Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Monday, August 15, 2016

ST:TNG Season One, Episode Nineteen "Coming of Age"

ST:TNG Season One, Episode Nineteen "Coming of Age"
Production Order: 19
Air Order: 19
Stardate: 41461.2
Original Air Date: March 14, 1988

They gave Wes a new haircut. It... does not suit him.

Wes runs down the corridors of the E, and finally catches up with his friend Jake Kurland, who we have never met before. He tries to make awkward small talk, but they finally get around to the crux of the conversation: they both took the pre-test to take the real test to get into Starfleet Academy, but Jake missed it by 32 points, and now Wes is leaving to go take that real test, and they both feel kind of crummy about it. But Jake shakes his hand and genuinely wishes Wes good luck before they part.

Picard's Log 41416.2: "Orbiting Relva VII. Wes Crusher is gonna take the entrance exams to Starfleet Academy, and my buddy Admiral Quinn is there. He's asked to come aboard."

So Wes transports out, and Quinn beams in with this other dude, Lt Cmdr Remmick, the walking, human equivalent of the phrase Stick Up Your Ass.
Picard introduces his staff present, and Quinn stiffly says he wants to talk to Picard. But when Picard attempts to invite Riker also, Quinn barks that Riker cannot come along. Picard is weirded out - I guess it's typical to have the first officer present at "official business" meetings like that? Especially when it's clear that Remmick will be going?
Lightly suspicious music... Opening credits break!

When they get to the ready room, Quinn comes right out with it: Remmick is with the Inspector General's Office. Picard lets out an uncomfortable "ohhh..." because let's face it, you don't really need to know what the Inspector General's Office does. You just know that every other department housed in that office building refers to them as "Dicks R Us." If Umbridge joined Starfleet, she'd be with the Inspector General's Office, right the fuck at the top, bustling everywhere with a clipboard in a uniform that was oddly pinkish instead of dark red.
Then Quinn drops a Vague Bomb: Remmick is here to inspect the Enterprise and her crew because Starfleet suspects that there is something "wrong" on the ship.
Picard is understandably baffled. "Um, what's wrong with the ship? Can I help you find something, or...?"
"No, I can't tell you that," barks Quinn. "But you have to cooperate completely."
He tells Remmick to get on with it, and Remmick is wearing his attitude like it's woven into his uniform: he's got a bit of power here, but he's acting like it's quite a bit more than it actually is. It's the sort of attitude where you hope someone will knock him down a peg or two by the end of the episode.
In the meantime, Picard tries to appeal to his friend by asking what this might be about, but Quinn is all business, and Picard is forced to refer to him as "sir." It's always uncomfortable when Picard calls someone "sir."

Wes is first in the testing room, and of course he's messing with some do-dad. I kind of like that. It speaks to his character. If he were simply the first one in the testing room, it might make him a suck-up, but instead he's playing with something he possibly shouldn't be playing with. Wes likes gadgets, he likes knowing how shit works. Then he gets caught. Another candidate walks in and playfully calls him out for messing with equipment. She's Oliana Mirren, and it seems she's heard of him before. She says he's described as "very smart and very young."

They're soon joined by the other candidates, T'Shanik and a Benzite named Mordock. T'Shanik tells Wes that he looks too young to be joining Starfleet and Wes replies that his sixteenth birthday is the following month, so now we know what the age minimum is for the 24 century. (That doesn't explain how the hell Tina Lawton ended up finishing the Academy's four-year course and landing a spot on the flagship of Starfleet at age 17, but TOS was all over the place, so if they wanted a teenage girl on the Enterprise, they just put her there.)
Wes briefly fangirls over Mordock, who is the creator of the Mordock Strategy, a chess move. Then the instructor, Tac Officer Chang, enters and the testing begins.
You know what I noticed? Clever wardrobe people very subtly gave each of the candidates outfits that included Ops gold, command red, and science blue.

Check out Mordock, yo. He's pretty awesome. That little light-up do-hickey in front of his face occasionally lets out this puff of something, so I'm guessing that the Benzite atmosphere is different enough to warrant wearing one of those. He's just a really cool alien. The make-up team was nominated for an Emmy for this episode, so I gotta guess it was for Mordock.

