Where No One Has Gone Before
Wesley saves the day with his gnarly maths powers... not for the last time
Do you remember that this show is Star Trek... continued? Well, we're not done rehashing classic episodes yet. To be fair, I would rate this episode quite a bit above “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, but still, it's a great shame that you cannot skip the first season of TNG completely precisely because episodes like this introduce recurring elements like the Traveller, which later episodes lean upon. Oh yes, and the story. It's a bit like this…
An arrogant blowhard has somehow got a super-powered alien maths nerd to shill for him, and zwoosh! Suddenly we're several galaxies over, where physics takes a back seat to ridiculous nonsense. Fortunately, the Traveller senses the maths-fu of Wesley Crusher, and the two co-operate in zwooshing everyone back home, before the Traveller decides to say ta-ta and duck off to the waiting area for recurring guest stars. Tragically, Wesley is appointed as Acting Ensign, ensuring we will see much more of him in the episodes to come.
Oh goodness, where to start with this screenplay! But of course, it just has to be this glorious mismatch between ‘easy to write’ and ‘hard to get on screen’:
ANGLE ON WORF
Something causes him to turn from his station and glance to the side. What he sees makes him smile -- it's the first time we've ever seen Worf smile. He stands and moves toward it.
ANGLE TO INCLUDE A KLINGON ANIMAL
(Type of animal yet to be determined -- but it is LARGE.)
Worf and it are happy -- in a uniquely Klingon way -- to see each other. But the rest of the bridge crew are now on their feet, alarmed.
What is it?
A Klingon Targ!
Yes, 'Klingon Targ' - a phrase that we'll hear dozens more times over the years. But we sure as heck won't see a pig made up as one ever again. Okay, it's a wild boar, but still...
'Warp' does a lot of work in this script, not all of it logical. It appears 34 times. The entire episode rests on the idea that at the bottom of it all the universe is comprised of mind rather than matter. I find this a charming conceit, and it’s one that TNG gets excellent mileage out of, although not necessarily in this episode. In setting up season four's “Remember Me”, though, the Traveller and the 'universe of mind' do us something of a favour - let's call it an investment in the future.
Ooh look, a new Chief Engineer. They don't seem to last very long on this ship, do they - whatever happened to McDougal...? I guess letting Wesley lead a mutiny in your engineering section doesn't go without consequence in Starfleet after all.
Argyle is described as "one of our chief engineers", confirming that the Enterprise-D has a stock of these somewhere, ready to be broken out of their bubble wrap whenever a new one is needed. Still, to say that Biff Yeager has nothing to do in this episode is an understatement. Don't worry, we'll be pulling another Chief Engineer out of the lucky dip soon enough. MacDougal… Argyle… is anyone else noticing a Scottish theme here…? I wonder what that could be not-so-subtly referencing…
I do rather like Picard's encounter with 'maman', although her French accent is a bit... special. Herta Ware, who plays Yvette Picard, is a US citizen, and her father was from Budapest, which is about a thousand miles from Paris, for what it’s worth. I guess she at least has some connection to Europe. Frankly, it's just nice to see Picard as a human being for a change, as he seldom lets his guard down at any point in the show. This eventually becomes a plot point in its own right, as in in season four's “Qpid” with its running joke 'the captain is a very private man'. Of all the random 'thoughts become reality' moments, this family union is the one that feels most consequential…
…that said, the Tasha Yar flashback is actually rather nicely done, which is not something you'll hear me say about a Yar scene very often.
Eric Menyuk's Traveller is nicely delivered. He was on the shortlist to play Data, apparently. It's an understated performance, but the role calls for that, and Menyuk's unique face helps give him a delightfully alien quality.
(And may I mention this is director Rob Bowman’s first episode of TNG…? He gets a speaking role next season, but we’ll get to that in good time!)
Models, Make-up, and Mattes
Menyuk also gets a little latex make-up work too, the first of a huge number of guest stars who had to endure hours in make-up to sell the idea that they belong to some arbitrary alien species. Some of these work better than others, but the Traveller is a solid design that doesn't shout about the latex.
They made special gloves for him too, check this out! You know what they say about big hands…
Visual effects artist Robert Legato pulls out all the stops in creating the 'where the heck are we?!' shots.
He even one-ups himself as the episode progresses with ever escalating weirdness, as the script requires!
The one above is the wildest, and these effects were apparently made in Legato’s basement with a combination of water and fairy lights. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention!
And finally, welcome back to the 7.5-foot Excelsior model, this time as the USS Fearless. It's the same footage that was shot before for the USS Hood, but composited without Deneb IV in the background. It's this kind of reuse of stock footage that made TNG possible so I'm not going to complain - it would be much too expensive to produce effects of this quality if you weren't going to stockpile them for reuse. As someone who works in creative media I completely appreciate efficient production - not to mention, a truly lovely model. But weep bitter tears with me, for we will not see this studio miniature for another season and a half now. We’ll miss you! 💘
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