Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Rascals"

**

Air date: 11/2/1992
Teleplay by Allison Hock
Story by Ward Botsford & Diana Dru Botsford and Michael Piller
Directed by Adam Nimoy

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

High Concept 101: Four crew members (Picard, Guinan, Ro, and Keiko O'Brien) traveling in a shuttlecraft pass through an energy matrix that turns them into children, roughly aged nine to 12. Their memories and mental functions are not affected; only their bodies are transformed. Crusher begins looking for the cause and a cure; meanwhile, the four children ponder the notion of having to grow up all over again while the crew wrestles with the awkwardness of suddenly having a 12-year-old captain.

"Rascals" is hit-and-miss — mostly miss, I'm afraid. The premise strikes me as particularly ludicrous, even for Star Trek, but the sci-fi explanations behind it are treated with a conviction that's admirable, I suppose. What displays less conviction and admirableness are the child performances (save the young version of Picard, who seems decent — or maybe I'm simply fooled by the appearance of credibility from his British accent) and the awkward writing surrounding the adult-in-child-body situations.

The episode briefly ponders the consequences of Miles and Keiko now looking at a 30-year age gap in their marriage, leading to Keiko's line, "Does this mean our marriage is over?" The implications of that question are uncomfortable — which is perhaps why we should be glad this particular story avenue is so quickly abandoned. On the other hand, watching Guinan try to coax the inner child out of the ever-sullen Ro (who had a rough childhood and doesn't feel a need to repeat it) is mostly a waste of time, culminating in a particularly cringe-worthy scene where they jump on the bed.

The episode takes a sudden left turn when a band of Ferengi pirates takes over the Enterprise in a sequence that proves far too easy for the Ferengi while making the crew — and Worf in particular — look stunningly incompetent. It doesn't help matters that the Ferengi are in turn so stupid as to make the crew's re-takeover of the ship seem equally too easy. It's like a battle of the hopelessly inept here.

The action gags naturally revolve around the fact that the Ferengi don't know that the ship's captain and three other crew members are actually among the kids who have been minimally locked down. One gag that works okay has child-Picard pretend to be Riker's son, and they formulate a plan in a coded conversation while an unsuspecting Ferengi listens in. "Rascals" isn't a terrible episode, but it doesn't for one moment transcend a premise that was questionable to begin with.

Previous episode: True Q
Next episode: A Fistful of Datas

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41 comments on this review

Patrick - Sat, Jun 9, 2012 - 3:40pm (USA Central)
There's a sad undertone in this episode, that I never occurred to me until recently: this is the last episode EVER of TNG that feature's Whoopi Goldberg's character of Guinan as a source of (arguable) wisdom--which was one of the most wonderfully magical aspects of the series.

After this episode, she appears in this season's "Suspicions" as nothing more than a plot device and then that's that for her on the series! (She does not appear in season 7 at all)

And then she's shunted into being another plot device in Star Trek Generations and then into a pointless cameo in Star Trek Nemesis.

The character of Guinan deserved better.
David - Sat, Jun 9, 2012 - 11:14pm (USA Central)
I can't believe he only gave 2 stars to this ep. It is not great but is a nice entertaining hour--3 stars.

