Star Trek: The Next Generation

Season 2 Episode 15

Pen Pals

5
Aired Unknown May 01, 1989 on CBS
SUBMIT REVIEW

Episode Fan Reviews (7)

7.0
out of 10
Average
205 votes
  • More dull pontificating about the Prime Directive, of which TNG was so fascinated

    5.0
    'Pen Pals' is an episode that fails to ignite for me. The premise, in which Data starts communicating with a little girl from a doomed planet is fine in itself, but the way it's executed leaves a lot to be desired. As it stands, I don't really buy it. Data was supposedly communicating with her for several weeks before telling Picard. This strieks me as totally out of character: would Data ever breach protocol in such a manner??

    The central dilemma (should the crew stand by and let this civilisation die just because they have to uphold the Prime Directive) shows how retarded and bereaucratic the Federation can be and how horribly arrogant it is to put their own gung ho morals above the fate of entire civilisations. Sure it may be a good principle in theory, but we can see here how disastrous it is when laws are put above the welfare of the people they are supposedly in place to protect.

    Anyway, aside from philosophical issues, the main problem with the episode is the poor characterisation of Data (who strangely comes across as more human than the rest of the crew put together). That said, I didn't feel the bond between him and Sarjenka was particularly genuine, mainly due to the pedestrian scripting. Sarjenka's makeup was also a total misfire. She looked like some kind of first degree burns victim.

    The Wesley subplot is handled reasonably well, until Wesley, not having been content with saving the Enterprise on more than one occasion, finds out a way to save an entire planet, giving the episode a forced, contrived conclusion that offers a rather phoney happy ending.

    This is a passable but fundemantally flawed episode: if you switch the brain to neutral and have an hour to kill it's certainly watchable and will pass the time, but it's not an episode that bears much scrutiny.
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