Star Trek: The Next Generation (1989) – Pen Pals, and Q Who

Captain’s log: stardate 42695.3

Melinda M, Snodgrass writes the teleplay for this episode, based on a story by Hannah Louise Shearer. Pen Pals first aired on 1 May, 1989.

There are some good ideas at work in the episode. Data (Brent Spiner) answers a distress call from a young being on a planet in an uncharted system. She simply asks “Is there anyone there?” and they begin a dialogue.

Things escalate when Data and Picard (Patrick Stewart) learn that her planet is suffering disruptions. A discussion of the Prime Directive follows as by contacting this being, Data has violated it. And how far will the crew of the Enterprise go when that happens?

There’s also a solid b-story that follows Wesley (Wil Wheaton) who is given command of his first planetary survey by Riker (Jonathan Frakes) and has to make all the decisions for the group, despite the fact that they out rank and are older than he is.

Both stories are actually very interesting, but I don’t think either of them gets as much attention as they need, but I love the informal discussion that takes place in the captain’s quarters with all of his key officers.

That dialogue is pretty important, and gets right to the heart of a lot of Trek’s philosophy, and hopefully created (and will continue to create) a lot of discussion.

The episode gives us  a look at Picard’s affection for horseback riding, which is actually only seen a couple of times in the series.

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Captain’s log: stardate 42761.3

If Season 2 of The Next Generation is remembered for anything beyond the episode Measure of a Man, it is for the introduction of the Borg.

Written by Maurice Hurley, this episode debuted on 8 May, 1989.

Q (John de Lancie) returns! He abducts Picard away from the Enterprise, and does his best to prove that he should be part of the Enterprise crew. To make his point, he hurtles the starship seven thousand light years from its position. And it is there that they encounter a race they are not ready for.

The Borg.

A race of cybernetically enhanced beings, they assimilate all races they encounter, incorporating them into their hive mind. They seem unstoppable. They can’t be negotiated or reasoned with, and now they know the Federation exists.

The Borg do not look as intimidating as they eventually would, but that was merely the constraints of the budget. Despite that, they made a huge impression from their first appearance, and we knew that somewhere down the line, they would make a return.

Not everything about this episode works. For instance we get the first of only two appearances of Ensign Sonya Gomez (Lycia Naff), she was a new Academy graduate who was selected by Geordi (LeVar Burton) to join the crew. She makes a nice connection with the Engineer, but she’s too clumsy, and didn’t quite work in the stories she was put in.

On the flipside, we learn that Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) have some sort of history with one another, and that she’s seen the Borg before as well.

The Human Adventure continues on Thursday…

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