Friday, June 26, 2020

Star Trek: Pen Pals

Episode: "Pen Pals"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 2, Episode 15
Original Air Date: May 1, 1989

Pen Pals (episode) | Memory Alpha | Fandom
via Memory Alpha
Data makes contact with Sarjenka, a little girl on Drema IV.  Her planet is in great peril.  If the Enterprise doesn't intervene, it's likely Sarjenka will die, along with the entire population of her world.  The complication: Drema IV is a pre-warp civilization and Starfleet interference would violate the Prime Directive.

I love the Prime Directive dilemma stories!  In my opinion, the PD is the best science fiction narrative device after Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics.  However, unlike the Laws which are absolutely rock sold, the PD is often no sooner mentioned than violated.  Still, the dilemma gets to the heart of the uniqueness of the Trek universe.  The TNG stories in this vein tend to be more effective than the TOS ones. 

The episode's secondary story - a Wesley tale, groan... - is also worthy of note.  Riker feels it's time for the young lad to experience command.  He assigns Acting Enign Crusher to lead a science team.  As always, there's the little voice in the back of my head nagging, "he doesn't deserve this."  That said, it is an interesting exploration of the dynamics of leadership and what it takes to learn the necessary skills.  Riker also emphasizes for Wesley the strong model available to him:
Riker: In your position, it's important to ask yourself one question.  What would Picard do?
Wesley: He'd listen to everyone's opinion, then make his own decision.
Wise man.

Food Notes

For the first time, Captain Picard succeeds in ordering and drinking his trademark "tea, Earl Gray, hot" from the replicator.

Acting Notes

Image result for nicholas cascone
via Memory Alpha

Nicholas Cascone (Ensign Davies) was born April 20, 1963 in New York City.  This was his first of two Star Trek appearances, also clocking in for DS9's "Equilibrium" as Timor.  Since Trek, he has appeared in Titanic, The West Wing and Dragonfly.


  1. We just watched an episode of Discovery with a "General Order One" conflict.

  2. This episode to me was very forgettable. But like you, Prime Directive story lines are usually one of my favorites.

    My main problem was how Data and the little girl begin communicating. I'm assuming it was some form of subspace since radio travel time didn't seem to be an issue.

    My second problem was the very fact Data pursued communication with a pre-warp culture. Not something I see a distinguished, senior Starfleet officer doing. Then again, it was never answered why the 20th century culture on Angel One knew about Starfleet and the Federation.

    Yeah, I'm just nitpicking.

    1. I'm all for nitpicking! The integrity of an invented world is dependent on the little details. However, bending the "rules" is often what makes these stories interesting. Weighing compassion vs responsibility is the heart of TNG.