Upstairs, Remmick is pretty much standing over everyone, tapping out notes on a tiny PADD. It's unnerving, to the point where people keep asking him if he needs their help with anything. Geordi looks like he'd like to get sassy with with Remmick, but he knows better, so his tone is almost apologetic when he says that they're just in standard orbit, and the conn positions need to be manned as a matter of routine. Remmick tells Riker that he'll want to speak to him alone later, and Riker decides to ask Picard about this crap. He heads into the ready room.
"Am I being investigated?" he asks point-blank.
"Dunno," admits Picard. "Can't tell you even if I knew."
"This sucks."
"I agree."
But they're both frustrated, and it ends with raised voices. Riker stomps out of the ready room and onto the bridge.
"Let's have that chat," says Remmick.
"Fuck off," replies Riker.
Remmick tries to get all high and mighty about how everyone has to cooperate with him.
"I SAID FUCK OFF, I HAVE SHIT TO DO!" yells Riker, getting in the lift. It closes satisfyingly in Remmick's face.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

We see the last question on the written exam about intermix ratios, which Wes gets instantly because it's a trick question. (The intermix ratio for matter-antimatter is 1:1, which you can now use at trivia nights, or when taking your own entrance exam at the Academy. 
Hey, man. Don't knock it. All those nerds who grew up watching this show are now scientists hell-bent on making this shit a reality. We already have early-stage replicators and transporters, so we may not be that far off. So when your grandchild is struggling over intermix ratio questions on AP Science homework, you can confidently tell them that it's 1:1, because you read it on some dumb blog...which I will probably still be writing, because reboots.)
Mordock and Wes talk about how there could only have been one answer, and Oliana feels bad, because she didn't get the answer in time. She says it must be nice to be them, having the answers come so easily. Wes backs up and apologetically tells her that he has to study all the time.
"It's a good thing you're cute, or you could really be obnoxious," she laughs, just before leaving.
I am... not touching that with a ten-foot pole.
Wes is kind of charmed. "Mordock, she said I'm cute!" he beams.
"Is that good?" asks Mordock, reminding us that not every species procreates the same.
"Yes! I think?"

Riker enters the bridge and tries to apologize for yelling at Picard earlier.
"No need," answers Picard. "Remmick is a total twat-waffle, and he has everybody on edge."
Remmick then enters from the other lift and asks if Riker is now ready for their "chat." He uses a Sassy Moment voice, but again, that dude is a twat-waffle, so I'm not awarding him a Sassy Moment. Suck it, Remmick.
Riker agrees and they go into the ready room. Remmick says that there are "discrepancies" in the captain's log.
"Have you asked him about those?" asks Riker.
"No! I'm asking you, and we're gonna go over them with a fine-tooth comb!"
There's a tense pause, then -
"Fine. Let's do this, motherfucker," Riker replies.

Next we go to Engineering, where Remmick is hassling Geordi, following him around while he does shit at various stations by the warp engines. They're talking about the incident with Kosinski and The Traveler, where the E ended up at the edge of the universe and beyond. Remmick is accusing Picard of losing control of the ship.
Geordi has no patience for this shit. "Bitch, what did I just say? Starfleet sent us Kosinski, with the direct orders for us to let him "improve" the engines."
"But the bridge crew objected to him," Remmick presses. He just "decides" that Picard lost control of the ship.
Geordi lets out this short sigh that says, "OMG, fuck you sideways with a katana."

Next up: Troi.
Remmick demands to know if Picard has ever had a mental lapse that would mean he was not fit to run the ship.
"Never," she replies.
"What about the thing with the Ferengi and the Stargazer?"
"Hello? He was being controlled by a mind-altering machine," she answers.
"Hello? That counts as mental lapse." He types "yes" in on his PADD.
Troi considers getting Geordi that katana that he said he wanted.

