Nov 20 2012 4:05pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Lessons”

Administrative note: There will be no TNG Rewatch on Friday the 23rd of November due to the Thanksgiving holiday. We’ll be back on Tuesday the 27th with “The Chase.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Lessons“Lessons”
Written by Ron Wilkerson & Jean Louise Matthias
Directed by Robert Wiemer
Season 6, Episode 19
Production episode 40276-245
Original air date: April 5, 1993
Stardate: 46693.1

Captain’s Log: Picard, apparently suffering insomnia, shows up on the bridge during the overnight shift. He asks Data to put a call through to an archeology professor, but stellar cartography has requested a communications blackout in order to run an experiment. He soon learns that that department has also taken the library computer and food replicators offline, so Picard can’t look up stuff regarding that archeological dig, nor even get a cuppa tea.

Picard grumpily goes to stellar cartography to find out what the hell they’re doing. His opening the door of the darkened room is apparently enough to screw up the experiment, about which the new head of stellar sciences, Lieutenant Commander Nella Daren, is quite cranky—right up until she realizes that it was the captain who interrupted. She sucks up by giving him the tea he was deprived of—though it’s one of her herbal blends, not Earl Grey—and explaining that they’re trying to construct a mathematical model of an emerging star system. They’re doing it at three in the morning on the theory that nobody would need the library computer or replicator at that hour.

It seems the captain has been charmed by the lieutenant commander—he brings up stellar sciences every chance he gets, goes on and on (and on) about the mathematical model she’s building, and even adds one of her herbal blends to his and Crusher’s evening meal.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Lessons

There’s a concert in Ten-Forward of Chopin’s “Trio in G Minor,” with Data on the violin, Ensign Cheney on the cello, and, to Picard’s surprise and delight, Daren on the piano. Afterward, Picard talks to Daren about a musical choice she made at one point, at which point Daren discovers that Picard is a bit of a musician, and she says they should play some time. (That’s not a double entendre. Probably.)

Daren comes to the bridge to ask Riker for use of a sensor array, but that array’s been allocated to engineering. She pushes, and Riker gently slaps her down, saying that he’ll try to get her some time on it tomorrow. She reluctantly agrees—then goes to Picard’s quarters, carrying a roll of some sort. She sees his Ressikan flute, saying she’s never seen anything like it. Picard simply says that they aren’t made anymore—he also has to think about how to answer Daren’s question of how long he’s been playing. (He settles on “a long time.”)

It turns out that the roll she’s carrying is a flat, flexible piano, and so they start playing Bach’s “Third Brandenburg Concerto.” Picard has a little trouble, as he usually only plays with the computer, not an accompanist. Daren suggests something simpler, and she plays “Frère Jacques.” They start simple, and then she encourages him to improvise around the melody.

Picard is positively giddy—he invites Riker to fence with him (the look of combined fear and amusement on Riker’s face is classic)—while Daren goes to sickbay, having strained her arm playing too much piano. Crusher is surprised to learn that they’ve been playing duets together. (Still not a double entendre. Probably).

That night, they go to the fourth intersect of Jefferies Tube 25, which is also the most acoustically perfect spot on the Enterprise, which Daren demonstrates by playing Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on the rollout piano. Picard then plays a Kataan folk song, and Daren notices how much more feeling he plays that song with. She then plays the melody on the piano, and he joins her after a measure. The sound echoes down to engineering. When the song is done, they smooch in the Jefferies Tube.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Lessons

Later they talk in the turbolift—until another crewmember enters the lift, at which point, Picard goes stiff and formal, referring to her as “Commander” before departing. Daren is confused and distressed.

Worf reports that the outpost on Bersallis III has detected firestorm activity, eight months ahead of schedule for a Berallian firestorm. (That's also not a double entendre. Probably.)

After diverting the Enterprise to Bersallis, Picard asks Troi to join him in his ready room—where Troi already knows what he’s going to ask about. “Is it that obvious?” Picard asks in a pained voice, but Troi reassures him that it’s only obvious in a way that pleases people who are glad to see him happy.

However, as a starship captain, his happiness is not the only concern. Picard is worried about the consequences of becoming involved with someone under his command; Troi counters that denying your feelings could also have dire consequences.

That night, after Picard apologizes for his behavior in the turbolift (he’s not used to the crew seeing him as a person), and then tells her where the flute comes from and about his experiences as Kamin in “The Inner Light.”

