Season One - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Coming of Age

Written by Sandy Fries, Hans Beimler, Richard Manning, Hannah Louise Shearer, and Tracy Torme
Directed by Michael Vejar

At this point as I go through the first season episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, I am thinking I have seen just about enough of Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) and it’s about time they give this character a break.

Unfortunately, the Star Trek writers do not agree with me.

The sad thing is, if I hadn’t already been hit with Wesley-Crusher-overkill, this would have been a pretty good episode.

As the Enterprise orbits Relva III, two different stories are taking place. On one hand, teenager Wesley Crusher beams down to the planet to take Starfleet Academy entrance exams. He is pitted against three other youths from different species.

At the same time, the crew of the Enterprise is being thoroughly interrogated by Commander Remmick (Robert Schenkkan), the adjunct to Admiral Quinn (Ward Costello). The object of their suspicion seems to be Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart).

This is a well-balanced episode with very few holes in the plot. We get to see the crew talk about the episodes of the last season as they are interrogated about each event. Each crewmember conveys their frustration as Remmick seems to twist every answer of theirs to his own purpose. At times it seems as if he is almost trying to set Picard up to take a fall for some imagined indiscretion.

During the investigation, one of the youths aboard the Enterprise, Jake, hijacks a shuttlecraft after a fight with his father. His intention is to sign-on with a freighter after having failed to qualify for the exam that Wesley is taking. Picard has to deal with what is essentially heckling and harassment on the part of Remmick as he attempts to talk Jake through a major malfunction. Why they did not just beam him out of the shuttlecraft when it is first launched seems to be the only plothole in this episode. Beaming him out of the shuttlecraft is not brought up until he is – of course – out of range.

Watching Wesley deal with the demons of his past as well as trying to focus on what he has to do to pass the test is also very interesting. He must stay true to his own self and at the same time is being put through draining mental and physical exercises. The tests do not just measure his intelligence, but other factors as well.

What is nice here is the way the Picard/Quinn storyline is actually the first part of a two-parter. This is one of the first storyline arcs we see in Star Trek, as the conclusion comes at the end of season one. All of the actors involved in the interrogation give strong performances, from Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and Worf (Michael Dorn) to Remmick on the other side. As Quinn begins talking about a vast conspiracy in Starfleet, we have to wonder if he managed to find a collection of old X-Files episodes (note: Star Trek‘s first season was well before X-Files.)

This is a fairly good episode, especially as the first part of the two-parter. The acting is strong, the plot does not feel contrived, and the characters seem to be acting with reason.

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  1. Considering that Gene Roddenberry, whose grip on the creative reins were strong at this point in the series’ still-young life, was dead-set against continuity and story arcs, I’m amazed that the writers could, and did, plant the seeds for interconnected stories in Star Trek: The Next Generation. In later seasons, especially after Roddenberry’s death in October of 1991, there were more story arcs that slowly pushed the franchise into more serialized storytelling, with more of an effort to create a more sophisticated style of continuity while still sticking – mostly – to the “old school” TV conventions of episodic writing.

    • At the time there weren’t any real serialized stories on television. The mode we got usually were two-parters that were *special* episodes of certain series storylines. Anything that was serialized was considered more of a soap opera than good, dramatic storytelling. Really, Babylon 5 and Deep Space 9 were the first to really create overall story-arcs to a series.

  2. Right. And one of the reasons why Roddenberry – as well as most producers of his generation – resisted serialization was because in those days, independent TV stations and cable channels that depended on syndicated shows wanted to show episodes in random order, rather than air them in the order in which they were originally released in.

    Roddenberry feared that if TNG went too far with serialized stories, then station programmers would not buy the show from Paramount. It wasn’t so much a creative problem as it was a business one.

    Now, of course, continuity and season-long story arcs are more common; Fox’s 24, as well as Babylon 5, Deep Space Nine, and all of the other post-TNG series were less episodic in structure.

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