So with Picard Season 3 coming (brace yourselves, I’m hearing it might be… good?!) I thought a good feature here would be to spotlight various Star Trek episodes that I think really illustrate why Star Trek has endured for nearly 60 years.

Star Trek was pretty important to me growing up. Truth is, there are several episodes that grapple with some pretty heady issues. Some of it was a warning of what could happen and unfortunately what is happening now. Trek for most of its initial run (TOS through Enterprise) understood the principles that we are now fighting about including free-speech, race blindness, the dangers of fanaticism, and in this spotlight, The Drumhead, cancel culture.

Of course it wasn’t called that back in 1991. Cancel culture has had many names throughout the years. Witch burnings, inquisitions, the Red Scare… it’s all the same thing: mob justice. It usually happens when those with a bit of power and influence become paranoid or greedy or just power mad. In today’s culture, it’s not just one person at ground zero unfortunately. But I think The Drumhead’s lessons are still valid.


The Enterprise-D has had an accident in the warp core. Fortunately no one was killed but it’s very suspicious. Data and Geordi initial assumptions are sabotage as all things being equal, there’s really no other explanation how this particular accident could happen. The core is sealed off however not allowing further inspection for another 2 days.

The Drumhead
Righteous or self righteous? The difference can cause massive damage.

To attempt to get to the truth, Starfleet send Admiral Norah Satie, a well respected investigator and prosecutor for the federation. So much so, that uniforms are optional for her. She begins the process of attempting to uncover what might be happening here.

There happens to be a Klingon exchange officer on-board who is quickly found out to be collaborating with the Romulans, surreptitiously sending data to the enemy empire in the belief that the Klingons are weaker by allying themselves with the Federation. He fully admits his guilt proudly but denies having anything to do with the explosion.

Satie finds the Klingon had a medical condition that required injections and he had modified a hypospray with a transmitter to hide his communications. He was given injections by the medical staff, including a young non-commissioned crewman named Simon Tarses. Enlisting an enthusiastic Worf, she begins looking into his past, finding that his paternal grandfather was not a Vulcan as he put on his application, but a Romulan.

In the meantime, the radiation has cleared and Geordi and Data are able to make a thorough inspection of the damage. It turns out that the replacement part they installed a few weeks back had some flaws, enough to fail. This was an accident, pure and simple. There was no sabotage. This doesn’t stop Satie’s investigation into Tarses.

Tarses had done nothing wrong save for the understandable falsification of his Starfleet application. Working in Starfleet was his dream and he was worried that he would never be accepted with his heritage. This was probably not true and he should’ve been honest but this didn’t make him a saboteur or a traitor.

Satie would hear none of it, to the consternation of Picard who is increasingly skeptical of her methods. She begins to see him as an obstacle and brings him to trial in front of the Admiral in charge of Starfleet Security. She questions him on various past incidents in the Enterprise history, spinning and twisting those events to her own ends. If she can win this, her ability to begin digging into everyone in Starfleet would probably be unfettered.

The Drumhead
A brilliant shot. Picard sits alone from the mob.

Picard stands up to her, quoting her father’s words back to her, causing her to have an emotional outburst that wrecks her credibility. The sight of the Admiral wordlessly just leaving the room is a powerful moment.

She departs the Enterprise. Worf laments to Picard that he believed her. He correctly asserts that her actions doesn’t mean that Starfleet doesn’t have enemies. But Picard says that if they go down the roads of witch-hunts and paranoia, they will lose that which makes the federation the unique and special thing it is. Freedom really does mean eternal vigilance, sometimes against our own people wrapped up in the cloak of good deeds.

The Drumhead


When I look at how we’ve become so infatuated with our immutable characteristics, I think about this episode. Only a southeast Asian can play a southeast Asian. Only a gay man can play a gay character. Only a trans character can play a trans character. Elizabeth Warren uses her Native American heritage (all 1/1024 of it) to get clout.

Conversely, the hazard of being born white and male is considered a moral failing now. The sins of our forefathers now falls to us is the reparations argument. These ideas were all addressed in this episode.

Stewart does his usual stellar job in delivering a Picard Speech™ and the writers show a great understanding of the dangers of what can happen with rampant mob justice. It doesn’t have to be a physical mob with torches, it can be an online mob. A group of people with administrative power can be a mob. The point is the requirement of due process and an ferocious devotion to the truth is the only way we can properly find the guilty without persecuting the innocent. Our biases must fall to wayside. Otherwise we harm not only the innocent but ourselves.

“With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored. The first thought forbidden. The first freedom denied — chains us all irrevocably…The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on, we’re all damaged.

Every call for banning, every time Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, or any other media source bans opinion, every time you as an individual attempt to deny another’s ability to speak, you deny yourself that same thing. Power is a fleeting thing and changes hands. If power is the only principle you have, pray you are never on the wrong side of those who wield it.

This episode, though somewhat ham-fisted by necessity due to a 45 minute runtime, really drives home how quickly we will descend to these type of actions against each other. It’s a shame we haven’t listened very well.

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