I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation lately, like a lot.
There’s something about the variety of characters, settings, and storylines that just fascinates me. That so much could be crammed into one show is crazy, but I guess that’s only natural having seven seasons.
What I’m writing about today feels more like a obituary than a regular blogpost. I find myself somewhat disconcerted by the death of one character: Calvin Hutchinson.
From the look on your face, I’m guessing you might not know him.
Calvin “You can call me Hutch” Hutchinson was a commanding officer aboard the Remmler Array, a starbase that cleaned ships of Baryon particles. He had served on both Tyrellia and on Arkaria as a cultural liaison of the Federation and a facilitator as he designed the conference room featured in the episode “Starship Mine”.
While the Enterprise crew is down on Arkaria, a group of terrorists try to seize control of the ship in order to steal trilithium resin. The resin can be used as a powerful explosive or as an atmospheric contaminant that can make a planet uninhabitable for a 50-year period for humans.
During the heist, a number of bridge officers are taken hostage on the planet. Geordie La Forge is shot and injured, but Calvin Hutchinson is not so fortunate. He’s killed.
As soon as he appears, he’s gone.
Hutchinson’s death has always troubled me. The man’s only vice was his ability to make small talk with other characters. He’ll talk your ear off about anything from planetary geography to ornithology and even horseback riding, which is a topic Jean Luc Picard would probably love to speak about.
In other words, he’s a character who is exceptionally knowledgeable and very experienced, yet everyone wants to avoid him. I don’t know if you could actually consider being gifted at making small talk a vice. Being able to greet someone and immediately make them feel welcome is a gift.
During the scene in the conference room, Hutchinson is passed from character to character. While he can talk on almost any subject, they’re rarely things that people like Beverly Crusher, Will Riker, or Councillor Troi find interesting, so they just introduce him to someone else. They look down on him like he’s some kind of parasite trying to edge his way into their tight clique they have aboard the Enterprise.
While the conference is going on, Commander Data is observing Hutchinson in an effort to learn how to small talk. He starts to impersonate Hutchinson’s mannerisms leading to a rather grim-in-retrospect scene where the android makes Riker and Troi laugh by replicating a soon-to-be deadman’s hand gestures.
After a while, a thought occurs to Will Riker. What if Data and Hutchinson met, so he throws them together.
The two get to talking and they really seem to hit it off. Without emotion, Data doesn’t have any feelings of loathing toward Hutchinson and with his vast knowledge he’s able to keep up with the commander’s talking points. They really seem to be getting along well to the surprise of the bridge crew who might want to take an introspective look into why they’re such huge dicks.
For a moment, you can forgive Data for acting like a school child making fun of how someone speaks.
Then Hutchinson is killed and everyone goes :(. They’re all like, “Oh no he dead”, “We should have listened to him”, “I regret being such a dick”, and so forth.
Hutchinson’s character was simply a target. He’s a target of the crew’s ridicule, he’s a target of the audience’s laughter, and he’s targeted by the villains to make us hate them.
Given the chance to speak to someone like Jean Luc Picard in a comfortable setting, I’m sure the two of them would get along famously. I bet Hutchinson would be able to match Picard’s knowledge of the universe due to his extensive travels and perhaps engage the captain in some of talk about Arkaria’s archeological treasures.
If someone would just take an interest in what he had to say — like Data did — they’d see Hutchinson in an entirely different light, but guess what he’s freaking dead.
I think we all know someone like Calvin Hutchinson in our lives. Someone who seems to talk endlessly about subjects you couldn’t imagine caring about, but what if you tried? What if you tried to build some knowledge to have a real dialogue with that person? Maybe you’d learn something about them or about yourself.
Anyway, just some thoughts on a little-known character who died too suddenly.
There are a lot of other characters in Star Trek who died senselessly and would love to hear more about these characters in the comments!