Oct 3 2011 1:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Pen Pals”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Pen Pals”“Pen Pals”
Written by Hannah Louise Shearer and Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 2, Episode 15
Production episode 40272-141
Original air date: May 1, 1989
Stardate: 42695.3

Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is the first staffed ship to explore the Selcundi Drema sector. Probes detected geological instability, which is an understatement. One planet had a thriving ecosystem when the probe scanned it, and now is seemingly on the verge of exploding from geological stress.

After a lengthy discussion with Picard, La Forge, Pulaski, and Troi, Riker decides to give Wes command of the planetary mineral survey. He gets to put a team together and everything. Riker and Troi give him good advice about dealing with the team and personality conflicts, Pulaski bucks him up, and he goes to it.

Data, meanwhile, engages in a personal project to expand the Enterprise to sense wavelengths and frequencies it can’t normally pick up. In the process, he finds a weak RF signal from Drema IV: a little girl trying to find out if there’s anyone out there.

Many weeks pass, and Data has been communicating regularly with the little girl, named Sarjenka. Her planet is suffering the same geologic instability. Picard calls an informal meeting in his quarters among the people in the opening credits to discuss what to do — resulting in quite possibly the best discussion of the Prime Directive ever on a Star Trek episode. Ultimately, Picard orders him to sever communication with Sarjenka — but when he isolates the frequency, they all hear Sarjenka’s pleas for Data to talk to her again. At that point, they can’t turn their back on her.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Pen Pals”

Officially noting Sarjenka’s communication in the log as a distress call, Picard orders the Enterprise to Drema IV. Wes’s team is able to determine the reason for the geological catastrophes — a ridiculous amount of dilithium — and come up with a solution — firing harmonic resonators into the surface.

Data is given permission by Picard to inform Sarjenka of the danger to her home and to give her instructions on where to go to be safe, but communications can’t get through. He manages to rationalize to Picard that he can beam down to the surface so he can tell her, doing so in that manner of Data’s that is just like a puppy, and Picard gives in. Data beams down to find Sarjenka alone amidst terrible quakes. Data beams her back to the ship — to Picard’s annoyance — just as the resonators are fired. Drema IV is saved. Picard asks Pulaski to erase Sarjenka’s memory, and Data deposits her sleeping form back home.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Apparently a type of UV absorption indicates Tracer deposits, and in turn that indicates dilithium. You find dilithium with an icospectrogram, which takes five hours to set up. There’ll be a quiz on this later.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi had a kitten once — her mother and the kitten didn’t get along. When Picard tries to convince her to join him in horseback riding, she says she prefers a mode of transport that can’t think for itself — as an empath, she risks getting lost in the animal’s emotions.

She also makes a pig’s ear out of taking charge of Sarjenka.

If I Only Had a Brain...: Just a few weeks after proving he has sentience, we now find out that Data’s a sentimental bastard, too.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Pen Pals”

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Riker has a chat with a hot chick interrupted by Wes having a leadership crisis.

I’m a Doctor, Not an Escalator: Pulaski, in an interesting reversal, argues for the importance of Data’s emotions. She even compliments Data on what he did, right before she mindwipes Sarjenka.

The Boy!? Wes gets his first command. When they discover the possibility of dilithium, Wes wants to order an icospectrogram. Davies points out that it might be a fool’s echo and that an icospectrogram takes five hours to set up. Wes has doubts until he talks to Riker, who points out that he needs to make command decisions. Sure enough, when he goes back and orders Davies to run the scan, Davies does it without question, just like Riker said he would.

What Happens on the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck: Picard goes horseback riding on the holodeck, which is mostly a feeble excuse for Patrick Stewart to wax rhapsodic about equestrianism.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Pen Pals”

Welcome Aboard: Nicholas Cascone is suitably smarmy as Davies, and Ann H. Gillespie and Whitney Rydbeck are amusing as the husband-and-wife team of Alans and Hildebrant. But the standout here is this episode’s Robert Knepper moment: a very very very young Nikki Cox, probably best known as Mary Connell on Las Vegas, playing Sarjenka.

I Believe I Said That: “O’Brien, take a nap. You didn’t see any of this, you’re not involved.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll just be standing over here dozing off.”