Daren goes to Riker with a personnel issue, and the first officer quickly realizes that he’s second-guessing himself because of Daren’s relationship with Picard. To his credit, he goes straight to Picard with this issue; to Picard’s credit, he makes it clear that he expects Riker to do his job regardless of who’s sleeping with whom.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Lessons

Picard then gives a similar talk to Daren, making it clear that she should also just do her job. Their dessert is interrupted by Worf—the firestorms on Bersallis have picked up speed, and they need to evacuate. The outpost was designed to withstand normal firestorms, but this one’s twice as strong as anything recorded. The problem is, the Enterprise will arrive one hour before the storm hits, but it’ll take two hours to evac. Daren suggests using thermal deflectors to keep the worst of the storms away while they get everyone out. Riker doles out assignments: Data is in charge of the evac, Crusher’s priority are the patients in the outpost’s infirmary, Marquez (a science officer) will track the storms, and Daren will be in charge of the thermal deflectors. Picard is very unhappy about that last assignment, though he doesn’t say so in front of everyone, only privately to Daren—she reminds him what he himself told her, that they wouldn’t let the relationship get in the way of the work.

The evac goes slowly, and Daren and her teams activate the deflectors—but they need constant manual adjustment to stay cross-connected, which means the team needs to stay on-planet until the colonists are evacuated. Once that’s done, they beam out all but two of the teams—after which the interference from the firestorm prevents transport. Daren is on one of the teams that’s still trapped down there, and they’re unlikely to have survived. Picard is abjectly miserable—until Worf contacts him to say there are survivors being beamed up. Going to the transporter room, Picard is relieved to see that Daren made it out alive.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Lessons

In the end, eight crewmembers died, although all the colonists were successfully evacuated. Daren had to stand there and watch one of her team die. Meanwhile, Picard admits that when he thought she was dead, he shut down, devastated that he would no longer be able to share his music with her. When he saw her in the transporter room, he realized he could never put her in danger again. That leaves them with three choices, two of which ain’t gonna happen: she resigns her commission, he resigns his commission, or one of them leaves the Enterprise. Daren says she’ll put in for a transfer, and they make the usual noises about how they can still see each other some time, even though it’s blindingly obvious to both of them and the viewer that that will never happen.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Daren has experience with putting up levees—er, that is, thermal deflectors to help fend off hurricanes—er, that is, firestorms.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Lessons

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi cuts through the crap when she and Picard are talking and asks if he’s asking for her blessing to date Daren. He asks what she would say if he was, and she smiles and says, “Yes.”

If I Only Had a Brain...: Data is still in charge of the overnight shift, as established in “Data’s Day.”

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: We get musical geekery as foreplay in this episode, as Daren and Picard bond over music, and don’t use terms like “we should play” and “performing duets” as double entendres. Probably.

I Believe I Said That: “Now perhaps you can tell me what was so important that it required depriving the captain of his cup of Earl Grey.”

“Earl Grey? No wonder you can’t sleep.”

Picard looking for answers, and Daren criticizing his choice in beverage.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Lessons

Welcome Aboard: Only one real guest star this week: the magnificent Australian actor Wendy Hughes as Nella Daren. (To me, she’ll always be Dr. Blythe on Homicide: Life on the Street...)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Lessons

Trivial Matters: We once again see Picard’s Ressikan flute from “The Inner Light,” and he even shares the story of Kataan with Daren. As in “A Fistful of Datas,” Sir Patrick Stewart has learned the proper fingering and breathing for the tin whistle on which the flute is based.

The same cannot be said for Wendy Hughes, who is very obviously not a piano player—most of the shots of her playing are hands-only shots where a double is used or shots where you can’t see her hands. When you can see both hands and face, she’s very obviously not playing.

The piano used in Ten-Forward for the Chopin concert actually belonged to Senior Illustrator/Technical Consultant Rick Sternbach.

Picard sang “Frère Jacques” as a morale booster in “Disaster,” and last played it on the flute in “The Inner Light.”

This is our first time seeing stellar cartography. The Enterprise will have a much fancier SC lab in Star Trek Generations.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Lessons

Make it So: “I can assure you that I am not given to casual relationships.” It’s kind of amusing to see how TNG has evolved at this point. When the show started, Jean-Luc Picard was the cerebral leader who stayed on the bridge while the manly Will Riker went off to have adventures and beat people up and get the girl.

Five seasons later, Sir Patrick Stewart has, through the power of his own awesomeness, made Picard into The Captain, dagnabbit. In the last dozen episodes alone, he’s been changed into a little kid, been captured and tortured, done riffs on both It’s a Wonderful Life and Die Hard, and this week gets his very own romance.

