Unless you are big a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation like myself, the title of this post probably has you scratching your head in confusion. But those who are fans will recognize immediately that the title refers to the episode of that show called Darmok. This episode is one of my favorites for two reasons, it’s theme: a failure to communicate, and it’s guest star: Paul Winfield. My obsession with communications has been well documented on this blog, and I’ve always loved the way Paul Winfield speaks – MHRIP.
In the story, Captain Dathon (Paul Winfield) of a Tamarian warship, kidnaps Captain Picard and takes him to a planet (El-Adrel) he knows is inhabited by a a terrible beast – in the desperate hope that their struggle for survival will bridge a seemingly insurmountable communications gap standing in the way of better relations between his people and ours. He has also left orders with the crew of his very powerful ship to prevent any interference by Picard’s crew on the Enterprise.
According to the Enterprise’s resident android, Data, the Tamarians “communicate through narrative imagery – a reference to the individuals and places that appear in their mytho-historical accounts… No matter how many words we add to our Tamarian vocabulary, they remain meaningless gibberish without an understanding of Tamarian history.” So it’s a desperate race to solve the mystery and save the two lives on the planet – and possibly millions more.
I think that this story is a near perfect metaphor for the problems faced by a variety of human cultures when they met for the first time. It’s a warning of what can happen when we deliberately choose to divide ourselves into silly and counter-productive factions, as well as a damned good reason for us to know our own history. For while it may seem cool for one to feel he knows more than his fellows, we must all understand that it’s shared knowledge that leads to true understanding.
What is Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra?
The Darmok Episode Teaser Ad
Darmok and Gilgamesh
Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel
I want ice water.