Written by Ronald D. Moore, Shawn Piller, Antonia King, Rene Echevarria, and Naren Shankar
Directed by Corey Allen
In an excellent piece of writing that proves to be a jumping-off point for much of the conflict which plagues Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and proves to be the launching pad for Star Trek: Voyager, we also get what should be some closure for the character of Wesley Crusher (portrayed by Wil Wheaton). It sets the tone for the start of the Maquis, a group of Starfleet Officers who disagree with displacing people to broker peace with the Cardassians.
The last time anyone saw Wesley, he was off to Starfleet Academy, and not having a totally positive experience. This was a bit of a change in direction for the character who had always been presented as a sort of wunderkind whom the writers seemed to earnestly want viewers to embrace. Seeing that he had feet of clay proved to be much more satisfying than all the scripts where all the grown-ups are idiots and he saves the day. There were many of those in the early seasons.
In Journey’s End, Wesley travels to the Enterprise for a visit. He is belligerent and moody. He is condescending and rude to Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (portrayed by LeVar Burton). His mother, the ship’s doctor, Beverly Crusher (portrayed by Gates McFadden) is at her wit’s end trying to deal with him.
Meanwhile, Captain Picard (portrayed by Patrick Stewart) must deal with the ramifications of a treaty with the Cardassians. Admiral Nechayev (portrayed by Natalija Nogulich) assigns the ship to remove a colony of Native American settlers who have settled on a planet that is now in Cardassian territory.
While meeting with the leaders of the colony, Picard learns that an ancestor of his was involved in a brutal incident with Native Americans seven hundred years prior back on Earth. The Native Americans believe he has been sent there to right the wrong his ancestors committed. The Cardassians land a party on the planet when the Natives are supposed to be allowed sixty days. They state they are just surveying. This angers the Natives who later on take them hostage. It seems as if the war is about to erupt once again.
Meanwhile, Wesley befriends Lakanta (portrayed by Tom Jackson), one of the Native Americans he meets there. The two discuss Wesley’s inability to see the future everyone else seems to see for him. He takes Wesley to the Habak where Wesley has a vision of his deceased father.
This is a very strong episode for a variety of reasons. It builds on what is already known of the characters through the seasons and draws on what has happened through the years nicely. This pivotal moment also resonates throughout the Star Trek universe for years to come in two series. Yet on the surface, it doesn’t seem as if it is much the catalyst for anything. In the end, it seems that an acceptable solution has been found for all, yet the politics involved have obviously left a distaste in many people’s mouths.
This would have been great closure for the character of Wesley as well. I won’t give away all of it, but the resolution of what happens here harkens back to the first meeting with a character known as The Traveler back in Where No One Has Gone Before. I always like seeing a series draw on its own history, and writer Ronald D. Moore does that nicely. The only thing that mars it for me is knowing Wesley will turn up again in the film Star Trek: Nemesis.
The position Picard ends up in is good as well because it really seems like a no-win situation. I was afraid Moore would wimp out and have the Cardassians back away from the colony. That doesn’t happen which is a good thing. In the Original Series, we would have seen a stand-off until Kirk somehow bullied the other side into caving. As entertaining as that might have been, it’s not terribly realistic. Instead, we see a resolution that’s not ideal by any means, but something everyone can live with for the time being.
The episode is character-driven and therefore most of what happens hinges on the actors. Wil Wheaton probably portrays Wesley the best here from what I’ve seen through the years. It’s a shame he was forced on fans and not allowed to grow because the character had potential under his talent. That potential shines through here. Wesley has much for fullness as a character than being a one-trick pony the way he was originally written.
The same talent is mirrored in Patrick Stewart, so it’s almost the older being mirrored by the younger. He is uncomfortable with the situation right from the beginning. Admiral Nechayev makes him uncomfortable. The assignment makes him uncomfortable. What the Native Americans tell him makes him uncomfortable. However, he has a job to do and manages to take care of the situation to the best of his ability. Picard is thoughtful, yet decisive in his actions. He takes time to weigh things and has a conscience. All this is conveyed by Stewart in his delivery and mannerisms for much of what he feels isn’t reflected in the script.
Journey’s End is a terrific episode and I would give it 4 1/2 stars. There are a couple of small action sequences which aren’t gratuitous and add to the story. Fans should be thrilled with something like this as it’s some of what the best Star Trek has given us through the years.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Genesis
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Firstborn