As always with romance-in-an-hour episodes, much of the weight falls on the non-regular-cast-member half of the couple, and TNG’s track record to date has been very much the way Crash Davis described baseball in Bull Durham. Sometimes you win (Suzie Plakson in “The Emissary” and “Reunion,” David Ogden Stiers in “Half a Life”), sometimes you lose (Matt McCoy in “The Price,” Melinda Culea in “The Outcast”), and sometimes it rains (Frank Luz done in by a mediocre script in “The Host”).

Luckily, they cast Wendy Hughes, who is never not wonderful, and who clicks with Stewart pretty much from the moment he walks in on a darkened stellar cartography. It’s also helped by a script that hits all the right notes. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself...) Using “The Inner Light” is a masterstroke, as it provides an emotional core to the episode that the viewer can instantly appreciate. It also fits so perfectly with Picard’s character, because playing the Ressikan flute is something he has, on the one hand, been doing for decades and, on the other hand, is pretty much brand new. Daren is the first person he’s shared his music with.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Lessons

And in the end, it doesn’t last for exactly the reasons Picard feared when he spoke to Troi, but unlike, say, the equally inevitable end to Data’s relationship with D’Soura in “In Theory,” this doesn’t feel contrived or constructed, but natural. It makes perfect sense for Picard to take Troi’s advice and take the shot at happiness—but it also makes perfect sense that he won’t be able to handle putting her in danger again. I do wish TNG wasn’t so rigidly standalone in its episodic structure—I would have much preferred this relationship to play out over several episodes, give it some legs, let Picard really get the chance to explore and enjoy the happiness.

My only other quibble with the episode is the lack of a mention of Jack Crusher. He was Picard’s best friend, and he ordered him to his death, so—to a degree—he’s been through this before, and it would add weight to his final conversation with Daren on the subject, that he would not want to put himself through that again, nor subject himself to what Beverly Crusher suffered.

But that’s minor. This is one of TNG’s best romances and an absolute joy. On top of everything else, it’s a delight if you love music, as we hear some great pieces from Chopin, Bach, and Beethoven, as well as “Frère Jacque” and the Kataan folk song.


Warp factor rating: 9

Keith R.A. DeCandido would make a terrible TV character, as he has never fallen in love with and broken up with a person within a single hour.

Sara H
1. LadyBelaine
As much as I love this episode, I was always somewhat perturbed(?) that Lt. Cmmdr Daren very (very!) strongly resembles Gates McFadden and that always gave this lovely romance an odd tinge (to me).

edit: tinge, not twinge - although it would be fair to say that the episode's tinge makes me twinge ;)
Christopher Bennett
2. ChristopherLBennett
Pretty much agree with the review -- it was a good story, but would've played out better as a subplot spread across multiple episodes. And that's not just my perception looking back from this age of ultraserialized TV -- I'm pretty sure that even at the time it first aired, I felt it was limited by the contrivance of needing to wrap up the romance by the end of the hour. By 1993, the trope of introducing major life-changing events and resetting them in the same episode had pretty thoroughly worn out its welcome.

I liked hearing composer Dennis McCarthy get a chance to play with Jay Chattaway's "Inner Light" theme; recurring motifs or themes of any kind were pretty much forbidden by this point in TNG's musical evolution, so it was a rare exception, probably the only time one TNG composer used a motif created by another TNG composer (Courage and Goldsmith don't count). But it always bugged me a little that Picard reacted to Daren's roll-up piano pad as if it were startlingly new technology. That's the sort of thing we could pretty much do today, so it should be old hat by the 24th century.

For some reason, the Star Trek Encyclopedia mistakenly listed Daren's name as "Neela Daren" -- maybe they got her confused with the Neela who appeared in DS9 in the same year -- so for years I had to put up with other reference sources repeating that error. Didn't anyone remember the sound of her name? I'm glad current sources tend to get it right.
3. Kallie
@ 1 - I second that. In fact the first picture on this post looks so much like Crusher that I thought "What episode was that scene from again??" The recap doesn't remind us what Crusher's reaction was to Picard drinking the new tea blend. In any event, I guess we get the episode sorting things out (very unsatisfactorily) between them in Season 7.

