Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Where No-One Has Gone Before

Review James Hunt 12 Oct 2012 - 07:23

James comes to a Wesley-centric episode in his weekly reappraisal of Star Trek: TNG's first season...

This review contains spoilers.

1.6 Where No-One Has Gone Before

This one is a reasonably memorable episode which gets referenced in the future quite a few times, most notable for introducing the character of The Traveler and – deep breath – getting Wesley a field promotion.

The story sees a sceptical crew welcome on board the "propulsion expert" Mr. Kosinski and his strange, mute companion, THE TRAVELER. A definite science fiction rule of thumb: if someone's name starts with "The" they're almost certainly more interesting than you, especially if what follows is a completely mundane occupation. When doing job interviews, weed those ones out first.

Of course, The Traveler's space-powers mean that he accidentally catapults the Enterprise halfway across the universe while no-one except Wesley is looking (really…). Most of the crew is unsurprisingly nonplussed at this, although there's a good scene where Picard asks the bridge crew for options and everyone stands around offering options as defined by their sole character trait and Picard and Riker get really excited about the chance to study a proto-star. You'd never catch Kirk caring about that nerd crap!

Unfortunately, an attempt to get them home accidentally sends the ship to a crazy point in the universe where thought and reality are intermixed. Luckily most people's fantasies are quite lofty (a string quartet here, a ballet performance there, afternoon tea with mother…) – although less luckily, The Traveler promptly passes out from exhaustion, stranding everyone in the middle of nowhere.

Luckily Wesley convinces everyone that The Traveler is the key to what's been going on, and they pump him full of drugs so that they can have a brief, friendly chat. The Traveler, for his part, turns out to be very irritating. He's evasive about who he is and what he's doing, to the point where he starts to look like a patronising tool. Asked a simple question like "Are you from another time?"  he responds with things like "No. Well, maybe. Perhaps, by your standards…" which is an answer that's very unhelpful and yet somehow tells you all you need to know about who he is.

Luckily, he manages to summon up the strength to send everyone home shortly before disappearing into nothingness – but not before he points out to Picard that Wesley, having been a key part of saving the ship at least twice in five episodes, probably warrants a bit of extra attention.

It's never really clear what The Traveler is doing, why he was with Kosinski, or what made him decide now was the time to brain-warp everyone to the other side of the universe and back (he claims somewhere that it was an accident. No it isn't. Smashing your coffee table is an accident. What he did was insane.)

Still, it's possible that these things are dealt with in his future appearances (I forget) so let's not be too hard on them. It's not like it's the first time the explanation for an alien's actions in Star Trek were "Just because."

TNG WTF: Wesley gets drafted as Acting Ensign off the back of some alien's recommendation. He doesn't even have to submit a CV. Apparently, in the future, the word of a lumpy-faced weirdo is all the reference you need to get your dream job driving Starfleet's flagship.

TNG LOL: When the crew member imagining himself in a string quartet snaps back to reality, he's sitting alone, in an empty bar, apparently drinking by himself. As if being billions of miles from home wasn't depressing enough. This being Star Trek, he probably can't even get drunk. Life must be extra-miserable for Syntheholics.

Mistakes & Minutiae: Eric Menyuk, who plays The Traveler, was one of the people considered for the role of Data. He is now a lawyer. One who presumably has had to ensure thousands of Star Trek-related jokes throughout his career.

Who's that face? Yvette Picard is played by the late Herta Ware, aka Rosie from Cocoon.

Time Until Meeting: Believe it or not, this is a meeting-free episode! Admittedly, there's a lot of standing around chatting (and occasionally sitting around chatting) but not once do they retire to the conference room, ready room or any other meeting-based environs. Proof if any were needed that the show was still finding its identity early in season one.

Captain's Log: With the full weight of its network behind it, TNG got away with a lot of things that would have killed other shows stone-dead. This episode is a prime example of that. The crew lack agency in their situation, the ideas it presents are wholly unrelatable, and the story has virtually nothing resembling an emotional core. And yet, it works, if only because it tickles the part of you that wonders exactly what might be out there. Early TNG was many things, but Where No-One Has Gone Before shows that it wasn't bland.

Watch or Skip? Watch it. It's fairly essential to Wesley's overall arc, and the crazy thought-space effects are worth seeing, especially on Blu-Ray.

Read James' look-back at previous episode, The Last Outpost, here.

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