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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 »

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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. Commander 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 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 »


Official Sites:

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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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Did You Know?


This is the first episode where Picard actually drinks Earl Grey tea. He had previously ordered a cup of Earl Grey from the replicator in TNG: "Contagion", but because of a computer malfunction he instead received a small potted plant See more »


After Data brings Sarjenka with him to the bridge, and Capt. Picard asks Counselor Troi to escort Sarjenka to Sickbay, she resists and raises her hands in front of her face in fear, and when she does so, you can easily see the fake fingertip extensions on her hands. See more »


[Data is about to beam down to the planet]
Commander William T. Riker: O'Brien, take a nap. You didn't see any of this, you're not involved.
Chief Miles O'Brien: Right, sir, I'll just be standing over here dozing off.
See more »


Featured in Star Wars: The Last Plinkett Review (2018) See more »


Star Trek: The Next Generation Main Title
Composed by Jerry Goldsmith and Alexander Courage
See more »

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User Reviews

Data's first Girlfriend
10 September 2013 | by XweAponXSee all my reviews

And I don't mean that little fiasco he had with Michele Scarabelli. I have a lot to say about that, but not here.

This episode is book-ended in the Season 7 episode "Thine Own Self", which is similar in a lot of Ways. Both Wesley in this episode and Troi in the latter are exploring the upper limits of Authority: Both are exploring the Ensigns of Command.

The Enterprise enters the Selcundi-Drama sector, which has Planets like Bruce Willis: they "Live fast and Die Hard" - Riker tells Worf "This is Geology, not Malevolence" and Picard calls for his usual Conference before assigning Wesley Crusher his first Command task in finding out why these planets turn into Asteroid belts for no reason.

But one of these doomed planets has an intelligent humanoid life-form, and Data starts talking to what amounts to a little girl playing with a Shortwave Radio Set.

But the Planet does not have Warp Drive nor does it know about life outside of it's degenerating sphere. As Picard, says, "Oops!"

The next planet due to be destroyed is Drama IV, the planet of Data's little girl friend (Sarjenka - Nikki Cox). Will the Prime Directive be ignored? Picard decides that if the reason why these planets blow up is discovered, and a solution is forthcoming, Drama IV can be spared.

Which lays a lot of responsibility on Wesley's young shoulders. And he had already saved the Enterprise from being destroyed at least twice in Season 1. Can he, and SHOULD he do it again here?

I say YES. This shows Wesley as he should have been in Season 1 - Not just a snotty know-it-all kid, but a gifted kid that when given the proper tools, Instruction from the best Officers in Starfleet and a team of planetary specialists under his command, can SPEARHEAD a group of people whose working together can solve this conundrum and find a working solution. This shows that Wesley CAN believably save the day, when put into the position where he can question his own ideas of how to go about it. And to stand up to older crew-members who have a lot of experience, believing in himself and that his order for a certain difficult test was the right decision.

So because Wesley stood up for himself, the people of Drama IV did not have to become a new asteroid Belt.

There is also a reference to the Anne Mccaffrey "Crystal Singer" books- Sarjenka picks up a singing rock in Sickbay and is told by Dr Polaski that it is an Alanan Singer-Stone, and in the books the Singers basically sing the stones out of the ground.

In reference to Season 7 "Thine Own Self", Data also saves a little girl and her immediate civilization - Only in that case, his memory gets wiped rather than the little girl's memory, as Dr Polaski does to Sarjenka here.

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