Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Coming of Age"

2.5 stars

Air date: 3/14/1988
Written by Sandy Fries
Directed by Michael Vejar

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Wesley Crusher takes the Starfleet entrance exam, pitted against three other young candidates who are as brilliant as he is. Only the highest of the four scores will go to Starfleet Academy. This is the sort of story that, at age 12, made me fear for my future of entering high school and college. Consider — here were four fictional characters who were far more brilliant than I was, and three of them would be going home as failures, despite their brilliance. Now there's a frightening message about competition for a 12-year-old. Guess you'd better study harder, kids.

Finally, this is a Wesley-oriented storyline I can tolerate. The reason it works is because it treats Wesley as a teenager instead of the crazy kid who saves the ship with his implausible genius. It treats him as a young person who has a lot to learn about life. Yes, he may be a hopeless geek (and still annoying), but at least the story recognizes him for his human qualities rather than his techo-plot ones (the "stress test" at the end deals with his own personal issues rather than his warp theories).

Meanwhile, on the Enterprise, Picard's old friend Admiral Quinn (Ward Costello) sends in his investigative pit bull, Lt. Cmdr. Remmick (Robert Schenkkan), to look for problems in Picard's command. Remmick interrogates the entire bridge crew, pissing off everybody in the process. This leads to some pretty good scenes of conflict on a show sometimes notorious for its lack of interpersonal conflict. The investigation is dramatically on shaky ground because the episode never says what Quinn and Remmick are looking for (except "problems"). In the end, Quinn levels with Picard about a possible conspiracy within Starfleet, and offers him a promotion. It's a strange, albeit watchable, series of notions, interviews, questions, and conclusions.

Although it doesn't have a strong driving focus, "Coming of Age" is about the personnel workings of the Enterprise crew more than it's about a generic plot, which is in its favor.

Previous episode: Home Soil
Next episode: Heart of Glory

Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.

◄ Season Index

50 comments on this post

Fri, Jan 14, 2011, 9:51pm (UTC -6)
You know, when I was a kid I thought Wesley Crusher was awesome. I was always considered bright. I went to a magnet public school for gifted children, and had a college reading level by second grade. So, I think I sympathized with Wesley and his struggle to be taken seriously because I frequently struggled to be taken seriously myself.

When I was in grade school, I read a lot of the great classics of literature and I thought that my comprehending the language of what I was studying meant that I understood what the author was trying to say. In jr high, I took the SATs early and thought that I understood what it meant to cram for an exam. By high school, I was taking college classes and I thought that I understood what it meant to be a college student.

Well, the truth is I didn't really understand anything; and neither does Wesley Crusher. Being smart enough to learn answers quickly does not make up for a lack of emotional depth or substitute for real life experience. Being intelligent without boundaries leads to over confidence and, eventually, mistakes. It is important to question yourself and to learn to work with others. I know that now.

Someone should have told all of that to Wesley Crusher! Where as I used to love watching Wesley outsmart the adults, I now just feel annoyed at his arrogance and lack of supervision. Sure, Wesley saved the ship plenty of times. But, he nearly destroyed the ship on more than one occasion as well. Who in their right mind lets a teenager pilot a galaxy class starship? Not even the most genius of adolescents deserves that kind of power.

It's funny. Wes was my favorite character when I was a little girl. But, now I literally just cringe whenever he opens his mouth. How annoying is he in the naked now? Ugh, awful.

