I don't have much to add to the other ongoing discussion regarding the cadet mission, but I would like to point out a line from the original script of "In Thy Image" from before it became TMP.
When Lt. Xon, Spock's replacement, beams on board, he's unrecognizable as a Vulcan. Paraphrasing, Kirk sees Xon's Lieutenant stripes and tells McCoy "He's yours," to which McCoy replies, "He's yours. Vulcans also
graduate as Lieutenants." So the it would appear to be the intention that medical officers and Vulcans get to jump straight to lieutenant when they graduate, in the case of medical officers perhaps reflective of additional medical education achieved separately from the Academy. In the case of Vulcans, who knows. Maybe they're able to handle additional honors courses that let them jump. Anyhoo, perhaps this explains Saavik.
OTOH, as others have suggested, perhaps Saavik was a command school cadet, and had already been through the regular Academy?
Which is interesting since Picard complained that it was underpowered. "Peak Performance" showed the ship to have only one bulky warp core. Still, she seemed pretty roomy with thick primary hull.
Wasn't it in "The Battle" that Picard complained, and about the Stargazer
? "She was an overworked, underpowered vessel..." I think. Perhaps he meant the four engines were underpowered by the warp core? Might explain why we didn't see many of them. Regarding that thick hull, if we accept the garage door looking details as hangars, as appears to be the case, she may be more hollow inside than we think.
Well, at the time if the Battle at Maxia, Picard wasn't a "hero character" so the Stargazer was fodder. Now put Picard on a shuttlecraft and see how much longer it'll survive against a Jem'hadar attack than say Captain No-name
I guess what I was trying to suggest was moreso that the Stargazer
didn't appear to be on the low level of, say, a Lantree
. From outward appearances, Stargazer
appeared well-armed at least.