May 23 2011 1:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Where No One Has Gone Before”

The Enterprise in a strange new woirld

“Where No One Has Gone Before”
Written by Diane Duane & Michael Reaves
Directed by Rob Bowman
Season 1, Episode 5
Production episode 40271-106
Original air date: October 26, 1987
Stardate: 41263.1

Captain’s Log: A propulsion specialist named Kosinski beams aboard. He is going to attempt new ways of entering warp drive and new intermix formulae to improve engine efficiency. However, Riker, Data, and Chief Engineer Argyle received Kosinski’s specs and found them to be gibberish, and their simulations showed that they did nothing to increase efficiency.

Kosinski himself is an arrogant ass who does nothing to endear himself to the crew. He has an assistant, whose name is unpronouncable, from Tau Alpha C. Riker and Argyle refuse to let Kosinski start his tests without explaining them first.

While he does so, Kosinski’s assistant notices Wesley noticing the work he’s doing. The assistant encourages Wesley to modify the equations to make them more efficient and seems impressed. He also lets Wesley watch as the test commences. The warp engines start to get hyperefficient, and the assistant starts to fade out as he seems to be communing with the engines as the ship zooms ahead, passing warp ten.

Picard orders the ship to stop, and they wind up in the M33 galaxy, three galaxies from home—2,700,000 light-years from their starting point. Kosinski has a nonsense explanation for what happened, but Wesley sees that his assistant is the one who did all the work. He sees what the equations really mean—that space, time, and thought are connected.

Of course, they need to get home, and Kosinski expresses confidence that he can do it again. He can’t, naturally, and this time Riker sees the assistant fade in and out as Wesley did. Whatever he does, though, makes things worse as now the Enterprise winds up in a place far outside known space where people’s thoughts can become reality.

Worf sees his pet targ, Yar finds herself back home on Turkana IV, Picard has tea with his mom, and other crewmembers see their fears, their desires, their dreams come alive. Picard puts the ship at general quarters and on red alert to help them focus and not let their thoughts almost literally run away with them.

However, it’s now known to everyone that the alien assistant is the one who’s really responsible, but the latest trip has rendered him unconscious. Crusher reluctantly wakes him with a stimulant. He identifies himself as a Traveler, and he explains that they are now in a realm of thought. Despite his weakness, he agrees to try to get the ship home.

This time the Traveler fades out completely, but not before sending the Enterprise back where they started.

Thank you, Counselor Obvious: “He’s convinced he’s right. I’ve no doubt of that.” Kosinski has spent the entire episode to date being arrogant and condescending, and this is the best her empathic senses can come up with? Given that he was talking through his hat pretty much from the moment he beamed aboard, it would’ve been nice if Troi sensed some of that deception….

Can’t We Just Reverse The Polarity?: “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 spouting really-o-truly-o technobabble, as he just made all that up to sound like he knows what he’s doing.

Wes helps the Traveler

The boy!?: Wesley sees the truth of what’s happening before anyone else—at least in part because he’s the only one who notices the assistant as opposed to the bombastic Kosinski. The Traveler, in a private conversation with Picard, tells the captain that he must encourage Wesley’s genius, which he likens to that of Mozart. It leads to Picard making him an “acting ensign,” a rather ridiculous rank that nonetheless gives the producers an excuse to stick Wes on the bridge or in engineering thenceforth.

Welcome Aboard: Eric Menyuk makes the first of three appearances as the Traveler, coming back in the episodes “Remember Me” and “Journey’s End,” both times interacting with Wes. The late Stanley Kamel is magnificent as the blowhard Kosinski, oozing arrogance, overconfidence, and bull in equal measure. Herta Ware also provides tremendous gravitas as the image of Picard’s maman.

I Believe I Said That: “Reverse engines.”

“Captain, no one has ever reversed engines at this velocity.”

“Because no one has ever gone this fast. Reverse engines!”

Picard and Data trying to deal with the Enterprise’s speed.

The Traveler

Trivial Matters: This story is a reworking of co-writer Duane’s Star Trek novel The Wounded Sky, the first time one of the TV shows would use a novel as its basis. This is also the first outing for Bowman, who would become one of the most prolific Next Generation directors. Chief Engineer Argyle is the second member of the First Season Chief Engineer Derby, and the only one to appear twice—he was also in David Gerrold’s novelization of “Encounter at Farpoint,” so he might well have been part of the original conception. Amusingly, he’s descirbed as “one of our chief engineers,” probably to explain his presence after seeing MacDougal in “The Naked Now.”

Make It So: The strongest episode of the first season, an excellent science fiction premise, and a good character study. This episode also provides some of the first strong performances from many of the regulars. Jonathan Frakes is considerably less stiff as he rides Kosinski, both Denise Crosby and Michael Dorn do excellent work with their glances into their respective pasts, and Wil Wheaton’s youthful enthusiasm doesn’t bleed into the goofy. Best of all, though, is Sir Patrick Stewart, who just nails every scene, none more so than his encounter with his long-dead mother, in which he conveys tremendous emotion and pain with the most subtle facial expressions and vocal inflections.

