Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Final Mission"


Air date: 11/19/1990
Teleplay by Kasey Arnold-Ince and Jeri Taylor
Story by Kasey Arnold-Ince
Directed by Corey Allen

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Wesley is accepted to Starfleet Academy — this time for real — which means he's leaving the show and this episode should therefore automatically get four stars, right? Kidding, kidding; I don't hate Wesley. At least not always. In seasons three and four he was not nearly as annoying as in previous years. Always too smart, yes, but not as obliviously obnoxious about it. Wesley accompanies Picard for a routine mission, but that mission is interrupted when the broken-down shuttlecraft they're riding in with the pilot (who calls himself "captain") Dirgo (Nick Tate) has a system failure and crashes on a desert moon.

The Enterprise has its hands full on another emergency mission (a disposable procedure plot) and won't reach the crash site for some time, so Picard, Wesley, and Dirgo must in the meantime survive in the desert with no water or supplies.

One of the story's points of labor is that Dirgo is obviously too stupid to live. The first tip-off is that he argues when Picard suggests heading to the mountains, the only possible shelter in sight. The second is that he drinks alcohol in the desert sun. The third is that he fires his phaser into a force field when he very obviously should just wait. That last example comes when the stranded party finds a cave with a fountain of water protected by an automated energy field (a prize behind an obstacle that seems more like the end of a video-game level than something that has a plausibly legitimate reason for being there). This results in a cave-in that critically injures Picard. Wesley must then figure out how to get the water to save Picard's life. Dirgo (as I said, too stupid to live) ends up getting killed behind his own impatient plan that Wesley said was a bad idea — which goes to show that you should never blow off the teenage genius.

The real point of the story is the relationship between Picard and Wesley, and their scenes while Picard appears to be dying. It's heavy on sentiment, gratitude, mutual respect, and the deep-down previously unsaid truth that Wesley considers Picard a surrogate father whom he just hopes will be proud of him. It's earnest, pleasant, intimate — but in the end, "Final Mission" is a little too much like Wesley Crusher: a bit cloying.

Previous episode: Future Imperfect
Next episode: The Loss

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17 comments on this review

William B - Wed, Jun 26, 2013 - 12:54pm (USA Central)
The three episodes that feature Wesley heavily this season -- this, "Family" and "Remember Me" -- all make me realize how much, in a lot of ways, "The First Duty" and "Journey's End" were inevitable for Wesley -- not necessarily the specifics (especially of the mediocre "Journey's End"), but that Wesley's life really shouldn't be in Starfleet. Ron Moore put it really well, I think -- he said that Wesley's supposed to be a mega-genius Mozart in (specifically!) warp engines and propulsion, and he's going to just...go to the academy and be a starfleet officer and fly the ship? It's not that this would be wrong if this were what Wesley were really passionate about, and while he's on the Enterprise, he is. But "Remember Me" again has the Traveler return to establish how far above other humans Wesley is in the specific area of warp fields; and both "Family" and this suggest how much Wesley's desire to have the Starfleet uniform is to connect to his father and/or father figure. Jack's uniform is nearly the only thing left of him in "Family" and in the holorecording he left for Wesley he says that Wesley might one day wear a uniform like his (at which Wesley looks down at his uniform with pride). And in this episode, Wesley admits how much everything he's done on this ship is to *make Picard proud of him.* Back in "Menage a Troi," Wesley got worried upon realizing he wasn't necessarily going to be coming back to the Enterprise after graduating from the academy, and if Wesley wants to be a Starfleet officer to make Picard proud of him, does this continue meaning anything if he no longer works with Picard on his ship? That it takes Picard nearly dying for Wesley to come out with this suggests how desperately Wesley wanted to cover up his "real reasons," as well as, I think, how fundamental they are. Wesley had all the specs for the Enterprise (like Worf's foster father Sergei) before coming on board, but he knew even then that it was Picard, his father's commanding officer and the symbol of Starfleet, who was captaining the ship. Becoming a Starfleet officer was one way to reconnect to his dead father and to somehow make his death all right; Picard as a mentor for behaviour became his way of understanding how to behave. But at a certain point Wesley has to grow up and do things for himself and not to make his dead father or his surrogate parent proud of him, even if he can continue loving them dearly.

The basic structure of the episode -- wherein Picard is injured and Wesley has to take charge -- is setup for Wesley getting on in his life without Picard. For now, that means going to the academy. In the long run, I think it means realizing that he doesn't want the academy for himself after all, and going with the Traveler (though even then, I wonder if he'll eventually leave the Traveler and go find a different path; is the Traveler just another temporary mentor on his way?). I used to be annoyed that the episode is entirely about Wesley's relationship with Picard and not at all about his relationship with his mother, but of course Beverly will always be Wesley's mother, and Picard stops being Wesley's captain the moment he steps off the ship. Wesley mentioned the shuttle ride in "Samaritan Snare," and how Picard opened up to him, and that reminds me how in that episode it was not just Wesley but Picard, too, who benefited from the exchange. Picard doesn't like children, and part of that I think is that his own childhood was spent both intensely studying and somewhat mindlessly rebelling; it's only ever been to Wesley, so far, that Picard has admitted the side of his youth that he regrets, the side that runs counter to the narrative most commonly accepted of Picard having always been a golden boy -- i.e., his not getting into the Academy the first time ("Coming of Age"), the Nausicaan incident ("Samaritan Snare"), and here that Boothby was the person who got him out of some trouble that was very serious. Wesley does remind Picard of himself at that younger age, and his ability to grow to be proud of Wesley runs in parallel with Picard being able to accept his own childhood and his own frailty.

