Star Trek TNG (Season 1, Ep 18): Coming of Age

Welcome back to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.

For those of you that don’t want to read the long recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can also just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.

THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:

While Wesley beams to Relva 7 to take the Starfleet Entrance Exam, Admiral Quinn and Lt. Remmick board the ship to inspect it. Wesley does well on his exams but he does not win a spot at the Academy.

After an awkward number of interviews between Remmick and the crew turn up nothing wrong aboard the Enterprise, Picard learns that Quinn sent Remmick to the ship to vet Picard for a promotion to Admiral and Commandant of Starfleet Academy. Quinn wants to promote Picard because he senses a major conspiracy within Starfleet to undermine it, and he wants people he can trust in important positions. Picard declines the promotion, preferring to remain on the ship.

THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:

The episode begins with Wesley chasing after a young man named Jake. Wesley finally catches him and stands in front of him. They stare awkwardly at each other. Wesley says that he is sorry, Jake says it is not Wesley’s fault, and Wesley says he knows and that he wishes both of them were going. Jake says that it was by thirty-two points. Jake eventually shakes Wesley’s hand and encourages him to do well for both of them.

Captain’s Log Stardate 41416.2

The Enterprise is orbiting Relva 7 where Wesley Crusher is about to beam down for his Starfleet Academy entrance exam testing. Picard’s old friend Admiral Gregory Quinn is on Relva 7 and has requested to be beamed aboard the ship.

As Wesley beams away, Admiral Quinn and Lt. Commander Dexter Remmick beam aboard. Picard warmly introduces the Admiral to his crew and asks the Admiral what they can do for him and, less warmly, the Admiral says that he needs to speak with Picard alone. Riker looks hurt and alarmed to be left out of the meeting.

Once they are alone, the Admiral tells Picard that Commander Remmick is with the Inspector General’s office and that he will be conducting a full investigation of The Enterprise. The Admiral tells Picard that he has reason to believe there may be something very wrong on the ship. When Picard asks for specifics, the Admiral tells him it is inappropriate to discuss it at this time. The Admiral tells Mr. Remmick that Starfleet is counting on him and he commands the younger Remmick to find out what is wrong on the ship. After Remmick leaves the room, Picard speaks with the Admiral.

Picard: Admiral, we’ve known each other for years. Tell me what is wrong.
Admiral: Captain, it is vitally important that my orders be followed exactly. I will be staying on the ship.

On the planet, Wesley meets Oliana Mirren. She is a human and one of the other Starfleet candidates. As they are speaking with each other, two more people enter the room. T’Shanik, a female Vulcan, and Mordock, a Benzite male. T’Shanik is surprised that Wesley is old enough to meet the age requirement and he shares that he will be sixteen next month. Wesley is deeply surprised to meet Mordock, the Benzite inventor of the Mordock Strategy, assuming that Mordock was already in the Academy.

After the Finalists have met each other, a Starfleet Officer enters the room and tells them to take their seats. The Officer introduces himself as Lt. Chang. He tells the four of them that only one will be chosen for the Academy but that they are all so impressive that any one of them could easily qualify. Chang tells them that this may be the most difficult and exhausting experience of their lives. He adds though that it may also be the most exciting challenge. He wishes to all of them that they do their best and leaves the room.

On the bridge of the Enterprise, Remmick is looking at the ship’s computer. Data asks him if he requires any assistance and he tells Data to keep doing whatever it is that he does. He is holding a handheld device and standing between Geordi and Data. Geordi tells him there is not much to see, as Remmick types into his device, because they are in a standard orbit. Riker approaches Remmick and asks if there is anything he can help with. Remmick tells Riker that he will want to speak with Riker privately. Remmick walks away.

Geordi: Commander, just having that guy around makes me feel guilty. What’s he after, anyway?
Riker: I don’t know Geordi but I’m gonna find out.

Riker enters Picard’s office and asks if he can speak plainly. Picard tells him yes and that he always can. Riker angrily asks what all of this is about.

Riker: Sir, am I under investigation?
Picard: I don’t know.
Riker: And if you did?
Picard: I couldn’t tell you.

