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Old 05-01-2019, 03:17 PM
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May 1st, 1989, "Pen Pals"

Fiver (by Derek)
Transcript
Memory Alpha

The Episode

Captain's log, Stardate 42695.3. We are the first manned vessel to enter the Selcundi Drema sector. Unmanned probes have recorded unusual levels of geological activity in all five planetary systems. I am hoping the Enterprise will find the answer to this enigma.

One, only five planetary systems in a sector seems a little low, but that's just me. Two, I wonder how you define "unusual levels of geological activity."

DATA: Commander, I've been reviewing the unmanned probe scans.

"Unmanned" probe? Have we ever seen a manned probe? (Besides K'ehleyr, of course)

PICARD: The Arabs believed that Allah gathered the south wind and made the horse.
TROI: On the holodeck we've made that legend come true.
PICARD: I like that.

I get what they were going for, and it's a poetic thought, but wind=/=light.

TROI: I had a Betazoid kitten once. My mother and the cat reacted badly to one another.

This opens the door to a lot of questions, but I'll stick with one: do Betazoid pets have thoughts advanced enough to be read? There are definitely philosophical questions here to be discussed, but I won't be doing so.

TROI: No, I prefer a mode of transportation that doesn't have a mind of its own.
PICARD: Strange. I would expect Betazoids to be outstanding animal trainers.
TROI: We become too involved in the thoughts and shifting passions of the beast.

I thought we had moved past the era when Troi felt every emotion of the people around her. The idea that the thoughts and emotions of those around a telepath can affect them is terrifying.

RIKER: As you know, I've been given the responsibility of overseeing Wesley's education. To further that goal, I would like to put him in charge of the planetary mineral surveys.

One, "As you know" is just bad writing. "Since I'm responsible for Wesley's education, I'd like to put him in charge of the planetary mineral surveys." Two, this is too big of a job for Wesley, I expect a lieutenant to handle this job, if not Data himself.

PULASKI: Are we talking about a young officer on the fast track to the Academy, or are we talking about a young man that we are guiding through adolescence and into adulthood?

Fast track? He didn't get in last time because he was the second best of the candidates at an arbitrary location (and I already gave a whole lecture about that idiocy).

DATA: It is a personal project. I have reset the sensors to scan for frequencies outside their usual range.

You do have to wonder why Data is bothering with this in this episode particularly. The grammarian in me also takes umbrage at his use of "reset" instead of "modified" or "reconfigured."

SARJENKA [OC]: Is anybody out there?
DATA: Yes.

Oh boy, here we go. Some people have relied on Data's innocence and honesty to explain this blatant violation of the Prime Directive. I don't buy it. We'll be returning to this.

Captain's log, stardate 42737.3. It has been six weeks since our entrance into the Selcundi Drema sector. Each system has revealed the same disturbing geological upheavals on every planet.

It takes six weeks to scan every system in a sector? One could argue that the sensor modifications and desired thoroughness would slow down the ship, but SIX WEEKS? When Data reported that the ship would have to go much slower to to more thorough scans, Picard should've reported to Starfleet and gotten a dedicated science vessel out here to do the grunt work.

And of course, the six weeks isn't needed. One week would serve the story just as well. Grrr.....

PICARD: Her society is aware that there is interstellar life?
DATA: No, sir.
PICARD: Oops. Just where does she think you're calling from?
DATA: I have kept that somewhat vague, sir.

"Oops"? Understatement of the century.

RIKER: We'd be gods, which we're not. If there is a cosmic plan, is it not the height of hubris to think that we can, or should, interfere?

This is a point to consider: Are all humans atheists in the future? Deep Space Nine implies this, even when it's known that the Prophets exist. And yet this scene implies that the humans are agnostics.

I won't get too deep into my personal beliefs here, that's a risky road to go down for the purposes of this topic. Let's keep it simple and just say that I believe that "people have free will" and "people can be used as instruments for a higher plan" are not mutually exclusive.

