In many ways, Star Trek: The Next Generation's Captain Picard was designed to be the opposite of Star Trek's Captain Kirk. After all, Kirk is remembered as the “shoot first, ask questions later” captain who found time in every mission to romance the newest alien beauty, whereas Captain Picard is the reserved diplomat who solves most of his problems through a stirring speech.
However, when you peer at Picard's service record, you'll notice he has made a series of terrible (and often deadly) mistakes! Sometimes, these are mistakes brought on by his ideas concerning philosophy and ethics; other times, they seem like good old-fashioned human prejudice.
Whatever the reason, it's clear that Captain Picard is the man who will sentence one culture to death by citing the Prime Directive and then completely change the development of another planet in order to save whiny crew members like Wesley Crusher. His mistakes often affect entire planets, and on more than a few occasions, have contributed to the deaths of countless Federation worlds.
Still don't believe us about everybody's favorite bald captain (sorry, Sisko)? Fortunately, you don't need access to high-level Starfleet records to find evidence... just use your PADD to read the 15 Most WTF Things Captain Picard Has Done!
15 Did not destroy the Borg threat via Hugh
Normally, the Borg aren't exactly known for their individuality. They're a collective of ultra-powerful cybernetic aliens that believe that they can improve themselves and others by literally assimilating various races. Their run-ins with the Federation have destroyed dozens of ships and cost thousands and thousands of lives. However, Picard has a chance to stop this forever when they meet someone who should be impossible: Hugh.
Hugh is a Borg who has been separated from the Collective. Picard captures him, and eventually, Geordi and Data develop a wild plan to put an unsolvable math problem in his brain and send him back to the Borg: due to their collective brain, it's supposed to disable all Borg throughout the galaxy. It's a great plan, and Starfleet loves it, but eventually Picard decides Hugh has become a person and they can't use him in this way.
This is a touching sentiment, but Picard now has the blood of the future billions that the Borg will kill. Worse still, they are forced to send Hugh back anyway, and his new personality, minus the mind weapon, just makes a handful of Borg into helpless individuals who get recruited by Data's evil brother!
14 Completely destroys the Edo culture to save Wesley's life
Picard and the crew discover an idyllic planet, Edo, that seems too good to be true. Everyone there lives without conflict, sadness, and without much clothing. What's the catch? Well, it turns out the only justice on the planet is capital punishment, and after Wesley Crusher's crappy frisbee skills leads to him breaking a greenhouse, the planet wants to kill Wesley. Instead of letting the planet make most Trek viewers happy, Picard sabotages their entire culture to save Wesley's life!
Picard quotes the Prime Directive early and often in this episode, discussing how they must obey this culture's rules. This is the reason he doesn't just send a security team to remove Wesley by force. Instead, the Enterprise ends up revealing a hidden spaceship in orbit of the planet that claims to be their god. He then transports one of the Edo to the Enterprise so she can see “god,” and he then argues with the alien ship that its system of justice is flawed until it allows him to beam Wesley back.
Picard claims to be committed to this culture's laws and religion, but then attempts to completely change both of them in a move that affects an entire planet - just so to save one annoying person!
13 Directly caused the Borg threat by insulting Q
Obviously, Q is the direct cause of much of Picard's misery. However, Picard usually helps bring it on himself through some arrogant blustering. While this is normally just annoying, Picard's behavior in the episode “Q Who” actually caused the Federation's first contact with the Borg!
In the episode, Q goes out of his way to point out that the galaxy has dangers that the Enterprise is not ready to face, and he volunteers to join them on their voyages. Beyond Q's own arrogant bluster, this is a pretty amazing opportunity: having someone older than humanity itself would be invaluable to uncovering the secrets of the galaxy.
However, Picard plops down at the bar and insists that they can handle whatever the galaxy throws at them, and Q petulantly throws them into the Delta Quadrant to encounter the Borg. Sure, it's a jerk move on Q's part, but Picard claiming they were ready for anything is patently absurd, as the ship nearly gets destroyed every two weeks. All his arrogance did was seal the fates of millions of Federation lives!
12 Lets Data put his brain into B-4
Star Trek: Nemesis was a pretty terrible movie on many levels. Captain Picard makes several out-of-character and insanely stupid decisions, and one of them involves the android B-4.
After finding all of his parts and assembling B-4, the crew is now in possession of Data's twin: a Soongh-type android that is less advanced than Data. In his generosity, Data decides to try to help his “twin” out by copying all of his own memories, and Captain Picard approves this action.
This is, of course, absolutely insane. For starters, B-4 could be evil— Data's other “twin,” Lore, has threatened the entire Enterprise crew more than once. Second, even if B-4 isn't evil, he can be reprogrammed— this has happened to Data before, and he took control of the entire ship.
Ultimately, it turns out that B-4 was part of a Romulan plot, and to his credit, Picard has Data take B-4's place. However, they did not wipe B-4's mind, and the movie ends with Picard utterly confident that the relatively-unknown android that was intended to get them all killed is perfectly safe retaining all of Data's knowledge and memories.
11 Chooses 600 People Over Trillions
For better or for worse, Star Trek's bread and butter has always been in-your-face allegories, from race relations to the evils of capitalism. In Star Trek: Insurrection, the particular allegory concerned Native Americans. The plot involves the crew uncovering a planet with the seemingly-magical ability to heal its people and allow them to live forever. However, there is a secret plot between the Federation and some aliens to force the inhabitants to another planet so that the restorative properties of the planet can be harvested. Picard, of course, goes rogue to stop this.
He makes a beautiful speech about how morality isn't about how many people are affected, and we are meant to see clear parallels to the forced removal of Native Americans.
From a brutally pragmatic standpoint, though, this may be the most selfish decision Picard ever makes: he is choosing to avoid inconveniencing six hundred people in order to prevent the Federation from uncovering a way to triumph over death itself. Over 800 million people died in the final battle of the Dominion War alone, but the only memorial Picard has is another damn speech about ethics!
10 Driving a dune buggy for no reason
Before the crew could assemble B-4, they had to find all of his pieces. An ion storm prevents them from beaming the pieces up from the unknown alien planet they are on, so Picard decides to personally visit the planet in the Argo. It turns out the Argo is a weird Starfleet dune buggy that looks like something out of Mad Max, and what follows is utter insanity.
First, the decision to ride around in a dune buggy makes no sense. It is far slower than a shuttlecraft and more dangerous on the terrain— something underscored by the fact that Picard must eventually make a dramatic escape by driving the buggy off of a cliff and into the shuttle.
In fact, the only logic in possibly using a dune buggy is that it blends in a bit better with the vehicles used by the primitive natives. However, Picard damns the Prime Directive to hell by having Worf fire a phaser cannon at them before showing them a super-advanced space shuttle, changing the development of their culture forever.
9 Agrees to mass brainwashing of the entire crew
One of the weirdly prevalent storylines in Star Trek: The Next Generation concerned the crew running into super-powerful beings. One such group were the alien Paxans, and they have a very specific gimmick: they hate encountering other alien races, so they stun any visiting ships they encounter and then move them; when the crew wakes up, they think they've experienced a wormhole. However, the stun effect doesn't work on Data, and the android proceeds to revive the crew.
This leads to a confrontation with the Paxans in which Picard makes a stunning choice: he unilaterally volunteers for the thousand-plus crew of the Enterprise to have their minds wiped. When the intrepid crew figures out what happened and confront the Paxans yet again, Picard once again agrees to the mind-wipe.
Considering how often the show makes a huge deal out of issues such as consent and privacy, it is amazing that Picard doesn't hesitate to have the mind of every single person onboard his ship invaded... twice!
8 Refuses to save anyone from a dying world
“Homeward” is an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation which introduces us to Worf's adoptive human brother. The brother works at a Federation observation outpost, but the planet he is observing is about to have an extinction-level event. He has hatched a plan to use the holodeck of the Enterprise to relocate these people to a different planet without them knowing they were aboard a ship. This is important, because this primitive culture does not have space flight.
Amazingly, Picard refuses the request outright, citing the Prime Directive. It's a pretty weird argument: the Prime Directive is intended to protect other cultures from interference by advanced cultures like the Federation. However, when presented with an opportunity to save a culture without them knowing what has happened, Picard can't be bothered.
Also, by the end of season four, Picard has already violated the Prime Directive at least nine times. He's clearly playing god in his position as captain and has inexplicably decided that an entire planet must die so that he can adhere to the letter of a law which he will totally be breaking again before we know it.
7 Ignores the offer of a Q wish
As we mentioned before, Picard's hatred for Q is well-known. Despite this, Picard does the gentlemanly thing and helps protect Q when the immortal being's powers are taken away and he has to deal with being suddenly human. Q eventually gets his powers back, and he wants to thank Picard by asking the Captain for any favor that he may desire. Picard says no, so Q takes it upon himself to trap the captain and crew in a bizarre Robin Hood fantasy.
It all makes for cute TV, but Picard's decision to not ask anything of the suddenly-benevolent Q is truly bizarre. The sky is really the limit here: Picard could have asked for the Borg to stop assimilating people. He could have asked for intergalactic peace in general.
This was his moment to add to mankind's collective knowledge, to save countless lives... to do anything except be arrogant and show a stiff upper-lip. Once again, Picard chooses his own selfish emotions over the lives of others.
6 Forces polygamy on two colonies
Even in the pantheon of bad Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, “Up the Long Ladder” manages to stand out. The story involves Picard discovering two different colonies that were founded by the same ship that was launched from Earth hundreds of years ago. One colony has rejected technology and tried to embrace a quiet farming lifestyle, while the other colony has embraced science and sustains its limited gene pool through extensive cloning.
However, the clone-friendly colony needed fresh DNA samples, and so they ask Picard if they can have any samples from the crew. This is when things start getting weird: first of all, Picard unilaterally refuses, believing that he and Riker's disgust at the idea of themselves being cloned will be echoed by every single person on the ship.
