Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, May 1, 2017

ST:TNG Season Two, Episode Fifteen "Pen Pals"

ST:TNG Season Two, Episode Fifteen "Pen Pals"
Production Order: 41
Air Order: 41
Stardate: 42695.3
Original Air Date: May 1, 1989

Picard's Log 42695.3: "Going to a virgin sector. All the systems here have goofy geological readings. Gonna check it out."

Data tells Riker that one of the planets in one system broke up a century and a half ago and formed an asteroid belt. Worf suggests that maybe an intelligent life did it on purpose, but Riker tells him that "it's geology, not malevolence."

Picard and Troi walk through the corridors on their way to the holodeck. Picard is going to go horseback riding, and for some reason, Troi is tagging along, even though she doesn't want to ride. Is she just going to walk along the trail, or...? Anyway, they discuss the fact that Picard isn't a small animal guy, but he likes horses.
"So you want a companion instead of a pet?" asks Troi, which is not accurate, because a great pet blurs that line.
Picard says he finds the activity relaxing, and instructs the holodeck to make him an Arabian with an English tack, and specifies that he wants to control the horse he is riding. There's an interesting bit here:
Picard: "The Arabs believed that Allah gathered the South Winds and made the horse."
Troi: "On the holodeck, we've made that legend come true."
Picard: "... I like that."
They enter the holodeck into a space that was actually filmed outside (!) and Picard begins putting the saddle on the horse. He says he likes horses for the romance aspect (no, not that), because there's a mutual need served by the human-horse pairing.
Troi says she had a Betazoid kitten once, but Lwaxanna and the kitten did not get along. When he offers to get a horse for her to ride, she says she prefers transportation "without a mind of it's own."
"Huh, I would have thought Betazoids would get along well with animals and stuff," he remarks.
"Naw, we get caught up in their emotions," Troi replies.

Picard literally has one foot in the stirrup when Riker pages him.
"We're in that system now, and there's something hella sweet and kind of freaking scary you wanna see," says Riker.
Picard resignedly drops his foot. He then clips the horse's bridle to the hitching post, which is kind of hilarious, because is he concerned that the horse will wander off in the two seconds that it takes him and Troi to walk back to the arch and exit the program? The whole thing will disappear the second he turns the program off. Unless he has decided to be an a-hole and continue to run his program, taking up a holodeck suite while he's elsewhere...?
When Picard hits the bridge in uniform again, Riker shows him a planet on the viewscreen that's a lava-infused (literal) hot mess.
"Federation sent an unmanned probe out here to collect info a bit ago, and this was a thriving ecosystem," explains Riker.
Picard considers the planet. "Well, that sucks."

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Riker calls some kind of senior officer's meeting that for some reason doesn't include Worf or Data. Riker is in charge of overseeing Wes' education and Starfleet training while on the ship, and he proposes to put Wes in charge of the planetary mineral surveys. He wants to get everyone's opinion on the idea. Pulaski is concerned that they may be putting too big a responsibility on his shoulders, and while the others agree that this is a big task, they think that Riker should go forward with it.
Wes gets paged into the Obs Lounge. He walks in to this, which is mildly terrifying when you're a teenage boy being called into a meeting with an unknown agenda.

Fuck, that's intimidating. Great composition, though.

Then Riker breaks the news to him, and he's pretty fucking stoked. Riker says that he must assemble a team, gather data, and present that shit. Picard tells him to talk to the senior officers and get advice, and that he has more respect for an officer who admits ignorance and asks a question, rather than one that just kind of stumbles forward with a bad plan out of pride.
Wes is trying to be excited and professional at the same time, grinning while telling the officers that he'll try not to disappoint them.

I really like this so far. We've learned that Picard likes horses and riding, for specific reasons. Troi told us that she had a kitten, and why Betazoids don't always mesh well with animals, and that riding is not her thing. We're checking in on Wes' education. And we're finding out what Picard values in an officer. Little bits of things that add to a character and keep us interested across the seasons.

