Lesson 125: Risking rank and career
TV Series: Star Trek - The Next Generation
Season/Episode: 3/16 ('The Offspring')


Data, a senior officer on board the Enterprise and an android who is classified as sentient by Starfleet, has built a new android based on his own positronic architecture. Data refers to his new creation as his child.

When Starfleet command finds out about the new creation, they dispatch a Starfleet Admiral to review the situation.

As Data's new creation is recognized as a new life form, the Admiral decides to remove the new android to a star base, away from Data, for evaluation and proper guidance in a controlled environment.

In essence, Data is told by the Admiral to hand over his 'child' to Starfleet.

When Data respectfully declines the Admirals request, the Admiral changes the request into a direct order. Before Data can respond, Capt. Picard intervenes, jeopardizing his own career, by telling Data to belay the Admiral's order.

Recognizing the truly horrendous nature of the order, Capt. Picard bluntly states that there are times when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders and that as long he is the Captain, he will not stand idly by and watch a crew member be forced to hand over their child to the state.


'I was just following orders.' How often has man used that statement to justify his evils and absolve himself of all responsibilities in wrong doings?

How many times have we all seen an injustice and failed to stand up and be heard? This is where the true courage of an individual is really tested.

If a bad person, being true to their nature, does bad things, while the good person, recognizing the bad, does nothing to oppose, who commits the greater evil?

The answer is obvious, as shown vividly in the classic 1947 movie 'Gentleman's Agreement.' Prejudice against others (Jews, as in the case of this movie) is expected from narrow, closed-minded bigots who by nature are evil; however, for the rest who are not so prejudice inclined, to sit by idly and not protest while the bigots spread their tainted mirth with laughter, is surely the worse evil.

It is only a small step for good men to go from resolute silence to active participation in the face of evil.

How many good men first stood by, and then eventually joined without protest the evils committed at Auschwitz, My Lai and Darfur? In the end, after getting caught, isn't their only defense always, 'I was just following orders.'

Fortunately, Capt. Picard's stance in opposing an evil, even at personal risk to himself, is the true course followed by all good men of conscience in real life.

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