Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)

Picard is captured, then trapped on a planet with an alien captain who speaks a metaphorical language incompatible with the universal translator. They must learn to communicate with each other before a deadly planetary beast overwhelms them.

Summary

Teaser

"Captain's log, stardate 45047.2. The Enterprise is en route to the uninhabited El-Adrel system. Its location is near the territory occupied by an enigmatic race known as The Children of Tama."

The USS Enterprise-D is on a mission to attempt to establish communications between the Federation and the Tamarians after several previous attempts by the Federation over the last century had failed. The Enterprise and the Tamarian vessel make a rendezvous in orbit of El-Adrel IV. The two parties try to communicate but, like the occasions before, neither party can comprehend what the other party is saying. Captain Dathon disarms his first officer of a knife-like weapon and repeats, “Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra.” Suddenly both he and Captain Picard are transported off of their ships to the surface of El-Adrel IV. Data finds that the Tamarian vessel projected a scattering field in the ionosphere of the planet, preventing both the Enterprise and themselves from using their transporters.

On the planet, Picard watches the Tamarian captain approach. He suddenly holds up two knives.

Act One

Data also finds that the scattering field is blocking communications. However, sensors can still penetrate the scattering field, allowing either party to monitor Picard's and Dathon's locations. Lieutenant Worf suggests it might be a contest between champions. Seeing that they are in good health, Riker attempts to communicate with the Tamarian first officer, with no success. He has Worf prepare a shuttlecraft to get the captain, betting the Tamarian ship won't fire on it.

On the surface of El-Adrel IV, Picard and Dathon once again try to communicate, as Dathon passes one of the two knives to Picard, repeating "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra." Picard assumes that Dathon wants to engage in combat and refuses to take his knife. Frustrated, Dathon says "Shaka, when the walls fell" but Picard cannot understand the terms that Dathon is using and both men become frustrated with their failure.

As nightfall approaches, Picard is still stuck on the planet's surface. He tries to make a fire, but cannot. Dathon then does something akin to prayer and goes to sleep, taking one of his knives for protection. However, he cannot sleep knowing that Picard will go through the night cold. Dathon takes a branch from his fire and throws it to Picard. He says "Temba, his arms wide." While Picard does not understand what or who Temba is, he understands that Dathon is trying to help him, and thanks him for the fire.

Act Two

"First Officer's log, supplemental. I am sending a shuttlecraft to find Captain Picard, gambling that the Tamarians will sit tight rather than risk an exchange of phaser fire."

Worf takes the shuttle Magellan with Ensign Kellogg to the surface of El-Adrel IV to rescue Captain Picard. As they begin to descend, the Tamarian vessel fires upon the shuttle and disables the starboard nacelle, destroying the shuttle's thrusters and forcing it to return to the Enterprise. It was a very precise shot.

In the observation lounge, Riker has Lieutenant commander Data and Counselor Troi analyze the log of the communication between themselves and the Tamarians and consult the ship's computer with the words and names mentioned and find several commonalities. Data and Troi deduce that the Tamarian language is entirely based on metaphors derived from their own experience and mythology, making their language extremely difficult for a non-Tamarian to understand because without knowing the people or things in the metaphor, the metaphor is impossible to comprehend. Lieutenant Commander La Forge and Ensign Lefler then attempt to modify the transporters to transport Captain Picard through the dampening field.

The following morning, on the planet's surface, Picard and Dathon are still no better off in their attempts to communicate with one another. Picard wakes up to find Dathon missing. He examines his things, finding what looks like a captain's log, then he returns. Picard notices that Dathon repeatedly uses the phrase "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra", but he does not understand who or what they were. Dathon is still insistent in giving Picard one of the knives, but again Picard refuses. They hear a loud roar in the distance and rocks fall from the cliffs behind the two men, and Picard realizes that Dathon and he are not alone on the planet's surface.

Act Three

As the creature approaches Picard and Dathon, Picard realizes that Dathon is not offering him the knife to fight him, but to arm him against the creature, and accepts the weapon. When Dathon speaks again, referring to what sounds like a battle plan, Picard understands that the Tamarians communicate by metaphor. Dathon utters a phrase that sounds like he was relieved that Picard finally understands why the knife was offered.

