In a climactic scene in the episode Ensigns of Command, Picard manages to out-maneuver the Sheliak who are intent on clearing out human settlers on a planet in Sheliak space (by accident; a settlement ship went way off-course 90 years ago and these are their descendants). They have given 3 days notice as required in a treaty, but it will take 3 weeks to clear out the settlers due to some technobabble. The Sheliak intend to wipe out the remaining humans after 3 days, but Picard finds a way to get the time he needs:
The episode, overall, is a good one. It primarily focuses on Data and the theme of Data trying to understand humanity and also to be human, though he cannot be human since he is an android. This scene, though, really encapsulates the difference between Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
Captain Kirk had regulations used against him, though even this was rare. Kirk never defeated an enemy by reading a contract more closely.
I’m not really sure what to make of this. Next Generation had things going for it but somehow always managed to be, as my mother put it, bloodless. Data was, in many ways, more human than the rest of the crew. In 1984, I am told, there is the image of the future as a boot stamping on a human face—forever. Star Trek: The Next Generation softened this to a dress shoe placed firmly but no more than firmly on top of a human foot, except on Sundays and Saturdays from 9am-4pm and alternate Wednesdays from 7pm-9pm.
I’m not sure what made TNG the way it was. Presumably Gene Rodenberry should take much of the blame. I can’t help but think that TNG was also a product of its time, though, which makes me wonder what about the late 1980s and early 1990s produced this.