The Enterprise is accidentally transported incalculable distances away by a mysterious Traveler. The ship finds itself in a dangerous area of space where people’s thoughts come to life. The Traveler returns them home, but not before privately telling Picard that Wesley Crusher is an engineering savant who must be quietly encouraged. Picard does so by making Wesley an Acting Ensign, allowing him to help staff the bridge while learning about ship’s functions.
Written by Diane Duane and Michael Reaves. Directed by Rob Bowman.
When I was originally saw this episode 25 years ago, I remember thinking that it was the first one that I really liked. Now, seeing it again, I can see the appeal, but find its flaws stick out to me more so than they do for Code of Honor, which I’d probably vote as the best episode so far.
This episode’s plot is extremely thin – basically the Traveler accidentally takes the Enterprise far away. Then he does it again, even worse, and making himself sick. But he recovers enough to take them back. And that’s really it, aside from the development about Wesley. Around this slip of a story is some nice window dressing that makes it watchable – the whole “thoughts come to life” dilemma, the irritating Mr. Kosinski, and the aloof Traver himself.
There are some nicely realized moments, with the physical look of the two foreign environments that the Enterprise finds itself in to be very well done. Some of the “thoughts come to life” are done well, especially Picard’s warp-speed exit from the turbolift.
However, others, such as the crew member trapped by the fire, are pretty bad. And there are two random crew members who see that they might be accomplished and cultured artists if only their pesky Starfleet careers weren’t holding them back. On the whole, that entire concept is pretty underdeveloped and feels like filler.
I also cannot help but to notice that in an episode that repeatedly points out how one character’s explanation of the increased ability of the warp drive is meaningless and nonsense, we are expected to accept the silly idea that time and space and thought are all interrelated and that if one can just channel the power of thought, than one can fly at impossible speeds. The Traveler is the third super-advanced alien to appear in Next Generation in five episodes, I think I’ve had enough of that for now.
At the time, I appreciated the “Mozart-like” explanation of Wesley’s braininess, and it was nice that it was done in a story where Wesley doesn’t actually do anything particularly ingenious (other than impress the Traveler with his knowledge of warp mechanics). On the one hand, it means that Wesley can stop sneaking around in turbolifts, but on the other hand, it gives him an excuse to be on the bridge all the time from here on in. And though it gets revisited from time to time, it seems to take a long time before his entrance into Starfleet Academy finally comes to pass, and until then he basically acts like most of the rest of the crew.
Shout Outs to the Past
• Of course, in addition to referencing the series’ opening narration, the title of the episode is a throwback to the original series episode Where No Man Has Gone Before, which it doesn’t really bear any other connection to.
Anticipating the Future:
• “The Traveller” appears again twice in the series, several seasons hence in Remember Me and much later in Journey’s End.
• Wesley does eventually go to Starfleet Academy, but it takes years.
• Stanley Kamel, who plays Kosinski, has done a lot of TV work, including a recurring role on Monk.
• Herta Ware, who plays Picard’s mother, also had a brief appearance in 2010, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, as Dave Bowman’s mother.
• Victoria Dillard, who played the dancing ballerina crew member, later became a regular on Spin City.
• Right off the bat, Riker comes across as smarter than Picard. Riker is suspicious of Kosinski and his new techniques, while Picard just seems annoyed at Riker’s nay saying. And of course, Riker is correct.
• Troi is used well in the opening scene, offering actually helpful information about Kozinsky and his “assistant.”
• Lt. Commander Argyle is described as “one of” the Chief Engineers, implying obviously that there are several. Argyle is the second one that we’ve seen, and the only one we’ll see again (in “Datalore”)
• Strangely, as Worf encounters the “Klingon Targ” on the bridge, there are several crew members who continue on with their work nearby who don’t seem to notice that anything is happening, even though Tasha does.
• Picard’s mother, who appears in one of his “hallucinations”, is the first example of a family member of an Enterprise crew member that has appeared.
• Why on earth doesn’t Picard try to alert anyone to the potential danger when he nearly steps out of the turbolift into space?
• Picard does show great grasp of the danger of the situation they are in once they reach the far edge of the universe, and responds well as the ship’s commander in those contexts.
• The male crew member’s “skirt” is seen again very clearly here.
• Kosinski is a potentially interesting character, who sadly basically fades out of the story about halfway through, with just a brief appearance toward the end.
• Data sort of states the title of the episode after the second impossible journey, though he actually says, “Where none have gone before.”
Dialogue High Point
Riker, irritated, in response to Kosinski’s statement that he has neither the time nor inclination to be giving explanations…
You have all the time you need.