Riker shares the secret to achieving your goals
On this episode, Jeff Akin reviews Star Trek The Next Generation, Man of the People (Season 6, Episode 3). He will examine the leadership approaches of Captain Picard and Commander Riker.
Captain Picard stands up for Deanna Troi in a way that you can also stand up for members of your team and Commander Riker drops some wisdom in this episode that is profound!
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Welcome! Thanks for joining me today. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could just take all your distracting thoughts and put them somewhere else? I mean, imagine how productive you’d be. Well, it may sound good, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows, as we’ll see. I’m also going to talk about how to stand up for your team and share the ultimate secret to accomplishing even your wildest dreams. All of this as we start the 3rd episode of the 6th season of the Next Generation, Man of the People.
Enterprise is called in to help a transport. There’s a negotiator, a mediator on board named Alkar that is brokering peace talks between two warring factions on Rekag-Seronia. The ship is in rough shape. They beam the mediator and “my mother” 1:57 over so they can get them taken care of quickly.
Troi, the counselor on the ship, meets them in the Transporter Room and is going to take Alkar to Picard. The mom freaks out, super weird! “Don’t pursue him, I won’t have it.” Yeah, that’s what we call a red flag. Yikes.
After a confer with Starfleet Command, it’s decided that the Enterprise will take Alkar to the planet for the peace talks. Alkar is all the things you want in a mediator. He’s calm, cool, collected. Hey, quick story. When I was in 3rd grade, we had a new principal at my school. The previous one was a young guy, kinda fun, I guess. I mean, I was like 7 so I don’t really remember him. But this new guy was not very fun. Pretty sure this was his last stint before retirement. I mean, I’m sure he was fine, I don’t have any bad memories of him or anything, just that he was pretty stodgy and formal, especially for a grade school in suburban Oregon. Well, back in the day, we started each morning with announcements over the intercom and he read them. He ended every set of announcements with, “and have a calm, cool and collected day.” Like, What does that even mean?? Full disclosure, I was still trying to nail getting my shoes tied at this point, so I wasn’t into vocabulary like this! I mean, I get it now, and, honestly, what a perfect, little prayer to start every day not to mention a day at an elementary school. Still, I said that and it totally took me back to 3rd grade! Ok, sorry, back to the episode.
And here it is! Klingon tai chi!! Worf is teaching a class of a bunch of random crew people and Deanna Troi. Alkar is there too and they are really hitting it off. She knows what a tough job he has in front of him, “you’re going to need all your patience in Seronia.” 7:21 We learn that his race is empathic, but only with their own species. Troi, as a betazoid, is empathic with most everyone but his race is limited. He talks about invaluable she must be in negotiations and asks her to join him. “Will you join me in the peace talks?” 8:29 She agrees, pending the ok from the Captain.
Riker and Troi are called to Alkar’s quarters. His mother has died. Troi shows a lot of compassion here. “Alkar, is there anything I can do?” 11:33 She agrees to participate in a funeral meditation with him. They do some chanting and then touch some sparkly rocks together. Immediately, Troi can feel that something isn’t right; something has changed.
We start seeing some severe behavior and even appearance changes in Troi. She’s dressing more provocatively and is kind of aging. She even becomes aggressively sexual with Alkar who refuses her, “But our relationship can’t be like that.” 17:58 And she’s furious about that.
Dr Crusher is trying to figure out why Alkar’s mom died but can’t find anything, other than an abnormal amount of neurotransmitters in her brain. She wants to do an autopsy, but Alkar has said no, it’s forbidden by his culture’s customs and Picard tells her they need to respect that and Crusher understands.
Troi’s behavior continues. Riker tries to finish some work they had started and he walks in on some random Ensign getting dressed in her quarters. As he leaves, Troi says, “If there’s anything else I need, I know where to find you.” 19:13 Wow, she must have studied at the Weinstein Institute of relationships.
They arrive at the planet. Alkar’s team joins him and they say hostilities are ramping up. Picard helps with their strategic planning and they agree on an approach to continue the talks. But things are rough, and thousands of people are dying every day.
We get a rare scene of Troi doing her work as the crew’s counselor. She’s in a session with Ensign Janeway. This is so bad and so wildly inappropriate what she does here, but, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t actually laugh out loud when she dropped this, “Maybe he’s just tired of hearing you complain.” 22:13 Wow!!! I mean, yeah, she’s not totally wrong but she’s a therapist! Totally not ok, but such a perfect scene to show the change in Counselor Troi.