Riker trying to keep Data’s beaming down to Drema IV as secret as possible, and O’Brien playing along.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Pen Pals”Trivial Matters: Sarjenka would return in the Starfleet Corps of Engineers series. The story Progress by Terri Osborne has a flashback to Pulaski returning to Drema IV four years after “Pen Pals,” and also after the world was invaded by “the Exiles” and then made contact with the Federation. At the end of the story, Sarjenka enlists in Starfleet Academy, intending to become a doctor. In the frame of Progress, she becomes the assistant chief medical officer of the da Vinci, remaining in the cast throughout the rest of the series run. This culminated in Remembrance of Things Past, also by Osborne, a TNG crossover in which Sarjenka gets her memories back and confronts Picard.

Another Corps of Engineers story — that, like Progress, is collected in the trade paperback What’s PastMany Splendors by your humble rewatcher, has a chapter that tells the engineering side of this story.

Make it So: “Data, where are you?” A delightful episode, one that showcases Data’s depths and exploration of the human condition through the simple method of curiosity and sentiment. That same exploration is seen in the rest of the crew, who ultimately try very hard to justify helping Data out because the alternative would be too awful to contemplate.

The heart and soul of the episode is the scene in Picard’s quarters, which is, as I said above, the best discussion of the Prime Directive Trek has ever done, and director Kolbe’s blocking of the scene makes it a tour de force: Worf standing rigidly, arms folded, who sees the argument solely in black and white; La Forge and Pulaski, whose emotions are churned up, constantly getting up and sitting down; Riker and Troi, the more philosophical ones, sitting calmly; Picard behind his desk, the center of it all; and sitting off to the side, unusually quiet, is Data. Simply wonderful stuff.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Pen Pals”

All the actors do a superb job, from Wil Wheaton’s excellent turn portraying Wes’s baptism of fire leading a team to Jonathan Frakes’s relaxed confidence as Riker playing multiple roles (guiding Wes, berating Data, flirting with the hot chick, etc.) to Sir Patrick Stewart’s usual magnificence to Nikki Cox’s wide-eyed innocence and curiosity to Brent Spiner’s equally delightful wide-eyed innocence and curiosity.

Finally, the script is first-rate. The dialogue crackles, and it’s full of little natural touches, from the husband-and-wife team who finish each other’s sentences to Riker flirting in Ten-Forward to Picard and Riker’s gesture-filled discussions of how deep they’re in it to O’Brien’s “nap.” Just a wonderful job by scripter Snodgrass, based on a story by Shearer that every space nerd can appreciate: the desire to stare out into the stars and wonder if there’s anyone out there.


Warp factor rating: 9

Keith R.A. DeCandido has a story in a new anthology called Liar Liar that is filled with stories about lies, and also is the author of new novels Guilt in Innocence, part of “Tales from the Scattered Earth,” a shared-world science fiction concept, and the fantastical police procedurals SCPD: The Case of the Claw and Unicorn Precinct. Find out more about Keith at his web site, which is a portal to (among many other things) his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, his blog, and his various podcasts, The Chronic Rift, Dead Kitchen Radio, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World.

1. wcarter4
This is the stuff that good scifi is made of.
2. Mike S.
A good episode, although I don't rank it quite as high as you do (I'm hoping that the next episode is the first "10" rating of the series). The beginning just goes on a bit too long for me, but that's a very minor complaint. Everything else in this show is good. I forgot about Picard making the symboic gestures to Riker, and those were good to see.

I respectfully disagree with your point that Pulaski acted out of character in her defense of Data. Yes, she's had her issues with Data being an android in the past, but ultimatly, she is a DOCTOR first and foremost. I think that as a doctor, she just couldn't let this young girl die, and that's where her point of view comes from.

No "There is no Honor in Being Pummled" for Worf tripping over Data's working equipment on the bridge? (I love trying to figure out all these extracirricular stuff while watching the episode, BTW).
Michael Burstein
3. mabfan
The issue of the Prime Directive comes up in a later episode, "Homeward," in which Worf's human brother saves a society from dying when their planet does. It always seemed to me that the Federation's insistence on enforcing the Prime Directive even in the event that a pre-warp society is about to go extinct is, well, almost bordering on evil.
Keith DeCandido
4. krad
mabfan: Well, Picard's argument in the scene in his quarters is not an unreasonable one -- where do you draw the line?

Mike S.: I thought about including that for a "pummeled" bit, but it seemed pointless. Not every category needs to be in every episode. :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
5. critter42
Speaking of Picard's argument of where to draw the line - I really like the fact that that question was left unanswered. Yes, they made a decision in this case - but does their use of the "plea" loophole shed any further light on the "draw the line" issue?

