Star Trek: The Next Generation
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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68 comments on this post
Wed, Jun 26, 2013, 12:54pm (UTC -5)
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.)
Sat, Jul 6, 2013, 1:49am (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Nov 16, 2013, 4:11pm (UTC -5)
(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 (®).
Tue, Dec 24, 2013, 11:55am (UTC -5)
Mon, Feb 17, 2014, 10:04pm (UTC -5)
Picard: "Please don't make a liar out of me."
Wesley: "No, sir."
Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 2:13pm (UTC -5)
I agree almost anything else would have been better than the garbage scow...
Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 6:09pm (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 7:01pm (UTC -5)
Thanks for sharing. More than anything else, it's those tiny bits of humanity that keep making me revisit this site. Thank you.
Sat, Apr 19, 2014, 7:33pm (UTC -5)
@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.
Thu, May 1, 2014, 9:02am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Jun 24, 2014, 12:58am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 6:51pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Sep 24, 2014, 7:02am (UTC -5)
The aliens with the garbage scow problem.
How do they eat? Tendrils growing over their mouth. Seriously, no species would have evolved like that.
Thu, Jan 15, 2015, 9:17am (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Jan 17, 2015, 2:10pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 11, 2015, 7:02pm (UTC -5)
However, most of the scenes that focused on Wesley/Picard worked out pretty well and makes the episode a tolerable albeit frustrating viewing.
Wed, Mar 18, 2015, 8:39pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Apr 18, 2015, 2:12pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jun 1, 2015, 8:25am (UTC -5)
This was a good farewell Wesley episode. After seeing the Blu Ray extras it seems Wil Wheaton was leaving the show to do feature films. Can't say that work out great for him, the only movie I can't think of him being in was "Stand By Me" and that predates his appearance on Star Trek.
Fri, Jun 19, 2015, 2:14pm (UTC -5)
Space is 3D. They seem to forget this quite a bit (though Q doesn't). They forget it again in the warp wave, where they have to go through it since they don't have time to go around. Go *over* it, people.
Sun, Jun 28, 2015, 12:02am (UTC -5)
ROFLMAO! No, no he won't!
The scenes between the injured Picard and Wesley are serviceable. They're a little heavy-handed (especially Picard envying Wesley) but workable for what they are. The B-plot? Completely pointless and drama-free. Just go over or under the asteroids, morons!
However, for all the good on display (such as the wonderfully evocative shot of Picard, Wesley and Dirgo walking across the desert) they just couldn't help themselves, could they? They just had to give us another "Wesley saves the day" story to send him off. God, I'm so glad I only have his guest appearances to suffer through after this. They even go so far as to make the only other characters in the A-plot either completely brain-dead or incapacitated in order to make Wesley look better. To semi-quote an internet reviewer I follow - We get it, Wesley is awesome. But people, it is of paramount importance that as you feverishly fellate this character until he leaves a gland-shaped impression on your tonsils, you occasionally come up for god-damn air!
Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 7:33am (UTC -5)
But really the rest of the plot serves nothing more than to allow that scene to happen, and naturally you start to question why certain in-universe choices were made when they make no sense except to drive the plot in a certain direction.
Thumbs up though for some beautiful VFX shots (the Enterprise heading into the sun may be the best yet) and some nice directorial choices - the lens flare on the desert planet being a nice example of how there's nothing new under the sun (!). 2 stars.
Mon, Sep 28, 2015, 10:21am (UTC -5)
Mon, Sep 28, 2015, 10:34am (UTC -5)
I think there were a grand total of what, 3 episodes where the saucer split right? With the last being in BOBW2? Just curious.
Mon, Sep 28, 2015, 11:21am (UTC -5)
Indeed. "Encounter at Farpoint," "The Arsenal of Freedom" and "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II" are the only times the ship is separates.
It also separates in "Generations," right before it's destroyed.