Her decline continues. She pulls a near assault on Riker and has a very public freak out on Alkar in 10 Forward. Alkar and his team are preparing to head to the planet to kick off their talks, he tries to say good-bye to Troi, and when he does, she looks like she’s in her 60’s! And she is not happy at all “You said you’d take me with you.” 26:46 He says that it’s not possible in her condition, but that she is helping him already. “I need you more than you can possibly realize.” 27:18
Dr Crusher gets Troi to sickbay. Nurse Ogawa sees that her neurotransmitters match what happened to Alkar’s mom. Based on this, and the apparent danger to Troi, Picard ok’s Crusher to autopsy the mom. And, WOW, does she learn some stuff! Not only was she only about 30-years old, despite appearing to be in her 90’s, but, “she was definitely not his mother.” 31:38
Picard heads to the planet to confront Alkar. Still, so calm, cool and collected, he just explains what’s going on. “I have the ability to channel my unwanted and darker thoughts to others.” 33:17 And makes a ‘needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few’ argument, but Picard pushes back calling this a wantonly immoral act. He calls Alkar a coward for taking the easy way out. Alkar’s team removes him so Picard returns to the ship.
They come up with a plan to help free Troi even without Alkar’s help. “Then Deanna has to die” 36:40 Crusher thinks they can make Deanna die, she’s confident she can revive her within 30 minutes, that’ll break the link. They’ll just need to intercede and stop him from using a member of his team as a new receptacle.
On the planet, it’s success! “The era of bloodshed and conflict appears to be over.” 37:58 But then he collapses, he knows something is wrong. He returns to ship and sees Troi in sickbay, “Death occurred at 1430 hours.” 38:50 Alkar says that this is a tragic loss but that her death had a purpose. Picard is still fighting for his team, “I intend to see you held accountable for what you’ve done.” 39:11He returns to his quarters and starts the funeral meditation with a member of his team; she’s eager to help, Alkar’s a hero, you know. They time it down to the last second! Crusher revives Troi and they beam his teammate away from him. All the psychic energy comes flooding back to Alkar. He ages rapidly and is in a lot of pain – dude must have had a A LOT of unwanted and dark thoughts! Once the energies have all returned to him, he slumps on the floor. Dead. I’m not sure this is what Picard had in mind, but, well, here we are.
Troi de-ages and returns to normal. She was aware of what was happening to her the whole time but couldn’t stop it. She says “it’s as though I’m looking at a holodeck projection.” 44:02 Then she thanks Riker for standing by her through it all.
When this episode came up I was hoping it would be part of the Worf does Tai Chi but calls it some Klingon thing arc that I’ve made up, and I was right! But that’s not the only cool thing about this episode. With a topic that could have been super problematic, we end up with a fun, but serious episode that very much highlights the gift that is Marina Sirtis.
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If you were just reading this episode on the page, or listening to a recap on a podcast…it’s honestly not great. Like, a cool idea and concept, just not written really well. But I feel like there are three things that save this and actually make it a really enjoyable one. There’s Picard being his best self, sticking to the rules and railing against immorality. So good! Then, there’s the perfect relationship between Troi and Riker. And finally, probably the biggest contributor, is Marina Sirtis. She’s so good. Through the run of TNG, she does not get a lot to do, but every time she does get something, she’s incredible. And this episode was no different.
Will Riker and Deanna Troi’s relationship goes back to the very first episode the Next Generation, and the second episode of the Starfleet Leadership Academy. They call each other Imzadi, which is betazoid for beloved, but, I think, deeper than that. And we see this play out a bunch of times in the series.
What’s so cool about their relationship, is they just want the other to be happy – they want the best for each other. We saw this back when we watched The Price, you know, the one with Lloyd Braun… And we see it here too. Troi has just, um, finished with a young ensign and is trying to get a rise of jealousy out of Riker, but he’s so cool with it, “Deanna, I’m sorry I intruded.” 19:52 I mean, we should all dream of having the kind of relationship these two have. It’s so great!
Marina Sirtis got to really stretch beyond her character in this. It looks like she was having fun with it and really feeling this insecure but sexually powerful person. They had a lot of different costumes for her and the wigs did a lot to help her tell the story too. But the unsung hero in her performance has to be the makeup! Star Trek does not really do a great job old’ing people up, but this was good. She was able to act through it and wasn’t distracting, like when McCoy visited the ship in Encounter at Farpoint.
Two super fun scenes in this one. First, what is easily one of the greatest lines in all of Star Trek! “Have you mated with him yet?” 8:47 I don’t know if she’s saying mated or made it, but either way, this is great! Alkar’s fake mom was living her worst, most jealous life, but this gem makes it all kinda ok!