I enjoyed the takeover, Alexander in the mix, the "tag you're it" commbadge trick by Guinan and Ro, Troi's nice scene with Picard about getting a second childhood without all the pain etc. It was fun and honestly I can't ask for more than that.
Latex Zebra - Sun, Jun 10, 2012 - 4:04am (USA Central)
I always liked this episode, liked, not loved. Whilst I agree the bed jumping scene is a bit 'urgh' I do understand what they were trying to do with it.
Kiddy Picard is a hoot though.
Joseph B - Sun, Jun 10, 2012 - 1:56pm (USA Central)
I actually "sort of" liked this episode. I agree that the capture of the ship was a little too easy; but the recapture was credible given the fact that the Ferengi had no idea that the Captain was currently in a kid's body!
Peter H - Sun, Jun 10, 2012 - 2:51pm (USA Central)
On paper this is just the sort of Crew Undergo Temporary Body Transformation plot I can't stand in sci fi. However, even with the inclusion of the Ferengi, I find it oddly watchable. A fair, but fondly given, two stars does feel like the right score for me.
Jay - Mon, Jun 11, 2012 - 4:25pm (USA Central)
I thought the Picard kid was the most excruciating of all of them...
Nick P. - Tue, Jun 12, 2012 - 8:23am (USA Central)
I think there is a growing consensus on this episode that I must agree with. I don't want to like this episode, but I do, I can't help it, it is just good stupid fun. I hate even wirting this, but I always tell people this is stupid, but it is one of the few later episodes that I will stop and watch when flipping though stations.
Nic - Tue, Jun 12, 2012 - 4:11pm (USA Central)
I always laugh at the scene where young Picard argues with the daycare computer. "Can you spell Enterprise? E - N " etc.
JoshB - Wed, Jun 13, 2012 - 1:43pm (USA Central)
The bit where Riker tries to 'teach' the Enterprise's computer system to the Ferengi is hilarious. I think this episode - and the one after it - was fun. Nothing much to it, but fun.
Brendan - Sat, Jun 16, 2012 - 4:21am (USA Central)
The made up technobabble by Riker was a great in-joke that I thought deserved a shout out and I'm surprised it didn't get one.
MadBaggins - Sat, Jun 16, 2012 - 7:44am (USA Central)
If this was a DS9 episode you would have given it 3 stars.
Elliott - Wed, Jun 20, 2012 - 1:14pm (USA Central)
I have to agree with MadBaggins, but I definitely don't think this episode deserves even the 2 stars it gets. There is only one reason to watch this episode and that's for mini-Picard (played by the same lad who portrayed René in "Family"--I wish they'd kept him in for "Generations").
Paul - Wed, Jun 20, 2012 - 3:39pm (USA Central)
Oh, quit the Jammer/DS9 bashing.

Patrick - Thu, Jun 21, 2012 - 11:47pm (USA Central)
In some ways I wish this was the last episode with Ro Laren (rather than season 7's "Preemptive Strike"). It would be a rather nice way for her character to go out on a light note with her as a child coloring with her *first* friend, Guinan and getting to experience a little childhood before returning to adulthood on screen. I would have preferred my final TV memory of her character that way.

"Preemptive Strike" is really just a gimmick to lay some of the foundation for Star Trek: Voyager. It's just a cold and sad way to remember her pointing a phaser at Riker before she beamed out.
Ravo - Mon, Jun 25, 2012 - 3:41am (USA Central)
@ MadBaggins & Elliott. Why are you two even here?

This episode is garbage and I think 2-stars is pretty generous. Two birds of prey (commanded by the entirely inept Ferengi) taking a galaxy class ship. Plus Worf and Data have the worse case of 'delayed reaction syndrome' I've seen. To me these events were even more implausible than the crew becoming kids. Ugh, nothing the episode did after this could have redeemed itself.
Elliott - Mon, Jun 25, 2012 - 2:01pm (USA Central)
@ Ravo :

What do you mean? I said I agree that this is a lousy episode and that it deserves no more than 2 stars.
Tornado - Sun, Jul 15, 2012 - 2:13pm (USA Central)
Would've given this at least a half-star lower for lack of plausibility--I'm not a nitpicker (really), but if those Ferengi can take over a Galaxy-class starship, Starfleet is simply a joke. One of my least favorite episodes of the entire series.
Shane - Sun, Jul 22, 2012 - 4:15am (USA Central)
I enjoy this episode EXCEPT for the takeover of the ship. The Galaxy-Class Flagship of the Federation is taken over by two Bird of Prey and a handful of Ferengi? That's just embarrassing. (We all know it got worse when Riker's incompetence caused the destruction of the Enterprise in Generations!) I'd have been happier if the Ferengi used some the technobabble gas or energy weapon or whatever it was in the Enterprise with Ferengi to knockout the crew for a while.

