Star Trek: The Next Generation: Lessons   Rewatch 
August 20, 2021 4:45 AM - Season 6, Episode 19 - Subscribe

When the Enterprise's assertive new science officer becomes Picard's girlfriend, she puts him in a difficult position or two.

And THAT'S why… you don't use Memory Alpha to teach lessons:

• "Lessons" began as a story idea from Michael Piller during a meeting of the writing staff in the fifth season. Piller considered that it would be interesting to have a romance for Picard in which he was attracted to someone under his command. Jeri Taylor only offered weak support at the time and the idea was not further pursued. The story was resurrected late in the sixth season as the writers were struggling for ideas. Taylor assigned freelancers Ron Wilkerson and Jean Louise Matthias to write the teleplay.

• Wilkerson noted that, like their later "Lower Decks", "what was important was not the mission but the relationship of the people."

• René Echevarria recalled that, in contrast to previous Picard romances, the producers deliberately cast an actress who would appear closer in age to Patrick Stewart. "We wanted somebody who had weight as opposed to it being just purely sexual."

• Makeup & Effects Laboratories created two versions of Daren's portable piano – a strip made of stretchy plastic that could be rolled up and a solid version that Wendy Hughes could pretend to play. Don Coleman from MEL revealed, "No one here plays piano so we didn't know what the layout of the keys should be. We just worked off of the sketch we got from the Star Trek art department, and whoever did it probably didn't play piano, either. No one noticed until they brought in the musician who was going to help the actress rehearse her hand movements. He had a fit because the keys were all wrong. We had a bit of flack on that one!"

• Jeri Taylor was pleased with episode, commenting that there was "true substance and genuine warmth" in the relationship between Picard and Daren. In another interview she noted, "It had an honesty and simplicity to it that was very engaging. Wendy Hughes, who is a wonderful actress, made the whole relationship believable. You believed that Picard would be enchanted with this woman and I was wrong [to have such a] lukewarm response to it at the beginning. It turned into something that was sweet and endearing." Director Robert Wiemer agreed. "The script was a pleasure and we had really turned-on performances. If we'd had only moderate performances it would have fallen flat."

• Brannon Braga believed that the concept was flawed as it did not have a significant science fiction component, unlike episodes such as "The Host". However, he praised René Echevarria's contributions to the script, noting that "There's always something about René's writing that's very touching. He always finds the genuine emotion."

• Ronald D. Moore commented "I liked the relationship with Nella and wanted it to continue aboard the Enterprise-D, but that view was in the minority. I thought that she matched up well with Picard and that we should've just played it out over several episodes."

"Excellent. Now perhaps you can tell me what was so important that it required depriving the captain of his cup of Earl Grey."
"Earl Grey? No wonder you can't sleep."
- Picard and Daren

"What kind of flute is that?"
"It's, ah…Ressikan."
"I've never seen one before."
"They're not made anymore."
- Daren and Picard, referencing The Inner Light

Poster's Log:
No way this episode would've worked half as well as it does if it had appeared in an earlier season. By now, not only do we seriously care about Picard as a character, but we know the kind of heavy shit he's been through. Rarely do we see our Trek captains so profoundly vulnerable as here.

Part of the reason for Picard being so gun-shy about an intra-Starfleet relationship may be because of how things seem to have gone with Phillipa Louvois (whom we met in "Measure of a Man"; insert crude joke here).

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
If you were wondering about Wendy Hughes' accent, which was well-suppressed but still detectable as being suppressed, it turns out she was Australian.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (14 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
DAREN: We should play together.
PICARD: Uh... there isn't a piano.
DAREN: Ah, but there is! [unrolls piano] I picked it up on Casio 5. It's amazing. [plays synth arpeggio]
PICARD: That is remarkable.
DAREN: And that's not all. Now I press this button and-- [electric noodling]-- it sounds like a violin.
PICARD: Incredible!
DAREN: And this button makes it sound--
PICARD: Like horns honking! And what do those hexagonal pads do?
DAREN: [electronic drum noises]


DATA: Mr. LaForge? Is something the matter?
GEORDI: No, I just... this is weird, but I thought I just heard a bunch of sampled record scratch noises.
DATA: [cocks head] I hear nothing but a repetitive drum and base line in the old earth "bossa nova" style.
[smash cut to DAREN and PICARD tradin' tongues]


TROI: Let me get this straight. You, my superior, are asking me, who reports directly to you, whether it is okay to date a woman who reports directly to someone who reports directly to you.
PICARD: Well, yes.
TROI: [long stare] Sure. Okay, sir. That's fine. No, really, why not. Terrific.


PICARD: [regards Ressikan flute morosely] I will never play "Freres Jacques" again.
posted by phooky at 6:37 AM on August 20, 2021 [22 favorites]

I thought that this was pretty sweet, and generally agree with Ron Moore that this could have been developed over several episodes, which would have given it a bit more oomph when they broke up. (Moore seems more than ready to join the DS9 staff at this point.) I do have a few minor... I'm not even sure that I'd call them quibbles, just things that stuck out a bit:

- Is it just me, or did Daren look a lot like Crusher, especially in their scene together? And what does that say about the long-teased Jean-Luc/Beverly romance, complicated of course by Jack Crusher's ghost? Maybe the real doomed romance was the doctor we ignored along the way.

- Not sure why they made Hughes suppress her Australian accent.

- The keyboard was kind of distracting, especially when it spontaneously sprouted a stand. You can get those for real, BTW.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:14 AM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I like how Riker and Troi always sit together for recitals. It's nice that they have to-go partners for those nights out.

