Nov 22, 2012

Posted in Editorial

Jean-Luc’s Bookshelf

Jean-Luc’s Bookshelf

By ENS Tiffany Bukowski, USS Loma Prieta

The Star Trek franchise has always lured the exceptionally literate with its use of language, complex story lines, intricate depth of characters and the philosophical arcs that run throughout each series as a whole. And The Next Generation is no exception to this rule, in fact, it’s a favorite of mine due mainly to Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and more importantly, Sir Patrick Stewart’s interpretation of the Enterprises’ commanding officer.

Picard always has an air of scholastic piousness that heightens every piece of dialogue, which is unlike the bombastic Captain Kirk or frigidly noble Janeway (note that this entry is not a discussion about the “best” Captain – we can table that unending argument for another day). Book-smarts are all but inherent to Jean-Luc’s personality. Recently, I came across a reading list of fictional characters, which touched briefly on the literature habits of Captain Picard and was led down the Trek-rabbit-hole of Jean-Luc’s telling library.

Throughout TNG, at least once in each of the 7 seasons, Picard is reading The Globe Illustrated Shakespeare, which he keeps in his ready room. Each appearance of this book is typically open to a different play and page with illustration. As I am sure all crew members know, Stewart was a highly respected Shakespearean actor prior to TNG so the connection here is nothing if not a nod to Stewart’s first love – the stage. Apropos to our USS Loma Prieta late-80s namesake, the specific year of Captain Picard’s “The Globe” is from 1986 and has been notoriously difficult to find.

Fascinatingly, Picards’ volume of Shakespeare’s work appears prominently in the episodes that feature the licentious character of Q, which is in some way the most Shakespearean relationship throughout the entire series: vindictive deities, moral struggles, absurd humor, human toil, etc. It’s a fitting prop amongst the constant intellectual dueling between the Captain and his most compelling nemesis (again, this is merely the opinion of your humble Yeoman).

The other books mentioned in the series in Picard’s arsenal is the lengthy modernist novel “Ulysses” by James Joyce and Ving Kuda’s “Ethics, Sophistry and the Alternate Universe”. The latter being a fictitious piece used to emphasize Riker’s joke that Picard takes some “light reading” on his vacation to Risa in “Captain’s Holiday” (s3e19), but that I deeply wish was a real volume of text for you know… beach reading, or whatever.