Star Trek: The Next Generation – Rascals [6.7]

A transporter accident causes Picard, Guinan, Ro and Keiko O’Brien to materialize on board the Enterprise transformed into 12 year old children, though still with their adult intellects.  As they are dealing with this unusual situation, the Ferengi manage to seize control of the Enterprise.  Pretending to be children, Picard and the others are able to initiate a counterattack and re-take the ship.  Dr. Crusher is able to find a way to revere their condition.

Story by Ward Botsford & Diana Dru Botsford and Michael Piller.  Teleplay by Allison Hock. Directed by Adam Nimoy.

Previous Episode: True Q • Next Episode: A Fistful of Datas

Rascals is another one of those “controversial” episodes, but for different reasons than say, something like The Perfect Mate.  No, Rascals seems to be an episode that drew a lot of people’s because of its basic plot concepts.  I’m not sure which side of thing was felt to be more annoying:  Picard and the others turning into kids for the story, or the Ferengi so easily taking over the Enterprise.

Poor Commander Riker!  After being the darling boy of the Federation thanks to his handy defeat of the Borg a few years ago, we see him here lose control of the flagship of the Federation after being in charge of it for about 15 minutes…and to their most inept enemy, to boot!  For me, that was the harder part of Rascals to swallow.  People turned into children because of a transporter mishap?  Sure, I can swallow that, just like I could imagine being split into two people by a transporter, or being turned into a ghost by phased explosion, or whatever.  But the Ferengi seizing control of the ship, and so easily?  Well, that just means the crew are sort of incompetent.  Or the Ferengi were just absurdly lucky.  Or that all the Federation’s other enemies are hopeless for not pulling it off all the times they tried.

But, nonetheless, I like the episode.  I like the little character bits that they did with everyone as they reacted to either themselves or their friends or loved ones turning into pre-teens.  Especially interesting is Picard dealing with the loss of the instant respect that he is used to, and pondering what he will do with his life if the situation cannot be reversed.

And I liked all the business with the Ferengi too.  I just couldn’t take it seriously.  But then, I guess we weren’t really supposed to.  It was fun to see them outwitted by Picard, Keiko, Alexander, and the others.  It was especially fun to see Picard manage to wrangle up a visit to his “father” – whining and carrying on until the Ferengi relent.  It’s actually consistent with Picard’s character.  What makes him so interesting is that though he operates with such a high level propriety and dignity, he’s also capable of such humility and vulnerability.  If we really see the young Picard as the Captain we’ve been watching for more than five years, than this episode really highlights that.

Guest Cast:
• David Tristan Birkin, who plays young Picard, had previously played Rene Picard in Family. He also appeared as Courfeyrac in the 1998 version of Les Miserables.

• Megan Parlen played Young Ro Laren.  She was a regular for the entire run of the teen TV series, Hang Time.

• Isis Carmen Jones, who played the Young Guinan, had also played a young version of Whoopi Goldberg in the movie Sister Act, which had come out a few months prior to this episode.

• Both Mike Gomez and Tracey Walter, who play Ferengi here, also played Ferengi way back in The Last Outpost. Michael Snyder, who plays another Ferengi, played yet another one in The Perfect Mate. 

• This was the last appearance on Next Generation for Rosalind Chao as Keiko O’Brien, and the second to last appearances on Next Generation for Colm Meaney as O’Brien, Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan, and Michelle Forbes as Ro Laren.

• Hana Hatae makes her first appearance here as Molly O’Brien.  She never showed up on Next Generation again, but after this because a recurring character on Deep Space Nine.

Setting Up the Future:
Odo refers to the events of this episode as an example of Worf’s poor security record on a later episode of Deep Space Nine.

• Picard, Guinan, Ro and Keiko – that is one wacky combination of characters to be flying around together.

• This is the last appearance on Next Generation for the O’Brien family before they move over to Deep Space Nine.

• Picard demonstrates his interest in archeology, and it even comes up as an idea of what he could do if has to seek out a new career.

• The Guinan / Ro connection is all right, but not my favorite part of the story.  Still, it’s amusing when Guinan says, “You know, you make a pretty cute kid,” to Ro.  But maybe a little sentimental when she says later, “That’s the wonderful thing about crayons.  They can take you more places than a starship.”

• Young Picard’s voice is really the most alarming thing about his change, at least in terms of trying to take him seriously as a commanding officer.

• Picard orders Tea, Earl Gray, Hot!  I must be missing it because I feel like I actually hardly ever hear Patrick Stewart give this line.

• Picard’s incredible discomfort at his inability to continue to command makes sense.  “Are you here to relieve me of duty?” he says to Beverly, very honestly.  And Beverly is very astute and intelligent in her response to Picard about what he needs to be doing

• The scene with O’Brien and Keiko is incredibly awkward

• This is the first time we hear Molly O’Brien speaking.

• Picard revels in his thick and luxurious hair, and later shows signs of missing it.

• Picard’s conversation with Counselor Troi about it all is pretty interesting.  “I can’t really take myself seriously like this,” he says.  When she talks about the possibility that he could return to Starfleet Academy while he grows up again, he asks, “And be Wesley Crusher’s room mate?”  Then she suggests he could pursue other interests:  “You could spend a few years crawling through caves and digging up artefacts, and still have enough time to become the youngest admiral in Starfleet history.”  The conversation ends with “You might have a chance to do what most people can only dream about…have a second childhood without the pain of growing up again.”

• Ro’s take on childhood also leads to some funny / interesting lines.  “Where did you get the idea that being short and awkward was some kind of wonderful gift?” and “Look, it was a long, depressing period of my life and I was grateful when it was finally over.  I’d rather not relive it.”

• It’s dramatically convenient but understandable that the solution to Picard’s condition is interrupted by the science team situation

• When those attacking ships turn up, why isn’t the Enterprise moving? Or at least trying to move?

• There is talk of heavy casualties, but no indication of how many.  Maybe it’s the most the ship has ever permanently sustained in an episode, if it outstrips what happened in The Best of Both Worlds.

• Seven people are being herded on that transporter pad.  Either the Ferengi don’t know how those things work or they can actually hold more people than we’ve seen before.

• The Ferengi attack is effective, but still the crew comes across as a little hapless

• Picard is pretty casual about Molly’s well being

• There are exactly 1014 people on the ship, apparently.

• A different computer voice for the children’s computer

• There are a couple of phasers stored in the transporter room?

• Luckily, Ferengi, even though they have been able to take over the whole ship, are sort of stupid.  They also have lots of different funny little bits, like playing with the molecule in sickbay, or when Riker is confusing the one with all his technobabble.

• Hmm, Alexander says the one in sickbay didn’t see him, but clearly he did.

• Picard crying is funny, as is his hugging Riker.

• Riker steps over his chair again.  Funny how often he does that.  I never noticed it once back when the show was first on.

• Another reference to “kiloquad” as a unit of computer memory, referring to Star Trek‘s fictional unit of information storage.

• Great to see Riker deck that Ferengi.

Dialogue High Point
After Young-Picard accidentally slips and calls Riker “Number One” in front of the Ferengi, the two officers must quickly cover with up with a big hug and this line:

He’s my number one dad!

Previous Episode: True Q • Next Episode: A Fistful of Datas

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