Star Trek: The Next Generation
February 14, 2005 12:08 AM   Subscribe

Calling all ST:TNG geeks! I'm looking for an example where a Starfleet member shows blind loyalty, honor, or duty that is against his/her own personal interests. [more inside]

I'm trying to make a non-serious point in a discussion over whether loyalty, honor, and duty are synonymous with stupid. The guy I'm arguing with is a huge ST:TNG fan, so I thought it would be funny to relate my point to the series if possible. But I'm drawing a blank. Google searches bring up a bunch of stuff about Klingons (no surprise) but I'd prefer a human example. Is there one?

For an example, take Andromeda, "The Fair Unknown". The Vedran describes a Commonwealth Admiral who sacrificed himself in battle, even though he did not understand the reason, because of his loyalty to the Vedrans. Because of his action the war ended.

Also, take Babylon 5, "The Long Night". Captain Sheridan uses one of the Rangers as bait. The Ranger knows he and his crew will die, but he sacrifices himself without question or explanation because he trusts and is loyal to Sheridan.

I think these two are great examples of blind loyalty and duty before personal interest. But are there examples in the ST:TNG world too?
posted by sbutler to Media & Arts (22 answers total)
 
<spoiler>

Data sacrificing his "life" in order to save Capt. Picard in the most recent Star Trek TNG movie.

</spoiler>
posted by riffola at 12:17 AM on February 14, 2005


On second thought, I am not a fan of TNG, I've only seen the first few shows from the first season and the movies, so I might not be the best judge.
posted by riffola at 12:20 AM on February 14, 2005


The crew of the enterprise sacrificed themselves (in various timelines) at the end of "All good things" under Picard's orders (actually I was surprised the "first season" crew obeyed a new captain that was acting so oddly).

Though I think there are some good reasons it's hard to think of examples. Remember Picard chose Riker for his crew partly because he had stood up to his captain, Picard didn't want someone that would blindly follow orders. It seems more common situation that a crew member will sacrifice themselves against orders ("Don't do it, you'll be killed"). And I remember one episode where Picard was impersonated by an alien that was experimenting to see how far the crew would go in following orders and there was eventually a mutiny.
posted by bobo123 at 12:31 AM on February 14, 2005


Enterprise C + Tasha Yar return to their own time and die violent foreknown deaths in battle in order to return the galaxy to a more peaceful timeline.
posted by NortonDC at 12:49 AM on February 14, 2005


Several Enterprise D crewmembers decline invaluable gifts from Q.

It could be argued either way that Riker's repeated refusal of his own ships was either loyalty or self-interest.
posted by NortonDC at 12:56 AM on February 14, 2005


bobo123: The crew of the enterprise sacrificed themselves (in various timelines) at the end of "All good things" under Picard's orders (actually I was surprised the "first season" crew obeyed a new captain that was acting so oddly).

That's actually a really good example.

NortonDC: Enterprise C + Tasha Yar return to their own time and die violent foreknown deaths in battle in order to return the galaxy to a more peaceful timeline.

But didn't Tasha Yar fully know what going back in time meant? I guess I'm looking for examples where the character who makes the sacrifice does it even though they are unclear about the reason.

But that did suggest one to me: in the two part episode where they travel back to the late 1800's Picard wasn't originally going to be on the away mission. But then Guinan tells him he must go, but she can't tell him why -- just that it's important. And Picard goes out of a sense of loyalty to their friendship. Of course, he doesn't die... so it doesn't fit my pattern.
posted by sbutler at 1:01 AM on February 14, 2005


But didn't Tasha Yar fully know what going back in time meant?

Well, she expected it meant a quick but violent and gory death. It turned out that she was actually captured alive and secretly kept as a prisoner of enemy forces (Romulans).