Meanwhile, Worf detects a highly localized EM disturbance in fairly close proximity to Picard and Dathon, and it is approaching them. La Forge, Lefler, and Chief O'Brien are almost ready to attempt to beam Captain Picard back aboard the Enterprise. Riker orders them to try early, but La Forge isn't hopeful. They make preparations for Transporter Room One where O'Brien is ready.

The creature attacks Dathon and Picard wounds it, but the creature strikes Picard. Dathon makes a return attack and draws the creature. Just then, O'Brien makes the attempt to transport Picard while the creature is striking Dathon. Picard is furious with being transported as it leaves him unable to help his fellow captain just as the two are beginning to understand each other. The transport fails and Picard is left on the planet as the creature moves away from Dathon. Picard holds him as they say "Shaka, when the walls fell."

Act Four

"First Officer's log, stardate 45048.8. Our attempt to transport Captain Picard back to the ship has failed. My options are narrowing and my patience is all but gone."

The Tamarians lower the scattering field to a deeper level of the planet's ionosphere, making transport impossible and forcing the crew to devise a new way to bring the captain back to the Enterprise. Riker has La Forge work on a way to disable the field generator on the Tamarian ship. The Enterprise's sensors show that Dathon's life signs are fluctuating and they know that the Tamarians know this also, but, surprisingly, no action is taken by the Tamarians to save their captain. Troi and Data explain the difficulty with their language, that it is based on narrative imagery. One must know the context as well as the words of the language.

Back on El-Adrel IV, Picard sits down next to a dying Dathon near the fire and asks him about Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. It seems that Darmok and Jalad were two legendary travelers, strangers who faced and defeated a common enemy on the island of Tanagra. Picard realizes that Dathon knew of the creature on El-Adrel IV and brought them both here so that they could re-enact the events between Darmok, Jalad, and "the Beast" at Tanagra. Dathon's hope was that by facing a common enemy, the two sides could learn to understand one another and bring the two species closer together. Now that Picard understands how the Tamarians communicate, Dathon wants to hear one of his stories. Picard recites an old story from Earth, very similar to that of Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra, about Gilgamesh and Enkidu at Uruk, and how two enemies became friends through hardship. Dathon appears impressed and amused by Picard's story. Dathon dies during the night, but not in vain, as he has become the first Tamarian to successfully establish communications between his people and the Federation.

Act Five

"First Officer's log, supplemental. Despite the risk of war, I have no choice but to break the stalemate."

Back on the Enterprise, La Forge and his staff have developed a way to disable the Tamarians' scattering field – by firing a highly focused single phaser beam aimed at the generator on the Tamarian vessel. Commander Riker gives the order to fire on the Tamarian vessel. The shot disables the generator, allowing Chief O'Brien to beam Captain Picard aboard just as the creature is about to attack him again. The Tamarians return fire, severely damaging the Enterprise and crippling the ship's warp drive. As Picard returns to the bridge, he orders hailing frequencies to be opened with the Tamarian vessel. The Tamarians reply angrily but they quickly calm down when Picard addresses them in metaphor. He explains that although the mission was a success as far as establishing communications between the two peoples is concerned, Dathon gave his life to accomplish it. Picard holds up Dathon's journal, and the Tamarians beam it into the first officer's hand, after which he pronounces that this successful contact will henceforth be known as the story of "Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel". Picard offers the knife to the Tamarian officer, but the Tamarian insists that Picard keep it.

Later, Picard is reading the Homeric Hymns in his ready room when Riker stops by with the damage reports for Picard to review. He notices the book and Picard explains that maybe more familiarity with their own mythology may help them relate to the Tamarians. Picard also notes to Riker that Dathon sacrificed his life in hope of communication, and wonders if he would have been willing to do the same. Riker leaves the ready room, and Picard picks up the knife and looks out of the ready room window into space while repeating the possibly religious gestures he saw the Tamarians engage in upon learning of their captain's death, paying silent tribute to his fallen comrade.

Log entries

Memorable quotes

"Darmok and Jalad… at Tanagra."

- Dathon (meant as a metaphor to become friends by fighting a common enemy)


"Picard and Dathon… at El-Adrel."

- New captain of the Tamarians, referring to Dathon and Picard's experience at El-Adrel


"In my experience, communication is a matter of patience, imagination. I would like to believe that these are qualities that we have in sufficient measure."