Riker and Picard agree that this is extremely frustrating. Riker leaves the Captain’s office and walks through the bridge. Remmick tells him that he wants answers and Riker shouts at him not now. Remmick reminds him that he is ordered to cooperate and Riker leaves the bridge on the turbolift saying that his cooperation is contingent upon doing so not interfering with his duties. As the dramatic exchange unfolds, the rest of the bridge officers are standing in shock as they watch Riker leave.

On the planet, Wesley’s exam reaches a point where the candidates can take a one hour break. Wesley and Morock discuss a trick question presented by the exam when Oliana tells both of them that they are lucky things come easily to them. Wesley corrects her saying that he has to study all the time.

Oliana: It’s a good thing you’re cute Wesley or you would really be obnoxious.

Back on the bridge, Riker suggest to Picard that he should apologize. Picard tells him not to worry about it because Remmick’s presence is unnerving. Remmick then walks onto the bridge and asks Riker if he is available now and Riker says that he is. Remmick asks Picard for permission to use his “ready room” and Picard agrees.

In the ready room, Remmick sits at Picard’s desk. Riker stands… aggressively. Remmick tells him that he can stand if he wants to but it will not have an effect on the inquiry. Riker then sits aggressively. Remmick wants to go over discrepancies in the Captain’s log. Riker is surprised that the questions are about Picard and he seems to relax a bit. Remmick asks Riker if Picard has ever falsified a log to his knowledge. Riker angrily tells Remmick that he can bring Picard in and asks the Captain himself. Remmick tells him that he is required to answer is questions. He starts over and asks Riker about the discrepancies one by one.

Later, we see Remmick discussing the incident with propulsion specialist, Kosinski, wherein the ship traveled to the edge of the universe (“Where No One Has Gone Before.”) Geordi informs Remmick that Picard was ordered by Starfleet to bring Kosinski aboard.

Remmick: One way or another, Picard lost control of the ship, is that true?
Geordi: Well, yes, but that’s not how it happened.
Remmick: So, the answer is yes.

Next, Remmick is interviewing Counselor Troi. He asks her about mental lapses in the Captain’s history. Troi says there is nothing in his history to suggest mental lapses. Remmick asks her about the Ferengi incident aboard the Stargazer (“The Battle.”) Troi counters that Picard was being controlled by a mind-altering machine without his knowledge and Remmick replies that he would call that a mental lapse.

Wesley is in the holodeck. Worf enters and says he thought he was still on Relva 7. Wesley says he is finished testing for the day. Wesley tells Worf that he is not worried about the things he has studied – he is worried about the psyche test. The psyche test includes facing one’s deepest fears and living through them. Word advises Wesley that thinking about what he cannot control both wastes energy and creates its own enemy. Worf tells Wesley that when he went through the exam, Starfleet was very accurate about assessing his deepest fear. He says that they succeed in this by analyzing the psychological profile of the candidates.

Wesley: I thought there was nothing that could frighten a Klingon warrior.
Worf: Only fools have no fear.
Wesley: I’m sorry, Lieutenant. I’m asking too many personal questions.
Worf: It is vey difficult for me to depend on anyone for anything, especially for my life.
Wesley: But on the Enterprise you do that every day. Everyone depends on everyone else to protect them.
Worf: Yes.
Wesley: So you overcame it?
Worf: No! It is still my enemy.

Riker and Picard are discussing ways to create additional cargo space on the ship. Suddenly, the ship’s alarms sound. Yar informs Picard that there is an unauthorized entry in the main shuttle bay. Remmick is in the room. Yar says that the computer reads the ID of crew member Jake Kurland. Remmick asks if the area is secured and is told “not now” by Riker. As security attempts to prevent a shuttle craft from leaving the ship, Yar says that Kurland is using the flight security override.

Geordi: Smart kid.
Remmick: Kid?