@impronen Haha, I love your description of season one as being "one facepalm after another"! Too true.
Jake Taylor 07
Sun, Mar 13, 2011, 11:35pm (UTC -6)
In this first season episode, we follow the familiar A/B storyline. In the A plot the Enterprise is being investigated by one Lt. Remmick who along with Admiral Quinn has come aboard to determine 'what is wrong' with the ship. In the B plot, oddly for which it is titled Wesley takes his academy entrance exam on the planet Relva.
Lt. Remmick proceeds to observe the bridge crew a bit, then question First Officer Riker about the captain. Riker’s offended and storms into a lift, telling him he will answer questions later. Way to cooperate there Number One. Yes, Remmick is written as an ass, and the actor portrays him as such during his subsequent questioning of the crew.
Meanwhile, Wesley makes friends with fellow Academy hopefuls on the planet, and befriends a Benzitte named Mendon. Here he helps him with words of encouragement. Wes passes many of the early tests without issue, including a (supposedly) hotheaded officer who tries to pick a fight with him. The Lieutenant who runs the testing facility, Chang (no not the Kingon commander from Star Trek VI, just a token Asian in command) sees this altercation and commends Wesley on standing up to the bully. Wesley explains that he noticed that he had webbed hands. He told Lieutenant Chang that he knows his race thinks being police is phony, so stood up to him. Mendon tells Wesley he’s so smart, and he'd wouldn't have known that. So the only reason Wesley didn't get his ass kicked, is because he happened to know about this rare one off alien race we've never seen, and will never see again. This whole altercation is weird and really comes off awkward. It makes little sense from an viewpoint, and succeeds only in making Mendon feel inferior.
Back on the flagship of the Federation, Picard and Remmick are on the bridge when on the civilians, a teen boy, steals one of the shuttles, and gets caught in the gravity well of a planet. Remmick, in true ass mode interrupts Picard during the boys call for help in which we learn he has 30 seconds to alter course before he crashes. Remmick things this is a good time to tell Picard that if he dies the boys blood is on Picard’s hands. Well I can see that, but I mean he sure picked a awful time to state the obvious. Picard is clearly, and understandably annoyed at the guest lieutenant. He then instructs the boy to safety, showing that when he gives an order people trust him, and they listen. He even goes so far as to say "This is you an order..." I know its the first season, but the arrogance of the characters is so high to think that this boy frightened out his mind, clearly already unstable is going to follow instructions from the captain which I may point out instinctive would seem wrong, would snap into obey mode on a dime. I mean the kids not even a cadet! Alas, the boy is saved and even Remmick gives a "yes!" and a fist pump before reverting to full dick mode, and continuing his investigation of the crotchety and snobby old English accented French captain.
Wesley is back on the ship during his break, and is walked in on by Worf while in the holodeck. No not caught with a holographic version of Lt. Yar topless or anything- just standing there. Worf asks what’s up and Wesley tells him he’s worried about the phsyc test. In a nice moment Worf tells him not to worry about things he can't control, and says "only fools have no fear." I want you to remember that as later this human side of Worf disappears and is replaced by the cardboard cutout Klingon warrior Worf. In fact I am almost positive at one point in the series later on he says "I fear nothing!", but that is neither here nor there, and on with "CoA"....
The question continues until it reaches the point where Remmick finally get to Picard himself. Well see Picard's had enough of this without knowing what this is all about, so he goes to his friend, and Remmick's boss, Admiral Quinn. Quinn brings Remmick and he delivers his report: he can find nothing wrong on board the USS Enterprise. It seems his whole heel persona was just a tool for his investigation. In fact he even tells Picard he'd like to serve there in six months when he’s free from Quinn, and Picard gives him the no fing way look. Picard then says to Remmik what’s this all about? Quinn hints the infiltration by something, or someone (which sets up the seasons later episode "Conspiracy") and he had to be sure Picard was who he said he was. Picard is angry at this whole ordeal. That’s when Quinn thinks it would be a good idea to offer him a promotion to Admiral and a post as commandant of Starfleet Academy. Picard is still annoyed, and now befuddled. Why? Quinn says he needs him close, and he needs and answer soon. Picard angered that this was all about him tells him he will have on tonight. (Does the Admiral really expect him to accept? We are told they are friends, but Quinn cannot talk to Picard like a man and tell him what’s going on?)
The payoff to the Wes story is that he first passes his physc test in which he saves 2 crew members of the testing center?/ school/ star base on the ground. However during the final academic test he stops to help Mendon with a question which causes him to finish the test second, and no get accepted to the academy as a result! Wes may be book smart, but it seems the kid has no common sense. That is all I can figure from this. Not only is it stupid, but it seems like it would surely be a breech of testing regulations, but whatever.
Back on the ship Picard in his dress uniform, chats with Wesley who is hanging around in the observation lounge. This scene works well as Picard takes the roll of father figure telling Wes to measure his successes from within. Not to worry what anyone else thinks, and that he will get in next time. The interaction between Steward, and Wheaton feels real, and the two will have many more father/son moments to come.
We never see Picard decline Quinn's offer, but we don't need to. We also are not told why it is so imperative that Quinn get Picard home, or what the threat is. Does he want him home because he is concerned for his friends well being? I don’t see how him being the head of the academy makes him any more valuable to defend against this unspecified we don’t really know why Quinn went through all the motions. So in the end what do have, a nice story about Wesley, and a teaser for the week after next's show...all in all it feels unfinished, some clunky moments, but all in all its enjoyable to watch and well paced. Wesley confronts something that many young people must receives some good advice along the way. The typical early TNG snobiness is there, but its not out of control as on some other episodes. But the lack of resolution on what I called the A story, since it deals with the "larger" aspect of entire Enterprise is unfinished. This is why this episode gets six and points out of ten. Its only half done, even thought its engaging, its incomplete.
Jake Taylor 07
Sun, Mar 13, 2011, 11:37pm (UTC -6)
The above comments are for "Coming of Age"
Fri, Aug 10, 2012, 11:31am (UTC -6)
This was my favorite episode at the time, mostly due to the lack of competition than by the ep's own merit.

I still like it even with all those small mistakes (finely detailed by Jake Taylor 07). The fact that doesn't feel like a complete story actually plays in its favor, making this one the first non-single-ep contained story of all TNG.

It's also cool to see a story about Wesley Crusher that doesn't suck. While the tests were kinda awkward and Wes friend has the face of a fish, it's still fun to see and actually has a point (unlike 80% of the first season).

And I thought they wanted to get rid of Picard, so Admiral Quinn would take his place. I was surprised when it was actually revealed to be a test of trustworthiness.
Thu, Aug 23, 2012, 3:47pm (UTC -6)
Season 1 seems really dated, but the series does have its highlights, and I think this episode is one of them.

Wesley remains too smart for me - the scene where the alien lieutenant (looked far too human to me!) shouted at Wesley, and WC calmly explained to Chang that he knew that their race hated politeness, seemed a stretch too far. Wesley may have been on the Enterprise, but to pick out one species from the many the crew must have encountered, seems too easy to just 'know'. I accept Wes is supposed to be super smart...but even Chang says he doesn't get through the test not only because of losing time, but other things too. Are Benzites supposed to be that smart?

