Star Trek The Next Generation: Where No One Has Gone Before
Original Air Date: October 26, 1987
Written By: Diane Duane and Michael Reaves
Directed by: Rob Bowman
Synopsis: The Enterprise meets up with the USS Fearless, an Excelsior class starship that has just had its warp engines totaly spiffed out by an engineer named Kosiniski, who also drew some totally cool flames down the side of the warp nacelles when he was done putting baseball cards in the engine's spokes.
Starfleet wants Kosinski to hop onto the Enterprise, and see if he can trick out the engines of the Federation's flagship, so the Federation can win the big drag race against the Romulans down in the Dry Riverbed Galaxy after school gets out. Picard is totally cool with this, but Riker isn't as convinced that they need to stick a foxtail on the antenna. He tells Picard that Kosinski sent some specs over, but they're totally bullshit. Data backs him up with a surprisingly brief and to the point explanation. Picard gets really pissed that Riker is questioning his authoritah, but lets Riker take Counsellor Troi with him to the transporter room to check out Kosinski when he arrives.
When they get there, Troi, and Riker join Chief Engineer Argyle in an 18mm "it's the end of they day and we have to get this before the producers pull the plug" three shot as Kosinski arrives, steps off the transporter pad, and reveals to everyone that he is an epic douche. We also meet Kosinski's assistant, who tells us that his name is unpronounceable by humans, an awesome Star Trek device that makes its first of many appearances on Next Generation.
Kosinski whizzes on Riker's leg a little bit to mark his territory, sniffs at Argyles butt, and goes to engineering to work his totally awesome brand of warp drive magic. When he leaves, Troi tells us that he's loud and arrogant. (Riker must be so happy he brought her along for that deep and difficult to observe insight.) But she then adds that she doesn't feel anything from the mysterious assistant, like he isn't even there. (This theme is widely repeated in Troi and Riker fan fiction on Usenet.) Eerie music swells up, so the slower kids in the audience know to be worried, and for the really slow kids in the audience, Riker says that the safety of the Enterprise is in their hands.
A few minutes later in engineering, Kosinski whizzes on the engine and Riker and Argyle follow as he gets ready to do his thing. Trekkies who may have begun to dislike Kosinski immediately start a fan club for him when he stops mid-stream to ask "why is this child here?" in reference to Wesley Crusher, who is working on a school project and decked out in a really sweet burnt sienna sweater, straight out of famed Klingon designer K'Talh Ba'akQoth's fall collection. (No joke: William Ware Theiss, the original costume designer, had me go to some dude's house to have my colors done. As a 14 year-old who was really into the sweet pastels and bright neon colors of the late 80s, I was horrified to discover I was an "autumn with a hint of winter, honey," who would get to wear oranges, browns, greens, and pukes until I finally got my official spacesuit, which honestly wasn't much better.)
After a few more moments of Kosinski being a a condescending dick, Riker cockblocks him, and makes him explain exactly how his cute little spaceship speeding up thing works. While he explains, his assistant naturally ignores all the open engineering consoles, and takes the one where Wesley is working. Jesus! Didn't Argyle just tell them it was a school project? What the hell, dude?
Wesley watches the assistant lay in some commands, but something bothers him, so the assistant lets Wesley tinker with the coordinates himself. Oh yeah, that's not going to cause any problems or piss off the audience at all. After Wesley is done, the assistant gives him a look that, in retrospect, is about an 8.6 on the Mark Foley scale of creepiness.
The experiment begins, as the Enterprise goes to warp 1.5, accompanied by the classic tune, "TNG Theme (Enterprise Goes to Warp 1.5)" Everything is going normally, until the assistant turns away from his console to get a good look at Wesley's awesome sweater, and the engine totally freaks out. The assistant turns his attention back to the console, and begins to phase in and out of existence. Up on the bridge, Geordi tells Picard that they're passing warp ten. Then Data tells him the speed is off the scale, so Picard does the safest thing he can think of and orders Data to reverse the engines, something which has never been done before, and the Enterprise is torn into a thousand horrible pieces as everyone is horribly sucked out into the horrible vacuum space!
Ha. Not really. Of course, Picard's reckless maneuver works like a charm, and the Enterprise comes to a full stop in the middle of the M33 galaxy, which is 2,700,000 light years away from where they started. It will take over 300 years to get home, that's a long road trip to take, man, especially with the Jerkstore's own Kosinski along for the ride.