A different possibility: before they go back to Mark Twain era San Francisco, they find Data's severed head in a cave, and Data joins the mission without knowing much more than that it will apparently cost his life.
posted by NortonDC at 1:09 AM on February 14, 2005


Wesley rats out his cadet squadron, knowing he will pay the price himself, too. But I forget the exact timing of it. He may have waited to fess up until after he saw damning evidence in the hands of authority figures.

That one weighs loyalty to people against loyalty to truth, and explores various foundations of honor.
posted by NortonDC at 1:27 AM on February 14, 2005


There are plenty of examples from the first season alone.

As it has already been mentioned, the crew turning down Q's offers is probably the best (Hide and Q from the first season). Riker is given the power of the Q, but he ultimately refuses it. In the same episode, Riker offers his friends certain gifts, and they all refuse. Geordi turns down the ability to see naturally. Wesley 'doesn't want to grow up', and Data refuses to be made human because he wants to earn it. Worf turns down sex with a female Klingon warrior. Yes, they were all making a philosophic objection to the gifts, but they were also doing it, in my opinion, out of loyalty to Picard (who was trying to convince Riker the Q power would corrupt him) and out of loyalty to Riker himself, because they perhaps knew by refusing the gifts that Riker would come to his senses. Besides, anyone that turns down rough Klingon sex is not acting in their self-interest.

Another good example, though little seen, is Justice, where Wesley is sentenced to death. By all rights, Beverly Crusher should be rebellious and insane with rage, but she is surprisingly muted, conciliatory, and generally passive, because she knows the importance of her office (this is my opinion after watching her in almost all of Season 1 in the last month). I'm probably reading into it too much, but I thought she was going to start shooting the second she beamed down to the planet Edo. I call that loyalty to the Prime Directive.
posted by tweak at 1:28 AM on February 14, 2005


Those are all good examples NortonDC, and in a way I guess they answer my question, but I don't think they capture the essence of what I'm looking for.

A different possibility: before they go back to Mark Twain era San Francisco, they find Data's severed head in a cave, and Data joins the mission without knowing much more than that it will apparently cost his life.

Data's not exactly human, and consistently makes choices that while logical aren't normal. IIRC, he justifies going on the trip because he finds it comforting to know that he will die some day. But I didn't get a sense that he was going out of a sense of loyalty, honor, or duty; at least, not in any sense that we might feel. He's just too mechanical.

Wesley rats out his cadet squadron, knowing he will pay the price himself, too. But I forget the exact timing of it. He may have waited to fess up until after he saw damning evidence in the hands of authority figures.

Again, Wesley has all his options laid out before him. He has everything he needs in order to make the right decision, the question is what that will be.

I guess more specifically I'm looking for examples where the characters are confused/uncertain/scared/hesitant about a choice before them, but they make a decision based on their trust and loyalty to someone else. I'm looking for the sense that they're going to sacrifice themselves for a greater good, a plan larger than themselves that they don't understand.

In my examples from other shows it's the sense of the unknown that's important to me. I don't want a smart character that is able to reason everything out and choose the best option. I also don't want a stupid character that always does what he's told. I want a character that is intelligent, yet sets that aside because honor and duty demand otherwise.

Bahh... perhaps I'm trying to draw a distinction that is only important to me. In any event, I appreciate all the responses guys!
posted by sbutler at 1:49 AM on February 14, 2005


There's the episode where Deanna Troi is going for her bridge officers' exam and has to order La Forge to what is his certain death.

It's only a simulation, but he goes in order to save Enterprise.
posted by purephase at 4:37 AM on February 14, 2005


Actually (oh God, I am such a geek) that was holo-LaForge that went to his doom in the Deanna Troi bridge officer exam episode.

The point of the episode was to get HER to order a nice guy like holo-LaForge to his death.
posted by xyzzy at 5:15 AM on February 14, 2005


Hmm. As I recall, Worf was routinely forced to choose between being a good Klingon and a good Starfleet officer. Can't name any episodes.