The other story, with Remmick and Quinn determined to find something wrong with the ship, is far more engaging, although Quinn comes off like all the Admirals (maybe with the exception of Ross in DS9) - stuffy and full of themselves. No wonder Picard turns the 'offer' down.

Good episode, though who thought up Wesley and Deanna's uniforms in season 1?
Sun, Nov 4, 2012, 1:39pm (UTC -6)
Although I dislike Wes, I loved his smile at the last scene.

Not a top episode, but a good one, of these that make me love watching Star Trek.
Tue, Nov 13, 2012, 8:43pm (UTC -6)
More wooden acting from a redwood tree that tries to look like a human earthling female, and an overly-pompous Vulcan, but despite one plot point I liked this one.

The plot twists and turns are good, as is Wes, but - let's face it - one training center to take just one person to add to the Fleet's ranks is highly inefficient and dubious in concept.

Chang is too polite (even for the pre-PC era) as well. Worse, Wesley should have won - he's helping others in a crucial moment is surely a bigger qualifier for being able to work in TEAMS, which is crucial in high stress situations??

But the trials Wesley goes through are great, as is the subplot with the Admiral and his staff.

3 of 4
William B
Tue, Mar 26, 2013, 9:02pm (UTC -6)
It may be that I am too generous to this because it is in the midst of TNG season 1, and any bright spot seems brighter than it otherwise would be. Still, I think this is a good show. The Wesley material, if occasionally a bit silly -- the Zaldan thing doesn't quite work -- is the best use of the character in this season ("Where No One Has Gone Before" gets an honourable mention) and actually creates a story that makes him human and compelling. Remmick's investigation of the crew is a little repetitive, but helps demonstrate a real bond of loyalty between these characters. I like Picard's saving Corey (was it?) and the genuine sense of excitement that sequence creates, while operating in a very low key (as compared to the number of episodes where a superbeing threatens the ship).

I would like to see a bit more explicit character work on why Picard turned down the appointment to Starfleet Academy -- the episode parallels Picard and Wesley, as the two of them are both considering going to the Academy, and both end up not going, Wesley because he did not succeed enough and Picard because he feels that he's better-suited to the Enterprise. I do think that it's mostly that Picard sees himself losing his zeal in a political situation away from the exploration which he loves so much, as well as the obvious fact that he really does *like* his ship and crew and feels an attachment to them. Still, it is funny that the episode doesn't let us know much of Picard's own reasoning besides that he'll be most useful on the Enterprise.

I suppose 2.5 stars is an appropriate grade, but I can't help bumping it up to a low 3.
Sun, Apr 14, 2013, 2:11pm (UTC -6)
Is it just me or did they use the same orange thing "planet" prop thing for this and the previous two episodes?
Wed, May 15, 2013, 4:32pm (UTC -6)
With 'Home Soil' TNG turned round a shaky run of episodes since 11001100 and this episode continues that positive stretch. Again the episode has a dual plot. Whilst Wesley sits his entrance exam for Starfleet Academy, the Enterprise is visited by an Officer from the Inspector General's Office with a brief ' Find whatever is wrong on the ship'

With this kind of setup, much hinges on the Guest Actor coming in - fortunately Robert Schenkkan is sufficiently hostile to pose a genuine threat whilst not crossing the line into being ludicrous and the scenes where he interrogates the crew (especially the one with Data) are excellent.

As for Wesley, it might not be an exaggeration to say that he has been rather poorly served by many of season's one scripts - so it is a surprise to find one that uses him quite well. As Jammer says, this is probably the first episode (maybe Datalore?) where he isn't absurd because it emphasises his inexperience and callow nature. I enjoyed the scenes involving him and Mordock (John Putch)and the interaction between him and Worf show the growth in the latter character and might be the first time where he isn't merely 'the boy', at least from Worf's point of view.

A pretty good script by Sandy Fries, and (certainly in comparison with most of season one) Strong Direction by Mike Vejar add up to a strong episode overall - Agree with William B that this one merits 3 stars for me. An unexpected highlight and one that stands up quite well to repeat viewing.
Sat, Jan 11, 2014, 10:56pm (UTC -6)
I do love the line when Wesley explains that "Zaldans are infuriated by courtesy." That cracks me up every time!
Wed, Jul 16, 2014, 4:24pm (UTC -6)
In this episode, Wesley says "Because [Captain Picard]. . . because someone made a decision, and my father died because of it. . ."

Can anyone tell me if there was ever any followup to the story of what happened to Wesley's father: Jack Crusher?

The hints dropped up to this point in Season 1 suggested that this was going to be a significant backstory milestone impacting, and tying together, Picard, Beverly, and Wesley. IE: the latent romantic feelings between Beverly and Picard, (some level of mutual attraction, but also Picard feeling some sort of "duty" to care for Jack's widow since it seems Jack died under circumstances where Picard was somehow responsible.) Also, Picard started the series telling Riker that he does not know how to interact with children (dialog from Encounter at Farpoint), but when it comes to Wesley he makes special exceptions. Not just because Wesley is exceptionally talented, but because Picard sees Jack in him, and he again feels a subconscious obligation to support the family that Jack left behind when he died.