Anyway, back to the episode, it's fun for the most part. As mentioned above Riker's technobabble explanation of the computer is great fun. I'd love to use that lengthy quote on some computer illiterate person sometime!

Something I've noticed reading reviews lately on Trek is that adults seem to dislike or even hate episodes having to do with children or taking a child's point of view. Naturally I enjoyed these episodes and I guess I'm still a child at heart so I can still enjoy such episodes. The jumping on the bed scene or the ending with Ro coloring might be cheesy to some, but I like those moments just fine.
David - Sat, Jul 28, 2012 - 7:32am (USA Central)
@Patrick
"Preemptive Strike" is really just a gimmick to lay some of the foundation for Star Trek: Voyager. It's just a cold and sad way to remember her pointing a phaser at Riker before she beamed out.

Actually I always felt like the Maquis was a DS9 plotline that Voyager took and ran with, then didn't know what to do with it.

Also, I kind of like that that was her ending (though I would like a canon explanation of if she survived the death of the Maquis somehow). It made sense for her, I think if she had made peace with her demons and lived a happy life on the Enterprise, it would have felt fake somehow. I think Ro would always be looking for a family, then regarding it with suspicion when she found it.

But yes, she really did feel like a DS9 immigrant on TNG. I suppose everyone has heard that bit of trivia that she would have been Sisko's first officer, but Michelle Forbes couldn't commit as a regular? It's an interesting what-if.
microfish - Wed, Aug 15, 2012 - 8:49am (USA Central)
This episode would have been better, if in the end Ro decided to remain a kid. That might have been a bold character development. They wouldnt need any commitment of Michelle Forbes to keep the character around, and they could have an interesting underestimated kid flying the ship... More interesting than Wesley in the first seasons thats for sure.

Why wouldn't she want to be kid again with all the knowledge of a grownup? I can understand the reasons for Guinan, Keiko and Picard to be adults again, but not so much for Ro.
Mike Caracappa - Thu, Aug 30, 2012 - 4:19am (USA Central)
I like this episode okay, it's fun. I agree the best part is when Riker pretends to be Picards father, and there's that moment where the two of them give the Ferengi the forced father\son smile hoping the Ferengis buy into it. Hilarious stuff :)
Andi - Wed, Sep 26, 2012 - 8:04am (USA Central)
I think there is one big misconception about this episode.
I don't think it is meant for adults. I watched it the other day with my 7-year old. He laughs, whenever he sees a Ferengi because the ears are so funny to him. And when saw that Captain Picard as a boy, he felt like he could be the Captain, too. It was very exciting for him, how the children could trick the adult Ferengis.
Also, seeing Picard give Riker a hug made him laugh a lot, making him want to pretend he was my father :-)

I feel, to really appreciate this episode you have to watch it with a child.

If you don't like the episode, maybe it's not that the episode is bad, just that you are maybe not in the target group of this particular one.
TH - Wed, Jan 16, 2013 - 2:48pm (USA Central)
I always liked this episode, but I never considered it to be "good". It's cheesy silliness, but it is entertaining. Perhaps 2 stars is appropriate; perhaps another half or two might be in order.

My biggest problem with the episode is, as you noted, the ease at which the ship is taken over. I'm not as messed about the ease at which it's taken back.

I do have a bit of a qualm about the characterizatino of the children, however. I found it too hard to believe that Picard could not manage to figure out the daycare computer without advice from... whoever it was... What you really have to do is remember these are the adult minds. Put the adult cast in their places and see if the scenes ring true. I don't see adult Picard needing someone to explain to him how to use the kids computer.
defiantmacho - Mon, Jan 21, 2013 - 12:33pm (USA Central)
@Andi:
I think your assessment is about the only logical one for this one. Your comments made a lot of sense. I'm gonna watch this with my little nephew and see his reaction.
DavidK - Sun, Jan 27, 2013 - 6:04am (USA Central)
I'm probably most confused by the character choices in this episode. Picard, Guinan, Ro and Keiko, seems like the most random selection of characters I can think of!