I do like this episode, and the fact that they didn't conveniently kill off the love interest but still used the threat of losing her as a plot point. The resolution felt true to character. It was also a great character point to use music (and specifically the Ressikan flute) as the common interest.
Jack Flynn
4. JackofMidworld
Totally agree on the whole "wrap it up in an hour" bit, but I think I've mentioned (koff-complained-koff) that before. Still a great episode. Like Keith said, a natural evolution of a relationship, plus, since they skipped the secondary plot (or, actually, had Will's dealing with Picard's love interest the B-plot and tying it directly into the A-plot), they were able to focus more on the love story without having to rush it or compress it any more than necessary.
Rob Rater
5. Quasarmodo
Yeah, I would've sworn that first pic was of Crusher too.

When Riker denied Daren the sensor array, I totally expected her to do an end-around and get Picard to overrule him. I was glad they didn't go that route.

It probably wasn't necessary that she transfer off the ship. She's basically in another world over there in stellar cartography. This is likely the first time Picard's ever seen her, and who knows how many years she's been on the ship. Picard probably was only dimly aware they even had a stellar cartography onboard.

I also find it a little hard to believe he's so torn with being able to order her into dangerous situations. He's never had a problem ordering Crusher, and he's had feelings simmering for her for a long time.
7. Tesh
Regarding Crusher, I suspect it doesn't bother him much because he keeps those feelings buried. Or, he would like to, so he ignores their implications.
Christopher Bennett
6. ChristopherLBennett
@5: Picard says during their first meeting that Nella is "new on the Enterprise."

And stellar cartography means making maps of the stars. Since Picard is in charge of a ship that travels among the stars, I'd say it's a pretty sure bet that he'd consider the star-mapping department to be pretty important.
8. Sean O'Hara
I have a huge problem with the ending that pretty much ruins the episode for me. Think about it, the Enterprise is the flagship of the Federation. This is an assignment that the best and brightest in Starfleet aspire to. For Commander Darren, this is probably the pinnacle of her career -- and then she makes the mistake of boffing the captain, and next thing you know she's getting reassigned because of Picard's weakness.

And Picard's reasoning for it is incredibly weak -- he can't bring himself to order her into danger again. But he only had to do it this time because of freak circumstances. It's not like she's in security -- ordinarily the only way Darren would be in danger is if the whole ship is.

Then to make matters worse, the next season the writers started developing the Crusher/Picard relationship, leading to the current situation in the novels where they're married. What, doesn't he care about Beverly as much as Darren? Or did he just decide to derail Darren's career for the hell of it?

I can't believe Starfleet doesn't have regulations against this sort of thing. If this happened in our world, Darren would have a slam-dunk lawsuit here.
Sam Mickel
9. Samadai
I thought I had watched all of these episodes, and it turns out it sounds like I missed one of the better one
10. TBonz
I'm not a big fan of "romance of the week" eps as you know they're going nowhere and so it's a waste of time to watch them. Romance eps are right up there with being stranded and not getting home until a series ends (if they give an ending at all) stories for me - best to be avoided.

And as for her hairdo? UGH.

Dunno, this ep didn't do it for me. I'd give it a 4 perhaps, maybe a 5. Average and a bit dull. I'll say a 5 since they referred to The Inner Light.
Lee VanDyke
11. Cloric
@1 & 3: I've always been a fan of the Picard/Crusher will they/won't they thing, so I guess realizing that Wendy Hughes resembled Gates McFadden so strongly seemed more like a foreshadowing wink, knowing what was coming further down the line, and thus made me smile. I did complain during the episode about the problem with the episodic nature of TNG and how difficult it is to actually understand how much time is passing. It rather felt like their entire relationship from meeting to break-up took about 4 days or so, and I just don't like the "dalliance" feeling it gave to it.
12. Betsy
@8, I pretty much loathe this episode for exactly the reason you name. If you strip away the music, this episode turns into a story of a man in a position of authority who falls for a (younger, obviously) woman under his command. They have a whirlwind fling, and then he tells her that because he can't bear to see her in danger, either her career or their relationship is over, and she has to move to a new, less prestigious posting to be able to do her job without him being all paternalistically protective.

I usually do my all to pretend this episode doesn't exist, because otherwise it interferes with my love of Picard too much.

I will also add, though, that to me, the best romances have always been in the episodes where the story would have been there and complete with or without the romance, like The Emissary, Half a Life, The Host, or The Game, and not in the episodes where the entire story is basically built around the romance, like The Outcast, In Theory, or Lessons.

