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[TNG] Lynch's Spoiler Review: "Journey's End"

WARNING:  Once you've journeyed to the end of this article, you'll have
encountered many spoilers for TNG's "Journey's End" along the way.  If this
path is not of interest to you, turn away now.

Whew.  Not stellar, but a *hell* of a lot better than "Genesis".

Of course, that doesn't mean much.  Still, it was very ... pleasant.  More
after a synopsis:

The Enterprise is at starbase 310 to meet with Admiral Nechayev, and also
takes on board Wesley Crusher, on leave from the Academy.  While Wes
quickly proves much more prickly and remote than usual, there are bigger
problems afoot:  Nechayev tells Picard about the new border arrangements with
the Cardassians, and gives him the unenviable task of moving a colony now
located in Cardassian space.  The colony, on Dorvan Five, is an old American
Indian tribe that left Earth to find a home centuries ago -- and the
historical parallels of uprooting them due to a political decision are not lost
on Picard.

Once the ship reaches Dorvan, Picard meets with the tribal council, only to
discover that they consider this planet home, for intangible, spiritual
reasons far beyond the transient environmental issues.  They do not intend to
leave, but both sides agree to reconvene the following day and eat dinner at
the Enterprise that evening.

After a brief argument between Bev and Wesley (in which Wesley informs Bev
that he might just possibly be tired of living up to expectations), the
dinner commences.  There, Picard talks to Anthwara (the tribe's leader) about
the tribe's past and answers questions about his own family, and Wes too has
a meeting -- with Lakanta, another colonist who tells Wes that he saw him in
a "visionquest" two years ago, and knew that Wes would be coming, "to find
the answers that you seek."

As Jean-Luc tells Beverly that Wes must work out his problems for himself,
Wes follows Lakanta down to the planet and asks Lakanta what to do next.  
Lakanta talks to him about the sacredness of everything on the planet,
including Wes himself, and urges Wes to start treating himself with respect.  
Wes agrees, and the pair then retire to begin Wes's own visionquest.

Picard and the council have yet to reach an agreement, and despite Picard's
own moral objections to his orders, Picard informs them that "no" is not an
acceptable answer.  Anthwara, however, says that Picard won't use force -- in
fact, that Picard is here to atone for the crimes of one of his ancestors, a
Xavier Maribosa Picard partly responsible for the massacre of hundreds of
their tribe nearly seven centuries ago.  

As if that weren't enough to drive Picard to distraction, three Cardassians
suddenly appear down on the planet.  Led by Gul Evek, they are there to do an
advance survey of materials left behind, and do not intend to be deterred by
a group of colonists that should be gone anyway.  Picard allows them to
remain, but informs Evek in no uncertain terms that until the border change
takes effect, he will protect these people.

In the "habak", the chamber where visionquests occur, Wes and Lakanta talk
briefly of spirits that have visited before, and then Wes is instructed to
start the fire and sit.  Lakanta says that "I can open the door -- but only
you can go through it," as the quest begins.

Picard's attempt to plead for more time with Starfleet fails, despite
Nechayev's sympathies.  Wes, meanwhile, continues to stare into the fire, and
suddenly sees a vision of his father, who tells him that he's reached the end
of this journey, the one he's been on ever since Jack died -- and that "now
it's time to find a path that is *truly* yours.  Don't follow *me* any
further."  Wes wakes and returns to the camp, only to find Worf making
surreptitious preparations to beam the entire colony off-planet.  Appalled,
Wes attempts to put a stop to it the easiest way he can:  he informs the
colony of Worf's actions, *very* publicly, and nearly incites a riot as a
result.

Picard is, to put it mildly, not pleased at this news, and tells Wes that his
actions were completely inexcusable.  He tells Wes that the morality
judgement was not his to make, and that "while you wear that uniform, you
will obey every order you are given."  Wes agrees, but promptly removes his
combadge and tells Picard he's resigning from the Academy immediately.  He
later explains this action a bit more to Beverly, who is very upset by it.  
Wes explains that Starfleet has never really been for him, but it wasn't
until recently that he began to realize it -- and it wasn't until his vision
that he actually accepted it.  Bev, keeping in mind the Traveller's promise
that Wes has a very different destiny in store for him, accepts this.

Wes returns to the surface, only to find that two of the Cardassians have
been taken prisoner by the colonists.  With the situation growing more
volatile by the minute, Evek (on the Enterprise meeting with Picard) prepares
to order troops to beam down, rescue the colonists, and "occupy" the village.
Picard protests, threatening a response that would lead to war.  A Cardassian
tries to break free, and a struggle ensues.  Wes screams "NO!" and rushes to
help --

-- and finds that everything around him is frozen.  He stands confused, until
Lakanta (very much unfrozen) reassures him that Wes has simply stepped out of
time for a moment, beginning a journey very few humans can take.  Lakanta now
reveals himself to be the Traveller, offering Wesley the chance to explore
this new side of himself, with the Traveller as guide.  Wes accepts, and the
Traveller urges him not to interfere in this current fight, trusting them to
work out their own problems.  The two walk off, as the fight continues.

At the last moment, Picard manages to convince Evek to avoid a confrontation
by beaming up his officers (an action which Picard then repeats for the
Enterprise crewmembers).  The issue is settled:  the tribe renounces its
Federation citizenship, allowing them to stay where they are but putting them
at risk for Cardassian interference.  Evek, however, says that he believes
they will be left alone, providing the tribe does the same.  Evek leaves,
satisfied, and Anthwara thanks Picard for his help, assuring him that he has
erased the "stain of blood" that has been on his family for centuries.  The
Enterprise departs, but not before Picard and Beverly bid fond farewells to
Wesley, who has decided to remain behind to learn what he can from these
people before continuing his training with the Traveller.




Well, that pretty much covers that.  Now, onwards:

For the most part, I rather liked "Journey's End".  I didn't love it -- there
were a few things I wanted to see that weren't there, and the pace got a bit
slow here and there -- but I liked it.  It was pleasant, and I thought it was
a nice farewell to Wes (whose presence alone guarantees that a fringe 10% or
so of the net will hate it sight unseen).

The main problem I had with the show, and the one thing that'll keep it from
a very high rating, is this:  there is a perfect point to tie into Wes's
growing alienation, and a perfect reason why he might have been having added
difficulties at the Academy.  It's called ostracism; ostracism after turning
in his teammates in "The First Duty".  It was said even then that Wes was in
for "difficult times ahead", and Wes *should* show signs of that strain.

Nothing we see in "Journey's End", though, suggests that.  The reference Bev
makes to his Academy time suggests that he's been doing fine until the last
semester, and Wes refers on at least one occasion to his many friends on
campus.  That makes it sound like "The First Duty" was removed from existence
by the stroke of a pen -- and given just how excellent a piece of development
that show was for Wes, and just how neatly it *could* have fit in here with
minimal changes, it really hurts to see it ignored.

That's my main gripe.  "Journey's End" works just fine by itself, but it
somehow feels like there's a big story we missed in between "The First Duty"
and this to explain the changes.  Without that explanation, this show feels
like it was shoehorned in.  That's my major gripe.

Otherwise, I liked most of the show.  I thought Wes's vision, while not quite
as intensely dreamlike and weird as I might have made it, got the point
across to both Wes and us with a minimum of beating-over-the-head (something
which would have been very easy to do).  Wes may not have understood what
Jack meant immediately, but I did, and I was gratified to see the point
wasn't belabored.  (Besides, it was wonderful to see Jack again, even for a
moment -- and even if he *does* look like MST3K's Mike Nelson.  :-) )

It was interesting to see Nechayev in a slightly more sympathetic role than
usual, but I have to confess I didn't feel particularly sympathetic for her.  
Nogulich's delivery suggests unpleasant regardless of the intent, and I'm not
so sure that's a good thing.  (On the other hand, the mere fact that Picard
has a "regular superior" is _so_ long overdue that I'm not going to quibble
about this.)

I liked the two major guest stars after Wes and Nechayev, those being Tom
Jackson as Lakanta and Ned Romero as Anthwara.  Both did a good job being
enigmatic and frustratingly calm; while I'm not sure it's particularly
realistic, it really _did_ work for dramatic purposes.  (George Aguilar as
Wakasa, the most hostile member of the council, however, has to go.  Bleh.)  

