(written from a Production point of view)
As Wesley Crusher faces the Starfleet Academy entrance exam on Relva VII, representatives from Starfleet Command conduct an exhaustive investigation into Captain Picard and the Enterprise-D crew.
Wesley Crusher runs through a corridor to catch up with his friend Jake Kurland and tell him he's sorry that Jake didn't make the final exam for Starfleet Academy. Jake was short just 32 points, but says it is okay and wishes Wes the best, though he appears troubled as Wes leaves for Transporter room 8. The USS Enterprise-D is in orbit around Relva VII, where Wesley is taking the Starfleet Academy entrance exam. Captain Picard's old friend, Admiral Gregory Quinn is also at Relva and he requests to beam aboard immediately. He brings Lieutenant Commander Dexter Remmick with him, and wants a private meeting with Picard, on official business, much to the confusion of both Picard and Riker. The three officers go to the ready room.
Remmick is with the Inspector General's office and is there to conduct a thorough investigation of the Enterprise-D. According to Quinn, there is something seriously wrong on the Enterprise-D, but he won't tell Picard what. He emphasizes that Picard is under orders to to cooperate fully with the investigation.
On Relva, Wes is in the testing center examining a flux coordinating sensor, when a Human girl comes in. She introduces herself as Oliana Mirren. She is also taking the test, and claims she's heard of Wesley's reputation aboard the Enterprise. Then a Vulcan, T'Shanik, enters, along with a Benzite, Mordock. In much the same way Olianna has heard of Wes, Wes has heard of Mordock; he constructed the Mordock Strategy. The officer in charge of the test, Lieutenant Chang, enters. He tells them that they are all top candidates and any of them could qualify, but only one of them can go forward to the academy this year. He warns them that the test will be challenging, as well as exhausting and wishes them the best.
Later, Remmick is on the bridge, watching the crew, who are not happy with his presence. Sensing the crew's unease, Riker goes to the ready room to ask Picard what is going on. Picard tells him he doesn't know. Riker is unhappy with this, and he returns to bridge in a huff. Remmick asks and then demands that Riker to talk to him, but Riker adamantly refuses, claiming that he has duties to attend to.
Down on the planet, the candidates are finishing one part of the exam, the hyperspace physics test. Oliana comments how lucky Wes and Mordock are that everything comes so easy to them, but Wesley denies this, saying he has to study hard. Olianna, who has taken a liking to Wes, says that he's lucky that he's cute, because his statement could be taken as obnoxious by someone else. As Olianna leaves, Wes can hardly believe he's just been flattered by such an attractive girl, but begins to second-guess himself when he tries to explain Olianna's behavior to Mordock.
Meanwhile, on the bridge, Riker apologizes to Picard for his earlier behavior, and agrees to go with Remmick to the ready room for an interview. Remmick questions Riker about discrepancies in the Captain's logs. Unnerved, Riker argues that any questions about Picard should be brought to Picard himself face-to-face. Remmick vehemently reminds Riker that he is required to answer his questions unless he is trying to hide something. After a beat, Riker reluctantly agrees to proceed. Later, Remmick asks La Forge in engineering about the incident with Kosinski and the Traveler, and La Forge is coerced into acknowledging that the captain lost control of the ship. He then questions Troi about the incident with the USS Stargazer, concluding that it demonstrated a mental lapse on Picard's part.
Some time later, Wesley is in an empty holodeck when Worf enters. Worf asks him about the test, and Wes says that he's felt prepared for most of them. However, he's most worried about the psych test, a test that confronts the examinee with their greatest fear. Wesley admits that he's in the holodeck because he has no idea what his greatest fear is, and he's trying to figure out what images might scare him the most. Worf tells him there's no point in worrying about something that you can't change and reveals that his own greatest difficulty is depending on someone else for his life. Wes realizes that, as part of being an officer, Worf faces that fear every day. When Wes asks if that means Worf has overcome his fear, Worf replies that, "it is still my enemy."