- Picard


"Shaka, when the walls fell."

- Dathon and Picard (repeated often by both; meant as a metaphor for failure)


"I have encountered 1,754 non-Human races during my tenure in Starfleet."

- Data (reference to the breadth of alien races in the Star Trek universe)


"Temba, his arms wide!"

- Dathon (meant as a metaphor for giving and receiving)


"That's how you communicate, isn't it? By citing example… by metaphor! Uzani's army… with fists open…"
"Sokath, his eyes uncovered!" (meant as a metaphor to comprehension)

- Picard and Dathon


"Imagery is everything to the Tamarians. It embodies their emotional states, their very thought processes. It's how they communicate and it's how they think."

- Troi


"Our situation is analogous to knowing the grammar of a language, but none of the vocabulary."

- Data


"Darmok, and Jalad… on the ocean."
"Darmok and Jalad… they left together."

- Dathon and Picard


"Temba, his arms wide."
"I'll go along with that."

- Dathon and Picard, as the creature begins to attack them


"Gilgamesh, a king. Gilgamesh, a king. At Uruk. He tormented his subjects. He made them angry. They cried out aloud, "Send us a companion for our king! Spare us from his madness!" Enkidu, a wild man… from the forest, entered the city. They fought in the temple. They fought in the streets. Gilgamesh defeated Enkidu. They became great friends. Gilgamesh and Enkidu at Uruk."
"At Uruk…"
"The… the new friends went out into the desert together, where the Great Bull of Heaven was killing men by the hundreds. Enkidu caught the Bull by the tail. Gilgamesh struck him with his sword."
"(laughing) Gilgamesh…"
"They were… victorious. But… Enkidu fell to the ground, struck down by the gods. And Gilgamesh… wept bitter tears, saying, "He who was my companion, through adventure and hardship, is gone forever."

- Picard, reciting The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Dathon as he dies


"Temarc! The river Temarc in winter!"
"Darmok…?"
"…and Jalad at Tanagra. Darmok and Jalad… on the ocean."
"Sokath, his eyes open!"
"The beast at Tanagra. Uzani, his army. Shaka, when the walls fell."

- Picard and the Tamarian first officer, finally able to understand each other


"Temba, his arms open."
"Temba, at rest."
"Thank you."

- Picard and the Tamarian first officer


"New friends, Captain?"
"I can't say, Number One… but at least they're not new enemies."

- Riker and Picard, on the Tamarians


(Sees Picard's book) "Greek, sir."
"Oh… the Homeric Hymns. One of the root metaphors of our own culture."
"For the next time we encounter the Tamarians?"
"More familiarity with our own mythology might help us to relate to theirs. The Tamarian was willing to risk all of us just for the hope of communication…, connection. Now the door is open between our peoples. That commitment meant more to him than his own life. Thank you, Number One."

- Riker and Picard


"Picard of the Federation. Of the Starship Enterprise. Of the planet Earth!"

- Picard, still not understanding Dathon's language

Background information

Production history

Story and script

The location map for the two-day location shoot at Bronson Canyon

  • This episode had the longest gestation period of any episode during Michael Piller's tenure, taking around two years to make it to the screen. Rick Berman hated the premise, but Piller thought it was interesting and was determined to make it work, so he finally gave it to Joe Menosky. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 228)
  • Menosky recalled that Philip LaZebnik's story involved members of an away team who in turn each met a mysterious alien boy drawing in the dirt. The boy greeted each of the team with the single word "Darmok?" Regardless of the response, the crewmember was catapulted into orbit in a strange cocoon. At the end, Picard realized that "Darmok" meant "play", and sat down in the dirt with the child. Menosky felt this was too similar to the "Bridge of Death" scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and didn't work in the context of the show. However, he did like the word "Darmok". (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 219)
  • After being assigned to rewrite the script, Menosky struggled for several days with no results. He recalled, "So when Michael reconvened the staff to talk about it, I truly thought that I might be fired. But Michael was really excited. He'd just seen Dances with Wolves and was completely blown away by the scene with Kevin Costner's character and the Native American warrior around the campfire, who don't speak a word of each other's language, but finally make themselves understood. Michael announced, 'That's it: one man, one alien, alone on a planet, around a fire. They don't know each other's languages, they struggle to overcome their differences, and finally break through to communication. And maybe there's a big monster.'" (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 219)
  • Menosky then wrote Piller a memo, outlining themes of language, communication and mythology, which greatly impressed Piller. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 219; Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 228) A copy of this memo is available here.
  • In devising the Tamarian language, Menosky was inspired by three sources: the work of psychologist James Hillman (who had emphasized "all is metaphor"), the quote "Every word is a poem" from translator and poet John Ciardi, and the dense historical metaphors present in Chinese poetry and philosophical works such as the I Ching. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 220)
  • The story about Gilgamesh and Enkidu is from one of the world's earliest known literary works, a Babylonian poem entitled the Epic of Gilgamesh (said to have been dated from around 2150 BC-2000 BC). The story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu at Uruk is itself a metaphor for the situation of Picard and Dathon at El-Adrel: two people, initially combatants, come together to become friends and fight a common foe, a battle in which one of them is struck down and the other mourns his loss. (Mission Overview: Year Five, TNG Season 5 DVD special features) According to Menosky this similarity was a combination of "writer's luck" and inevitability. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 220)

