Star Trek: The Next Generation

Season 2 Episode 15

Pen Pals

Aired Unknown May 01, 1989 on CBS

Episode Fan Reviews (7)

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out of 10
219 votes
  • A mediocre episode which in some ways anticipates two superior installments in season 3: "Who Watches the Watchers" and "The Offspring".

    This episode has some serious drawbacks. The first is that it involves some serious out-of-character behavior by Data and the rest of the Enterprise. It is hard to believe that the character, as portrayed by the show so far, would have acted in the way that he did in "Pen Pals".

    The second is that the "issues" it tries to grapple with -- the Prime Directive specifically, more generally what role sympathy for one person should play when much bigger issues are at play -- are dealt with in a ponderous, uninteresting fashion. The meeting in the Captain's quarters never manages to get off the ground. The only good moment comes when the crew hears the little girl's voice and realizes she is an individual, not just an abstraction. Two other later episodes to grapple with the Prime Directive - "Who Watches the Watchers" (season 3) and "First Contact" (season 4) - are much better.

    The third is the Wesley subplot. This isn't the Wesley of old -- a supergenius teenager who miraculously saves the day each episode. Instead, he is a young officer given his first taste of command and learning along the way (and happens to save the day - but in the same way any other crew member would). While this is much more bearable than season 1 Wesley, it is quite boring.

    However, despite out-of-character behavior by Data, Brent Spiner's performance here is quite affecting and impossible not to appreciate. This would be exploited in a greatly superior during the season 3 classic "The Offspring".