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Star Trek: The Next Generation – Coming of Age

February 22, 2013

Originally aired March 14, 1988. Stardate 41461.2. Wesley talks to a kid named Jake, saying he wish they’d both gotten in. The Enterprise is at Relva VII, where Wesley is going to take part in the Starfleet Entrance Exam. PIcard also beams up an old friend, Admiral Quinn, to talk to Picard in private. Commander Remmick is going to find something wrong on the ship, and Quinn orders Picard to cooperate with the investigation completely.

On the ship, Wesley meets the other finalists: A cute girl named Oliana, a cute Vulcan named T’Shanik, and a Benzite named Mordock. The guy testing them, Lt. Chang, also comes into the testing room. On the ship, Remmick is making the Bridge crew uncomfortable. Riker confronts Picard, but gets no answers. Then he tells off Remmick on his way out. On the planet, Oliana calls Wesley cute, much to his happiness. Back on the ship, Riker apologizes to Picard for his earlier behaviour, then gets called in to speak to Remmick. In the Ready room, Riker pulls off his patented move – lifting his leg over the back of the chair before sitting in it. This is the first time I can recall him sitting down like that. Did I miss an earlier instance? Remmick asks Riker about some discrepancies in the Captain’s Log.

Then we get some bits of Remmick talking to other members of the crew. He asks Geordi in Engineering (hints of the future) about Kosinski and the Traveler, and Troi about the Stargazer and his mind being controlled, which Remmick calls a “mental lapse.” Wesley’s on the Holodeck, and Worf comes in. They talk about the testing. Wesley confesses to being scared about the psych test. Worf confesses that his greatest fear in the psych test was having to rely on others for his life.

On the Bridge, Tasha alerts Picard that a shuttle was just stolen. By Jake, the kid we saw at the beginning. Jake is running away to sign onto a freighter, out of shame at not getting accepted into Starfleet. He screws up the shuttle’s engines and is at risk of burning up in the atmosphere. The shuttle’s too far away for a tractor beam or transporter. No one suggests moving the ship closer. Instead, Picard has Jake angle his shuttle at the planet, then kick in the engines and pull up sharply, to bounce off the atmosphere. Cheers all around. It’s kind of a neat trick. Even Remmick is impressed. Until he goes back to accusing them of incompetence.

Down at the testing facility, some big guy bumps into Wesley and starts yelling at him. Wesley yells at him right back. The big guy decides he likes Wesley. He was a Zaldan, a race infuriated by courtesy. It was a test. Back on the ship, Remmick tells Data there’s a problem on the ship, and wants help finding it. Data tells him his assumption is incorrect. He then asks Worf about the contaminant from Angel One, Crusher about her relationship with Picard, and then confronts Picard about violating the Prime Directive in regards to the Edo. Picard gets fed up with the whole thing, and goes to talk to Quinn.

Back on the planet, Wesley helps Mordock with one of the tests. On the ship, Remmick tells Quinn he found nothing wrong on the ship. He then tells Picard that when his tour with the Inspector General’s office is done, he’d like to serve on the Enterprise. After he leaves, Quinn explains that there’s some sort of conspiracy trying to destroy the Federation. He wants to promote Picard to Admiral and appoint him as Commandant to the Starfleet Academy. Picard wants a few hours to think about it.

Back on the planet, Wesley is set for his psych test. He enters a small room and sits on a chair. He waits nervously, then hears an explosion. He goes into the environmental lab, and finds it’s almost destroyed. There are two people trapped inside. One is trapped under some debris, the other is paralyzed by fear. Wesley brings out the guy who was trapped, but the other guy doesn’t go. Once he’s out, the guy he dragged out casually stands up and shakes his hand, and then the guy who was left inside walks out. Chang explains that Wesley’s greatest fear was that he wouldn’t be able to make a decision on who to save in a situation like that.

Back on a ship, Picard tells Riker about Quinn’s offer, and Riker congratulates him on the promotion. Then realizes Picard hasn’t decided. Picard corrects him, and says he’s decided to go for a walk. There’s something amusing about the line. Mordock is chosen to attend Starfleet, as the first Benzite in Starfleet. Picard bumps into Jake in the hall. Jake apologizes, and thanks him for saving his life. Picard sternly says “That’s my job, young man.” Picard then visits Wesley in the observation room. Wesley says he failed Picard and the Enterprise by not getting into the Academy. Picard admits he didn’t get into the Academy on his first attempt. Then says he has to disappoint an old friend.

It’s not a bad episode. Robert Schenkkan plays Remmick as a sleazy, smarmy bureaucrat, but his final scene suggests that perhaps Remmick was putting on a bit of an act. The crew’s reactions to Remmick are wonderful. Crusher’s scene is particularly nice. McFadden does a great job there. Dorn does a good job in his scene with Remmick, too – utterly contemptuous. Wesley’s a major focus of this episode, but unlike most of his appearances, he comes across fairly well. He’s surrounded by other people just as smart as he is, which makes him a little more bearable. However, the entrance exam itself is odd. Chang makes clear throughout the exam that all four of them belong in Starfleet; so why only take one? I get that they can’t take everyone who applies; they need the best and brightest. But that shouldn’t be based on quotas from each testing facility. If all four of them got better results than four people who did the testing on Earth, then all four of them should be accepted. This is the future. More than that, it’s an idealized future. They should be long past quotas.

Other notes: According to Keith R.A. DeCandido’s review, there was a deleted scene of the crew celebrating Wesley’s 16th birthday a month early, in case he got accepted into the Academy. Worf apparently has a line about Klingons not marking age: “You are born, you become a warrior, you die.” He also points out that Wesley’s psych test was in Room 101. Very cute. (DeCandido also mentions using the Zaldans in one of the Star Trek novels he wrote, A Singular Destiny. I haven’t read that one. If I ever get back to reading Star Trek novels, I may give it a try. I’d have to read all the Peter David ones first, though. I’m sure DeCandido would understand.) By the way, I never mentioned the DeCandido TNG reviews before, but they’re well worth reading. He’s very insightful, and really witty. Give him a try.

Anyway. Overall, I’d give this episode a 3/5. It’s eminently average. Not great, not bad, just standard.

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