I'm re-watching the entire series, but in my memory I have no recollection of the show ever revisiting the topic of Jack Crusher after Season 1. Was this just a piece of character development that was abandoned by the writers? If so, I think that's a shame. I remain intrigued. And think the later seasons of TNG are worse off for supporting the pseudo-romantic relationship between Picard and Beverly, where the topic could have fit.
Diamond Dave
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 3:20pm (UTC -6)
More encouraging signs. Although it ends with nothing changed - Wesley doesn't go to Starfleet, Picard doesn't head up the Academy - there is at least some back story introduced in both plots that move some of the characters forward. Worf in particularly gets a couple of lines to suggest he's more than just a blank space for the first time.

Is the idea that something is not right in the Federation the beginning of a plot arc in this so far resolutely self-contained season? I guess we will see, but at least it hints at something of a bigger universe out there.

I enjoyed the direction of the interrogation scenes, and again this nicely confounds our expectations by making the investigation about something other than what it first appears. 2.5 stars.
Fri, Jan 29, 2016, 12:37pm (UTC -6)
i found 'coming of age' really tedious, it's a story that goes absolutely nowhere, has no point and is terribly acted
Fri, Feb 12, 2016, 8:11pm (UTC -6)
The premise of an entrance exam like this is such a huge plot hole. As someone pointed out earlier the inefficiencies of such a system, I as well, can't get over it. Once a year they take one "winner" of a small group from a large demographic and not test them the merit of how these exceptional candidates score universally. I look at some of the members of the enterprise and wonder how they ever passed that thing.

When I was a kid I thought they were all vying for early entrance into the academy or some kind of special track. As an adult I can only watch it if I find somewhere to air my grievance, however I realize now the similarity of the two story lines, that both the ship's crew and wesley were subject to a series of official tests and assessments with hidden meanings. Eases the pain.
Jason R.
Sun, Sep 18, 2016, 8:06pm (UTC -6)
"The premise of an entrance exam like this is such a huge plot hole. As someone pointed out earlier the inefficiencies of such a system, I as well, can't get over it. Once a year they take one "winner" of a small group from a large demographic and not test them the merit of how these exceptional candidates score universally. I look at some of the members of the enterprise and wonder how they ever passed that thing."

It gets even whackier when you think back to this episode during DS9 episodes like Sacrifice of Angels and What you Leave Behind. Never mind where are they getting all those ships that are getting blown up left and right. Where in holy blazes do they get all those officers to man the ships if even boy prodigy Wesley "Mozart" Crusher fails the entrance exam? How did Barclay ever get in?
Mon, Sep 19, 2016, 1:14am (UTC -6)
Agreed. As much as I liked this ep (well, compared to other eps in TNG S1 anyway), it struck me as very impractical. It would be one thing if it were an entrance exam for a special select program within Starfleet with only 1 space left. But an entrance exam to the academy in general? Come on. That's just ridiculous. Imagine the present day military operating like this; our army would be like five people.

I think it's reasonable to assume that Starfleet changed their policies later on after Wolf 359, but definitely after first contact with the Dominion. I remember someone saying that it would have been the worst kind of continuity to carry over the concept of "losing 40 ships is a major blow" from BOBW to the DS9 Dominion War storyline where ships were being lost by the hundreds. We can reasonably extrapolate that after Wolf 359 Starfleet stepped up recruiting and improved its shipbuilding tech. The same principle applies here.

Writers shouldn't be afraid to break continuity in these sorts of cases for the sake of realism/drama and hand wave it with "there have been some advancements in tech/social changes/etc since the last time". Of course there are times when this doesn't apply but you all get my point.
Mon, Sep 19, 2016, 1:19am (UTC -6)
An example to illustrate a "good" continuity break: In TNG the Benzites have a special breathing apparatus in S1 and S2. In the DS9 episode "The Ship" we saw the runabout pilot was a female Benzite without an apparatus. One can reasonably assume there were advancements in Benzite tech since TNG days without it being specifically stated.
Mon, Oct 17, 2016, 10:17am (UTC -6)
I noticed he said he wanted to serve on the Enterprise after his 6 months were up at Starfleet Command. Obviously that never happened because his head was blown off!
Wed, Nov 30, 2016, 4:39pm (UTC -6)
This was fairly watcheable but mainly because we all know Merrick is just a fleshy sack full of alien mind control parasitic worm thingies and he is gonna get his head phasered off in a few episodes.
Having something undefined going ominously wrong in the Federation is a good sub plot ,if a bit pulpy.
Like many I take issue with Wesley's academy entrance test .
Given Wesley is a super genius and fails the test we can only assume that Starfleet cadets must be representative of an infinitesimally tiny segment of the galactic population.
It is a bit of a waste to put redshirts on those guys.
Once the Borg let alone the Dominion start knocking at the door I bet they lower the standards a bit-either that or they should just use non commissioned officers and other ranks to do the donkey work on the spaceships.
I wonder if Merrick is a descendant of the merchant captain from Bread and Circuses.
Fri, Dec 30, 2016, 4:34pm (UTC -6)
The episode did say the test would admit only one from this facility. It is possible that there are hundreds of Starfleet Academy entrance exams held throughout the Federation and some of them might admit larger numbers, e.g. an Earth based exam might take the top hundred applicants, whereas Wesley just happened to be at a smaller outpost (since the Enterprise was away from home) that only had one slot.

