TNG Episode 1.19: Coming of Age

In which Wesley has a very busy day, and Captain Picard is required to account for the malarkey that goes on aboard his ship.

Memory Alpha says: As Wesley Crusher takes the Starfleet Academy Entrance Exam, Captain Picard faces a competency hearing. (Please click on the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)

My Review
If having inane shit happen on your ship were cause for a competency hearing, surely this should happen to Picard every month or so. Sooner or later I think you just have to stop caring, and show up to the bridge in a trenchcoat and fedora and give your ops officer permission to work with his cat in his lap. (I would really like to see an Enterprise Mufti Day where everyone wears what they want; given the general historical recreation fandom on that ship at least half the crew should be prancing around in zoot suits or Jane Austen dresses.)

I’m just doing bullet points, although my memory of this episode is that I kind of liked it, while having all sorts of nitpicky questions about it.

  • I will always find the 1701-D the most beautiful Enterprise.
  • Wesley is running through the corridors calling to someone called Jake like they had a lovers’ quarrel, because Jake just keeps walking until Wesley actually catches up and gets in front of him. I am amused by the fact that Wesley’s trouser cuffs actually drape over his shoes with a split in the front, I suppose in an effort to visually elongate Wil Wheaton’s already fawn-like legs. Extras in this scene are still wearing skants.
  • This is another faintly unconvincing attempt to give Wesley a friend his own age. I think one thing that would make Wesley a little more likeable is if it were explicit that he wants to hang out with the grown-ups partly because he doesn’t relate well to kids his own age. He is super smart but desperately uncool, and adults tend to be more tolerant of that, particularly adults who are themselves uncool, like Data and Geordi, or who want to teach you the Ways of Coolness, like Riker. Give the kid some plausible flaws.
  • Anyway, Jake is upset but saying ‘I’m fine’ in the way that totally means he’s not fine, and Wesley is trying to apologise to him when his mum’s voice – God, Mum! – comes on the intercom and orders him to a transporter room. Jake tells Wesley ‘It’s not your fault.’ Not your fault what? That you couldn’t love me as I love you? I respond to the anti-gay policies of the Star Trek Powers That Be by assuming that any relationship between two men or boys is a romance unless I am specifically shown otherwise.
  • And I suppose I’m specifically shown otherwise, because Jake is bummed that he’s not going to the Academy entrance exam with Wesley, as he got a lower score on the preliminary tests. Nah, that’s not specific enough, let’s say he’s sad because he doesn’t get to take the exams with his boyfriend. Beverly pages Wesley again, and he responds by touching the wall panel (because he’s not allowed a commbadge like a big boy). He calls her ‘Doctor’ because he’s trying to be a big boy, though.
  • This episode seems to be another out-of-order one, because Beverly’s hair is back to its earlier dark red, without the bouncy layers.
  • Another admiral! Trouble brewing. In fact, this is the start of an actual arc, albeit one that they won’t follow up because claymation is time-consuming and expensive.
  • When Riker and Picard stand side by side, and Jonathan Frakes isn’t employing the fit-into-the-frame trick he sometimes used of standing with his feet a shoulder-width apart, it really is comical to me how tall Riker is. He could nearly put his chin on top of Picard’s head.
  • So Quinn gets to bring his sidekick to the meeting but you don’t get to bring yours? I think you should complain, Jean-Luc. Especially as Dexter Remmick looks like a right weasel.
  • There may be something very wrong on this ship! But we can’t tell you what, leaving you to wonder if somebody complained about all the inappropriate sex talk in the workplace. Is this why they didn’t want Riker at the meeting? So he doesn’t know he’s being watched and they can nab him the next time he starts asking Worf how he likes to get his bone on?
  • Remmick is clearly just spoiling to find something wrong, to the extent that he’d probably overlook evidence that everything is okay.
  • The line ‘What is it?’ seems to be spoken before the girl could actually have seen the ‘unit’ Wesley just put down. She is wearing an outlandishly short skirt/long top with black tights, and needs to put her long curly hair in a sensible ponytail.
  • Wesley simpers when Oliana points out how smart and young he is. It’s a little bit odious. Her voice is very flat and a trifle grating.
  • The Vulcan girl, though, has a rather lovely husky voice, and oddly, shakes Wesley’s hand. I always thought Vulcans consider touching someone else’s hand rather intimate and prefer not to do it casually.
  • Awww, Wesley will be sixteen next month! He’s just a little peanut.
  • THE Mordock!  And he keeps snorting stuff from a thing that looks like how one-man-bands hold their harmonicas.
  • Asian man with deep voice enters; disappoints us all by not being George Takei. Also, the character’s name is Chang, so they don’t even let us imagine he’s Sulu’s son. Booooo.
  • ‘Keep doing whatever it is you’re doing, Commander Data.’
    (Data continues to be awesome, cute and smart)
  • It must be off-putting to have some guy standing at your shoulder typing on his iPhone. Couldn’t he turn the touch-tones off?
  • What is that item Picard has in his hand and is tapping on the desk? A stylus? It’s not that pen he was playing with in ‘The Battle.’
  • Riker is so petulant when things don’t go his way. Doesn’t he realise that being snippy with Remmick could make him look suspicious?
  • What kind of exam is it where the questions are read aloud to you by the computer? I see several problems with this. Naturally, some people work faster than others; it will be distracting to hear questions from earlier or later than where you’re up to in the test being read to other candidates. Getting the computer to repeat a question to you will get maddening for the others, but when I read a test question I deliberately read it more than once to make sure I understand it and have picked up on all the elements I should include in my answer.
  • Wesley answers the question with TWO KEYSTROKES and immediately gets a ‘correct’ on his screen. (The answer, apparently, is 1:1.)
  • I’m not thrilled by having the only girl in the room (the Vulcan girl has left) lament to the two boys how bad she is at maths. I suppose if T’Whatshername was still here she’d be like ‘I am objectively awesome at maths. So there.’
  • ‘It’s a good thing you’re cute, Wesley, or you could really be obnoxious.’ She’s smart in her own way, I guess.
  • Yeah, Wesley, you’re cute in the way Bambi is cute.
  • Picard’s butt made a really funny loud squeak on the leather as he sat down in his chair. Do you think it’s vinyl, or real leather? What kind of animal would you make starship seats out of?
  • I absolutely love this to pieces. You know how Riker has a habit of getting in and out of chairs like some kind of super-tall ape, by slinging one leg over the back of them, like he doesn’t have time to go around things, his job is important? Example from a later, more bearded phase of his career:

    Riker gets into the chair in front of Remmick in the most intimidating possible way, slinging his giant treetrunk leg up in the air and over, then sitting down with his elbows on the table, looming forward and glaring at Remmick like he called his mother a bitch. Riker is so incredibly rude and petulant, precisely when he should be acting calm and reasonable. It’s cracking me up.
  • I think Riker is almost disappointed to realise that Picard is being investigated, not him.
  • Trying to cover something up! Like that embarrassing business in the holodeck? (Wait, which one?)
  • Interesting to see Geordi working in Engineering, because this is the first time I’ve seen it except for when he went with Data to try to deal with the crisis in ‘Bynars and Minuet and Stuff.’ I guess they were gradually phasing him into being associated with that department. It is strange to think that he’s going to become Chief Engineer when so far he’s been totally bridge crew.
  • Deanna is giving Remmick a mighty stink-eye. I love the continuity here, with Remmick picking up on all the weird things that have happened so far this season. Hey, that kind of ‘mental lapse’ happens to everyone at least once in a Starfleet career. Possession, mind control and temporary insanity just go with the territory. In fact, I like to think that after your first time your friends take you out for drinks and make jokes about how you got broken in.
  • Wesley leans on a blank holodeck wall extremely awkwardly. This leads, oddly, to a heart-to-heart with Worf. There should be some kind of booking sheet on the door so people don’t just walk in on other people’s… awkward leaning time. I really like the detail that the corner of the wall is rounded. Now, what did Worf come in here for? Did he have a booking for some time? Why does he just offer to leave as soon as he sees he’s ‘disturbed’ Wesley?
  • Ah, the psych test. Which apparently functions like Room 101 in 1984, except you’re supposed to be made better by it? The thing about making someone face their deepest fear is that they can be mentally broken by it. How did they do Tasha’s psych test? Because I’m just saying, a lot of people’s deepest fears are of things like rape, grisly physical injury, death of people they love, etcetera. And how on earth did they test Data, who can’t feel afraid of anything (for that matter, did they even make him sit the Kobayashi Maru test?)? What do they do with all the aspiring cadets who can’t handle Room 101 and break down? This part makes no sense if you think about it practically.
  • Why doesn’t Wesley know what frightens him? I know exactly what frightens me. I am in bed at night. My glasses are off and I can hardly see a thing. Something big and dark and possibly not human comes in at the door and before I have time to react it’s on me and I am going to die helplessly without even knowing what’s going on. Yeah, my Academy psych test is gonna suck. (There’s also the alternative: I roll over in bed and find that something with big white eyes has been crouching on the other side staring at me all along and before I have time to react it bites my face off.) (Sorry about your dreams tonight guys.)
  • So what was your big fear, Worfles? I mean, I assume it had something to do with MAXIMUM DISHONOUR.
  • Awww, look at them give Worf a little bit of character development. Michael Dorn plays it really well.
  • Oh dear, Wesley’s little friend is being stupid in the shuttlebay. Dude! You don’t steal a car from Captain Picard’s garage! He will have your ass!
  • Not making it into the Academy entrance exams is so terrible that Jake is running away to join a freighter right now? Jesus, teenage drama queen. A) you could reapply next year and probably get in then, B) you are inconveniencing everyone to make your big flounce. What kind of pressure has Jake’s father been putting on him about this, that he ‘can’t face’ him? Has the whole thing snowballed in Jake’s mind to be far bigger and worse than it is, because he didn’t make it to the Academy and Wesley is going to and he won’t see Wesley any more and his father wouldn’t understand about that anyway and oh God will anyone ever just understand and accept him as he is?
  • Oh my goodness look at the ridiculous fairy lights in the shuttle’s cockpit. They really need some plain neon tubes in there, it looks like they decorated for Christmas.
  • I like how Remmick is taking notes this whole time.
  • Can you think of a better voice to talk you down when you’ve done something monumentally stupid and got into trouble than Patrick Stewart’s? Yes, there’s going to be a reckoning later, but you know that right now he only cares about getting you back safely.
