Friday, June 23, 2017

Episode Review - Pen Pals (Next Generation, Season 2)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.

Overview – Data makes contact with a young girl from a pre-warp civilization and develops a friendship. The Enterprise soon learns that her planet is undergoing extreme seismic activities that threatens the lives of its inhabitants. The Enterprise is faced with a difficult decision: follow the Prime Directive or save the planet. Meanwhile, Wesley Crusher is assigned to lead a scientific team to analyze the planet’s stability.

Score: 7/10 – This is a cute story that had some great potential. A moral dilemma that puts, in the center, the friendship between a little girl and an android. The premise is promising, yet the execution was not quite what it could have been. It seemed as if the B-story of Wesley’s science team took away from some of the relationship between Data and Sarjenka. Sarjenka is a well-developed character of innocence and is portrayed with great success by actress Nikki Cox. So while not the best of Season 2, it is a decent episode.

Relevance – 2 points. Pulaski’s memory altering technique will be used again in the following season in the episode “Who Watches the Watchers”, although it will not be successful. Another point is scored for the opening scene with Picard riding his horse on the holodeck. This is the introduction of one of Picard’s favorite hobbies that will be revisited multiple times throughout the series and even in the movie “Generations”.

Continuity – 3 points. Story is good here as the Prime Directive continues to be something that is not entirely cut and dry. Character continuity remains intact, especially during the debate as to whether or not the crew should help Sarjenka’s planet or not. Worf and Picard predictably take the point of view of keeping the Prime Directive, while Pulaski and La Forge side for the more compassionate approach. Universe continuity is also good here. Everything seems to be working out the way it should.

Character Development – 3 points. Wesley and Data both receive some serious attention in this episode. Wesley is put in charge of a team of adults, forcing him to learn to be assertive in leadership. Data, meanwhile, continues to develop his quest to become more human. I thought it fitting that he would be the one to respond to Sarjenka’s request for communication. The ever curious android shows much compassion and empathy for one who is supposedly void of emotion.

Social Commentary – 2 points. It is important to do the right thing. Sometimes this means breaking, or perhaps in this case, bending the rules a bit. As soon as Picard heard Sarjenka’s plea for help, he ruled that the Prime Directive no longer applied and that they were obliged to assist. There is also the issue that is shown in Wesley’s story of having confidence in yourself, even if you are in charge of those older and more experienced in you. This part is a little less subtle and presented in a far too obvious manner, but it is something.

Cool Stuff – 1 point. I thought Sarjenka’s makeup to be quite intriguing. I particularly liked her long fingers and how her features were appealing yet very alien at the same time.

Rank – Captain (18 points). While this could have been a better episode if it had dropped the Wesley Crusher B-story, this is still a sweet little tale. It is nice to see Data develop an innocent friendship with a child as only the android could. I would recommend it as one of the highlights of Season 2.

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

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