Journey’s End (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 7, Episode 20) Picard must relocate a North American Indian colony; Wesley faces another loyalty test

Rewatching ST:TNG

An obviously troubled Cadet Crusher visits the Enterprise.

Picard lays out muchies to prepare for an in-person visit from Admiral Necheyev, in an effort to make their relationship less confrontational. She notices and appreciates his efforts, but still gives him very difficult orders to relocate a colony founded by Native North Americans. 

Necheyev (having herself already voiced all the objections Picard brings up) feels this is a reasonable sacrifice in the interests of interstellar peace with the Cardassians. When asked whether she should appoint someone else to command the Enterprise for this mission, Picard says he’ll do it.

When a proud LaForge shows off a technobabble modification, Wesley is dismissive and arrogant. 

On Dorvan V, Picard and Troi try to interest the colony elders in relocating to another habitable planet, but they don’t want to leave their new spiritual home.

Crusher scolds Wesley for “that incident in Engineering.” Wesley is sullen and mouthy.

At a reception with the colonists in Ten-Forward, as Picard shares his own family history with the colony leader, a different colonist greets Wesley by name, saying he had a vision about him. (Wesley looks confused, but interested.)

Crusher goes to Picard for help with Wesley’s attitude: “Maybe it’s the kind of thing a boy, a *man*, needs to discuss with another man.” Picard says Wesley has to *want* such help.

On the planet, Wesley’s new friend Lakanta asks him what he thinks is sacred. Wesley gives a wishy-washy answer, but eventually admits he hasn’t been respecting himself lately.

Back in the tribal council room, Picard has done all the listening he can do, and warns that if the colonists won’t go willingly, he’s under orders to relocate them by force. The tribal leader has discovered that an ancestor of Picard participated in the bloody suppression of a revolt by Indian tribes in Spanish-held territory in 1680, and says Picard has the chance to “erase a stain of blood worn by your family for 23 generations.” 

Cardassians have arrived ahead of schedule, and are already measuring the drapes, ramping up the tension.

Lakanta leads Wesley to the Habak, a meditation chamber where we are told the spirits of Klingons, Vulcans and Ferengi come as freely as those of the bear, the coyote and the parrot. 

Picard updates Necheyev on his progress, and urges her to request the Federation Council reconsider the matter; but she says she already asked two days ago, and was denied. Picard confesses to Riker he doesn’t actually believe in Anthwara’s accusations of ancestral guilt, but he’s still worried “a dark chapter in my family’s history is about to be repeated.” He reluctantly orders Worf to get ready to evacuate the colony.

In the Habuk, Wesley has a vision of his uniformed father (played by the same actor who appeared as a hologram in s4e2 “Family” and in Beverly’s brief flashback in s5e12 “Violations“), telling him “Don’t follow me any further,” and encouraging him to find his own path.

Outside, Worf tells Wesley he’s preparing to beam the colonists up. Wesley immediately spills the tea, and a modest number of extras representing a crowd gathers to protest.

In the observation lounge, a very unhappy Picard confronts Wesley, who is full of post-colonial arguments, insisting that the order Necheyev gave was wrong. When Picard demands loyalty, Wesley takes off his badge and resigns.

As he’s packing his bags, relaxed and happy for the first time in a long while, Dr. Crusher insists on a better explanation than “Starfleet isn’t for me.” He mentions the vision of his father, but also the stress he felt not wanting to disappoint her, Picard, or his friends at the Academy. Crusher mentions the Traveller from Tau Ceti, who pulled Picard aside to tell him that young Wesley was destined for something very unusual.

Worf calls up to the ship for instructions, where Picard is talking with Gul Evek, who, like Picard, seems to be a decent man devoted to carrying out his duties honorably. Picard pleads with Evek to withdraw his men before the situation escalates. 

As Worf is trying to talk the colonists into releasing their Cardassian captives, a struggle breaks out, and a weapon fires into the air. As the commotion spreads, a horrified Wesley steps forward and shouts, “No!”

The next few plot twists take the story in a few unexpected directions, as Wesley develops a new ability, Picard and the Cardassian leader have a surprising conversation, and the colony leaders announce a surprising resolution.

As a young man just finishing my PhD coursework when this episode first aired in 1994, I remember thinking that I would have preferred to watch a story about how hard-working Cadet Crusher managed to meet everyone’s expectations, succeed in a difficult program, and reap the rewards. I hoped maybe Wesley would graduate from the Academy and be posted to the Enterprise at the end of the series, and be back at the navigator’s console for the upcoming post-series movies. 

Although Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry would have certainly objected to the depiction of Starfleet as imperialistic enforcers of immoral government orders, Wesley’s arc in this story is really quite remarkable, and is true to the show’s humanistic roots, in that we see what happens when some very special individuals manage to overcome the limitations of our species. The “explanation,” such as it is, is new-agey and silly, assuring us that Wesley’s vision was really just a product of his own thoughts, while at the same time asking us to believe in mystic truths about time, energy, and the power of thought.

Rewatching this episode, I still didn’t want Wesley to turn his back on everything he thought he wanted; still, seeing the actor relaxed and happy, and seeing the love Wesley gets from his supporting space doctor mom, and Picard’s respectful send-off, I was glad to see the Wesley character arc wrapped up this nicely.