Space: the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Unicorner. Her continuing mission to recap every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation despite being a day late for a second week in a row, but fuck it, it’s the holidays, and I have a Gayo Daejun to recap for my K-pop blog as well. To seek out new lulz and new fun times. To boldly go where many have recapped before but nobody as cool as she.
The Rules, you know the drill:
- For every heartfelt and affecting moment in Data’s quest to be human, there’s way too many painfully awkward/unfunny ones.
- The competence of the Enterprise crew varies greatly depending on plot requirements.
- For a scifi show, some of this tech is dated as fuck.
- Wesley is the Gary-est Stu to ever Stu.
- Pop culture ended in 1987.
- Though TNG is a feminist show in many ways, it has some hella sexist moments.
- As progressive as Star Trek usually is, there’s some racist ass shit up in here.
- TNG writers should never, ever attempt humor. Ever.
- When it comes to distancing this utopian future from present day, holy overcompensation, Batman!
- Star Trek is kind of a mess when it comes to LGBT representation or lack thereof.
- Dramatic music always informs us when we’ve hit a Plot Point.
- This shit don’t make a damn lick of sense.
One more thing: if you’ve decided to watch TNG and follow along with my recaps, a) congrats on this excellent life decision b) beware potential spoilers, as I may occasionally comment on developments later in the series.
We begin as we always do with a Picard VO, informing us that the Enterprise have completed a rendezvous with the USS Fearless, from which a Starfleet propulsion expert and his assistant will beam over to the Enterprise to conduct tests on the warp drives. On the bridge, Picard and Riker quibble over the specs the expert sent them. Riker claims the specs are a bunch of bunk, as he and Data uploaded them to the computer, ran a controlled test, but found no improvements in engine performance. Picard argues that it’s not like the expert is authorized to actually alter their engines anyway, and his adjustments to the USS Ajax and the USS Fearless yielded a “measurable increase in propulsion.” And what about the USS Mr. Clean, while we’re at it?
Riker counters that the Enterprise’s engines are brand new while the older ships might’ve needed a little tune-up. The debate comes to an end with a transmission from the transporter chief, who says the expert and his assistant are ready to beam over. Picard sends Riker to greet them. Still skeptical, Riker requests to bring Troi with him.
The expert, Kosinski, arrives with his assistant. He’s greeted by Riker, Troi, and the chief engineer, Lt. Argyle. Kosinski immediately antagonizes everyone by complaining that the captain sent peons to greet him rather than showing up himself. Riker receives a far more polite greeting from the assistant, who’s clearly an alien as he has pale skin and forehead ridges. We learn that the assistant’s name is unpronounceable by humans and he hails from the far-off homeworld of Tau Alpha C.
Kosinski fucks off to engineering, taking Argyle with him, leaving Riker and Troi in the transporter room. Troi confirms that Kosinski is indeed an entitled douchebag. The assistant, however, is more of an enigma. Though Troi can usually sense something, however vague, from most life forms, she gets nothing from this dude. She can’t describe why, but this concerns her.
In engineering, Kosinski is barking orders when he notices Wesley dicking around at the computer. Kosinski demands an explanation for the kid’s presence, and Lt. Argyle says that he’s working on a school project. The latter has some questions for Kosinski but broseph’s like, “Bitch, I don’t need to answer your questions, I rule this joint!” Riker, who walked in during this exchange, is like, “Actually… you don’t. Me and Argyle do.” So Kosinski’s like, “O RLY?” And Riker’s all passive-aggressive smiling like, “Oop at you.” Kosinski threatens to tattle to Picard and Riker’s like, “You can if you want, it won’t make a difference.” OK, I paraphrased a bit but that’s the gist of it.
In the background, the assistant is taking great interest in whatever it is Wesley is doing. I missed this on the first viewing, but now that I’ve rewatched, it’s a nice little detail that will figure in later. Kosinski, undoubtedly stewing at losing this battle of the white male egos, says he’s gonna break down his plans as simple as possible for y’all plebes while his assistant enters formulas into the computer “faster than any human being possibly could.” Hey asshole, did you forget that the Enterprise has a fuckin’ android? I mean yeah he’s easily amused by stupid crap like Chinese finger traps and dirty limericks, but the crew has seen Data flex his android skillz when it comes to this sort of thing. I doubt they’d be all that impressed. Anyway, the assistant sits down at the console Wesley recently vacated and starts his task.
