The Sixth Estate
Monday, June 14, 2004
QUOTE OF THE DAY : A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable but more useful than a life spent in doing nothing. - George Bernard Shaw

SONG OF THE DAY : TV on the Radio - Staring at the Sun

LINK OF THE DAY : That's gotta hurt.

Set honour in one eye and death i' the other,
And I will look on both indifferently.

The summer is chugging away, as time seems to do. June 14th already, Christmas seemed like yesterday, and all in between a blur.

So I was watching Star Trek The Next Generation the other day. Geeky? Yes. Sue me I grew up watching it. The episode I saw is by far one of the best acted episodes of any TV show ever. For those unfamiliar with the show, Patrick Stewart plays Captain Picard in this second Trek series, considered by many to be the best out of the... 5... Wow talk about kicking a dead horse. Onto the episode.

Picard's answer after being tortured and forced to look at Cardassian porn.

I think it was called Chain of Command. In this particular episode Picard, Worf and Dr. Crusher are sent on a covert mission to a secret Cardassian base. For those of you who don't know Cardassians are one of the many alien races featured on the show. Anyways, someone tips off the Cardassians about this little covert op, and Picard ends up getting captured.

He awakes in the spartan office of a Cardassian officer, played by fellow Brit actor David Warner. The officer begins interrogating Picard, standard military questions. Strengths and weaknesses of Federation forces along the Cardassian border etc.

Of course Picard, being a senior officer will not answer any of the questions. Sick of Picard's steadfastness, he has the Captain stripped naked and chained to a bracket hanging from the ceiling, leaving him there overnight. The next day the officer takes a different approach. Hanging behind the officer's desk are four spot lights. The officer turns them on so that they are shining directly in Picard's face. He then asks Picard how many lights he sees.

"I see four lights." Picard responds.

"No, there are five" The officer calmly states. "Are you quite sure?"

Picard knows what he sees. "There are four lights."

The officer then makes Picard aware of an incision on his chest. As it turns out, while Picard was unconscious the Cardassians had him implanted with a device that allows the officer to send excruciating pain through Picard's body at the touch of a button. The officer then demonstrates the devices effect sending the Captain into horrific pain.

"That was the lowest possible setting." says the officer. "How many lights do you see?"

Picard is resolute, despite the intense pain he will incur because of his answer.

"There are four lights."

Displeased, the officer sighs. "I don't understand how you can be so mistaken."

He then sends another more intense jolt of pain searing through the Captains body.
The torture continues like this for many days, Picard in spite of his captor, will not say that there are five lights. He continues to say what his eyes tell him, there are four lights.

The officer knows that if he can get Picard to say that he sees five lights, he will have broken him. Thusly, he'll be able to get any information he needs out of the Captain.

After more than a week of this torture, Picard is a wreck of a man. Dazed and weakened as he is, he's still resisting the torture.

One morning the officer comes into the room and informs Picard of some recent events. An invasion of Cardassian forces has been a success, and that Picard's ship, Enterprise; is burning in space. He is also informed that no one knows that he is being held captive and it will be assumed that he was killed with his crew on the Enterprise. None of this is true of course, and is part of the interrogation. Finally, the officer offers Picard an ultimatum. Say nothing, and continue to be tortured for years to come, or live comfortably. Free to pursue his interests and live out his life on Cardassia, all he has to do is say that he sees four lights.

In actuality, the Federation has secured Picard's release and guards are coming to get him as the officer and him speak.

Faced with this ultimatum, Picard is unsure what to believe. Unable to distinguish what is real, and what is not. Or how many lights he sees. He is about to say there are five lights as the guards enter. They inform him that he's to be taken back to the Enterprise. As he's about to be led away he turns to the officer one more time and yells, "THERE ARE FOUR LIGHTS!!!" shaking and unsteady as he leaves the room.

The officer did break Picard's will. He almost took his offer. It was only the last minute revelation of the truth, that he would be set free that allowed him to tell the truth. So horrible was the torture that he endured that he actually thought there were five lights and not four.

After watching this episode I thought to myself, what would I do in that situation?
Would I crumble immediately? Or endure days of torture? Or in the end would I betray my country and my very mind, and take the easy way out? Or just keep saying what I knew to be true, that there were four lights, and die.

Makes you think about how your mind can be influenced, even in subtle ways to believe certain untruths. Whether through ignorance or coercion, our minds are biased into believing what they think is true, but may not actually be true.

All I know is that I would try to be strong, in a situation like that there is nothing else anyone can do.

Aside from the interesting questions this finely written and executed episode raises, it's just damn good television. This was the only episode that had a 'viewer discretion advised' warning before it, because the torture scenes were so intense.

Highly recommend watching it if you catch it on TV. Most of the episode is just the Officer and Picard in the office, it could be anything if it wasn't an episode of Star Trek. You don't have to be a Trek Geek to appreciate fine acting and writing.

Vado itum Deus, amicus.

- Will



I actually thought that TNG was the worse of the was the first Trek I was exposed to, but I quickly started watching the original instead, and while corny, the original just got to me more emotionally.

I felt bad for Picard, until he got all sanctimony and pointed out that the Gul's daughter would be starving 'spiritually', spirituality is important, but when your children is /hungry/, it's not going be a priority, and Picard was exhibiting the "easy to be saint in paradise" syndrome.

Garak would have handled it better, he would have agreed that there was four lights from the start, and then he wouldn't shut up, and he'll say things but it definitely won't be The Truth!

- Georgia Lam (found this post via google)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Monday, 01 October, 2007  

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