Captian Picard is always right.
He negotiates with an iron resolve and an iron gaze. He issues commands in that unshakeable voice that even Worf knows better than to question (though he does anyway). He is resolute with the food replicator about wanting his Earl Grey hot. Always. He also addresses issues such as prejudice, autonomy, torture, justice and courage, which are as relevant in 24th-century space as they are today on Earth.
Flying through the sometimes lawless depths of space, Jean-Luc Picard has dealt with some weighty issues even in microgravity. It takes a captain made of impenetrable stuff to declare a solution to an ethical dilemma about computerized microorganisms or lay down the law about what is a just punishment for trampling flowers on a planet thousands of light-years away from Earth's legal system. It takes that same kind of captain to convince one of his Starfleet officers, human or android, that failing at something is not going to bring on the apocalypse.
Slow down to Warp 1 and engage your conscious mind with these 11 invaluable pieces of Picard wisdom. Make it so.
"Every choice we make allows us to manipulate the future."
After being transported from 200 years in the future through a monster gravitational wave that supposedly thrust him into the past, professor Berlinghoff Rasmussen ends up aboard the Enterprise. That part about him stealing a time-travel pod and venturing into the 2400s to steal a few gadgets and reinvent them back in the 2200s is totally irrelevant. Between trying to swipe a neural stimulator, a tricorder and even Data himself, the fraud gets owned by Picard when the captain refuses to buy his philosophizing about altering the future. Picard puts the professor from the faux future in his place by refusing to believe history is restricted to bogus textbooks. No wonder Rasmussen's hair looks chronically electrocuted.
"Courage can be an emotion too."
Few TNG phenomena are more shocking than Data feeling emotions. This is the same android who previously bumbled his way through a relationship (if you could call it that) which lasted the better part of 24 hours. When a distraught Data demands that Captain Picard deactivate him until someone can remove his newly installed emotion chip, whose frighteningly human repercussions have become unbearable, Picard gives him a human response. Deactivation is not happening. Neither is any excuse to escape the problems caused by artificial emotion. Data is going to have to adapt and deal with these alien feelings. Trying takes courage. Who needs a therapist when you have Picard?
"The only person you're truly competing against is yourself."
So Wesley Crusher is crushed after failing the Starfleet Academy exam. Understandable. The Enterprise has been his life since he was a curious kid in bad sweaters screwing around with time-travel computer programs that defy the laws of physics. The precocious ensign had hoped to embark on the road to being an officer, except that even his best effort couldn't launch his career. His captain is hardly disappointed. You wouldn't exactly think that a kid who knew what all the controls could do before he could even talk in full sentences would fail on his first try, but get this: so did Picard. Just don't tell that to anyone else on board.
"You cannot explain away a wantonly immoral act because you think it is connected to some higher purpose."
When Lumerian empath Alkar decides to use others' bodies to channel his dark thoughts so the shadows can be cleared for him to perform mediations, regardless of any fatalities, it's the kind of selfishness that warrants a verbal smackdown from Picard. Deanna Troi being used as a vessel for this twisted pseudoscience incenses the captain even more. This leads to the perpetrator’s attempt to justify this reverse psychic vampirism in an unapologetically cold confession, but Picard is colder.
"There can be no justice so long as laws are absolute."
Just because the Edo say you have to die for crashing into a greenhouse while you were playing ball doesn't mean you should be obliterated. This utopian society, for whom every day is like a toga party at Woodstock, has figured that the ultimate solution to crime is to execute whoever breaks a rule — any rule. That includes Wesley accidentally smashing into some alien blossoms. There is just that inconvenient detail of him being completely ignorant of this society's laws because he is only there to evaluate the place as a potential spring break destination. This situation needs Picard's resolute voice to declare that justice and law are not always synonymous.
"Torture has never been a reliable means of extracting information."
No one pwns Picard. That means no one injects him with truth serum against his will or hangs him naked by the wrists and keeps repeatedly zapping him with electrical shocks. You also don't delete his identity and refer to him as "human" like a lab specimen. Of course, his captor conveniently ignores the treaty that outlawed torture for prisoners of war. If there isn't so much wrong with this already, the captain ends up a Cardassian torture victim all because his undercover mission to destroy a dangerous bio-weapon convinced them he was leading an imaginary murder conspiracy. Never mind that space Anthrax is whole other ethical argument in itself, but set to Warp 9, because that rockets us to …
"The road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think."
You don't need a mind-reading, telepathically communicating Betazoid to tell you about the dangers of xenophobia — against Klingons, Romulans or otherwise. While we haven't had denizens of other planets yet make contact with any of our spacecraft, what Picard remarks about a crewman being tried in a conspiracy case for no other reason but his Romulan blood echoes eerily into our paranoid society here on Earth. Even more unnerving is how the venom in this situation was dripping from an illustrious retired admiral. Later, the captain confides to Worf that society only believes it has advanced until the tortures and witch hunts buried in history unearth themselves again. Déjà vu.
"You cannot exterminate something that may or may not be intelligent."
If Wesley Crusher didn't take his nanotechnology project too far after almost falling asleep in his advanced genetics class, this quote may have never been spawned. His dozing off releases a swarm of nanites — Frankenstein-ed robotic microbes that take over live cells — that eat memory crystals like candy and develop an unforeseen intelligence as they infest the Enterprise. Gamma rays are the only bug spray that can exterminate them. The ethical dilemma arises when the rest of the crew realizes these things are actually communicating -- as in, they actually mind-control Data and use him as a collective mouthpiece. You can't just blast radiation at something that has a sentient brain.
"It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose."
Even androids aren't infallible. In the face of a Zakdorn who's supposed to have the most amazingly strategic mind in the Milky Way, all of Data's programming is no match for nearly supernatural capabilities ... even if the results of his system diagnostic reveal he has made no mistakes. If there's one thing no one could ever beat Data at, it's overthinking. He tends to fire all the electrical synapses in his android brain dangerously close to a crash. It takes Picard to extract him from this quarters by convincing him that losing doesn't necessarily entail making any mistakes at all, whether you're computerized or otherwise.
Wait. Data is disappointed. Could that be a flicker of emotion?
"No being is so important that he can usurp the rights of another."
You know something has to be off when Data stars spouting fancy language and even (shock) seems to take a romantic interest in a human Starfleet officer. Emotion? Try cybernetic technology master Dr. Graves, who, on the brink of death, deactivates Data and somehow transfers all of his consciousness into the android like a USB drive. Entitlement of galactic proportions ensues when Graves feels he's now rented himself at least another thousand years. The question is whether one really has a right to life over the other even if the other is basically a successful lab experiment. Where there should be no question for Graves is that you don't slap Picard in the face when he's already owned you.
"Things are only impossible until they're not."
I once had a teacher who stigmatized "impossible" as "the 'I' word" and made it as taboo as blurting out any four-letter atrocity in class. Picard would have probably congratulated her. Of course, the "I" word seems much more ominous in a case when all the Enterprise's children are beamed aboard a starship belonging to an alien race rendered infertile by and slowly dying of acute radiation poisoning which is found to be reversible — if you can convince them of it. What Picard observes here is that the Aldaeans were making conditions impossible for themselves with their own advanced technology. Learn how to use the power source safely, and suddenly your entire civilization isn't facing imminent doom.