Meanwhile, on the bridge, Tasha Yar detects an unauthorized entry to the shuttlebay, it is Jake Kurland. He steals a shuttle, intending to sign onto a freighter at Beltane IX, unable to face his father after he failed to make the entrance exam. Picard orders him to return to the ship, but Jake refuses out of fear of his father's reaction. This causes him to lose concentration on his flying for a moment and he accidentally unbalances the dilithium reactor, and his engine stalls. He is heading for Relva VII's atmosphere, where he will burn up. The tractor beam won't work and he's out of transporter range. He can't get the engine started as it needs time to cool down, and he starts to panic.
In a calm voice, Picard orders Jake to point the nose of the shuttle towards the planet. Jake initially resists, not realizing Picard's plan, but Picard forcefully repeats the order and Jake does as he's told. Picard tells him to restart the engines and pull up when he reaches a certain speed. Jake does this and manages to pull out in time. All on the bridge cheer, and La Forge explains to an astounded Remmick that he built up enough speed, and then bounced the shuttle off the atmosphere. Remmick questions Picard on how he got access to the shuttle, but Picard assures him that he will get a refresher in discipline.
Meanwhile, Wes and Mordock are stopped by a tall Starfleet officer called Rondon in a corridor down on Relva. He has a package for the operations department and asks where it is. Wesley steers him in the right direction, as he leaves, he bumps into Wesley's shoulder and starts to insult him. Wes begins to apologize, but suddenly Lt. Chang arrives, wondering what the problem is. Wes begins to explain, but Rondon interrupts with more insults, and raises a hand. Wes seems to realize something, and suddenly stops apologizing and shouts at Rondon. All of a sudden Rondon's mood changes, and he laughs and leaves. Chang asks what happened, and Wes says he noticed from his webbed hands that he was a Zaldan, and Zaldans hate courtesy. They view it as insincere behavior meant to cover up true emotions. Chang congratulates him and tells him it was part of the test. Mordock gravely admits he wouldn't have passed.
Remmick interviews other crewmembers, among them Worf and Data, who says that there is nothing wrong with Picard, despite Remmick's claim to the contrary. He also questions Dr. Crusher, asking her how she feels serving with the man who was responsible for the death of her husband. She says her personal feelings are irrelevant to the investigation and none of Remmick's business. He finally questions Picard himself about his violation of the Prime Directive with the Edo. Picard is at the end of his patience, and points out that Remmick must have all the information he needs, as he has interviewed every officer on the ship. Remmick cryptically fires back, wondering that Picard is afraid that he will be found guilty if Remmick keeps investigating. Now angry, Picard retorts that the only thing he guilty of is allowing Quinn's charade to go on this long. He storms out of the room and heads for Quinn's quarters to find out what's really going on.
Picard demands that Quinn tell him what is going on. Quinn tells him Remmick's report is nearly due and needs more time, but relents and calls for Remmick. Nearly at his wit's end, Picard tells Quinn that this investigation has put a strain on their friendship, which Quinn acknowledges and sincerely regrets.
Back on Relva VII, the candidates are taking the dynamic relationships test and Mordock is having trouble, so Wes helps him. Mordock finishes first, and Chang comes in and tells him his time was the second fastest ever. Mordock admits that he does not deserve the honor and that Wes helped him, but Chang knows this. Chang matter-of-factly states to Wes that his choice might not have been the best one, considering that he and Mordock are neck and neck for the lead in overall score. There is only one test left – the psych test.
Remmick makes his report to Quinn, and tells him he could find no problem on the Enterprise despite his best efforts. The only thing of note he found was a 'casual familiarity' among the bridge crew, but he believes that comes from a sense of teamwork and family. Quinn is satisfied and dismisses him, but before he leaves, he lets Picard know that he wants to transfer to the Enterprise once his tour in the Inspector General's office is up, much to Picard's visible discomfort. Quinn urges Picard not to judge Remmick too harshly, as he is a good officer. He then finally explains that the purpose of the investigation was that he had to be sure about Picard. He says there is increasing reports of problems and erratic behavior among those in high positions in the Federation and that he believes someone is trying to destroy it, though he doesn't know if the threat is external or internal. He says he needs people he can trust, and close to him, and offers Picard a promotion to admiral and take over as Commandant of Starfleet Academy. Picard says he doesn't think he's the best man for the job, but promises to think about it.
