Monday, January 30, 2012

The Next Generation, Season 6: Rascals

The Next Generation, Season 6
Airdate: November 2, 1992
132 of 176 produced
132 of 176 aired


While returning from a trip by shuttle, Captain Picard, Ensign Ro, Keiko O'Brien, and Guinan are caught in a strange energy field. The Enterprise manages to beam them off, but the people who materialize in the transporter room are children, young versions of the crew members. Complicating matters, the science station on Ligos VII has sent out a distress signal that must take priority. What happened to the crew? How might it be reversed, and what if it can't?

Congratulations, gentlemen. You just rescued this episode!


Kevin: This episode is the archetype for an episode that is somehow more than the sum of its parts. The set up is just plain silly. We have a mysterious energy field that never gets really explained and another example of the magical transporter doing whatever the script demands.If part of their patterns were blocked, why were they missing such specific sequences of DNA, and not, you know, an arm or something? Like Pulaski in Unnatural Selection, haven't we just stumbled on the Fountain of Youth?

Matthew: Indeed. On top of the most glaring problem, that we have effectively introduced immortality into the Star Trek universe only to never talk of it again, there are loads of artificial baloney in this episode. The teaser might as well have begun with: "Captain's log. I and 3 recurring characters are on a shuttle.Surely nothing will go wrong!"  I too was annoyed by the notion that a made-up piece of genetic material could be left out of a pattern, and the result would be delightful hijinks for all concerned, as opposed to a smoldering pile of goo on the transporter room floor. We are asked to believe that, instead of disassembling and reassembling actual patterns of matter, instead the transporter assembles people according to their genetic instructions. What? So does that work for rocks and equipment, too? Yarg. Then, let's say we accept the de-aging abilities of an altered transporter pattern. How in the world would this leave all of their mental capacities and memories intact? The brain of a twelve year-old is physically different than that of an adult. This could have led to good sci-fi - the diminution of frontal lobe capacities could have had young Picard acting reckless, or a teenaged girl going through puberty, or something. Instead, we are asked to accept an arbitrary plot point that smacks of the worst sort of mind-body dualism,  Why did their clothes shrink with them? Why did they all end up the same age, when they were each a different starting age, and represented three entirely different species?

Kevin: Topping it off, we get an incomprehensibly stupid take over of the Enterprise. The Ferengi are at their worst and dumbest here. It makes no sense that two broken down Birds of Prey should be able to take out the Enterprise. How can the Ferengi on the bridge not know Riker is stalling for time? They are a space-faring civilization. They know how computers work. They are the epitome of too stupid to have pulled off the plot and given that they are never actually violent despite their threats, they are not really threatening. And Worf, again, is the everyone's favorite target practice.

Matthew: Absolutely, this is the icing on the crappy writing cake.  Instead of spending time and energy on the interesting science fictional plot aspects (regardless of artificiality, this is still a fun reversal of the two "old age" plots we've gotten), the story veers into a silly Ferengi plot that commits our worst sin, requiring the principals to be either stupid or incompetent. I would much rather have seen a tense family drama (or heck, a sex-comedy-farce) between Miles and tween-aged Keiko, or had a full-bodied discussion of why in the heck one or more of them wouldn't simply elect to stay young (especially Guinan, who stands to gain 800 years or so of new life).

Kevin: All that said, and it's a lot, the rest of the episode is filled with some genuinely charming humor and some really sweet character moments that in concert really transcend the problems of the set up. Picard's interaction with Crusher and Troi is perfect, reflecting both his character and the exploration of the character's established history. The preexisting friendship between Ro and Guinan is well mined, and like "Conundrum," when freed, at least a little, of her defensive armor, Ro can be sweet and engaging. The domestic scenes with the O'Briens were gold, as always.

Matthew: Yeah, there were a lot of good scenes despite the setup issues. Young Picard hugging Riker and mugging "Daaaad!" is hilarious. Riker's technobabble scene was very good and was reminiscent of Kirk's Fizzbin gambit in "A Piece of the Action." The way the scene between Miles and Keiko played out had great comic beats to it. All of this stuff was so good, I was annoyed by the fact that it was pushed to the edges in favor of some of the dumber aspects of the story. Young Picard should really have agonized more about giving up the center seat. Had there been no Ferengi plot, we could have seen him doing some archaeology on the planet, maybe even for an extended period of time. The drama could just as easily and much more effectively been centered on the choices that the characters are forced into by their condition, and then the dilemmas they face when a cure is found.


Kevin: This is what really sells the episode. David Tristan Birkin previously played Rene, Picard's nephew, and the resulting family resemblance works well. He really nailed the little gestures (the Picard Maneuver) and the struggle to maintain the sense of authority he knows he should have, but is no longer perceived to have. "And be Wesley Crusher's roommate?" always cracks me up. He so fully realized the character that watching his tantrum and interactions with Riker made me cringe in just the right ways because I so believed I was watching my Picard, not just another actor playing the character.