Data is working in the science section on the bridge, and he's got bits and bobs spread out on the carpet.
"Whatcha doin'?" asks Worf.
"Personal project," says Data. He gives a bunch of jargon that basically adds up to "ham radio."
Worf seems mildly interested, because Data's project is searching for frequencies in the stars, including "man-made" ones. He appears satisfied, but when he turns to walk away, he trips on some of those parts on the floor and breaks them.
"Totes moving that shit to my quarters," Data apologizes.

A col under-arch shot. Bonus points: I never noticed that there were
pull-out chairs in the underside of those stations. They fold up like IKEA, apparently.

Wes catches Troi and Riker in the corridor and asks for a walk-and-talk. He's figured out who he wants for the different tasks in his project, but...
"Those people are all much older than you," Riker guesses.
"Yeah," sighs Wes. "Like, this would be easy if I was just choosing the best person for the task, but what if I choose people that don't like each other?"
"Fuck 'em," says Riker. "They're supposed to be professionals. If they have a disagreement, you solve it."
"Wait, I gotta be CO and also Freud?" asks Wes.
"Kinda," says Troi.
Then they all go their separate ways.

Picard's Log 42696.3: "Going into the second system in this area, and Wes is gonna start his survey here. Hopefully, we can use the results of that survey to find out why the geology here is so weird."

Blueshirt Ensign Davies is dicking around with some rocks in a lab when Wes comes in and invites him to join the mineral survey team.
"Sounds sweet, who else are we working with?" asks Davies.
Wes names off three other people, and Davies makes some infantilizing comments.
"Oh, man, Wish you'd talked to me first. I think it's better to break up married couples."
Now Wes is needlessly worried.
"I'm sure it'll be fine," shrugs Davies. Then: "Give me a signal if you feel like you're in over your head, and I'll take over. Wouldn't want you to get too beat up on your first assignment."
Dude, it's one thing to give advice, but another completely to offer to "take over." No one asked you for that, Davies.

Data is working on his personal project in his quarters when he stumbles upon a weak man-made signal. He boosts it to find out what it is, then runs it through the universal translator.
"Is anybody there?" asks a little girl's voice.
"...yes," says Data.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Wes is waffling in the hallway outside a door, padd in hand, when Pulaski walks by.
"What's up?" she asks.
"My team's in there," he says. "And I don't really know them, and I have to be the CO, and I only have the authority because Riker says I do."
"Sure," she agrees. "But it's up to you to keep it. And I think you'll do just fine."
He takes a deep breath, and walks in.

Picard's Log 42737.3: "Okay, so we skipped ahead six weeks. Keep up. Every planet we've checked out has the same weird geological stuff going on."

Wes is in the lab with his team. One chick turns in her results, and they talk about it, and he compliments her work. Davies also turns in his work on that third system in the area.
"Same shit, different day," says Davies.
"Yeah, but didn't you say you detected (jargony-jargon)?" asks Wes.
"Yeah, but (jargony-jargon) was faint," argues Davies.
"I think we should set up (expensive-sounding thingy) and run tests," says Wes. "I want to be thorough."
"I don't wanna do that," whines Davies. "(Expensive-sounding thingy) takes five hours to set up. It's a waste of time, and unnecessary."
"That's true," says the chick. "As an officer, you need to know when you're being thorough, and when you're just being overkill."
Bitches, both y'all are ensigns. You guys don't know any better than Wes does what being a good officer is. Y'all just don't wanna work, is all.
But Wes takes the bait on that, and dejectedly leaves, agreeing not to run the tests with (expensive-sounding thingy).

