Star Trek: The Next Generation premiered in 1987. After a very shaky first two years, the crew gained its footing and created some of the best television of the 90s and was even nominated for a Best Drama Emmy in its final season.
As the third season commenced The Next Generation began telling very fallible human stories – some that continue resonate years later. “The Drumhead” episode examines judging someone based on race and accusing that person of high crimes without solid evidence, something we have witnessed in American history for many years.
But a most translatable episode is one that In 1991. “The Game” has Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton), son of Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), the head doctor returning to the Enterprise from Starfleet Academy. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) has returned from a pleasure planet called Risa where he is given an addictive game that connects with the pleasure center of the brain. Riker begins to share the game with the crew and suddenly the everyone becomes addicted. The device is in fact being used by a malevolent race to control the Federation.
It takes Wesley and his new friend Ensign Robin Lefler (Ashley Judd) along with help from Commander Data (Brent Spiner) to solve the mystery and save the Enterprise.
The question you may be asking is why revisit this episode when there are so many far superior ones. That is true, but I think the idea of addiction and how easily it can happen is one very present in 2020. Most likely you are reading this article on your phone, which you have with you during most of your waking hours, even taking it out while you are in the bathroom.
There is no question we are addicted to our phones and so many other technologies. How often can we say we got sucked into a Netflix show and binge watched five episodes in a row. It happens.
The real question we need to ask ourselves though is when did I last pick up a novel or read a meaningful article in a newspaper. Maybe even better, had a conversation with a loved one. Captain Picard would certainly tell us to do any of the three.
Yes, there is no question we need technology now more than ever due to the pandemic, but when things return to normal, and they will someday, we might want to remember how easily the crew of the Enterprise got sucked into a game that ended up ruling them and how that may in fact be happening to us.