The Federation has a population of hundreds of billions and Starfleet might only have a million people in it. So could be as little as 1 in 10,000 citizens in Starfleet... it is plausible that they can afford to reject 75% of applicants and still be fully staffed.
The Dreamer
Sun, Sep 24, 2017, 3:05pm (UTC -6)
Additional Bits and pieces of the Crusher Family/Picard history are touched on in the TNG episodes
Encounter at Farpoint;The Bonding,; Family; Violations ;Attached all contain details that flesh out this story arc, no specific episode focuses on it though
Sarjenka's Little Brother
Thu, Dec 21, 2017, 1:04am (UTC -6)
I've always liked this one. It's OK-to-good, but more importantly, it's important.

It marked a first step, so to speak, in a much more sophisticated storytelling than we had on the Original Series. In "Coming of Age," we learn that what has happened will have a bearing on the present, and what's happening currently will have a bearing on the future. There was almost none of that on the OS.

Also, it's a good "Federation" episode as they slowly start to paint us a picture of this planetary union. We get to meet a Benzite. And look -- a Vulcan girl! And finally Starfleet Academy is just more than one sentence of conversational chatter.

The intensive questioning by Remick has the important function of binding the crew. And it's another step in making Wesley slightly more tolerable.

Finally, I think they did a nice job of setting up the "Conspiracy" episode with just the right amount of foreshadowing.
Sun, Feb 25, 2018, 10:15am (UTC -6)
The numbers here just don't add up. Starfleet has hundreds of ships, personnel on planets and space stations, yet it's incredibly difficult to get into the academy, even to the point where they have to choose the best of 4 excellent candidates who have one chance per year. Who knows how many other candidates never even got this chance. Even if we consider this is just the best 4 candidates from a single base/system, it still gives an incredibly low number of students at the academy.

How can they possibly get enough staff for their starbases, ships and planets with such low recruitment? At this rate they'd struggle to replace the redshirts they lost each week on the Enterprise alone!

And, continuity error, if the entry requirements are so high, how the hell did we get some crewmembers with questionable competence in Voyager's Good Shepherd?
Peter Swinkels
Fri, Mar 2, 2018, 1:16pm (UTC -6)
All I can say is that this episode was pleasant enough to watch. Home Soil was fine, a few of the previous ones rather dull.
Sat, May 19, 2018, 6:13pm (UTC -6)
Nothing ground breaking here.
Tue, Oct 23, 2018, 7:23pm (UTC -6)
More TNG S1 mediocrity here with lot of stuff that doesn't make much sense. Wesley has to compete against 3 other brilliant kids to get admission to Star Fleet -- did every other person currently in SF have to go through the same BS or was Wes in line for some special training in the academy?

Next, Admiral Quinn's reason for his investigation of Picard is ridiculous and Remmick is super-annoying. So Quinn sees conspiracies everywhere - how is this idiot a SF admiral?

There's almost more for me to upset at with this episode but I did like Wesley in this one -- he's more like a normal 17-yr-old. And I did like how the crew didn't put up with Remmick's nonsense -- good to see a rise out of them. The character of each crew member (Worf, Data, Riker, Crusher) comes through in the different ways they "express" their levels of irritation.

The whole part about that Jake kid stealing the shuttlecraft was pretty dumb. So it purports to show Picard with an ingenious rescue -- but this was unnecessary as Remmick's investigation found nothing wrong. And what was wrong with Jake? He steals the shuttle - something about not being able to face his father? This whole "C-plot" should have been omitted from the episode.

Another gripe is the overacting in this episode -- does Remmick really need to come across as such an ass? Riker is always up for a pissing contest. Even Quinn and Picard get testy with each other -- I blame it more on Quinn and some poor writing.

2 stars for "Coming of Age" -- lots going on with the 2 main plots but both are ill-conceived and don't seem practical. Why can SF only admit 1 of the 4 brilliant entrants? The whole Quinn conspiracy thing as a means of determining if Picard is suitable to lead the academy - kind of ridiculous.
Tue, Dec 11, 2018, 12:08am (UTC -6)
3 stars. Another solid episode

I enjoyed both stories. The Wes one did a remarkably good job of being actually interesting and rekeateabke rather than coming across as fluff or filler. I enjoyed the group of students. I thought they were well cast and had good sense of camaraderie. It was fun seeing that even in the 24th century kids still are subjected to grueling testing measuring their aptitude’s. The introduction of the Benzite race was cool. Really interesting design

I enjoyed the twist on wes’ psyche test and his scene with Worf in the holodeck. The instructor proctoring the test was also nicely done. Wes also had a nice scene with Picard over failing and Picard sharing his story of failing the exam his first time too. In fact, Picard has another nice scene where he ran in with the young man who stole the shuttle. Instead of ignoring him or berating him he offered him his time, kindness and words of advice. Nicely done

The other story also was intriguing. The questioning of the crew. Wondering what was going on. Ultimately revealing something bigger at play with Quinn’s ominous warnings of strange going-ins at Starfleet settongup for the conspiracy episode later in the season. Remmick was the. Perfectly unlikeable investigator. Worf’s quip about not realizing liking remmick was a requirement lol then remmick ultimately from his interactions realizing he wanted to serve on the enterorise one day. Quinn was also perfectly cast as well.

The visual of the starbase was nicely done and Picard guiding the young man on the shuttle was tense and exciting
Sun, Feb 24, 2019, 11:11pm (UTC -6)
It’s a good thing you’re cute, Wesley, or you could really be obnoxious.

Another solid episode. Not much to add to the previous comments. I appreciate the continuity to Conspiracy, coming a few episodes later. 3 stars.
Tue, Feb 26, 2019, 3:57pm (UTC -6)

Enjoyed this one. I like to see the children part of the enterprise and in this case their lives in relation to Starfleet. That part of the story overrode the second story which I didn't like as much.