Down in engineering, the assistant looks like he's had a little too much Romulan Ale, and Wesley tells him that he can call his mother, who is a doctor. The assistant, saddened that Wesley didn't suggest they play doctor, tells him that he just needs to rest, and that he means no harm to the Enterprise or all the adorable little boys running around on her.
Wesley asks if Kosinski is a big a douche as he seems, and the assistant tells him that Kosinski has sensed some part of what's going on. Wesley says, "you mean that space, time, and thought aren't the separate things they appear to be?" Deadheads everywhere put down their bongs and cough out, "Duh."
The assistant totally freaks out, and tells Wesley that humans aren't ready for such "dangerous nonsense," but if he has any extra weed laying around, it would, like, totally help take the edge off that whole phasing out of reality thing.
Up on the bridge, Kosinski whizzes on everything, and humps Picard's leg, before Picard whacks him on the nose with a newspaper and sends him back to engineering to get them back home, but things get crazygonuts, and the assistant begins to phase out of reality again. The Enterprise heads to Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite, and ends up, according to Data, "Where none have gone before," a cloudy and gaseous-looking place where giant glowing dice fly around everything. Oh, and it's a billion light years from our galaxy, where thoughts become reality -- kind of like a Phish concert: Worf sees a Klingon Targ, Tasha thinks she's running from a rape gang on her home colony, and Picard thinks he's going to step out of a turbolift and into some sort of giant black void.
Not all the hallucinations are bad, though: one crew member is seen playing a violin with a classic string quartet, another is dancing a ballet, and Picard stops to have tea with his mother. Of course, the audience's suspension of disbelief is tested when Troi and Dr. Crusher walk past male crew members, and remain entirely clothed. Picard figures out that what they think becomes reality, and he orders everyone to go to general quarters and concentrate on the 1976 Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders having a pillowfight.
Back in engineering, everyone tries to accept responsibility for the crisis (well, everyone except Kosinski, who wishes he'd saved up some whizz for the occasion) and Riker ultimately tells Picard that Wesley knew something was going on, tried to warn them and nobody would listen.
Yeah! Suck it, jerks! Wesley was right, bitches, and you wouldn't listen to him! Woo! Go Wesley! Go Wesley! It's your birthday! It's your birthday!
It's pretty clear that the assistant is the only creature on the ship who can get them home (but if thoughts are reality, why not just think yourselves home, people? Come on, you goddamn hippies, get a job!) but Doctor Crusher tells them that the assistant is dying. Oh shit.
After a commercial, they move to sickbay to try and save the assistant, and this is where the episode, which was really going along so well, starts to drift a little bit, right around the time Wesley comes walking in and whines, "Mom, he's my friend!"
Picard wants "the boy" to STFU and GBTW, but Riker tells him, "Dude, this alien was totally hot for the boy. I bet we could get the boy to shake his ass for the alien and --"
Wesley says, "Hey, first of all, I can hear you, and second of all, my name isn't 'the boy,' it's 'Wesley,' Mr. Crusher if you're nasty."
(On a personal note, I had a similar conversation with just about every director we ever had on the show. They all insisted on calling me "the boy" or "the kid," and most of them favored grabbing me by the elbow and moving me around the set, rather than, you know, giving me direction like I was a person or a professional or anything like that. The worst offender was this guy Cliff Bole, but Rob Bowman, who directed this episode, actually treated me really well.)
The assistant wakes up and tells Picard that he's a Traveller, who has super magic powers, and he's been letting Kosinski take credit for his abilities so he can ride on starships and collect postcards from tourist traps all over the universe. He tells Picard that "thought is the basis of all reality," and offers to trade Picard Dick's Picks Volume 23 if he can just hook him up with some pants made out of hemp, man. He says that he acts as a lens to focus thoughts. Kosinski says it's bullshit, but Picard tells them that he was once tripping his balls off at a Galactic concert and totally realized the same thing, bro! High five!
The Traveller says that he'll do what he can to get them home, but first he needs to talk with the captain, alone. Everyone leaves, and the Traveller tells Picard that Wesley is special. "He, and a few like him, are the reason I travel" (Foley Scale 8.5) and Picard has the unique ability to encourage Wesley -- without his mother knowing, of course -- (Foley Scale 9.1) to be more like Mozart (WTF Scale 11.) "Wesley is, like, totally a golden god, man, so don't fuck it up."
