Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Next Generation, Season 7: Journey's End

The Next Generation, Season 7
"Journey's End"
Airdate: March 28, 1994
171 of 176 produced
171 of 176 aired

Introduction

The Enterprise is called to Dorvan V, in order to mediate a dispute between American Indian planetary colonists and the Cardassian Union, who have claimed ownership of the world following its war with the Federation. Meanwhile, Wesley Crusher is aboard visiting from the Academy, but has grave doubts about his future life path.
What are you, blind? This vest kicks ASS.




Writing


Matthew: Okay, we should just get it out of the way that the relationship between the A and B stories is not the most natural or elegant. I think it gets pulled together by the end by the mystical elements, but at least initially it is hard to escape the feeling that a big "Meanwhile..." should be pasted up on the screen. Overall, the Indian story is yet another Ron Moore political tale. It is pretty good, with some nice increasing tension. I do have one issue - if this world is still under the protection of the Federation, how did Gul Evek's ship even get close to it? Does the border have no meaning? Their visit was a surprise to Picard, which means it was not likely to be approved by the Federation. The Nechayev stuff was a nice touch, showing that she is not just a ball breaker. She was given lots of hero lines, having asked for and been refused the concessions Picard wants already.

Kevin: I need to lay out a disclaimer right at the top. I do not like this episode. I am not certain that it has something to do with the objective quality so much as just a general personal dislike of the story and/or being really annoyed by Wesley this time around. As I am ethically bound, however, to give the episode a fair shake, let's start with the political story. I agree with Matt. It is a good set up. I like seeing extant Earth cultures being depicted in the future. It's fun and opens a lot of doors for comparison. I also agree Necheyev's scenes were gold. What bothered me was how heavy handed the moral got. Maybe had they used a different Earth culture, so the allegory wouldn't be "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield" level of ham-fisted. I found the reasons the colonists gave for not wanting to leave and the use of Picard's ancestor to smack of just a little too much mysticism for my taste. Picard has to be able to understand attachment to the land. Can you imagine Picard's father or brother leaving the vineyard under any circumstances? It would have been fun to have another officer who knew that point that out to him. It would have grounded the problem in one of history and identity, almost comparable to the Prime Directive. Is forcing these people to change their home an act that damages who they are to a greater degree than the risk the Cardassians present? Who gets to make that decision? I also would have liked some muddying of the waters. The Cardassians, at least Evek, seems ultimately fine with this arrangement, but what if they weren't? What if we knew that not evacuating the colony would reignite the war? You can question the rights of the Federation to displace the colonists, but can't you also question of the right of colonist to drag dozens of other worlds into war in the name of protecting their own? There is the kernel of a great political story hear, but it got lost in the allegory it was trying to portray.

Matthew: The Wesley story starts out seeming shoehorned in. He sort of really quickly has to act like a complete tool, which feels unnatural. Some more development would have helped, but this is made difficult by the time constraints of the A-B structure of the story. But eventually we get to a good explanation for his behavior, and the character interactions are all written well. Really, everything but the Engineering scene makes total sense. It just doesn't make sense for him to volunteer to help out, show up in some outrageously ugly casual wear, and then proceed to insult all of Geordi's work. It felt as though a cramped story required this unduly douche-tastic scene.

Kevin: When I was younger, I did not like Wesley at all really. I think between "Adults," and this episode, it cemented for me how annoying he was. As I've aged, I certainly recognize some great work by Wil Wheaton and some more subtle writing for the character made me like him more. Here, though, it's still bad. It felt like they shoehorned in a guest appearance by an actor whose name we needed to check off the box in the home stretch, and the attitude was out of nowhere. I liked the scenes with Beverly, as the actors have always had a lovely rapport, but we needed a more organic reason for the change of heart. Maybe we could have tied it in to First Duty. Where Sito got a second chance and excelled, maybe Wesley was worn down by the ostracization following that wore him down. It would have provided some basis for his pulling away from the academy than a last minute "I didn't really want to anyway." I get children living for their parents' expectations, but the way they portrayed Wesley over the last six years does not support that conclusion. And even if I thought it did, it's still miles away from intentionally disobeying orders and jeopardizing the safety of his friends and shipmates. It all felt rushed and inorganic and all to serve to have a reason to bring back a character.

Matthew: The Traveler element is the main sci-fi load bearer, and it is only adequate here. I love me some Traveler stories, and think that "Where No One Has Gone Before" and "Remember Me" are some of the finest efforts of their respective seasons. I like the surreptitious introduction of the character, since it makes sense given his established modus operandi - traveling to learn about people with unique insights into space and time. I think the problem again is that it should have received a fuller treatment. It's kind of lame that we don't get to see any of the sorts of sights that Wesley will be exploring with the Traveler In the end, though, it provides a satisfying conclusion to the Wesley character arc in the series. We were told he was Mozart in Season One, and he gets to make good on it here - off screen.

