Season Two - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – Pen Pals

Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass and Hannah Louise Shearer
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

The Enterprise journeys to the Selcundi Drema system to observe dangerous geological activity on many of the planets of the system. Unbeknownst to the rest of the crew, the android Data (Brent Spiner) intercepts a transmission by a young girl living on a planet in the system. Her simple question of “Is there anyone out there?” leads Data to throw out every regulation ever instilled in him by Starfleet.

That might work with a human. Considering Data is an android and supposedly devoid of emotion, it just doesn’t seem plausible that Data would break regulations. Are the writers trying to show he is developing a higher consciousness and becoming more human-like? If they are, it fails simply because this apparent change in Data does not stick past this episode.

That said, the storyline of the crew of the Enterprise coming up with a way to save this girl and her planet also falls flat. Her name is Sajenka and her planet is about to be torn apart by the geological stresses placed on it.

The crew has to figure out a way around the Prime Directive – which is a Starfleet edict stating that there should be no interference with other cultures, especially those which do not yet have space travel. Is the fate of this race of people to be on a planet torn apart and to disappear from the universe? Or has fate brought the Enterprise here to this time and place for the express purpose of saving them?

Handled in a better way, it would have posed an interesting scenario. We see the crew discussing various implications of their action and inaction. We see a debate between crewmates that has the potential to become heated. What we also see is Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) acting in manner in which they seem to be stumbling around the ship reaching for answers to the moral questions plaguing them.

As they stumble around looking for excuses to violate the Prime Directive, their actions seem false – especially for them. It would have been more honest for either of them to say “We’re doing this and that’s it” rather than trying to justify their actions. It smacks more of the political maneuvering of the 20th and 21st centuries than a supposedly superior 24th-century climate.

The other story going on is a Wesley Crusher (Wil Wheaton) story. I have hated the way he has been written in the series, but in this story he is written fairly well. He is given command of his first mission. Instead of carrying it perfectly right off the bat, we see him stumble for footing as he attempts to command people much more experienced and older than himself. He is uncertain and wavers in his decisions before he finally finds the courage of his convictions.

I would not recommend this episode for an introduction into Star Trek: The Next Generation. While not as bad as The Royale or Code of Honor, it is sorely lacking. Though Spiner gives it his best shot, Data just comes off completely out of character.

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