11/21/12

Star Trek: Asterisk "Where No One Has Gone Before"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S01E06
Air Date: October 26, 2987
Written by: Diane Duane and Michael Reaves
Directed by: Rob Bowman

Premise
An arrogant warp field engineer screws up an engine test and ends up sending the Enterprise to a part of the universe where thought becomes reality.

Review
So, the Enterprise meets up with the Fearless to pick up Jerkface McGee, aka Kosinski. Jerkface has these new equations or something that are supposed to make warp engines go a whole lot faster, but Geordi ran the numbers in a simulator and didn't find any difference, so everyone is skeptical. But they have to let Jerkface test his theory on the Enterprise because reasons. He apparently had success on the Fearless, but no one can account for why. So, when he beams over he asks for the captain when met with Riker and basically jerks up the whole place on his way to engineering.

Jerkface's assistant is an alien with an unpronounceable name. (I dunno why; I mean, I can pronounce "Traveler" pretty easily.) When Jerkface takes over engineering, the assistant takes a seat next to Wesley who was screwing around near the warp core on a school assignment. The assistant takes an immediate interest in the boy and encourages him to look over his shoulder while he works. So while Jerkface gets started, Wesley is right there when the assistant does all the work. And by "does all the work" I mean "shimmers and disappears like magic".
It's not easy being an inter-dimensional being.
Wesley is the only one who sees this, though, 'cause everyone else is focused on Jerkface. Meanwhile, the Enterprise shoots off into the void and ends up billions of light years away. Why? Because Wesley distracted the assistant. But Jerkface thinks it's because he made a "wonderful mistake." He tries to explain this to Picard, but Picard is not very amused. He wants to go back home, so they try again. Jerkface does the same thing he does before, but it doesn't matter, because the assistant is who does all the work. And by "does all the work" I mean "turns thoughts into reality."

Jerkface is so excited, though, that he's probably thinking about going even farther, because when they take off again, they end up so far away that they go to a place in the universe where thoughts become reality without the Traveler's help. Worf thinks about a targ and one shows up on the bridge. Tasha thinks about a kitty and it walks across the weapons console. And then for some reason she thinks about a rape gang. And then Picard is walking around and almost walks off the turbolift into space. And then he meets his dead mom.
She looks good for being dead.
So Picard figures out that thoughts are becoming reality so he tells all the crew to just calm down their brains. And that's when the Traveler starts feeling woosey and ill. They take him to Dr. Crusher, but as far as she can tell he's suffering from fatigue. She's not really up on her inter-dimensional being biology. So the Traveler takes this opportunity to explain what he's doing. He says he has the ability to focus everyone's thoughts and make them real. Which makes sense because Jerkface's equations were all crap.  The Traveler was traveling around seeing what he can learn and using Jerkface to get from one place to another.

But that's not all! The Traveler tells Picard that Wesley really is a special boy. No one was listening to him while he tried to explain that the Traveler was behind the success of the engine test, and the Traveler says that shouldn't happen 'cause Wesley's a prodigy with science. He knows what he's talking about. So, anyway, the Traveler takes a bit of a rest for a while and when he's all ready he takes his place in engineering again and Picard tells the whole crew to focus their thoughts on home. This time, with the help of Jerkface and Wesley, the Traveler takes full control and brings the Enterprise back home while he, Wesley's only friend in the universe, disappears into another dimension.
"But... I love you!"
After everything is back in order, Picard calls Wesley to the bridge. Wesley stays in the turbolift because he knows children aren't allowed on the bridge. But Picard calls him forward, so he walks in. Picard says that Wesley can be the exception to the rule. He can, in fact, sit right next to Diana Troi while they go off on their next mission. But Riker objects out of jealousy for Troi and says that Picard's rules are that no one but commissioned officers can sit there. So Picard makes Wesley an official acting ensign and Wesley grins with childlike delight. And thus begins the Starfleet career of Wesley Crusher.

Overall Thoughts
The big winner in this episode is obviously Wesley, but it takes a while to get there. For a while we're focusing on the engines, but then we realize Wesley is more than we think about the same time we realize the Traveler is more than he appears to be. The Traveler story arc is really all about how much of a genius Wesley is, and this is a good introduction to that idea. Other than that, I'm not quite a big fan of the whole "thoughts becoming reality" thing. I get it as a symbolic thing, but in practice it's just a little to magical for my taste. Of course, the Traveler would say "Oh, yes, it would seem like magic to you," but... meh. All in all, it's not bad for a season 1 episode.