Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S01E19 – Coming of Age

In the nineteenth episode of the first season of The Next Generation, Wesley tests for Starfleet Academy while Picard deals with an irritating investigation. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

I liked this episode because it was so thoughtful. This show is far more interested in character studies than action sequences, which already makes it an improvement over The Original Series. Both Wesley’s and Picard’s stories here have brief action scenes within them, but the point of “Coming of Age” explores duty, loyalty, and purpose within the Starfleet.

Sort of. I have one other point to make about the overarching plot, but I’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 wasn’t technically a part of Starfleet to begin with.) I can’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 Wesley’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, they’ve got to work 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? Those aspects of Wesley’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. He’s eager to please others, even going so far as to help Mordock complete a test faster than him. That sense of goodness doesn’t necessarily extend to himself, and we get to see how Wesley is often hardest on himself more than anyone else.

That’s a difficult thing to navigate for Wesley, especially given his surroundings. He’s on a starship with some of the best officers in the fleet, and everyone just seems so huge and brilliant and better than he is. But he lacks a crucial perspective, one that Picard offers up to him at the end of “Coming of Age.” It’s something I’ve been guilty of my entire life, and I say that intending you to understand that I still do this. It’s always been a challenge not to compare myself to others in literally every context imaginable. So what Picard does here is give Wesley another view on this. It’s not easy to get so close to the Academy, only to find out you’ve got to wait another year to re-take the exam.

So Picard tells Wesley that he failed the exam the first time, too.

It’s a bold move, but it’s one that shows that Picard’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 doesn’t denote a failed person, especially since Picard is standing there in front of him, clearly not a failure himself. It’s a really sweet moment, rare for a man who doesn’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 the Enterprise with a secretive mission like this? Perhaps there was a mole of some sort, and Remmick and Quinn didn’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. But why? Why were Picard’s logs so suspicious?

And so Remmick works his way through the crew (while referencing multiple episodes from this season), trying to get any of the crew to prove that Picard was lying or compromised or unfit for duty. Given the eventual end to “Coming of Age,” I wonder if Remmick even knew what Quinn was intending the entire time. (I’m guessing he didn’t, given what Remmick asks of Picard before he leaves.) This wasn’t an investigation; it was a job interview. I did enjoy that Picard made his decision about the offer while helping Wesley; that was a nice touch. But I’m very confused about Quinn’s justification of this job offer. Like… the reveal that someone is trying to destroy the Federation seems like a HUMONGOUS THING, and yet, it’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 I’m not expecting it. Otherwise? I thought this was a good episode. This season is still fairly slow, and I wouldn’t say it’s totally grabbed me yet. But I know I’ve got a lot more to watch, you know? I’m giving it time.

The video for “Coming of Age” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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