Tue, Sep 29, 2015, 12:46pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Sep 29, 2015, 2:52pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Apr 12, 2016, 11:02am (UTC -5)
First off, Wesley is actually partially responsible for the dilemma. He's at the helm of the shuttle, and obviously too accustomed to Starfleet perfection to handle a customized ship. I think that gives Captain Dirgo at least a little bit of a reason to not trust the officers (He had, after all, asked that Picard help at the helm).
So now Wesley needs to redeem himself and show that he actually deserves to enter the academy by helping to save the stranded crew. Wesley's not a survivalist like Picard, he definitely has no diplomatic skills as shown with his interactions with Dirgo, but Wesley is a good science and even medical officer, as evidenced by his treatment of the wounded Picard.
However, Stewart's acting is really what makes this a good show. Small lines with great deliver such as Stewart's poignant "Do you mean to tell me...that there is no water?" really spell out the dread of the stranded crew. Stewart is competent while not being overly pompous, treating Dirgo as an equal despite Dirgo's erratic behavior.
Finally, I loved the scene where Wesley kept insisting he'd save Picard, and Picard was more interested in Wesley getting out and succeeding in his Starfleet career. "Go on, get the water, Wesley. They'll find you." Picard's stoic almost father-like leadership makes what could have been a B show closer to an A by performance alone. Thanks to Picard's strength, Wesley does redeem himself and shows himself ready to join the hallowed academy.
Thu, Apr 14, 2016, 5:29am (UTC -5)
This was one of a group of episodes I had on VHS, recorded from TV, when it first aired in the UK. So I have seen it a lot.
I like it, the final scene with Picard and Wesley shows the depth of their relationship and how it has grown from season 1.
OK, not an amazing episode and Dirgo is a massive twat, fun though and Wesley saving the day was satisfying for once.
3 seems a good score.
Sun, Oct 23, 2016, 11:00pm (UTC -5)
Because going over it would take considerably longer, and time was something they didn't have. They had to take the most direct route - through the belt.
Fri, Apr 14, 2017, 8:49pm (UTC -5)
Dirgo's character created irritation -- I think Jammer puts it well in saying "too stupid to live" -- in the end he doesn't live.
Anyhow, trying too hard to give Wesley something special prior to his departure to starfleet. I'm also giving it 2.5/4 stars. Not the kind of episode you'd deliberately go back and watch again.
Tue, Jul 25, 2017, 5:07pm (UTC -5)
And seriously? Drinking whiskey in 50 degree heat under direct sun without water? There's raging alcoholic and then there's this guy.
Sun, Sep 3, 2017, 9:55am (UTC -5)
Sat, Oct 14, 2017, 6:14pm (UTC -5)
"Why do they need third party transport? Why didn't they just take a Federation shuttle?"
I'll tell you why, because then they would have had emergency food and water. The writers don't want that. :P
Mon, Oct 23, 2017, 8:34pm (UTC -5)
We see a fantastic example of this early on. Picard makes the decision to head to the mountains and Dirgo rejects the idea that Picard is in charge. Wesley flips and yells.
Wesley: If you want to get out of this, I suggest you listen to Captain Picard! He's the one who's going to keep us alive!
Picard: Thank you, Ensign, that's enough... Captain Dirgo, you're an able pilot. I welcome your input. If you feel that there is an alternative we are overlooking...
Dirgo: ... No.
Picard is diplomatic and respectful and gets Dirgo to agree to his plan - and at the same time subtly takes command by reducing Dirgo to giving his "input".
This moment is a good example of what is annoying about Wesley, but also realistic. Aside from his very high technical ability, he is immature and incompetent. He put his foot in it in an immature way and escalated tension, while Picard was masterful in defusing that tension.
Sun, Apr 15, 2018, 9:28am (UTC -5)
Sat, May 5, 2018, 9:41pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Jul 8, 2018, 3:28pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 10, 2018, 6:43am (UTC -5)
Two seconds after he activates them, a panel that one of them was attached to, breaks off...