This is when Trek is great - this episode is over 20 years old and it still forces one to stop and think and generates discussion.
j p
6. sps49
Kirk stated the Prime Directive outright once.

Really, though, Starfleet is concerned with interfering with developing civilizations. Saving a doomed planet and dealing with an equivalent society should not be covered, although sloppy TNG writing (and script oversight) have muddied the water.
Margot Virzana
7. LuvURphleb
And i like that in the short story progress telling the dremans about the federation becomes necessary because they need the dilulithium so badly and the dremans need protection.
8. Seryddwr
Agree 100% re: the Prime Directive scene. It's right up there with the Kempec/Work/Picard/Duras scene from 'Sins Of The Father', Data's duels with Fajo in 'The Most Toys', the O'Brien/Maxwell scene from 'The Wounded', and the Rasmussen/Picard scne from 'A Matter of Time' - all the more so for the way in which each solution put forward is stymied in progressively pithier terms, until there's nothing left to say but Riker's 'What a perfectly vicious little circle'.

The weakness of the subplot knocks the episode down a peg or two in my opinion, but it's still one of the better season 2 episodes. Kudos to Melinda S.
9. Seryddwr
*Worf! Long day at work...
10. Christopher L. Bennett
This was a fine episode, but ultimately I'm troubled by what it established about the 24th-century version of the Prime Directive, this bizarre and contradictory notion that it's better to let a civilization die out completely than risk "harming" them through contact. Giving the Federation that attitude creates a challenging situation for the characters to confront and makes for a brilliant scene, yes, but the introduction of the attitude itself is very problematical. It helped codify an interpretation of the Prime Directive that's no less arrogant and condescending than the cultural imperialism it's supposed to counteract -- the notion that pre-warp cultures are too primitive and fragile to "survive" being exposed to new ideas and thus need to be sheltered at all costs, even their own extinction. That's bull. As Earth history makes clear, it's normal for cultures to be exposed to outside ideas, and they often benefit greatly from exposure to far more advanced cultures. Medieval Europe was one of the most backward societies on Earth, but when it gained advanced technologies from the Mideast and Asia like the printing press, the compass, gunpowder, the stirrup, and the lateen sail, it used them to flourish and advance and ultimately become the dominant civilization on Earth. Cultures are very adaptable entities and are rarely "damaged" by exposure to more advanced civilizations unless those more advanced civilizations are actively trying to eradicate or assimilate them.

So the true purpose of the Prime Directive isn't supposed to be about protecting "primitive" cultures from their own intrinsic weakness. It's supposed to be about protecting them from our weaknesses (and for the sake of argument, "us" means the Federation) -- to keep us from assuming we know better than they do, to keep us from harming them by forcing our own will upon them rather than respecting their ability and right to make their own choices. And refusing to contact them even if it means their extinction is the ultimate in forcing our own will upon them, depriving them of their right to choose. It's a complete perversion and inversion of what the Prime Directive is supposed to be. And frankly I can't quite forgive Melinda Snodgrass for introducing that corruption of the Prime Directive into the Trek universe. Although this episode didn't handle it as hamfistedly as "Homeward" did later on. At least "Pen Pals" had the crew ultimately side against that unjustly extremist interpretation, while "Homeward" contrived things to make it seem that it was actually valid.

And yeah, I was quite surprised back in the '90s or so when I discovered that the sexy Nikki Cox had been cute little Sarjenka way back when.

Trivia note: This episode spans one of the longest time periods of any single non-time-travel episode of ST, covering eight weeks from the scene of Data's first radio contact with Sarjenka to the scene where he tells Picard about it, and several days before and after those points. That puts it around the same duration as TOS: "The Paradise Syndrome," which spanned around 60 days. The only single episode I can think of that spans longer without involving time travel or alternate realities is ENT: "The Expanse," which covers nearly four months ("a couple of months" from the Xindi attack to NX-01's departure plus 7 weeks to reach the Delphic Expanse).
11. Tesh
@Mr. Bennett #10

Wasn't Voyager's "Year of Hell" pretty longish too, even if it did wind up being erased?

