The Rewatch 117: Pen Pals

Series: Star Trek: The Next Generation
Episode: 2.15 Pen Pals (05-01-89)
Rating:  4/5
Redshirt Status: 0/.5/3.5

Notable Guest Stars:
Nikki Cox- Sarjenka.  She was on several soap operas
Ann H. Gillespie – Hildebrandt. She is currently an Episcopal priest, which makes her the second Star Trek actor to seek a path in religion.

Review:

 This episode is aired as a Data episode, but its split between him and Wesley Crusher.

For Data, this trip to the Drema sector is more of a emotional concern.  Data, while experimenting with the computer’s ability to receive messages and such ends up coming across a message sent from a young girl on one of the planets of the sector.  Intrigued he continues a conversation with her for weeks before he realizes that he might have caused a problem.

He goes to Picard, who is understandably perturbed that Data has been sending messages back and forth with someone who lives on a world that under the Prime Directive they shouldn’t be talking to.  However he is not without sympathy.  He calls the bridge crew to his quarters to discuss the matter, and they all feel insensed that they can’t help, arguing back and forth whether they should bend the rules or not.

This episode shows Katherine Pulaski defending Data and his choices, which is a remarkable change from the first couple of episodes.  She seems to have changed her way of acting (finally) and considers Data a friend.

Its also interesting to see the others debating each other on fate and destiny. 

Eventually Picard decides to bend the rules slightly after hearing Sarjenka’s plea for help. 

Meanwhile for Wes, Riker who is once again in charge of his education has decided that its time for Wes to lead a team.  He’s assigned to do the mineral and geological studies of the system. His storyline in this entire episode is adjusting to the weight of commanding a group of people who out rank him and are older.

This does bring up something I wonder about.  Why isn’t Wesley in a regular uniform?

Eventually his team settles in and they work well together.  They figure out the cause of the instability of the planets.  Which si good for Sarjenka.  Data, much to Picard’s displeasure, has brought the young girl onto the ship.

Another element of this episode I have to question – Is it ethical to delete Sarjenka’s memories?  Kate sounds perfectly comfortable with the idea and how to do it, but there are so many questions.  Does Kate know her neural system well enough to not damage her?  Do their brains even work the same way?  Is this going to cause her mental harm down the line?

Especially as Data left her the singing rock, which is not native to her planet and now she has no memory of getting it. 

I give this episode a 4/5.  It could have been better, but it wasn’t at all bad.  I do have issues with the implications of mind wipes

Interesting Notes:

  • Written by Melinda M. Snodgrass based on the story by Hannah Louise Shearer
  • Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Pros:

  •  Data’s emotionalism.  It’s my theory that Data does have emotions but doesn’t have the ability to express them/analyze them in the way humans do until he gets the emotional chip in later seasons.  Perhaps Data could be autistic in a way.
  • Picard character insight.  He likes to ride but doesn’t really do house pets. Until he does in Picard. Hey, anyone can change their mind.
  • Pulaski defending Data.  It’s a good change from earlier in this season.

Cons:

  •    Data’s emotionalism.  If my head canon is wrong, then Data’s particularly emotional for a non-emotional being.

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