Wes is chilling on an unused holodeck when Worf enters. He's about to turn it on when he notices Wes just leaning against the wall. The acting ensign tells the Klingon that he's finished with today's tests, but is worried about the psychological portion, which will be based on his deepest fears. He wants to program some fears into the holodeck to practice facing them, but isn't certain what he's most afraid of.
"Thinking about something which you can't control wastes energy and creates its own enemy," Worf says wisely.
Wes is annoyed. "I don't know what my biggest fear is - how do they know?"
"They check out your psych profile," Worf answers. "They were right on the gold-pressed latinum for me and everyone I tested with."
"I thought Klingon warriors weren't afraid of anything?"

Wes feels like he may have overstepped his boundaries by asking too many personal questions, but Worf sees that this kid could use a mentor, so he continues on. He tells Wes that he struggles to depend on others, especially with his life.
"But... you have depend on everyone on the Enterprise to do that everyday," reasons Wes. "How did you overcome your fear?"
"I haven't," he answers. 
Y'all... that was a great scene. They've been really stepping it up with Worf lately, not only giving him more screentime and better lines, but giving him more to work with overall. And I like the fact that we see Wes worrying about his future here. A lot is riding on whether or not he'll get in, and it's assumed that he will, but he doesn't know that yet. That they paired Worf and Wes together here makes it even better for both characters.
Now if we could only do the same for Tasha...

Riker and Picard are having a perfectly normal, stress-free convo on the bridge at one of the science stations, when an alarm goes off. It's the shuttle bay, and Yar reports that someone is taking a shuttle. She says it's Jake Kurland. We know him, the kid who didn't quite make the cut to take the Academy entrance exams.
The bridge crew hops into action, but Remmick hops into Asshole Mode.
"Isn't that area secure?" he asks in a snotty tone.
"Go fuck yourself," Riker replies.
Worf relays that Jake is using the emergency override to open the bay doors.
"Smart kid," remarks Geordi.
"Kid?!" says Remmick. He goes ignored.

Picard calmly calls the shuttle. He's being followed by Remmick.
A shaky-sounding Jake comes on the line, saying that he's flying someplace else to sign on with a freighter. He can't face his father after failing that test. Unfortunately, an alarm goes off in the shuttle. He's accidentally effed up the dilithium reaction.
He's lost power, and is less than two minutes from burning up in the atmosphere of Relva. The bridge crew discusses options. Too far away for a tractor beam, too far away for a transporter lock. Then fucking Remmick physically steps in front of Picard to yell in his face that he's "responsible for that boy!" right in the middle of a mother. Fucking. Crisis.
Picard is so done. "Move. Your skinny ass. Out. Of my way."

Sensing that he could very likely walk away with a broken nose, Remmick wisely steps back. Picard puts Jake on viewscreen. Jake is now panicking. Picard reassures him that they get him back safely, as Riker is quietly telling Picard that the shuttle needs 50 seconds for the core to cool off before it can start again.
Picard tells Jake to aim the shuttle at Relva, wait until it hits a certain speed, then pull up hard.
"I'm gonna crash!"
"You're going to be just fine."
But Jake does what he says and manages to come out in one piece. Everyone cheers, including Remmick.
"That was incredible!" he says. "How did he do it?"
"He built up enough speed to bounce off the atmosphere," smiles Geordi.
Jake is told to bring the shuttle back and report to Riker.

Remmick slips easily from "Hooray! You did it!" right back into Asshole Mode. "How did that kid get access to a shuttle?"
Riker puts the smack-down on Remmick by stating that Kurland is a "highly-qualified Academy candidate" with a lot of experience in multiple areas, including shuttlecraft.
"Did this training include discipline?" demands Remmick dickishly.
You know Riker is probably in charge of Kurland's training, just as he is in charge of Wes's training, and is not going to take that crap lying down. He looks like he's going to punch Remmick. But Picard stops Riker long enough to calmly explain to Remmick that everyone makes "rash choices" sometimes, and that when he gets back, Jake Kurland will get a refresher in discipline.
Sadly, no one punches Remmick.

