18. Coming of Age

Something I didn’t mention about Home Soil. The terraformers went from being standoffish, to saying sorry we don’t usually have guests, to Louisa Kim giving a thoroughly prepared and well-rehearsed presentation about what they were doing. There hasn’t been such a great PowerPoint presentation since Al Gore.

You know how you keep Starfleet officers engaged in your presentation? You keep them moving. Walking officers are attentive officers.

It might’ve been her acting or it could’ve been that the character was reading from a teleprompter.

How Zen was that slide that just showed green blurs while she said, “Microorganisms”?

That’s done.

About Kurt Mandl

I didn’t get the sense that he was being evasive because he thought there was life. I got the sense that they were behind schedule because of technical problems they couldn’t figure out. He was eager to hide what he perceived to be his and his team’s incompetence. 

Moving on to Coming of Age

This episode is about growth with the Wesley plot being about the kind of individual one should be in order to grow, and the Picard plot being about the kind of organization that fosters growth.

Individual

The Wesley metaphor is probably a little too easy since he is an adolescent boy taking a test, so obviously part of that is gaining and using knowledge. He has to learn about others and use it, which is what he does in his encounter with the Zaldan. Then he has to learn about himself, which is what he does as he struggles to discover what his deepest fear is.

If we compare Wesley with Picard, we see a character who has continuously grown and thus flourished in Starfleet, and we see a character who is just starting his growth. In a moment of intense fear, when the shuttlecraft is going to crash into the atmosphere, we see Picard cool headed. He saves Jake. In order to accomplish this cool-headedness in a real situation, he had to know about fear, which is why Wesley must discover his own. Wesley struggles with it, but eventually during the test, he keeps his cool and makes the difficult choices in a panicked situation.

In making that choice, he also learns that others can depend on him, which is the inverse of Worf’s fear of depending on others. To be a person capable of growth, it seems, you have to be in a relationship of trust, and Wesley also demonstrates this in the way he befriends and helps the other contestants on the show, I mean the other people taking the cadet test. All the people there (or I guess most of the people considering how standoffish the T’Shanik is) are capable of being in trusting, helpful relationships.

You know what they don’t do? Crash shuttles. While it’s OK to take risks as a part of a group, it’s not OK to put others at risk, which is what ‘80s Leisure Suit Jake does when he pirates the shuttle. However, the thing that ultimately saves him, is that he puts his trust in Picard.

So here’s the individual Starfleet candidate job description:

Applicant must

-master fears

-know about self and others

-work well with others

 Organization

Since it’s so important for people to depend on others to succeed and grow in Starfleet, the organization has to foster a situation in which people can get along. There must be mutual respect and camaraderie between people and levels. But admirals are dicks. Every time one gets onboard, we learn this lesson: it’s hard to work for people who don’t respect you. Any growth that happens under such a person happens in spite of this.

Notice Picard in comparison to Admiral Quinn. Picard’s not a dick, and his people are very loyal to him. When Limerick starts his unwarranted investigation, they’re very unhappy about it. (At first because they think it’s directed at them, but later because it’s directed at Picard).

By the way, calling Remmick Limerick was a joke.

Being investigated sucks. When the investigation is unwarranted, doubly so. When the investigator is starting with the conclusion and searching for evidence to support it, triply so.

To grow, you need to take risks, and investigations of this sort increase risk aversion, making growth through risk less likely. An organization that encourages growth doesn’t pull this kind of mint. Instead it allows failure.

Let’s look to Picard. When ‘80s Leisure Suit Jake does his crappy take on hijacking (those thirty two points must’ve had something to do with piloting shuttles), Picard doesn’t blame him. He solves the problem, and when things are settled, he disciplines Jake in a way that allows him to grow. When Wesley tells Picard he failed, there is no investigation. Picard teaches Wesley that he learned through his failure, that everytime something is risked, something is gained too, and encouraged him to do better next time.

With both ‘80s Leisure Suit Jake and Wesley, Picard nurtures their genius, which is what anyone hoping to encourage growth should do.

He gives them credit where it is due, which is also what Mordock did when he thanked Wesley for his help and twice told Lieutenant Chang. Chang assures them that Wesley was not punished for helping others.

Career Goals

Seeking growth in an organization that

-promotes respects

-nurtures fair and trusting relationships

-allows for failure

What’s up with

…Mordock? Seriously dude, what are you smoking?

…Admiral Quinn? Tell me you weren’t singing, “When Quinn the admiral gets here, heads are gonna roll. Come on without, Come on within. You ain’t seen nothing like Admiral Quinn.”

 

Morals, messages, and meanings

  1. Admirals are dicks
  2. Face your fears
  3. Know thyself and know others
  4. Depend on others and be sure others can depend on you
  5. Don’t steal shuttles
  6. Cool heads prevail
  7. Don’t blame
  8. It sucks to be investigated
  9. Be loyal
  10. Don’t stick to the org chart
  11. Nurture genius
  12. Credit where credit is due

 Does it hold up?

Yes.

It suffers from the same problem a lot of episodes did this season. It’s trying to do too much, and the two plots seem to be pulling it apart. Or at least they’re diluting the examination of the targeted ideas.

Still, the acting was fine. The story was fine.

One thing I really liked is that Picard and Wesley were both given the opportunity to leave the Enterprise, but there’s no false suspense about it. It’s clear there’s still a lot of Star Trek ahead, and the main characters aren’t about to leave.

There’s a lot to think about in the episode, which I always love. I feel like there’s even more that could be pulled out of it.

 

<<17. Home Soil

19. Heart of Glory>>