After all, next seasons "Who Watches the Watchers" establishes that Pulaski's memory wiping technique does not always work and we never see Sarkenka awake after Data leaves.
This just proves that Pulaski
's memory wiping technique is something that Crusher
never quite understood... Which is consistent with how Crusher lagged behind Pulaski in several other fields of medical proficiency, including Pulaski being aware of several options for LaForge's sight problems that came as complete news to the patient.
That question is so relevant, for the entire series in general.
What possible relevance could it have? It's a straw man.
Neither "Pen Pals" nor any other episode mentions that warp drive would be a relevant consideration in PD application. "First Contact" suggests that species on the verge of going to warp are ripe for contacting, but this has no connection to the PD question.
Was it this episode where Picard says that the primary purpose of the Prime Directive is to protect themselves? Not to protect civilizations from interference, but to protect the Federation from making matters worse, pretty much.
Yup - and the same rationale can easily be applied to all the other PD plots. Who cares what happens to millions in a universe overflowing with trillions already? If the Feds don't help them, there are dozens of cultures who could do it if they really cared.
However, this episode is a good example of why Picard should be saying "yeah, you all see the obvious arguments - but let's remember why the PD exists in the first place, so that you won't go play god the next time without again having this conversation
and thinking it through". Saving people left and right has the effect of corrupting you into thinking you can do anything, and the negative consequences of that probably far outweigh the deaths of billions.
Many episodes establish that the PD is only hobbling Starfleet, not the Federation or its civilian citizens. Often enough, the government orders Starfleet to interfere (say, in virtually every episode of TOS, where Kirk meddles because that's his appointed mission) - it's just that safeguards are in place to prevent Starfleet
from ordering anybody else
One can see this episode describing how Picard caves in to pressure, after being heartless for most of the running time. But that's not really what happens
. Picard starts out pissed off because his underlings are acting unprofessionally; specifically, Data is breaking regulations left and right and hiding it from his CO. He then clears the table for open discussion and pondering of options without bias. If anybody has bias there, it's Riker, who brings up the "cosmic plan" possibility, probably half in jest as he seems unsurprised when nobody else agrees with him in the slightest. Quite possibly, Riker has had discussions like this dozens of times before, only not with these particular officers.
Picard's only objection here is to Data's unauthorized communications, a profound display of unprofessional defiance. He never expresses the sentiment that the Dremans should be let to die. Nor does any other character
I see no problems with the description and dissection of the PD in this episode, or with the characters' attitudes towards it. But somebody must have viewed "Pen Pals" with very different eyes if he saw it as the precedent on which to write "Homeward"...