Downstairs, Wes is walking through the Relva complex with Mordock when a huge gold shirt asks him where to drop off a package. He gives directions to a nearby office, but when the gold shirt passes, they knock shoulders. The gold shirt becomes enraged and blames the incident on Wes, who stammers an apology. Chang happens by and asks if there's a problem. The gold shirt pulls out some "do you know who I am?" bullshit. But then Wes switches tactics, and starts yelling back.
"You bumped into me! This was your fault! Do you want your ass kicked?"
The gold shirt smiles. "Naw, we're good, friend." And he walks away.
"WTF?" asks Mordock.
"When he gestured, I saw that his fingers were webbed," explains Wes. "He's a Zaldan. They think courtesy is phony, and it pisses them off. So I yelled at him instead."
Chang admits that it was an unannounced test to see how the candidates deal with certain situations.
Mordock muses that, not having heard of Zaldans before, he would not have passed that test.

Upstairs, Remmick has Data in the observation lounge, and inquires as to whether or not he has to tell the truth, being an android and all. Data answers in the affirmative. Remmick is being all weird and secretive, as though everyone thus far has been lying to him, and Data will give him all the information that everyone else has been hiding. He tells Data that there's something wrong with the logs and with Picard, and Data tells him that there is nothing wrong with either.
"That's not acceptable!" says Remmick.
Sassy Data Moment! "Acceptable or not, sir - it is the truth."
He swings the computer screen back at Remmick, and Brent Spiner gives him the smarmiest look he can pull out while still remaining in character. "Suck it, biiiiitch."

Next up is Worf. Remmick asks "how did this contaminant get aboard the ship?" (He's asking about the Naked Now illness.)
Remmick tries to make it Picard's fault, but Worf is stoically insistent that it was an accident.
"You don't like me very much, do you?" asks Remmick.
Dude: Sassy Worf Moment:

Cut to Remmick grilling Crusher, and guess what he asks her about?

That's right! Jack Crusher is dead! It's pretty much Picard's fault!
And while her words do not necessarily warrant a Sassy Moment, the fact that she laughs softly before answering, and especially her tone, definitely earn her a spot on the list:

Finally, Remmick grills Picard about saving Wes from the Edo, violating the Prime Directive. Picard admits to it freely, and reminds Remmick that he's interrogated all of his senior officers and found nothing. Remmick suggests that Picard is afraid of being found guilty of... something. Like, we have no idea what he's even after, and we're more than half-way through this episode.
"The only thing I'm guilty of is letting this drag out this long," Picard tells him, and walks away.
Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard goes to the quarters where Quinn is staying. "Cut the bullshit, Quinn. What do you want?"
"Remmick's report is almost ready. You can be here when he reports it back to me," Quinn replies.
"I don't know if I want to be your friend anymore," growls Picard.
"Yeah, I know. I'm sorry. I had to do this, though."
He calls Remmick, who replies that he'll be right there. Remmick's voice has lost its pitbull quality and taken on a weasely-lackey tone. Ugh.

In the testing center, the candidates are taking this weird test when a cube made of dots rotates on their screens, while other dots fly at it. The candidates have to make the flying dots go to the cube so the whole thing turns green or something. I don't really know. It looks kind of futuristic, so they slapped some science-y jargon onto it, enough that the audience will shrug and go, "Okay, I'll buy it." It looks like a cabinet game from the 1980's, but all the candidates are struggling, so we're also supposed to buy that it's difficult. I have no idea what they're actually doing. "Inputting vector coordinates" or something.

Anyway, Mordock is losing faith, and Wes coaches him from his own station. Mordock completes the test just before Wes does, and the girls appear to finish as well before time is up.
Chang comes in, congratulates Mordock on getting the second-fastest time on that test ever, and Mordock complains that he only finished the test because Wes helped him.
"Yep," says Chang cheerfully, unconcerned. "You get an hour free time before the next test."
"The psych test?" asks Wes.
Chang frowns and acts all serious, correcting Wesley on the proper labeling of the "psychological evaluation" but then he smiles and ends with, "but "psych test" will do."
You know, I really like Chang. He reminds of Sulu, and it makes me wonder if this actor (Robert Ito) is a fan of Sulu, because he seems to be channeling our former helmsman. There's just enough seriousness that you know that he's a competent officer and the guy who's got your back in a pinch, but enough of a playful sense of humor exists that you'd probably like to get a drink with him after shift.


