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Coming of Age

Review

Series : The Next Generation Rating : 3
Disc No : 1.4 Episode : 18
First Aired : 14 Mar 1988 Stardate : 41461.2
Director : Mike Vejar Year : 2364
Writers : Sandy Fries Season : 1
Guest Cast :
Brendan McKane as Technician #1
Daniel Riordan as Rondon
Estee Chandler as Oliana Mirren
Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
John Putch as Mordock
Robert Ito as Tac Officer Chang
Robert Schenkkan as Lieutenant Commander Dexter Remmick
Stephen Gregory as Jake Kurland
Tasia Balenza as T'Shanik
Ward Costello as Admiral Gregory Quinn
Wyatt Knight as Technician #2
Moral :
Failure : If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
YATI : When Mordock wins the spot at the academy, Chang informs him that he is the first Benzite ever to serve. So how is it that in the following season we meet Mendon, a Benzite who has already been through the Academy and graduated at the rank of Ensign?

In this episode, Jake steals a shuttle. Flitting lightly over the fact that once again the crew are unable to prevent this from happening, Jake is supposed to be an expert shuttle pilot. So why does he immediately plunge the shuttle into extreme danger?

Great Moment : Remmick's interviews with the crew. I love they way they cut the questions and answers together.
Body Count : Zero
Factoid : This marks the first episode of a two story mini-arc which will be picked up in "Conspiracy" later this season.
Quote : "Only fools have no fear..." - Worf to Wesley.

Remmick : "You don't like me very much, do you?"
Worf : "Is it required, sir?"

Plotline

The Enterprise is in orbit of Relva III, where applicants for Starfleet Academy are to undergo final testing for admittance. Wes is one of the applicants, although his friend Jake is upset at failing the last round of exams. As Wesley prepares for the gruelling testing Admiral Quinn, an old friend of Picard's, arrives to visit the ship. Lieutenant Commander Dexter Remmick accompanies him; Quinn tells Picard that Remmick is with the inspector general's office, and will be conducting a thorough investigation of the ship because Quinn believes that there is something seriously wrong aboard.

On Relva, Wesley meets the other candidates and the officer in charge of the selection process, Lieutenant Chang. The opening tests are mostly science based, testing the cadet's knowledge of engineering and mathematics.

On the Enterprise Dexter grills the senior staff, nitpicking every little thing Picard might have done wrong and apparently determined to cast every decision in the worst possible right. Commander Riker is especially annoyed by this, suspecting that his own performance is the supposed problem on board - something Picard can't confirm and wouldn't be able to even if he knew.

Wesley returns to the Enterprise during a rest break and encounters Worf on the holodeck. Wesley is worried about the upcoming psych test, which exposes each person to their greatest fear. Wesley is wondering what scary animals he can program up to practice being afraid. Worf reveals that he struggled with the test himself, but there's no point worrying when you can't do anything about it.

On the bridge, an alarm sounds to reveal that a shuttlecraft has been stolen; Jake is quickly discovered to be the culprit. Ashamed at having failed the entrance exam, he is planning to run away and sign onto a freighter. Unfortunately he unbalances the shuttle's reactor, stalling the engine and sending it out of control towards the atmosphere. Remmick is quick to blame the crew for the situation, but Picard keeps a level head, guiding Jake onto a course that accelerates him towards the planet to build up speed - only to pull up at the last moment and bounce off the atmosphere. The bridge crew is duly impressed, with even Remmick softening a little before quickly wondering why such a situation had ever been allowed to arise in the first place.

Back on the planet, Wesley manages to impress Chang with his knowledge of alien culture when he refuses to apologise to a Zaldan after they bump into one another, since Zaldans are infuriated by courtesy. In the next round of testing Wesley takes time out to help another student, causing himself to finish ahaed of Wesley.

On the ship Remmick reprots back to Quinn in front of Picard, stating that he could find no problem on the Enterprise beyond a certain informality on the bridge, a result of a feeling of family between the crew. He finishes his report by telling Picard that he hopes he will be able to serve aboard the ship one day. Quinn dismisses Remmick and tells Picard that he held the investigation because he wanted to be sure of Picard. He reveals that he believes something terrible is happening in the Federation, something that threatens its destruction. He wants Picard to take command of Starfleet academy so that he can be on earth to help Quinn fight this attacking force.

Wesley arrives for his psych test and is asked to sit in a room on his own. Minutes later a huge explosion in a nearby room strands two men; Wesley begins to pull one clear, but the other man is too scared to even attempt to save himself before the room is automatically sealed. Wesley is desperate to go and save the man, but he knows that if he does all three of them will be trapped inside and die. He reluctantly abandons him to save the man he can get to. As the room closes, Wesley is greeted by Chang who informs him that this was the psych test; Wesley's greatest fear is that he will one day have to abandon a man to die, the way "someone" did with his own father. A subdued Wesley goes joins the other candidates, where chang tells them that Mordock is the successful applicant. Wesley returns to the Enterprise where Picard finds him, depressed about his failure. Picard dismisses any idea that Wesley failed, since he did his best.

Picard meets with Quinn, and tells him that he isn't a political officer and can't accept the job at Starfleet academy. Quinn is disappointed, but leaves the ship.

Analysis

A reasonable episode, but nothing special. The two stories have more or less equal prominence; Wesley's testing at Relva isn't very interesting, and really just doesn't gel very well. For one thing, admittance to Starfleet Academy seems almost impossibly difficult. We find that there is a series of tests to get to this point - which itself is another series of tests, with only one candidate from the class allowed to join, regardless of quality! Starfleet cannot reasonably have less than millions of personnel, so they must graduate some tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people a year from their training system. Given this, it seems incredible that the selection process to even try to become an officer is so difficult. I imagine the writers did this deliberately to try and show us that Starfleet personnel are the true pick of the crop, the best of the best of the best. But it comes across to me as being a little over the top.

The other plotline is much more entertaining. Watching the delightfully nasty Remmick trying to tear the Enterprise crew apart is great fun, and as noted in the Great Moments box the intercutting of the interviews is superbly done. I especially love Worf's monotone answer when Remmick smilingly asks if he likes him. "Is it required, sir?"

The end of this plot is an interesting loose thread, and of course we all know how that one turned out. It's nice to see that even this early in TNG the writers were beginning to develop longer term stories and arcs, albeit on a rather small scale.

Overall, this could have been a good episode but the Wesley stuff dropped to average.


Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 3,688 Last updated : 2 Jul 2014