While Kosinski rambles on in the background, Wesley looks over the assistant’s shoulder. The assistant remarks that Wesley seems perturbed and asks his input. The little shit makes some suggestions that the assistant apparently approves of, so now the warp drive will do the shit that Kosinski promised. Yeah, that’s right. A punk ass kid improved upon some shit designed by a warp drive expert.
Kosinski keeps talking shit to Riker and Argyle, who seem less than impressed. Riker asks Argyle, “Can any of the changes he’s proposing seriously fuck up our ship?” Broseph is like, “Nah, it’s all bullshit anyway.” So Riker’s like, “K, might as well let him try it.” Kosinski gets butthurt over how shady these two are being, then bellows at Wesley to quit playing with his toys. Wesley backs off but he and the assistant grin as though sharing an inside joke. If the joke is that Kosinski is a pretentious windbag, well, it’s not really an inside one.
On the bridge, Worf reports to Picard that engineering is ready to test Kosinski’s adjustments. There’s some treknobabble-heavy preparations, then Picard utters his trademark “Make it so.” Everything seems to go smoothly until the warp core starts freaking out and the computer makes noises like an 80s arcade game. Everyone looks worried and Kosinski is about to lose his shit when the assistant puts his hands on the machine and sort of fades in and out like a ghost. Wesley sees and starts trippin,’ swiveling his head back and forth between the assistant and the other grownups like he’s watching a galactic tennis match. However, nobody else appears to have noticed.
The ship puts on a burst of speed, and LaForge announces that they’ve exceeded warp 10. The camera shakes a few times while some dubbed-in sound effects rumble in the background. The assistant stands up, flinching briefly like he has a headache. The Enterprise whizzes past colorful shapes meant to signify star systems. Picard asks Data their speed, and the latter says it’s off the scale. Looking perturbed, Picard orders Data to put on the brakes. Data protests on grounds that no one’s done so at such a velocity. Picard’s like, “Because nobody’s ever gone this fast, you mechanical dipstick. Reverse engines.”
Once the ship comes to a full stop, the view screen reveals that they’re in a colorful star system that looks like a photoshop filter threw up all over the screen. Picard asks LaForge their location. LaForge looks confused at his readings and double-checks with Data, who thinks it’s a malfunction. Picard’s like “Spit it out already” and LaForge tells him they’ve evidently passed out of their galaxy, through two others, and are now on the “far side of Triangulum, the galaxy known as M33.”
Picard’s like, “No freakin’ way,” and asks Data how far they’ve traveled. The latter replies, “Two million, 700,000 light years, sir.” Picard’s like “Nah, bro,” and Data’s like, “Yeah, bro. Just ask the computer here.” LaForge pipes up that at maximum warp, it’d take them 300 years to get home. Well, shit. Data looks appropriately freaked out, though I’m not sure why his ass is freaked out, since he’s an android and has no emotions, and he’s also the only one of this lot who will still be alive in 300 years. Oh wait, maybe that’s why he’s freaked out. Anyway, dramatic music punctuates this reveal, fade to black.
When we return, Picard is making an entry in the captain’s log reiterating what we’ve just learned. Data helpfully informs everyone that with the message traveling through subspace, Starfleet should receive it in 51 years, 10 months, 9 weeks, 16 days. Picard’s like, shut the fuck up, Data. #1 The turbo lift opens and Kosinski, Riker, and Argyle walk in. Picard wants to know what the fuck is going on, and Kosinski starts spitting tech gibberish at him. No, really—Riker actually says as much so it doesn’t even make sense even in their ‘verse, let alone ours. Can I mention how much I love shady Riker? He’s delivering in this episode. But they’re here, so Picard concedes there must be some method to Kosinski’s madness. The latter just gets even more smug.