Meanwhile, Remmick reports in for his meeting with Quinn. Picard is there, staring out the window.
"Um, so... I did what you asked," says Remmick. "I tried to find something wrong, and I talked to all of the crew members and went through the logs, but I couldn't find anything. Like, the bridge crew is... familiar, but it's because they treat each other like family and stuff."
Quinn dismisses him. When he starts to leave, Remmick turns and addresses Picard.
"I'm done with the Inspector General's Office in six months," he says. "Then I want to come work for you here."
Picard gives him this look like, "That's a terrible jo- oh, you were serious."
Remmick shrinks a little. Quinn's look also says, "That was awful timing."
The lieutenant-commander leaves.
Then Quinn drops another Vague Bomb: Starfleet didn't send them to investigate something being wrong on the E. Quinn is doing this all on his own. And he didn't want there to be something wrong on the E, because that would mean that there's probably something wrong with Picard, and he wants to trust Picard, blah, blah, blah, run-on sentences and crap that's supposed to be tension-building, but which is actually irritating filler, and we finally get to the very vague crux: there's some kind of threat to the Federation, and he doesn't know if it's from the inside or the outside, but he wants to promote Picard to admiral and put him in charge of the Academy. Also, surprise: there was never actually anything wrong with the E, he needed to make sure that Picard was on the up-and-up.

"Sorry, didn't catch that. Perhaps if you were more vague?"

Picard decides to think about it, and give the admiral his decision later.

Downstairs, Mordock comes out of his psych test shaking, and he tells Wes that he will be fine. Wes is shown into a tiny empty room with one chair. He announces his presence, and when no one answers, he thinks maybe they forgot about his test. He then tries to talk himself into remaining calm.
There's a loud thud outside, which he quietly investigates. More explosions, and he's now out the door, looking for the source. He locates it down the hall, in the environmental lab.
An open door reveals an on-going accident scene. Wes yells for help, just as the trapped workers do as well.

One dude, who's kept his wits about him, yells to Wes that there's going to be another explosion, and the room will automatically seal itself off before that to contain the damage. They have thirty seconds before that happens, but he can't go anywhere, as his legs are crushed under some fallen pipes. There's another guy at the back of the lab who looks like he's about to lose his mind. He seems to be moving alright, but he keeps hugging a pipe connected to the wall and yelling, "We're all gonna die!"
"Help me!" Wes yells to him, trying to dig out the guy with the crushed legs.
But guy #2 just shakes his head and yells again that they're all gonna die.
Wes frees guy #1 and begins the first aid drag, pulling the dude out by his under arms. He keeps yelling encouragement to guy #2, who still has his arms firmly wrapped around that pipe.
Guy #2 insists that he can't move.
"I can't carry you both!" Wes calls back to him.
He drags guy #1 out into the corridor just in time, yelling "I'm sorry!" to guy #2. The doors snap shut.

Chang steps up to Wes, and Wes, seeing him, starts yelling frantically about an accident in the environmental lab.
But then Crushed Legs Guy gets up and shakes Wes' hand, thanking him before walking away. The doors to the enviro lab open, and Panicky "We're All Gonna Die!" Guy walks out, giving Wes a quick nod before leaving casually down the hall.
"So yeah, that was your psych test," says Chang, confirming what is clearly dawning on Wes' face.
And Wes finally walks himself through what turns out to have been his biggest fear: Jack Crusher was killed when Picard had to make a choice that ultimately lead to the death of his best friend. Wes was afraid that when the time came, he would not be able to make a choice like that. And while it didn't quite occur here in the same way - the panicky guy was a stranger rather than a close friend - he was forced to make a life or death choice, and he did so.
For once, I do not have to use the horse photo when talking about Jack Crusher's death, because for once, it's used correctly. We've seen it utilized to define relationships and needlessly tug at heart-strings, but we've never quite gotten around to talking about the fact that it would have not only affected Wes, but actually formed the person he would become. And that it would form the basis of his biggest fear, and inform on the career path he wished to take.