Data is back at the science center on the bridge, and he's Googling some shit about a specific planet in this sector. Brent Spiner makes as much of an oh-shit face as he possibly can while still playing an android, and then he asks Majel Barrett where Picard is.
"Holodeck 3," says Majel, because of course that's where he is.
So Data high-tails it to holodeck 3, and we see Picard in action, racing the horse down the trail. He heads back to the hitching post when he sees Data standing there.
"What up?" says Data, making weird android small-talk. "Nice horse."
Then he realizes that petting the horse has only bought him a micro-second of stall-time, so he dives in.
"Okay, soooo... like eight weeks ago, I'm dicking around with whatever the hell the 24-century equivalent of a ham radio is, and I hear this humanoid void say, "Is anybody out there?" So, you know, I answered back."
Picard gets off the horse, and super clips it to the hitching post again, like he's ever gonna get more than five minutes together to ride. "That's pretty tough, not answering back. I think a lot of people would do what you did."
Data appears relieved. "Okay, awesome. Glad you're not pissed. Because anyway, I've been talking to this little girl - her name is Sarjenka - this whole time, and now I'm in a bind. Her planet, like all of the planets here, is totally fucked up and falling apart in major ways, and I was thinking if we could figure out the problems and fix them... you know, we could fix them."
Picard pauses, because he suspects that an unknown number of shoes is about to drop. "What have you told this kid about yourself?"
"Like, almost nothing," Data asserts. "Been vague on purpose."
"Uh-huh. And is her civilization pre-warp like I suspect it is? Like, they have no idea that aliens exist?"
"Yeeeeaahhh... most def," the android admits.
"So you pissed on the Prime Directive, and now you're hoping we could do it some more?"
"More like, I was holding a copy of the PD in one hand, and pissing with the other, and then I didn't wash my hands. But yeah, gonna need you to break that PD for sure."
Picard thinks. "Okay, firstly: stop talking to this kid. Seriously. You're getting your piss germs all over the PD. Secondly, call all the senior staff into my quarters for a meeting."
"Cool," says Data,
He leaves the holodeck to call the meeting, and you know this is some serious shit, because when has Picard ever held a meeting in his own quarters?

Riker is in Ten Forward flirting with a Blueshirt. (She's black too, which I like. Riker is equal-opportunity when it comes to flirting.) He leaves the table to get them more drinks, and Wes appears in the doorway, motioning for Riker to join him. When Wes gets a table, Riker takes the drinks back, then whispers to his date "family emergency." I also really like that. Dude is willing to set aside his own down-time to mentor a kid, and refer to him as family.
Wes is in crisis mode over the (expensive-sounding thingy) test, and I can relate. It's hard not to let anxiety take over in situations like that. Like, he asked a dude to run a test, and the guy pretty much told him that he was wasting their time.
And the advice that Riker gives Wes is solid, general advice.
Riker: "Do you think you were right?"
Wes: "Yes. I guess... Or I could have just been picking nits."
Riker: "It's tough to tell other people what to do."
Wes: (nodding) "I suppose I could have made it an order, but how do you give orders to someone who is older and more experienced than you?"
Riker: "The difference in ages between you and Davies is not the issue here."
Wes: "I guess not."
Riker: "Do you think it might have something to do with ego?"
Wes: "No, it's just the opposite of ego. Every time I try to give an order, something inside of me says, what makes my judgment so superior to these people?"

Riker: "Wes, responsibility and authority go hand in hand. Now, I know you're responsible. Now we're going to teach you a little bit of authority. One of the reasons you've been given command is so you can make a few right decisions which will lead to a pattern of success and help build self-confidence. If you don't trust your own judgment, you don't belong in the command chair."
Wes: "But what if I'm wrong?"
Riker: "Then you're wrong. It's arrogant to think that you'll never make a mistake."
Wes: "But what if it's something really important? I mean, not just a mineral survey? What if somebody dies because I made a mistake?"
Riker: "In your position, it's important to ask yourself one question - what would Picard do?"
Wes: (smiling) "He'd listen to everyone's opinion and then make his own decision. But he's Captain Picard."
 Riker: "Well, it doesn't matter. Once Picard makes his decision, does anyone question it?"
Wes: "No way."
Riker: "And why not?"
Wes: "I'm not sure."
Data breaks in over the comm to call Riker to Picard's quarters. He gets up, but not before saying one last thing.
Riker: "When you figure it out, you'll understand command."
Wes thanks Riker and tells him that he's going to have Davies do the thing.

Wes marches confidently back into the lab and tells Davies to do the thing.
"You got it," says Davies.
Wes is amazed.
Like, I'm glad that he gained some confidence here, but that wrapped up a little too nicely. I know many Davies that would continue to argue, forcing Wes to either back down or stand his ground.

