Revisiting Star Trek TNG: Final Mission

It's Wesley Crusher's last appearance as a regular crew member! Join us to wave him off in this week's Star Trek: TNG look-back...

This review contains spoilers.

4.9 Final Mission

As he prepares to leave for one of his many important mediation meetings, Picard summons Wesley to the bridge. He immediately begins to chastise Wesley for taking ten minutes to arrive (what was he supposed to do, site to site transport!?) Wesley begins to apologise, before Picard reveals that they won’t accept that kind of behaviour at… STARFLEET ACADEMY. You know, the school Wesley got rejected from twice.

That’s right, the day is here: Wesley’s finally going to stop being an unpaid intern and become an unpaid (presumably) crew member. As his final mission, he is to accompany Picard to boldly go and resolve a mining dispute. The fun never stops on the Enterprise. Nor, indeed, does it start.

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The Enterprise meets up with the mining shuttle of one Captain Dirgo. Wesley mocks this idea, pointing out that he’s the only crew member and probably hasn’t earned the rank, quite unlike his achievement of being promoted to Acting Dogsbody. Dirgo emphasises that it’s his ship and he is the captain, which is good because minutes later an engine blows up and he’s forced to go down with it along with Wesley and Picard.

Unfortunately, the Enterprise has already headed off to its next mission where an errant garbage scow has arrived in orbit around a colony and is threatening to irradiate an entire civilisation. Unfortunately, without Wesley around no-one can figure out how to attach the tow rope (basically), so when they realise the shuttle didn’t arrive at its destination, they can’t just up and leave.

On the desert moon of Pentarus III, Dirgo gives Wesley and Picard the good news: there are no emergency supplies. They’re forced to trek (GET IT?) to some mountains to find shelter. Dirgo and Picard differ, but Picard brought his own lickboot so democracy favours his leadership. When they reach the caverns, Dirgo accidentally drops a bottle of fluid which turns out to be alcohol. After mocking Dirgo for his rudimentary understanding of science, Picard declares that this gin would be better used as coolant and confiscates it.

In the cavern they find the precious water they need, only it’s in a fountain which is protected by a weird whooshy energy thing. Dirgo tries to shoot it but accidentally causes a landslide. Picard pushes Wesley out of the way but is severely injured. Picard passes command of the mission down to him, urging him to dissuade Dirgo from any more rash actions. Unsurprisingly Dirgo doesn’t want to listen to Wesley, but the next time he tries to breach the forcefield he’s encased in weird crystal. Nice work, Wes.

As Picard begins to lose consciousness, Wesley tries to keep him talking while disabling the forcefield. As the situation gets more desperate, Picard reveals his envy of Wesley’s youth and urges him to go meet Boothby the groundskeeper when he gets to the academy. Wesley says he just wants Picard to be proud, and Picard says he’s always been proud of Wesley (although not proud enough to not hit on his mother).

Back on the Enterprise, they finally manage to tractor the barge away from the planet, narrowly avoiding a lethal radiation dose for the crew (instead, presumably, they all got a near-lethal dose and will have a much slower death. Yay.) When the asteroid is gone they head back to Pentarus to find the crashed shuttle.

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On the planet, Wesley figures out the right combination of techno-nonsense to disable the energy sentry and forcefield, then delivers Picard the water he needs to survive. Then he collapses in exhaustion himself. When he wakes up, his mother is congratulating him on saving Picard’s life. Picard is being stretchered off, but stops just long enough to tell Wesley he will be missed. Which, let’s be honest, is a sentiment most notable for its tactful indirectness.

TNG WTF: Aside from the frequent Trek plot shortcut of what constitutes a “lethal” dose of radiation (9 seconds? We’re all fine. 10 seconds? DEAD!), you have to admire Picard’s lack of perspective. “You’re tell me there’s no water?” he says as if it’s the dumbest thing in the world, apparently oblivious to the good fortune he’s just had in surviving an orbital crash on a planet which actually has a breathable atmosphere, normal gravity and various other non-instantly fatal conditions. But oh no, some idiot forgot to pack the Evian! The whole near-death experience has been ruined!

TNG LOL: Apparently Wesley Crusher has been studying the effects of outpost judiciary decision on Federation law. To be fair, that does seem to be most of what the Enterprise does these days. Speaking of which…

To Boldly Go: Picard is going to leave by Shuttlecraft to mediate a dispute between the Pentarus Miners.

Mistakes and Minutiae: Wesley’s last appearance as a regular crew member!

Time Until Meeting: No meetings in this episode, it’s all action. And by “action” I mean standing around talking in various different rooms while nothing happens.

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Captain’s Log: Well, it only took 82 episodes, but Wesley’s finally gone. And after all that time, was he really so bad? Certainly in the early episodes he was overused, but from season two onwards he was conspicuously in the background. Is the show richer for his leaving? Maybe not. Is it, at the very least, less irritating? Well, yeah.

Still, it’s easy to appreciate Wesley’s arc when episodes like this roll around, but it’s also easy to see why people saw him as a sort of Scrappy Doo figure. Perhaps the problem was that Wesley just didn’t get enough people his own age to interact with. When you’ve got a starship full of crew members to use, it was probably a bad choice for the cabin boy to essentially hang around with the senior staff. He gave off a real senior prefect vibe, and it’s no surprise that made people hate him.

As episodes go, though, this wasn’t a bad send-off. It’s maybe not the Yesterday’s Enterprise that Yar eventually got, but nor is it the Skin Of Evil she originally got. This episode does, at the very least, break out the red filter, which makes it a very special occasion. The structure is quite unusual too. It feels more like a weird adventure game cut scene than a Star Trek episode, where there’s a puzzle to solve and a time limit to solve it. It’s weird, but I like it. And let’s face it, as Wesley episodes go it’s not exactly up against stiff competition.

So yeah. Let’s pour one out for Wesley Crusher. A non-alcoholic one, of course, because there’s studying to do in the morning, new life to invent in the afternoon and a centuries-old trap to spring the ship from in the evening. Uh-oh. What will they do without him?

Read Ryan’s look-back at the previous episode, Future Imperfect, here.

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