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Call me Dave Marinaccio. It's not as catchy as Ishmael, but I too have taken a journey. Well, not so much taken a journey as been taken on one. You see, I've never left my great white couch.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise NCC-1701-D visits me several nights a week in my living room. He does most of the talking. This doesn't mean the relationship is one-sided. I find Picard a most engaging fellow, and I've learned a great bit by residing in his presence.
He's not perfect. For starters, he's a fictional character. Of course, I've met many of those in my chosen occupation, advertising. In truth, Jean-Luc has more real substance than many of my professional brethren.
He's bad for my eyes when I watch him in the dark. And he must bear some of the burden for my expanding waistline and softening sofa springs. Still, when all is said and done, he's expanded my imagination at least as much as my belt size.
"But Dave, Star Trek is just a television show." heard that phrase a lot over the past couple of years. Ever since I wrote All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Watching Star Trek.
As a society we are hypnotized by television. The average American TV set is switched on over six hours a day. More people believe television news than believe newspapers. That little electronic box in our living rooms, dining rooms, dens, bedrooms, attics, basements, garages, kitchens, and bathrooms has changed the way we live. But when I dared to suggest that there is actually something to be learned from watching the tube, people looked at me as if I were from space.
Learn something from TV? You must be nuts. Why don't you go read a book? Books contain knowledge. Television is a vast wasteland, an idiot box, the boob tube. Incredibly, even hosts of television talk shows jabbed fun at the notion that I had found something of value on TV. Go figure.
If they're right, if there's nothing to be learned from TV, then I'm toast. I'm glued to that sucker. It takes me two turns to get home at night. First I turn the doorknob and then I turn on the set. Even when I'm not watching, it stays on. It's on now. I don't like to turn my back on it but I've got it trained. Me and my Zenith.
More to the point, I would like to suggest that the medium is not the message, and we shouldn't, like Elvis, shoot the messenger. Television is a conduit. It's neither better nor worse than other forms of communication. What's being conveyed is what's truly important. The source of ideas is not as important as the substance of the ideas being expressed. Pretty heavy stuff, huh?
How about this? Ask yourself a simple question. Where do you think you will be exposed to more elevated ideas, in a television show written by Gene Roddenberry or in a book written by Fabio? Romance-novel fans should note that this a rhetorical question.
Watch any Star Trek or Star Trek: The Next Generation episode (or movie, or successive television spin-off), and you will visit a universe filled with ideas and lessons you can use in everyday life. Really. The most important of which is that someday the human race will actually like itself. Look at the bridge of the Enterprise-D. This is virtually the only show on television where all the major characters are good. They all treat each other with decency and respect. And -- hold on to your seats -- everyone gains from the experience.
Taking this idea a step further, they even try to treat the alien species they encounter in the same high-minded manner. This concept is so worthwhile, so noble, I can deal with a few latex alien creatures wearing silly noses and ears.
Other lessons cover the gamut of life on earth, like:
And there's plenty more where those came from.
So I invite Picard into my living room. He brings along Riker and Troi and Data and Q. They're all welcome. So are Sisko and Janeway and Kirk. It can get crowded in here.
Yeah, I know Star Trek is just a TV show...just a well-written, imaginatively conceived, wonderfully entertaining television show with a strong morally centered philosophy that has so far spawned The Original Series, The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager, a cartoon series, eight movies, countless novels, technical manuals, and a convention phenomenon thrown in for good measure.
In the next few pages I'll share some of the things I've discovered watching The Next Generation. Yes, I mean some of the things I've learned. There's a lot there. Maybe even everything you really need to know. Perhaps even enough to live long and prosper.
Copyright © 1998 by David Marinaccio