Lately, there have been a lot of references, memes, and video clips in regards to the “Picard-ThereAre4Lights-Torture-episode. The Star Trek TNG episode’s official name is “Chain of Command Part 2.”
Here’s a recap of that 2-part episode just in case it’s been a while since you’ve last seen it. In Part 1, Captain Picard, Dr. Beverly Crusher, and Lieutenant Worf are sent to investigate a biological weapon on Celtris III. They walk into a trap set by the Cardassians. Dr. Crusher and Worf escape, but Captain Picard is captured. In Part 2, a ruthless, Cardassian interrogator, Gul Madred, who gets great pleasure from inflicting pain on Picard, tortures him. Madred tortures Picard in extreme, dehumanizing ways, and his main tactic involves 4 lights. Madred has implanted a device in Picard that he can control in order to produce pain in any part of Picard’s body. Behind Madred is a set of 4 lights.
He asks Picard, “How many lights are there?’
Picard answers, “There are 4 lights.”
Madred replies, “I don’t understand how you can be so mistaken.” Then begins to inflict great pain on Picard.
The answer Madred wants to receive from Picard is that there are 5 lights, even though clearly, there’s only four. He inflicts extreme pain on Picard in an attempt to bend Picard to his will, and agree with his falsehood of there being 5 lights. This goes on throughout the episode, a battle of wills between the two men.
At the end of the episode, Madred lies to Picard, telling him in battle, the Cardassians destroyed the U.S.S. Enterprise, and everyone believes Picard to have gone down with his ship. No one knows that he’s being held captive, and Madred informs him he will be there for a long, long, time. Madred gives Picard a choice. He can either live in misery as a prisoner, constantly tortured, or he can live a life of luxury ad comfort with good food, warm clothing, and the ability to pursue his interests in philosophy and history. But Picard has to do one thing to receive a life of ease and comfort; yield to Madred’s will, and say there are 5 lights. As an almost-broken Picard weighs his options, Cardassian guards come to return him back to the Enterprise, revealing that what Madred said about the Enterprise being destroyed, was just a lie. Before he leaves, Picard defiantly yells, “There are 4 lights!”
Readers of dystopian novels may already know the motivation behind such a provocative episode. The 4-Lights-form-of-torture is actually a tribute to George Orwell’s 1984, in which the main character, Winston Smith, is tortured for his “crime of rebellion” by O’Brien, a spy for the Party. O’Brien tortures Winston until Winston admits that he sees five fingers when O’Brien is holding up only four.