This is where thoughts become things.

Hi, I'm Daniela. Welcome to my personal lair on the Internet. This is where I write about storytelling, activism, technology and pop culture. Sometimes I post videos. I update my lair when the mood strikes me. Follow me on Twitter for daily updates (@dcap).

Tag : rules

How ST:TNG taught me that rules were made to be broken

I am a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” fan. I’ve been watching the show religiously since I was about twelve years old. “…to seek out new life and new civilizations… to boldly go where no man has gone before.” It always thrills me when I hear this. Having the entire series on Netflix means I can revisit episodes and appreciate them on another level, at my own pace.

I love how the show (as well as the original and it’s successors) continued to give examples of ideal realities, such as a time when men and women are treated equally, when racism (in the Federation, anyway) is a thing of the past, and gender and sexual variance is embraced. The show, on a small but powerful scale, inspired me to believe that things will one day change for us on earth and that I could be a part of that change.

Part of what made the Enterprise’s mission successful was rules. There were MANY rules on the ship — rules on how you greeted your commanding officer, rules about safety, and even rules about who could go on what decks (for a long time ensign Crusher couldn’t even go on the bridge). People followed the rules because it kept them safe.

But at certain points throughout the series, almost every character on that ship broke a rule. Usually it was tied to an urgent need to save something or someone, and their transgression was forgiven.

The show itself broke rules at times, in an almost cavalier way. In the episode “Ship in a Bottle,” a holodeck character with artificial sentience we wants to leave the holodeck and take his “beloved” with him. Lieutenant Reginald Barclay (one of the engineers on the ship who goes to repair the holodeck) says that this is impossible.

Leave the Holodeck? No, of course not. You can only exist in here.

The rest of the episode is about the holodeck character Professor James Moriarty tricking the crew into thinking he did leave the holodeck, until Data discovers this and ends up tricking Moriarty into thinking he escapes, when in fact he just leaves a holodeck inside the real holodeck. They keep him locked up in a program on an infinite loop exploring the galaxies, without knowing the wiser. The rules of space/time/science won’t ever allow him to leave the holodeck, which is part of the bittersweet ending to this particular tale — true freedom comes from within your own mind.

What this episode taught me is that it doesn’t even really matter what your external reality actually is; if you believe something (good or bad), it IS real — for you. It also established a rule (nothing lives outside the holodeck) that gave an added dimension to what it means to form relationships/attachments inside the holodeck.

Flash forward to episode “Angel One.” In this episode, Wesley and his friend are taking skiing lessons on the holodeck. He has a snowball fight with the holodeck doors open, and when Picard walks by with Lieutenant Worf, a stray holodeck snowball flies through the open doors and hits Picard and Worf. A hologram, in this episode, is somehow able to exist beyond the confines of the holodeck.


I loved how creator Gene Roddenberry knew and appreciated his audience. It’s almost as if he’s challenging the viewer to question the value of rules, even within the context of show continuity.

You need to question every rule in your life and how each empowers, protects, AND binds you from your own growth. Sometimes we allow rules to keep us from taking the risks we need in order to grow.