Where No One Has Gone Before
This episode is just too cool to not mention here.
As with the better initial episodes of the original
series in the sixties, it really does stamp itself
as science fiction, rather than just another drama
in an established future arena.
And as with the best of science fiction, it informs
itself with the latest thoughts from our society on many ideas,
drawing once more from much in the New Age sphere of influence.
The dramatic core of the story gains much from the
archetypal opposite natures of the story's two main guest stars.
One is noisy, boastful, unwilling to listen, and placing too much
faith in traditional science because it brings him gains.
The other is quiet, graceful, helpful, humble, accepting,
and ultimately far more powerful, influential, and memorable.
The episode ultimately shows us that powers of thought and emotion
have important effects on where you end up in the universe
after breaking certain time/space barriers, and although it
does gloss over ideas of training the mind to a certain
level of discipline, one can assume that Starfleet personnel
of the 24th century are, as they should be, a bit better at it
than human beings of the 1980's in order to achieve the rapid
results we see.
Another nice touch is the Traveler's lack of a firm Prime Directive
that he might apply to Federation society. Where he is from,
they probably don't need laws to vainly attempt to control
actions. Instead they each trust they will naturally be putting
forth their best while following their own excitement, and in doing
so, the Federation has only just become "interesting". Brilliant.
Ron Jones composes the music for this story, elevating the atmosphere
of the piece as he so often did during his all-too-brief time
on the early years of this show. Here again, the wonderment
of both the external and internal encounters comes to the fore,
primarily through the dreamy/spacey new age characteristics
of the musical sound. Very nice work. A lot of really nice
optical effects are on display as well, showcasing the fantastic
new places that the Enterprise goes to. The spirit of exploration,
itself the real heart of good science-fiction, is rekindled in
this episode better than most others in Star Trek. Nice one.
Where the story is still rough is best evidenced by the
underdevelopment of the Starfleet characters. The regulars
are getting a bit more solid, but very few of them have much
to do in this one. Although Wesley and Worf will be absent
in many of these earliest instalments, this episode squeezes
in all nine series' regulars, and then proceeds to hand out
many roles to complete unknown "extras" amongst the Enterprise crew
as though looking for dodgier performances. And the episode
also highlights one of season one's biggest oversights in
not having a regular Chief Engineer amongst the main cast.
The actor we get isn't bad at all, but strange that it's someone
completely different to the engineer we had in "The Naked Now"
two stories ago. You wonder who you'll see next week,
while poor Geordi is struggling to find a scene with a decent
number of lines.
Ah, but it's season one, and one of the best episodes
that the Next Generation had that year. It contains many good
points that later years of Star Trek seemed to have forgotten
to try to include. This was sci-fi. Let's celebrate. :-)