TROI: If there is a cosmic plan, are we not a part of it? Our presence at this place at this moment in time could be a part of that fate.

What the Betazoids would think of the different aspects of religion are an interesting philosophical discussion for elsewhere.

PICARD: So we make an exception in the deaths of millions.
PULASKI: Yes.
PICARD: And is it the same situation if it's an epidemic, and not a geological calamity?
PULASKI: Absolutely.
PICARD: How about a war? If generations of conflict is killing millions, do we interfere? Ah, well, now we're all a little less secure in our moral certitude.

This is why the Prime Directive is so cut and dry; gray areas lead to confusion, frustration, and anger. No exceptions means no exceptions.

LAFORGE: What if the Dremans asked for our help?
DATA: Yes. Sarjenka's transmission could be viewed as a call for help.
PICARD: Sophistry.

FYI, "sophistry" means arguments that sound correct but really aren't. Sarjenka wasn't calling for help from aliens because she doesn't know that aliens exist. Even now she doesn't know who, what, or where Data is.

WESLEY: Drema Four has the largest deposit of dilithium ore ever recorded. It's also laid down in a very unusual pattern. The crystals are growing to form perfectly aligned lattices.
HILDEBRANDT: The ore is forming generator strata.
ALANS: Which creates a piezoelectric effect.
PICARD: In plain English, you're saying the dilithium is causing the geological catastrophe.
ALANS: Right, the crystals take the natural radiant heat of the planet
HILDEBRANDT: Focus it, and turn it into mechanical energy.
ALANS: Which increases tectonic stresses
HILDEBRANDT: That tear the planet apart.

If you didn't know already, "piezoelectric" means a material that can turn mechanical stress into an electric charge and vice-versa. One common application is used in quartz watches: the charge from the battery makes a quartz crystal vibrate back and forth at a frequency that turns a stepper motor. I don't think you can use heat as a substitute for electricity and still call it "piezoelectric."

DATA: Sarjenka, this is Data. Respond please.
COMPUTER: Unable to complete transmission.
DATA: Reason for failure?
COMPUTER: Atmospheric activity interfering with RF signal.

Oh yeah, radio. That means realtime transmissions aren't possible. Oops. It also raises the question on why the sensors aren't calibrated to detect the entire portion of the EM spectrum that could be used for communications anyway.

WORF: We're modifying class one probes so they become resonators. We will then use torpedo casings to protect them once they begin burrowing beneath the surface.

I'm still wondering how these probes can burrow beneath the surface or use a torpedo casing as a protective shell. I wonder why they didn't just use a class eight probe, the ones that already use torpedo cases.

DATA: Then what is the difference between sending the message and delivering it personally?
RIKER: A whopping big one, and you know it.
DATA: Sir, we have come this far.
PICARD: In for a penny, in for a pound, is that what you're saying, Mister Data?
DATA: Yes, sir.

Unreasonable. Sarjenka doesn't know Data is an alien or where he's from. I suddenly wonder if the cloaking suits from Insurrection would be an option so Data could check in on her without letting her know he's there.

RIKER: Data, you've got ten minutes. That's it. If you meet anybody but Sarjenka
DATA: I will signal for immediate beam out.

Yeah, we're totally not breaking the Prime Directive this way! Wafer-thin ice, Data!

(Constructed mainly of hexagons. There is a toy doll on a bed of pillows. He finds the radio. The door is a forcefield or hologram. Data touches it, it vanishes to reveal a red and sullen outside, lit by erupting volcanoes. The ground shakes so he goes back inside and closes the door.)

The sequence of technological advances just before the discovery of warp is always confusing. I'm reminded of how Angel One has disintegrator fields but not warp drive.

SARJENKA: What is this?
PULASKI: An Elanin singer stone. It sings a different song for each person.

I hope these things don't really just play one song for each person, but it's more like it responds to the individual biofields of each person to create individual songs, like a mood ring.
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