Friday, January 24, 2020

Star Trek: Coming of Age

Episode: "Coming of Age"
Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 1, Episode 19
Original Air Date: March 14, 1988
Image result for tng coming of age
via Memory Beta

Wesley takes a crack at the Starfleet Academy entrance exam.  Meanwhile, an old friend of Picard's, Admiral Gregory Quinn (Ward Costello) has come aboard to investigate the Enterprise for reasons he can't explain.  Tensions run high as Lt. Cmdr. Dexter Remmick, the investigating officer played by Robert Schenkkan, asks probing questions of the senior officers regarding their dear leader.

"Coming of Age" is sort of like a clip show without the clips.  Remmick's questions touch on incidents from previous episodes, including "The Last Outpost," "Where No One Has Gone Before" and "Justice."  Remmick certainly rankles but eventually he reveals what we as the fans already know: this crew is deeply loyal to their captain and to each other.  Plus, he gets to see first-hand that Jean-Luc is a total badass when he calmly rescues a wayward cadet from himself.  The investigator acknowledges his admiration in the end, saying that he would like to work among them after his current assignment is completed.  Once again, we see that Picard's Enterprise is a great place to work.

In the investigation story's conclusion, Picard is offered a promotion to Admiral, overseeing Starfleet Academy.  While tempted, the captain ultimately turns it down.  This is not the last time one of our heroes declines advancement.  It certainly serves the series well in terms of continuity but it also leaves one wondering about the realism.  We know Picard is a romantic at heart and it's easy to understand his desire to be an explorer rather than an educational administrator - and implicitly, an internal spy.  But still, how many people in the real world turn down an admiralty when it is offered?  Probably not too many.

The entrance exam story, while probably technically the primary narrative, is less interesting.  The development for Wes is good, though we already know he is smart, kind and generous.  We do get a guest appearance from Tasia Valenza as the Vulcan T'Shanik.  I featured Valenza in one of my Clone Wars posts a few years ago.  Wes also has a nice scene with Worf on the holodeck, though Worf gets much better development in the next episode.

Acting Notes

Image result for ward costello
via Memory Alpha

Ward Costello was born July 5, 1919 in Boston.  "Coming of Age" was his first of three appearances as Admiral Quinn.  In addition to his numerous acting credits, Costello was a composer and lyricist.  He wrote the theme for The Gallant Hours, a docudrama starring James Cagney.  The piece is unusual for a film: an acapella choral arrangement.

Costello died in 2009 from complications due to a stroke.


  1. Wow what wonderful music and voices.
    I have answered one of your questions on my blog.

  2. I think the point is to show unusual Picard is in his turning down the promotion. And self aware. Picard is never portrayed as being ambitious, not in that sense, at any rate.
    The problem, though, is that it becomes the norm for everyone, if memory serves, to refuse promotions to stay on the Enterprise and, at that point, it's unbelievable.

    1. Plus, we want to see our captain as the sort who prefers the adventure of outer space as opposed to a boring desk job. It becomes more of an issue with Riker, as Tony points out below...

  3. Picard refusing promotion sort of lines up with the Kirk arc from the movies. Eventually Starfleet decides to demote him for his (and, presumably, the galaxy's) own good. (Don't tell Andrew, but I read his comment. I think it only further applies to Riker. At this point in his career he might simply still be paranoid about the rest of Starfleet. He had a bad experience with a prior senior officer, and probably wondered if he would measure up. Picard was a heck of a learning experience!)

    1. You beat me to the punch on the point about the movies!

      Your Riker point: again, he is a puzzling character to me, his narrative role unclear. His reluctance to take promotions is part of it. One can easily see why Riker likes the Enterprise. But how essential is he to the story, really?

    2. Nice to see you boys getting along...

    3. Who says we're getting along? :P

  4. ...but it also leaves one wondering about the realism.

    That was one of my criticisms of the J.J. movies and how they got the crew together. Throwing Cadet Kirk and the rest of the main crew together worked during the movie's emergency but to hand off a starship permanently to them didn't.

    As for Lt. Cmdr. Dexter Remmick, how he was infected with the mother of those tiny aliens intent on subverting Starfleet was something the show should of answered.

    1. Yeah, we may get the Abrams movies eventually. I definitely have my issues!

      The Remmick parasite question definitely would have been an interesting one to explore. It gave way to the Borg in the end, probably the right choice.