Kevin: You do raise an interesting point, and one that I had not considered. This does payoff a setup from season one, and I like that. I just wish they had found a way to make it happen more organically and for him to not be such a jerk in the lead up. I would have liked to have felt the Traveler appearing was the result of Wesley maturing and not just aging. Still, I do appreciate that they thought to tie up Wesley's character in a meaningful way.

Acting


Matthew: Wil Wheaton has been asked to deliver a lot of crap lines in this series. He gets a doozy here: "Read the latest paper from Dr. Vassbinder. He has brilliant new theories on warp-propulsion interrelays. He'd say all this stuff is obsolete." In addition to containing loads of awkward treknobabble, it is outrageous, even in the context of his character's established arc. But he pulls it off by the end, having softened his character considerably and found some peace in the role. I liked his vision quest scenes, and his scenes with Gates McFadden especially. She was superb, by the way, with a heartbreaking portrayal of a mother who wants to reach out to her troubled son.

Kevin: Wil Wheaton is a good actor, but you can't make bricks without straw. He tried. He really did, but the anomalous douchiness is just too much to overcome. I agree fully on the scenes with his mother, though. Both actors did a great job of infusing the scenes with their established relationship. He did sell the enthusiasm about the vision of his father, and what it meant to him, but it just didn't fit somehow in the overall arc for me. I will admit I got a little choked up at Beverly telling Wesley she would be proud of him no matter what. She sold it as completely genuine, in no way dismissive or passive aggressive, and it was touching. I also liked the scene with Picard and Wesley in the conference room. His disappointment and anger were palpable.

Matthew: The guest acting in this show was superb. Ned Romero was great as Anthwara, imparting a real wisdom as well as a wiliness to the character. Similarly, Tom Jackson was good as Lakanta, and you could really see him as an aspect of the Traveler. Erik Menyuk was typically solid as the Traveler himself. It's pretty obvious why Richard Poe was asked back as Gul Evek - in both Voyager and DS9 - he was a great Cardassian, seeming very stolidly military, but also hiding a more thoughtful side. And Natalija Nogulich had her best outing as Nechayev yet, which is saying something. She got to play both hard and soft, and did it well.

Kevin: Looking over our reviews, it's been some time since a guest star has failed to bring it. The casting department has gotten it down to a science and it shows. Particularly on Necheyev, her scenes were awesome. I always love it when a guest character doesn't act like their character knows they are a guest star.


Production Values


Matthew: Wardrobe merits special mention - for how absolutely awful Wesley's off duty clothes were. He may be a math prodigy, but he's a fashion nightmare. He has now done for the vest what he did for the cable-knit sweater in early seasons. Just wretched.

Kevin: I concur fully on the awful, awful vest, and will raise you the overuse of hair product. Eeesh. What did Wil Wheaton do to the costume people to deserve this? Is his evil Wil Wheaton character on Big Bang Theory somehow the real Wil Wheaton? That would explain it.

Matthew: The Dorvan sets were nice, especially the conference room. The Habak looked nice, too. The freeze effect was pretty ambitious for its day, and I think it looked good despite a bit of off character lighting on the moving cast members. The planetary shots of the ship orbiting were a little ragged, showing some video compositing jaggies. Presumably these will be cleaned up on the eventual Season 7 Blu-Ray.

Kevin: I like the sets overall as well as the costumes on Dorvan, which apparently so did the DS9 and Voyager crews, as this became the de facto setting and uniform of the Maquis.


Conclusion


Matthew: I think there is a lot to like here, but it is hampered overall by shoehorning two stories together that probably could have been better developed separately (and I can think of a few season 7 episodes that could have been replaced...). Still and all, I think it's a solid 3. I like the idea of Wesley and the Traveler exploring the boundaries of reality together, even though we don't get to see it. And as ham-fisted as the moralizing may have been, I still think the American Indian story represents a solid idea.

Kevin: I am this close to a 2. Neither story gets the development it should. The Dorvan plot gets bogged down in heavy handed anti-imperialist allegory and the Wesley story is hampered by random character changes that were made only to spur the plot of this episode. The result is an episode I don't enjoy watching. Plus the vest. Can't forget to factor the vest. I suppose though, an A+ appearance by Necheyev, and two stories whose basic ideas are good and even ambitious, and the fact that I can't quite shake the idea my residual dislike of Wesley is tainting my view gets this just into a 3 for me. That makes a total of 6.

1 comment:

  1. Will Wheaton in Big Bang Theory? I haven't seen him yet, but now I'm looking forward to watch the episode! :D

    ReplyDelete