Star Trek: The Wisdom of Picard
Edited by Chip Carter
Published by Adams Media
6” x 6” hardcover & ebook: 208 pages
Ruminating on The Wisdom of Picard
“It’s a model of simplicity—elegant and functional. They built this craft for generations.”
When he said that, Jean-Luc Picard was referring to the bridge of an ancient warship. But the same could be said of the new book, The Wisdom of Picard. This small, handsome volume does exactly what it says on the cover—offers a compendium of Picard’s thoughts on a variety of topics, from the elements of friendship to the Federation’s guiding ideals.
The book aims to prove what Tasha Yar once said about Picard, that he has “the heart of an explorer and the soul of a poet.” Lightly peppered with photos, the book primarily consists of one quote per page. And, yes, the quotes are mostly from Star Trek: The Next Generation and the follow-up movies, but there are a fair number of quotes from Star Trek: Picard as well. Somewhat surprisingly, the new series quotes fit comfortably amidst the older material. In fact, while reading the book straight through I found the quotes from First Contact felt the most out of character. But of course, as Lily Sloane eventually helped make clear, Picard was acting out of character, going full Ahab in his fight against the Borg.
The Wisdom of Picard is broken down into five chapters: philosophy and humanity; history and science; literature and the arts; exploration and adventure; and politics, leadership, and diplomacy. The quotes themselves range from very straightforward (“There is no greater challenge than the study of philosophy.”) to more thought-provoking (“Either way, one version of history or another will wend its way forward—the history you know, or another one. Now who is to say which is better?”) to knowing-smile-inducing (“There…are…four lights!”). Again, most are from TNG, but the ones from Picard did not seem entirely out of place—“I’m not in the habit of consulting lawyers before I do what needs to be done” does not feel very far removed from “There are times, sir, when men of good conscience cannot blindly follow orders.”
Editor Chip Carter provides brief introductions to each chapter, helping to frame and contextualize his choices. And while I enjoyed reading it straight through, I found myself surprised at what the book was not. I went in expecting a sort of philosophy book, full of nuggets that could be discussed and debated and utilized in different situations. The book does have plenty of quotes that fit that description, but it really serves more as a look inside the workings of the man, of the character. I mean there aren’t a lot of ways to parse “Well, it’s a very intriguing drama, but I really don’t have the time it would take to learn a part. And anyway, I’m not much of an actor.”
But maybe that’s just part of the beauty, not only of the book but of the character, and of the franchise. At its best, Star Trek has always been about ideas as well as about people. And this volume gives us a focused way to consider both.
It will make a great gift, whether you’re giving or receiving. Together, we can all make sure history never forgets the name Picard.
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