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What Star Trek Taught Me About First Impressions

tng_barclay_lieutenant_whiteFirst impressions are important, but they’re also often bullshit.

Star Trek: The Next Generation taught me that, through Lieutenant Barclay (or “Broccoli,” as his crewmates often called him behind his back), an introverted, anxiety-addled diagnostic engineer, who, despite being a pretty brilliant guy and outside-the-box thinker, is misunderstood and ridiculed by his peers. Because of this, Barclay often retreats into a fantasy world he’s created on the holodeck.

When Barclay is first introduced, he’s chronically late, painfully insecure and drives everyone around him crazy with his nervous demeanor. His superior, Geordi La Forge, is ready to transfer his neurotic ass to another ship.

Luckily, Captain Picard puts the kibosh on this and directs La Forge to instead take an active interest in Barclay. This really skews Geordi’s visor, but it’s Captain Picard, so what are you gonna do?

So Geordi, enjoying that big bucket of crow Picard served up to him, begins to encourage Barclay with some trouble-shooting work he’s doing on an anti-grav thingy that malfunctioned earlier in the episode and then invites him to a senior-staff meeting. The meeting doesn’t go so well, due to Barclay’s clumsy delivery of an engineering report during which he gets corrected several times by Wesley Crusher. You know things are bad when even Wesley Crusher is down on you.

Needless to say, Barclay’s not coming off as particularly likable at this point.



But in the end, Barclay saves the day when the Enterprise’s matter/anti-matter injectors get jammed. After several other engineers make numerous suggestions that don’t work, Barclay finds the solution and utters the treknobabble that saves the day. It’s always treknobabble that saves the day on TNG. Once it’s obvious to the rest of the crew that Barclay is a capable, smart guy and not just a bumbling, neurotic weirdo, he becomes a valued (though still incredibly eccentric) part of the engineering crew. Even Geordi comes around.

So yeah, first impressions are important, but they’re not always correct. Remember that next time someone is awkwardly stammering their way through a conversation or staring off blankly into space while you go on and on about your favorite Star Trek episode.

Images: Gunter Kujat and Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch