Welcome back to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.
For those of you that don’t want to read the long recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can also just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
Starfleet sends a pair of experts to improve the engine performance of the Enterprise. While the lead engineer is a fraud, his alien assistant is not, and he uses God-like powers to improve the Warp Drive capabilities of the Enterprise beyond what is imaginable.
Distracted by Wesley Crusher, though, the alien inadvertently sends the Enterprise beyond the current galaxy as well as beyond an adjacent galaxy to a place where no human has ever previously visited. The first attempt to fix the issue makes it worse. The alien, now called The Traveler, accidentally sends the Enterprise beyond the boundaries of the known universe to a place where thought is reality. Finally though, after receiving assurances from Picard that he will encourage Wesley Crusher in what the alien deems to be his warp propulsion genius, the alien sends the Enterprise home and vanishes in the process.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP AND REACTION:
Oooh. I like this episode title. It feels like we have an important episode on its way.
Captain’s Log: Stardate 41263.1
An engine propulsion expert is on the Enterprise to run tests on its engines. Riker and Data feel as though his “specs” are gibberish. Picard – a Starfleet man, apparently – does not believe Starfleet would send him to the Enterprise if what he did was gibberish. Riker and Data explain that his prior work was on older star ships. He may have simply repaired inefficiencies on old ships. They do not feel, based on study of his work, that his work on the Enterprise will help. Riker also notes that unlike other ships the expert has worked on, the Enterprise has brand new engines.
Picard sends Riker to oversee the tests. Riker asks if Troi can join him to “look these visitors over” and Picard agrees. When Kosinski is introduced to Riker, he asks where Picard is located and chastises Riker for Picard being engaged in other matters. Riker also introduces Kosinski to one of the ship’s chief engineers and Kosinski complains to him that he has communicated a lot of questions prior to their meeting. Kosinski’s assistant tells the group that his name is unpronounceable by humans so they can refer to him as Kosinski’s assistant. Riker notes to the Assistant that he is aware his species is from a very distant planet. Riker offers to have the engineer lead Kosinski to the engine room and Kosinski starts off on his own, saying that there is no need for a guide, and that he knows his way around star ships.
After they are gone, Troi talks to Riker about what she felt from the two of them. Kosinski, she says, is arrogant, overbearing, and extremely self-confident. His assistant, however, has no discernable presence.
It is as though he isn’t even here.
She tells Riker that their presence concerns her though there is no specific reason she can point to for that feeling. Riker advises her to stay concerned.
Kosinski enters the engine room and tells the Engineering officer that Riker sent with him that he needs to inform the bridge that he will begin shortly. Then he spots Wesley and asks why a child is in the room. Kosinski then gives a speech about how he knows they doubt him. He correctly surmises that they ran tests with the information that he sent and that the information did not work. He concludes by saying he is not a teacher because he has neither the inclination nor the time to become one.
Riker has observed this speech and tells Kosinski that he has all the time that he needs. Kosinski arrogantly says that his work has already been approved by Starfleet. Riker replies that the work has not been approved by either the Chief Engineer or himself. Kosinski suggests that he speak with Picard. Kosinski relents and agrees to explain his work.
He sends his assistant to type in formulas into the ship’s computer, faster than a human can type, while he explains. Wesley observes the assistant while Kosinski speaks in the other room. As Kosinski speaks in gibberish about nature and time, the assistant and Wesley work together. The assistant looks at Wesley in wonder.
Riker and the Chief Engineer decide to let Kosinski try his adaptations because they determine that the changes are meaningless. Kosinski is outraged that they are talking about him as though he is not standing there.
The ship conducts the test and the Enterprise exceeds Warp 10. Wesley stares in wonder at the assistant who seems to faze out becoming almost invisible during the test. Data tells Picard that velocity is off the scale so Picard calls for the ship to reverse engines. Then the ships comes to a stop. Picard asks La Forge to calculate their position and he tells Picard that they have left their own galaxy, passed a neighboring galaxy, and their ship is now located in a galaxy called M33.
