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Pen Pals (episode)

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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
"Pen Pals"
TNG, Episode 2x15
Production number: 40272-141
First aired: 1 May 1989
40th of 176 produced in TNG
40th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
146th of 728 released in all
Sarjenka and Data
Teleplay By
Melinda M. Snodgrass

Story By
Hannah Louise Shearer

Directed By
Winrich Kolbe
42695.3 (2365)
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Data makes contact with a young girl from a pre-warp civilization on a planet facing imminent annihilation. The Enterprise must wrestle with the moral dilemma of violating the Prime Directive or standing by while Data's friend dies.

Summary

Equestrian adventure

"Sure you don't want to try? It's very relaxing."

The USS Enterprise is studying a series of planetary breakups in the Selcundi Drema sector. Planet after planet has been reduced to rubble, apparently as a result of natural cataclysms.

Captain Picard prepares to ride a horse on the holodeck. Just as he is about to climb onto the horse, Riker calls him to the bridge to view geological calamities on the once thriving planet Drema IV.

Riker calls a meeting of the senior staff to discuss leadership of the team that will investigate the planet, suggesting that Wesley Crusher lead the team. After some debate about whether he is up to the task, Picard consents and allows Wesley the command.

Crusher chooses members of his science team, including Prixus for mineralogy and metallurgy, Alans for volcanology, Hildebrant for geomechanics, and Davies for geochemistry. He is initially apprehensive about commanding officers older than he is, but a meeting with Riker and counselor Troi reassures him of his ability to lead the team.

Wesley joins science team

"I'm pretty sure I'll be all right."

Davies questions Crusher's decision to run further tests because he has more experience in the matter, but after Crusher asks Riker for advice (that being no one questions Capt. Picard and thus Wes should think similarly), Crusher tells Davies to run the Ico-scans, to which Davies complies. After sensor scans, Crusher and his team discover that the planet has become unstable because unusually high levels of dilithium in the crust have formed a matrix, which creates a piezoelectric effect that is tearing the planet apart.

At the same time, Data has been speaking with Sarjenka, a member of a pre-warp species inhabiting Drema IV via a radio transmission. After eight weeks of communication, Picard orders Data to terminate contact because it is in violation of the Prime Directive. A meeting of the senior staff is held, and the members lay out their positions. Picard and Worf's argument is straightforward; helping the Dremans would violate the Prime Directive, and therefore they should be left to their fate.

Crew discusses Prime Directive

"The dilemma exists. We have to discuss the options."

La Forge and Pulaski on the other hand are aghast at the prospect of sitting by and allowing an entire sentient race to die out. Riker and Troi offer yet another argument; that the destruction of Drema IV and the other planets could be part of a larger "cosmic plan," which the crew of the Enterprise have no right to interfere with. Picard announces that they will obey the Prime Directive and leave the system, but then Data asks the crew if they will listen to one of his exchanges with Sarjenka. They agree, and Data plays a message in which Sarjenka pleads for help. Upon hearing this, Picard decides that since it is a direct plea for help, the Prime Directive no longer applies.

Data beams down to Drema IV to meet Sarjenka and warn her and her family to travel to a safe region on her planet, but finds that her family has already left. Sarjenka returned to her home to retrieve the transmitter she had been using. Data, not able to leave her on the planet because of what is happening to it, has her beamed back to the Enterprise (much to the chagrin of Captain Picard) to watch the Enterprise use modified probes as resonators to destroy the dilithium matrix and restore geological stability to the planet.

Sarjenka on Enterprise

"There's going to be hell to pay!"

Picard orders Dr. Pulaski to erase Sarjenka's memory of her Enterprise experiences. While in Sickbay, she picks up a stone on Dr. Pulaski's desk - an Elanin singer stone, which sings a different song for anyone who touches it. After Sarjenka's memory is modified, Data returns her to her home planet, safe and sound, but leaves with her the Elanin singer stone as a token of her experience on the Enterprise.

Later Data apologises to Picard for putting him in a difficult position, but the captain is grateful to his officer for the reminder that some obligations transcend duty. Although Sarjenka won't recall him, Data is content that he'll remember her, and Picard comments that learning about friendship and remembrance has brought Data a little closer to understanding Humanity.

Log Entries

Memorable Quotes

"The game isn't big enough unless it scares you a little."

- Riker


"Is anybody out there?"
"Yes."

- Sarjenka and Data


"An excellent steed, sir."

- Data, about Picard's horse


"What a perfectly vicious little circle."

- Riker, on the senior staff of the Enterprise's arguments on whether or not to save Drema IV


"In your position it's important to ask yourself one question: 'What would Picard do?' "

- Riker, giving Wesley Crusher advice on taking command


"There are no options. The Prime Directive is not a matter of... degrees, it is an absolute."
"I have a problem with that kind of rigidity. It seems callous, and even a little cowardly."
"Doctor, I'm sure that is not what the lieutenant meant but in a situation like this, we have to be cautious. What we do today, may profoundly affect the future. If we could see every possible outcome..."
"... we'd be gods, which we are not. If there is a cosmic plan, is it not the height of hubris to think we can or should interfere?"
"So what are you saying? That the Dremans are fated to die?"
"I think that's an option that we should be considering."
"Consider it considered and rejected!"
"If there is a cosmic plan, are we not part of it? Our presence at this place at this moment in time could be part of that fate."

- Worf, Pulaski, Picard, Riker, La Forge, and Troi discussing how to proceed after Data's revelation


"Your whisper from the dark has now become a plea, we cannot turn our backs."

- Picard


"O'Brien, take a nap. You didn't see any of this. You're not involved."
"Right, sir. I'll just be standing over here dozing off."