Just then, we see on the viewer that Kurland successfully steals the shuttlecraft and is flying away with it. Picard hails the shuttlecraft. Kurland says he is taking the ship and flying to an adjacent planet where he then plans to sign on to a freighter. He asks Picard to tell his father that he is sorry. Picard tells him to tell his father in person and to bring the ship back at once. Kurland replies with no. A moment later, Kurland begins losing control over his vessel.

Riker says that he is too far away to use the tractor beam and get a positive lock. Yar reports that he is outside of transporter range. Remmick suddenly tells Picard that he is completely responsible for the boy in the shuttlecraft. Picard tells Remmick to get out of the way or else be removed from the bridge. On the viewer, Jake Kurland is asking for help. Riker tells Picard that Kurland needs fifty more seconds to restart his shuttle engine succesfully. Picard tells Jake to stay calm.

Picard tells Jake to aim the shuttlecraft at Relva 7. Jake objects saying that he will burn up if he does that and Picard makes it an order to aim the vessel at the planet. Jake complies. Picard then tells Jake to restart the engine when his speed reaches exactly .020. He then says that on Picard’s word, pull up hard. Jake does as instructed and avoids dying. Remmick cheers with a fist pump. Riker says that Picard was incredible. Geordi explains that Kurland build up enough speed and bounced his craft off the planet’s atmosphere.

Picard hails Mr. Kurland and tells him to return the craft and report to Mr. Riker. Kurland says that he will.

After, Remmick says that what the Captain did was impressive but he asks how a child acquired a shuttlecraft. Riker explains Kurland’s training and background and Remmick asked if Jake’s training included discipline. Picard passed off what happened as a young man making a rash choice. He says that Mr. Kurland will receive a strong refresher in discipline.

On the planet, set to resume his testing, Wesley accidentally bumps into Rondon in a hallway. Rondon is an enormous Zaldan. Rondon is outraged. When a Starfleet officer checks to see if there is a problem, Wesley timidly says that there is not.

Rondon: How dare you!? I am Rondon! You despicable melanoid slimeworm! Liar!
Wesley: WHO DO YOU THINK YOU’RE BULLYING! You bumped into me! It was your mistake! You were at fault! Do you want this to become violent?

Rondon smiles and taps Wesley on the chest saying that he likes him. Mordock says that it was a strange reaction. Wesley says that when he saw Rondon raise his hand, he saw that it was webbed, and knew that he was a Zaldan. The Starfleet officer, Chang, who is still standing there notes that Wesley became hostile. Wesley explains that Zaldans are infuriated by courtesy and that they view it as a way to hide true feelings. Chang tells Wesley congratulations and that he handled the incident very well. Mordock asks if the incident was deliberate and Chang explains that it is important to see how candidates deal with other cultures.

After Chang leaves, Mordock says he did not know Zaldans have webbed fingers. He says he would not have passed that test.

Back on the ship, in a conference room, Remmick is interviewing Data. He tells Data that there is a problem with the ship’s records. He tells Data that Picard has cleverly hidden ship’s records and that he needs Data’s help finding them. He further points out that Data’s loyalty is to Starfleet above all else. Data tells him that there is nothing wrong with Picard’s log or the ship. As a result, Data concludes, the fault must lie with Remmick’s original assumption.

Remmick’s next interviewee is Worf. He asks Word how the contaminant got aboard the ship and Worf tells him it was an accident. Remmick asks if the Enterprise has procedures for contaminates and Worf says he has no standard procedures for accidents. Remmick asks Worf if he likes him very much and Worf replies asking if that is required.

In the next interview, Remmick asks Dr. Crusher how she would characterize her relationship with Picard. She replies that they are Starfleet officers who have known each other for many years. Remmick then asks Dr. Crusher how she feels serving with a man who is responsible for the death of her husband. Dr. Crusher is affronted and tells Remmick that her personal feels about Picard are irrelevant to the investigation and none of his business.

During Remmick’s interview with Picard, he says the Captain violated the Prime Directive with the Edo (“Justice”) by violating their laws. Picard says this is true and it is exactly as he explained in the log records. Remmick emphasizes that Picard did this to save Dr. Crusher’s son and Picard says that he stands by a decision to save a member of his crew who was being held unjustly. Picard tells Remmick that he has interviewed everyone on the ship and that he has had ample time to find whatever it is that he is looking for.

