"Journey's End"

Season Seven, Episode 20
Written by Ronald D Moore
Directed by Corey Allen
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Capt Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Cmdr William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Cmdr Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data
 

Guest Cast:
Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher
Natalija Nogulich as Admiral Nechayev
Ned Romero as Anthwara
Tom Jackson as Lakanta
Jack Wert as Jack Crusher
Erik Menyuk as The Traveller
Richard Poe as Gul Evek
George Aguilar as Wakasa
 

Synopsis:
 
As per a new treaty with the Cardassians, a Demilitarised Zone is being established along the Federation border. Unfortunately, a planet settled on by a band of Native American Indians has fallen under Cardassian jurisdiction and Picard is given the unenviable task of persuading them to relocate.

Meanwhile, Wesley Crusher arrives aboard the ship, dissatisfied with his life at Starfleet Academy. Sullen and moody, he lashes out at his friends until he meets a mysterious Indian, Lakanta, who claims he has been awaiting Wesley's arrival. He leads him on a vision quest, where he meets his dead father who advises him to follow his own path. Wesley then warns the Indians that the Enterprise plans to beam them up without their consent, which enrages Picard. Wesley, unfazed at Picard's reprimand, resigns from Starfleet.

Meanwhile, the Cardassians have arrived to survey the planet and tensions soon result in a near shoot-out between the Enterprise and the Cardassians. Down on the planet, Wesley discovers that "Lakanta" is none other than the mysterious Traveller from Tau Alpha C. He tells Wesley that he has a special destiny ahead of him and promises to lead him on an amazing path of adventure and discovery. Picard and the Cardassian leader, Gul Evek, manage to hammer out an agreement that states the Indian settlers can remain on the planet, even though they will now be under Cardassian jurisdiction. Wesley later says farewell to his mother as he embarks on his new journey.


Review:

Journey's End is an important episode in Trek lore. It introduces the newly-established Demilitarised Zone along the Cardassian/Federation border, setting the scene for the arrival of the freedom-fighting Maquis and thus providing a link not only with Deep Space Nine, but with upcoming successor, Voyager. It also sees the return of Wesley Crusher and provides not only a surprising twist of fate, but some closure now that we're headed toward the finale. Writer Ron Moore neatly packages both elements with an intriguing foray into one of the most sickening chapters of American history -- the attempted genocide of the Native American Indians.

On one hand, I felt the parallels were a little heavy-handed, yet at the same time it was nice to see the writers willing to tackle the issue head-on instead of hiding behind allegory (which is generally something TNG doesn't do particularly well). Courtesy of the odious Admiral Nechayev, Picard faces a truly gut-wrenching dilemma, made all the more painful when he learns that one of his ancestors was responsible for atrocities against the race some centuries back. The resolution is perhaps a slight let-down after such a good build-up, for although reaching a compromise is admirable on both parties, it isn't necessarily satisfying in dramatic terms. Still, for the most part it made for good viewing, adeptly setting up a complex political scenario which, for once, will have lasting repercussions. I also liked the idea of Picard wiping clear an old stain of blood on his family history, as Anthwara put it. It was effectively underplayed and quietly moving.

As for Wesley? Well, if Wes-the-super-genius wasn't annoying enough, Wes-the-stroppy-teenager certainly made up for it! I actually enjoyed his realisation that he was following the wrong path in life. Having been there and done that in my own life, it's something I can relate to. It takes a lot of courage to say "hey, wait a minute, am I doing what I want to do in life or what other people want me to do?". The return of the mysterious Traveller sets Wesley off in a surprising, bold new direction that was actually hinted at during the first season's Where No one Has Gone Before. Who would ever have expected that the writers would pick up on that?

Unfortunately, this aspect of the episode actually falls a little flat. It's interesting, yes, but it gets short shrift, entirely bypassing the implications and seeming somewhat nebulous. How about spending a little more time exploring Wesley's feelings about this new "journey" he's to embark on and seeing how Beverly feels about it? There was a lot of untapped potential here. But neither Ron Moore nor Wil Wheaton seemed to have their heart in it -- it was pretty much a case of, "let's tie up Wesley's fate and get it over with ASAP". In theory it was a great idea -- in execution it was still reasonably good, but it could have been better.
 

Rating: 7


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