The evil inspecting officer is such a caricature and yet he resembles those 20 something MBAs that eagerly serve the sociopaths in management. While that isn't a precise analogy ,as the Admiral's motives aren't completely clear, we all know that type who can use their training in superficial analysis to argue a short term solution that appears to meet organizational goals while ignoring the true and usually more difficult true optimal solution.

what was the Admiral on about anyways?
Sun, Mar 3, 2019, 4:05am (UTC -6)
Revisiting this, I found it to be an excellent episode, and one of the best to focus on Wesley.

The plot's cleverly divided into two: Picard's being "monitored" to determine if he's a "suitable candidate for overseeing Starfleet Academy" and Wesley undergoes a similar "entrance exam" to see if he's suitable to enter Starfleet Academy.

Both subplots give us a string of memorable world-building scenes, such that you really get the feeling that the Federation and Starfleet are big, galaxy sprawling organizations. We also get to meet Vulcans, a cool-looking methane (?) breathing fish alien, and the Starfleet tests we witness are reasonably interesting, as they're sneakily applied outside of the classroom, and even take into consideration a range of interpersonal actions "outside" of the tests. This is education, bureaucracy and categorization, 24th century style.

Meanwhile, Picard turns down a job offer to oversee Starfleet Academy. His reasoning, which the episode makes clear, is that he's already a father figure, professor, mentor and overseer, on board the Enterprise. As one tense subplot with a renegade kid and a shuttle make explicit, Picard's molding the lives of the young, every day. Stewart knocks all these scenes out of the park, and his interactions with Riker, an Admiral and the Admiral's aide are masterclasses in acting; the gap between his abilities (his sheer presence, diction and gravity), and the rest of the cast, is staggering.

Other neat scenes abound: Wesley gets a good scene with Worf in the holodeck, the Admiral's aide (who we're conditioned to think of a villain) makes a plea to join the Enterprise (future episodes suggest he may be villainously seeking to infiltrate it?), and Wesley and Picard share a nice scene in the observation lounge. Some of the cutting/camera-work during the episode's many "interrogation scenes" is also clever.

The idea that a "Starfleet Academy entrance exam" would take place at a remote outpost and only test 4 people, as seen in this episode, is much criticized. I had no problem with this; I assumed it was a remote location used to test people who were assigned to ships in the middle of nowhere. It's much less disruptive for the Enterprise to drop Wesley off at a little depot on a planet near one of its stops/missions, than to return to Earth every time an applicant needs to take an exam. Algorithms probably monitor which applicants are in similar areas of space, when their ship locations best coincide, and when best to schedule tests. Such a nodular, flexible approach seems much more advanced than the expectations raised by commentators above (the idea that the Feds would still be using Victorian era, massive classrooms).

I also like how season 1's background characters - those crewmen you see walking aimlessly down corridors - often deliberately have white/grey hair (no ageism in the future?), and how many leggy, short skirted women we see (does this stop in future seasons?), as well as, occasionally (two instances?) men in dresses (Picard himself, wears a kind of dress in this episode).

My favorite thing, though, is this glossy faux-wood table which the admiral uses:

There are so many aesthetic touches, and little clever production design work, in this show, which make the rooms and furniture just a bit more special.
Thu, Aug 1, 2019, 10:20pm (UTC -6)
I liked it.

I liked a lot of little things about it, the details of the portrayals of the cadets and of Star Fleet. Gave us a real sense of how much bigger Star Fleet and the Federation is, than just the Enterprise.

Wes and Jean Luc are both put through the ringer, partly by fakery. Jean Luc passes his test and, in a nice scene, provides some fatherly encouragement and advise to the less fortunate Wesley.

I liked the Remmick portrayal, though that whole business gets wasted when next we see him.

A good, solid ep - the cast is starting to gel.
Peter G.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 11:33am (UTC -6)
I recently rewatched this one and was surprised at one thing from the ending: Wesley feels like he failed to get into the Academy, and I guess I had always thought so too.


Much discussion sprang from the fact that an average Nog could get in but the mighty Wesley Crusher failed, meaning they had retconned the difficulty level; or perhaps the war lowered the bar. But in hindsight I'm not 100% sure the reasons in this episode are so clear. The admissions officer outright tells Wesley that he lost a bit of time helping Mordock, but that it was other reasons too that he didn't get in. And we're not given those. But I can think of a few that have nothing to do with getting in being impossible:

-Wesley was just about to turn 16! He might have been deemed too young just as that moment, no matter how smart he was.
-Since he had such a fortunate situation to serve on the Enterprise already, they may have thought it was in his interest to continue with that for as long as possible, since after graduating from the academy he might be stationed anywhere.
-Meta-reason obviously being the showrunners didn't want to write him off. In a sense, 'he's too important to be at the academy, rather than not good enough.'
-The Traveller had hinted that Wesley was destined for something better, so maybe they feared the academy wasn't for him and that he needed more time to figure it out?
-Mordock was the first Benzite ever admitted to starfleet, so it also seems more than likely that this poliical consideration would be of far more importance *for the Federation* than having one more genius in Starfleet.

