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Season Seven:
-252-253: "Descent"
-254: "Liaisons"
-256-257: "Gambit"
-263: "Parallels"
-265: "Homeward"
-268: "Thine Own Self"
-272: "Journey's End"
-273: "Firstborn"
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Journey's End

(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 272)
  • written by Ronald D. Moore
  • directed by Corey Allen
  • music by Jay Chattaway

Journey's End

This story begins a sequence of wrap-up episodes leading to the end of "The Next Generation" series on TV, most of which deal with tying up the loose ends of the story arcs of the more minor recurring characters on the show. Of course, Wesley Crusher used to be much more than that once upon a time, but that has become his status now.

Although, yes, he still has something to learn about manners, not to mention seeking first to understand before seeking to be understood, it is nice to see here that he's largely outgrown Starfleet and its limiting chain of command concepts. One wonders a bit why it took so long to figure out. Wesley basically got a huge demotion to go from Full Ensign (as achieved in season three's Ménage à Troi") down to Cadet for several years. How can he not feel like he's being held back and dumbed down? Moving on with the Traveler is far more interesting. It is hugely disappointing to see this evolution of Wesley largely forgotten in the tenth feature film "Nemesis" (albeit in deleted scenes only), where he is turned once more into the boring Starfleet puppy conveniently wagging his tail and going nowhere of interest.

The bigger A-plot story here involves a new Federation-Cardassian treaty and border re-alignment, and how that will push around some Native Americans who have settled on a planet now on the "wrong" side of that border. Of course this is done to make an outer space metaphor for some of the issues that Native Americans still struggle with today. The problem is that Star Trek's Federation already supposedly has enough safeguards in place to ensure that this kind of thing doesn't recur, not least of which are some of the various permutations of the Prime Directive.

As the episode progresses, the philosophically correct solution seemed quite obvious to me, and I was preparing to make a case for it in my review. Then to my surprise, the episode actually delivered the good solution at the end. So the real remaining question is, why the hell did it take the main characters so much time and dramatic energy to figure this out?

The red flags go up right at the beginning when the nicely recurring character of Admiral Nechayev outlines the situation with the border.... which exposes a big hole in the logic of the governing bodies of Star Trek's galaxy. Exactly what is the relationship between this group of Native Americans trying to establish a colony on the planet and the Federation at large? How is it that the Federation can bargain on their behalf, and come to a decision about the status of the planet they live on that goes completely against their wishes? This is pretty crappy representation, taking its cue a bit too firmly from today's Western Democracies, and suggesting that groups like the Native Americans here will end up putting their energies into a fight against the system's publicly announced cover story, while failing to change any of the minds of those in control because their real motivations are part of a hidden agenda that doesn't begin to get challenged, much less revealed. The feature film "Insurrection" gets that part of the dynamic right; "Journey's End" doesn't dig deep enough for us to find out.

Okay, once we get past the bizarreness of the border arrangement, the next thing to wonder about is why Starfleet is trying to force the Native American group one way or the other. After all, if you can't apply the best elements of the Prime Directive (like respecting others' wishes) to your interactions with people within your own Federation, how are you going to be any good at respecting the wishes of those outside of your Federation? Or are you still unsophisticated enough that you believe your only choices are to be interacting like bulls in a china shop, or to not interact at all? Really, Picard and company should just be about informing the Native American people that the borders have shifted, and the planet will no longer enjoy the protection of Federation Law or Starfleet muscle. If they want to relocate, Starfleet help is available. If they want to stay and take their chances with Cardassians, let them. By all means, let the Cardassians be the thing that prods these people to move. Don't try so hard to become the prods yourself, it just makes you into jerks, and threatens to turn genuine help into a process of "enabling" the Native Americans to continue reliving a cultural issue that would be about 900 years old by the time period that this episode is set in.

Is Nechayev or her higher ups forcing Picard and crew to perform this evacuation? If so, Wesley's actually got the right idea. Be completely honest with the Native Americans. Resign your commissions. Nicely, Picard does seem visibly rattled when Wesley resigns his, and he has to dig deeper into his own soul to figure out if he is really doing the right thing here. Perhaps he and his crew should resign their commissions too if forced into this. The feature film "Insurrection" got this part right, but "Journey's End" did not. And indeed, if Nechayev herself really is as sympathetic to Picard's objections as she seems to have become, perhaps she'll resign her commission as well. This kind of thing can have positive domino effects, until the idiot decision makers have no structure left under their command, prompting them to do a better job of making decisions in the first place.

Lastly, we are forced to look at the spiritually-informed decisions of the Native Americans. Here on Earth at least, they have an obvious claim to the land that predates that of the European conquerors by at least several hundred years, if not thousands of years. But "Journey's End" has to do a few backflips and somersaults to try to recreate something similar now on an outer space colony. These Native Americans have only found their ideal on the planet Dorvan Five just 20 years ago. Just twenty years! Barely one generation ago at most, if that. To compensate, it is said that they've been searching for 200 years to find a place as ideal as this, one with intangible elements like having the mountains and rivers and trees welcome them in just the right way. Well, great. It is nice that the environment is so welcoming. But before the obvious hits you like a sledgehammer, perhaps it would be useful to remember that the Cardassian Empire is part of that Environment. How welcoming are they? It's hard to make a case of a perfect environment if the mountains and trees are of one opinion while the Cardassians are of another. If the Cardassians are nasty enough to kick the Native Americans out, perhaps it isn't such an ideal environment after all, and the search must continue.
6:08 of Jay Chattaway's evocative score for "Journey's End" is available here:
Star Trek - TNG
Haven / Face of the Enemy
3-disc Audio CD set

Find out more....