Basically, I read the pitch for this episode as going something like, "Let's make Picard fall in love. How do we build a girlfriend for him? How do we break them up?" Everything else in the episode is in total service of that central idea, and it's palpable.
13. Erik Dercf
I was happy to see a happy Picard get swept off his feet, but I must agree this romance would have been better if it had played out over a season at least in which Darren and Crusher vie for Picard's affections. It would have been a nail biter if Crusher had been trapped with Darren and Picard was forced to choose in the climax to the episode.
Keith DeCandido
14. krad
Just added a Trivial Matter that I got from Rick Sternbach his own self on Facebook. :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Chin Bawambi
15. bawambi
Didn't like this episode mainly because I felt the transfer was lame. Not awful just could have been much better.
Rob Rater
16. Quasarmodo
They should do an episode where Picard goes crazy and dates every single woman on the ship, and at the end of the episode, they all have to transer to other assignments.

(I meant every non-attached woman on the ship, but re-reading my post, it could be construed as saying he dates every woman on the ship, including married ones, which would be funnier)
17. Gerry__Quinn
Well, it looks like the argument about four shifts or three has been settled. Now everyone goes to bed at space midnight.

Agree the ending makes no sense, particularly given the department she works in. Killing her off instead would have been trite, but at least not silly.
Bastiaan Stapel
18. Stapel
Not my cup of tea, this romance-in-an-hour episode.
Bastiaan Stapel
19. Stapel
Now that I come to think of it, this episode, or rather its rewatch comments, remind me of watching the 1980's series "North & South". Not because Jonny Frakes is in it, but because I used to watch it with my mother. She was totally into the romance-going-wrong-then-goes-right-or-not-oh-yes-they-do-thingy. I couldn't care a dime, as I was waiting for battle field action.

We both enjoyed the same series - A LOT - for totally different reasons.

This episode was, imho, crap. Yet I can understand why some, if not many, feel it was one of the greater ones. as Keith, and others, said: It would have been better if the the love story had been smeered out over a season! Or over 6 episodes or so...
Sara H
20. LadyBelaine
TBonz@ 10

"And as for her hairdo? UGH."

One of the often uncommented aspects of Robert Blackman's (I guess?) character stylings is that he started experimenting with rather complex and startling hairstyles for the Starfleet women (not Beverly or Deanna, though) - every once in a while you'll see an ensign or lieutainant sitting somewhere with braided twists up on her head that jut out at odd angles. The plucky female navigator during the episode in which Crusher (as captain!) zorches a Borg ship with a misdirected solar flare, for example.

In any event, I thought that Lt. Cmdr Daren's rather poof-boufant ponytail was an outgrowth of that theme - I always figured it was some sort of suggestion that these women, when presented with a regimental code for their hair, would get creative - or, it's just a subtle comment of the vagueries of future fashion and style.

Betsy@ 12 -
"this episode turns into a story of a man in a position of authority who falls for a (younger, obviously) woman under his command."

Oh, I rather thought that they did a nice job of matching Wendy Hughes and Patrick Stewart - she's somewhat younger than him, but was mature and refined and serene; it's not like he fell into bed with a 25 year old yeoman (whatever happened to the yeomen, anyway?). It was a plausible couple. I just choose to pretend that the ending didn't happen that way... you may say that she had her career adversely impacted for sleeping with the captain... but la la la, I can't hear you..... in my head, she went on to be the captain of her own surveyor ship the, I dunno, U.S.S. Hermione......
Christopher Bennett
21. ChristopherLBennett
@20: Those elaborate hairstyles would presumably be descendants of the ultra-intricate hairdos that the women on TOS often sported, with Yeoman Rand's insane beehive being the most famous example. I have to wonder how officers on a starship had the time to coif their hair that elaborately. Maybe Rand's beehive was a wig (or hair extension) in-story as well as in reality.
22. Lsana

I remember reading that apparently Major Kira was supposed to have one of those elaborate hairstyles as well until Nana Visitor insisted on having it simplified. She recognized that Kira Nerys was not the sort to spend hours doing her hair in the morning.
Christopher Bennett
23. ChristopherLBennett
@22: No, it wasn't an elaborate hairstyle, just the longer hair Kira had in the DS9 pilot. Visitor thought that was too high-maintenance and had them give her a much shorter haircut starting in episode 2. Although she was growing it longer again by season 7.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
24. Lisamarie
The one thing I really remember about this episode is how much my son loved it (he's almost 20 months old right now, so probably would have been around 18 months at the time we watched this one). He is REALLY into music and in fact, the highlight of his night is when we watch Star Trek - he gets really into the credit music and starts jumping up and down when the ship goes into warp...he'll only watch the actual episode for a little while, but he was enraptured by this one because of all the musical interludes.

