Captain of the starship USS Enterprise Jean-Luc Picard first appeared on screens in 1987 with the premiere of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Portrayed by acclaimed Shakespearean actor Sir Patrick Stewart, Picard proved himself to be quite different from Captain Kirk in the original series. While Kirk had a tendency to barrel brashly into situations with blind bravery, Picard asserts himself as a more level-headed and strategic leader.
As Star Trek: Picard comes to a close, it's worth looking back at the wisdom and inspiration that Jean-Luc Picard has offered to his crew and his viewers over the years. Here are 12 of Picard’s greatest lines across the Star Trek franchise to help you pursue your best future.
“If we’re going to be damned, let’s be damned for what we really are.” (Star Trek: The Next Generation — “Encounter At Farpoint”)
In the very first episode of the series, Picard and the crew of the USS Enterprise encounter Q, an omniscient being. Q issues the crew a challenge to uncover the mysterious secrets of the starbase Farpoint.
Captain Picard responds with this quote after a crew member asks him how they should behave under the watchful eye of an all-knowing creature. Picard’s poignant response speaks to the fact that, no matter how difficult times may become, a person must always honor the true version of their self.
“Things are only impossible until they’re not!” (Star Trek: The Next Generation — “When the Bough Breaks”)
In episode 16 of the first season, the children aboard the USS Enterprise are stolen by a race which has been plagued by the inability to produce their own children.
When a planetary shield stands between Picard and his rescue mission, Lieutenant Commander Data warns him that penetrating the barrier may be impossible.
However, impossible doesn’t seem to be a phrase that exists within Picard’s vocabulary. This quote exemplifies Picard’s heroic determination, and it serves to express that the only thing that truly stands between a person and their goals is a feeling of defeat.
“The only person you’re truly competing against... is yourself.” (Star Trek: The Next Generation — “Coming of Age”)
When the young Wesley Crusher is denied entry into the Starfleet Academy after the results of his entrance exam, the boy is overcome by a sense of disappointment and shame.
Though Wesley’s rejection was not for a lack of effort on his part, he finds Captain Picard to apologize for letting the crew of the USS Enterprise down.
With this quote, Picard reassures Wesley that the important thing isn’t necessarily success, but knowing that you put everything you had into a task, and measured your growth only against yourself.
“No being is so important that he can usurp the rights of another.” (Star Trek: The Next Generation — “The Schizoid Man”)
Episode six of the second season of Star Trek: The Next Generation deals with an ill yet brilliant scientist who sets his sights on prolonging his life.
Unfortunately, he decides that preserving himself within the vessel of Data’s android body is the perfect solution. When Picard uncovers what the scientist has done, he is greatly disturbed, uttering the above quote which asserts that all creatures, regardless of origin, have the same right to life and autonomy as any other.
Despite what any one person may have to offer, the lives of others should not be viewed as less valuable by comparison.
“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness, that is life.” (Star Trek: The Next Generation — “Peak Performance”)
In the penultimate episode of Season 2, the USS Enterprise crew must engage in simulated war games as the Borg threat looms closer.
However, when Data’s android intellect and reflexes don’t bring him to victory against the renowned strategist sent to monitor them, he comes to believe he is defective.
Picard reassures Data with this bit of advice, reminding him that failure is not the greatest tragedy of existence, but rather a natural and sometimes helpful occurrence.
“Villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well-camouflaged.” (Star Trek: The Next Generation — “The Drumhead”)
The 21st episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation’s fourth season delivered tense intrigue with the arrival of Admiral Nora Satie, who was sent to investigate an act of potential treasonous sabotage aboard the USS Enterprise.
When Satie’s interrogations devolve into a fanatical witch-hunt, Lieutenant Worf expresses his regret that he aided her goals because he was unable to see her true nature.
Picard imparts the truth that good and evil will not always appear in black and white, and that hidden threats will always be the most dangerous. He continues to insist that vigilance and skepticism are the only means of combating foes with ulterior motives.
“Every choice we make allows us to manipulate the future… A person’s life, their future, hinges on each of a thousand choices. Living is making choices.” (Star Trek: The Next Generation — “A Matter of Time”)
In episode nine of Season 5, the crew of the USS Enterprise attempt to save a planet after it has been hit by an asteroid. Because missions can never run too smoothly, a historian from the future arrives to interfere with their efforts.
Upon being told that helping the injured planet will change the course of the future, Picard rallies against the idea that he must submit to the path of a future that has yet to pass for him. He upholds the importance of not only choice, but the beautiful unknown of possibility.
“Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we’ve lived. After all... we’re only mortal.” (Star Trek: Generations)
In this feature film, Jean-Luc Picard joins forces with the presumed dead Captain Kirk in order to stop unhinged scientist Dr. Soran’s planetary massacre.
In a discussion with Commander Riker, Picard opposes Soran’s bleak outlook on the passage of time. Picard finds the beauty in what’s temporary, and frames the fleeting nature of time as something that can be used to inspire people to live their best lives in the present.
“Part of having feelings is learning to integrate them into your life… learning to live with them. No matter what the circumstances… Sometimes it takes courage to try... Courage can be an emotion, too.” (Star Trek: Generations)
Data installs a chip within himself which allows him to experience a full range of emotions. However, the newness of feeling is disorienting and hard for him to control.
Luckily, Picard can turn anything into a teachable moment. Emotions can be harrowing even for people who have lived with them their entire lives, and facing the truth behind your feelings can be terrifying, but that doesn’t mean the privilege of feeling isn’t worth it.
“Buried deep within you, beneath all the years of pain and anger, there is something that has never been nurtured: the potential to make yourself a better man. And that is what it is to be human. To make yourself more than you are. Oh, yes — I know you. There was a time you looked at the stars and dreamed of what might be.” (Star Trek: Nemesis)
Star Trek: Nemesis dives deep into a dark plot hatched by a young clone of Jean-Luc Picard, Shinzon.
Shinzon has designs on eradicating all forms of life within the Federation, and yet Captain Picard still finds a well of empathy within himself for his counterpart. Picard embraces an ideal of humans being capable of continual betterment—of being able to rise above their circumstances, if given the chance.
"The past is written, but the future is left for us to write. And we have powerful tools, openness, optimism, and the spirit of curiosity. All they have is secrecy and fear. And fear is the great destroyer." (Star Trek: Picard)
While the plot of "Broken Pieces" (Season 1, Episode 8 of Star Trek: Picard) follows the conflict between the Romulans and synths, Picard's words of wisdom are emblematic of the sort of lessons we all can learn from the best versions of science fiction. The idea that the future is still there for the taking—that we can win battles (however small or large) without compromising our morality—are powerful reminders that we can use in our everyday lives.
"There will be a time when you will need to remember that no matter how bleak or unwinnable a situation, as long as you and your crew remain steadfast in your dedication, one to another, you are never ever without hope." (Star Trek: Picard)
The conflict of Season 3, Episode 4 is in the title: "No Win Scenario." As Picard and his crew are defeated, drifting through a dangerous nebula, they must band together to survive and face the consequences of their own actions. The situation is undoubtedly bleak, but they form a risky plan to recharge their literal and metaphorical batteries. Facing down the nebula and an enemy ship, Picard and co. are certainly desperate but not without hope.