In a compelling TNG episode, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise is captured and electronically tortured by a chief Cardassian. Picard finds underneath the tyrant’s powerful exterior a frightened, abused little boy with a massive inferiority complex.
The tyrant gives Picard a choice: If he agrees to say there are five floodlights beaming in his face when actually there are only four, his torture will stop. If he holds to the truth, his torture will continue. Fortunately, Picard is rescued by his crew before caving in and betraying the truth for the sake of comfort.
Toward the end of the episode, however, Picard admits to Counselor Troy that he was about to “say anything” to stop his electronically induced torture. And, perhaps most interesting, Picard adds that, after suffering intense and prolonged abuse, he really began to believe that he saw five lights instead of four.
This is a telling psychosocial comment about how perceptions can change with the oppressive influence of an evil power that’s not in a person’s best interests.
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