I have an honest confession for all of you. I am a sci-fi geek. I was raised watching the original Star Trek with my dad. I enjoyed all the characters from the original series, but one in particular was my favorite. The hard-working miracle worker, Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (Scotty). There was something special about him that made me smile.
Many years later when they started The Next Generation I saw they did an homage to the original series by bringing in some of the original cast for guest appearances. Of those, my favorite was an episode entitled “Relics”.
The crew of the new Enterprise find a crashed Federation ship and go in to investigate. There they discover that the transporter has been jerry-rigged as a type of life boat for the only survivor, Captain Scott, Retired.
Scotty shows his usual enthusiasm for anything related to engineering and steps in to help Lt. LaForge. Unfortunately, 75 years have elapsed since the last time Scotty has worked on a warp engine and Scotty isn’t able to be the miracle-worker in engineering.
A dejected Scotty finds himself in the holodeck with a bottle of alien whiskey asking to be shown the bridge of the original Enterprise.
He is soon joined by Captain Picard and as they speak Scotty expresses what he’s feeling.
Scotty: “I don’t belong on your ship. I belong on this one. (Meaning the holographic ship they’re on) This was my home. This is where I had a purpose. But it’s not real. It’s just a computer generated fantasy. (sighs) And I’m just an old man who’s trying to hide in it. Computer, shut this bloody thing off. It’s time I acted my age.”
He leaves with Picard looking at Scotty with compassion in his eyes.
Later Picard asks LaForge about some data that they needed to acquire from Scotty’s crashed ship. Picard suggests that Scotty would be helpful in obtaining the information and asks LaForge to personally assist with this task as well. Picard makes his request with this statement:
“Look, this is not an order. It’s a request and one that you must feel perfectly free to decline. You see, one of the most important things in a persons’ life is to feel useful. Now, Mr. Scott is a Starfleet Officer and I would like him to feel useful again.”
I won’t post any spoilers for those who’ve not seen this but now want to. The upshot is by LaForge engaging Scotty in an area where he’s useful and taking some time to allow himself to be mentored by a more experienced engineer they both gain and grow from the experience. In the end Scotty is able to show he still deserves the title of ‘Miracle-Worker’.
This episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation demonstrated one of the things I always appreciated about this and the original Star Trek. The way they took on real life issues in the fantasy world of space travel.
We all need to feel useful. We all need to feel like our lives have meaning. We all need a purpose to give us a reason to get up in the morning.
As our loved ones get older and are no longer able to be as independent as they were it is easy for them to become depressed. We need to acknowledge the impact they’ve made in our lives and in the world. We need to let them know they still have a purpose in our lives and the world. Even sharing their stories and things they’ve learned through experience will enrich the community around them.
Engage with the seniors in your family. Encourage them in the ways they still make a difference and have a purpose. Tell them how much their presence in your life enriches it.
Change their statement of “This is where I HAD a purpose.” to “This is where I HAVE a purpose”
As an interesting side note, James Doohan who played Scotty, died just over a decade after this episode was filmed. He died from Alzheimer’s disease.