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  • Star Trek - The Next Generation, Episode 41: Pen Pals [VHS]
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Star Trek - The Next Generation, Episode 41: Pen Pals [VHS]

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Product Details

  • Actors: LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden
  • Directors: LeVar Burton, Gates McFadden, Gabrielle Beaumont, Robert Becker, Cliff Bole
  • Format: Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English, French
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Paramount
  • VHS Release Date: May 31, 1995
  • Run Time: 46 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6303200966
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #609,006 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews


The Enterprise visits a solar system that is being torn apart by unknown geological forces. Riker, eager to forward Wesley's training as an officer, puts him in charge of the geological survey team of Drema Four. Wesley is eager for the work, but worries about giving orders to older and more experienced crew members. Meanwhile, Data picks up a call from Drema Four's surface, and begins what he thinks is a harmless exchange with a child named Sarjenka. (Look carefully under Sarjenka's makeup and you might recognize a very young Nikki Cox.) When it becomes clear that Drema Four is doomed to the same fate as the other planets in the system, Data reveals his friendship to the crew. You guessed it--it just might be time to violate the Prime Directive. For those who always found it a cop-out, this episode contains one of the more extensive discussions of the Prime Directive, and goes a long way towards explaining why it's so important. --Ali Davis

From the Back Cover

Data (Brent Spiner) has found a pen pal - a girl named Sarjenka (Nikki Cox) who lives on the planet Drema Four. When Data tells Picard (Patrick Stewart) about Sarjenka, he learns that there have been severe geological disturbances beneath Drema Four's surface.

Riker (Jonathan Frakes) puts Wesley (Wil Wheaton) in charge of the team to research the planet's geological makeup. Wesley soon discovers that the older crew members under his command are opinionated and willful, and he fears he may lack the confidence to be a good leader.

When Data loses contact with Sarjenka, Picard agrees to let Data beam down to Drema Four to try to locate her before the planet self-destructs. As the danger escalates, Wesley holds the only hope of saving Drema Four, Sarjenka and Data.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kayla Rigney VINE VOICE on February 20, 2000
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Data breaks Starfleet first contact protocol, talks to scarey orange child; Wesley saves planet. Picard rides a horse. Enterprise rides off into sunset.
Okay; so it's not THAT bad. I find this episode of TNG charming because it explores the fact that sometimes, Data's ethical programming is a lot more "ethical" than Starfleet's Prime Directive. I mean, when Data is faced with the prospect of watching his friend Sarjenka's planet die, he acts. Do any of the PEOPLE act? Not until the android forces the issue.
I found myself wondering what would happen if the humanoid Starfleet officers were faced with a Final Solution type problem? Would they sit around and analyse it and endlessly babble about the Prime Directive while millions died? Data would size up the situation, decide This Is Wrong and take action. Says a lot about "humanity." And that's the whole POINT.
Not as good or as well-written as Measure of a Man or Data's Day-- but worth owning just for the scene where Sarjenka takes one look at Troi, moves behind Data for protection and calmly says "Leave me alone." We're talking this is one smart scarey orange child. She knows where HER bread is buttered!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Shelley Gammon TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 20, 2004
While scanning broad radio spectrum, Data hears a young female voice say, "Is anybody out there?" Data replies and he and his unseen friend, Sarjenka, become pen pals via the radio broadcasts. Sarjenka (Nikki Cox) tells Data of geological disturbances on her planet. Through the weeks of communication, Data has learned that his young friend lives on Drema Four (so many planets, so few names!), a pre-space travel world that limits what Data can share with her.
Data brings the matter to the attention of the senior staff who seem more than mildly shocked that the Leiutenant Commander could behave in such a reckless manner, possibly exposing a pre-warp civilization to the knowledge of alien beings beyond their world. Data asks that the Enterprise help to save his friend's planet, but Picard is bound and gagged by the Prime Directive. He is angry at Data for having exposed their hearts to a child they must leave to her fate.
Picard orders Data to terminate communications with Sarjenka, and he wryly does so slowly, as Sarjenka's pleas of "Data, why aren't you answering me?" penetrate the room. Picard finds a way out of the dilemma as Data begins to terminate his radio downlink - Sarjenka asks for help.
The other minor plot involves Wesley, who Riker has put in charge of the geological survey team that will attempt to save Sarjenka's planet. Wes is put in a position where he must order and supervise a team that is older, more experienced and has higher rank than he does and goes through a Baptism by fire experience in his first command of sorts.
Data makes a final gesture to Sarjenka that gives a peek into the heart of this heartless android, a subtle, easy-to-miss scene that speaks volumes as Sarjenka's planet is saved and she returns home. A true treasure of an episode.
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In this episode, the prime directive is thoroughly discussed and just as thoroughly circumvented. The Enterprise enters a new solar system where the planets suffer from extreme tectonic activity. So severe that it is capable of tearing the planets apart. Wesley Crusher is given his first command when he is placed in charge of the team investigating the activity. Data intercepts a message from a very young girl on one of the planets and he responds, striking up a dialog, which is a violation of the prime directive of non-interference.

This leads to a senior staff meeting where they discuss the role of the prime directive. While Worf argues in favor of the absolute nature of the directive, Dr. Pulaski argues that it is merely a guideline rather than an absolute. The contact with the young girl continues until it reaches the point where Data beams down to the surface in an attempt to contact her. Since she is scared and there is danger, Data beams back to the Enterprise with her. Crusher's team discovers the reason for the high activity and they find a way to reverse it. In order to return her to the planet, Dr. Pulaski eliminates all of her memories of her contact with Data.

What I dislike about this episode is the cavalier attitude towards the prime directive. It is supposed to be a rule so absolute that Star Fleet personnel will die before they violate it. Therefore, Data should have been brought up on charges for violating it. One lesson that should have been learned from human history is that even minor contact between civilizations can have extensive and unforeseen consequences. That is why the prime directive was initiated and is considered absolute.
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