In which Picard goes on one last trip with Wesley, nobody thinks in three dimensions, and nothing is answered.
Picard is getting ready to go mediate a mining dispute, but first he’s going to take one last opportunity to screw with Wesley by pretending to be super angry when he delivers the good news. He has apparently been given the opportunity to join mid-year because “a position opened up.” No mention is made of what student died in Warp Physics 101 or was expelled for making overly personal holodeck programs.
Picard is going to bring Wesley along for his mining dispute mission, and the Enterprise is called away to save a planet from a ship leaking radiation. This will, if you’ll recall, be the second time Picard has allowed himself to be boxed into a shuttle with Wesley Crusher, although this time they have a driver – Captain Dirgo. The controls seem to be standardized or at least customizable, as Wes has no trouble doing routine piloting until the shuttle breaks and goes tumbling toward a nearby planet so I guess maybe the controls are not standardized after all.
The Enterprise is already long gone and the shuttle won’t make it to the mining colony, but they’re going to make it to a moon that just barely supports human life. They crash-land on a desert planet and begin the survival drama. The shuttle captain makes a few references to how impoverished he is relative to the Federation. It’s worth remembering that Star Trek is, for all intents and purposes, a show about the upper echelons of an upper-echelon society. The Enterprise is a best-of-the-best assignment in a 0th world society, running around and doing whatever it feels like. It’s good to occasionally be reminded of that.
While Picard and Wesley struggle to salvage what they can from the junked shuttle, the Enterprise is off somewhere towing what is probably a Pakled ship (judging by its form factor and the fact that it seems broken) away from this poor planet. Okay, it’s not a Pakled ship, it’s a sublight unmanned garbage scow from 300 years ago. Seems like the best solution would be to tow it into the sun, and Riker agrees. Although they don’t think to avoid the asteroid field by just towing the barge above the plane of the star system. Also, Geordi doesn’t want to get that close, and instead wants to build thrusters onto the barge. And then the message comes through that Picard is missing. Riker makes the call to rescue an entire planet before beginning a search for two officers.
Picard, Wes, and Dirgo have fashioned turbans out of strips of cloth. They found working phasers. It’s claimed they’ll be useful to try to attract attention through the planet’s magnetic field, but I think we all know about Chekov’s Phaser. Picard fashions a signal arrow to let the rescue party know where they’ve headed, and then proceeds to head in a different direction. Also, Dirgo is hoarding water.
Wes hasn’t detected water (even the water Dirgo is carrying) but he has detected a repeating energy reading which seems to be some flavor of artificial. And indeed, when they get to the mountains (and the caves) they find stairs. And I was wrong – Dirgo is hiding alcohol, not water. That’s better, I guess, although if he survives he’s going to have one heck of a hangover.
I do find it very strange that the Enterprise is having difficulty with the garbage scow’s radiation output. Given all the anomalies that a deep-space exploration vessel is built to handle, getting within a thousand kilometers of some garbage is enough to endanger everyone aboard even through the shields? How do those things deflect high-powered directed energy weapons and antimatter explosions, but fail to cope with a little nuclear waste?
In the caves, Picard’s group have found some sort of fountain which is protected by an energy field. This could be one of those times when we get to find out why, or it could be one of those times where the whole thing is left as an Abiding Mystery. I am giving 7-4 odds on Abiding Mystery. Dirgo fires a phaser at it, and gets some plasma ghosts angry enough to start a rockslide. Picard gets caught saving Wesley and is now concussed and crippled. Way to go, Dirgo. This is why we can’t have nice things.
Meanwhile, aboard the Enterprise, the slow measured drama of nobody calculating a course to fling the barge over the plane of the solar system… continues. Five minutes in Kerbal Space Program with a ship that had the characteristics of the Enterprise and anyone familiar with the controls could solve this problem. This is why there need to be more blue shirts on the bridge than medical and psychology.
So turns out the energy ghosts also decided to wrap Dirgo’s phaser in selenium fibers. So they’re spider plasma ghosts. Wesley at least is doing science, and the conflict between him and Dirgo is rapidly shaping up to be a conflict between theory and practical. In this experiment, ‘blindly charging ahead without checking your base assumptions get you cocooned by spider plasma ghosts. Plus, now they’re down to only one phaser.
Wesley gives Picard’s unconscious body a pep talk about how everything he’s ever done has been to impress the guy who killed his dad. Boy is he going to be embarassed when it turns out this whole thing was an elaborate plot to teach him leadership skills. After he’s tinkered with the tricorder for a while, Picard wakes up long enough to tell Wesley to make friends with the Wise Old Groundskeeper at the Academy as his final bit of wisdom. But Wesley is super cool and the best at everything and manages to modulate the spider ghosts into turning off the force field somehow and through no adequately explained reason other than that he Scienced it. to death. And fortunately, the watter appears to be able to staunch internal bleeding and keep Picard alive long enough for the Enterprise to get there and rescue them. Hooray, even though nothing interesting happened.