I spent pretty much the entire episode figuring she'd die because I know that they aren't going to give Picard a lasting love interest. So I was a bit surprised that she lived but I also agree that it's really lame that she has to transfer off the flagship. I don't think I would have made that decision. Plus, how often is somebody in stellar cartography going to be in life threatening situations? Plus there are some unfortunate implications, I suppose - while I can understand that it must be a difficult balancing act, even if he wasn't in command, how would he deal with a partner who had a dangerous job?

I agree that this is one of those situations where it would be nice if Trek would let itself have more ongoing plots.
Joseph Newton
25. crzydroid
I also found it amusing that they marvel at the rollout keyboard, when it seems that we have that sort of thing now.

I loved all the musical scenes and thought that the music was something that made the romance work, and the two of them were really cute together. I actually think the whole firestorm subplot was really boring, and wanted the music to come back. I think this episode can be commended for avoiding a trope--you know it's episodic, and you go into the firestorm scene thinking, "Let me guess, she's going to die." Then she doesn't die, yet they still give Picard some of the emotional scenes of thinking she was dead. I thought that was nicely done. The transfer thing was maybe a little weak and leaves one wondering why they even had to do that.

@6 and 7: Wow, if you leave a comment at the same time, apparently the numbering gets out-of-order.
Mike Kelmachter
26. MikeKelm
I agree with CLB @2 and everyone else that this would have been a great multi-episode arc, if for me than I think the happy couple should have taken longer than oh, 30 seconds, to decide that she needed a transfer. I also agree with our brave recapper that Patrick Stewart really became the most integral part of the show, changing it from what was supposed to be an ensamble cast to the Jean Luc Picard and friends (but in a good way). I remember reading that Patrick Stewart was upset circa season 2/3 because all his character did was sit on the bridge and watch everyone else do stuff. Looks like they solved that problem.
Christopher Hatton
27. Xopher
Wow. It's fascinating to see a review with an opinion so sharply contrasting with mine.

Nothing against the actress, but the character is a classic Mary Sue. Well, maybe a neo-classic Mary Sue; she is unpleasant at first and not everyone likes her instantly.

Picard "learns a lesson" he ought to have learned at the Academy. In fact if having a relationship with someone in your command isn't against regulations, they need to fix their regulations! This isn't the Mirror Universe.

I like bringing back the flute and refs to The Inner Light, but honestly this ep mostly made me go "oh, come off it. Seriously?" (It's not as bad as the Beverly Falls In Love With A Ghost one, but still.)
Christopher Bennett
28. ChristopherLBennett
@27: I don't get the "Mary Sue" comparison. The whole point is to create a character impressive enough for Picard to fall in love with. Too many people misunderstand the term "Mary Sue" to mean any guest character who is the center of attention, but that's a perfectly valid type of character in itself; many stories in episodic series are built around featured guests. A Mary Sue is that type of character done badly -- a character who isn't interesting enough to be worth taking the spotlight, or who doesn't display any of the qualities that the other characters supposedly admire in her. I think "Lessons" did a good job establishing why Picard found Nella Daren engaging, and as Keith said, I think the casting was excellent. I found Nella a far more credible, less forced romantic interest for Picard than Vash ever was.
Sara H
29. LadyBelaine
Xopher@ 27, CLB @ 28,

I have to concur with CLB - Lt. Cmdr Daren is not a "Mary Sue" as I see it. A Mary Sue is an avatar of a fan-girl who gets to have dashing adventures and gallivant with the crew and is unsubtle and perfect and has telepathic powers and a magical pony and seven advanced degrees and nine black belts in various martial arts. Nella Daren would be a Mary Sue if she was 1/4 Betazed, 1/2 Human and 1/4 Deltan, empathic, and alien yet "normal" and sexually irresistible!

Instead, she's just a refined, accomplished woman who seems like en effective counterweight to Jean-Luc. She has a semi-obscure (for this series) field of expertise and isn't this glamazon valiant ship's captain who pioneers several miraculous battle tactics. She's just a lovely, personable scientist who shares a musical passion ... and it seems fine.
30. Tesh
Hmm... perhaps the rollout piano is fascinating because it's an "ancient" artifact of the early 21st century.
31. online lessons for piano
I just stumbled upon this site. Thanks for sharing such a valuable discussion here.
32. Don3Comp
First, let's get this out of the way: I Wanted That Piano!