I definitely didn't take away this time that Wesley wasn't good enough to get in or anything like that. However, one of the weaknesses of the episode is that we get too much from the boy wonder POV and almost nothing from Starfleet's side. If they have some specific reason we're not treated to even a hint of it. And worse than that, we're supposed to have this wonder about the great wisdom of the admittance process, like they have the key to every person's mind. But if so, I never saw them administer any test or ask Wesley any questions that even hinted at the fact that it might be best if he waits a year. He seemed to just pass everything, so we're left with this false notion that he 'deserved' to get in and that he just arbitrarily had it held from him. But that doesn't make sense, so the script is missing something.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 12:53pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

I always understood Wesley failing as a case of "even geniuses can have trouble when it comes to performing routine tasks". Maybe the test was *too easy* for Wesley and he just didn't put his heart into it like Nog would've had to.

I think Wesley failing works in the scheme of Wesley's arc, as it's a hint of things to come. Wesley typically engages in behaviors that break the mold of a Starfleet Officer, like performing a Kolvoord Starburst which cadets "shouldn't" do. Later during peace negotiations with the Cardassians, Wesley pretty much disrupts that whole endeavor as he sees the treaty as wrongly oppressing the truly powerful - spirituality - which perhaps only a being like Wesley can comprehend. At any rate, Wesley just isn't good at Starfleet and following its rules, even if he's much more advanced in other ways.
Peter G.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 1:07pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

I guess that's the friendly way to look at it. For my part I have a tough time seeing any arc for Wesley that was actually intended and moved forwards. I *could* choose to look at this one as "Starfleet is challenging for him because it's not just about intellect", except we didn't see him failing at anything at all in this one. And we likewise don't get to see "Starfleet may not be for him", because he seems to thrive on the environment and sincerely admires the process and the instructors. The 'moral' at the end with Picard seems to be that even gifted people can fail, and they just need to try again. So on the surface the only point of having Wes fail seems to be to poke a hole in the "he's a Mary Sue who succeeds at everything" thing he had going. Basically he failed because of the Bugs Bunney phenomenon, where the write is making the character fail because the writer wants the character to fail (as Bugs does to Daffy), rather than because of any organic story reason why this makes sense.

I could see reasons why it *could* make sense, such as you suggest, or others that I suggested, but I'm sort of clear in my head now that these weren't intended here and that they were actually jerking us around with having Wes be absolutely perfect at everything and failing anyhow. But it's not even a Peak Performance lesson of 'it's possible to make no mistakes and lose', but rather us seeing Wes get whiplash just because he was due for a comeuppance from previous episodes. I'm not crazy about that, and it feels fake anyone because the script is sort of winking at Wes at the same time, basically acknowledging that he was the best candidate and that 'he'll get his due next time'.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 1:44pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G.

"And we likewise don't get to see "Starfleet may not be for him", because he seems to thrive on the environment and sincerely admires the process and the instructors. The 'moral' at the end with Picard seems to be that even gifted people can fail, and they just need to try again."

I think we do see a glimpse of this isn't for him as Wesley was more interesting in helping a struggling alien companion (Mordock) and the other girl than winning the competition. I imagine the academy is very competitive and Wesley is already showing signs that he doesn't want to cut someone off to get ahead. I see this as a softness that might be *fatal* in a military officer who makes difficult decisions which hurt others all the time. I agree with you about Picard's lesson, but it could be that the lesson was correct for someone like Picard but *not* Wesley (We see this pattern again when Picard messed up at the academy and had to repeat a year, which again was something Picard could do but Wesley couldn't).

Of course this is a charitable reading of a messy season one episode with full hindsight in mind, but I do think later seasons try to take full advantage of the good material in these early messy episodes.
Peter G.
Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 1:58pm (UTC -6)
@ Chrome,

I think you're on to something zeroing in on the angle of Wesley helping others in preference of winning. In fact I think that's almost the core of the entire episode. It's almost like they're trying to say that Wesley helping Mordock get in isn't fundamentally a loss for Wesley, but a win for everyone, including Wesley, so long as Wes doesn't look at Mordock as being a competitor. It's almost like it, but not quite, since this is really not the focus. Too bad, because that would have been a neat message.

In terms of being soft as a negative trait for a competitive academy, this brings to bear a tension in the series that persists into future seasons. How much is Starfleet an elite heirarchy trying to be the best, with the Enterprise especially being the ultra-elite, versus a representation of humanity pulling each other up and winning as a team rather than a group of individual over-achievers flying around cool ships? I don't think it's supposed to be just one or the other, but A Matter of Honor in S2 does a pretty explicity job - including direct references to Mordock and Wes' experiences here - of telling us that Starfleet *is not* about outshining everyone else on your own and rising to the top. Or at least, it's not supposed to be; maybe in practice it really is. People like Shelby (and young Riker) do make us wonder whether the "we're all a team" idea is more of an idea than a reality.

My issue here is: are we supposed to see Wes helping others as making him *more* Starfleet material, or *less* Starfleet material? We get zero on this front, which reflects my frustration earlier about the fact that we are totally left out of Starfleet's side of the admission process here. It really does seem to be a giant gag to have Wes fail just to see him finally fail at something.
Mon, Aug 3, 2020, 3:15am (UTC -6)
Wow, turning down good students because they didn't score as high as others.

