“He tasks me, He tasks me and I must have Him” – Moby Dick in Star Trek
I’m sure it is not a surprise to many of you trekkers that my favourite Next Generation film is First Contact. Before we continue let me outline a quick synopsis of the film for those of you who haven’t watched it…yet.
The Enterprise crew is forced to pursue a Borg ship into the past to save Earth from this devastating threat. The Borg are a race of organic machines that assimilate alien species and add their consciousness’s to a collective, essentially they strip you of your individuality. In the film The Borg are attempting to assimilate earth, and by traveling into earths past, they can therefore bypass any real technological threat from humans.
“We are the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.” – First Contact
This particular film among others like the famous Wrath of Khan and Nemesis make multiple references to Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick. I am currently reading through Melville’s magnum opus, and I can thank my interest in reading through the novel to Star Trek, and their use of references to the literary work.
In First Contact a female, Lily, from earths past visits the Enterprise and becomes acquainted with the crews mission to the past. The Borg have infested the ship, and Picard is faced with the dilemma that there is a possibility that he must destroy the Enterprise to destroy the Borg that are onboard. He refuses, and he is adamant that he can destroy the Borg by conventional means. To the crew this seems absolutely futile, and as the Borg are so fond of saying, “resistance is futile”. Lily enters the captain’s quarters to confront Picard who refuses to concede to the self-destruction of the ship. She directly tells Picard that he is on a quest of vengeance against the Borg, for what they have done to him. He denies her assertions because in the twenty-fourth century people have a more “evolved sensibility” and do not “succumb to revenge”. She compares Picard to Captain Ahab hunting his whale, a direct comparison of Picard to Moby Dicks tyrannical captain. Picard responds with the following (also watched the linked video):
“I will not sacrifice the Enterprise. We’ve made too many compromises already; too many retreats. They invade our space and we fall back. They assimilate entire worlds and we fall back. Not again. The line must be drawn here! This far, no further! And *I* will make them pay for what they’ve done!”- Picard First Contact
This of course affirms Lily’s suspicion that Picard is on a quest of vengeance. As she leaves she refers to him as ‘Ahab’ to which he paraphrases a quote from Melville’s novel:
“And he piled upon the whale’s white hump, the sum of all the rage and hate felt by his whole race. If his chest had been a cannon, he would have shot his heart upon it.” -Picard First Contact
I have to say that I am greatly enjoying Moby Dick and that Melville’s prose is remarkably elegant in its style. This film uses Moby Dick’s themes astoundingly well; I think its quotes and references like the ones I have shown above that make the film so memorable.
As a viewer you have the greatest regard and respect for Picard as a gentleman Captain who does not succumb to emotion or indulge in petty vengeance. It is difficult knowing what was truly done to him by the Borg in the past, and perhaps the Borg do deserve to be annihilated. It is also gripping for the viewer to see such a man who is in absolute control of his thoughts and feelings to lose control over-himself. It is not typical of Picard throughout the series to loosen his barrier of emotions as he has done in First Contact.
In our everyday lives it is not uncommon for people to indulge in dangerous emotions such as the ones you have seen Picard lose himself to. it is for this reason why we come into constant conflict with one another. It is the battle of our egos against the world. Picard is a model example of how one can come to the realization that he/she is acting not on logic, but on emotion. Our civilizations have to practice an unceasing conscientiousness to guard against an out-lash of our emotions which typically are destructive and seldom constructive. Have you ever lost control of your emotional guard? have you ever gone out of your way to seek revenge? Let me know your thoughts below.
If you want to see the epic conclusion of the film I would recommend that you take the time to sit and watch it, although the film would be appreciated more if you had a background knowledge of the series, it can nonetheless be enjoyed as an epic film of revenge and character growth.
- Real adventure that inspired Moby-Dick lures film directors (theguardian.com)
- Moby Dick Online: blogs, essays, editions, etc. (kevinabrooks.wordpress.com)
- Star Trek First Contact (1996) (thefilmmakersfactory.wordpress.com)