As a musician, I have a soft spot for this episode. Uhura had her singing, Data his violin, and Picard his flute, but it was nice to see an examination of the way friendships and love can be formed through music--and not as sappily as that sounds!

Also, I liked that a department of Stellar Cartography was introduced. It's always nice when the writers remember the mission stated before the opening credits.

Re the Mary Sue comments: actually, co-writer Jean-Louise Matthias said in an interview that she intended Daren to be a stronger, more real love interest for Picard than such "chicky-babes" (Matthias' term, not mine!!!) as Vash and the eponymous "Perfect Mate."

Re the hour romance/stand-alone episode issue: TNG had played a little bit with events of one episode having consequences in another (Best of Both Worlds ==> Family, the bit with Riker and Minuet, all the Klingon politics, and the Geordi/Brahms arc), but I guess old habits die hard. TNG was marginally less rigid in this regard than TOS, but it was Deep Space Nine that really shook up the format.

Brownie points to CL Bennett for commenting on the soundtrack, specifically the "Inner Light" reference. That's interesting that such linking of themes was "forbidden" at that point, as I thought it was fairly standard practice (the Alexander Courage motif was used by most of the film scorers, and more recently the later "Harry Potter" composers used Williams' opening motif; but it's neat that McCarthy was able to do something much more subtle and character-centeered).
Christopher Bennett
33. ChristopherLBennett
@32: I'm certainly not saying it was a universal practice to avoid the use of recurring themes. It was the policy of Rick Berman as it pertained to the Star Trek shows he produced. He didn't like recurring leitmotifs because he thought they sounded like tracked/library music, so after the first few seasons of TNG, he had the composers stop using recognizable themes or leitmotifs for specific characters/races/etc. One reason Ron Jones was eventually let go as a TNG composer is because he didn't follow Berman's instructions and kept doing strongly thematic music, although he didn't usually reuse themes from one episode to the next.
34. Ashcom
Aha! I suddenly understand why you have such a down on Vash! You're a Picard and Daren shipper!

I'll be honest, I found this "relationship" a bit saccharine, although maybe if, as you say, it had been allowed to play out over a few episodes, it may have been allowed to occur more naturally. However, I personally think Vash is a much better match for the Captain. She keeps him on his toes, whereas Daren would just have him wearing slippers.
35. Heather Dunham
"On top of everything else, it’s a delight if you love music, as we hear some great pieces from Chopin, Bach, and Beethoven, as well as “Frère Jacque” and the Kataan folk song."

Sort of.

As a musician, it's definitely a delight to see one of my favourite scifi shows riff on the notion of just how important music is to people's lives. I always love the fact that they have regular concerts in 10-forward, and that it seems pretty commonplace that career starfleet officers are frequently also well-accomplished musicians.

I love the *fact* of it. But not the presentation.

Because the presentation is, almost universally, horrid. And I think, "why even bother if you can't be bothered to get the details right?"

The most obvious details are the utter lack of even basic attempts at "lip-synching" the instruments. They don't even TRY. I will gladly give an "A for effort" when an actor who just doesn't happen to know the instrument doesn't get it perfectly right. But when they don't even hold the instrument correctly... they'll go through hours and hours on dialect and accent coaching, so why is learning to LOOK like you're playing an instrument so foreign an idea on television?

In this particular episode, one shot of Data has Spiner actually moving his fingers at the right time. Is it the right notes? I don't care, the sync is good, it looks believable. And yet another shot in the same scene, he's OBVIOUSLY not playing anything remotely like what we're hearing. It's not a subtle thing like "oh he should be on a g# there", it's a BLEEDING OBVIOUS thing that his motions are completely random and unrelated to the audio.

Darren's attempts at 'emoting' at the piano (when her hands are hidden) are hysterically bad. The closeups, which are probably not her hands, are okay. Except for the one where it's playing the right thing but at the WRONG TIME. The editors couldn't be bothered to sync the audio with the correct video. Again, it's not SUBTLE.

Then there's that stupid rollup piano. Which, when I first saw this ep in 1993 (while getting ready for exams for my 2nd year of my music degree!), I thought was awfully nifty in concept. In concept, again, not in execution. That thing has 2 and a half octaves on it, and yet is able to replicate a full 8-octave piano. Not to mention, the keys on it are like twice as big as real keys. Which would make it IMPOSSIBLE to play.