I do think the whole "look, we're including Native Americans, aren't we
wonderfully multicultural!" angle of the show was a bit overdone, however.  
First, it stuck out like a sore thumb -- I'm all for keeping cultural
differences alive, but not when every scene featuring these people is saying
"Look, we are a separate culture -- a culture that's not yours and that's
separate, got it?"  That's more or less what was here; thankfully, it was
rarely the majority of any given scene, some of the early ones aside.  
Second, I'm not certain it's a particularly accurate portrayal; I don't know
why, but I have that feeling.  (My own contact with Native Americans has been
exceedingly limited, however, so I'd appreciate comments from those with more
experience than I on how well it worked.)  As I said, it worked beautifully
for dramatic purposes, and since I don't know enough of the reality to
comment, that's all I can really talk about.

As for Wes's final fate:  works for me.  I think there was a slight stretch
to make the Traveller's comments applicable to here (remember, he's supposed
to be a Mozart of _engineering and propulsion_, according to the Traveller
way back when), but not enough to get me really concerned.  I think Wes
realizing that Starfleet isn't really for him is a very fair realization for
someone who's been through everything this character has to make, and it was
well executed in the bargain.  (Truth to tell, I think it makes Wes a good
role model:  he's not afraid any more to admit making a fairly large mistake
in living up to others' expectations.  Then again, I've been reading a lot of
Feynman lately, so I have a vested interest in anyone making the point that
others' expectations can be unreasonable.)

That's it.  "Journey's End" is a pretty simple story, really, and works well
for what it's trying to do.  If nothing else, the utter lack of technobabble
is a marvelous cure for "Genesis" overload.

So, a few short points:

-- An excellent detail which gave away Lakanta's identity earlier than
planned.  His statement about only being able to "open the door" for Wes, but
Wes having to choose to go through is almost exactly the same phrasing he
used when he discussed being able to rescue Bev in "Remember Me" three years
ago.  Sharp writing.

-- Lots of detail problems in this show, though.  Wes is wearing a third-year
uniform (which might be a problem in itself, given that he allegedly had to
repeat his first year two years ago), but Bev calls him a fourth-year cadet.  
The massacre Anthwara mentioned occurred in 1690, which he then calls *over*
700 years ago.  Pardon?  (The Traveller is also referred to as being from Tau
Ceti, which is wrong.)  Nothing earth-shattering in these points, but
together they add up to being somewhat annoying.

-- What's more, Anthwara's grandfather is said to have led the original
expedition off Earth, 200 years earlier -- but that would imply (being
generous and saying Anthwara's currently 90, and that the grandfather was
young when he left, say 30) that his grandfather is a full 140 years older
than Anthwara himself.  Given long lifespans, it's not impossible -- but for
a culture so deeply rooted in past traditions, it seems markedly implausible.
Would there be a real problem in going back another two generations?

-- I feel it should be made shown that the Wes as portrayed here *is*, more
or less, my brother-in-law, except that Wes was a little more active in being
pissed off at the world.  Just a note -- and I hope he never sees this.  :-)

-- A familiar name in the "based upon material by" credit:  Anatonia Napoli
was the second name, but the first was Shawn *Piller*.  Relative of Michael
"Hi, I exec-produce" Piller?

-- This is the second week in a row that we've seen virtually nothing of
Geordi.  Was LeVar busy during this time or something?

That's about it.  "Journey's End" isn't earth-shattering, but it's a nice bit
of closure for Wes.  More power to it on that level.

So, wrapping up:

Plot:  Simple, and fairly tight.  The one major objection is the lack of any
        fallout from "The First Duty".
Plot Handling:  The "we're multicultural, dammit!" bits were a little too
        much, but all in all nice.
Characterization:  Nice.  A trifle sparse for everyone but Wes and Picard,
        but nice.

OVERALL:  Call it a 7.  Pleasant.

NEXT WEEK:  Well, we got an ad for calling in for a marathon rather than a
real preview, but presumably it'll be "Force of Nature" next week.  Oh, happy
day.

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
BITNET:  tlynch@citjulie
INTERNET:  tly...@juliet.caltech.edu
UUCP:  ...!ucbvax!tlynch%juliet.caltech....@hamlet.caltech.edu
"There comes a time in a young man's life when he doesn't want to stay with
his poor, senile mother; I understand."
"I'll come visit you in the Old Doctors' Home every Sunday."
                                -- Bev and Wes
--
Copyright 1994, Timothy W. Lynch.  All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...

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