Matthew: I was really floored by how good each of the child actors were in this episode. Each and every performer embodied their characters to the point that it was totally convincing for the viewer. As you say, Birkin was amazing. Megan Parlen absolutely nailed Ro's weary cynicism. Isis Jones could have kept playing Young Guinan as a recurring character. Even Caroline King, who bore almost no resemblance to Rosalind Chao, had great chemistry with Colm Meaney in their scenes. This is easily the finest child casting in the series, and won't be approached again in quality until Voyager.

Kevin: Isis Jones has one other acting credit to her name, and it's playing young Whoopi Goldberg in Sister Act. She really nailed Whoopi Goldberg's pleasant ethereal-ness and gently in-your-face tough love.
Megan Parlen and Caroline Junko King as Ro and Keiko respectively did great jobs, too. They had less to work with in terms of an established canon of mannerisms and ticks, but they played their scenes really well. Something about Ro's scowl came across really clearly, as did Keiko's "old married couple" argument with Miles. I love this episode despite its flaws, and I really think the wonderfully realized characterizations by these four really made it work.

Matthew: I was really impressed by the ready room scene between Crusher and Young Picard. Gates McFadden totally pulled off playing against the young actor as if it were still Patrick Stewart. Marina Sirtis as well was very good. I loved how Colm Meaney sat with his legs crossed away from Young Keiko, covering his nether regions with folded hands. It perfectly set the sex-comedy tone of the scene without going into unduly explicit territory.

Kevin: The main cast got some nice moments, too. Crusher gently encouraging Picard to step down, Troi getting to do some counseling, and Picard touching his head after re-aging were all well done. The Ferengi weren't bad actors; they were just written that way.

Matthew: For as badly as they were written, most of the actors playing the Ferengi did a fine job. Michael Snyder was particularly good as the befuddled Morta, trying to decipher Riker's gibberish computer instructions.

Production Values

Kevin: The BOPs were obvious reuses from Yesterday's Enterprise, but somehow, they didn't do it for me. Maybe it was knowing how stupid that element was. The shuttle seemed a little cramped for a long trip for four people, and the energy effect was decent. The debris-filled shuttle bay was okay, as it was in Unification. There wasn't much else in terms of the effects.

Matthew: If anything, I was annoyed by the re-use because it actually sort of mangled the story. Why in the world would these guys want to purchase obsolete small cruisers, when Ferengi vessels have been shown in previous episodes to be the equal of Federation technology? But yeah, they weren't exactly elegant re-uses, either.They kind of pulled me out of the show. I feel like the video quality had degraded a bit in the re-use, but I'm not about to do any comparison testing to be sure. I'll wait for the Blu-Ray :-)

Kevin: We got to see a lot of places on the Enterprise, and I enjoyed that. Lots of Jeffries' tubes and ladders and stuff. The sickbay office is always nice to see. We got a lot of interesting angles and around the corner shots, which largely worked, so I would say that director Adam Nimoy, Leonard Nimoy's son, did a pretty good job from a production standpoint.

Matthew: I liked seeing the classroom in detail, as well as the simplified computer interface for children. I was annoyed, however, that the screen read "Classroom 7" while Young Picard referred to it in dialogue as "Schoolroom 8."


Kevin: What to do? What to do? The plot holes are obvious, and on the verge of being catastrophic. But the humor is so successful and the acting so charming, that I can't be mad at this episode. I always look forward to watching it. I think what really seals it is that the humor itself is not cheap, save a few of the more absurd Ferengi moments. However they got here, the episode really does a good job of mining the set up for some genuine and sweet moments that really feel part of the characters' established histories. I want to give this a 4 on raw entertainment value, but logic demands that a story set up this forced be judged harshly, however charming the finished product. I am, reluctantly, giving this a 3.

Matthew: I've been flirting with a 2 in my mind. The two big plot problems are so big that they almost demand such a rating. But, like you, there is something so charming about the actors cast in the young roles, and the hijinks they experience with their adult comrades, that it almost feels heartless to give this show such a rating.  So although I want to give this a 2, I will also reluctantly give it a 3, for a total of 6.


  1. So Kevin this is the episode that Netflix butchers the plot synopsis about. I have to agree with you guys about the plot holes especially the ability of the Ferengi to take over the ship.

    So are you guys suggesting the Miles is pervy or that he was just uncomfortable about his wife now being a kid. But I do love their married interplay.

  2. No, if anything, I think he's a prude. The stipulations of the plot indicate no consent issues whatsoever, because magically all of their minds are unaffected. So why not go for it? I don't see any ethical issues.

    1. What? You don't see any ethical issues with him being physically aroused by the physical body of 12 year old? The fact that their minds are adult is irrelevant. In order to have sex he would to be aroused by a 12 year old's body. Yeah I said it twice, just in case you didn't get it the first time.

    2. Clearly, the situation is not ideal, and it might be difficult for both of them. But she is still his wife, she is still the mother of his child, and she is still the person who he has sworn to love and protect for better or for worse. So just as if she had lost a limb or gained 100 pounds or had a mastectomy, if she wants to be physically intimate, as long as he still loves her, he should oblige.