  • The dialogue on the bridge implies that Jake can hear only Picard’s voice, and not Data’s and Riker’s talking about how doomed he is. Because while I love Data’s voice, I don’t want to hear it talking about how totally poked my chances of survival are.
  • I really like it when Picard’s flying ace side gets to come to the fore.  PULL UP HARD! Gee, this mini-climax is happening only halfway into the episode.
  • Aw, even Remmick was happy that Jake didn’t get burned to death. His heart grew two sizes today.
  • Riker hugs himself with glee.
  • Look, our kids get into the ‘off limits’ conference lounge during a red alert and play with the model starships. Is it any wonder they can just prance into the shuttlebay and steal a small ship without anyone even saying ‘HEY!’? The Enterprise is not a well-organised ship when it comes to children’s safety – and I guess part of this is because, aren’t the Galaxy-class ships the first to have families on board? So they are really playing this by ear and making it up as they go? There are some things you don’t realise you have to tell people not to do, until you catch some munter doing them. This is particularly true when dealing with kids.
  • The corridors of this place look gloriously TOSsy. Why does Wesley know his way around so well when it’s his first day here? Boy genius, I guess. Anyway, this scene is playing kind of like high-school hallway bullying. I want this guy to shove Wesley into the lockers. OH NO, ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL CHANG HEARS US!
  • ‘Do you want this to become violent?’ It is adorable to see Wesley try to be tough. Evidently the web-handed bully thinks it’s adorable too. It’s like when a kitten puffs up and hisses.
  • Yay, racial profiling works! For Wesley, at any rate.
  • Is Data programmed to tell the entire truth? Meaning that he doesn’t have the free will necessary to lie, or to be selective about how much of the truth he tells, or to do the trick where you say two true things that are unrelated in such a way that it sounds as if they are related and your listeners get a false impression? A-ha, maybe he lied when he told Remmick he was programmed to tell the entire truth. Anyway, I enjoy him calmly and politely shutting Remmick down, and the segue into the next scene with the computer being swivelled towards Worf – who promptly turns it off.
  • So Remmick is asking about ‘The Naked Now,’ yes? If Data is programmed to tell the entire truth it is lucky for everyone that Remmick didn’t ask him about this, because it would’ve been pretty embarrassing. And actually, Picard did take sensible precautions to prevent the contaminant coming on board – it was just that it wasn’t recognised by their quarantine programs, and once it was on board they did a piss-poor job of containing it, because everyone was like ‘Hey, I feel sweaty and weird! Back to work!’
  • Another smooth segue to Beverly – this sequence is unusually artful for early TNG.
  • Is this the first time they introduced the idea that Picard is somehow responsible for Jack Crusher’s death? I don’t think this is ever followed up in any clear way, though. Is it just that Picard was in charge when Crusher died, and thus considered responsible because he was responsible for all the people under his command, or did Picard make a mistake that directly caused Crusher’s death? Are there many names more manly than Jack Crusher, do you think?
  • Look, Picard was breaking the prime directive just by sending people down there for shore leave, much less interfering in the law to protect little Wezzles.
  • The uneven hemline on the admiral’s jacket looks really annoying to wear.
  • Mordock sucks at dynamic relationships. Here comes a really bizarre part, as the candidates discuss the exam questions while they try to solve them and Wesley reminds Mordock how to do the puzzle. Note that the girls don’t ask for or receive help. I’m not sure whether they pass – I think it’s implied that Oliana doesn’t – but I’m on their side, dude.
  • Wesley’s hair is looking weird. Like he recently got it cut shorter than it should be for the bouffant style they liked to comb it into.
  • What is the top of the admiral’s desk made out of? It looks like some kind of polished wood but also like plastic.
  • OMG nothing wrong except casual familiarity among the bridge crew!
  • Um, Remmick, it’s sweet of you to ask Picard for a job, but I really don’t think anyone on this ship wants to work with you now. Worf, in particular, thinks you’re a bitch. No casual familiarity for you.
  • This plotline about a threat from within to the Federation is really, really interesting, especially when you are a post-DS9 viewer and know about things like Section 31 – and how little-known Section 31 and its activities are to many people even at quite high levels of the Federation. I really like to think that Luther Sloan was somehow involved in all this, behind the scenes.