In engineering, Wesley is concerned about the assistant, who looks like he’s ready to keel over any minute. Wesley offers to have his mother examine him but the assistant declines, saying he just needs to rest. Wesley has figured out it was the assistant who somehow brought the ship to their present location and not Kosinski. Wesley asks if Kosinski really is full of shit and the assistant says no, he “sensed some small part of this.”
WESLEY: That space and time and thought aren’t the separate things they appear to be?
The assistant looks at Wesley like he uttered some kind of sacrilege. Wesley goes on to say that he thought the assistant’s formulas said something like that, but the latter interrupts, telling him never to say that again as the world is not ready for such “dangerous nonsense.” Uhhh, dude, it’s the 24th century, not the 12th. Nobody’s gonna burn you at the warp core for saying some shit that in present day would probably just warrant an assumption that you’re either trolling or on some kind of controlled substance. If this is supposed to be such an enlightened futuristic society, you’d think they’d be past the whole “burn the witch!” business.
On the bridge, Kosinski is strutting around taking credit for his amazing feat, but Picard interrupts his ass-patting by wanting to know if he can bring them back home again. Kosinski’s like, “Duh, of course!” but you can see the brief flicker of panic cross his face before he goes into full bullshit mode. He summons Riker to engineering like a little dog but Picard is like, “Commander Riker will join you shortly.” Nice, now Picard’s being shady, too. Once Kosinski leaves, the bridge crew all gather round to confer. Picard asks Troi if she senses anything, and she says that Kosinski honestly believes he is right. Worf doesn’t trust Kosinski, but LaForge points out that they don’t really have a choice. Data suggests studying the star system since they’re there anyway. Picard, while tempted, ultimately vetoes the idea in favor of Kosinski getting them back home, then using the same method to transport a pure science vessel out here for study.
Riker returns to engineering where Kosinski is still swinging his metaphorical peen around and everyone just puts up with him though you can tell Argyle’s 200% done. Wesley tries to tell Riker about the assistant, but Riker blows him off because it’s time for the grownups to to do grownup things, so go play, you little puke. Kosinski is like, “Up and at ‘em!” at his assistant, but Wesley objects on grounds that the latter is too tired and asks Kosinski why he doesn’t do it himself. Kosinski’s like, “Yeah, why not?” but the assistant quickly interjects and assures him he will help.
Wesley helps the assistant back to his station while the rest of the crew make the necessary preparations for the journey home. They go into warp and the assistant does his thing, fading in and out while he becomes one with the computer or whatever. This time, Riker notices and gets up to check it out, but nobody else seems to have noticed aside from Wesley. There’s some camera-shaking and rumbling sound effects and the ship comes to a stop.
On the bridge, Data says that according to the instruments, they never surpassed warp 1.5. This is odd since on their first trip, LaForge recorded them going past warp 10. Picard looks out the view screen like, “K, but where the fuck are we now?” The view screen shows some abstract blue video filter with sparkly things flying around. Data says, “Where none have gone before.” Yeah, no shit, but I guess someone had to say the episode title. The dramatic music ramps up, accompanied by closeups of the bridge crew.
Picard records another captain’s log, informing us that the Enterprise has traveled “over a billion light years from our galaxy.” Picard leaves Data in command of the bridge and heads to engineering. Suddenly we hear a snorting sound, and Worf sees a horned boar-looking creature standing on the bridge. It’s a Klingon targ, and this was Worf’s childhood pet.
YAR: You mean it’s a kitty-cat?
No, it’s a fuckin’ targ, Worf just told you that.
The targ disappears, leaving Worf confused and startled. Shortly after, an orange tabby cat appears on Yar’s console.
These sorts of weird hallucinations start happening all over the ship, only they’re not actually hallucinations. Picard steps out of the turbolift to see it has opened into empty space, and hastily scrambles back inside. Yar cuddles the cat, triggering a vivid flashback to a harrowing incident in her past, when she was living in a lawless colony and being chased by a rape gang. During the chase, she encountered a cat like the one that appeared. She immediately snaps out of it when LaForge distracts her. Some random crew member plays the violin with a classical orchestra donning powdered wigs and historical costumes, while another hallucinates herself as a ballerina. Picard walks down a corridor where he encounters a posh older woman who turns out to be his dead mother. He asks her where they are and what this place is, but is interrupted by Riker before she can answer. As with the other hallucinations, she disappears.