Best of all, though, is that this episode sees the Enterprise exploring the strangest of possible new worlds. But it’s with a price, as Picard points out: that far from home, who would they report their findings to?

Just excellent stuff from two writers with a great resumé: Duane is responsible for some of the finest Star Trek novels, and Reaves’s writing career has also been stellar. A true high point of the show’s run.


Warp factor rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido has written a bunch of Star Trek novels, but none of them were the basis of episodes. He’s not at all bitter about that. Really. However, his novel A Singular Destiny was the bridge between the best-selling Destiny trilogy and the Typhon Pact series. Follow him online at his blog or on Facebook or Twitter under the username KRADeC.

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1. sps49
I remember Diane Duane from the Thieve's World anthologies (and other writings), where her protagonists always appeared to me to me the super Marty Stu/ Mary Sues of their milieus. If the uber-Wesley Crusher is her doing, also....

I don't remember this episode. Apparently I had stopped watching by this point, and never caught it in reruns. Which is partly my fault, as I developed the habit of switching away from TNG episodes with the original (low collar, stripey) style uniforms. I'll have to look for it now.
2. Pendard
This episode is my favorite episode of Star Trek TNG season 1, and one of my favorites of the entire series. The reason I love it is that it's one of the most metaphysical episodes of Star Trek -- one of the best examples of exploring the power of the human imagination and spirit, rather than just exploring planets and nebulae. I definitely with that the show had gone down this path more often.

The Traveler is one of the most fascinating characters in the Star Trek universe. His mysterious origins and abilities were fascinating, and his desire to travel, explore and experience "what you call reality" was so perfectly in tune with the themes of Star Trek. I can't say I really appreciated the way the plot lines that began here were followed up in "Remember Me" and "Journey's End" -- but then, the way the promise of the first four or five years of Star Trek TNG was squandered by the last few years and the spin-off shows is part of the experience of being a TNG fan.

Both the character of the Traveler and the central idea of this episode -- that the power of thought can influence reality, that the human spirit could transcend the vastness of space and time -- were ideas that could only have been brought up when the show was new, when it was exploring what ideas it could and couldn't explore. Unfortunately, this idea was too unorthodox. A lot of the episodes in season 1 are experiments like this, some successful, most unsuccessful. When they didn't succeed it, the results were some pretty bad episodes. But to me, the feeling that anything can happen in season 1 is charming and excuses a lot of the missteps.
Herb Schaltegger
3. LameLefty
This is the episode that gave me hope that ST:TNG would be better than the dreck of the first several episodes. I had read several of Diane Duane's ST novels in the 80's and they were by far the best of a very uneven bunch of stories that filled the enormous void before Trek returned to TV.
rob mcCathy
4. roblewmac
I don't know this episode made me like Wesley "ok so he IS going to be a super being of some kind."
It has been a very long time and I was not kindly disposed to the show at this point but I thought "Oh my god he's working through hid mother issuses with a space/time pardox, uncool!"
It's too bad that they didn't also retrofit Diane's "Dark Mirror" book into an episode later on in the series. TNG is the only one that never got a Mirror universe ep. Which is disappointing, as it would've been great seeing if Spock actually did do anything to change the future (which we end up seeing in DS9). Okay, so Voyager didn't get a (proper) Mirror Universe episode, but they at least got "Living Witness" which gave us a brief glimpse of what might have been.

The aspects of the Traveler in this episode are great as a one off, and definitely embody the "showing what Humanity can become" aspect that Roddenberry was enamored with. It's also given some great fodder for later books, such as the "A Time To..." series, which shows Wesley's progression into an awesome character and his experiences after "Journey's End". If there was any episode that had to be picked as a best of a season, this one would be it for the first run of the series. And whereas it does kinda have the same dramatic throughline of TOS' "Where No Man Has Gone Before" (i.e. leaving the boundaries of the galaxy; trouble brews in attempts to get home), it stands on it's own as an excellent depiction of what TNG was capable of, no matter how many titles that Trek decided to steal from itself. Good episode all around.
6. Sumek
One of my favorites from season one as well (possibly my favorite). The visual effects were beautiful, quite otherworldly.
Amir Noam
7. Amir
Maybe I need to go rewatch this episode. I've last seen it many years ago, and my (admittedly vague) recollection of it was as a "good but not great" episode. Certainly not at the top of the list of my personal favorites from season one.
8. aranapequena
I remember reading that Eric Menyuk (the traveller) was originally strongly considered for the Data character. They liked him so much they brought him back to the series in a different capacity.

Imagine the Traveller as Data - would have been different.
Keith DeCandido
9. krad
Yeah, meant to put in the Trivial Matters section that Menyuk was one of the finalists for Data. For that matter, Stephen Macht--who would show up on Deep Space Nine as General Krim in the second-season "Circle" three-parter--was a finalist for the role of Picard.....