Then there's the music technobabble. When Picard compliments her "choice" of an F minor chord instead of D diminished. Um, no? They're playing a Chopin piece, not improvising. If Chopin wrote D dim, you play D dim. Playing something else is an accident, not a choice. And he said it was "in the second arpeggio of the first movement." Someone obviously has NO IDEA what an arpeggio is. If someone said to me what Picard said to Daren, my response would not be "oh, you're a musician!" It would be "oh, you have absolutely no idea what you're talking about and are spitting jargon out of your ass in order to try and impress me, and getting it completely wrong!"

I suppose this is no different than when they get techobabble wrong from a physics standpoint. But since music is MY bag, this gets my dander up.

At least Sir Patrick made the effort to learn his instrument, and I give him HUGE points for that. When the video is so terribly asynchronous when he's playing, I know I can blame the producers and the editors, and not his own lack of effort. And I also really appreciate it when Frakes plays his trombone. Because he's *actually playing it* most of the time -- not even just faking it properly, he's literally playing it on camera. Love that!

So I have a real love-hate relationship with this episode. Love the idea. Love the focus on music, and the huge importance that the Ressican music has for Picard. Powerful, moving, exhilirating. HATE that they deliberately would have music-making as a central theme of the episode and not bother to do more than a craptastic job showing it.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
36. Lisamarie
Oh Heather :) This sounds a lot like what my rant on Genesis will be :)
37. SnookyTLC
I loved the guest star -- this is the first Picard romance I have found believable (so far in my rewatch, excluding anything Crusher in the future). I thought Vash was ridiculous for Picard.

@35, Heather, interesting about the music. I totally sympathize. I used to play clarinet, but have forgotten so much. I definitely notice if Picard is taking breaths in the wrong place, but he looks pretty good for the most part.

Subject-matter experts always have issues with how their area is portrayed on TV and in movies. Mine is journalism -- formerly newspaper journalism. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen a fake newspaper on screen or a fake article read, and known how poorly it reflected professional standards, such as AP styles and layout. Then there are times we've all seen stupid stuff with the Internet (one show I saw had a "Google" page of search results, and all the results were from a "Your search results here" template! LOL.
38. Trevor O
I didn't like Picard in this episode. His surrendering to the possibility of a loved one getting hurt seems super weak, not befitting of a man of Picard's outstanding character.
39. The Real Scott M
To echo what others have said, this story needed to take place over a span of multiple episodes. I remember despising this episode when it first aired (I still don't think it's that great), mostly because of the utter lack of tension. Every time a little bit of conflict arises, it is immediately resolved. Boring. I also never liked the fact that there was so much time left at the end, making it obvious that Daren would end up alive.

I also hate the way Hughes portrays Daren. She is absolutely NOT Picard's type. Considering that Picard's other love interests (Crusher, Vash) are fluid and vibrant, how could Picard possibly be interested in someone as stiff as Daren?

I do, however, applaud the cinematography (which was excellent) and the editing (which did a seamless job of making it look like Hughes was actually playing the piano). So I don't despise this episode anymore...but I still don't particularly like it.
Sara H
40. LadyBelaine
I just read on the NYT website that Wendy Hughes, the actress who played Cmdr. Daren has passed away. She was 61. Rest in peace, Ms. Hughes. You made a lasting impression on so many of us for playing as a classy and intelligent woman who was both scientist and musician, who made us think that Jean Luc Picard could fall head over heels for ya.
Resquiat in pacem.
41. Nick Wingfield
Sorry to hear about the sad death of Wendy Hughes.
Great episode. Great performance.

But there was one small thing that really bugged me about this story:
Where did the legs come from?
When Daren and Picard get together at the romantic rendezvous of the fourth intersect of Jefferies Tube 25, Daren, once again, whips out her rubbery, roll-out keyboard which, again, struggles to stay flat. But the next time we see it, seconds later, it has grown legs and is now rock solid. Now, admittedly, we do hear a couple of clicks when we cut to Picard’s face - so I suppose this is the sound of leg assembling. But really? Where did the legs come from? Daren had nothing else in her bag. I guess we are supposed to accept that the keyboard comes with magic space legs ...
42. Lauryn Gilbert
Surreal. I've been watching TNG over the last several weeks, as I just found out the episodes were on Amazon Primer. I came to this episode with Nella Daren tonight, and when I recognized the actress and looked her up, I was stunned to find out that she died exactly one year ago today -- March 8. She's a wonderful actress, and I'm so glad to be reminded of her. Strange how it feels like such a blow. Let's hear it for the work living on.

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