By Seth Kushner

“Make it so.”

That’s what my father used to say.  Sure, Patrick Stewart said it first in his portrayal of Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation, but my dad made it his own.

Star Trek: The Next Generation began it’s seven-season voyage when I was in the ninth grade.  I remember my father and I watching the two-hour pilot, Encounter at Farpoint, and I thought it was odd that the new captain of the Starship Enterprise was a middle-aged bald guy.  I assessed that the younger and more obviously heroic Commander Riker would end up being the star of the show, as he was more Captain Kirk-like.  It didn’t take too many episodes to change my mind and realize that Captain Picard, though cut from a different cloth from his predecessor, was easily the more compelling character and a commanding presence.

My father, a middle-aged bald guy, was immediately impressed with the choice of the new captain.  “He makes it cool to be bald,” my father said.

The hairless dome wasn’t the only thing my father had in common with the good captain.  Though a guy from Brooklyn, he shared certain facial characteristics with the Shakespearian trained English actor.  My father’s bone structure, high cheekbones and nose, though more Semitic looking, were of similar proportions and shape.

Aside from appearance, the main thing that differed about Picard as a Captain from Kirk, was his use of diplomacy.  While Kirk was more apt to fire photon torpedoes at the first sign of a Klingon Bird of Prey, Picard would always attempt to negotiate first with any potential enemy.  My father was a high school guidance counselor and use of diplomacy seemed to be his strong suit and a major part of his job.  While Captain Picard perhaps had to talk the Romulans down from attacking, my father might have to settle a dispute between two troubled students planning to duke it out at three ‘o clock.

My father and I always watched the show together.  Through my teenage years and early twenties, I would stop whatever adolescent thing I was doing when seven o’clock came around on Saturdays, when the show would air in syndication on our local channel eleven.  We watched Captain Picard go through a lot over the years as the writers put him through the wringer.

He was captured by the Borg and turned into one of them –“

I am Locutus of Borg.”

He was tortured by the Cardassians –“

There are four lights!”

He lived another man’s life in his mind and had it taken away –

“Make now always the most precious time. Now will never come again.”

When I was in college I took a portrait of my father for one of my photography classes.  It was a tight close-up, dramatically lit, with strong eye contact and a reddish hue.  The lighting and camera angle helped to bring out his Picard-like qualities, I thought.  My father was very pleased with the photo and framed it and placed it on his desk at school.  Immediately, students began commenting on how he looked like Captain Picard in the photo.  My father put a small note on the bottom of the frame, which read – “Yep, it’s me.  Make it so.”

“Make it so.”

It became my father’s tag-line.  Every day, students came to him for guidance.  A student with an illness and behind in her classes, putting her graduation in danger.  My father would talk to her teachers and negotiate her grades.

“Make it so.”

A student who was pregnant and afraid.  My father would talk with her and act as an intermediary between her and her parents.

“Make it so.”

A student with a substance abuse problem, with nowhere left to turn.  My father would order pizza and stay with the kid, well into the night and come up with solutions.

“Make it so.”

I was never present for any of these moments.  After my father had died unexpectedly, many his former students came to me at his funeral and well after, to share these stories, and many more.
My father dealt with real problems, every bit as galaxy shattering as arguing with Q for the right for humanity to survive, or facing down the Borg, and he did it with cunning, and intelligence, and grace.  Much like a certain Starfleet Captain.

It’s easy to idealize a person once their gone, and as special a human being as my father was, he was still human.  So was Captain Picard.  The brilliance of the TNG writers and of Mr. Stewart’s performance was in just how human they made Picard feel.  He was uncomfortable around children.  He lived with the regret of never having a family.  He had difficulty sharing his feelings.  He had to be forced to take a vacation to Risa.

Even now, years later, it’s hard not to watch an episode of Star Trek: TNG, and not feel a smile cross my face every time the great Captain Picard points his index and middle fingers up and then flicks his hand forward, saying the line.

“Make it so.”

–Seth Kushner