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Where No One Has Gone Before

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at March 16, 2007 - 9:39 PM GMT

See Also: 'Where No One Has Gone Before' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: When arrogant Starfleet engineer Kosinski comes aboard the Enterprise with his assistant to test the ship's propulsion systems, the ship is hurled first 300 years from home, then far outside the charted universe into a realm where the energy of thoughts manifests into reality. Only Wesley Crusher realizes that the power for the jumps comes not from Kosinski's experiments but from the mysterious assistant, who calls himself a Traveler. While the crew tries to adjust to working in a realm where their fears and desires are manifest, Picard learns that the exhausted Traveler is their only hope for returning home. Though Wesley worries that the Traveler could die from the strain of another jump, Picard orders the crew to focus their thoughts for a successful journey, and the Traveler is able to navigate them back to their own galaxy.

Analysis: By the standards of The Next Generation's first season thus far, "Where No One Has Gone Before" must be given credit for trying. It's by far the most ambitious storyline yet, even if it's an adaptation of yet another original series concept - the transformation of the crew's mental abilities after crossing the galactic barrier in "Where No Man Has Gone Before." In that earlier episode, only a couple of crewmembers were affected by developing strong telepathic abilities, while in this one, nearly the entire crew sees visions, though the audience isn't privy to each person's hallucinations. The idea of travel to a realm of pure thought is intriguing in the abstract, though unfortunately in this limited television medium, it comes across pretty limited and mundane. Even so, it's nice to get an episode suggesting that there really is a much bigger universe out there than the one we've seen thus far.

Unfortunately, "Where No One Has Gone Before" is also the episode that epitomizes why Wesley Crusher became such an unpopular character. It isn't poor Wil Wheaton's fault - being forced to cringe every time the captain glares in his direction and express exaggerated enthusiasm over scientific minutiae isn't something any young actor could pull off without looking either phony or, well, like a total geek. Wesley suffers the latter fate, and here it's obvious that this is largely a case of too much, too soon. LaForge or Data would have been the logical characters to discover that the Traveler and not Kosinski was manipulating space-time, while Wesley would have done much better to stay off the bridge for a year, proving himself in small ways during various missions. Instead the audience gets a long, babbled exposition from the Traveler about how Wesley is another Mozart, followed by Picard giving the brat a seat on the bridge.

This is appallingly bad storytelling. Every first year creative writing student knows that you show, don't tell. Lecturing us on how Wesley is a super-genius isn't going to endear him to anyone; we have to see it, to witness that genius and come to our own conclusions. If we'd been shown repeatedly that Wesley was both clever and humble, like in "The Naked Now", he might have grown slowly on the audience, but instead he's shoved down our throats alternately as "young Mister Crusher" (always spoken with a pride that Wesley hasn't yet earned) or "The Boy" (as Worf calls him with a delightful growl, which always makes me start reciting Airplane: "Wesley, do you like movies about gladiators?"). All the while Wesley's dialogue consists of things like "He's my friend!" and "He wouldn't hurt us!", which is a step down even from Troi's painfully obvious speeches. Wesley has no business sitting on the bridge before we really know the other bridge officers, and his mother, who's sitting in McCoy's chair.

Which brings up the other problem with "Where No One Has Gone Before": pretty much everywhere we go in the part of the universe where thoughts become real is someplace we've already been. Pretty much the only thing we know about Tasha's past is that she grew up on a horrible world with rape gangs, and where does she imagine herself? Being chased by a rape gang. One of the few things we know about Klingon domestic life is that they have targs, and what does Worf visualize? A familiar targ. We get to see Picard's charming French grand-mre and a couple of crewmembers with fantasies of being ballet dancers and violin virtuosos...nobody playing that exotic instrument from "The Way To Eden" or demonstrating combat skill with a lirpa or flying through the air or surrounded by three hundred attractive androids begging to serve. This crew's fantasies and fears seem tame and tired by traditional Earth standards, let alone what we might expect or hope from Starfleet officers.

And this is the second episode in the first five to deal with apparent magic - Kosinski even calls it that, when he complains that the Traveler is asking them to believe in such. To Picard it's no great stretch to assume that thoughts shape the universe, which comes out a little too fluffy fantasy this early in a series whose original thankfully lacked the mystical excesses of so much other science fiction. It also seems out of character for a man who claims to have no ability to relate to children, though Picard already seems to be getting over that, as demonstrated by the unbearably cutesy scene where he and Riker agree that Wesley should be made an ensign. The Traveler seems much better to embody the wonder of exploration that I always associated with a starship captain...namely, James T. Kirk.

Like "The Last Outpost", "Where No One Has Gone Before" isn't awful or embarrassing, but it's nowhere near the high points of the original series, nor the great later episodes of this one. The Traveler gets more interesting as the show progresses and Wesley becomes more likeable once he's not omnipresent, but this derivative "Shore Leave" stuff has to be left behind before Next Gen can really go where no one has gone before.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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