The senior officers gather in Picard's quarters, and like a good host, he's set out a spread on the table.
"Okay," he starts. "Data did this wrong thing, and we're not going to argue about how wrong it was, or why. It's done, so now we have to figure out what to do about it. Everybody talk freely."
Worf begins. "The Prime Directive is absolute, and you can't break it down and make it grey in some areas."
"Bullshit," says Pulaski. "We can't let those people die."
Now, this is a given. We already know how this pair will vote. Worf will always take the hard line approach when it comes to security and safety, because he's the security chief. And Pulaski, who sticks like glue to her Hippocratic Oath, will always err on the side of the patient/person involved. Pulaski says "save 'em all!" while Worf says "walk away." But these serve to bookend the dilemma here: if they go all or nothing, it will be one of these choices. If they go grey-scale, and only get involved in a certain way, the choice will fall somewhere between the two. And that's the philosophical discussion that arises from the others: to save, to not save, to commit to an action somewhere in the middle. Picard, sitting at his desk sipping his tea, is moderator, and they all have to decide collectively whether or not they should further violate the PD to save potentially millions of people. Nobody else takes quite the hard line that Worf and Pulaski do, so it seems like they'll go somewhere in the middle.
Riker, Troi and Geordi have a quick debate about fate, and whether or not it put them there at this time in order to save these people.

Picard asks Pulaski if she would feel the same way if they were interfering with an epidemic instead of a geological calamity. It's Pulaski, so she says yes.
"What about war?" he counters.
That one gives everyone pause.
The Federation is certainly no stranger to violating the Prime Directive so they can get involved in someone else's war. (Specifically, "A Private Little War," "A Taste of Armageddon," "The Omega Glory," "Too Short a Season.") Not to mention that time that Picard's inaction due to breaking and then "unbreaking" the PD most likely started a war sometime in the near future. ("Symbiosis.") The Prime Directive, as he points out, is there not only to protect the futures of those people, whatever come what may, but also to protect the Federation from stepping in it deep.
He then asks if they should get involved in a culture where one side is oppressing another. (I could be here all day linking past episodes.)
"What if they asked for our help?" suggests Geordi.
"Maybe she was asking for help," Data says.
Picard mutters "sophistry" and Worf says that Sarjenka can't ask for help from someone she doesn't know.
"She knows me," says Data.
"Okay, then," says Data quietly. "We're gonna do nothing and let her die."
Picard thinks, then replies just as quietly, "I need you to stop talking to Sarjenka."
Data goes to the panel on the wall and starts pulling up the frequency. But when he does, Sarjenka is already on the line.
"Data, where are you? Why won't you answer? Are you mad at me? I'm so scared!"
And now she's not just a little voice in the dark to one person, now she's a person to everyone.
Picard sips his tea. "Well, fuck. That's a plea for help, and we can't ignore her. Guess we're breaking the PD some more."
It's like going to the animal shelter, you know? Your mom can say "no puppy" all she likes, but as soon as you go, you know you're taking home a puppy. That's why I'm evil and encourage people to play with our rescue cats. Like hell you're not adopting that cat once you've played with him.

Picard's Log 42741.3: "Orbiting Data's friend's planet."

Picard and Riker meet with Wes' team. They tell the first officer and captain that there's a shit-ton of dilithium under the surface of the planet (and all of these planets in the area), and it's causing huge problems for the tectonic plates, leading to increased volcanic activity. Surprise, surprise, Davies says that they wouldn't have found it if Wes hadn't ordered (expensive-sounding thingy) test. They tell Picard that they'll try to reverse the process.

When they leave, Riker tells Picard that Data has been watching the planet, and has figured out where the safest location on the planet is. Picard is annoyed with the level of their involvement already, but tells Riker to tell Data to tell Sarjenka to tell her family where they should evacuate to.
"Know where we are?" asks Picard.
He holds his flattened hand up to the top of his neck, indicating "up to our necks."

