In which Wesley angsts, does drugs, and drops out of school to bum around with an old friend.
The Enterprise is at a starbase meeting with Admiral Necheyev and picking up Cadet Crusher, who has three fake pips on his collar. He banters with his mom, and Geordi and Data come in to greet him as well. So far, the seven years since he got drunk and nearly blew up the ship seem to be working out for him. Wesley is enjoying life at the Academy, which seems a little suspect given Sito’s explanation of the stigma after the Nova Squadron disaster. Then again, when everyone else leaves, he does a really good job of deflating.
Picard is trying to sweet-talk Nechayev to try to fresh-start her after all of those times Picard told her to go stuff herself. Nechayev only reluctantly notices because she is busy and has things to do. Sadly, as with any instance where the method in which a starship captain gets their orders is shown, it’s going to end badly. This time, it’s because the Federation drew up new borders with the Cardassians, and the new border lines put some Cardassian colonies in Federation space and vice verca. I invite you to think on how this could possibly come to pass. My best guess is that some time in the past, one group passed up a planet that was on their way somewhere else more suited for habitation for that species, resulting in the kind of haphazard territorial boundaries that lead to… skirmishes. In trying to smooth those lines, the current compromise was reached. The Enterprise has the task of evacuating Dorvan V, which has been settled 20 years ago by what was left at the time of some Native American tribes. Speaking of which, what happened to the planet Amerind (yes, that was its actual name in the Federation databanks)?
Picard is immediately aware of the problem here where a distant federated government is coming to take away their land. Nacheyev wishes she could agree, but peace with the Cardassians is more important. Orders is orders, after all. Hopefully he can pull something out of his jumpsuit like the last time this exact thing happened.
Wesley mopes into Engineering in his civilian clothes, but Geordi appears blind (a-ha) to his body language. Geordi wants to show off his engine revamps, but Wes is grumpy and cynical and is quickly shown to the exit.
Picard and Troi run into the expected early resistance. The reason they only got to this planet 20 years ago after spending 200 years as nomads is because this planet was both perfect for them and feels spiritually ‘right’. They have no intentions of leaving. Nobody’s shouting yet. Picard and the local elder statesman are discussing things like adults, but the younger guy up front is… let’s go with angry and not willing to hide it.
While Wesley yells at his mom and one of the locals follows Troi around in her… diplomacy suit… Picard and the local elder get a chance to chat without pretense and posturing for the collected community, but they are still at an impasse. A bit later, Wes shows up at the party in Ten-Forward to be sullen in public, and is greeted by name by Lakanta, one of the tribe who says he’s been aware of Wesley’s arrival for two years. I’m hoping it was intentional that “The First Duty” was aired just two days shy of two years before this one. Lakonta says that he knows Wesley’s spirit has been troubled, and has been guided here for answers.
Beverly next talks to Picard about her problems with her kid. In fact, she did some checking around after the incident in Engineering and it turns out Wes is on the brink of washing out of the Academy. Who is this realistic young adult confronting chronic stress for the first time and what has he done with our dopey wunderkind? Beverly asks for Picard to give him that father-son talk.
Wes has beamed down to Dorvan V because at this point, following the advice of a mysterious shaman who talks to spirits has gotta be more fun than avoiding all the people he used to want to be. He gets the standard Insightul Questions treatment, and he does seem to be taking it seriously. Which means he gets to advance to the next stage of the vision quest.
Sadly, although they haven’t come to an agreement, Picard lays out that he’s got the authorization to use force, but nobody believes that he’s going to be willing to use force. They believe Picard was the one who was sent with this task for a reason, and that reason is that one of Picard’s ancestors was a solider in the Pueblo revolt, and Jean-Luc has the opportunity to erase the blemish on his family’s history. Put in that context, the advance Cardassian scouting party look a lot more like conquistadors.
Gul Ivek has the attitude down, and doesn’t understand what there could possibly be to negotiate. Which is actually, from his point, a good question. In Cardassian culture, we have long since settled on the sense that if the Military says something happens, civilians don’t get in the way, they get moved. To him, Picard bothering to ask permission before beaming everyone into a cargo container may look like cowardice and dereliction of duty, and what’s even more offensive is that these soft, inefficient people resist all their raids and forced the mighty Cardassian empire to settle a peace. And with that in mind, he’s remarkably patient.
Lakanta takes Wesley into the sweat lodge and prepares him. In the space are various effigies representing the spirits which show up. Keen observers will note a Klingon Dalek. There’s also what might be a representation of a transporter, maybe a Gorn off in the corner, something that looks vaguely bird-like, all sorts of things. Plus some lightsabers on the wall. Apparently, in with the Bear and the Coyote, the Tribe also are visited by spirits of Vulcan, Klingon, and Ferengi.
Picard reports his diplomatic failure to Nechayev. Again, she wishes she could be on his side, but she’s already anticipated the problems he’d face, made the request for him, and been rejected. It seems the Enterprise will have to beam them all up while they’re sleeping, put them in LAN-interfaced holodecks, and cart them off somewhere new. LAN-interfaced because I’m sure the holodeck can’t manage quite that many people at once all going about their separate lives and borrowing some MMORPG programming practices from 21st century Earth might resolve some of those problems. But no. Picard orders Worf to start assembling a team to get this done by main force.
Wesley starts on his vision quest. He sees his father, telling Wes not to follow in his footsteps, but to set out on his own path. When Wesley (seemingly) wakes up, Lakanta is gone, which seems rude. You don’t leave someone alone for their first hallucinogenic trip. He wakes up without believing he can fly and interferes with the evaculation plans by alerting the villagers.
This causes Picard to be super mad. Wesley sticks to his moral guns, Picard gives him the ‘Starfleet uniform, Starfleet rules’ speech, and Wesley resigns and hands in his badge. To make matters worse for Picard, Gul Ivek wants to talk. Beverly doesn’t understand either, but Wesley explains that he just hates everything about the Academy but was afraid of disappointing everyone. In their conversaiton, Beverly reminds Wesley that The Traveler once told Picard to nurture Wes because he was ‘special’ and destined for something more. Not sure why this came up now, except that Beverly is using it as a crutch to be okay with what must look like her son throwing his life away.
Back on the planet, which Wesley is apparently just allowed to beam down to whenever he wants, despite a) him now being a civilian, b) it being a zone of incredibly high tension, and c) him putting the away team at risk last time we as there, it seems that the Tribe have captured and may be about to execute the Cardassian team. Picard tries to get Ivek to beam his people out, but Ivek sends an armed team instead. Picard postures to defend them as current Federation citizens who are still legally allowed to be there for another six weeks. War seems inevitable, and when fighting breaks out on the ground, Wesley stops time.
He and Lakonta are the only ones unaffected. Wesley has pulled himself out of time, and it turns out Lakonta is actually the Traveler, who is here to guide Wesley out of his nascence and into the next phase. The Traveler also tells Wes that he can’t do anything about the firefight – and the war – that’s about to break out on Dorvan V. Energy Beings have their own Prime Directive, you see. Picard does manage to convince Ivek not to order the start of a war again, which is nice, I guess.
The situation winds up being resolved by the Tribe ceding their Federation membership and agreeing to become Cardassian citizens. Presumably, everyone’s weapons were on stun and nobody died, and Wesley is still living within the familiar set of dimensions for a while to learn from the Tribe. Hopefully, The Traveler will turn out to be a better tour guide than Q did.