  • Picard, don’t take it! If you become an admiral, you’ll be a jerk like the rest of them! Admittedly, you would make an awesome ‘commandant’ of the academy, or as I insist on thinking of it, principal. Think of all those gifted youngsters.
  • This is the most unethical job interview process ever.
  • So, Mordock’s traumatised! This is kind of unethical too. Starfleet can be so creepy. Listen to that terror music on the soundtrack!
  • I’d like it if this test was more like the one in Men In Black, with the broken pencils and nothing to lean on and the table that makes a terrible noise when Will Smith drags it across the floor.
  • Ha ha look at that obvious matte-painting fake end of a corridor.
  • NOBODY’S AROUND. Considering how the corridors were bustling with skant models and bullies before, this should surely make Wesley realise that this is not a normal situation.
  • The acting of the guy who thinks they’re all going to die is awesomely hammy. Don’t you apologise, Wesley, he was clearly useless.
  • I like how the dusting of… dust makes Wesley’s hair look prematurely grey. I’d like to think that a lot of people have gone grey from these tests.
  • There actually is a hell of a lot of interesting depth about Wesley having to make the choice Captain Picard made. I would like to see this explored further. But it’s clearly not as if Wesley has ever borne Picard any resentment for that decision, whatever it was. He frickin’ hero-worships Picard.
  • I wonder if Riker has mixed feelings here because, after all, if Picard went back to Earth to run the Academy, he would be next in line for the Big Swivelly Chair.
  • ‘It’s unfair that only one candidate from Relva will attend the Academy this year.’ Why is it going to be like that? Is there a quota system, where each registered examination centre can only send one cadet per year? Do the others live on Relva, or do you just report to your nearest centre to take the exams? I like how obvious it is that the whole entrance system we see in this episode must be completely gone by the time of DS9, because there is no flipping way my little buddy Nog made it through this system.
  • T’Whatshername is so pretty! And, to my amusement, she has the same slightly duck-lipped expression that Jolene Blalock used to deploy in Enterprise. I choose to assume that they’re related.
  • So Mordock makes it in, despite the fact that Wesley helped him in the exam and he would have failed the racial profiling bully test. Chang says ‘It wasn’t only that’ that prevented Wesley getting in or ensured Mordock did, but he doesn’t specify what it was. Did Wesley cock up something that we didn’t see? Was Mordock a total boss in his psych test? Is this affirmative action, since Mordock is going to be the first Benzite in Starfleet? (Years later, Ensign Ro did think she only made it as far as she did because Starfleet wanted to include Bajorans.) And what about the girls – how did they do? Aren’t they important? *gusty sigh of irritation*
  • Ah, the dress uniform comes out! Looking sharp. And taking time to be kind to poor flustered Jake. I like how Picard’s pause after Jake walks away makes it perfectly clear that his decision about the Academy is now made. A) it is his JOB to be here on the Enterprise, taking care of everyone. B) the Academy is full of people like Jake and Wesley and oh God imagine having to deal with hundreds of eager, angsty young people all the time.
  • a) why is Wesley in the observation lounge, b) why has Picard gone there? c) Wesley has a dress uniform?
  • Second heart-to-heart of the episode for Wesley – and both the most emotionally remote, austerely masculine men in the crew opening up to him. Awwww, he’s all right for father figures. Is he going to change into his dress uniform? Does it have rainbow shoulders?
  • Hey, has Remmick already left separately? Why is Quinn leaving alone?
  • And off they fly for more adventures.

Well, that was pretty good, but it does make Starfleet seem like a far creepier organisation than I think they mean it to at this stage. And I still don’t see how Data got admitted to the Academy.

Hey O’Brien, what was your psych test like?

‘Didn’t have to take one. They said I was traumatised enough already.’

Next time: Back to DS9 for ‘Dramatis Personae’ and ‘Duet.’ Oh my gosh you guys! ‘Duet’!


2 Responses to “TNG Episode 1.19: Coming of Age”

  1. Martienne Says:

    I’ve been compulsively reading your blog since I found it last week, and haven’t found a reason to comment until now, but Nog’s testing would have occurred after the personnel shortages caused by Wolf-359. It’s supposed to take a couple decades to get things back into a good balance,I think.

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