This is min/maxing to the extreme. Instead of having 4 good students they want 1 perfect one.
Mon, Oct 26, 2020, 7:02pm (UTC -6)
This whole test scenario always bugged me. Wesley is constantly presented as this super genius. I try to imagine Worf doing these tests and probably succeeding by "Worf go smash". It makes no sense. No wonder the Federation was running out of officers during the dominion war...
Sun, Feb 21, 2021, 8:34pm (UTC -6)
I honestly can't recall a Wesley episode I liked more. His interaction with the webbed finger angry alien man is one that has stuck with me from the first time I saw the episode on TV to now, several mostly Trek-less decades later.

I also really enjoyed the whole antagonistic investigator premise.

I could have done with a better Psych test for Wesley. Have the 'test' start as one premise and then have one of the teachers run in and say all students have to evacuate, tests are postponed, etc. It was too obvious that the emergency was the test because nothing else had happened after he entered the room.

Bonus amusement at the idea of Starfleet bringing in failed actors for low paying gigs for corporate training (something I've personally done) instead of just using holodeck tech...
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Tue, Feb 23, 2021, 1:11pm (UTC -6)
"Bonus amusement at the idea of Starfleet bringing in failed actors for low paying gigs for corporate training (something I've personally done) instead of just using holodeck tech..."

I would hope that the "lab" was at least in a holodeck even if the actors were real. Otherwise that's an awful lot of construction for a two minute test of one cadet candidate.
Thu, Feb 25, 2021, 2:16pm (UTC -6)
Commander Remmick is the most intriguing character in the story. Were he and Quinn corrupted before or after this point? If it’s later, and he was sincere about wanting to serve on the Enterprise, would he have made a good fit? He’s definitely detail-oriented and efficient. Too bad we didn’t get to know him better, like Admiral Nechayev.

One of the best Wesley episode, as he actually has to look inside himself and deal with how he got here.
Jeffrey Jakucyk
Fri, Feb 26, 2021, 9:26am (UTC -6)
I think Remmick and Quinn were compromised after this, by the very organisms they were working to expose. We see later in Conspiracy that those aliens are very good at identifying potential threats, and either assimilating or disappearing them. Remmick and Quinn were prime targets. While they were never specific about what they were looking for, the whole bridge crew knew they were looking for something, and there's no way that knowledge wouldn't make it up the chain. Ironic that Remmick gets the "queen" alien or whatever you want to call it in the end.

I also think Remmick's portrayal in this episode is about 50/50 genuine and putting on an act. He has no problem being so brusque, but at the same time it's just a means to an end. He's investigating something very serious, and not only is there no room for pussyfooting around, his antagonism could also be a tactic to trip up potential conspirators. The admission that he'd like to join the crew would seem to be his more genuine self, it's just unfortunate that he had to burn so many bridges in the investigation, and also the head exploding thing.
Bob (a different one)
Fri, Feb 26, 2021, 9:48am (UTC -6)
"Were he and Quinn corrupted before or after this point?"

That's a very interesting question, Buckbart. I don't think Quinn was infected at this point because, as shown in Conspiracy, he did not recall his conversation with Picard from this episode.

But Remmick is a possibility. What if his professed desire to join the Enterprise was just laying the groundwork for infecting Picard? We know he was a target. Maybe Remmick/Space Critter were already setting up a plan B.

Probably not true, but fun to speculate about.
Frake's Nightmare
Wed, Mar 24, 2021, 4:43pm (UTC -6)
Wesley's jumper - still with the fakey uniform thing....
Wed, Mar 31, 2021, 1:29am (UTC -6)
Good lord I think I need an insulin shot, the Wesley plot is so unbelievably cloying. It's like a Leave it to Beaver episode dipped in honey, covered with sprinkles and dusted with powdered glucose. It even (seemingly) infected the other plot when Remmick says he sure would gosh love to join the Enterprise.
Sun, Mar 27, 2022, 4:27pm (UTC -6)
Good episode, though I'm a little skeptical that it's this hard to get into Starfleet. I can't help but flash forward to the Dominion War when their entrance requirement probably looks more like, "You have basic piloting skills and aren't afraid to die? Great, you're hired!"
The Queen
Thu, Mar 2, 2023, 10:58am (UTC -6)
In rewatching this, I noticed a lot of minor holes in the plot. I won't got into the whole list, but the biggest to me was that Wesley supposedly fears making life-or-death choices, but in the test he never shows indecision at all and isn’t influenced by the man who’s not hurt, just scared. My other major negative is that for the first time, Riker comes across as a loud bully, a trait that became worse over the rest of the series. The major positive for me was the improved writing for Worf, finally getting to reveal his character. And I maintain that Wesley isn't nearly as "obnoxious" as the script calls him; in the one instance here, I think in real life he would have been considered friendly and nice.

All told, I wasn't as impressed by the eppy as most people seem to be. I had no memory of it at all from just the title.
Sat, Apr 8, 2023, 10:51am (UTC -6)
As a first time S1 watcher after skipping the first two seasons for more than thirty years (!), I'm shocked every time I find a decent episode. The binary one was the first; this is the second. There's almost something domestically attractive about this episode, the non Wesley plotline.

Am I mistaken or is this the first episode where we see the Riker Maneuver (sitting down by hurdling over a chair's back to show off his manly gait)?
Tue, Aug 29, 2023, 10:54am (UTC -6)
Seems daft for an organisation like Starfleet to have one space for someone. I get it is for the drama but with an organisation like them in a society like that. Letting potentially good candidates go is mad.

Submit a comment

I agree to the terms of use

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2023 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. Terms of use.