Data tries to contact Sarjenka, but the computer tells him that the atmosphere is crummy enough at this point that the transmission can't go through.
He rushes to the ready room.
The Goldshirt on Wes' team is there with Worf and Riker, detailing how they're going to shoot resonators into the planet's surface to break up the crystal lattices being formed by the dilithium. This should stop the earthquakes and volcanoes.
"Good," says Picard. "Make that shit so."
They leave, and Data steps forward.
"I want to beam down to Sarjenka's house."
Picard nearly chokes on his tea. "Say fucking what?"
"I can't get her over the radio frequencies because of the atmosphere. So really, what's the difference between telling her over the radio, and doing it in person?" he reasons.
Riker gives him a look. "Dude."
"Yeah, I know," says Data. "But we're already doing this, might as well go all in."
"Ugggghhhhh," sighs Picard. "Okay, fucking go. Riker, you run the transporter."
Data dashes out.
"Where are we now?" asks Riker.
Picard holds his hand up to his head, above the ear.

Riker and Data bust into the transporter room.
Riker Sassy Moment: "O'Brien, take a nap. You never saw any of this."
O'Brien steps away from the transporter. Sassy Response: "Cool. I'm over here dozing off in the corner."

"Ten minutes," says Riker.
"Gotcha," agrees Data.
Data beams down, and Riker is called to the bridge.
"Shit!" says Riker.
Sassy Announcement by O'Brien. "I just woke up."
Riker takes off.

Data materializes in what a clearly a home. There are a couple of weird dolls on some kind of soft furniture, and some sculptures on tables. But there's no one home. He walks up to a wall and puts his hand up. The wall disappears. It's a door, and he can see some volcanoes erupting nearby.

He closes the door and begins snooping around. The door opens from the outside and a little orange kid runs in, not seeing him and going straight for a piece of equipment.
"Sarjenka?" he asks.
She gets stranger danger until he says, "I'm Data."
"Oh, yay! I knew you would come! My father made us run away when the earthquakes started, and we weren't allowed to take anything but I had to come back for my transmitter, because I knew you would try to call me again. I mean, I didn't want to leave you hangin.'"
"Yeah, sorry I did that," he says. "Things are... complicated. Does your family know where you are?"
"Noooo..." She looks a bit guilty.
He looks out the door again and there's another earthquake. "You guys won't survive this." He hits his comm badge. "Two to beam up."

Worrisome music! Commercial break!

Data and Sarjenka appear on the pad.
"Oh, fuck me," says O'Brien. "Should have finished that nap."
"Where's Riker?" demands Data.
"Bridge," says O'Brien.
The pair heads out the door.
"Where are you going?" asks O'Brien.
"Bridge," says Data, matter-of-factly.
O'Brien Shitty Moment: "And you're taking... that?"
Dude, not cool, O'Brien.
Sarjenka, whose planet is dying and who has just beamed up to a strange ship with an alien that has just reduced her to a thing, grasps Data's hand and begs him not to leave her there.
"Hell yeah, I'm taking her," declares Data.

Picard is pacing on the bridge. There's three minutes left to go until launch time for the resonators, and Data hasn't returned.
Just then, the lift doors open, and Data steps out with Sarjenka in hand.
Picard is livid. "WTF? He brought an alien onto the ship, and a kid onto my bridge. Is he fucking serious right now?" he asks Riker.
"She was scared -" Data starts to say.
Picard points to the comm. "Station. Now. Troi, take the kid to sick bay."
Sarjenka is having none of this. She really wants to stay with Data, and rebuffs Troi, like she's afraid the counselor is going to murder her in the lift. Data tries to tell her that no one will hurt her, and that these are her friends, but really, how much should she believe him, based on the fact that she hopped off the transporter pad and was immediately insulted by O'Brien?

"Fuck it," says Picard. "Keep her with you, and take your station. I guess this is her rodeo, too."
So they launch the probes, and Data explains to her that they're fixing her planet, and that the volcanoes and earthquakes will stop. All of the sensors show that they fixed the problem, and Data puts the planet up on the viewscreen to show her where she lives.
Wes, whose survey made this all possible, is hella stoked.
"Okay, yes, awesome," says Picard wearily. "Seriously Data. take her to sick bay."
They disappear in the lift, and Picard goes to the ready room. He calls Pulaski.
"Hey, Data and the little alien girl are going to see you. How involved is it to erase her memory of these events?"