Remmick: Are you afraid that if I keep looking I’ll find that you’re guilty.
Picard: The only thing I am guilty of is allowing this charade to go on so long.

Finally, Picard goes and confronts the Admiral again. He asks to know what he is looking for and what exactly is going on. Admiral Quinn says that he will let Picard know when Remmick’s report is ready. He then calls Remmick to report to him. While they wait, Picard says to Quinn that this event has been a strain on their friendship. Quinn replies that he knows and that he regrets that. He also says it has been necessary.

Back at Wesley’s testing, Mordock is struggling with a problem. He announces to the other three candidates that he cannot do it. Wesley tells him that he can and tries to help him. With Wesley’s help, Mordock completes the test first a few moments before Wesley. Chang enters the room and congratulates him and notes that this is the second fastest time ever recorded on the test. Mordock says that Wesley helped him and Chang replies that he knows. Chang says it was an interesting choice on Wesley’s part given how close their scores are to one another. He then tells them that the last test is coming up next. It is the psychological evaluation.

Remmick enters the Admiral’s quarters and finds both Admiral Quinn and Picard present. Quinn tells him to sit down. Remmick tells Quinn that he could not find what he asked for. He says he found nothing wrong at all. Quinn dismisses Remmick, however, before the Lieutenant leaves, he tells Picard that his term in the Inspector General’s office is up in six months and that he would like to serve on the Enterprise after.

After Remmick leaves, Quinn tells Picard not to judge him too harshly. Picard quips that Remmick is not the one he is inclined to judge. Quinn then tells Picard not to judge him, either. He tells Picard that Starfleet is aware of problems within the Federation and that they wanted to be very sure of Picard. Picard asks about the problems and Quinn replies that someone or something is trying to destroy the fabric of what they have built up over the course of the last two hundred years. When Picard asks about the evidence, Quinn tells him that he cannot go into it due to the number of people involved. Quinn then tells Picard that he needs people he trusts in positions of importance throughout the Federation.

Quinn: I want to promote you to Admiral and I want you to take over as Commandant of Starfleet Academy.

Picard is stunned. He says that this is politics and that he is not good at politics. Quinn tells him that he is the best man for the job and that he needs an answer soon. They shake hands and Picard tells Quinn that he will have an answer tonight.

It is now Wesley’s turn to take the dreaded psychological evaluation. Chang wishes him good luck. He sits in a room alone for a while. A few moments later, Wesley walks back out through the door from which he entered and finds that something has gone wrong in the environmental lab. One of the workers in the lab, trapped under something that has fallen on him, tells him that the liquid hydrogen is going to blow. He tells Wesley to help him. Wesley drags one lab worker out while another tells him that they will be sealed in soon for the looming explosion. Wesley tells the other man he is not hurt. The man insists that he cannot leave the room. Wesley shouts at him that he cannot carry both of them as the intercom signals twenty seconds until seal off. Wesley carries the injured man through the doors while the other man remains inside. As he gets outside with the injured ma, the doors seal shut. Chang is waiting.

Chang explains that this was the test. He tells Wesley there was no right or wrong answer. He also explains that Wesley’s greatest fear is that he could not make a decision such as this one.

Wesley: Because of my father? Because of Cap…? Because someone made that choice and my father died.

Riker enters Picard’s quarters and finds him staring out the window. Riker tells him that Remmick has left the ship. Picard tells him in return that he found nothing wrong on The Enterprise and that Admiral Quinn is most impressed. Riker asks Picard what Remmick was after and Picard tells his first officer, “me.”

Picard: They want me to take over as Commandant at Starfleet Academy.
Riker: Congratulations. What a wonderful choice, sir. You’ll be able to shape the minds of the future leaders of Starfleet. [long pause] You haven’t decided what you’re going to do.

On the planet, Chang tells all of them that they have done a fine job. He further says that it is unfair that only one candidate from Relva will attend the Academy this year. He says it is a loss to The Federation if the rest of the group does not return to test again. Chang announces that Mordock will be the candidate. Mordock protests citing Wesley’s help and Chang says that help was factored into the decision.

