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Pen Pals

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Title :
Pen Pals
Series :
Rating :
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
1 May 1989
Stardate :
Director :
Year :
Writers :
Season Ep :
2 x 15
Main Cast :
Guest Cast :
I don't know if it could be called a YATI as such, but I find the behaviour of the senior staff in this episode horrendous. Considering how much they are always going on about how right and necessary the prime directive is, their blatant violation of it in this episode is hard to understand. Not only that, but there are several occasions on which officers violate Picard's orders, sometimes right in front of him, and he does nothing about it.

When discussing the prospect of Wesley taking command of a geological survey, Pulaski says "Are we talking about a young officer on the fast track to the Academy, or are we talking about a young man that we are guiding through adolescence and into adulthood?" Excuse me lady, but YOU are not guiding anybody through adolescence - the staff agreed to split that role between themselves before Pulaski ever arrived on the ship, and nobody ever gave any indication that Wesley's mother asked or authorised Pulaski to have a thing to do with it.
Great Moment :
The first time Data answers the question "Is there anybody out there?" - a question we'd all love to see answered for real...
Body Count :
None seen, but you could assume that many would be killed in the chaos on whatsername's planet.
Factoid :
This episode establishes Picard's interest in horse riding, and the scene in which he prepares to ride his horse is the only outdoor shoot of the whole season.


The Enterprise-D is in the Selcundi Drema sector investigating reports that a series of planets in the area have been destroyed, apparently in some sort of natural disasters. They arrive to find one planet destroying itself in a series of massive tectonic tremors. Picard consults the senior staff and decides that this might be a good opportunity for Wesley to gain a little leadership experience, so he is assigned to run a small team conducting a geological investigation. Wesley is a little anxious about the task to begin with. When he asks one of his people to run a particularly difficult and time consuming test the man objects that it is unlikely to offer important evidence and so a waste of time. Wesley is a little cowed, and agrees. Later he tells Riker about the incident and Riker counsels him that whilst he can always listen to advice from his subordinates, in the end he makes the decisions and they carry them out. Riker says that if he is ever unsure he need only ask himself one question : "What would Picard do?" Gaining confidence, Wesley orders the test performed anyway and his team jump to it. They find that the planet has massive levels of dilithium in the crust. The piezoelectric effect within the crystals is causing the tremors and destroying the planets.

Meanwhile Data is scanning some communications frequencies when he detects a transmission from a frightened child. He answers the call, even though it originates from a pre-warp civilisation. As the Enterprise investigates the region Data continues the communications for several weeks, and discovers that the girl's planet is undergoing the same effect which has destroyed the others.

He takes the information to Picard, confessing his actions in communicating with the girl and pointing out that he has not revealed exactly whom she is communicating with. Picard calls a conference of the senior staff to discuss the issue, and consider whether the Enterprise should intervene to save the planet. After considerable argument, Picard orders Data to cut off further communications and leave the planet to its fate. When Data opens the channel everybody hears the girl, Sarjenka, pleading for help, and are moved to reverse their decision.

Data beams down to Drema IV to warn Sarjenka to move to a safer region, but finds her alone with her family gone. He beams her back up to the Enterprise with him and then, as she is frightened to be away from his side, takes her to the bridge, much to Picard's chagrin.

The Enterprise, meanwhile, has prepared a series of probes mounted with resonators which will shatter the dilithium matrix with Drema IV's crust, ending the crisis. With the planet safe, Picard has Pulaski erase Sarjenka's memory. In sickbay Sarjenka notices an Elanin singer stone and is delighted by the sound it makes. When her memory is erased Data returns her to her home, leaving the stone with her as a memento of their relationship.

As the ship moves on Data apologises to Picard for his violations of orders. Picard notes that even for a Starfleet officer some obligations transcend duty, and that by acting as he did Data has displayed many truly human qualities.


Some interesting ideas here, but the execution really falls a little flat. The crew are confronted with a situation in which entire civilisations are dying, and must decide whether to interfere or not. On the one hand, the answer seems simple - it's been said that interfering has always damaged cultures in the past, often catastrophically, but really in this case you have to wonder, just how bad could any interference be next to the prospect of extinction? But then again, if they do help, just how much help is enough? Do you solve the immediate crisis and then just leave the planet, knowing that the whole surface is in chaos? Given that virtually the whole planet was affected by Earthquakes the whole place is a disaster zone. So does the Federation save it and then just leave millions, perhaps billions, to die of lack of water, food, power, shelter? Or do they provide those things, too? And if they do, what about law and order, administration, organisation? Few governments can be left on the planet, so does the Federation provide all that, too? If they do, what about those locals who resent their presence and fight against it? You can be sure there will be some, with a whole planet of people to look after. So now you've assumed control of the population, they're dependent on you for every resource, and you're fighting a guerrilla war with them to boot. Okay, that's still better than extinction for them, but how is it for the Federation? And how long do they keep it up? Remember that when the Vulcans came to lend a hand to Earth we were already a warp capable species, and ninety years later they were still there, still helping, and resented by much of the population for it.

All of this is not to say that helping out is the wrong decision, only that it's not as simple as just saying they need help, so they should get it.

The episode falls down somewhat in the Wesley sections. It seems odd that he is thrust into a leadership role like this. Yes, he needs to learn stuff, but at his age I would think that simply being a rather junior member of the team would be more than enough. Of course, not content with putting him in charge, they have him make a contentious decision that more experienced heads advise against, and then Wesley turns out to be right and they wrong. Wouldn't it have been a little more subtle if Wesley had insisted on the long complex test... and then the results turned out to be useless, and even delayed the solution to the problem they faced? The lesson then would be a real one - that you make a call, sometimes you're right, and sometimes you aren't, and you just have to accept that and get on with it. The lesson here seems to be "always trust your instincts because you are always right no matter what anybody else says."

The Sarjenka character is also a bit lame. Virtually all she does is whine and cry! Yes she had cause, but it got annoying after a while. Besides, her voice has this annoying quality to it...

Overall, potential here but the episode rarely rises to it.
© Graham & Ian Kennedy Page views : 52,269 Last updated : 28 May 2018