Why Star Trek gave me my values
‘Make it so number one’ spoken by Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the starship Enterprise, is a phrase captured in my head as if I was sitting on the bridge of the starship Enterprise myself, having heard Picard say it thousands of times. There wasn’t much that was great about having a mother with poor mental health, but at least she had good taste in TV.
With hindsight, being ‘taught at home’ (I use speech marks because I never really was) meant that I got my education from TV, copious amounts of books and random visits to Cambridge churches, floods and whatever else took my mother’s fancy each day. Unfortunately, this meant that I didn’t know what the English flag was by the age of 23, but I do now, and it never really held me back.
I was brought up on a diet of 1930s, ‘50s and ‘80s films, plus a smattering of sci-fi in the ‘90s. From Fred Astaire (whom I share a birthday with), to Gene Kelly in ‘Singing in the Rain’, the amazing Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in ‘Some Like it Hot’ to ‘ET’, ‘Superman’ and ‘Back to the Future’ and of course ‘Star Trek, The Next Generation’, all taught me something about life. But back to Jean-Luc, he was more than a TV character to me, he became a role model. You always knew where you were with Picard. I’ve always thought of myself as a member of humanity. I’m British, but that’s never really felt as important as being a member of the earth, our beautiful planet – in fact recently I was saying to someone, what is the collective for humans on earth, although stupidly I’m now thinking, of course it’s ‘earthling’, or is it?! I don’t want to put British on an ethnicity form, I want to put earthling/human.
It’s only recently that I had an epiphany that Star Trek and in particular the adorable Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard has had a huge impact on my values, belief systems and sense of purpose. Jean-Luc’s modelling has deeply embedded itself within me, this would be concerning if it was a terrible model, but I’m okay with this – unlike the fact that my oldest child would stop and stare rivetingly at the TV when the ‘Neighbours’ theme tune came on – I watched that far too much as a pregnant teenage Mum, so she was worryingly programmed to like it from the womb!
I recently did a character strengths test, my highest strengths came out as these – bravery and valour; leadership; humour and playfulness; fairness, equality and justice; curiosity and interest in the world. Let’s be honest, I did not get these from my mother, however much she swooned after Captain Kirk! But if we review Picard he has ALL of these traits. To blow my own trumpet, I have grown into a female Picard, only joking, I don’t have my own starship – see that’s his humour right there!
The entire of the Star Trek genre is, in my opinion, all about respecting other species, acceptance, working to understand and value difference. Most missions show Picard doing his utmost to understand new civilisations even when under direct attack from them. He wanted to learn from difference, not fear it as some of our current world leaders do. (Oh and can someone pop a red shirt on a certain world leader and send him on a landing party – this is a Trekkie in joke so Google it if you aren’t one!) Picard’s mission was, if you remember, ‘… to explore… to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.’ ‘No one’ having replaced, ‘no man’ in the earlier series – Star Trek was well known to be ahead of it’s time in gender equality and identity (no one is a gender-neutral term) and for having one of the first interracial kisses on TV in the 1960s. Well, when you are thinking about Klingons, Vulcans and humans getting it together, really skin colour becomes a lot lower in the interest stakes.
The Enterprise spaceship was on a humanitarian mission. The crew constantly challenged to keep to their morals, values and their code of honour as part of the United Federation of Planets. This was a scenario based on the collection of the planets in our solar system working together. Now imagine if we could do that here on earth – work together? Realistically, it should be simple, we actually share the same planet. I heard that Tim Peake is now among several astronauts who believe world leaders should have to go to space before they take office; I couldn’t agree more.
Back to my Cambridge childhood: when you watch hours and hours of this constant message of respect, difference, humanity, curiosity and exploration (I love to travel), accompanied as it always was with the dilemmas of humanity, both as a species and as individuals, both practically and emotionally, you can’t help but take on these values. Think of Data desperately trying to work out human emotions. Deanna Troi who felt the pain of human suffering and was a huge empath and the ranges of troubled, but dignified Captains. Is it any wonder that world peace is my goal? If I’m completely honest I’m probably a mix of Picard’s values, Deanna Troi’s sixth sense and Riker’s hot headedness!
Gene Roddenberry said he wanted the show to have a political agenda that was reflecting what the up and coming youth were feeling. He wanted to show how great humanity could be if it could end violence and show how difference, diversity and equality could shape the world for the better. If I’m anything to go on, he succeeded with his own mission at least in part.
If I had my own Star Trek opener, it would be very similar. Mari’s continuing mission to explore wonderful new minds, to seek out new cultures, new thinking, new education, to empathise and heal and in doing so, to boldly go where no one has gone before! This fits with my views of gender neutrality, equality, growth and learning. Like Picard, I always aim to understand others world views, even if different from my own. Like Deanna Troi, to use my ability to pick up others’ emotions and empathise and I must admit that when needed, an occasional bit of Riker determination is a good thing.
While I may not have had great parenting, or learnt what all the flags are, in a roundabout way my mother did give me the foundations to become a good person, she just brainwashed me with Star Trek and the formidable integrity of Captain Jean-Luc Picard.
If you would like to become your own Jean-Luc Picard or find your own hero, get in touch for a conversation.