As to the episode, I really liked it, and I wasn't aware of followups. Thanks for giving me some new reading recommendations!
12. Christopher L. Bennett
@#11: I did specifically say that I was excluding time-travel episodes. Alternate timelines that get erased/reset fall into the time-travel category.
13. Pendard
Frankly, there are a lot of troublesome aspects of the Prime Directive -- not just letting planets die. It allows the Federation to look the other way and not get involved in great injustices. It's a rigid philopsophy that can allow a lot of pain and suffering.

But I think, for all its flaws, the Prime Directive is a very enlightened philosophy. Human beings have more power than they have wisdom. It is not necessarily responsible to use your power if you do not understand all the nuances of the situation, and when you're dealing with alien cultures it's impossible to know all the nuances of a situation. Even in extreme circumstances like letting an entire civilization die (as in this episode and "Homeward"), all of the things you don't and can't know should be a serious consideration. If a race is going to become extinct naturally, your decision to interfere will affect everything else that happens on that planet, ever. Who are you to make that decision? Who are you to decide that a civilization deserves a second chance? The ST: Enterprise episode "Dear Doctor" illustrates this problem very well. In that episode the crew was fortunate that the reason not to intervene made itself apparent quickly. It could have been something they never knew about and they could have been responsible for a grave injustice as they flew away believing they had done the right thing.

For this reason, I think Picard's "where do you draw the line?" argument is a very, very good one. The question is not answered here, since the crew ultimately decides that they should intervene, damn the consequences. Sarjenka's situation seems to be one where a strict interpretation of the Prime Directive would forbid the Enterprise's crew from getting involved, and yet they do get involved because their consciences overrule the hard logic of the Prime Directive. And we have no way of knowing if they were right to do so or not. The only thing we know for sure is that, in this episode and a whole host of others, Starfleet does appear to be tolerant of its officers violating the Prime Directive on conscience.
14. Christopher L. Bennett
13: "Even in extreme circumstances like letting an entire civilization die (as in this episode and "Homeward"), all of the things you don't and can't know should be a serious consideration. If a race is going to become extinct naturally, your decision to interfere will affect everything else that happens on that planet, ever. Who are you to make that decision? Who are you to decide that a civilization deserves a second chance?"

But that's just the problem: the arrogance of assuming it's your decision to make. It's their future, so it should be their decision. If you have a way to save them and you decide not to tell them about it, you're depriving them of their right to choose their own future. And that is exactly the opposite of what the Prime Directive is supposed to be about.

And yes, if you interact with another culture, it will change them, but what's wrong with that? It's not like any planet has only one culture. It'll have thousands of distinct cultures that have been interacting and affecting each other for thousands of years. So the idea that it's somehow an unnatural "contamination" for a culture to be exposed to outside influence is just plain stupid and wrong. Interaction and exposure to new ideas is a natural, normal part of any culture's healthy development. Historically, the most robust, dynamic, successful cultures are the cosmopolitan ones, the ones that interact a lot with other cultures and are exposed to a wide range of ideas they can learn and benefit from.

The key, then, is not whether a culture is exposed to outside ideas. The key is whether that culture has the freedom to choose for itself what it does with those ideas. Cultures that have that freedom are very successful at incorporating outside ideas into their own existing worldviews -- or rather, adopting or adapting what they can use and ignoring the rest. It's only when they're deprived of choice, when the outsiders arrogate the right to make all the decisions on their behalf, that they're harmed by the interaction. So it's not the interaction itself that's harmful. It's the imposition. What matters is where the choice lies.

And that's what the Prime Directive is supposed to be about. It's supposed to be about respecting other cultures' freedom and ability to make their own decisions about their own future. But the 24th-century version is about arrogating the right to make decisions on their behalf, shutting them out of the process completely on the assumption that they're too primitive and ignorant to make their own choices. That is paternalistic and arrogant in the extreme, and it's just as bad as the Civilizing Mission mentality that it's supposed to be countering.
15. Pendard
@ Chrisopher (#14): Your point of view seems to assume that every pre-existing situation that the Federation encounters becomes its responsibility. You seem to have the idea that the Federation has two options in these situations: act to make things better, or do nothing. In your view, they are responsible for the outcome of the situation in either case, just by virtue of being aware of it. Why would that be the case?

This isn't the real choice they face, because there are too many variables when dealing with an alien civilizations. The real choice is: they can act without knowing the consequences, or they can let events take their own course without getting involved. In the first case they are responsible for the outcome. In the second case only the parties involved are responsible for the outcome.

