Season Six, Episode 19
Written by Ronald Wilkerson & Jean Louise Matthias
Directed by Robert Weimer
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data

Guest Cast:
Wendy Hughes as Lt Cmdr Nella Daren
R. Cox as Lt Marques
Majel Barrett as Computer Voice

Picard finds himself falling in love with Nella Daren, the ship's new stellar cartographer. Their shared love of music begin a friendship that eventually leads to something deeper. However, Picard finds balancing love and duty a precarious challenge. When the Enterprise arrives at Bersallis Three to study firestorms, an accident forces Picard to send Nella on a potentially deadly mission to rescue the outpost. Although successful it appears that Nella has been killed -- much to Picard's distress. Fortunately she is rescued a short while later, alive and well, but the incident has made Picard realise that he simply can't balance his duty to the ship with his personal feelings, and they agree to end their relationship.


Awww. Now, wasn't that nice? The dreaded Trek "romance-of-the-week" has become something of a joke (and a bad one, at that) but Lessons is a rare exception. This is one of the most convincing, genuine and heartfelt love stories ever told on TNG, and for that it deserves serious credit. The casting of Wendy Hughes as Nella Daren is just perfect and she is simply superb in the role. Charming, mature, sophisticated and strong, Nella is very much an equal for Picard and it's very easy to see how he'd fall for her. The chemistry between Hughes and Stewart is simply enchanting and gives a potentially maudlin, contrived episode a solid core of emotion and warmth. Their shared interest of music provides some delightful moments as they begin to perform duets together -- that scene in the turbolift was simply beautiful. The music was gorgeous, Robert Weimer's directing was superlative and, of course, Stewart and Hughes were at the top of their game, resulting in perhaps the most hauntingly romantic moment of the show's run.

The relationship between Picard and Daren provides some interesting insight into the good Captain and his difficulty in letting go on front of his crew was especially true-to-character. It's actually quite heart-warming to see the normally reclusive Picard open up to Daren there is some excellent follow-up to his experiences in The Inner Light as he tells Daren of his "other" life. The only problem I had was with the resolution which cried "cop out ahoy!" I appreciated the difficult situation Picard was put in having to assign Daren to a dangerous mission, but I didn't see that as reason enough for them to separate. Jean-Luc, Nella -- you're perfect for each other. You can't decide not to get involved with someone because you're afraid of losing them. That's cowardice and it's no way to live. I just didn't buy it -- they're both strong, mature people and I didn't believe they'd just quit like that when they had something so special. Why couldn't the writers have kept Nella on board and continued to explore their relationship? Would that be asking too much? Evidently, for TNG, the answer is yes. More's the pity.

I suppose the fact that I was disappointed with the way the relationship was resolved only goes to reflect how well it was developed up 'til then. A nicely low-key, understated script and some imaginative, striking directing enable the show's two leads, Stewart and Hughes, to simply shine in this heartfelt, romantic love story. I was a little let down by the ending, but apart from that it's a real treat and worth it's score solely for that turbolift duet.  

Rating: 8.5

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