I can kind of see the thought process. Picard has child issues, so he's a given. Ro is an interesting choice given she associates childhood with such horrible experiences. How the issue affects a marriage is interesting, so either Keiko or O'Brien are good choices (even though, as Jammer points out, the episode doesn't really go there). And Guinan, er, got me there.

So there's a semblance of logic, but on paper it's an amusingly random group. I imagine if this were a DS9 episode it would have been Ishka, Eddington, Bareil and that Breen commander Thot Gor (haha, okay maybe not *that* random).
mike - Tue, Mar 5, 2013 - 10:05pm (USA Central)
I wanted to like this episode because the boy who played a young Picard was very good. It would have been more fun if he had spent more time with the bridge crew. I was dying to here him say "make it so". Nevertheless, I can't honestly say it worked because the premise was so hokey. Okay, I'm suppose to believe a transporter malfunction can turn you in a child. Right. Even if I could believe it how do explain they all materialized with clothing that fit? No, I'm sorry. I just suspend enough disbelief to get into this one. Alexander proves he is as boring with other children as he is with Worf.
Leto - Mon, Apr 15, 2013 - 12:14am (USA Central)
I just watched this I think 2 stars is about right. (although maybe 1.5 cause the bed jumping scene detracts a half star itself).

@mike
young picard did say "make it so" just not on the bridge. He said it to Guinan and Ro when they were going into the duct.
T'Paul - Sun, Jun 16, 2013 - 1:45pm (USA Central)
Can't help a bit of nitpicking here... For Jammer Little Picard's accent helps ... but Little Picard can't even say his own last name right! Also, Guinan says Tarkazian razor beast here differently than when she is an adult. I know that's extremely pedantic, but still, why would the way the characters pronounce certain words change just because they're smaller?

The rest was more or less OK... Guinan playing a counsellor role with Ro (Last episode it was crusher, this time it's Guinan, where's Troi?).

As others have said the technobabble scene was good, and yes, it's a little implausible that the inept Ferengi could take over the ship.

I think the issues explored by each character who becomes a child are interesting enough (if brief) except for Guinan.

But still, not awful
J - Mon, Jul 1, 2013 - 12:02pm (USA Central)
I actually enjoyed this episode. It was stupid but fun.

I think the scene where young Picard throws a temper tantrum demanding to see his father is worth a shout out. How difficult must that have been for Picard, who hates children and is used to giving orders, to have to throw a fit like that? It was very comical.

I agree with Nic, I thought the interaction with the kid's computer was pretty funny. Riker's technobabble was a great scene too.
J - Mon, Jul 1, 2013 - 12:03pm (USA Central)
I would have liked to see a little bit more of Worf -> Alexander pride for him stepping up to help. I like that Worf's son was the only true kid up to the task, and I wish they would have played on that a bit more.
Corey - Fri, Jul 12, 2013 - 11:59am (USA Central)
I agree with many of the posters that this show was implausible, but fun. I would tempted to give it 2.5 stars instead of Jammer's two stars though.

One scene I always enjoyed was when a ferengi gets beamed to the shielded transporter pad, and he beats his chest like "I will show you how to get out of here!" and crashes into the forcefield. Ferengi arrogance at its finest!

The Riker computer technobabble was awesome too.

One thing that was never explained - surely there were other ferengi in the birds of prey - what did they do once they realized they lost control of the Enterprise - how did the Enterprise crew deal with that problem? The show ended with the officers who became kids, so guess this was a character outing and not an action show...
Dan - Thu, Jul 18, 2013 - 12:17am (USA Central)
This episode had the stupidity of voyager (from season 5-7 especially) premise in a TNG episode. It's a shame that an episode of TNG was wasted for such nonsense. Go back to episodes of the third season with heavy political undertones (the Enemy is an example) and compare it with this one. You'd think it's two different series.
Adara - Fri, Jul 26, 2013 - 3:22am (USA Central)
I thought mini-Picard and mini-Guinan were totally believable. The other two kid actors not so much. I agree with pretty much everyone that it's a 2-star episode and far more entertaining than it should be, but one thing really bothered me: They were not really 12 years old. Your age is how long you've been alive. I see no reason why Picard would have to step down and act like a child. This is Star Trek. Weird stuff happens every day. I found Troi and Picard's conversation to be highly implausible.
mephyve - Sun, Jul 28, 2013 - 3:37pm (USA Central)
Mr. OBrien, what's your take on this episode?