If a planet is going to explode, it isn't the Federation's job to stop it, even if it's inhabited. If a civilization doesn't naturally develop in a way that allows it to survive -- if they annihilate themselves in nuclear war, have a fatal genetic defect, can't adapt to the changing environment of their planet -- it isn't the Federation's responsibility. The Federation doesn't have the resources to save every species, and it doesn't claim the moral certitude to choose which species deserves to be saved with its limited resources. It realizes that it isn't all powerful, or all knowing. It realizes it does not have the right to apply its standards and morality to an alien world, or provide aid and comfort for members of that alien culture who share Fedreation values. And it realizes that if it interferes badly, the results are it's responsibility.

An alien society does not have the right to choose its own future, as you say. The Prime Directive only guarantees its right to develop without outside interference. That's a very different thing. If given the choice, I bet 9 out of 10 Stone Age cultures would choose to have education and phasers, but they don't have the right to either. If the Federation provided either one, both foreseeable and unforeseeable disasters could occur -- or maybe everything would be better. Who knows? It's better not to become involved and to let things take their natural course. If the aliens want education and phasers so badly, let them figure out how to make them themselves, and let the consequences be upon their own heads.

Exposing a culture to ideas can be as dangerous as exposing a culture to technology. The exposure to outside ideas can destroy a culture. If you introduce outside ideas which are embraced by a small minority, it can be enough to alter the culture radically, in unpredictable ways, and destroy the way of life of vast numbers of people who had no choice in the matter. I'm sure in the 19th century many Europeans argued that exposing aboriginal culturals to new ideas like agriculture, Christianity and alcohol consumption was a good thing, but it ended in the destruction of beloved ways of life, and the result in all but a few cases has been upheaval, violence and poverty. Some people in those aboriginal societies found the new ideas seductive and accepted them with open arms, but that doesn't absolve the Europeans of responsibility in destroying those cultures. It would have been better if the Europeans hadn't gotten involved and let them develop naturally, for better or worse. If, after the Europeans had made a decision not to risk destroying aboriginal cultures, a plague had wiped out the buffalo in North America and the Plains Indians starved because they failed to adapt, it is difficult to argue the English would be responsible because they failed to colonize America.
16. John R. Ellis
Ah, but in "Star Trek", nearly every planet (except Earth, anomaly that it is. Humans are just SO darn special) has only one world culture, one lifestyle. And most of the residents even have the exact same personality!

Trekverse civilizations just seem so fragile, really.

You leave one book on one planet, come back a few years later, everyone in the entire population has modeled their lives upon that book. It's freaky. It's like those old Gordon R. Dickson stories about the alien Teddy bears..."cultural contamination" is very real and very intense in the Trekverse.
17. JMH
They have whole moral studies on these kinds of concepts, and the whole point is that there isn't a real right answer. Do you push the person, knowing that it'll save the train full of people? If you don't are you more or less responsible for the train than you would be for the person you directly touched? It does come off as heartless, and it must be a cause of sleepless nights for the officers involved when the decision is "We don't know enough to act, even though they're all going to die." Life and death are linked. And it is presumptuous to think that the 24th century would be as death-adverse as the 20th/21st (contrary to a lot of human history). And it's not like only humans are involved in the federation. What would the Vulcans think, unswayed by human guilt?

But @10 your words caused me to remember SG1 and the Asgard's need for "a stupid idea". You never know if the primative culture you saved might come up with a solution you couldn't see. (I always prefered the Asgard's way of handling things to the Ancients, who are much more Prime Directive about stuff. It seemed less patronizing.)
18. Mike S.


I don't think it goes quite as long, but the Voyager episode "Tuvix" also went over a long period of time, because that episode is all about him becoming an individual, and integrating himself among the crew, which leads to hard decisions later on.
Justin Devlin
19. EnsignJayburd
I agree that the scene in Picard's quarters was the best discussion of the Prime Directive. Interestingly, I found I agreed with Picard's interpretation the least and Pulaski's the most. "Where do we draw the line," he asks. Well, the solution came up with would seem to be the perfect answer. The planet's population was in distress over something they could not control. Not war, or an oppressive government, just the bad luck of living on a planet that was tearing itself apart through no fault of their own.

The Federation cannot be all good things to all cultures. They did not have a direct responsibility to act in this case, but they were there. Through Data's actions they became involved and ultimately the responsibility of making a moral choice was laid at their feet.
Sophistry? I don't think so.