Production

Cast and characters

Continuity

  • This is the first episode which introduces a new captain's uniform: a gray undershirt with an open red jacket. The uniform was designed by Robert Blackman to make Captain Picard stand out from the rest of his crew, at the suggestion of actor Patrick Stewart. [5] Although the jacket has a black yoke like the standard uniforms, the yoke is made of a material that looks like leather and has a quilted pattern. Also, the red portion of the jacket is made from a material that looks like suede. In further episodes, the yoke is replaced with the same material of the rest of the jacket.
  • This episode marks the first appearance of the Type 6 shuttlecraft.
  • This episode marks the first appearance of Ensign Robin Lefler, who later played an important part in discovering the Ktarian game conspiracy with Wesley Crusher in the episode "The Game".
  • This is also the first appearance of Data's redesigned quarters. The previous set used for Data's room was modified to serve as Kirk and Spock's quarters in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and was demolished after filming was complete. (Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Special Edition) text commentary)
  • This episode is also notable as it is the only time a phaser beam is emitted from the main photon torpedo tube. It is admitted to be a post-production mistake in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 177). This was corrected for the remastered version by replacing the shot with a close-up of the phaser array from "The Best of Both Worlds". The original shot does appear on the Blu-Ray in the trailer for "Darmok".

Reception

  • Michael Piller remarked, "I just think 'Darmok' is the prototype of what Star Trek should be. It dealt with a very challenging premise and many of our best shows are scripts that have been around a long time… He created a whole language for that episode and it's just astonishing. The episode worked on every level; it had the philosophy dealing with language and what it does for us, two great acting performances, it had a monster and a space battle – it had everything." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 228)
  • Director Winrich Kolbe commented that he had mixed feelings on the episode. "Storywise, it was a hell of a story. It was almost flawless. It tangled a very interesting subject and a very complicated subject as well, and I think it did it well." However, he felt somewhat constrained in how he could film the planet scenes with the monster. Furthermore, he noted the difficulty in directing scenes in an alien language. "Can you imagine not speaking Russian and… having to write an article in Russian? It makes it kind of difficult. Even though I had a translation of the dialogue, it wasn't quite there and for me it was like directing a Russian movie without speaking the language, but you work your way through it. So that was an additional challenge. The episode seems to have struck a chord. It's a show we can all be proud of." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 228)
  • Despite his initial resistance to the idea, Berman later named "Darmok" as one of his all-time favorite episodes. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages) Shortly prior to its initial airing, he commented, "It's a wonderful two person piece [....] It's going to be a terrific episode." (Star Trek: The Official Fan Club Magazine issue 82, p. 6)
  • Patrick Stewart referred to the episode during the funeral service of Gene Roddenberry, who died less than a month after the episode aired. Stewart noted that the cast had just appeared in an episode dealing with the roots of mythology and metaphor. Joe Menosky recalled, "He used it as a way to validate and praise Gene's creation. That moment might have been the proudest I've ever been about anything I've written for Star Trek." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 219)
  • This episode has been used by linguistics teachers to aid in students' understanding of how languages work and evolve. ("Mission Overview: Year Five", TNG Season 5 DVD special feature; [6])
  • Doctor Who writer and producer Russell T Davies liked the billing blurb for this episode so much that he deliberately didn't watch it, later saying, "I love the idea so much, I'd rather think about it. Forever." Nearly twenty years after the episode first aired, Davies wrote a Doctor Who episode with a premise that he reckoned was similar to this one. (SFX, issue #200, p. 140)
  • A mission report for this episode, by John Sayers, was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 18, pp. 12-15.

