In which Wesley is a very special boy.
Memory Alpha says: When a specialist in propulsion makes modifications to the Enterprise‘s warp drive that send it 2.7 million light years out of the galaxy, then an impossibly unreturnable 1 billion light years in the other direction, it is his assistant, a mysterious alien, and Wesley Crusher that must bring it back home. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)
I’m going to keep this uncharacteristically short, because you know what? Not a lot actually happens in this episode. Apart from a few character touches, the whole story exists pretty much to create an excuse for Wesley to work on the bridge, in the role of Acting Ensign. He doesn’t actually earn this himself by proving that he’s smart, responsible, mature and trustworthy; he gets given it because a mysterious alien privately tells Captain Picard that he’s got the potential to be a super-genius and needs to be given extra opportunities – but mustn’t be told yet that he’s special, I suppose so he doesn’t get a swelled head.
He compares Wesley to Mozart, which I know is supposed to make us think ‘awesome precocious sparkling genius,’ but makes me think ‘dead at thirty-five, buried in a pauper’s grave.’ Also, did you know that Mozart and his mother exchanged love-letters about farts? Honestly. Read The QI Book of the Dead. It’s an eye-opener. I’d pull the quote but my copy is with a friend. And no, I’m not just mixing him up with James Joyce; the whole farty love-letter thing seems to be a trope. I’ll admit I often think farts are funny, but they’ve never really rung my bell in that way.
So I think I’ll drop into point form for this commentary. Things will most likely be out of the order in which they appear in the episode, because I watched it last night and decided I was too sleepy to write it up then.
Interesting Things In ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’
- Data is still using contractions. I’m waiting to pinpoint the episode where he stops. (If you know when he stops, no need to tell me – I will enjoy it more if I find it myself.)
- Why doesn’t Kosinski wear a commbadge? Is it because he’s such a prick nobody wants to talk to him?
- There’s a lovely story, possibly apocryphal I know, that the guy who plays chief engineer Argyle in this episode lost his job because he asked his friends to do a letter-writing campaign in support of him, so the studio would think the character had a lot of fans and expand his role. The problem is, they got their dates mixed up and the letters saying what a BAMF Argyle was started arriving before his first episode aired. Se non è vero, è ben trovato. I would think that even if their timing was better, something would have seemed fishy because Argyle is not an interesting man.
- The guy playing Kosinski really gives a great performance as a blowhard enchanted with his own success. When he realises that he was never that special to begin with, that the Traveller was just working through him in order to be discreet, his little face falls. I think that was a pretty shitty thing for the Traveller to do; if he needed a beard he should have made a deal with someone who knew the score.
- Wesley wears his worst sweater yet, a huge orange thing that I am tempted to say is wearing him. Who would knit something like that?
- They have some really crappy-looking wobbly plastic stools in Engineering.
- Fortunately for my sanity, the actor playing the Traveller gives him a pretty pure, ascetic sort of demeanour, so it doesn’t feel too much like he just has an enormous crush on Wesley.
- I would like to know if the Traveller’s people and the Q Continuum know each other. The Traveller tells Riker there’s no record of his people visiting humans before now because they just weren’t interested in them until now. ‘Farpoint’ also seemed to be the first known contact with a Q (unless, as I tend to, you assume Trelane from TOS was a juvenile Q) but he appears to have followed human history with some interest, not to say disgust. Horrified fascination?
- This episode proves that you can go above Warp 10 without turning into a salamander and having disgusting salamander sex to which you will never refer again. Suck it, Voyager.
- Riker has a stick up his butt for the entire hour. I don’t think he smiles or relaxes once.
- The gimmick of this episode is that characters’ thoughts and memories start materialising, for no special reason other than ‘we’re in a weird place where magic happens.’ The first sign of this that we see is on the bridge, where Worf’s childhood pet targ appears, and he’s not just tripping balls because Tasha sees it too. (Nobody else, however, seems to notice or react to it, and there are other people standing right by them… not having lines in the script.) Worf’s hesitant smile as he bobs down to pat the targ (well, it’s a small grey pig in makeup) is just adorable. He doesn’t finish his sentence about how this can’t be real, because when he was a child…, but I like to fill in ‘once it was fat enough we had it for dinner.’