Data and Sarjenka walk through the corridors, and Sarjenka asks if she can join the crew when she gets bigger.
"Totes," says Data.
They enter sick bay, and he introduces her to Pulaski. I guess she's decided to trust Data's friends now, because she doesn't shy from Pulaski. She picks up a rock from the doctor's desk, and a song very quietly plays.
"That's an Elanin singing stone," says Pulaski. "It plays a different song for each person."
"What does it play for you?" Sarjenka asks Data.
"It doesn't play for me," says Data. "I'm a machine."
Pulaski says she wants to examine Sarjenka to make sure that she's okay, and Sarjenka agrees, so long as Data is there.
Pulaski knocks her out, then sets this brain scanner thing above her.
Data looks uncomfortable.
"You did a good thing," says Pulaski gently.
"But is it a good thing to erase her memories?" asks Data, so clearly he realized or was told at some point along the journey that this would be happening.
"Yeah," says Pulaski. "If we let her have these memories, it could change who is she is as a person, and also change the course of events for her planet. You'll still have your memories of her, though."
"That's true," says Data, and he seems a tiny bit happier about that.

Data beams down to the planet with a still-sleeping Sarjenka. He places her on the soft furniture that's either a bed or a couch, and because he just can't resist breaking the PD a little more, he places the singing stone in her hand. Then he opens the door to see that the volcanoes have stopped spewing lava, and the place isn't going to hell. He pauses, then calls for a beam up.

Wes enters the bridge, and Riker offers him the captain's chair.
"Naw, I have a long way to go before I can sit there," smiles Wes. "Does this command thing ever get any easier?"
Riker laughs. "Oh, fuck no."
Data enters the bridge, and goes to the ready room to collect his punishment.
Picard is sitting on the couch reading when Data is invited in.
Data is ready to throw himself on a pyre, but Picard says that apologies are not necessary, because he did what he did because his friend was in trouble and needed help. Picard asks after Sarjenka, and Data says that she is safely at home with her memory erased.
"She won't remember me, but I'll remember her."
Picard: "Remembrance and regrets, these too are a part of friendship... And understanding that has brought you a step closer to understanding humanity."
Data does his tiny smirk-smile.
Hopeful music! Ending credits!

This is another one of those episodes that gets buried in season two. You don't quite remember it because it isn't over-the-top awesome, but it isn't lousy, either. It's middle of the road, like a lot of season two. It doesn't stand out as being on either extreme end of the spectrum. Like many episodes of Trek, the script went through some re-writes, some better, some worse. Apparently, everyone loved the first script, but one of the higher ups wanted ore technical talk in Wes' B-plot, so the story moved further and further away from the A-plot of "Data and Sarjenka are friends." It's felt that a bit of spark was lost there when the A-plot got watered down in favor of more B-plot. With the original story idea, someone on the E hears the question "is anyone out there?" posed by the little alien kid, and ideas were batted around as to who might be the one to answer. The logical selection was Data, because there's a sweetness to him, and a curiosity. However, many of the people who worked on this episode felt like it didn't quite measure up to their expectations when the final episode was finished, because the emotional aspect of Data's friendship with Sarjenka was missing. We kind of went straight from, "is anyone out there?" to "I started talking to this kid two months ago." Everything in the middle was skipped, so it feels more like Data and Sarjenko were Facebook friends, the kind where you stop remembering after a while how you met that person, then you never speak, and eventually, they fall off your feed completely. When they finally meet up in Act 4, I buy it because of the way they interact, but it would have been nice to see some of the middle parts.