Picard gets himself together and calls a red alert. He and Riker enter engineering, where Dr. Crusher is treating the assistant. Picard makes an announcement that they’ve entered a space where their thoughts become realities, and cautions everyone to control their thoughts. This crew has some hecka interesting thoughts, apparently. Picard ends the communication and asks Kosinski that the fuck he did. Riker interjects that it wasn’t Kosinski, it was his assistant. Kosinski’s denies this, but Riker is like “bitch I told you his equations were some bullshit.” This humbles Kosinski enough into admitting that he had thought he had a part in all this but really he was full of shit. Lt. Argyle adds that he too should’ve noticed that it was Kosinski’s assistant. Picard’s like, “How could you? How could any of us?” Riker’s like, “Wesley did.” Picard glares at the kid and demands to know why he didn’t tell anyone. Riker admits that Wesley did, but Riker didn’t listen. New rule!
13. Wesley Crusher sees all, knows all.
Picard asks Dr. Crusher about the assistant’s condition but she is still uncertain. Wesley tells Picard the assistant “phased,” and when Picard’s like “Say what?” Wesley explains, “The video editors did an effect making him partially transpa—oop, I mean parts of him disappeared and then came back.” Man I wish I could’ve done that during last night’s SBS Gayo Daejun, though I did fade in and out of consciousness a few times. Riker said that this time the assistant was struggling, much like GOT7’s live vocals. Dr. Crusher interjects that the assistant is dying, much like my eardrums were. Picard’s like, “He’s the only one who can get us back!” Dr. Crusher is like, “Well, that makes us shit outta luck.”
Picard dictates another captain’s log catching us up on the events of the episode so far, because we all have such a short attention span we forgot during the 2 minutes or so of commercials when this episode originally aired. Picard does add that the assistant has a physiology different enough from humans to make medical treatment difficult, which lets Dr. Crusher off the hook. Picard asks Dr. Crusher for her prognosis, but she can only guess that it’s exhaustion or fatigue.
Wesley shows up inquiring after the assistant’s condition. Predictably, Picard is like, “What is the boy doing here?” Broseph, you should know by now that Wesley’s entire role revolves around his insertion into scenarios he has no place in, only to pull some ~genius move out of his skinny ass and save the day. Just go with it. Riker speaks up on Wesley’s behalf, saying that the assistant seems to have formed a special attachment to him. #4
Picard wants to wake the assistant, as he’s the only chance they’ve got at returning home. Dr. Crusher protests but Picard points out the danger in sticking around in a place where thoughts can manifest as reality. He also calls Wesley “Wes” for some reason. Dr. Crusher wakes the assistant, and Picard immediately starts grilling him for answers. The assistant tells Picard he is “a traveler” who has no particular destination, just curiosity. Picard doesn’t seem to buy this, which is ironic considering that’s pretty much the Enterprise’s exact motivation. The Traveler tells them he has special skills in propulsion, which he trades for passage on Starfleet vessels under the guise of being Kosinksi’s assistant. He insists he means no harm to the Enterprise or its crew. Picard accepts this, but also points out that the Traveler, however inadvertently, put the ship and crew at great risk bringing them to this place.
Picard can roll with the super-warp thing taking them to M33, not so much with this realm of real-life acid trips. The Traveler essentially tells Picard that thought is the basis of reality and is what brought them there. Kosinski laughs it off like, “You might as well tell us it was magic!” because apparently, the metaphor for scientific discoveries written off as “magic” in the past was too subtle. Picard, however, understands what the Traveler is saying. The Traveler is like, “I fucked up; you guys aren’t ready to discover this place.” Riker asks if the Traveler is from another time, and the traveler is like, “Your simple ass brains won’t really get it, but basically yes.” Riker asks why nobody’s seen his kind before and the traveler, like Q, says that until now, humans weren’t interesting enough.