After, the other candidates congratulate Mordock. Oliana tells Wesley that he needs to be ready next year because she will not be easy to beat.

In a hallway on the Enterprise, Picard runs into Jake Kurland. He apologizes to Picard for damaging the shuttlecraft and he informs Picard that he will be working on repairs as part of his discipline training under Commander Riker. Picard says that he hopes Jake has learned that running away solves nothing.

Jake: And I am sorry I messed up.
Picard: At least you kept your wits about you out there. Don’t forget that.

Jake thanks Picard for saving his life and Picard tells him that is his job.

After, Picard runs into Wesley. He asks Wesley why he is not in his uniform for Admiral Quinn’s farewell dinner. Wesley tells him that he did not believe it would be appropriate. He then tells Picard he failed his exam, Picard personally, and The Enterprise.

PIcard asks him if he did his best. Wesley says yes. Picard asks him if he believes he will do better the next time and Wesley again says yes. Picard tells him that the only person he is truly competing against is himself.

Wesley: Then you’re not disappoitned?
Picard: Wesley, you have to measure your successes and your failures within, not by anything that I or anyone else might think. But, um, if it helps you to know this, I failed the first time. And you may not tell anyone.

Picard asks Wesley to do him the courtesy of joining everyone at dinner. He tells Wesley that he has to disappoint an old friend.

As he is about to leave, Quinn tells Picard that he wishes he could change the Captain’s mind. However, he concedes that The Enterprise is where Picard belongs. Picard offers Quinn help if he needs it. Quinn says he hopes that he has been playing politics too long and that he is seeing conspiracies where they do not exist.

On the bridge, Picard tells Wesley to set the ship’s course. “Mr. Crusher, engage.”

Roll credits.

REACTION:

Hey, Admiral Quinn, I think I have figured out what is wrong with Starfleet. It’s not a conspiracy. 75% of its qualified candidates do not get into the Academy. What kind of absurd system are they running where an absolutely huge organization does not take all four of these candidates? Starfleet is enormous. There’s no way they can get by with such small class sizes.

This was one of Wil Wheaton’s better Wesley episodes. A bright student in school fits him a lot better than “fixing all that ails the allegedly professional crew of the Enterprise.” That said, the scene where he threatens violence on the MUCH larger Zaldan is one of the most unintentionally funny scenes on this show so far.

So finally… FINALLY… an outsider comes in to evaluate The Enterprise, he learns about all the absolute ineptitude aboard the ship so far this year, and he decides they’re doing a great job? Really? The ship is almost destroyed every other episode. Picard abandoned his post, earlier this season, to become an energy being and had to regain his body via the transporter. Dr. Crusher has nearly seen the ship wiped out by unknown contagions multiple times… in season 1. The bridge officers left Wesley alone on a not-well-known alien planet – which they traveled to for sex with the locals – and he was nearly executed. I mean. Remmick could not find anything?

Making things worse… Remmick has a point about Jake Kurland stealing a shuttlecraft. How was there not more security protocol in place to keep that from happening? The show treats this incident like a kid stealing his dad’s keys to drive the car around rather than a kid stealing a piece of expensive military equipment and absconding with it. Remmick doesn’t mention any of this in his report to Quinn.

We have not seen much Worf for most of this season. I enjoyed his brief scene with Wesley talking about fear. Hopefully we will begin getting to know Worf better at some point. This is episode 18 of the first season. We’ve had time.

Overall this is a good episode even if predictable. There was nothing really interesting in Wesley’s exam. There was nothing really interesting in Remmick’s examination of the crew. There was never much doubt that Picard would leave the Enterprise (he’s the star of the show) or that Wesley would leave the show to be in The Academy (Wil Wheaton is also in the credits.) The big thing that happened in this episode is that we are now set up for a follow-up episode with Admiral Quinn wheren we learn more about the conspiracy.

One thought on “Star Trek TNG (Season 1, Ep 18): Coming of Age

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