I talk about Wesley and Picard's relationship over the course of the whole series partly because this episode itself leaves me with so little to discuss. The episode doesn't add much to Wesley's story, but is a capstone to his years on the Enterprise, which have not always been handled very well; Wesley uses his bright mind to solve the problem and save the captain, but (while it's not entirely clear how the tricorder thing he does works) it's not the type of frustrating and improbable instant solution of the kind we'd see in season one. As to the execution of the Wes & Picard character work, I think Jammer says it perfectly: "it's earnest, pleasant, intimate — but in the end, "Final Mission" is a little too much like Wesley Crusher: a bit cloying." The episode has well enough good to earn its 2.5 stars, but no more than that.

(It's amazing how low-urgency the garbage scow plot is at the end, and how seriously they expect us to believe that thirty seconds before you get a lethal dose of radiation, you suffer zero ill effects.)
Marshal - Sat, Jul 6, 2013 - 1:49am (USA Central)
I really liked this episode, but why have the B plot at all. We don't need this moronic distraction to delay the Enterprise. Why did they waste their budget on those useless scenes and crappy alien makeup to discuss the heady topic of... litter bugs?
It would only take minutes to plot a course, lock the tractor beam and get the combined mass of two vessels up to speed to escape the gravity of the planet, sending it on it's slow journey to a safe destination (the sun?). Just tell the audience the search took as long as the story demanded (strange electromagnetic interference). I don't know how long the search would actually take but I do know about momentum in the vacuum of space.
Jay - Sat, Nov 16, 2013 - 4:11pm (USA Central)
William B sez:

(It's amazing how low-urgency the garbage scow plot is at the end, and how seriously they expect us to believe that thirty seconds before you get a lethal dose of radiation, you suffer zero ill effects.)

Yeah, it's a bit of a corollary to the "Star Trek countdown", where someone (often Crusher, but sometimes LaForge or Data) will arbitrarily estimate how long it will be for Something Awful (®) to occur, and then that estimate then becomes a to-the-second accurate deadline for resolving The Crisis (®).

Chris - Tue, Dec 24, 2013 - 11:55am (USA Central)
Seems to me that they could have spared a lot of people danger (and saved a lot of hyronalin) if they'd separated the saucer and let it wait out the crisis. Plus, without the saucer, they probably would have had more towing efficiency. So, no fewer than three reasons to do it, and no one even proposed the idea.
Patrick D - Mon, Feb 17, 2014 - 10:04pm (USA Central)
Unintentional foreshadowing to "The First Duty":

Picard: "Please don't make a liar out of me."

Wesley: "No, sir."
Pollyanna - Thu, Feb 27, 2014 - 2:13pm (USA Central)
I found the exchanges between Wesley and Picard genuine and realistic. We often need a crisis to tell one another the simplest but deepest truths. I actually hadn't remembered this episode except for the recommendation to see the groundskeeper. But I last saw this episode before I lost my parents (to whom I was able to say those simple truths).

I agree almost anything else would have been better than the garbage scow...
SkepticalMI - Mon, Mar 10, 2014 - 6:09pm (USA Central)
Heh, forget about the silly implausibility of the radiation: perfectly fine until lethal dose is received, then dead. Just look at the planet Picard and company landed on:

According to the episode, the planet's MEAN temperature is 55C. 55 degrees celsius! Likewise, Wesley warned Picard that the temperature would drop quite a bit during the night, enough to make him cold... Which means the average high during the day would have to be, oh, about 90 celsius or so... Forget crossing the desert or conserving supplies; they're dead in 5 minutes.

I suppose they could have crashed near one of the poles, but that sun looked rather high up in the sky.
Andy's Friend - Mon, Mar 10, 2014 - 7:01pm (USA Central)
@Polyanna: I'm glad you got to thell them those simple truths. It's important. Some os us never get to do it.

Thanks for sharing. More than anything else, it's those tiny bits of humanity that keep making me revisit this site. Thank you.
Tom - Sat, Apr 19, 2014 - 7:33pm (USA Central)
Pollyanna: "I found the exchanges between Wesley and Picard genuine and realistic." Absolutely. I never thought that I would find myself actually liking Wesley. Those scenes with the captain were touching and a testament to Wil Wheaton's (and Patrick Stewart of course)'s acting abilities. It shows how much the show and its writers have progressed since season 1.

@SkepticalMI - The Earth's mean temperature is 14C, or about 40C less than that planet. So, if they landed somewhere during the winter, maybe on one of the poles, than the temperatures we see in the show might make sense.
Jack - Thu, May 1, 2014 - 9:02am (USA Central)
SkepticalMI said: "Heh, forget about the silly implausibility of the radiation: perfectly fine until lethal dose is received, then dead."