In "Chain of Command," where Picard is officially relieved of command in order to go on a covert mission to Cardassia (and is then tortured), the guy who takes his place gets a lot of grumbling from the crew, even in the face of bizarre orders, but no mutiny breaks out.

In "Lessons," Picard falls for a member of his crew and then transfers her away so that he never has to wrestle with the decision to send her on a dangerous mission.

Not what you asked for, but in Voyager there was an episode with the "omega particle" or some damn thing--the whole ship starts showing big Omega alerts, Janeway starts acting very mysterious, and orders the crew into a hazardous situation. They're all asking "what's going on?" and she will not tell them (at first). They follow her orders.
posted by adamrice at 7:21 AM on February 14, 2005


How about that episode where Picard falls for the musician member of his crew. Picard has to give her up to best serve his command, which can be one example, but he decides this after he has ordered her and other crew members on to a volcanic planet and they have come very close to being killed. (IIRC they initially think they have been killed, the point being that they went to the planet to save other people knowing the were at risk.)

You could also argue that many Voyager episodes stem from Janeway's submission to the prime directive and her refusal to sacrifice others in order to more speedily facilitate getting the ship home, certainly this is the case in the first episode. (Obviously she just says bollocks to the prime directive in the end but that's not the point.)
posted by biffa at 7:23 AM on February 14, 2005


I don't know the name of the episode, but it's the one where the Enterprise is stuck in a time loop and keeps colliding with a ship coming out of the loop (captained by Kelsey Grammer) and ends up getting destroyed right before each commercial break.

In the second to last act the crew realizes that they might be able to send a message into the next time loop. They know for certain that at some point in the very near future the Enterprise is going to be destroyed and they're all going to die, but they go ahead anyway. Of course, they surely all hoped they would make the right decision this time and break the time loop, but they were willing to take the chance of sacrificing themselves in the current time loop to give the other themselves a chance to get out of it. And who knew if it would work, really? (Well, we all did. But they didn't.)
posted by Cyrano at 7:52 AM on February 14, 2005


Cyrano, I think you might be misremembering that episode, the Enterprise crew are unaware of how they will meet their fate and decide to carry on as normal and hope to deal with the problem as it arises. They have no other way out.
posted by biffa at 11:37 AM on February 14, 2005


Fresh contributions from a friend:
In "The Measure of a Man" (episode 2.9) Commander Riker prosecutes Star Fleet's case against Data being an individual even though he doesn't want to. That seems to qualify.

There are lots of shenanigans in "The Best of Both Worlds" (both parts 1 and 2) where the crew does stuff they have no business doing because of personal loyalty to Picard, who has been captured by the Borg.
posted by NortonDC at 11:53 AM on February 14, 2005


In the Lower Decks episode, the viewers get a brief glimpse into the lives of up-for-promotion ensigns. One of the top contenders is ordered on a mission that results in her death, but if I remember correctly, there's a pointed scene in which Picard warns her that it is extremely dangerous.

She goes anyway.
posted by purephase at 12:15 PM on February 14, 2005


Counterexample. In "Allegiance," Picard is replaced by a doppelganger who orders the ship into a pulsar. Riker and Worf relieve him of command.
posted by profwhat at 12:17 PM on February 14, 2005


"There are four lights!"

Picard refuses to lie to his cardassian tourturer knowing that doing so could lead to his death because he feels the peace between the federation and the cardassians is too important.
posted by shepd at 12:38 PM on February 14, 2005


Thanks's everyone for all the great examples; I used to watch ST:TNG in HS, but it's been years since then. So all of these summaries are bringing back fond memories.

I'd like to mark about 50% of these as "best answer" but I think that dilutes the feature, so I chose the two I liked best. In any event, I've already made my point. AskMe once again comes through in a moment of need!
posted by sbutler at 3:39 PM on February 14, 2005


Damn you all, now I need to pull out the DVDs.
posted by softlord at 5:11 PM on February 14, 2005


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