Later (and admittedly after a botched kidnapping attempt intended to get DNA), Picard “solves” the problem by forcing the clone colony to breed with the farming colony. He doesn't consider integrating the colonies into the Federation or seeking solutions from anyone else about genetic diversity. Instead, he wrecks two cultures by jamming them into one polygamous pile and then flying away!
5 Totally surrenders a kidnapped Federation boy
The episode “Suddenly Human” represents a glimpse of something rare: Captain Picard examining the bizarre lens of Federation privilege through which they view the world.
In this case, it concerns Jono, a young Federation citizen who was kidnapped by aliens and raised as one of them. Picard wrestles with whether he belongs to the Federation or to his adoptive alien “father,” and eventually decides to let the boy return to living with the aliens because Picard feels guilty that they have been imposing their world view on the boy.
While it's good for Picard to learn that the almighty Federation doesn't always understand other cultures, the way he lets things play out is insane. Jono is still a Federation citizen: he even has a Federation grandmother who is now asking about his safe return. However, Picard gets so steeped in his navel-gazing guilt that he literally returns this boy to his kidnapper, a man helped murder the boy's family long ago.
Not only is this the worst possible way to handle a kidnapping case, but Picard teaches these aliens that they are welcome to murder more Federation citizens and steal their children anytime they want!
4 Complete Jerk About Religion
While Captain Picard often seems to have a god complex, “Who Watches the Watchers” makes that experience pretty literal. The plot kicks into high gear when a Federation observation post has its holographic cover blown. One of the primitive natives they are observing gets injured, and Dr. Crusher inexplicably beams him to the ship to heal him. Her later mind wipe of him is incomplete, though, and he remembers “The Picard,” a god-like being that he tells the other natives about when he returns.
The plot resolution is really interesting, with Picard going so far as to let himself get shot with an arrow to prove that he is weak and vulnerable rather than being a god. In the process, though, he is a complete jerk about literally all religion.
When he is warned that the planet may now embrace religion again, he accepts an anthropologists' belief that this will inevitably lead to “inquisitions, holy wars, chaos.” Picard equates their religious concepts with “the dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear,” which is both disrespectful of literally every belief system and crazy for a man who has met multiple god-like beings!
3 Complete Hypocrite About Crystalline Entity
One of the stranger beings that the Enterprise encounters is the Crystalline Entity. Lore, Data's evil brother, once lured it to the colony where he and Data were created so it could murder everyone there. Given the chance, Lore tries to get it to kill the Enterprise crew, too. Finally, in the episode “Silicon Avatar,” the Enterprise is attempting to communicate with the Entity when a grief-stricken woman whose son was killed by the creature uses the Enterprise to shatter the creature, completely killing it.
Picard is horrified at what she has done, believing that the creature that can only sustain itself by mass murder has a right to exist in the galaxy. He hates that the creature died when they were starting to communicate with it, but he seems to be ignoring some key factors.
First, the creature has already communicated with someone before, and it used that communication to pre-meditate even more mass murder. Second, the creature represents a threat to countless lives: if he is not going to lose any sleep over their attempt to destroy Borg that are bent on assimilating the Federation, then it's odd to act like this murderous creature is any different.
2 Worst Nexus Timing Ever
Star Trek: Generations was a confusing movie that left viewers with a great many questions, and chief among them was “why did they make this movie.” However, the plot was also confusing, as it concerned a Nexus of energy that roamed the galaxy and swept people into their own personal Nirvana.
The bad guy, Dr. Soran, destroys entire stars to alter the course of the Nexus so he can return to it. Picard is swept up into the Nexus with Soran, and he uses the Nexus to return to almost the exact same time and place that he entered. Along with Captain Kirk, who had also been in the Nexus, Picard saves the day, but it costs Kirk his life.
Why, though, didn't Picard come back any earlier? He knows the Nexus can place him at any point in time or space. He could have stopped Soran before he blew up any stars, or at the very least, shown up on this planet before Soran got there.
Picard seems to deliberately cut things way too close, and because of that, his ship is destroyed. Captain Kirk is killed... all because Picard returned at the last minute for no reason at all!
1 Keeps his Borg connection secret
In the Trek movie First Contact, the Enterprise is ordered to perform routine scans near the Neutral Zone when a major Borg attack on Earth begins. The crew is wondering why they are being left out of the action, and Picard eventually admits to Riker that the Federation speculates that Picard's connection to the Borg (he was once assimilated by them) makes him a liability.
Riker speaks for the audience and basically says that the Federation is full of it and Picard should be leading the fight. The movie seems to validate this when the Enterprise joins the fight and Picard helps them destroy the Borg cube as soon as he arrives.
However, Picard later admits that he is totally still connected to the Borg and periodically hears them whispering in his brain. Considering this has been going on since he was assimilated, this means that Picard has hidden a pretty damn major connection to Starfleet's greatest enemy for the better part of a decade, putting untold numbers of lives at risk.
Got another WTF Picard moment from Star Trek? Be sure to sound off in the comments!