This episode takes a look at how to deal with success and failure.
Picard is being tested if he is a loyal officer – and while he passes the test, and he would get a promotion to an admiral. He decides to refuse the offer, he does not want to get involved with the politics of the federation. But something sinister is going on…
A fellow student that also wanted to get to go to the Starfleet Assessment center – failed to get a spot. He put himself under so much pressure that he did not manage to tell his father about it. He feels like an utter failure and wants to run away, and almost gets himself killed in the shuttle he steals.
At the assessment center, Wesley meets Modoc, some blue alien. Murdoc almost failed a test, when he could not identify an alien species. He does know how to interact with it in the correct manner. Wesley helps Murdoc again later on when he is struggling with a task. In the end, Wesley fails to get accepted by Starfleet Academy. He comes in second. Murdoc wins, he is the first of his kind in Starfleet.
I would say both candidates had equal test scores. But the fact that Mordoc is the first of his species joining tipped the balance in his favor. – I do not like this in this episode, Wesley should not be needed to retake the test, he was qualified to join. They should have put him on a waiting list if they do not have the capacity at the moment. He should not have gotten the feeling that he failed.
“Just remember running away from something does not solve the matter” Picard
In the end, Wesley failed to get a spot at Starfleet Academy. He feels like that he let down everyone on the enterprise – Picard in the end gives great life advice:
The only person you are truly competing against – is yourself. (…)You have to measure your successes and failures from within, not by anything that I or anyone might think.Picard
I always thought this episode was from one of the later seasons. It defiantly has a couple of major logical flaws – but the message of the episode is important. It is one of my favorite episodes.