In the nineteenth episode of the first season ofÂ The Next Generation, Wesley tests for Starfleet Academy while Picard deals with an irritating investigation. Intrigued? Then itâ€™s time for Mark to watchÂ Star Trek.
I liked this episode because it was soÂ thoughtful. This show is far more interested in character studies than action sequences, which already makes it an improvement overÂ The Original Series. Both Wesleyâ€™s and Picardâ€™s stories here have brief action scenes within them, but the point of â€œComing of Ageâ€ explores duty, loyalty, and purpose within the Starfleet.
Sort of. I have one other point to make about the overarching plot, but Iâ€™ll get to that at the end.
I appreciated the chance to finally get to see what an entrance exam to Starfleet actually looks like. (This also helped me understand part of the reason why Picard was always so reluctant to have Wesley helping out: he wasnâ€™t technically a part of Starfleet to begin with.) I canâ€™t admit that I was all that surprised by the details; I expected a number of complex aptitude tests and some sort of real-time test of Wesleyâ€™s abilities. I was surprised that Starfleet forced a competitive angle into it because that seemed so counterintuitive during the exams.
Except then I thought about it, and it makes perfect sense. For a Starfleet crew to perform well, theyâ€™ve got to workÂ with one another. They have to be able to tolerate their own egos and their own sense of self-worth within a larger machine. When is altruism beneficial to the group as a whole? When is it avoidable? When is it understandable to be selfish and make difficult decisions that may result in the death or harm of someone else?Â Those aspects of Wesleyâ€™s story were far more interesting to me than the tests themselves. Through them, I think we get a decent portrait of the kind of person that Wesley is. Heâ€™s eager to please others, even going so far as to help Mordock complete a test faster than him. That sense of goodness doesnâ€™t necessarily extend to himself, and we get to see how Wesley is often hardest on himself more than anyone else.
Thatâ€™s a difficult thing to navigate for Wesley, especially given his surroundings. Heâ€™s on a starship with some of the best officers in the fleet, and everyone just seems so huge and brilliant andÂ better than he is. But he lacks a crucial perspective, one that Picard offers up to him at the end of â€œComing of Age.â€ Itâ€™s something Iâ€™ve been guilty of my entire life, and I say that intending you to understand thatÂ I still do this. Itâ€™s always been a challenge not to compare myself to others inÂ literally every context imaginable. So what Picard does here is give Wesley another view on this. Itâ€™s not easy to get so close to the Academy, only to find out youâ€™ve got to wait another year to re-take the exam.
So Picard tells Wesley that he failed the exam the first time, too.
Itâ€™s a bold move, but itâ€™s one that shows that Picardâ€™s view of Wesley has changed over time. On top of that, Wesley is able to focus on something else instead of viewing himself as a failure. A failed exam doesnâ€™t denote a failedÂ person, especially since Picard is standing there in front of him, clearly not a failure himself. Itâ€™s a really sweet moment, rare for a man who doesnâ€™t often show that much affection.
Wow, did I hate Lt. Commander Remmick. I HATED HIM SO MUCH. As satisfying as it was to see the entire crew profess their loyalty and support towards Picard, I spent a great deal of this episode furious because NONE OF THIS MADE ANY SENSE. Why come aboard theÂ Enterprise with a secretive mission like this? Perhaps there was a mole of some sort, and Remmick and Quinn didnâ€™t want them to know they were being suspected? Of course, that made no sense either once Remmick began to be INFURIATING. The main focus of his questions was Captain Picard and the logs he has recorded, so the mystery was gone. ButÂ why?Â Why were Picardâ€™s logs so suspicious?
And so Remmick works his way through the crew (while referencing multiple episodes from this season), trying to getÂ any of the crew to prove that Picard was lying or compromised or unfit for duty. Given the eventual end to â€œComing of Age,â€ I wonder if Remmick even knew what Quinn was intending the entire time. (Iâ€™m guessing he didnâ€™t, given what Remmick asks of Picard before he leaves.) This wasnâ€™t an investigation; it was aÂ job interview. I did enjoy that Picard made his decision about the offer while helping Wesley; that was a nice touch. But Iâ€™m very confused about Quinnâ€™s justification of this job offer. Likeâ€¦ the reveal that someone is trying to destroy the Federation seems like a HUMONGOUS THING, and yet, itâ€™s dismissed by the end of the episode. I suppose this could come back again in the future, but this show is barely serialized, so Iâ€™m not expecting it. Otherwise? I thought this was a good episode. This season is still fairly slow, and I wouldnâ€™t say itâ€™s totally grabbed me yet. But I know Iâ€™ve got a lot more to watch, you know? Iâ€™m giving it time.
The video for â€œComing of Ageâ€ can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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