Why Starfleet Refused Perfection (And You Should Too)
Within the Star Trek universe, there have been refused opportunities to embrace perfection. Here are three examples:
1. William T. Riker (Hide and Q)
In season 1 of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Riker had the opportunity to become the quintessential captain at the snap of Q’s fingers. While true that the power was given as proof that humans were not worthy of true power, and Riker “abused” the power to resurrect a fallen comrade (and Wesley), the character could have done great good for the Enterprise — like take them away from Q’s control, resurrect their friend Tasha Yar, make the chairs shorter so straddling wasn’t such a chore.
2. William T. Kirk & Jean-Luc Picard (Generations)
In the wonderful crossover movie, Generations, Kirk and Picard find themselves in the Nexus. It is a place where dreams come true and you can have everything you want; that isn’t enough for Picard. He has places and times to be, and while the Nexus could give him both, it is far too nice an existence for his stalwart sense of self. He isn’t done with “living” aka being miserable. He drags Kirk out into the “real world” so he can die for real, in the minds of the fanbois.
3. Kathryn Janeway & 7 of 9 (The Omega Directive)
Starfleet’s reaction to the Omega molecule is one of abject terror. Janeway can see no compromising position to working with the naturally occurring ultimate atom. She embodies the rigid imperial mentality — if we can’t control it, no one gets to have it. 7 of 9 has the opposite struggle:
“…as a drone, she was instructed to assimilate Omega, which they call Particle 010, at all costs. It is, they believe, perfection embodied. The molecules exist in a flawless state with infinite parts functioning as one.” The Omega Directive, Memory Alpha
7 of 9 wanted to work with the omega molecule, at the risk of destroying everyone she knew, and I have to admit that I was disappointed she didn’t get a chance to try.
Of course there is more than one side to any story, so let’s look at an exception:
Wesley Crusher (Journey’s End)
One regularly-seen character refused to refuse his calling, “Shut Up” Wesley. He became a Time Lord… or he died, it is unclear. It was the last time we saw the character, after he left with “the weird man in his white space van”, to paraphrase Wil Wheaton’s commentary on The Traveller. Now I’m not saying that if you were given the opportunity to be Q that you would suddenly turn into Wesley, but I’m not saying you won’t. (ed. note: I won’t talk about Amanda Rogers as she was an unaware Q all along)
Perfection Is A Static State
Here’s the thing though. Perfection, as the ultimate end, is a static state. Once it is achieved, nothing needs to change. Human beings cannot survive such extensive immobility. Whoa! You say. Wouldn’t fluidity and mutability be part of this perfect state?
Considered the most advanced biological creature in the universe, it is stronger (smarter, faster, better looking, etc.) than everything out there. It was the original design for the Borg before they let the technophobic network interfere. They are telepathic, able to make themselves invisible, live in fluidic space… If Species 8472 is so perfect, why were they so easily defeated by puny humans and a version of the common cold? And what was their name?
I’ve already mentioned the Omega atom. The particle, found so rarely in the universe, lives in perfect harmony with the space around it… until people try to examine it and then it destroys subspace. pshht. I say good day sir to your fictional duress over fluidity.
Let It Go (Make It So)
People who are seeking perfection (within themselves and others) are typically seeking control over their lives as a means to protect themselves from harm and loss. That is illogical and impossible. Starfleet rebuked perfection simply because it negated their purpose — to seek out, to explore.
As a recovering perfectionist, I hope I was persuasive in getting you to renounce the superstitious and false philosophy with the guile of Picard, the wisdom of Janeway, and the chair-straddling dexterity of Riker. Striving for betterment (self- or world-improvement) is a superior goal than perfection, easier to attain, and less likely to turn you into the Scarecrow in the Q Continuum.