- Tasha’s reaction to the targ, once Worf explains it was his pet: ‘You mean it’s a kitty-cat?’ This is an odd line, given that the targ looks nothing at all like a kitty-cat apart from having fur, but it gets Tasha’s thoughts onto kitty-cats, and the next thing you know a cute little marmalade tabby appears. I’m actually glad I can’t summon kittens that way, or I’d leave a trail of them wherever I go.
- The marmalade cat takes Tasha into a flashback to her youth on that shithole colony. She’s in a dark, wet, underground space, something like a storm drain, wearing what looks unfortunately like torn bondage gear, with a big scratch on her chest. (She’s also, visibly, a lot older than fifteen, which is how old she’s said she was when she was rescued. For this brief a scene I suppose they didn’t want to have to find a teenager who would be immediately recognisable as a younger Tasha. Either that, or it’s not so much a memory as a dream, and you know how sometimes in dreams you’re back at your old school but you’re an adult but everyone treats you like you’re still a student?) At the entrance to the space, men are shining in torch beams and mockingly calling ‘Hello,’ knowing they have her cornered. Tasha tells the cat to run, because it’s not safe here. Oh honey. I think the cat is safer than you are, unless those guys rape animals too. At this point, Geordi notices she has spaced out and touches her shoulders, snapping her out of it. Now I have the following reactions:
- How the hell would a woman with memories like that be attracted to a man who kidnapped her? Shut up, ‘Code of Honor.’
- WHY THE HELL WASN’T IT DATA WHO WOKE HER UP? I’m sorry, I live in a dream world where these two characters actually develop a relationship that means something. Somewhere, in an alternate universe where Tasha wasn’t killed by Armus, when Data gets Spot (and it drives me mad that we don’t know when or why Data got Spot; he just appears as a grown-up cat in ‘Data’s Day’), Tasha is all torn because on the one hand, it never happened and she doesn’t want to encourage him because she’s still embarrassed and let’s be honest he is all kinds of weird, but on the other, there is a kitty and she is not getting to pet the kitty unless she spends time with Data. Anyway, he is confused by the kitten’s behaviour and how to take care of it so she helps him and if nothing else, they become proper friends. I know I’m lame. KITTENS.
- I have to admit that making Tasha a cat-lover endeared her to me a bit. I would enjoy it more if Tasha had always projected a more hardass image on the bridge – that authoritative voice I wanted her to have – and the kitty-cat reaction was more of a departure for her. I want Tasha to be someone who has a very strong public face and finds it very difficult to feel safe showing her softer feelings to anyone else. I’m not asking for 1980s Trek to do a realistic treatment of PTSD and survivor’s guilt and all that, just to give this character a bit of duality.
- Will you look at how much more I’ve got out of about thirty seconds of Tasha and a kitty-cat than out of the whole rest of the episode’s plot.
- When they arrive in the magic sparkly weird place Picard asks where this is and Data says, with a very sweet little look of wonder on his face, ‘Where none has gone before’ (emphasis mine). Title in dialogue, that’s not how it works.
- Hmm, what else of importance is there in this episode… honestly, not much! It really and truly is just an hour dedicated to somewhat rinky-dink visual effects and getting Wesley onto that bridge without his having to earn it.
- Oh, and the episode was co-written by Diane Duane, who wrote a trio of YA fantasy novels that I enjoyed very much, beginning with So You Want to be a Wizard. (There’s a character in it who uses a broken-off radio antenna as a magic wand. I loved that, and when my dad’s car’s radio antenna broke off I begged it from him. I was just too old to actually go around pretending to cast spells with it, but I really enjoyed just owning it.) She also wrote a reasonably good TNG novel, Dark Mirror, which involves the evilly bearded mirror universe. In Duane’s mirror universe, Dr Soong was killed before being able to make any androids, but in my personal idea of the mirror universe, Data wasn’t built because nobody thought there was anything wrong with Lore.
Okay, that’s that I think. Next time, ‘Lonely Among Us,’ about which I can remember nothing except some wicked blue lightning effects.
I nearly forgot! Time to check in with O’Brien. Did anything interesting happen to you this week?
‘I saw a Cardassian in my bathroom. Bloody hell.’