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Recap / Star Trek: The Next Generation S1E18 "Coming of Age"

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"Never mind me, I'm just checking for parasitic bugs that can take over your brains."

While Wesley takes a Starfleet Academy entrance exam, the senior staff of the Enterprise are placed under investigation by Admiral Greg Quinn and Lt. Commander Remmick of Starfleet.

Tropes in this episode:

  • Anti-Climax Boss: In-Universe: Wesley's very nervous about the 'Worst Fear' test, but he handles it with less anxiety then the time leading up to it.
  • Always Someone Better:
    • Mordock the Benzite to Wesley Crusher, though Wes almost proves otherwise. Mordock even regards him as such.
    • Wesley is this to Jake Kurland, so much that Jake steals a shuttle to try and leave the Enterprise.
  • Blue and Orange Morality: Zaldans hate courtesy, believing that it covers up true emotions. Luckily, Wesley knows this when he bumps into one and responds with Brutal Honesty.
  • Call-Back: During his Interrogation Montage, Remmick brings up the incidents with an accidental contaminant, the Ferengi, the Traveler, and the Edo as examples of Picard's questionable decisions.
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  • Character Tic: One of the early instances of Riker's unique way of sitting down.
  • Crash Course Landing: After Jake steals the shuttle, his inexperience at the controls causes him to fall into the planet's gravity well. Picard talks him through how to "bounce" off the planet's atmosphere to avoid burning up.
  • Declining Promotion: Quinn offers to promote Picard to Admiral and make him commandant of Starfleet Academy. Picard declines, saying he'll serve better on the Enterprise.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: It's stated repeatedly that only one candidate on the planet will be admitted to the Academy, implying that Starfleet training is so highly rigorous that even among the best of the best, they're still not all good enough for the exacting requirements of Starfleet training. Considering some of the later graduates of Starfleet Academy we meet, such as Lieutenant Barclay or Ensign Harry Kim, and the size of the fleets assembled after the Battle of Wolf 359 and especially during the Dominion War, Starfleet simply can't be this discriminating in their admissions or at least half of the Starfleet officers we meet should have washed out of the Academy at some point, if they'd even made it in, and they'd barely have the crew to staff even a handful of those ships. Though, as theorized in Epileptic Trees in YMMV, it's possible this test was in fact rigged so that Mordock would pass, with Wesley almost being a Spanner in the Works.
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  • Education Papa: Hinted at with Jake's father. It's part of why he's so desperate in the second half of the episode.
  • Face Your Fears: The whole point of the psych test. In Wesley's case, it's the fear that if he sees two people in trouble and can only save one, he won't be able to choose. He passes quite well.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Wesley couldn't possibly depart for Starfleet Academy this early in the series.
  • Foreshadowing: Admiral Quinn suspects that there's a conspiracy in Starfleet. We see that he's right later this season in the appropriately-titled episode "Conspiracy".
  • Interrogation Montage: Conducted by Remmick. Nobody he talks to is particularly cooperative. Especially if it means speaking ill of Picard. Or the Enterprise.
  • Jerkass: Dexter Remmick while interrogating Picard's staff. Turns out he was Just Following Orders and keeping up a jerkass front.
    Remmick: You don't like me, do you Lieutenant?
    Worf: Is it required, sir?
  • Not So Above It All: Despite being on the verge of openly antagonistic towards the Enterprise crew, Remmick can't help cheering a little when Picard helps Jake escape a fiery end.
  • Permission to Speak Freely: Riker asks this of Picard before venting his frustrations over Remmick. Picard doesn't exactly disagree.
  • Secret Test of Character:
    • An "incident" with a brusque alien Starfleet NCO tests Wesley's knowledge of other cultures.
    • Before Wesley can start his exam, an accident occurs and there's only enough time to save one of the two endangered men. Wesley picks the one who's more badly injured, and then it naturally turns out this was the exam—according to Wesley's psych profile, his greatest fear was that he wouldn't be able to make such a decision. Wesley mentions that this was the same decision that "another Starfleet officer" (Picard) made that led to his father's death.
    • The entire investigation of the Enterprise is one for Picard and his officers; Admiral Quinn wants to confirm that he can be trusted before offering him a promotion, because of a suspected conspiracy in Starfleet.
  • Shout-Out: The psych test takes place in room 101, in reference to Nineteen Eighty-Four, where Room 101 was used to psychologically break the subjects by torturing them with their greatest fears.
  • So Proud of You: Wesley thinks that he let everyone down by not getting into the Academy. Picard admits that he also failed the exam the first time, that Wesley did his best, and that he will try again next year.
  • Stock Lateral Thinking Puzzle: One of the questions in the Academy exam asks applicants what the proper matter/antimatter ratio would be for a starship at a particular location to reach the nearest starbase at maximum warp. One of the applicants treats this as a standard warp theory question and runs out of time to answer while running calculations. Wesley gets it right after thinking about it—no matter what, the proper matter/antimatter ratio for a warp drive is always 1:1 and none of the other math matters.
  • Think Nothing of It: When Jake thanks Picard for saving his life:
    Picard: That's my job, young man.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Picard gives a speech like this to Wesley after Wesley fails his Starfleet Entrance exam, going so far as to confide in Wesley that even he didn't pass the first time. More than likely, this conversation went a long way towards convincing him to reapply.


Example of: