In the sixth episode of the first season of The Next Generation, an irritating engine specialist boards the Enterprise to help update the propulsion, only to send the ship to an unknown place. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
Trigger Warning: For mention of rape
WELL, HOLY SHIT, THIS WAS SUPER GOOD. LET US DISCUSS IT.
IS THERE A MORE IRRITATING CHARACTER IN THIS FICTIONAL UNIVERSE. Actually, I hope not, because I don’t know that I could stand it. Holy shit, y’all, Kosinski is just the worst, from the first second he arrives on the Enterprise until the moment that everyone finds out that he’s a massive fraud, taking advantage of the Traveler’s abilities in order to be THE WORST PERSON EVER. Like, the more I think about Kosinski, the more I hate him. This man knew that he possessed not a shred of talent or wisdom, and yet, he used the traveler to ruthlessly condescend down to everyone he met. To the actor’s credit, he’s consistently slimy and horrific, and he has to be in order to be the polar opposite of the character of the Traveler. This episode works so well because the Traveler represents the best of what a being can be: kind, benevolent, eager to help, and curious about their place in the world.
I’m actually surprised that Riker didn’t slap Kosinksi into another universe himself.
While Kosinski fills an antagonistic role in a small sense within “Where No One Has Gone Before,” there’s actually no major antagonist in this episode. There is a conflict, however, and it’s a doozy. I love it when this fictional universe uses THE TERRIFYING VASTNESS OF SPACE as a suspense tool, y’all. IT’S ONE OF MY FAVORITE TROPES. Flung far out into the universe, the crew has to find a way to utilize Kosinski’s “mistake” to get home. I did like that they were able to recognize the significance of their journey, that travel to the M-33 galaxy is an achievement all by itself. But Picard’s role here is to take into account the well-being and health of the entire crew. Yes, it would be invaluable for them to remain in that galaxy, exploring and gathering information, but could Picard reasonably ask the entire crew to never see home again?
Of course not, and thus the conflict is born. Picard has to get them all home. So, when Kosinski bullshits his way through a second jump, only to find out that THEY ARE AT THE LITERAL EDGE OF THE UNIVERSE, it seemed pretty obvious that this would be the main problem that the characters would have to overcome in “Where No One Has Gone Before.” And honestly, that was an intriguing premise all by itself. I would have enjoyed this episode if it was solely about them exposing Kosinski as a fraud and trying to get home. But no, this script (BASED ON A NOVEL WRITTEN BY DIANE DUANE???? OH MY GOD THAT’S SO EXCITING) goes one step further, and IT’S SUCH A WONDERFUL CHOICE. This episode goes to a very odd and surreal place, and it totally hangs out there for a while, and I LOVE IT. Would I have loved to see more of the thought-manifestation-strangeness? Sure, but there’s enough here to believably create this world, and it’s both a silly and heartbreaking development. And I love that there’s such variance portrayed here! From the diverse background cast, to the fact that we get a multitude of scenes showing us what different crew members are thinking of, I thought this was pulled off brilliantly.
And like I said, it was not without heartbreak. Worf is reminded of home when a targ appears before him. (OH MY GOD, I AM SO PLEASED THAT THE NEXT GENERATION IS CONTINUING IN THE GREAT TRADITION OF DRESSING UP NORMAL ANIMALS AS ALIEN CREATURES.) Tasha Yar is reminded of the colony she grew up in, where the threat of rape was so common that there were roving gangs she had to hide from. (WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED ON THAT COLONY, PLEASE GIVE ME HER BACKSTORY NOW.) And Captain Picard discovers that his mother, now dead, is waiting to serve him tea in a hallway near the engine room. OUCH, MY HEART WAS NOT AT ALL READY FOR THIS.
Of course, while we don’t see much of this potential, the real threat of spending more time at the edge of the universe is that any person could begin to think terrible thoughts, thereby manifesting that same fear on the ship. Like the guy who is nearly consumed by fire! So it becomes imperative that Picard get this ship home and now. I think that’s a big reason why he’s so cold and unsympathetic towards the Traveler as the Traveler lies weak on Dr. Crusher’s table. Well, maybe not unsympathetic, but he is desperate to get the Enterprise away as quickly as possible.
But one of the coolest things about this episode is the way in which Wesley is allowed to play an important role in the story, not just as the slightly irritating teenager. He’s the first person to recognize that the Traveler is the key to everything; he’s quick to offer the Traveler his own kindness, too. And thankfully, when Riker finally believes him, he’s not thrown under the bus. Riker gives him the credit he deserves. I worried for a bit that the Traveler’s advice to Picard about his future was a fulfillment of the Chosen One trope, but in hindsight, I don’t think that’s what happened at all. I think the Traveler recognized what a wonderful mind Wesley had, and they knew that Wesley should be encouraged more than anything else. He needed space to grow in his knowledge, and the Enterprise was the perfect place for that.
Seriously, y’all, this episode was GREAT. More like this!
The video for “Where No One Has Gone Before” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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