Lieutenant Chang leads Wes to Room 101 where the psych test will take place, and notes that Mordock will be finished with his in a moment. Just then, a visibly shaken Mordock walks out the door, barely aware of his surroundings. Wesley asks him if he is alright, to which Mordock replies, he will be in time. Wes nervously watches Mordock leave before Chang ushers him into the room and wishes him luck. The room is empty except for a chair. For a long while, nothing happens. Wes wonders for a moment if the proctors forgot about his exam, making him more nervous. Then, without warning, a large bang is heard outside. Wes tenatively goes out to investigate, and finds the corridor is deserted. Suddenly, explosions, klaxons and cries for help ring out through the corridor and Wes runs towards them, finally realizing they are coming from the environmental lab. A computer voice indicates that the lab will be sealed off in sixty-five seconds. Wes yells for assistance, but no one is coming. He is the only one who can help. He opens the door and finds the lab is virtually destroyed. Debris and live wires are strewn everywhere, broken pipes are venting gaseous chemicals, and two technicians are calling for help. One is trapped under a fallen pipe, the other is frozen with panic at the far end of the lab and won't leave. Wes learns that the liquid hydrogen stored in the lab is about to explode, and if they don't get out quickly, the computer will seal them in to contain the explosion. He attempts to convince the fearful technician to come and help free the other man, but he won't move. Wes frees the trapped man, and drags him out, but has only just enough time to get him out before the lab is sealed off. Just as Wes picks himself up, he finds Lt. Chang standing over him. Wes frantically tries to explain what happened, but Chang stops him and tells him it's alright. The technician Wes had saved stands up, unhurt, and thanks Wesley, while the other walks out of the lab, very much alive, and gives Wes a wink and a nod. Wes now realizes that this was the psych test, confronting his fear of having to choose between saving one man and leaving another. This was because the same situation resulted in the death of his father. Wes had overcome his fear and made a similar choice; whom he chose was not as important as the fact he actually chose to save whom he could; Wes had passed the test.
Some time later, Chang says he's proud of all the candidates and hopes they will all return next year. He reveals that Mordock has won, and although Mordock protests that Wes shouldn't have lost points because Wes helped him, Chang tells him that Wes' help wasn't the only difference between them. With this, Mordock becomes the first Benzite in Starfleet. The other candidates congratulate him, and Olianna gives Wes a friendly warning that she won't be easy to beat next year.
On the Enterprise, Picard is walking down the corridor when he meets Jake, who apologizes for what he did. Picard reminds him that running away solves nothing, but compliments him for keeping his wits about him. He finds Wesley in the observation lounge. He tells Picard that he failed the exam and let him down. Picard disagrees, saying that as long as he did his best, and would improve next year, he shouldn't worry. He reminds Wes that the only person he is truly competing against is himself. He then confides that he failed the test the first time himself. Quinn is leaving, and says he's sorry that Picard turned down the promotion. Picard promises that he will be ready if Quinn needs him. With that Quinn beams back down to Relva.
Picard arrives on the bridge and orders Wesley, resuming his duties as acting ensign, to set a course for Algeron IV. With that, the Enterprise warps away.
"Thinking about what you can't control only wastes energy, and creates its own enemy."
- - Worf
"Only fools have no fear."
- - Worf
"Expect the unexpected."
- - Chang
"My personal feelings about Captain Picard are irrelevant to this investigation… and none of your business."
- - Beverly Crusher, to Remmick
"Just how did this contaminant come on board?"
"By accident, sir."
"Meaning that Captain Picard has no standing procedure for this type of situation?"
"No. Meaning 'by accident,' sir."