I have some concerns with the outcome of Sarjenka's planet, though. Like, it's assumed that once they've hit the planet's surface with those resonators, they've broken up the crystal lattices for good. I mean, have they? Could those lattices not just reform at some later date? Or do the resonators keep resonating, continuously breaking that shit up? If so, how does that constant resonating in the surface crust affect the rest of the planet? Did their solution cause more harm than good in the long run? Also, what of the other planets in these three systems? It appears that they all have high concentrations of dilithium, and the ultimate outcome seems to be: earthquakes and volcanoes caused by tectonic shifting, which is caused by these crystal lattices forming from the dilithium; then shifting into the scary-ass planet featured in the cold opening; and lastly, breaking apart. They reported that the unmanned probe made a note that one of those planets in those systems had broken up and created an asteroid belt. If this is the ultimate outcome for all of these planets, then it's possible that the other planets in these system will break up and alter things in such a way that Sarjenka's planet will be affected. The only way to know if the E's meddling actually did any good at all is to occasionally travel back there to check up on the planet and those affected systems.
I'm also becoming annoyed at the idea that every time a Data story ends, he "comes a little bit closer to understanding humanity." It's starting to feel like the Princess Points system from "To Wing Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar."

Some good stuff: I like that we got more background info and character development for Picard and Troi, no matter how little. But I'm a sucker for that.
Also, even though it ate up the A-plot, I still like the B-plot where Wes gets his first command assignment. I also thought Riker's advice to him in Ten Forward was fantastic, mostly because it was applicable to any number of situations, not just in joining Starfleet command. I also like that Riker co-opted the phrase "What would Jesus do?" into "What would Picard do?" (For some quick rabbit-holing, check out this Wiki article.)
The last bit that I liked was the debate over what the Prime Directive means, not only for others, but for members of the Federation. It's a complicated document, but the general gist is "no identification of self or mission; no interference of said planet; no references to space, other worlds, advanced civilizations." tl;dr: MYOB. The senior officers here kick around what the PD means, where it might be acceptable to break it, and which actions actually would. I like that, and I like when Picard calls them all together to discuss this kind of thing. It's taken far more seriously in TNG than TOS, and I like that the consideration is given before a decision is made.

Fun Facts:

- Maurice Hurley instantly liked the idea for this story because he had played with radio sets as a child. However, he was less than thrilled with the outcome, saying that more emotion should have been given to the Data-Sarjenka friendship.
- Contact had to be limited between actress Nikki Cox and Data, because Sarjenka's orange make-up smeared so easily. (Were they using TOS Klingon make-up?)
- This episode contains the only location shoot of season two. The horse scenes were filmed in Thousand Oaks, near Los Angeles. The horse was added because Melinda Snodgrass, who wrote the teleplay, loves horses.
- This episode was taking to long to film via one unit, so a second was brought in to tackle the task. This one one of the earliest instances of this series using more than one filming unit.
- This is the first episode in which Picard drinks a cup of Earl Grey tea.
- I want this chair. It looks uncomfortable and unsupportive, but I bet cats would dig it. This is cat furniture of the future, friends.

Red deaths: 0
To date: 2
Gold deaths: 0
Blue deaths: 0
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
To date: 1
Sassy Geordi moments: 0
To date: 5
Sassy Wes Moments: 0
To date: 1
Sassy Worf Moment: 0
To date: 3
Sassy Riker Moments: 1
To date: 5
Sassy Picard Moments: 0
To date: 11
Sassy NPC Moments: 0
To date: 3
Sassy Data Moments: 0
To date: 5
Sassy O'Brien Moments: 2
To date: 3
Sassy Pulaski Moments: 0
To date: 2
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 1
To date: 19
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 0
To date: 17
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 0
To date: 1
Number of times when Data gives too much info and has to be told to shut up: 0
To date: 12

Episodes Left Until We Get Rid of Pulaski:

Um, I was sitting there...


  1. Hmmm, why ARE there a chair and table in the corridor? Is this supposed to be just outside someone's office for people that show up to an appointment early?

    1. The local university has chairs and little tables set up in the corridors outside classrooms as mini-lounges, so I assume it's something along those lines.

    2. Definitely could be an office on either side of the corridor. Or it could just be an awkward empty space that they dressed up. I've seen that as well, especially in staged real estate photos.

  2. The dilithium lattices presumably take a long time to form, given these planets were long-lived enough to have ecosystems.

    1. Most likely, given that the break-up of that first planet had occurred 150 years earlier. They talked about it like a domino effect, to a certain extent. I would guess a few centuries?

  3. Given that this is a Star Trek blog, it seems that the author missed an opportunity by not putting Seven of Nine in the "Episodes Left Until We Get Rid of Pulaski".