Communication. One of the most vital parts of everyday life. To communicate is to understand and sometime a simple misunderstanding can lead to violence and even death. In today’s episode, that originally aired on September 30,1991, this subject is brought to light. This is Darmok.
Stardate 45047.2 Darmok
Picard and Dathon on El-Adrel. Picard and Dathon under the moons. Picard and Dathon in unity. Dathon’s sacrifice at El-Adrel. Picard on El-Adrel.
Picard is kidnapped by the Captain of a Tamarian race and forced to survive on a hostile planet in order for Picard to learn to understand The Tamarians or The Children of Tama. In their time together, they must learn to communicate in new ways in order to survive.
The Enterprise has been tasked with establishing communications with a race that does not communicate in a familiar way. When it is apparent that communication is impossible, the Captain of the Tamarian ship kidnaps Picard and beams him down to the surface of a nearby planet. Initially Picard believe that the Tamarian Captain wants to fight and refuses his challenge but soon sees that the Captain is not interested in battle. The Tamarian keeps stating ‘Darmok and Jalad at Tenagra’ but Picard does not understand.
Their first night on the planet, the Tamarian makes camp while Picard is having trouble with his fire. Cold and Alone, Picard begins to wonder if he will survive. The Tamarian Captain offers him some of his fire stating ‘Temba, his arms wide’. Soon Picard realizes that The Tamarian Captain, Dathon, is offering him assistance and that his phrase means that he is giving him something.
Meanwhile the Enterprise is doing all they can to rescue Picard. They send a shuttle but it is disabled by the Tamarian ship but not harmed in any other way. It becomes clear that they do not want a fight but Riker is losing patience. Data and Troi begin to study the Tamarians in order to determine the meaning behind this kidnapping. They soon discover that the phrases spoken by the Tamarians are referencing historical and mythological events.
The next morning, Picard awakes to find the Dathon has left. Picard begins going through the Tamarians things to better understand him. Soon Dathon returns offering Picard a blade and yelling ‘Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. Temba, his arms wide’. Just as Picard refuses to take the knife a loud growl sounds and Picard accepts the knife. As the creature begins to attack Picard realizes that the man is attempting to explain his needs through Metaphor and they must fight together to survive.
Understanding this, he begins to fight alongside Dathon and, just as the creature attacks, the Enterprise attempts to beam Picard to the Enterprise preventing Picard from assisting. They lose Picard’s signal just as the creature badly wounds the Tamarian Captain much to Picards dismay.
Picard starts camp with Dathon and begins to work with him to understand his language. Dathon is dying but manages to explain the story of Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra to Picard. It is a story of two strangers who fight a beast together and become friends. Dathon put the two of them in danger to share a danger in order to find common ground. Picard explains the story of Gilgamesh to Dathon and the two begin to bond. As Picard tells his tale, Dathon passes away in the night.
The Beast begins his attack on Picard just as Riker attacks the Tamarian ship. The Enterprise is able to beam Picard back but they are now in a battle with the Tamarians. Picard hails the ship and explains the situation to the Tamarians. The Tamarian in command understand and adds the tale of Dathon and Picard on El-Adrel to their history. They part ways, no longer enemies and having a better understanding of one another.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This is by far one of the greatest episodes of the series. Easily, in this writer’s opinion, a top ten episode. This is the kind of story that makes Star Trek what it is and that is a message of hope for the future.
The core message here is one of communication. Dathon was willing to sacrifice everything in order to open lines of communication with the Federation, even if it mean all of their deaths. This dedication and devotion to this eventually leads to a mutual understanding between both sides, even when it looked like there was no hope. It is a lesson in listening and understanding. Can you imagine how different our world would be if we just opened our minds and hearts and tried to understand other cultures instead of imposing our own ideas and concepts onto them? If you take a moment to listen to someone else and get a sense of who they are and where they came from, you may find a common ground where none previously existed.
Picard really got a chance to shine in this episode as more than just a Captain but also a great communicator. His status as a negotiator having already been established, this was a great test of his ability to communicate beyond the confines of his own experience. It takes him a bit but, as expected, he comes through and even gets a chance to tell a story of his own. This experience certainly left its mark on Jean Luc Picard and made him a better person for it.
As for the actors, Patrick Stewart and Paul Winfield (Dathon) were incredible together. Paul Winfield was no stranger to Star Trek having previously appeared in Star Trek II The Wrath of Khan as the ill-fated Captain Terrell. To be honest, I think this is a much finer role for the incredible actor, Winfield was.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
This is the first appearance of Robin Lefler as played by Ashley Judd. We will see her again.
We see Picard in his new alternate Uniform, we will see this many time again. I always liked this uniform and was fortunate enough to receive one of the Anovos replica’s as a gift.
This episode is very reminiscent to another of my favorite Sci-fi stories, Enemy Mine.
We never see nor hear from the Tamarians again but I would like to imagine that Picard and Dathon are still talked about today.
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Late To The Game 2/8/2020 (Originally published 8/22/18)
Late To The Game 8/22/18
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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