And, do we have a canonical connection to Voyager in this episode? “Appointment with Ensign Janeway.” I mean, it’s not Kathryn Janeway, but is she maybe related?? I’m gonna go ahead and pretend she is. Can’t help but feel bad for her, though. She was the victim in one of my rare spit-take moments in Star Trek! I couldn’t believe Troi said that stuff to her, but it was the absolute perfect scene to show how much she had changed.
If you haven’t watched this one in a while, or at all, I think you should! If you let it be what it is, and don’t focus too much on the actual writing, it’s fun and a great watch.
Standing up for your team. It’s what any manager should do. Period. Picard does exactly that in this episode and I’m going to talk about how you can do the same thing. And, in a passing bit of dialogue, Commander William T Riker reveals the secret to accomplishing, well, anything you want to.
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Alkar is a cheater. He’s a coward. He’s taking the easy way out and literally leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. We all have distracting thoughts, feelings, and emotions. We all struggle with focusing on the task at hand sometimes. But he refuses to have those. He chooses to use people up so he can dump all of those thoughts onto them, leaving him, here we go again, calm, cool, and collected so he can be a legendary peace mediator.
We don’t know how long this has been going on. Based on how old he gets at the end when he dies, I’ve got to imagine it’s been a really long time. But someone finally stands up to him. Someone who doesn’t believe the ends justify the means and values every single life. Yep, Alkar encounters Jean-Luc Picard.
Picard confronts him on the planet’s surface and does not back down. He sees Alkar’s actions for the crimes they are and is going to see him held accountable for them. “dialogue starting at 33:24 – cut it up” But, I believe, his passion in this moment comes not just from his ideals, but from the fact it’s a member of his crew, his team, that is threatened.
In the Starfleet Leadership Academy episode on Deep Space 9 Inquisition, I challenged you to Sisko Up when it came to members of your team. That’s where you stand up for them, no matter what. Picard absolutely Sisko’s up here.
But how easy would it be to agree with Alkar? I mean, he’s so calm here it’s almost infectious. And, he isn’t necessarily wrong. He has a line about the “Rekag children going to sleep, scared.” that is totally understandable. His explanation would convince a lot of people that what he was doing was ok. But not Picard. Picard demands that people be the best they can be, and is Alkar were his best, he could be an incredible mediator even with his unwanted thoughts.
But what does this mean to you? What difference does it make when you stand up for a member of your team? Honestly…it makes all the difference in the world.
I used to have a small team of attorneys that I worked with. They handled so very much paperwork and all of it was really critical. You see, in most of the civilized world, people have these things called Rights, and even things that seem mundane, like handling paperwork, can have a direct impact on those Rights. So this team had a vitally important task in front of them every day.
Their work also had what I call convenience impacts. They may not seem like a big deal, until you need one of them! If you’re starting a business, for example, and you have to get some paperwork in front of a judge for their signature, you don’t want to wait any longer than you need to, right? It’s really inconvenient to have to wait. Sometimes, it can be more than that. You might have investors that are waiting on something, or need to start a lease or other financial output.
I bring this up because one of these attorneys I worked with, well, they screwed up. They misfiled a thing that delayed some paperwork by almost 6 months, and that ended up costing our customer one of their key investors. Not good. Needless to say, this guy was over the moon mad! He wanted blood! And he wanted it to be the attorney’s. I spent a long time listening to him and apologizing – the obligatory humble-pie that often comes with customer service. Nothing I could offer was good enough, he wanted this person fired and even filed, or I think tried to file, a civil suit against them.
Now, I could have taken the easy route and totally fired the attorney. Just kick off a process with HR, provide some justification and, boom, they’re gone and the customer thinks they’re happy. But I didn’t do that. I didn’t do it, first of all, because I’m not a huge jerk that just bends to the will of every customer, and secondly, because this attorney was a member of my team and someone I was committed to standing up for.
I Sisko’d up and told the customer I wouldn’t be firing them. I was still apologetic and owned the mistake. To be clear, I owned the mistake, I didn’t put it on my team mate. I am sorry that I allowed this to happen to you. I can assure you that we’re taking precautions that this won’t happen again. You know, stuff like that. I never so much as mentioned the person who actually made the mistake. As the leader, this is on me. At least to the customer.