Fri, Aug 10, 2018, 1:38pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jan 12, 2019, 11:45pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 6, 2019, 8:41pm (UTC -5)
Tue, May 21, 2019, 12:54am (UTC -5)
Tue, May 21, 2019, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Tue, May 21, 2019, 10:44am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jun 6, 2019, 2:49am (UTC -5)
Thu, Dec 19, 2019, 5:46pm (UTC -5)
I'm not a Wes-hater, though I find Wes-knows-best eps cringy. This wasn't one of those.
A nice send off for Wes, and as in the last ep with the orphaned boy looking for Dad (much as Wes does here), we're starting with the season long family theme.
There's something going on here, I think about control - getting what you need when you both take and give up control. Faith, trust, confidence, patience, persistence - you'll get your life saving water, and your lethal garbage incinerated.
Thu, Mar 26, 2020, 8:53pm (UTC -5)
The moment when he meets Dirgo and sneers, “Captain?? Of a mining shuttle??” was beyond the pale. His later sneering at the older man’s frailty was just as bad. I expected a payoff in which the rude little snob was forced to recognize his own coddled upbringing and personal shortcomings. But instead, the episode went on to make the experienced Dirgo an idiot, and Wes a brave hero.
Thus the episode seems to say, “Wesley was right to sneer. Wesley is always right, about everything.”
Wed, Apr 29, 2020, 6:32pm (UTC -5)
I'm also in total agreement that "we must land" is absurd. I've brought this up about Voyager too, but the notion that landing would ever be better than just floating around in space is ridiculous. Plus with propulsion problems the chances they'd be anywhere near or able to reach a planet or moon is preposterous, even with the galaxy as crowded as it is in the Star Trek universe.
I do still enjoy the Picard/Westley plot, and Dirgo deserved what he got. I never noticed before, but when Picard goes to take the helm in the shuttle, he grabs a bar/pipe overhead to steady himself, and it breaks off in his hand. He just looks at it for a moment and tosses it aside. Some good subtle comedy there.
Sun, May 24, 2020, 9:31am (UTC -5)
On the plus side, there's a nice portrait of Riker in command - decisive and perpared to take risks. The plot is fairly original. But it never seems to reach a satisfactory conclusion - we don't find out who put the force field on this desert moon, or why.
I found Wesley's emotional monologue to Picard just a bit too mawkish, and he chews the scenery a bit. He is also ridiculously disrespectful to Dirgo, a man whom Picard generally treats with tact and respect. Doesn't matter that Dirgo is obviously a dick. Ensign Crusher should maintain the dignity and decorum that comes with wearing a Starfleet uniform.
I liked the creepy sci-fi horror feel of the ominous fountain defender, especially when it mummifies Dirgo.
Really minor quibble this, but all the ridiculous flashing lights on Wesley's tricorder - in 2020 when handheld tech is so commonplace as to be mundane, it really seems preposterous. I can't imagine what they're for. Has sci-fi moved past making objects futuristic by adorning them with flashing lights now, 30 years later?
Tue, Jun 9, 2020, 7:05am (UTC -5)
The rest was pretty clunky. The castaway on a desert planet scenario, and Picard dying in Wesley's arms didn't need the stuff with Dirgo or the magic fountain, and would have worked better without them.
The garbage-scow business needed slow up Enterprise coming to the rescue should have been replaced by something else, pretty well anything else. People have pointed out the gaping flaws in it - notably the idea there would have been any reason to keep towing it once it's moving in the right direction at the right speed.
But Picard deserved a good death scene just for once.
Tue, Oct 6, 2020, 10:18am (UTC -5)
Wed, Mar 24, 2021, 3:11pm (UTC -5)
Sun, May 9, 2021, 4:32am (UTC -5)
Dirgo's actions aren't the problem it's the hamfisted way they wrote him going about it all.
I will say, the scenes with them outside held up remarkably well from a production standpoint.
Sun, Aug 22, 2021, 2:56pm (UTC -5)
Seriously though you really should be watching "The Expanse"!!!!!!!!!
