Some parents love Star Trek. Some are indifferent, but no one is immune to the charm and wisdom of one of the best space dads — Sir Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard. Since 2020, Stewart has been reprising his role as Picard in a series called Star Trek: Picard; a role he originated back in 1987 in Star Trek: The Next Generation. If you’re a parent, and you haven’t caught the new series, there are some pretty wonderful meditations on the meaning of family, and just how far we’ll go to protect our kids. That show was also co-created by famous father, novelist Michael Chabon, who told Fatherly in 2018, that he felt parents had to believe in a Star Trek-like future.
Back in 2018, in Stewart’s official statement about his return as Picard, he noted how touched he’d been over the years by fans telling him that “The Next Generation brought them comfort…and saw them through difficult times.” With that in mind, here are eight quotes from Captain Jean-Luc Picard that can inspire you in the hardest moments of being a parent.
When your kid is testing their boundaries by throwing every piece of food onto the ground while mocking you from their highchair.
“The line must be drawn here. This far, no farther!”
Picard bellowed this line famously in Star Trek: First Contact, and it specifically referenced how done he was with dealing with his cybernetic arch-enemy, the Borg. But, let’s face it, it can apply to toddlers, too.
When you’re worried that you’re not following all the right advice in parenting books (or from parenting websites!)
“Even life itself is an exercise in exceptions.”
In the episode “Justice,” Picard said this because he was worried about Wesley getting killed for accidentally falling in a flower bed, which is comforting since this quote saved the life of Trek’s resident teenager. We all worry about doing the right thing by our kids and hitting all those rules and milestones. But, Picard is correct, everything about the journey of life (and parenting) is a series of exceptions.
Sometimes you, your spouse, or your child will be frustrated at the unfairness of everything and start blaming yourself.
“It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life.”
Picard used this sentiment to comfort the android Mr. Data after Data had lost a particularly galling strategy game. In theory, Data is perfect (like your child) and doesn’t make mistakes. And yet, as Picard points out, shit happens.
When you’re trying to motivate your child (or yourself) to get out there and do something.
“Seize the time… Live now! Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.”
This one comes from the famous episode “The Inner Light,” written by Morgan Gendel, in which Picard lives an entire lifetime as a husband and father on another planet. He delivers this line to his adult daughter, urging her to value her time on the planet, despite how hard the world is around her.
When family members and friends are judging you for not being the super-parents they think you should be.
“We are what we are, and we’re doing the best we can.”
Jean-Luc throws this retort in Q’s face when the intergalactic space god gives the good captain grief about the various mistakes of humanity. Picard sticking up for the right for human beings to be flawed is beyond inspiring. It’s essential!
When you need to remind yourself that yes, you are a father.
“I’m a role model!”
When the children who live on the USS Enterprise celebrate “Captain Picard Day” in the episode “The Pegasus,” one of Picard’s superiors mocks all the crayon drawings of him. But, Picard laughs it off, because yes, dammit, he is a role model. And a good one, too.
When you need to combine little kid logic with adult logic to get something done.
“I shall appoint you my executive officer, in charge of radishes.”
In the classic episode “Disaster,” the Enterprise has a giant spaceship blackout and Picard is stuck in an elevator with three kids who have just won prizes in the shipwide science fair. In order to motivate them, he has to give them all specific jobs so they won’t totally freak out. Becuase one of the kids had a science project about radishes, Picard makes that his official job, even though it’s totally useless. In short, he uses a great parenting tactic: he takes something silly very seriously in order to make a kid feel great. We should all do the same.
When you need to give yourself a pep talk about how hard everything is and doom-scrolling is bringing you down
“We have powerful tools: openness, optimism, and the spirit of curiosity. All they have is secrecy and fear. And fear is the great destroyer.”
Picard says this to Rios (played by cool dad Santiago Cabrera) in Season 1 of Star Trek: Picard. Even when things seem bad, there’s always a way.
All the various Star Trek shows stream on Paramount+. Here’s Fatherly’s guide to Paramount+.