Picard: That’s not possible.
La Forge tells Picard that at maximum warp speed it will take them more than three hundred years to return home. The Enterprise sends a message about what has happened to Starfleet and Data informs Picard that Starfleet will receive the message in fifty-one years.
Kosinski comes aboard the bridge and tells Picard that he made a mistake.
Wesley speaks with the Assistant in the Engineering room. Wesley asks what happened and if his mother, who is a doctor, can help him. He also asks if what happened effected what just happened to the ship.
Aboard the bridge, Kosinski is smugly proud of the speed the ship just achieved, despite admitting that doing so was in error. Picard asks him if he can do it again to get the ship home and Kosinski says “of course I can.”
Kosinski returns to the bridge and asks for comment from his crew. Troi says that Kosinski believes that he achieved this. Worf worries that giving a man who has made such a colossal mistake a chance to make another might not be wise. La Forge suggests that if Kosinski cannot get them home, then who can? Data suggests that they treat the mistake as an opportunity and suggests they begin studying the galaxy wherein they have arrived. Picard decides to let Kosinski try because he believes Starfleet can use his technique to send a pure science vessel back in the future.
In the engine room, Wesley approaches Riker and states quietly that he believes the assistant, and not Kosinski, is responsible for what happened. Riker tells Wesley that he does not want to hear about it right now. Kosinski tells his assistant that they will need to return. Wesley states to Kosinski that he believes the Assistant is too tired. However, the Assistant says he can do it.
The Enterprise tries to return home. This time, Riker sees the Assistant phasing into invisibility during the test. Picard calls for a full stop. The instruments on the ship state that the ship never went beyond Warp 1.5. However, on the screen, we see something that no longer looks like outer space.
Picard: What is this place?
Data: Where none have gone before.
The Enterprise is over one billion light years from its home galaxy. Picard goes to Engineering.
Still on the bridge, an animal suddenly appears. It is Worf’s childhood pet. After petting it for a few moments, it disappears. Yar compares it to a cat and suddenly a cat appears on the bridge.
Picard steps out of the elevator and almost drops into deep space. The door closes. WHen it reopens it is the ship again.
Back on the bridge, we learn that the cat was Yar’s childhood pet. She suddenly sees the colony where she grew up, all around her, and believes herself to be there. A moment later she is back on the bridge.
We cut to a scene of an unknown ship’s officer playing in a violin foursome with three men dressed for earth’s 1700s.
Now Picard is walking down a hallway. In the hallway, two crew members run past Picard claiming to be chased. Picard looks and sees nothing behind them. He then sees another crew member dancing ballet in a room. When we first see her, she is in traditional ballet attire. When Picard addresses her, her clothes change to a crew member’s uniform.
The crew member who had been playing violin suddenly sees that he is alone, without an instrument, at a table.
Picard turns a corner and sees his mother offering him some tea. He asks her to explain to him what this place is. Riker interrupts him and Picard turns away. When he looks back at his mother, she is gone. Picard stares for a long moment at where his mother had been. Riker approaches and asks if he can help him and Picard says no.
Picard then issues a Red Alert. He informs everyone on the ship that their thoughts somehow become reality in the place within the universe where the ship is currently located. Picard then asks Kosinski what he has done and Riker interrupts to tell Picard that the Assistant is the one who sent them to this place and that Kosinski’s equations are nonsense. Kosinski states that he had honestly believed it was him. Wesley explains that the Assistant phased during the warp tests. Riker tells Picard that Wesley tried to warn him, twice, after the first test, and that he did not listen.
Dr. Crusher and Wesley are with the Assistant who is now lying on a table and appears to be dying. She does not know what is wrong with him because his physiology is sufficiently different from her education. Her guess is that the Assistant is simply exhausted. Picard asks what the boy is doing here and Riker suggests that the boy should remain because the Assistant seems to have developed an attachment to him.
W: My name is Wesley, Commander Riker.