Chang tells him that he did well, even though there was no right or wrong answer.
But let's face it - the psych test is only 50% for the benefit of Starfleet. That other half is for the person applying. While the results could be helpful to Wes in gaining entrance to the Academy, it's really more helpful for him to know that he was able to stare down this previously unknown fear, and make the decision he wasn't certain he could make.

Upstairs, Picard is staring out the ready room window. There's a cool shot of Riker entering from the door, and we see him reflected in the glass.
Riker tells Picard that Remmick has left, and Picard reveals that Remmick found nothing, and that Quinn was impressed by the crew. Picard tells Riker that Quinn was watching him, and has offered him a promotion, to be commandant of Starfleet Academy.
Riker is genuinely pleased for his captain, saying that this promotion sounds like a great job, and won't it be awesome to mold some new minds for Starfleet...?
But he recognizes that Picard is on the fence, and needs to do some more thinking before making his choice.

Downstairs, Chang laments that they can only choose one candidate to enter the Academy, and hopes that the others will test again, because he thinks they're all awesome. Then he announces that Mordock scored a tiny bit higher than Wes, and that he will be the first Benzite in Starfleet.
Mordock protests, because Wes helped him. Chang says that all things were taken into account, and Mordock still would have scored a little bit better, even if Wes had not lost a few seconds time in helping him. Chang leaves, followed shortly by T'Shanik, who must be pretty pissed off that she lost. Oliana shakes Mordock's hand, then playfully tells Wes that he should be looking out for her next year, before she also exits.

Picard is making his way down the corridor in his dress skant when he and Jake Kurland do the Awkward Dance.  They go around one another, and Jake seems grateful that Picard has opted to ignore him, but then cringes when he is called back. He stammers apologies for damaging the shuttle, explanations of how he is now going to fix the shuttle as part of Riker's "discipline training" and thanks for saving his life. Picard reminds him that running away is not the answer, and that it's his job to ensure that everyone on the E remains safe.

I guess he's doing the mentor tour, because Picard finds Wes in the observation lounge.
"How come you're not in dress uniform for the admiral's farewell dinner?" he asks.
"Seemed inappropriate," admits Wes. "I... uh, I didn't get it. I failed you and the E."
"No, that's dumb," says Picard. "You did your best, and you'll do better when you re-test next year. You're only competing against yourself, and you shouldn't be taking me or anyone else into account when you do the test."
"Look," he says, "I'm gonna tell you something that I've never told anyone else... Wesley Albus Severus Crusher, you were named for two guys from another fandom who were heroes but also really kind of fucked up, and it's okay if you get sorted into Slytherfleet."
Naw, just screwing with you.
He admits that he also failed the test the first time.
Wes is baffled, and Picard says that he did not fail the second time, implying that Wes will not, either.
And they go to the admiral's dinner, so that Picard can "disappoint an old friend."

We skip the dinner, but go straight to Picard saying goodbye to Quinn. Quinn wishes that Picard had taken the commandant position, but smiles and shrugs, saying that he's been playing politics for so long that he now sees conspiracies everywhere. He gets on the pad and beams away.