"I dunno ... it just seems wrong ... somehow "

Let's here what little Picard thinks.

"This is ridiculous"

There you have it folks. Couldn't have said it better myself.
navamske - Sat, Aug 10, 2013 - 10:09pm (USA Central)
I realize we're supposed to suspend disbelief and not analyze things too much, but here goes. I find it difficult to accept that whatever transporter wackiness was responsible for turning the characters into children would make them all the same age. These are four people of mostly disparate ages: Picard is about 50, Ro and Keiko are about 30, and Guinan is at least 500. At best the transporter mishap should have *reduced* them in age by the same amount. Obviously that wouldn't work because if it reduced them by 38 years -- to get Picard to age 12 -- then Ro and Keiko wouldn't even be there, and Guinan would show no change at all. But it still bugs me.
Grumpy - Sun, Aug 11, 2013 - 9:56pm (USA Central)
navamske, you're forgetting this is a Fun With DNA(tm) episode. They were each turned into preadolescents, regardless of their initial ages, because the thingy masked the genetic factors associated with adult growth. Which teaches us that A) there are genetic factors for adult growth; B) the transporter re-grows organisms by reading their DNA; and C) Bajorans and El Aurians go through puberty at the same age as humans.
William B - Mon, Aug 26, 2013 - 10:29am (USA Central)
The funniest moment in this episode for me is not an actual joke, but a moment in which the teleplay (reportedly given a last minute rewrite by RDM, who has mostly said that he thinks the concept was worthless and did what he could) moves up to the edge of and then swerves away from stating in dialogue the utterly ludicrous: when Geordi and O'Brien are examining the shuttle's hull, they start talking about how the shuttle's hull seems to have been...brought back into its constituent components...which is never brought up again, but the implication, to me, is -- "Oh, the shuttle's hull got YOUNGER, went back to a stage before the constituent components had 'matured' chemically!" I laughed and laughed, especially at the fact that the teleplay wouldn't come right out and say this, because it is so ridiculous and highlights exactly how implausible all this is. Really, trying to find a random-sci-fi accident to justify this is going asking for trouble; it's concepts like this that is the reason the Original Series had superbeings show up every couple of episodes.

Anyway, the episode (and the following one) belong to the same category as the one-two punch of "Disaster" and "The Game" in early season five, of high concept episodes which strain credibility and are nevertheless somewhat fun. The utter incompetence of the whole ship and crew (besides the kids themselves) is hard not to react to with contempt. That the whole crew is overpowered by a half-dozen guys with disruptors sure make them look ridiculous, especially when the Ferengi in question turn out to be idiotic and incompetent to an extreme degree. The main problem, I guess, is that it's hard to know how exactly to manufacture a conflict wherein the adult-kids can save the day, and I'm not sure what the best way to do that is, but making it so that the four adult-kids and Alexander do what a thousand or so adults can't bends the episode's universe too far. Yet, somehow it annoys me a little less than "The Game's" positioning Wesley & Robin as the only members of the crew able not to become instantly addicted to an evil-making game, partly because this episode acknowledges that it's all in fun a little more clearly.

