Saturday, December 4, 2010

Star Trek The Next Generation's Most Subtle Two-Parter Begins With "Coming Of Age!"

The Good: Well paced, Good character development, Tone!
The Bad: B-plot acting, mostly.
The Basics: A surprisingly solid hour of television, "Coming Of Age" focuses on trials and tribulations of Picard and Wesley Crusher. Accessible to all.

The first season of Star Trek The Next Generation is a lot of fun to watch if you know where the series ends up going. The first season is not like the others in that it is not the adventures of Picard and Data. The episodes tend to have a lot more of Picard and Wesley Crusher, Picard and Dr. Crusher, and Picard and Riker. It's pretty incredible if you know where Star Trek The Next Generation ends up to consider that it began with so little Data and so much Wesley Crusher.

"Coming Of Age" is essentially the first part in a two-part Star Trek The Next Generation, which does not end with "To Be Continued." Instead, it's unclear that this is a set-up episode at all. The a-plot involves the Enterprise being investigated by Admiral Quinn and his adjunct, Commander Remmick. The b-plot (where the title is from) involves Wesley Crusher competing with three other applicants for a spot at StarFleet Academy. Neither goes smoothly, however, as Wesley finds himself up against himself in a psychological examination that is designed to force him to face his greatest fear and Picard learns the Enterprise is not the subject of the investigation; he is.

What works very well is the pace. The plot bounces between the a and b plots, while never seeming to get tired on either plot. In fact, the rhythm between the two is perfectly balanced.

It's rare that a show so new does a retrospective, but in the interrogation of the bridge crew as Picard is investigated, we are reminded of the episodes past and it's an enjoyable look back at the brief history of the Enterprise. The whole retrospective aspect is couched away quite well and it all makes sense. Fortunately, unlike the second season finale "Shades Of Gray," the episode does not degenerate into a clip-show.

It's nice to see the development of character this episode plays out. All of the leaps that are made, in Crusher and Picard, make sense. When a failing student steals a shuttlecraft, Picard is able to talk him down well and it makes a lot of sense how he does it and his attitude during the crisis. Picard is professional, even as an inquisition appears to be investigating him.

The acting of Patrick Stewart lends a lot to the believability of the role of Picard in "Coming Of Age." Stewart has a patience as an actor that translates well into his character and while he is forced to be serious in this role, he does it quite well. Stewart embodies the strength and professionalism one associates with leaders, in reality or of futuristic starships.

The weak link in the episode is the acting of the other youth candidates at Wesley's entrance exam. How these students ever made it there is a mystery to me. None of them seem terribly bright, confident or even perceptive. The Vulcan is the worst acted Vulcan we will see for some time. Basically, the acting in those scenes is distracting as to making the plot seem real.

Conversely, actor Wil Wheaton does an excellent job in "Coming Of Age." Wheaton gets his mouth around all sorts of technobabble and sounds smart while doing it. His embodiment of Wesley Crusher makes the viewer believe the child could be a prodigy and that takes some acting skill. Fortunately, Wheaton has it.

Overall, this is one of the underrated first season Star Trek The Next Generation episodes, though is has a lot of good psychological exploration and a great deal of intelligence to it.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the debut season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2007, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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