Picard returns to the bridge and gives Wes the destination. He makes a note to Wes about "continuing with our mission," and they warp away.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
No, okay. That's not true. We got two Wes-based episodes back-to-back here, and neither one was the best or worst.
But we did get one pretty good episode that played up to Wil Wheaton's strengths, and one that did not. In "When the Bough Breaks," he's asked to play the part of Wes-as-revolutionary, which doesn't really ever pan out. He likes the Aldeans and never gets around to giving them the verbal smack-down that they so sorely needed. They give that bit to Picard, which waters down Wes' part considerably. But in "Coming of Age," Wil is asked to portray an uncertain Wes, possibly on the brink of starting his adult career, and it works because Wil, at the same age as Wes, may have been grappling with the same issues. It reads better. What's more, they build his character up by not only playing him against Worf, but by factoring in his past and what has made him the person that he is at this moment in time. All of these things work well for the character of Wes, and make it that much easier for Wil to slip into the role.
The other thing I like about this episode is that it allows us to see a bit of Starfleet "behind the curtain." We know these people aren't just wandering around in space alone, we know they're connected to a larger organization, but that organization is pretty nebulous. There's a hierarchy, yes, and sometimes we see others in it, but there isn't a lot of talk about how things run. In this particular episode, we see how two different parts operate: how one gets into the organization to begin with, and how things run once one is further along on the pecking order.
We see other candidates, people vying to get into Starfleet, and the exams they must pass in order to proceed to training. The written stuff is expected, but the psych test not as much (unless you factor in for the Kobayashi Maru, which cadets get stuck with at the Academy). Again, the psych test is as helpful for the Academy hopeful as it is for Starfleet, and I find myself wondering what everyone else's psych tests were like.
It's also hinted at that Wes' ability to cheerlead his teammates is appreciated by Chang and others doing the testing, something he would have picked up working on the E.
I do like the fact that he didn't get in, though. It has several advantages: one, this way we get to see more of his character before they ship him off to San Francisco; two, we get to hear from two very different characters (Worf and Picard) how their exams went, which means a bit of character development on their part; and three, we get to see how Wes deals with failure. We know how he reacts when he's correct but treated as an underling (either frustrated or douchey, for some reason), but knowing how someone reacts to failure is just as good for character-building (and sometimes better) than seeing them succeed.
The addition of Jake Kurland is interesting. We start out knowing that he hasn't passed the initial step to getting into Starfleet, and we see Wes feel bad for him while being elated that he himself made it. That's a tricky situation to be in, and one that Wes handled nicely. His friend does not feel slighted. For Jake, this probably feels like the end of the world, which is why he made the rash decision to run away and join a freighter. We don't really know anything about signing up for freighter duty, but we can guess that it takes more physical skills than mental skills, and that working on a freighter is something that people in the 24th century do not aspire to. Is there anything wrong with that? Probably not, but it sounds like the sort of thing that others react to with a sad, "I wanted better for him." Here's the funny thing about Jake that marks a difference between TOS and TNG: on the original series, Jake would have died. Think about it: any time TOS introduces a character who has a backstory and obvious friends on the ship, it is only to tug at heartstrings more when that character dies needlessly later in the episode. By TOS rules, Jake should have been red-shirted. But TNG plays by different rules, and characters who are introduced and given backgrounds and relationships are allowed to merely fade into non-existence. They may return later for recurring roles, but most likely they simply served their purpose of furthering the story, and will never be seen again.

Seeing the bureaucratic side of Starfleet was also interesting, if a bit vague, (That seems to be the thee for this episode.) Quinn appears with Remmick, and Picard, though non-plussed, doesn't question it when Quinn orders him to cooperate. It seems as though he never asked for any confirmation that Starfleet wanted the E checked out... he just takes his friend's word for it. The crew goes along (again, no one questions it), and they cooperate, but make it quite clear that they'd rather be disemboweling Remmick with the aforementioned katana. Then, when Quinn finally tells Picard that he thinks there's trouble afoot, we get some X-Files conspiracy theory shit, and Quinn admits that the politics he has to play every day probably contributes to his seeing this stuff that may or may not exist. It really just plays into the Star Trek mantra of "Don't ever get promoted above captain. It'll make you into a fancy asshole."

Bottom line: this episode was pretty good. Not the best, not the worst. But fairly good for a Wes story.

Red deaths: 0
Gold deaths: 0
Blue deaths: 0
Obnoxious Wes moments: 0
Legitimate Wes moments when he should have told someone to go fuck themselves: 0
Sassy Geordi moments: 0
Sassy Wes Moments: 0
Sassy Worf Moment: 1
Sassy Riker Moments: 0
Sassy Yar Moments: 0
Sassy Picard Moments: 0
Sassy NPC Moments: 0
Sassy Data Moments: 1
Sassy Crusher Moments: 1
Number of times that it is mentioned that Data is an android: 1
Number of times that Troi reacts to someone else's feelings: 0
Number of times that Geordi "looks at something" with his VISOR: 0

Fun Facts:

- There's actually an action figure of Mordock, as well as a trading card.