"You don't like me very much, do you?"
"Is it required, sir?"
- - Remmick and Worf
"Any problem with using your ready room, Captain?"
"No, Mr. Remmick. Be my guest."
- - Remmick and Picard
"How dare you! I am Rondon, you despicable melanoid slime worm! LIAR!!"
"Who do you think you're bullying?! You bumped into me! It was your mistake! You were at fault! Do you want this to become violent?"
- - Rondon and Wesley Crusher
"Mister Remmick, you have talked to every member of this ship. I think you've had enough time to find out whatever it is you're looking for."
"Are you afraid if I keep looking that I'll find you're guilty?"
"The only thing I'm guilty of is allowing this charade to go on so long."
- - Picard and Remmick
"A very strange reaction!"
"Not really. When he raised his hand, I saw that it was webbed – the sign of a Zaldan."
"But you became hostile!"
"Zaldans are infuriated by courtesy – they view it as a form of phony social behavior designed to cover true feelings."
- - Mordock, Wesley and Chang, after Rondon leaves
"Was this 'incident' deliberate?"
"It's important to know how you…candidates deal with other cultures, other species…"
"Then it was a test!"
"Yes…not all tests are announced or…what they appear to be."
- - Mordock and Chang
"Zaldans have webbed fingers… hmph. I wouldn't have passed."
- - Mordock
"Did you hear what she said, Mordock? She said I was cute."
"Is that good, Wesley?"
"Yes… I think."
- - Wesley and Mordock
"Mr. Crusher… you're next."
- - Chang, to Wesley prior to the start of his psych test
"I failed, sir. I didn't get into the academy. I failed you, and I failed the Enterprise."
"Ridiculous! Did you do your best?"
- - Wesley and Picard
"I failed the first time, too. And you may not tell anyone!"
"You? You failed?"
"Yes. But not the second time!"
- - Picard and Wesley
- Second draft story outline: 28 October 1987
- Four-page memo of story notes: 4 November 1987
- Breakdown of optical costs by Dan Curry: 23 December 1987
- Second revised final draft script: 29 December 1987
- Third revised final draft script: 30 December 1987 
- A day of filming: 12 February 1988 (Star Trek Magazine issue 154, p. 26)
- Premiere airdate: 14 March 1988
- UK premiere airdate: 6 February 1991
Story and script
- Although scripted by Sandy Fries, "Coming of Age" was rewritten by Hannah Louise Shearer. (Trek: The Unauthorized Behind-The-Scenes Story of The Next Generation) An early draft of the episode's script, written by Fries, had the working title "Starfleet Academy" and was written while the episode's director had not yet been selected.
- Starting with this episode, Maurice Hurley took over the job of showrunner from Gene Roddenberry. Hurley was concerned that the show's writing process had stalled under Roddenberry's leadership, and so personally paid for a holiday for Roddenberry and Majel Barrett on the understanding that he would take over while they were gone. Upon his eventual return, Roddenberry opted to leave Hurley in charge of the writing staff. (William Shatner Presents: Chaos on the Bridge)
- A scene cut for time showed Wesley and the whole bridge crew celebrating his sixteenth birthday. The script named the location of the scene as "Deck 21 Forward Lounge", probably an early predecessor of Ten Forward. The scene also featured a short, humorous bit: Data asks Worf how Klingons celebrate their birthdays, and Worf replies that they do not. Data then asks him, how does he know how old he is. Worf replies: he doesn't know and asks Data how does he know, with Data replying that he has no age. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion) 
Cast and characters
- Ward Costello and Robert Schenkkan both reprise their roles in the episode "Conspiracy".
- This episode was the first time on Star Trek for John Putch. He later appeared as Mendon in TNG: "A Matter Of Honor" and as a journalist in Star Trek Generations.
- Robert Ito can be seen as John Kim in VOY: "Author, Author" and Daniel Riordan as a Bajoran deputy in DS9: "Progress" and as Duras, son of Toral in ENT: "Judgment" and "The Expanse".