They ended up not only making the right choice, but the only choice that truly lived up to their ideals. They would never turn a blind eye to a ship in distress - warp capable or not - so why should they ignore a planet in distress, even if the lone person asking was a child and/or a person in no position of authority.
20. USER
I'm watching this episode now. 12 minutes and 30 seconds have elapsed. What has happened so far? We've learned that Picard likes horses, there's some unusual geological activity on a planet & Wes will lead the survery team which is a big responsibility, and Dater is amusing himself by scanning the octant for chatter. Minus the credits and that's 11.5 minutes to establish 4 simple points.

Yap yap yap staff meeting yap yap yap pointless holodeck excursion yap yap yap staff meeting yap yap yap drink tea with Whoopi yap yap yap ready room chat yap yap yap transduce the interociter neutrino coupling zzzzzzz
21. USER
Hrm, I wonder if Groppler Krad is friendly with script author Snodgrass, cuz this episode is pretty weak. Maybe a decent premise, but surely in need of some rewrites. Almost nothing happens for the first 30 minutes of the show, save for the obligatory staff meetings and trechnogibberish. The "simply wonderful" scene really isn't - scientifically trained officers trying to determine the correct course of action by asking if they are instruments of predetermined cosmic fate? "Whatever we do is cool cuz it's all fate" is not deep philosophical musing and is totally out of character for scientific, quasi-military professionals.

And after they pull from nowhere the psiogenic harmonic resonator probes to trilate the quadlithium formant latices, then Pulaski figures out how to wipe memories in the final 3 minutes of the show, how convenient. "Prime Directive Debate Episodes" usually aren't the greatest because the PD is applied differently in just about every episode, but C. R. Bennett is correct in that the "TNG" view of the directive is problematic fo sho.
22. Ace Hamilton
Tampering with a boy's mind to cover their own mistakes is really inexcusable.
23. adam2
Just watched this one on Blu-Ray (and the transfer of this one looked fantastic). A few thoughts:

-No push-back from Pulaski when asked to wipe Sarjenka's memories? How does that jive with the Hippocratic Oath?

-The Prime Directive really has been interpreted all over the map, I even recall Diane Duane's book on the parallel-universe Enterprise D and Picard's speculation that interfering with their Starfleet (the agressors in the conflict, no less and basically equivalent tech to "our" Starfleet) could earn him a PD-beatdown back home.

-I recall another book where a particularly gruesome PD situation came up: Starfleet is attending a diplomatic function on planet X with ruling family. During the function, a bloody coup ensues. Starfleet personnel must watch and do nothing while the coup perpetrators behead the entire previous ruling family including beautiful daughter either about to get married, or pregnant, or both, I can't remember.
24. Die Wlwheaton Die
If someone put their pet kid in charge of me on a critical project I'd laugh at the kid and demand a transfer. Marty Stu Crusher taking charge of uniformed crewmen ruined this episode for me.

Now that I'm older its one of the reason I've outgrown Trek. Awful, awful writing.
25. pen_pals
Well, i know i'm little(!) late for commenting but I cannot help and comment to say, after having just rewatched it, that it's along with "Darmok" and "Cause and Effect", my preferred TNG episode.

The scene in Picard's quarters is undoubtedly the best Prime Directive discussion scence in all ST and one of the best scenes in any ST.
And for the commenters that reject the Prime Directive principle, i have one word : Iraq. It clearly has become a much better place now...

Other scenes are special too :
- Data and Picard in the holodeck
- Riker giving advice to Wesley in Ten Forward
- Picard and Riker on how much deep in trouble they are
- O'Brien when he see's Sarjenka transporting back with Data

Too bad Hannah Louise Shearer didn't write much more for TNG.

I love also the idea of giving Wesley a shot to prove his worth. It makes me think of all these job offers that ask for experience, well, if you're young, how can you have years of experience ? I you believe in someone's ability and potentiel, then employ him and test him and he will acquire experience.

The only objection i could have is about wiping Sarjenka's memory, but thinking about it, even if it seems and feels wrong, if it's the price to pay to save millions of people, then I would say it's a small price to pay.

Finally, I think it's in that episode that Data is the most "human" (no need for an emotion chip for that...)
26. pen_pals
One more comment : only 24 comments previous to mine ? Come on, "Skin of Evil" or "Masks" have more comments ! Seriously ?
Keith DeCandido
27. krad
There's no real pattern to number of comments and quality of episode. *shrug*

---Keith R.A. DeCandido

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