- Riker and O'Brien, as Riker enters to take the transporter controls


"Oh, there's gonna be hell to pay."

- O'Brien, seeing Sarjenka being beamed up to the Enterprise with Data


"I just woke up, sir."

- O'Brien after his "nap."


"Where are we going?"
(Data slowly points his finger up.)

- Sarjenka and Data


"I will require my hands. Thank you."

- Data to Sarjenka

Background information

Story and script

  • The story for this episode was pitched by Hannah Louise Shearer. Maurice Hurley was instantly fond of the premise, calling it his second favorite premise of the season, after "The Last Outpost". He remarked, "Somebody's out there, some little kid on some little planet sending out a CQ. Just like I did in my bedroom when I was ten years old with my little crystal sets, sending out CQs and never getting it back. But here somebody says, 'Anybody out there?' and a voice replies, 'Yes.' Wait a minute!" (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 179)
  • The teleplay was then assigned to Melinda Snodgrass. During story meetings, the writers considered various characters who could interact with the child. Snodgrass was successful in convincing the other staffers that Data was the best fit for the tale. She later explained, "[Y]ou can picture Data becoming entranced in answering [the] question, 'Is there anyone out there?' First, he's an android and if you ask him a question, you're going to get an answer. Secondly, the whole thing would be so charmingly intriguing to him, that he would do it [...] You never could picture any of the other characters doing that, but Data can make the mistake, and I don't mean that in a pejorative sense, and step out of his careful Starfleet training because he's really just growing up. He's more of a child than Wesley." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 179)
  • First UK airdate: 24th July 1991

Production

  • The writers had to limit the closeness of Data and Sarjenka, because Nikki Cox's orange make-up became smudged so easily on contact. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 84)
  • This episode featured the only location shoot of Season 2, Picard's equestrian holodeck sequence, which was filmed at a ranch near the LA suburb of Thousand Oaks. The impetus for this scene arose from Snodgrass's love of horses. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 84)
  • Producer David Livingston noted that this episode was one of the first times that the series used a second unit to shoot supplementary footage. He recalled, "We got to the point where we were going to do the walls disappearing. The midnight hour was rapidly approaching and I went up to Rob Legato and said, 'This is crazy, we can't do this.' He said, 'Right, let's do second unit,' and I went up to [director Winrich] Kolbe and said, 'We're going to do this second unit,' and he said, 'Great.' That all became second unit, otherwise we'd still be shooting that episode." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 179)
  • In the scene set in Ten Forward where Wesley asks Rikers' advice, a young Rod Roddenberry can be seen sitting at the bar.

Continuity

  • This is the first episode where we see Picard drinking his signature drink, Earl Grey tea. He had previously ordered a cup of Earl Grey from the replicator in TNG: "Contagion", but owing to a computer malfunction he instead received a small potted plant.

Reception

  • Despite his love of the premise, Hurley was only lukewarm to the final result. "[T]he rest of it kind of got muddled around, mucked up and lost its purity, although it worked okay." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 179)
  • Consequently, Snodgrass referred to this episode as Data's "age of innocence" story. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., p. 84)
  • Director Winrich Kolbe remarked, "An intriguing episode, though I'm not quite sure I did it justice". Kolbe felt that the premise didn't go far enough. "It was one of those situations where I said, 'Come on, guys, let's push the damn thing. The relationship between this little girl and Data is something you want to explore. Data is a machine, how far can he go before he becomes a threat either to himself or the little girl or somebody else?'" He concluded, "I don't think it ever came through and I don't consider it one of my better shows. I think we all did a damn good job, but it could have been better." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 179)
  • A mission report by Patrick Daniel O'Neill was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 9, pp. 11-13.
  • Winrich Kolbe also remarks, "If I remember correctly, that was the one of those cases where I felt the original script I got, the white pages, the first draft, was very, very nice. It was a very personal story. Rick [Berman] or somebody else, maybe it was Gene [Roddenberry], I don't know, felt we needed more of a technical surrounding story in that one. Suddenly, out went more and more of the character issue, and in came more and more tech talk. That, to me, is a problem. I don't necessarily agree with the assessment that more technical jargon enhances the stories. These stories should be left alone. I think 'Pen Pals' could have been a better show than it was." (The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 21, p. 30)

Video and DVD releases

Links and references

Starring

Also starring

Special appearance by

Guest stars

Uncredited co-stars

Stunt double

Stand-ins

References

2215; Allah; Andor; aquarium; Arab; Arabian horse; As You Like It; Asteroid belt; Bedouin; Betazoid; Betazoid cat; British pound; cerebral cortex; Class-1 probe; Class M; cosmic plan; cosmic ray; crust; dilithium; distress call; doll; Drema IV; Drema V; Dreman; Earl Grey tea; Earth; earthquake; Elanin singer stone; English; engram; generator strata; geochemistry; geology; geomechanics; holo-programs; holodeck 3; horse; horse tack; hubris; ico-spectrogram; illium-629; Klingon; magnetic field; mechanical energy; medical ethics; memory wipe; metallurgy; Milky Way Galaxy; mineralogy; nebular cloud; neuron; organic molecule; penny; piezoelectric effect; planetary mineral survey; Prime Directive; radio frequency; resonator; resonator field; Sark; science laboratory; Selcundi Drema sector; Selcundi Drema system; Starfleet Academy; subspace communications; tectonic stress; three-dimensional chess; torpedo; traker; tremor; Troi, Lwaxana; ultraviolet radiation; universal translator; volcano; volcanology; Zabathu

External links


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Star Trek: The Next Generation
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