Daren tries out the flute and then she passes it to Picard to play. Sharing a flute, how risque!

Picard asking for Troi's blessing... She is his counselor and HR on the ship.

They wanted an actress who was closer to Picard's age. He's had not a few returned love interests and new girlfriend who were plenty close to his own age. But whatever!

I think the thing that takes me out of this one is the end when they are parting and Jean Luc says something about maybe they can schedule shore leave together. And then he gives one of those Patrick Stewart smiles. They know they are just trading words and it's probably over for good, but that smile at such a bittersweet moment is so creepy.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:41 AM on August 20, 2021

As a single episode of TNG, "Lessons" is pretty good. Daren was a better match for Picard than Crusher. Daren and Picard had shared interests where Picard and Crusher had only shared history and sexual attraction (yeah, maybe a lot more, but it was never shown). So it is nice to see for an episode that Picard had grown up and moved away from the old relationships and his maybe/maybe not relationship with Crusher. I agree with RDM, this is a character point that should have been explored more, at least with an episode here and an episode there the way Troi and Worf's relationship evolved in the later seasons.

As a part of the overall, "Lessons" isn't just a missed chance, it confuses the Picard character a little. Picard had become gunshy about sending lovers into mortal danger. So where did that leave Crusher? Was this ever explored again? Even as a limited one-shot, "Lessons" could have been a powerful episode of characterization for Picard that redefined the nature of his relationship with Crusher. But like so many episodes of TNG, it's one-and-done.
posted by Stuka at 8:25 AM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:
Firestorm they decided for whatever reason would kill crew members of low moral fiber. Why, I couldn't tell you. This is one of those cards that absolutely warped the early competitive scene, the already-limited Romulan decks had a total of 8 personnel who could survive this card, and 19 it would toast. The card it mentions to negate the casualties was introduced in the next set, Thermal Deflectors. Firestorm was so strong though, it motivated the Integrity buff on D'Tan, who would allow 7 more of your Green crew members to survive. This planetary danger for Romulans was an important part of the metagame, Todd Soper's World Finals "Innerspace Romulator" deck used all space missions partially because of that.

It's Bridge Crew Time...sort of. Neela Daren might not have stuck around on the show, but in the game she occupied a in rare slot Premiere, and was your one option for a Federation Science personnel with 3+ skills at that time. Not to be confused with that other Neela.
posted by StarkRoads at 11:36 AM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I absolutely love this episode, even though it has one of my least favorite cliches (I can't send you into danger so you must leave/the little woman is worried so I have to hang up my cape and stop fighting crime). I find it much more touching and meaningful than "Inner Light," personally, but I love the way it references that episode. I liked Wendy Hughes from some of her Aussie films, which helped a lot. It should not have been a one and done, though, that's my major complaint.

But I think I'm in a minority here with regard to my love for it, so that's all I'll say.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:35 PM on August 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

The ending kind of enraged me, tbh. Daren does her duty, risks her life, and saves hundreds of lives. She's been a complete professional and appears to have won the respect of the rest of the crew. She's a hero! But now, of course, she's got to leave, potentially wrecking her career because Picard can't handle his feelings. WTF.
posted by phooky at 12:48 PM on August 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Casio 5?
posted by acrasis at 1:59 PM on August 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Casio 5?

Seriously, right? The cool kids all shop for gear on Juno-60.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:13 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

You don't hear a lot about Casio V these days, ever since they were caught in the conflict between the Korg and the Moog Empires...
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:16 PM on August 20, 2021 [9 favorites]

The glance that Troi gives Picard when he sees Daren enter Ten-Forward for the concert is gold.
posted by hanov3r at 7:44 PM on August 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I really liked this relationship and I didn’t totally get why they couldn’t just… work on different ships and continue to have a long-distance relationship.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:34 AM on August 21, 2021

Is it just me, or did Daren look a lot like Crusher, especially in their scene together?

OOOOOH yeah. Picard definitely has a type. Vash is just a slightly younger version of both.

I love any episode that allows Stewart to show more of Picard's humanity and vulnerability. I too would have liked to see them play this relationship out for a few episodes. I think the most touching aspect is Picard's mix of tentativeness and eagerness to share his music with Daren; showing her his flute (no phallic-symbol pun intended) is so meaningful to him, and the warmth with which she responds is really wonderful.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:44 AM on August 21, 2021

I think it's sad that they felt limited in their ability to do this kind of episode because it didn't have a sci-fi hook. And then to have an episode without any danger for at least the first half, and a romance to boot?? They probably had to promise the network to do two episodes featuring adolescents to balance things out.

It's too easy to imagine a modern version of TNG playing this out over several episodes as one of many different season-long threads. As other posters have noted, a lot of the impact of this episode is muted by it never being referenced again.

This episode was probably the first time I understood that on TV, when you can't show people having sex, writers often use some abstract metaphorical stand-in, like cooking, or music to stand in. If I hadn't picked it up in the first scene where Picard is giddy about Daren's piano playing, I definitely would have gotten it by the time we get to the wonderfully heavy-handed scene where Daren goes on about her duets with Crusher, and Crusher about snaps her tricorder in half when she hears they're planning on another.

I had no memory that this episode involved Picard sharing his experiences in Inner Light, it's really touching, and a great idea for the writers to use as a basis for their romance.

The scene where Picard asks Riker to join him for fencing was I guess inserted just to show that Picard was smitten, but would have made the episode worthwhile all by itself.

The scene where Picard is in his quarters looking at his flute had just awful, schmaltzy music. It was really unnecessary, Stewart and Wendy Hughes had plenty of chemistry to make the drama work.
posted by skewed at 7:30 PM on August 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

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