The other side to this story, the one the customer never saw and never knew happened, is that I met with that person and I told them exactly what had happened and how I stepped up for them. They made a real mistake and it had a real impact. They weren’t going to just watch that pass by with no impact. I told them, face-to-face, that I stood up for them and that I would continue to stand up for them, but they couldn’t ever put me in this position again.
Two cool things came out of this story. First, the attorney that messed up, after I told them I wouldn’t be ok being put in that position again, not only came up with an idea, a process change that would all but eliminate the chances of missed filings, but they even did the work to implement it! They 100% owned the solution! Secondly, we kept the customer. They were mad, understandably so, but really they just needed to be heard and treated with respect. I did both of those things. I was sure they’d leave us, but they didn’t. I didn’t work there long after this incident, just a few more months, actually, so I don’t know what it was that encouraged them to stay. But I like to think they respected us for not treating our employees like human garbage…like receptacles, but still committing to make things right.
When the attorney had the idea to change processes to help be sure this didn’t happen again, they spent a chunk of time researching options and ideas. They came close to the ever-present danger of paralysis by analysis. But they used a secret tool that Riker actually demonstrates in this episode that all be guaranteed they’d accomplish their goal.
How often do you have a cool idea or dream up something you want to do? Maybe it’s changing a process at work. Maybe it’s exercising more. Maybe it’s starting a podcast! There’s so much to do before you can do these things, right? Like, what exercises are you going to do? How many days a week are you going to work out? What mic are you going to use on your podcast and where are you going to host it? I mean, you need to really do a lot to prepare.
I mean…do you?
In this episode, before Troi slips to the darkside, she and Riker have a big, boring job in front of them, and she doesn’t want to do it. But listen to how Riker responds, “Crew evaluations. Won’t be any easier tomorrow.” 9:41 It won’t be any easier tomorrow.
Riker’s ultimate advice here, and the secret to accomplishing what you want to is…are you ready for this? You really should write this down. I mean, it’s super complex. If you’re driving right now, note the time code here, I’ll give you a second, so you can come back and breakdown this overwhelmingly difficult concept. Ok, here it is.
Just start doing it.
That’s it. Start. You want to do a podcast, just start doing a podcast. This was me. I’ve shared the story a number of times about why I started the Starfleet Leadership Academy. I was in a terrible meeting and finally reached my breaking point. I said, I want meetings like Captain Kirk has meetings! Issue, discussion, decision, action. Then I went home and watched Star Trek, because that’s what I do, and the light went off. There is so much to learn from this incredible franchise.
The part of the story I don’t tell is that that meeting and that epiphany happened in 2017. I didn’t release my first episode until 3 years later. 3 years!! And why? Well, yeah, I listened to a lot of podcasts to see what I liked and what I didn’t, I learned about microphones and DAW’s. I researched hosting options, I mean, I did all the work. And then finally, one of my friends asked me how my podcast was going, and I hadn’t even tried recording! He asked in 2019, two years after I told him about the idea!
And here’s the thing. Those first episodes I released…wow, so much different from today. I mean, they still have a lot of great stuff in there, but my show structure is off, the tone is inconsistent and the sound quality is, well, that’s not too bad, really. But if you listen to this episode and then go back and listen to the Voyager Caretaker episode…wow, night and day!
But that’s all good. Here we are, 50 plus episodes into this, there are thousands of people that listen to the podcast, it’s won awards and I have so much fun doing it, and all I really had to do was start.
So what are you waiting on? What is causing your paralysis by analysis? What big thing do you want to accomplish that you’re going to start and start now?? Please, please tell me! I am dying to hear about it from you. I mean, who knows, the next great TV series, or novel or piece of music could be listening to these words right now. But we’ll never know, unless you start.
I am serious. I want to hear what you’re going to start. Maybe you can even meet your accountability buddy. You can share it in our discussion group that’s linked in the show notes or you can share it on social media. @ SFLA podcast on twitter and @jefftakin on Instagram and LinkedIn. That’s Jeff, t as in Tai Chi, Worf style, a k i n.
I want to shout out JT who left a 5 star review on Apple podcasts! JT says, Jeff Akin makes leadership a blast. I love how he uses Star Trek to teach really complex stuff. He’s totally changed how I watch Star Trek and is an important part of my growth as a leader.
Computer, what are we going to watch next time….
Episode 25 of Enterprise’s first season, Two Days and Two Nights. It’s a shore-leave episode that takes the crew to Risa! I think this will be our first visit to Risa which is a great setting for a bunch of very different stories! And…I’m only being a little sarcastic when I say that. Still, if the crew is going to have a good time, so are we!
Until then, Ex Astris Scientia!