The Traveller heads back to engineering, Picard goes back to the bridge, and everyone gets ready to go back home . . . they hope. Picard makes an announcement, and tells everyone that they should just chill out, dudes, because, like, everything is going to be really mellow and stuff, so focus on the Traveller and don't harsh his buzz, guys. To help everyone calm down, they turn on the Red Alert klaxons and lights.
The Traveller begins doing his thing, and the Enterprise goes to warp speed. The Traveller isn't strong enough, but Wesley totally holds his hand, and gives him the extra, uh, boost, that he needs to phase. The Enterprise speeds past Dave Bowman, the Traveller phases out of existence entirely, and the Enterprise returns back to its own galaxy. Picard tells the ship that they did a good job, and they're all going to get laid. He then calls Wesley up to the bridge and makes him an acting ensign, "for outstanding performance in the best Starfleet tradition." Wesley and his shoulderpads take a seat on the bridge, the first acting ensign in the history of Starfleet to wear such an awesome burnt sienna sweater.
What is it?
A Klingon Targ! From home, but from when I was a child.
You mean a kitty cat?
Obligatory Technobabble: "As the power grew, I applied the energy asymptomatically. I anticipated some tilling, but it didn't occur. Now that was my error -- using the Bessel functions at the beginning." -- Kosinski, explaining to Picard how the Enterprise got to the M33 Galaxy, and explaining to the writers what type of dialogue they should give Wesley for the entirely of the second and third seasons.
Behind the Scenes Memory: The Chief Engineer of the Week in this episode was Argyle, played by Biff Yeager. I don't know if it's entirely true (and this is recalled over twenty years, through the memory of a 14 year-old) but I remember hearing that Biff was under consideration to become a permanent Chief Engineer, until the producers found out that he (or someone acting on his behalf) had encouraged Trekkies to write letters asking to have him on the ship full time. There's nothing wrong with a letter-writing campaign, but it helps if the letters come in after your episode has aired. Yeah, apparently the letters came in before this show went out, and some Trekkies complained that they were spammed via mail (this was well before e-mail was widely used) and those two factors sent Chief Engineer Argyle -- and Biff -- to the Cornfield.
Also featured in this episode is "Dangerous" Dennis Madalone, who was our stunt coordinator. He was a crew member who thought he was trapped behind a wall of flames, and Picard told him to put the fires out with his mind. Memory Alpha has a comprehensive list of the characters he played over the years and various series, but Internet Geeks know him as the star of and creative force behind the jingotastic "America We Stand As One" video.
The Bottom Line: Every episode that preceded this one was a stinker, but 'Where No One Has Gone Before' is the first time The Next Generation really started to come together. This is a solid story, with very good pacing, and the first truly beautiful visual effects we've seen. Stanley Kamel, who played Kosinski, turned in a fantastic performance, too. Kosinski could have been an entirely one-dimensional character who the audience just hated, but Stanley gave him subtle layers of insecurity that were covered up by his arrogance. In the end, when Kosinski says to the Traveller, "You really need my help?" We don't want to laugh at him, and instead feel some empathy for the man; this would not have happened if a lesser actor had played the role.
However, this show still has its flaws, and the growing pains are evident. Wesley is given some horrible dialogue, including after school special standbys like, "Mom, he's my friend!" but he's less annoying than he is in 'Naked Now', and Rob Bowman directed me to be as mature as I was capable of being when I was just 14. If you really hated Wesley already, it was unlikely that this episode would change your mind at all, but if you were looking for a glimmer of evidence that he wouldn't be a total weenie for the whole series, there was just enough here to get your hopes up before we dashed them to hell in season two.
Picard seems to vacillate between extremes in this show, snapping at people and barking orders and then quickly changing his entire tone and attitude to one that's more calming and warm. I'm not sure if that was a deliberate choice, so he would appear as a conflicted man, or if it was Patrick Stewart's natural warmth and kindness coming through the gruff demeanor Picard was written to have. Either way, it's confusing, and makes it difficult for the audience to really like and connect with him. Remember, we were still very much in the shadow of the original series at this time, and everyone loved Captain Kirk, so viewers looking for something to dislike in Picard could find it without too much effort. Luckily, Patrick's outstanding abilities as an actor gave Picard strong direction and the writers would begin tailoring Picard to reflect more of who Patrick was, so he ultimately grew into the character audiences came to love.
Final Grade: B+