When the Enterprise takes on Lt Commander Nella Darren as head of stellar cartography, she is forthright, strong-willed – and Picard can’t help but be attracted her. As their relationship develops, however, Picard begins to grasp the conflicts of interest that can occur when dating a member of his crew.
This episode really highlights the difference between TNG and TOS. Back in the day, Kirk may have kept his hands off Janice Rand, but other than that he fucked his way through the galaxy with nary a care for consequences or communicable diseases. Picard has one genteel low-key relationship with a female crewmember and she ends up transferring off the ship – away from her dream job!
Back when I first watched this episode, it didn’t really gel with me – I didn’t think Nella Darren was a good match for Picard. On rewatching, I think I’ve reversed my position on that one – she’s a strong enough woman to be a foil for the captain. This is also the first time Picard opens about the psychological aftereffects of what happened in The Inner Light, which is a nice touch. Of course, the theme of the episode is the interest in music that he developed from his fake life on Kataan, so one might argue that it’s not so much a hobby of the real Picard, as of Picard-as-Kamin. But then again, we all change and grow, so why shouldn’t Picard have a hobby that he didn’t have when he first boarded the Enterprise? It’s a small thing compared to the memories of a wife and children he deeply loved, but whom he never actually had a relationship with.
- It’s convenient for the plot, but somewhat odd that Starfleet has no regulations about dating a fellow officer. Of course, on extended missions in space it would be impossible to ban all relationships, but there are obvious conflicts of interest. Shouldn’t there be at least some guidance for dating direct superiors or subordinates?
- Picard’s desperate suggestion that Nella resign her commission and stay aboard wouldn’t really work – she wouldn’t have to go on dangerous away missions, but she would still be at risk every time the Enterprise itself was in danger, which happens about once a fortnight.
- Nella Darren seems to think her roll-up piano is some amazing alien technology, but they are readily available here on 21st century Earth.
Summary – Lessons: Even Picard needs some loving sometimes.