Watching Menyuk in this episode especially, and you can see that he would've also made an excellent Data, IMO.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
10. Mike S.
A good show, but not 8/10 worthy, IMO. We are a third of the way through this one before they even start the first test, and I think the resolution to the conflict is a little sappy, IMO.

Certianly the best TNG made to this point, however. I like the scene where Picard opens the turbolift door, and sees nothing but space. Who among us hasen't had that fear of an elevation opening too quickly, and stepping out in to nothingness. Also agree on Kamel's performance. Wish we could have seen him again.
11. Mike S.
Of course, I meant to use the world ELEVATOR, and not elevation. That's what I get for not editing this.
Michael Poteet
12. MikePoteet
We don't get to see Kosinski again, 'tis true; but I believe Wesley contacts him in "Remember Me," searching for the Traveler; so we at least hear of him again, and props to TNG for detailed world-building!

As virtually everyone above has said, this is decidedly one of the first season's strongest episodes. "Sense of wonder" all over the place! The scene where the Traveler outlines Wesley's potential for Picard is still a beautifully acted (and scored) one.
rob mcCathy
13. roblewmac
Mirror universe Voyger would never work! Mirror Janeway would just make a nasty deal with some allien and get them home on like day two.
14. FellKnight
To be fair, "Acting Ensign" is not really a ridiculous rank. Obviously modelled after the US Navy, Ensign is an O-1, which is a commissioned officer. "Acting Ensign" would simply signify an officer cadet, as Wesley ended up being anyway.
Keith DeCandido
15. krad
roblewmac: As the author of a Voyager Mirror Universe story, I must disagree. :) (It's "The Mirror-Scaled Serpent" in Star Trek: Mirror Universe: Obsidian Alliances, published in 2007.)

DS9's setup of the MU in the 24th century makes your own proposal impossible -- so what I did was put Chakotay, Janeway, Annika Hansen, and Tuvok (among others) in the Terran Resistance run by "Smiley" O'Brien, and they encounter a ship in the Badlands containing two aliens (Neelix and Kes) who just travelled 70,000 light-years from home.
Nicky Kay
16. NickyKV2
I loved the comment on "Opinionated"'s site about "Journey's End" and the Traveller which went something like this "Wesley goes off with a trans-dimensional, intergallactic paedophile"!

Wesley is the new Mozart? I don't think so, Tim!
17. Sardenta
Also, another appearance of a man wearing the miniskirt uniform. This time in red, about 38 minutes in.
18. Ensign Jayburd
Finally, I had an episode I could show to my doubting friends and relations who loved TOS. They still weren't completely sold, but it was a good one to start with. It was the first of many great, great Star Trek episodes to come, not just from TNG but the other spin-offs as well.

I remember being moved to tears when Picard sees his mother and says, "Maman?" And the actress was absolutely perfect in her delivery of the line, "You mean out here? At what you say is the end of the universe? Or do you see this as the beginning of it?"

I get chills just thinking about it...
19. crzydroid
It's interesting you mention the line where Kosinski says "
asymptomatically", because on rewatching this I thought that was odd. Obviously what he's saying is complete nonsense, but in context he probably means "asymptotically". I wonder if this was deliberately done in order to make him appear less credible, or if it was a mistake.
20. churrobot
It should be "Bessel functions."
21. Electone
Beautiful musical score by Ron Jones in this episode.
22. k9feline
I'm afraid I don't rate this episode as highly as everybody else here seems to. The excessive Wesley gush at the end really ruined it for me.

I'd rate this episode on the exact same level as EAFP, maybe a little higher than Keith did, but not enough to be offended at his low rating. I see both that episode and this as good, potentially great, episodes with some genuinely great moments in it, but badly, noticably flawed.
23. NightStrike
It's "bessel" function, not "vessel" function. See wikipedia.
Keith DeCandido
24. krad
NightStrike: Ooh, thanks. I was just going on what I heard Stanley Kamel saying, and it sounded like "vessel," and it's not like he was saying anything intelligible anyhow....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Christopher Bennett
25. ChristopherLBennett
@1: "I remember Diane Duane from the Thieve's World anthologies (and other writings), where her protagonists always appeared to me to me the super Marty Stu/ Mary Sues of their milieus. If the uber-Wesley Crusher is her doing, also...."

No, it was Gene Roddenberry's doing, since he saw Wesley as a representation of himself as a young man. Hardly anything in the finished episode actually survives from Duane and Reaves's script. Here's Duane's account of the turbulent writing process.
26. Donald Herman
Not that great but much better then the first fellow episodes. If you remove Welsey it would have been much better.
27. JohnC
Very interesting, thoughtful episode. I liked the little touches such as having "Maman" framed by the illuminated corridor panels, very much like a Madonna figure. And after that imprinted itself in my head, I began to see several things that seemed to hint at religious allegory. Even the big "thought session" at the end looked more like an earnest group prayer session, especially when Wesley took the Traveller's hand in encouragement. Picard uses the phrase "thought as duty", followed by "think of him as someone you care deeply about". And finally, the traveller is gone - ascension. ....

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