Star Trek Canon Database

Displaying 1 to 8 of 8 records.

Database started: 1999-07-27
Page generated: 2017-10-19

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TNG Season 2, Ep# 41: "Pen Pals"

RIKER: I need your advice and recommendations. I was given the responsibility of overseeing Wesley's education. To further that goal I want to put him in command of the planetary mineral surveys.

Command Structure: they've taken a boy with no military training whatsoever, given him an honorary rank because some nomadic fruit told Picard he had potential, and now they're actually putting him in command of several real officers?

TNG Season 2, Ep# 41: "Pen Pals"

DATA: Captain, Drema Four is enduring the same geological stresses we have found in the other systems.

PICARD: Then your pen pal is in trouble.

DATA: Yes, sir.

PICARD: What are you proposing?

DATA: If we can determine the cause of the geological instability, we might be able to reverse the process.

PICARD: And violate the Prime Directive.

Culture: the Prime Directive rears its ugly head again. This time, they apparently consider it immoral to save a civilization from imminent destruction. Only in the twisted world of the Federation could such a thing become immoral, because their entire concept of right and wrong is based on adherence to legal constructs such as the Prime Directive.

It's very much like Americans and Canadians who attempt to resolve every ethical question by quoting our respective constitutions. They don't realize that the constitutionality (or lack thereof) of an idea has nothing to do with its morality. If something is constitutional, that only means it's legal, not necessarily ethical.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 41: "Pen Pals"

PICARD: In this situation we must use caution. Our actions could have a profound effect upon the future. If we could see all possible outcomes --

RIKER: We would be gods, but we're not. If there is some cosmic plan, isn't it the height of hubris to presume that we can, or should, interfere?

GEORDI: So what are you saying? That the Dremans are fated to die?

RIKER: It's something that needs to be considered.

GEORDI: Well, consider it considered, and rejected.

TROI: If there is a cosmic plan, are we not part of it? Our presence at this place at this moment in time might be part of that fate.

GEORDI: So it might be part of the plan that we interfere.

RIKER: I think that eliminates the idea of "fate."

Culture: what a load of metaphysical crap. All this talk of "fate" and the great "cosmic plan" is the sort of nonsense that people have supposedly outgrown in the 24th century. The discussion is supposed to be about legality and ethics, not superstitions about fate.

When people start believing in fate, or a great cosmic plan, and try to predict its wishes, they're doing the same thing that religious zealots do when they try to justify questionable actions by saying that they're following "God's Will". They're taking ethical issues and debating them not on the basis of morality, but on the basis of adherence to a mysterious, unknown, unknowable "plan". It's a red herring and it generally signals the end of meaningful, rational debate.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 41: "Pen Pals"

PULASKI: The Prime Directive was designed to protect, not destroy.

PICARD: So Doctor, you draw the line at the death of millions.

PULASKI: Yes.

PICARD: Same situation if it's an epidemic rather than a geological catastrophe?

PULASKI: Absolutely.

PICARD: How about a war? A generations-long conflict that is killing millions. Do we interfere?

(everyone falls silent)

PICARD (continuing): Now we're less secure in our moral certitude. And what if it's not death. What if it's an oppressive government which is enslaving millions?

The Prime Directive serves many purposes. Not the least of which is to protect  us. It keeps us from allowing our emotions to overrule our judgement.

Culture: maybe Picard can win them over with this nonsense, but step back and listen to what he's saying. Supposedly, it's immoral to interfere because we don't have the right to impose our cultural values on another society. That sounds fair enough, but where do culturally specific values stop and absolute moral values begin?

Is the sanctity of sentient life a mere "cultural value", subject to moral relativism and not applicable to other societies? There's a big difference between saving peoples' lives (especially when you're saving them from a natural catastrophe rather than self-inflicted cruelty) and forcing them to accept your Messiah or observe your rituals.

Picard uses a variation upon the "slippery slope" argument here. The "slippery slope" argument is often used as an excuse for extremism; it is used to justify extreme positions by arguing that any movement from one extreme toward the middle will lead to an inexorable slide toward the other extreme. The phrase "where do you draw the line" is heavily used in this sort of argument, with the implication being that one should choose between one of two absolute positions rather than drawing any line at all. Notice that Captain Picard uses this same argument, even using the exact phrase "draw the line", in the perjorative sense in which extremists usually say it.

This is the height of hypocrisy; this is the same Captain Picard who once argued that Wesley Crusher shouldn't be executed for breaking arbitrary laws on the planet of the Edo, with the bold statement that "there can be no justice so long as laws are absolute!" He even went on to proclaim that "life itself is an exercise in exceptions", so that he could break both the Prime Directive and the laws of the Edo in order to save Wesley Crusher. But when it's the life of an entire civilization at stake instead of just one effeminate little cabin boy, he suddenly forgets all that lofty talk about exceptions and true justice, and becomes a rule-spouting bureaucrat again.

The really sad thing is that Picard later reversed his position after hearing Sarjenka's desperate plea for help, but he never questioned the wisdom of the Prime Directive that was at the heart of this conflict.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 41: "Pen Pals"

WESLEY: Drema Four has the largest deposit of dilithium ore ever recorded. It's also laid down in a very unusual pattern. The crystals are growing to form perfectly aligned lattices.

Power: so the all-important dilithium is a naturally occuring substance, which can occur in large concentrations in a planetary body? This means it must be found in our existing periodic table, thus lending credence to the idea that it's just a form of lithium.

Wayne Poe notes that in "Mudd's Women", it was referred to as "lithium" rather than "dilithium", which further reinforces this proposition. If dilithium were just, say, an isotope of lithium, then it would be possible to call it "lithium" or "dilithium" and be technically correct in both cases.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 41: "Pen Pals"

WORF: We are modifying Class One probes so they become resonators. We will then use torpedo casings to protect the probes once they begin burrowing beneath the surface.

PICARD: How do these resonators destroy the crystals?

HILDEBRANT: By emitting harmonic vibrations which will shatter the lattices.

Realism: another example of the Trek writers' foul and recurring abuse of wave physics. I reiterate: resonance does not amplify energy. It merely causes energy from successive cycles to add up in a more efficient manner. Furthermore, resonance is a characteristic of the target rather than the weapon. If a piece of material has no strong resonant frequency, then the game is over. But the writers obviously think that everything has a strong resonant frequency. Morons ...

TNG Season 2, Ep# 41: "Pen Pals"

WORF: We are modifying Class One probes so they become resonators. We will then use torpedo casings to protect the probes once they begin burrowing beneath the surface.

PICARD: How do these resonators destroy the crystals?

HILDEBRANT: By emitting harmonic vibrations which will shatter the lattices.

Misc: a Class One probe can burrow into the surface of a planet, like a mole. This means it is capable of drilling through rock. We also learn that a torpedo casing can survive the stresses of this drilling process, but without an actual drill depth, this information isn't very useful.

TNG Season 2, Ep# 41: "Pen Pals"

PICARD: Data and the alien are on their way down. What would be involved in removing all memory of her communication with Data and her visit to this ship?

PULASKI: Assuming her brain structure is similar to ours the memories will be stored chemically on the neurons of the cerebral cortex. They are also time dependent. I'll have to scan for age of the chemical links, and try to find the relevant neurons. To be sure I may have to go back weeks before the initial contact with Data.

Culture: Picard is terrified of interfering with alien cultures but he apparently has no problem with erasing the girl's memory, and assuming the risk that this procedure, attempted on an alien lifeform with which they are unfamiliar, may fry her brain.

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