P: [annoyed] He knows.
Picard tells Dr. Crusher to wake the alien. She suggests allowing him to rest and wake up on his own. Picard tells her that if the ships stays in its current location much longer, the ship’s crew will lose the ability to distinguish between thought and reality.
Picard: Regardless of the risks, wake him. Now.
Picard asks him, after he wakes, who he is. The Assistant tells the Captain that he is a traveler. He tells Picard that he is not a threat to the ship or the crew. He tells Picard that he has an ability to act like a lens which focuses thought. He says that the ship was able to travel where it did because of his thoughts.
The Assistant: Thought is the essence of where you are now.
He tells the people in the room that there were not supposed to visit the place where they are now until their far, far distant future. Riker asks where there is no record, up until now, of his kind ever having visited and the Assistant says that only now have humans become interesting. Riker speculates that something distracted the alien during their war experiments.
Picard tells Riker to bring the alien to main engineering. Wesley disagrees.
W: No, he’s very weak.
The alien argues with Wesley and says that the Captain is right. He then requests a moment with the Captain alone. He tells Picard not to repeat what he is about to share with him because events must proceed naturally. Then he shares that Wesley is a genius, comparable to Mozart. However, Wesley’s genius is engine propulsion rather than music. He encourages Picard to… encourage Wesley.
Picard tells us that The Traveler will lead another experiment with their warp propulsion. This time, however, the members of the ship are directed to think about returning home. The alien makes use of these thoughts somehow.
Over the ship’s intercom, Picard advises every person on the ship to think of their duty or on the welfare of the Traveler.
The ship attempts the experiment again. Troi says that she feels an abundance of well-being on the ship. Picard says engage and the ship moves. Picard narrates that it’s not enough. Wesley stands up and seems to encourage The Traveler. He nods. We see him phase to invisibility. The ship returns to its original location. However, the Traveler is now gone.
Data states that the instruments never left Warp 1.5. Picard calls off the Red Alert. He then goes over the intercom to inform the ship that they are back in their own galaxy. He tells Riker to have the boy sent to the bridge. Wesley comes onto the bridge and Picard tells him to sit. Riker advises that this is not allowed. Picard says that he will have to make Wesley an Acting Ensign. As Acting Ensign, Wesley will have access to the Bridge. Riker is very pleased by this.
Picard: Whether that rank becomes permanent, Mr. Crusher, depends on you.
Picard commands Riker to give Wesley a “duty schedule” heavy on study. In the interim, he tells Wesley he can sit on the Bridge and learn something. Wesley declines and opportunity to tell his mother about what has just happened and says he will tell her later.
In episode 5 of season 1, we meet yet another God-like alien. It’s not that these episodes are bad, it’s just… a lot. I am ready for some Klingons, Romulans, Ferengi, and Vulcans, gathered around a long table, discussing trade deals and diplomatic relations.
This episode also gets Wesley onto the Bridge. It apparently took an interdimensional god-like alien to realize that Wesley is a genius – even by Starfleet standards – and that someone should encourage him in his area of genius. Maybe once he’s on the bridge, we can stop having so many Wesley-focused episodes. We have barely even heard from Worf five episodes into this series. He had a kitty cat as a kid? Picard has a mother? He was not born a bald and imposing ship’s captain? Yar grew up in a dangerous Colony? Remember that time Yar and Data got drunk and hooked up? There are other stories to tell is my point.
I am not sure what to think of the idea that thought can serve as an aid to warp engine propulsion. I also do not understand how the Assistant adapted prior ships to move more efficiently when he was not on them directly, powering them with his thoughts. That feels like a plot hole. The hallucinations by the crew, when the ship was in the place outside of the universe, also felt like the show left sci-fi and moved into fantasy.
Overall, this episode was okay even if it is yet another “we met a god” (the third so far) and lived to tell the tale episode. I’m just ready to get into some kind of groove with The Next Generation and I do not feel like the show has found one, yet.
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