"Rascals"

Season Six, Episode 7
Teleplay by Allison Hock 
Story by Ward Botsford & Diana Dru Botsford and Michael Piller
Directed by Adam Nimoy
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data

Guest Cast:
Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan
Michelle Forbes as Ensign Ro
Colm Meaney as O'Brien
Rosalind Chao as Keiko
David Tristan Birkin as Young Picard
Megan Parlen as Young Ro
Caroline Junko King as Young Keiko
Isis J Jones as Young Guinan
Mike Gomez as Daimon Lurin
Tracey Walter as Berik
Michael Snyder as Marta
Brian Bonsall as Alexander
Morgan Nagler as Kid
Hana Hatae as Molly.

Synopsis:

A shuttle returning to the Enterprise is caught in a space anomaly. When it's occupants, Picard, Guinan, Ro and Keiko are beamed aboard the ship, they materialise as ten year-old children. Just as they have to adjust to life as children, the Enterprise is attacked and taken over by renegade Ferengi. The task of rescuing the ship falls into the hand of the underestimated youngsters.


Review: 

In my review of Deep Space Nine's "One Little Ship", I compared it to "Rascals" -- somewhat unfavourably. The similarities are clear -- in "Rascals" four characters revert back to childhood while in "One Little Ship" a runabout and its crew are drastically shrunk several hundred times. In both instances, the ship is attacked and taken over by baddies and in both instances it's the small guys that save the day. 

The big difference is that "One Little Ship" managed to pull off such a ridiculous premise with a large dose of fun and its tongue firmly embedded in its cheek. "Rascals" tries to do just that, only it's not quite as successful. Still, having previously described it as a "steaming pile of dog poo" (I apologise for any nasty imagery that expression might evoke) I must digress that I was a little harsh. It's not that bad -- certainly not on the level of "Spock's Brain" or "Threshold". Problem is, despite some fun moments, it doesn't quite manage to transcend the innate silliness of its premise. 

I'd actually like to know what the heck the writers were thinking. At least in "One Little Ship" they had the comfort of knowing that, shrinkage aside, they still had the same reliable actors on hand. But to revert established characters into children necessitates the casting of child actors in their place. Big, big risk. To be very blunt, let's face it -- child actors that can actually act is an extreme rarity. (Which is understandable given that an actor usually draws from experience). 

Perhaps the biggest surprise about this episode is that the kids are actually quite good! David Tristan Birkin managed to capture Patrick Stewart's gait and body language, although I wasn't quite won over whenever he opened his mouth. Megan Parlen was good as young Ro, while Keiko seemed about right -- even as a child she still whines! And while Isis J Jones was a little "off" with her body language at first (perhaps having trouble balancing with that hat!) there were times when she spoke I very nearly heard Guinan. So, the acting side of it was definitely a pleasant surprise.

As for the rest of it? Hmm. The first half of the episode dealt with the reaction to the accident and most of it was handled reasonably well. It was almost surreal watching a ten year-old Picard trying to take command of the Bridge and I adored O'Brien's pained expression as he watched his ten year-old wife doing the housework. Of course, the writers felt the need to try and explain -- in great detail -- the technobabble behind the transporter accident...which was just great fun, as usual (far be it for me to be facetious or anything!). Yup, the reaction part of the episode was alright, if a little obvious. If you can actually take the plot seriously (as you're clearly meant to) then so far, so good. 

But it gets worse. The Enterprise is attacked and taken over...by the Ferengi!! I'm sorry, but I just about burst out laughing when we discovered that it was the Ferengi that had so easily taken over the ship. The Ferengi!! Even if the takeover hadn't seemed so ridiculously easy, I still, not in a thousand years, would ever believe that the bumbling Ferengi could be capable of seizing the flagship of the Federation! As if the initial transporter mishap didn't strain credibility enough, this just tears all boundaries of logic. 

You could argue that things get even sillier from here! You see, our four little crew members proceed to rescue the ship. How do they manage that? Well, all of a sudden the Ferengi, having carried out a vicious attack that would make the Klingons proud, become blithering, incompetent idiots again. I'm sorry, but no. Try as I might, I just couldn't suspend my disbelief quite that far. There's definitely a limit, and "Rascals" struck it, just about three times over.

I will admit that it was reasonably entertaining and there were definitely one or two nice touches. I loved seeing Picard and Riker pretending to be father and son ("he's my Number One Dad!") and Riker utterly confusing that Ferengi with his excessive technobabble in a delightful moment of self-mockery. I won't deny the episode was quite fun -- but fun alone can't compensate for an extremely dumb plot. It's almost as though this show had been made for the kiddies in the audience along with the banal message that "kids are just as clever as adults". Maybe so, but in this case the kids got to be clever by making everyone else look utterly stupid. 

"Rascals" is a mixed bag. It's certainly not as bad as I remembered it, because on a superficial level it's reasonably entertaining. But it also stretches all boundaries of credibility to absolute breaking point and whilst it may appeal to youngsters, it's one of those episode which actually makes you feel slightly embarrassed to be watching. Maybe it will appeal to the inner child, but certainly not the reasoning critic.
 

Rating: 4


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