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.
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