The other thing is that the Ferengi themselves have pretty consistently been used since season two to signal that these are villains that are *annoying* but not actually threatening; or, they might in-universe provide a deadly threat, but we know not to worry all that much about it, because the Ferengi are comedy characters. The Ferengi ostensibly could destroy Riker's ship in "Peak Performance," but the reason it was the Ferengi rather than the Romulans or Borg who showed up is that those villains are ones where the end result is at least partially in doubt; they are the villains in comic (or attempted-comic) stories like "Captain's Holiday" and "Menage a Trois"; the Ferengi are there to muck things up in "The Price" or "The Perfect Mate" without actually being significant enough to mess up the central romantic plot. And so the Ferengi's presence is another signal not to take this too seriously, which is a way of acknowledging that the writers (RDM in particular, I'd bet) know that this is ridiculous and kind of universe-integrity-destroying if taken seriously, so please don't take it seriously, we just have to barrel forward, okay?

I'm willing to make that leap for a great story. It's trickier when it's a moderate story like this one. The episode's central arc is for the adults-turned-kids to learn that there are certain things about childhood that they can use and perhaps integrate into their adult lives. Guinan knows this already, because she's a sage and mostly knows everything. Picard and Ro don't, because both have big childhood issues. And Keiko, um -- well, Keiko is off doing her own story about how awkward a marriage would be if one adult suddenly changed into a child, which is sort of funny and very awkward. So the main arc is Picard and Ro accepting their child-state, with Guinan as the primary guide. It helps that my favourite child actors are the ones playing Picard (by a fair margin) and Ro, that they have the meatiest material. Ro's is the more straightforward (and perhaps successful) story; despite the silliness of the bedjumping scene, the basic idea is that Ro has a chance to revisit her formative years and see them as something other than terrible -- which is part of her overall arc which seems to be to reconnect to her Bajoran roots. She draws her mother here, and finds a proxy father in "Preemptive Strike."

There is a missed opportunity with Picard, who of course skipped his entire childhood. Somehow the image of a child Picard still wearing his captain's uniform, played by the same actor who plays Rene who is also skipping his own childhood in order to dream of the stars, has a lot of resonance for the guy who never thought that frivolous play had any worth and was just counting down the years until he could be a captain. The plot does end with Picard playacting a child ("now! now! now!") and learning to think like a child, at least a little bit, and to use play (tag! you're it!) to take back the ship where adult tactics failed hilariously. But somehow I think the character story should have been a bit more explicit, that Picard would openly say that he is aware that he missed his childhood and maybe, with a little more age, he can see that there is something to respect in children that he has hitherto not been able to see. The story hints at this, and I think most of the young-Picard scenes are good (I like his conversation with Troi, for instance), but I don't think it goes all the way there.

Anyway, I like the Picard-Riker son-father bits. ("He's my number one dad!") I think that the tag game is fairly fun if silly. If the embracing-of-youth material was actually stronger for Picard especially (and if Keiko's story wasn't a non-starter), I might be happier about this episode even if it's ludicrous. As is, I think a high 2 stars is about right, though I do find myself tempted to go up to 2.5.
Trekkie - Thu, Dec 19, 2013 - 1:39pm (USA Central)
I think I know the reason why this episode was met with two stars generally. It's because most of the audience are boring with hardly any imagination. I guess thats what growing up does to you. I can't be sure, but maybe that was the point of the episode.
Nissa - Sat, Jan 4, 2014 - 1:21am (USA Central)
I actually love this episode. Even the bed-jumping scene. Guinan-child was adorable. Actually, I love all of them. Maybe it's just my taste for the implausible, but this is just so much fun I can't hate it.
Moonie - Thu, Jan 23, 2014 - 4:26pm (USA Central)
I loved this episode much more than I expected to. Young Picard was fantastic, then the Riker/Picard father/son scene, or Riker explaining the Enterprise's computer to the Ferengi... that was too funny. An episode I was expecting to hate but turned out to love!
Smith - Mon, Feb 17, 2014 - 7:00pm (USA Central)
This is a popular "least favorite episode" with fans which baffled me as I thought it was a fun episode with good energy and creativity. The kid actors were actually pretty good for kid actors.

The technical critiques felt like nitpicking and miss the point of science fiction abstraction which is not literal.

The only weak part of the show was Guinan lecturing Ro on how to be a kid and Ro whining about her past. Then the bed jumping scence (shudders). But that was a small part of the episode.

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