- John Putch, the guy who played Mordock, was actually asked back to play Mordon, another Benzite in a later episode. ("A Matter of Honor") This made him the first person to play two different characters on TNG of the same species. He was all flattered to be specifically asked to play Mordon, but later realized that it was because they'd built the Mordock head to fit his own head, and another actor would not gave fit into it correctly.
- The matte painting for Relva was originally used in three episodes of 1979's "Buck Rogers in the Twenty-Fifth Century." It was painted by Dan Curry of the Star Trek special effects team, and altered ever-so-slightly for inclusion in this episode. It still hangs in Curry's home.

- This was the first episode where Maurice Hurley was showrunner. He paid for a trip to Tahiti for Gene Rod and Majel Barrett, with the understanding that he would run the show while Gene was gone. When they returned, Gene gave the writing staff over to Maurice rather than picking up where he left off.
- A scene of Wes' sixteenth birthday was filmed but then cut. It supposedly included a humorous conversation between Worf and Data, where they discuss birthdays.
- We have to assume that Remmick talked to Yar, because the episode states that he spoke with all of the senior officers, but her interview is not shown.
-This episode features the first appearance of the shuttlecraft model on TNG.

"I am helping, yes?"


  1. Pretty good ep. Knowing what we know happens later, I have to wonder if Remmick is possessed in this episode, and maybe that's the reason that he asks to serve aboard the Enterprise.

    I would have loved to have seen Tasha's interview, even though it likely wouldn't have lived up to my expectations. I'd like to think this avoided showing it, because it would have involved Tasha flipping her shit, and then they'd have to explain why she's not immediately kicked out of Starfleet. But it's more likely that they just didn't feel like writing for her character. I have a digital copy of the third revision final draft script from December 30, 1987, and there's no Yar interview.

    1. Yeah, I'm really thinking that they just have no idea what to do with Yar, which really sucks, because I feel like they started out that way with Worf, and finally figured out his character. They just... gave up on Yar.

  2. Hmm. Tina Lawton was a yeoman. In the US Navy, yeomen are enlisted personnel who've gone through basic training and seven weeks of specialized administrative training, so 17 seems reasonable if Starfleet's admission age is 16.


    1. That's really the only answer, isn't it? That yeomen don't have the same training? Would Tina be considered a non-com, like some of the engineering chiefs? I have no idea.

  3. you read it on some dumb blog...which I will probably still be writing, because reboots.

    You must have been so excited when they announced Star Trek: Discovery. ;-)

    1. My only consolation there is that it'll take me so long to get to Discovery that that maybe CBS All Access will have wised up and made a deal with Netflix so I don't have to freaking pay for their service. :P

  4. IMHO the applicants were trying for a special program for young geniuses - the tests seem too hard for all the thousands and millions of beings who enter Starfleet each year via the regular ways. At the present time the minimum age to enter the US military is 18, or 17 with parental permission. Yeoman Tina Lawton was probably merely a high school and not a college graduate at 17.
    There is no provision for precocious geniuses to enter the US military at younger ages than the legal minimums. So the alternate Chekov in Star Trek (2009) who was a 17 year old ensign implies lower minimum legal ages than in the current US military for the alternate Starfleet and possibly the Prime universe Starfleet. At the present time the minimum age to enter West Point or Annapolis is 17. The bio of Kirk in The Making of Star Trek 1968 says Kirk entered the Academy aged 17, the minimum age. But it seems like alternate Chekov must have entered at a much youger age.
    Peter Preston looks small and young to be in Starfleet. Ike Eisenmann was born in 1962 and thus old enough - but my copy of the script and Vonda McIntyre's novelization both say that Preston was fourteen.
    Amanda's young age indicates that Spock may have entered Starfleet younger than is legal in the present in order to have been so senior in rank in "The Cage".
    So the available evidence about Starfleet minimum age requirements is slight and contradictory.