80: Coming of Age (1.19)

Synopsis:  Wesley takes the Starfleet exam, while Starfleet is on the Enterprise, interrogating everyone to try to see if Picard is unfit to lead.

Memory Alpha Summary:  Also, more kids get access to key systems.

Review:  I find it hilarious that they criticize Picard for bringing the Edo girl up to see her God but fail to criticize him for landing on the planet in the first place (also, is it insightful or embarrassing that the show is more or less criticizing itself so early in the series?).  The interrogation subplot, though, is mainly Remmick being as over-the-top as possible in his snide treatment of the crew, which is more laughable than intimidating.  However, it does a decent job setting up some dramatics for the end of season one.

Meanwhile, Wesley is given even more terrible lines as he’s made out to be a self-important, pouty douchebag as he passive-aggressively plays down his talents and then pouts when he loses.  One of the girls tells Wesley that if he weren’t so cute he’d be obnoxious.  Ha!  Afterwards, Wes tells Picard “I failed you and I failed the Enterprise.”  It takes all Picard can do to not slap the boy, but he does what he usually does, and tells him in a very polite, reaffirming way to man up.  You know, despite what he said at Farpoint, Picard seems to handle children pretty damn well.

I have to say I love the Starfleet exam. Wesley has to perform two tests that are spontaneous and not even acknowledged as part of the test.  What bugs me, though, is that they predetermine before the exam begins that only one out of four students will pass the exam, even if they are all qualified.  This doesn’t make sense.  Starfleet would seem to need an indefinite supply of members, as it’s the only military outfit in the Federation.  I understand wanting high standards, but they should be competing against a baseline, not each other.

This episode may be higher on the list for being significantly better than most everything else in season one, though it’s certainly watchable.  But how do kids on the Enterprise keep getting access to key systems?

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13 thoughts on “80: Coming of Age (1.19)

  1. What bugs me, though, is that they predetermine before the exam begins that only one out of four students will pass the exam, even if they are all qualified.

    Total storytelling device. I imagine that the writers knew this, too, but couldn’t resist the urge to use a device that allows for more “will he or won’t he?” You can have your cake and eat it, too, by suggesting that Wesley is bad at tests or is perceived as lesser than his peers, but in low times screenwriters will always take the easy way out.

    • but in low times screenwriters will always take the easy way out.

      Low times would accurately describe season one.

      Is Star Trek unique at all that they basically had about 10-15 different writers every season? I don’t think any one person wrote more than 15-20 scripts throughout the entire season run.

        • Let me expand on that: it’s becoming less normal as writers are given more time to do their thing, although in general, whoever’s listed as the Executive Producer is always all over the script. The team convenes, a ton of story ideas are pitched, and the EP decides which ones are good enough to make. The season is mapped out, and then each story is given to a writer whose strengths make them an asset to the story idea. They go off and write their episodes, and as each approaches, the script is gone over with a fine-toothed comb by the entire writing team, who make suggestions and even pitch on every line, finding ways to make it better.

          I’ve always assumed that sci-fi shows with an accent on the sci probably have more writers because it takes a highly specialized type of knowledge, but that’s just me guessing.

          • With some episodes of Star Trek, they’d bring in a writer from the outside who had never done sci-fi and barely knew the characters (and what you’d get is a fairly low sci-fi episode, but usually with some good character development).

            It also seemed that at times, the seasons for TNG weren’t mapped out. They rarely had ongoing storylines, and a lot of references to past episodes seemed planted in the scripts rather than thought about long ahead of time.

          • Well, by “mapped out” I just mean “put in order.” I realize TNG was on the air at a time when ongoing storylines were deemed risky.

            I think it was a good idea for them to hire out writers to do character-driven episodes. Endless sciencey episodes wouldn’t have allowed average viewers to care about the characters enough to give themselves over to the heavy plots.

          • Yeah, it was generally a nice break from all the technobabble and endless “The ship is in danger!!!” plots.

            TNG, as it were, was very popular with a general audience. Partly, I think it’s because it wasn’t an on-going storyline (DS9 had few episodes that weren’t highly dependent on seeing what happened before, and the ratings were worse), partly the sheer awesomeness of Patrick Stewart, and partly because they spent considerable time, especially starting in season three, touching on deeper emotional aspects of space travel.

          • That’s exactly why I didn’t watch DS9.

            Also, have you had a borg episode on here yet?

          • I am halfway through season 5 of DS9. It starts out kind of awkward just like TNG, but it gets stronger faster, and seasons 3-5 are simply great television. If you have Netflix, it’s on there now and could be watched in order.

            I have not had a Borg episode on here yet. There are four of them (though it seems like there should be more).

  2. Totally agree on the lame “we can only take one candiate” crap. I remembered liking this episode and enjoyed the spontaneous tests. I found it amusing that with the sleek looking interfaces on the Enterprise, their testing units look like they came off the set of TOS. Maybe that’s just because it’s a poorly funded school type setting on an outpost though.

    It was also pretty lame writing for the dynamic relationships test. What sage advice Wesley gave that most certainly would have helped Mordock not only finish the test, but post the 2nd fastest time ever. “Yes you can. Don’t fight it, relax into it and let it come by itself.” “Yes you can. You’ve got your rotation factor. Just put in your vector coordinates!”

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