Look, writers, I get what you’re trying to do here. You’re kind of turning the tables and showing what humans might look like to a far more advanced civilization while exploring narratives of colonialism in a different setting. The problem is, they’re doing it in grand white people fashion, seeming to assume that a mostly-white audience cannot identify or sympathize with marginalized people unless a fictional scenario casts mostly white people into that role. And this shit was tired even in 1987. #7
The traveler fades out of consciousness again, and Picard orders Dr. Crusher to wake him. She warns Picard that whatever he needs from the traveler, he better get it out of him soon. Riker posits a theory that the traveler might have been distracted by something which caused him to mistakenly bring them here. Kosinski wants to stick around, saying that this might be a great opportunity for scientific discovery. Picard counters, “And who do we share our findings with?” to which Kosinski has no argument. The Traveler wakes up, and Picard asks if he can get them back. He says he will try. He also requests a moment to speak privately with the captain. The Traveler confirms the audience’s suspicion that Wesley is among the specialest of snowflakes, likening him to the Mozart of “time, energy, and propulsion.” Picard must encourage Wesley’s abilities but neither he nor his mother can know any of this.
The traveler nearly faints, so Picard quickly hands him off to Riker while hightailing it to the bridge. On the way, he sees some asshole cowering behind a fire and tells him to put it out with his thoughts. Eventually the guy does, Picard orders him to concentrate on his tasks and not arson, end scene.
Picard makes another captain’s log, informing us that the plan to warp back to normal space will involve “the thoughts of everyone on board the Enterprise.” He’s not sure how, but somehow the Traveler can harness the thoughts of everyone to bring them home. He adds, “it will be most important that most aboard avoid random thoughts that might change the reality of what we’re attempting to do.” Better hope nobody suddenly recalls that they forgot to clean the toilet. Picard asks Troi for her thoughts and she says the crew will experience stress during this experiment. Yar pipes up that there will also be fear, because it’s not like this crew is engaging in an experiment resting on pseudoscience they know fuck all about and are entrusting their fate to a gravely ill alien or some shit. Piece of cake.
Picard broadcasts his instructions, telling everyone to concentrate completely on their task at hand or on the Traveler’s well being. The Traveler (who’s looking pretty good given his condition a few minutes ago) requests Kosinski at the computer. The latter seems surprised, but like, he is an engineer, right? He has sufficient training and expertise. Who else would man the computer, Wesley? Oh shit, I shouldn’t give them ideas.
The ship warps off, everyone starts Care Bear-ing, and it seems to be working. The Traveler eventually starts phasing and then disappears. The ship comes to a stop in what appears to be normal space, and LaForge informs Picard that their location is the same as it was before “this sleigh ride” began. Data looks confused, and so am I. Was this episode filmed around Christmas time? Why would LaForge say that? Data verbalizes these thoughts, and LaForge says he “[doesn’t] have a proper name” for this journey. I would go with “clusterfuck” but they couldn’t say that on network TV.
Riker reports to the bridge telling Picard the Traveler is gone, or at least, he’s phased out of their existence. Maybe he’s on the astral plane and can say hi to the Snapewives while he’s there. Picard makes an broadcast announcing this info, then has Riker summon Wesley to the bridge. Wesley arrives and Picard names him acting ensign, which allows him to sit on the bridge and observe. Picard then informs Wesley of his new duties and says his application to Starfleet Academy will be sent as soon as possible. Meanwhile, Wesley must try to learn all that he can about the ship. So Wesley joins the crew on the bridge, and the Enterprise warps off to their next assignment.
This is an episode that giveth and taketh away. Kosinski is a fantastic parody of your garden variety entitled white male taking credit for others’ work, but that point was undercut by casting another white male as the person he’s exploiting (albeit in alien makeup). Not to mention the whole “white people in fictional scenario as a metaphor for marginalized people in present day” standby. However, I can’t call it a filler episode, as this isn’t the last we see of the Traveler and it launches Wesley’s early-season arc. But I’m also not crazy about Trek episodes that try to get all deep and existential as they come off like the TV version of a discussion between drunk college students. As far as early-season quality goes, I’d place this ep in the middle. Next week, I try to get back on schedule with a more wacky space adventures. The Unicorner out.