Wed, Aug 25, 2021, 2:01am (UTC -5)
I don’t understand Jammer’s rating. This is a very good episode. Kind of more Star Wars in its atmosphere and concentration on relationships; more of a “slow burn “ with action sequences to lively up itself. The scenes between Picard and Wesley did indeed border on the sentimental, but they were still good, and Stewart showed his acting chops - conveying feelings with understated delivery. We even got a French song from Jean-Luc at last! “Au pres de ma blonde, Il fait bon fait bon fait bon…”
The B story was more routine, more humdrum, and prevents this from being a 4 star episode, but I would give it a high 3 - so, 3.25?
Fri, Sep 24, 2021, 2:10pm (UTC -5)
Over the course of Seasons 2 and 3, Wesley improves a lot, or more specifically, the writing of the show in general improves a lot. By Season 4, I honestly kind of like Wes.
All that being said, though - this episode sucks. It's a poor sendoff for Wes, and just a stupid plot. The garbage scow stuff is dumb, the video gamey fountain makes no sense, ugh.
Dirgo really was too stupid to live, I hope he suffered immensely inside that crystal casing.
Fri, Oct 1, 2021, 2:12pm (UTC -5)
Not minor - this has always annoyed me, even 30 years ago. Why when they open up Data does he have flashing lights inside? I have never understood this. My computer doesn't have flashing lights inside when I open it up. Back in the 80s computers did not have flashing lights inside when they were opened up. Hmmm, at least the Terminator didn't have flashing lights inside when he was opened up. Actually, neither did Ash in Alien. This may be a Star Trek quirk?
Last point - why didn't Riker send a shuttle to look for Picard and W. Crusher? Were they too far away? If so, I missed that part.
Mon, Jan 3, 2022, 10:08pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Mar 10, 2022, 4:20pm (UTC -5)
The garbage scow plot is so contrived and perfunctory. And why would Picard and Wesley travel on that crappy ship? Totally contrived. Why couldn't the Enterprises at least temporarily fling the garbage scow into deep space? And Picard shoving Wesley out of the way then standing there staring up at the rocks falling on him. Bleh.
Thu, Mar 10, 2022, 6:37pm (UTC -5)
I could see him making the snark to Geordi about Dirgo bring the Captain of a shuttle, not expecting Dirgo to hear it. But he's shockingly petulant when he jumps up to tell Dirgo to listen to Picard.
Pretty crazy considering they've been in FAR more dangerous situations before. Wesley was at the helm in several of the Enterprise's Borg battles by this point, including being about a millisecond from ramming a Borg cube.
Thu, Apr 28, 2022, 11:29am (UTC -5)
In reality, if you take one egg to represent a planet (say, Earth), its satellite (such as our Moon) would be a tiny ball-bearing around five feet away, whereas another egg/planet (e.g. Mars) would be almost five MILES away. (This is taking the mean distances from Earth.)
Celestial bodies are TINY compared to how vast space is. That also makes it super funny to see spaceships practically on top of each other. I know it makes from cool cinematographic shots and adds to the drama but it always makes me chuckle at how unrealistic it is!
Sat, May 21, 2022, 9:23am (UTC -5)
Also I enjoyed the guest spot on Picard, where he is still a Traveler. That fit all the cannon well.
Mon, Jul 11, 2022, 7:50am (UTC -5)
Ironically, TOS tricorders now look more believable for this reason. They look dated, but dated from a style perspective, not so much "this is obviously a prop".
Not that that was intentional. LEDs were still primitive and practical in the late 60s. They would have lit them up like a Christmas tree if they could.
Tue, Jul 19, 2022, 3:48pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 19, 2022, 3:50pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Mar 23, 2023, 5:25pm (UTC -5)
The script didn't even tried to toss a basic explanation, would have it killed to add a line like it was a defensive mechanism from ancient race to secure the water?
The way it was done, it felt complety illogical and contrieved.
Sat, May 20, 2023, 12:53pm (UTC -5)
Picard is lucky to be alive. Could have been killed by bad writing.
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