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GreatLink
Fri, May 27, 2016, 10:29pm (UTC -6)
Re: TNG S4: The Drumhead

The comments on this episode to the effect that it is an overly blunt McCarthyism allegory are well-taken, but.... there was nothing subtle about McCarthyism, and recent American history is well-nigh complete with people whose self-righteousness has led them to flout our Constitution (so our Supreme Court has said. In Hamdi v . Rumsfeld, Rasul v. Bush, Hamdan v. Rumseld and Boumedine v . Bush, cases which I fear are quickly becoming ancient history) in the name of the flag and "safety." Some of these these people, in their own minds, believe they act with good intentions.

So did Norah Satie at the beginning of this episode. To her, to be virtuous is to apply the principles articulated by her father. To me - I am a forme prosecutor - what some might deem Satie's out-of-character, unhinged behavior might be explained by what makes up the difference between her father and herself. He was a judge and she is, in effect, a prosecutor. More than one prosecutor will tell you that the longer he or she has been in the business, the easier it is to think that his prosecutorial actions are "justified" in the name of a higher power. Some prosecutors know that they are lying to themselves when they say this, and some are merely self-deluded. Either way, and as concerns Admiral Satie, the point I am trying to make here is that people who enforce the law can often develop tunnel vision. Merely losing a case is an insufficient deterrent to unethical behavior when a prosecutor keeps his job in May event. Why WOULD such a person feel the need to meditate on his ethical behavior when there is virtually no one to hold him accountable? (Except a judge, in egregious circumstances). Satie tells Picard, almost in passing, that she has not seen her family in years, and has no friends. As such, her actions in trying to ferret out wrongdoing have been in examined by human hands.

Her father, on the other hand, was a judge. Judges' decisions and writings are treated by many people in the U.S. with reverence. The episod - set 350 years from now, suggests that at least some judges are still held in public esteem.

Picard, by hurling Satie's own father's words against her, finally is able to tell Satie, in a way that others could not or would not, that her behavior is exactly the kind of overreaching that her father spent his life trying to stop. Her father, the judge, reaching out of the grave to admonish her, through the avatar of Picard's quote. For Norah Satie, there can be no more effective or utter rebuke. Her losing it, because she realizes what it is she has finally lost - a sense that the notion that rules must be followed only if following them serves some end - is to me quite understandable.

Criticism has been made of the fact that the episode would have been more compelling had Picard not so obviously been on the side of right and Satie on the side of wrong. We viewers tend to perceive that there is imbalance in part because Picard is a character whom we know and trust, and Satie is a stranger. So, all other things being equal, our natural sympathies lie with Picard in the first instance - a bias which leads us to conclude that the scales are clearly tipped in his favor, when maybe perhaps the balance is a little less lopsided.

Don't believe me that point of view can cause us to distort what may actually be something resembling dramatic balance? Think about Law and Order (the first one), a show that tells us from the get-go that it is told from the point of view of the police and the prosecutors. How many times have you rooted for McCoy or Stone or one of the other prosecutors to secure a guilty verdict? More times than what, upon sober reflection, you realize was the amount of times such a verdict was justified? If your answer is at least "one," maybe you'd be a little less harsh on this episode. Sure, it could have been more subtle, but subtlety is a tricky business - too little, it sounds like you're shouting. Even the tiniest bit too much, and you might come off as not really saying much of anything. Which is fine - unless you like Star Trek - and many of us do -because you admire its tendency to side with those who are on the right side.
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