Posted by: rebeccajrobare | June 30, 2017

“Where No One Has Gone Before”

Mission Summary: An engineer and his assistant come aboard the Enterprise to perform tests on the engines. According to Commander Riker, the equations to be tested appear to be “gibberish”, but two other starships are now able to reach higher speeds after implementing engineer Kosinski’s protocols.

The test propels the Enterprise at such a velocity that they escape the Milky Way entirely and end up in another galaxy. It is an unprecedented opportunity for scientific discovery, but Picard reluctantly orders the ship to return home, as a properly equipped science vessel will surely be sent in their place.

However, instead of returning home, the Enterprise travels even farther, finding itself in a realm where thoughts can influence and even become reality. Kosinski is unable to explain what has happened, but Wesley Crusher calls attention to Kosinski’s assistant, who has collapsed. While traveling, the assistant phased in and out of existence.

In Sickbay, Picard orders that the assistant be revived. The assistant explains that he is a Traveler, from what sounds like a different dimension or plane of reality. His people understand that time, space, and thought are the same, and he is the first of his kind to visit our world, in search of people who may be able to develop this kind of understanding.

Wesley Crusher is one such person, as the Traveler explains privately to Picard. Picard can encourage Wesley in a direction that will lead him to such an understanding — but Wesley must not know that this is what Picard is doing.

With the help of Wesley, and the supporting thoughts of Picard and the crew, the Traveler is able to return the Enterprise to where it is supposed to be. He departs, and Picard appoints Wesley to the rank of Acting Ensign and assigning him to the bridge crew.

On Leadership: The previous missions we’ve reviewed have mostly had to do with encountering “new life;” even the “Naked Now” mission was driven by the encounter with what was essentially a new disease. Although the Traveler is from a species unknown to the Federation, the Enterprise‘s problem on this mission largely results from finding itself in a new kind of place.

Captain Picard shows remarkable displays of leadership twice during this mission. First, he orders the Enterprise to return to their home galaxy instead of exploring the new one, and second, he trusts the Traveler to return them there after finding his ship in a realm where reality can be manipulated by thought.

When finding his ship in a new galaxy entirely, Picard, as we have seen on previous occasions, asks his senior officers for their opinions. Data says that the new galaxy, and their current location close to a protostar, where a star is forming, is an unprecedented opportunity for discovery. “Spoken like a true Starfleet graduate,” Picard commends him. It is clear from Picard’s expression and tone of voice that he regrets the decision he is making, but against his own wishes he orders the ship to return. This kind of exploration is better done with a ship that is equipped and crewed differently, and I would think — while ignorant of the specific Starfleet and Federation protocols that apply here — that such a ship would not include civilians and families, given the inherent danger involved. I call Picard’s leadership here remarkable because he is putting the safety of his ship and crew ahead of the exploration and discovery that are his primary mission, and against his own desires. In my opinion, it’s also in keeping with the scientific importance of what is happening: if Kosinski has done what he, at this point in the mission, thinks he has, it is replicable, but needs to be tested under more controlled conditions and understood in order for another ship to travel such vast distances predictably. They also do not know, at this juncture, whether they can return, or even contact their home galaxy. Scientific exploration that would never get back to Starfleet to be disseminated would be useless.

Trusting the Traveler to undo what he has inadvertently done is a leap of faith on Picard’s part. It is the only solution that will allow them to reach home at all; but trusting an unknown being who has erred in bringing them to this place at all seems like a frightening responsibility. The risk does pay off; and perhaps the risk of everyone on the ship dying in an accident is preferable to the risk of everyone on the ship eventually dying of old age if they do nothing. Either way, Picard, of course, is responsible.

Other things of note in this episode: Wesley is the first to notice that the Traveler is responsible for what is happening to the Enterprise, but because of his age and because he is not a member of the crew, Riker and Picard at first do not listen to him. The Captain and Commander have a different level of trust with their fellow Starfleet officers than they do with anyone else, and Wesley’s inclusion as an acting ensign at the end of the mission is in some ways an acknowledgement of this, that he is trustworthy and capable. (It also, not incidentally brings him more firmly under Picard’s authority!) This is an object lesson in leadership: Listen even to people you think you don’t need to listen to, people who are not directly under your leadership. Had Wesley been heard out immediately, the Enterprise would not have traveled to the realm of thought.

Finally, I find it interesting that one of the tenets we have previously observed in Captain Picard’s actions — trust your people to to their jobs — backfires here.  Kosinski’s equations are nonsense, as Commander Riker says, but Picard allows Kosinksi to continue, trusting that because his previous results are good he must know what he is doing. This is another caution, then. The Captain surely can’t be an expert in everything, but it would be wise to listen when someone on your team tells you that the proposed solution doesn’t make sense!

What are your thoughts about this very unusual mission, and how Picard led his crew?

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Responses

  1. […] « “Where No One Has Gone Before” […]


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