- This episode lays the groundwork for the season's penultimate episode, "Conspiracy". Dexter Remmick makes a return in that episode, as does Gregory Quinn.
- This episode was the first to be directed by Mike Vejar, and it was the only time he directed an episode of TNG. He returned to Star Trek in 1997, when he began directing episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. He continued directing until 2005, when Star Trek: Enterprise was canceled.
- Remmick makes reference to the events of "The Naked Now", "Justice", "Where No One Has Gone Before", and "The Battle".
- Wesley's repeat Starfleet exams, which Picard insists that he will take the next year, can be seen in "Samaritan Snare" although the testing itself is not shown with the drama associated with the "psych test".
- Room 101 might be a reference to George Orwell's 1984, where Room 101 was used to psychologically break the subjects by torturing them with their greatest fears.
- While Remmick's conversation with Tasha Yar wasn't shown, it is assumed to have happened since Picard said to Remmick that he had spoken to every member of the crew.
- While in the Academy testing room, the other candidates ask Wesley Crusher if he's old enough to qualify for Academy entry and he replies that he will be 16 next month. This implies that the age requirement to be admitted to Starfleet Academy is 16.
Sets and props
- The original matte painting of the Relva VII surface is in the possession of Dan Curry and displayed in his house. (TNG Season 6 DVD special feature, "Departmental Briefing Year Six – Profile: Dan Curry"). The same background painting was originally created by him for Universal Studios' science fiction television series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, where it appeared as the Aldebaran II spaceport in the 1979 two-part episode "The Plot to Kill a City", reused for the later, same season episode "Planet of the Amazon Women" , and was only slightly modified by its creator for its Star Trek appearance, among others by adding the Starfleet symbols on the dome. (Star Trek Encyclopedia (3rd ed., p. 405))
- This episode features the first appearance of a shuttlecraft model on Star Trek: The Next Generation.
- A mission report by Patrick Daniel O'Neill for this episode was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 5, pp. 49-52.
- UK premiere airdate: 6th February 1991
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award in the category Outstanding Achievement in Makeup for a Series in 1988, namely Michael Westmore, Werner Keppler, Gerald Quist, and Rolf John Keppler.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 10, catalog number VHR 2439, 1 April 1991
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 1.7, catalog number VHR 4648, 7 September 1998
- As part of the TNG Season 1 DVD collection
- As part of the TNG Season 1 Blu-ray collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Geordi La Forge
- Denise Crosby as Lt. Tasha Yar
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf
- Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
- Ward Costello as Gregory Quinn
- Robert Schenkkan as Dexter Remmick
- John Putch as Mordock
- Robert Ito as Chang
- Stephen Gregory as Jake Kurland
- Tasia Valenza as T'Shanik
- Estee Chandler as Oliana Mirren
- Brendan McKane as Technician #1
- Wyatt Knight as Technician #2
- Daniel Riordan as Rondon
- James G. Becker as Youngblood
- Darrell Burris as operations officer
- Dan Campise as operations officer
- Dexter Clay as operations officer
- Jeffrey Deacon as command officer
- Nora Leonhardt as sciences officer
- Tim McCormack as Bennett
- Lorine Mendell as Diana Giddings
- Burt Nacke as Relva VII engineer
- Richard Sarstedt as command officer
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Unknown performers as
- Command officer
- Female sciences officer
- Female sciences officer
- Female transporter officer
- Five civilians
- Nine Relva VII Starfleet officers
- Operations officer
- Relva VII female test computer voice
- Relva VII male computer voice
- Relva VII technician 1 and 3
- Three command crewmembers
- Two operations crewmembers
- James G. Becker – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Darrell Burris – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Dexter Clay – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Susan Duchow – stand-in for Denise Crosby
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Guy Vardaman – stand-in for Wil Wheaton
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- "Coming of Age" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Coming of Age" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Coming of Age" at Wikipedia
- "Coming of Age" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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"Heart of Glory"