13 user 8 critic

Pen Pals 

Data befriends an alien girl in distress, breaking the Prime Directive, while Wesley commands his first team.


Winrich Kolbe


Gene Roddenberry (created by), Melinda M. Snodgrass (teleplay by) | 2 more credits »




Episode complete credited cast:
Patrick Stewart ... Capt. Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes ... Cmdr. William Riker
LeVar Burton ... Lt. Geordi La Forge
Michael Dorn ... Lt. Worf
Marina Sirtis ... Counselor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner ... Lt. Cmdr. Data
Wil Wheaton ... Wesley Crusher
Diana Muldaur ... Doctor Pulaski
Nicholas Cascone Nicholas Cascone ... Ensign Davies
Nikki Cox ... Sarjenka
Ann Gillespie ... Ensign Hildebrant (as Ann H. Gillespie)
Colm Meaney ... Chief Miles O'Brien
Whitney Rydbeck ... Ensign Alans


On arriving at a newly identified planetary group, the crew finds that the entire system is unstable. As the person in charge of Wesley Crusher's training and education, Commander Riker wants to put him in charge of the planetary mineral survey, the results of which should explain why the system has become so unstable. He has to command a team for the first time, all of whom are older than himself. Data meanwhile has a pen pal of sorts when he establishes radio contact with Sarjenka, a young girl from a nearby planet. They exchange information for several weeks when Data finally realizes that Sarjenka's world isn't aware of extra-terrestrial life and as a result, he has broken the Prime Directive. Written by garykmcd

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TV-PG | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


This takes place in 2365. See more »


When Sarjenka is in sick bay, a close up of her face reveals a poorly applied plastic mask that the actress wears to give her an alien appearance, especially noticeable around the eyes. See more »


Lt. Commander Data: Eight weeks ago, I received a transmission. A simple four word message. "Is anybody out there?" I answered it.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: There is a... a loneliness inherent in that whisper from the darkness.
Lt. Commander Data: Yes, sir. I am glad you understand, sir.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: But it didn't end there.
Lt. Commander Data: No, sir. We speak often. It is a young female, humanoid.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Her society is aware that there is interstellar life?
Lt. Commander Data: No, sir.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Oops.
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Referenced in Star Trek: First Contact (1996) See more »


Star Trek: The Next Generation End Credits
Composed by Jerry Goldsmith and Alexander Courage
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User Reviews

I think this is an underrated episode
5 June 2021 | by snoozejoncSee all my reviews

Data makes contact with a little girl on the surface of a planet being studied by Enterprise.

This is a strong episode with a great look at leadership and the ethical decisions leaders have to make.

The plot is heavy handed in how the themes are presented, but it's an effective look at command from the perspective of the a young inexperienced ensign and a seasoned ship's captain. In the same breath it makes good use of the prime directive in the story's main dilemma.

I imagine many young leaders have been in the position of commanding older and more experienced colleagues. I know I can identify with the position Wesley is put in during 'Pen Pals', so the episode is worth watching for the realism and good advice he receives during his moments of self doubt.

The Data story puts Picard in an equally difficult position but with enormous challenges in terms of ethical decision making and what's at stake. Data, Pulaski and the other commanders give strong contributions to the problems at hand.

I enjoyed this visuals, with decent use of locations for the holodeck scenes and some good set design for the planet surface sequences.

Personally I thought cast were on good form with all giving equally good contributions aside from Patrick Stewart who always stands out as an excellent performer.

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Release Date:

29 April 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Pen Pals See more »

Filming Locations:

Thousand Oaks, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Paramount Television See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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