Of course, the Starfleet characters will have no way to figure this out and make comment on it until they get themselves out of the way and let the Cardassians and Native Americans negotiate and work things out between themselves - as the Prime Directive would suggest. For once, it would be useful in this episode's situation, yet seems to have become forgotten in name and in spirit. And in the end, as far as we can tell from this episode alone, the Native Americans seem to have gotten their spiritual intuitions correct about the entire environment, even if the Cardassians don't realize how they really feel at first.

Of course, the episode eventually gets to all the good and correct stuff in the ending, but it really feels tacked on. Structurally, we spent most of the story watching our Starfleet regular characters locked on the idiotic side of the issue, where we are unable to really root for them and invest in their goals and struggles. Wesley may be a bit closer to the correct side of the issues, but he's kind of clueless in his ability to know what he's really all about in this episode, much less articulate it for the audience. One can only imagine that the more interesting points that I've made here did crop up, perhaps only subconsciously and definitely off-screen, allowing our characters to come to the excellent conclusion that we eventually get. But why spend the cameras' time and the dramatic energy of the episode on the less interesting stuff while the good stuff was ignored? The sixth season episode "The Quality of Life" had the knack of knowing exactly which scenes and philosophical debates to put on screen at any one time. "Journey's End" features equally fascinating ideas, but does not manage to put the best exploration of those ideas on screen.

Preemptive Strike

I'm going to sidestep a full review of the penultimate TNG episode "Preemptive Strike", which sees the recurring minor character of Ensign Ro tying up her tour of duty on The Next Generation as well, because that episode basically brings up all the same issues again, only with one basic difference. Here the Native Americans are wise enough to make their own peace with the Cardassians. The Maquis are too militant, and put their energy into a less evolved method of claiming their space. In both cases however, the episodes produce little reason for the audience to want to side with the regular Starfleet characters, and really depend on the fact that we've grown accustomed to siding with them over the past seven seasons of their show. Of the two, I think "Journey's End" is the superior episode - clearly in its handling of philosophical issues at least.

In addition to spending time on scenes that were not the most interesting ones that actually occurred during "Journey's End", the actual wrap-up of Wesley's arc is a bit wet and off-point as well. Just when you think his instincts might have got him fully emotionally engaged in the most dramatic part of the 3-way political struggle of the episode's A-plot, it is instead reported that he actually disengaged from the entire time/space/choice continuum altogether. This doesn't actually make any sort of good sense. If he wants to meditate his way into a new time/space paradigm, as we saw in both of the Traveller's previous adventures, fine. If he wants to step into some kind of technological device to go to a new time/space paradigm, fine. If he wants to scream injustice and run onto a battlefield, that says he's going to lock himself into our normal time/space/choice continuum on a lower vibrational frequency and probably get his naive butt kicked. Whatever. Writer Ron Moore should really research these things more carefully before attempting to put them on screen... and maybe he does these days. Back then, we were all reaching for such things without really knowing what we were doing, and it kind of shows in this reminder of the early 1990's.

At least the episode leaves off with everyone in a good place, even if there is much to be desired in the portrayal of how they got there. Interesting ideas and philosophy have been brought up, triggering interesting discussions after the fact. I'd say this is a good piece of art, though not as refined as what Next Gen. had done in earlier seasons. I still like this story, despite its obvious room for improvement.

This Next Generation Season Seven story is available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Seven (1993-1994):

Includes 26 episodes @ 45 minutes each.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for more information:

DVD Canada

7-disc DVD set

DVD Canada


DVD Extras include:

  • Mission Overview: Year Seven
  • A Captain's Tribute
  • Departmental Briefing: Production
  • Starfleet Moments and Memories
  • Special Profiles
  • Inside Starfleet Archives: Dressing the Future
  • The Making of "All Good Things..."
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
Dec. 2, 2014.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
Dec. 2, 2014.
Blu-ray U.K.

NEW for
Dec. 15, 2014.

Blu-ray features add:

  • 3 Audio Commentaries:
    • "Parallels" by writer Brannon Braga (2008).
    • "Lower Decks" by co-writer René Echevarria and
      scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
    • "Preemptive Strike" by the Okudas and
      writers René Echevarria and Naren Shankar.
  • Three-part documentary "The Sky's the Limit - The Eclipse of ST:TNG" (HD, 90 min. total) with all seven regular castmembers, plus Wil Wheaton (Wesley), Whoopi Goldberg (Guinan), Natalija Nogulich (Admiral Nechayev), and John de Lancie (Q), writer/producers Rick Berman, Ronald D. Moore, Braga, Echevarria, Shankar, Larry Nemecek, André Bormanis, producer/director David Livingston, and many others.
  • "Journey's End: The Saga of ST:TNG" (45 min.) (1994)
  • "Closed Set: A Tour of the Real Enterprise" (11 min.)
  • "In Conversation: Lensing ST:TNG" (42 min.) with Livingston,
    director James L. Conway, D.O.P. Jonathan West, and
    camera operator Kris Krosskove.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 5 min.)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD) from 15 episodes.
  • Episodic Promos
  • plus, all featurettes from the DVD version.
  • Main audio tracks in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese.

Article written by Martin Izsak. Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the next Star Trek review: "Firstborn"

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