Merchandising

Video and DVD releases

Links and references

Starring

Also starring

Guest stars

And

Co-stars

Uncredited co-stars

Stunt double

Stand-ins and photo doubles

References

47; 2268; "a matter of"; ability; act of war; adventure; aft; alien; "all right"; amplification pathway; analogous; angry; annular confinement beam (confinement beam); annular convergence; answer; arm; army; assumption; "at a loss"; "at the very least"; atmospheric ionization scan; balcony; beast; bioscan; black; bluff; border; bull; captain's log; challenge ritual; chance; children; Children of Tama (aka Tamarians); choice; city; colony; "come on"; communication; communications channel; companion; computer; concentration; confidence; confinement resolution; contest; continent; country; "course of action"; court; creature; cross reference; cultural interchange; D region; dagger; damage; damage report; danger; database; day; death; density; desert; door; E region; Earth; "educated guess"; ego; El-Adrel IV; El-Adrel system; El-Adrel system sector; electromagnetic disturbance; electron; EM carrier; emotional dynamic; emotional state; emperor; enemy (foe); energy output; Enkidu; evasive maneuvers; experience; eye; face; failure; Federation; Federation space; fire; fist; "for all we know"; "for instance"; "for what's it worth"; forest; friend; frozen dessert; Gallos II; generosity; Gilgamesh; "go ahead"; god; grammar; gray; Great Bull of Heaven; Greek language; ground; hail; "hello"; Homeric Hymns; hour; hundred; hunter; hyperionization; image; imagination; impression; impulse; individual (person); intention; ionosphere (upper atmosphere); island; Jalad; Kanda IV; kilometer; king; knife; Lerishi IV; lifeform; lifesign; life support linguistic database; location; madness; Magellan; Malindi VII; mathematical progression; maximum range; meaning; meeting; metaphor; meter; minute; motivation; mytho-historical; mythology; nacelle; name; narrative (story); narrative imagery; navigational; NBT; nonaggression pact; noun; Number one; ocean; "of course not"; offline; onboard system; "out of the question"; overload; particle beam emitter; particle scattering field; particle sustaining beam (particle beam); patience; percent; phase sequencer; phase transition sequencer (phase sequencer); phaser; phaser pulse; place; plasma reactor; polarity coil generator; polaron; positron; power surge; prefire chamber; proper noun (proper name); propulsion; quality; race; Razna V; red; red alert; resonance frequency; risk; river; road; romance; Romeo and Juliet; ruling family; rumor; sacrifice; search index; security team; self-identity; Seventh Dynasty; Shantil III; Shiku Maru, SS; shunt; Sigma Tama IV; silence; Silvestri, A.; sky; sleep; solution; "sort of"; space; spacecraft identification file; "stand by"; starboard; Starfleet; status; storyteller; strategy; street; subject; subspace carrier; subspace signal; surface; sword; tail; tale; Tamarian deep space cruiser; Tamarian language; tear; temple; term; territory; "thank you"; thermal input coefficient; thought process; thruster; time index; "tipped our hand"; "too much"; trade agreement; transporter; transporter beam; Transporter Room 1; transporter signal; understanding; universal translator; Uruk; variable induction field; vocabulary; warp drive; warrior; week; "what the hell"; "who the hell"; wild man; winter; year

Children of Tama language references

Anzo; Bahar; Bakor; Bashi; Callimas; Chenza; Darmok: Darmok (colony), Darmok (emperor), Darmok (food), Darmok (hunter); Jiri; Kadir; Kailash; Kanza; Kiazi; Kira; Kiteo; Kituay; Lashmir; Lowani; Lungha; Mirab; Mo Moteh; Rai; Shaka; Sokath; Tanagra: Tanagra (beverage), Tanagra (island), Tanagra (ruling family); Temarc; Temba; Ubaya; Uzani; Zima; Zinda

External links


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Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5
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