Yeah, it's all part of enabling that to-the second accurate (though always based on estimates) Star Trek Countdown™.

There was an ENT episode where they went right up to the end of the Countdown of Death, but only came away with some cracked epidermis that healed within a day.
213karaokejoe - Tue, Jun 24, 2014 - 12:58am (USA Central)
Just watched this episode again. I suppose I should have been wondering why no intelligent life form from the moon ran into the cave and said "Who's been messing with our fountain?" There was never any attempt to explain this "video game" challenge. And the explanation of the cave itself was laughable. One person suggesting that water made the cave and one suggesting that it was volcanic activity, all while they were walking up and down the stairs leading from one room to the other. (Hello, something intelligent is involved here)

Wesley used his communicator to jury-rig the tricorder to respond to his super fast button pushing. (Another laughable scene) But it seems that somebody should have been banging on Picard's communicator every so often to see if help was nearby. Admittedly these things could have been explained away (damaged when Picard sustained injury, etc.) but no attempt was made.

Kind of a carelessly written episode.
Chris - Mon, Aug 25, 2014 - 6:51pm (USA Central)
I got a kick out of the debate they were having over whether the cave was created hydrologically or volcanically, when the cave had stairs.
Latex Zebra - Wed, Sep 24, 2014 - 7:02am (USA Central)
On another note.
The aliens with the garbage scow problem.
How do they eat? Tendrils growing over their mouth. Seriously, no species would have evolved like that.
CPUFP - Thu, Jan 15, 2015 - 9:17am (USA Central)
Having first watched TNG as a child, I never would have imagined that anyone could hate Wesley Crusher. He's a child who gets to pilot a big starship - what's not to like?

Well, not that I am rewatching the series in my 30s it's pretty clear to me what really is not to like about his character: him constantly saving the ship through his sheer brilliance (which usually required everybody else to act incredibly stupid so he would seem the smartest guy on the ship by comparison), the corny dialogue ("Adults!", "I'm with Starfleet, we don't lie!") and the general implausibility of a child being made acting ensign, when the Enterprise was supposedly full of Starfleet's best personnel.

But during seasons 2 and 3, Wesley's characterisation had improved significantly, especially with "Samaritan Snare", "The Dauphin" and "Evolution", where he was presented as a relatable human being instead of a plot-device wonderboy. So I find it sad that his final appearance on the show (for now) happens in an episode as lousy as "Final Mission".

The whole plot is just an accumulation of clichés which are set up in order to give Wesley and Picard some alone time and to have Wesley save the day once again. Wesley acts like a total dick towards the shuttle captain. The cave and how he overcomes the force field (just type on your tricorder really fast!) makes no sense at all. And we better shouldn't get into that awful Star Trek countdown in the B-plot...

Still, the dialogue between Picard and Wesley has its moments. Picard is a surrogate father to him, and Wesley's constant failings to get into the academy despite being a child genius make more sense when we see know that he only held these ambitions in order to make his captain proud. I do not remember anything about Wesley's guest appearances in later seasons apart from that story with the Indian tribe, so I'm looking forward to rewatching those episodes and I'm curious as to how he'll develop away from the Enterprise.
Amanda Davis - Sat, Jan 17, 2015 - 2:10pm (USA Central)
This show always was irritating to me. A shuttlecraft designed to go through SPACE, with all its extremes, is not going to turn into "an oven" after landing on a planet. The whole dang thing was ridiculous.
Vylora - Wed, Mar 11, 2015 - 7:02pm (USA Central)
As per William's comment at the top in here, I too liked a lot of what they were trying to say with this episode concerning Wesley's arc. I just wish they had a better way of saying it. The plot here involving a shuttle pilot (who should probably not be allowed a shuttle...ever) and the rather random energy force that protects the water (why?) is what failed this episode. The secondary plot involving the garbage scow was pointless.

However, most of the scenes that focused on Wesley/Picard worked out pretty well and makes the episode a tolerable albeit frustrating viewing.

2 stars.
Triad - Wed, Mar 18, 2015 - 8:39pm (USA Central)
"This show always was irritating to me. A shuttlecraft designed to go through SPACE, with all its extremes, is not going to turn into "an oven" after landing on a planet. The whole dang thing was ridiculous."

Shuttle power was off, so the a/c was not working. :)

I thought the garbage scow plot was fine. And a lot of cool FX scenes. And yes I liked the video game fountain thing and the mystery of it, we're not always going to find who built things or whatnot. Yes it's a means to a plot point (Wes overcoming the miner and the problem to save Picard, more of a relationships struggle), but the plot point is solid so it's fine. Great desert scenes. Great music. Nice send-off for Wes.

Two things I wonder about:

1. Why did the shuttle have to land at all? It's not an airplane. Losing a thruster shouldn't matter. Turn all engines off and just wait in space. Was it caught in the planet's gravitational field?

2. A crash landing like that should have killed everyone in the shuttle. I mean… no seat belts? In a car people can die going 40mph (or less) without a seat belt. Then again, great pilot Picard WAS at the helm.

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