly knows Picard well enough to know when to leave gracefully, and Nella demands Picard play some music with her.

Not long after, she shows up on the bridge being probably not more pushy than any other science officer would be in the middle of a critical experiment, but Chekov’s phaser is on the table and it’s fairly obvious she’s going to be abusing her relationship with the captain shortly. In fact, she shows up in his quarters with a portable keyboard and makes him play flute for him. Apparently, flexible electronic MIDI controllers are either amazing, or Picard is patronizing her.

Something that was bothering me about the ancient flute Picard picked up and I just figured out what it is – it uses the exact same note-octave structure as a European recorder. Not entirely surprising due to the way sound works, but pentatonic scales also exist. Still, it’s convenient for their jam session, and a really nice moment.

Nella has put a little spring in Picard’s step that hasn’t been there before, and even drops the stern captain act to challenge Riker to some fencing. Daren, meanwhile, goes to sixk bay to get her elbow checked out and starts the jealous undercurrent between her and Crusher. Then later she takes Picard to a secluded jeffries tube for another duet, and plays a song from another life.

Is someone cutting onions around here?

Problem, of course. The instant they’re not alone, Picard becomes immediately and intensely formal. Noting the potential issue, he has a quick word with Troi, and in fact it turns out there are no Starfleet regulations about a captain fraternizing with a fellow officer. Nothing about positions of direct versus indirect report, even. I suppose Starfleet must be incredibly confident that Federation society and Academy training are sufficient to nip any potential problems in the bud. It works for Picard at least – he’s very… up-front about it, with Troi and with Nella. And he even unburdens his soul to her about his experience ‘on’ Katan, and what the music means to him.

So, the payoff for Daren’s scenes with Riker where she asks for resources is that Riker goes to Picard about it to clear the air, and Picard indicates that she can ask for anything she wants, but Riker has Picard’s confidence and absolute lattitude to handle the situation without being second-guessed by Riker’s underling’s boyfriend.

Later, over drinks, Nella talks about how cool it will be to go check out the firestorms on the planet they’re heading to. After a brief talk about walking the tightrope between being effective and not seeking special treatment, the firestorms turn out to have changed direction, and dessert must sadly be skipped. However, Nella Daren also has experience dealing with this sort of thing, and her plan of layering thermal energy shields is sound in theory. The surprise evident in Geordi’s voice begs the question though – if ‘thermal shielding’ wasn’t designed and built specifically to stop exactly this sort of phenomenon, what the hell’s it for?

I also feel it’s important to note that to justify Daren’s presence at the conference table, they also stuck in another random blueshirt along with the senior staff.

Two loves I have of comfort and despair, Which like two spirits do suggest me still:

Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still:

Even with those shields, the storm will be lethal to anyone caught outside, so Picard tries to talk Nella out of being the one leading the shield deployment… outside… closest to the firestorm. But we do not forsake duty for personal reasons. Ever the stoic, Picard himself gives the beam-down order.

And predictably, the storm starts interfering with the transporters. Good thing every team took a trio of transport enhancers and set them up immediately at the shield sites? Oh ha ha of course not. That would be silly.

Looks like it doesn’t matter. The deflectors will need to be manually calibrated and maintained, and Picard orders the perimeter teams to stay down there until they finish evacuating the colonists. Who would colonize this planet? Call me boring, but I’m not signing up to live on a planet that needs semi-regular assistance from Starfleet not to be burned to a crisp.

Riker gets out with the last of the civilians, but only four of the six teams made it out as far as RIker knows. Nella isn’t on one of those four. She shows up with some straggler survivors, but not before Picard had the opportunity to experience raw grief. Similarly, Nella had a transformative experience scraping through by her fingernails. Sidebar, apparently one main difference between thermal shielding and standard force fields is that you can use a phaser to distort a thermal shield, where a forcefield would likely be hardened against such tampering.

In loving thee thou know'st I am forsworn, But thou art twice forsworn, to me love swearing;

In loving thee thou know’st I am forsworn,

I digress. Picard has lost people, or ordered them to carry out tasks which killed them. But the next closest to his feelings for Nella would likely have been Jack Crusher, which he spent a good chunk of the first season still feeling guilty about. And somehow, Starfleet hasn’t taken this kind of situation into account. They make half-hearted jokes about being able to stay together if the other one resigns, but we know that’s not going to happen. It’s the Captain’s curse. It’s why Kirk and Areel Shaw didn’t stay together, it’s why Picard and Phillipa Louvois didn’t stay together. The people involved may all be responsible and enlightened adults, but why doesn’t Starfleet have regulations against heartbreak, damnit?

Did we miss something awesome?