(written from a Production point of view)
On his way to Starfleet Academy, Wesley Crusher must care for an injured Captain Picard after their shuttle crashes on a desert moon.
- 1 Summary
- 2 Memorable quotes
- 3 Background information
- 4 Links and references
Ensign Wesley Crusher comes running onto the bridge and apologizes to Captain Picard for being ten minutes late. Picard chastises the young man, then, smiling, tells the young ensign that a position has opened in this year's class at Starfleet Academy and that Wesley has been granted the posting. Admiral Nsomeka has contacted Picard and expects Wesley to be leaving for the Academy in two weeks, though he will have to work hard to catch up with his classmates.
In the interim, Picard is to arbitrate a mining dispute on Pentarus V between hostile salenite miners, and he opts to bring Wesley along to observe the effects of outpost judiciary decisions on Federation law. The USS Enterprise-D rendezvouses with Captain Dirgo's shuttle, the Nenebek, and Picard and Wesley depart with Dirgo. On first meeting Dirgo, Wesley quietly makes a rude comment to Geordi La Forge on Dirgo calling himself a captain – though he holds no formal rank and commands only a mining shuttle. Dirgo makes it clear he heard it and says the ship has over ten thousand hours of flight recorded and means a lot to him and his people. Shortly before their departure, the Enterprise receives a distress signal from Chairman Songi of Gamelan V – they are receiving high critical levels of radiation from a "space barge" which is entering their atmosphere. The Enterprise speeds off at warp 6 under Riker's command to assist.
Meanwhile, Dirgo tells Wesley that he hopes Picard is tougher than he looks, otherwise the miners will tear him apart. Just then, Dirgo's shuttle suffers a mishap, and is likely going to crash land.
The three collaborate in the crisis situation to crash-land on Lambda Paz, a desert moon of Pentarus III. They survive, but the crash landing virtually destroys the shuttle and Picard recommends they abandon it, as it will act like an oven and won't provide shelter from the heat. Worse yet, there are very few emergency supplies and no food or water rations. Dirgo tells Picard that since the mining shuttle had very little space, he depended on the replicator for supplies, which is now damaged beyond repair, leaving them only with a medicine pouch.
The Enterprise reaches Gamelan V, and identifies the orbiting vessel as an unmanned garbage scow. The radiation levels are from toxic waste, and it appears that its engines have not been activated for three centuries. This means the vessel was drifting and simply got caught in the planet's gravity, achieving orbit by itself. Riker promises Songi that they will remove the vessel. He plans to take it into the Gamelan sun. La Forge recommends using portable thrusters attached to construction modules to guide the vessel in order to work at a safe distance.
Picard decides they must head towards the mountains to find shelter, to which Dirgo first objects but then is forced by Picard to admit that he has no better alternative. After Picard leaves a directional marker on the ground so that a rescue party can follow their path, he, Wesley, and Dirgo start their long walk to the mountains. During the trio's trek, Dirgo becomes weakened from the heat and stumbles. Wesley extends his hand and helps him back up to his feet. "And you were worried about how tough the captain is?", Wesley snaps at him. As Wesley walks away, Dirgo secretly drinks clear liquid from a bottle and hides it in his jacket. During their hike, Wesley notes some strange energy readings with his tricorder in the direction of their travel. It could be dangerous, but the desert is taking its toll on them. They have no choice but to continue towards it.
When the three finally arrive in a cavern in the mountain, Dirgo is hopeful. He believes that because all caves are formed by water, there may be a water source inside. Picard grimly disagrees, pointing out that the walls are dry and were more likely formed by volcanic activity. Just then, the bottle falls out Dirgo's jacket, and is revealed to be an alcoholic beverage called dresci. Dirgo makes an excuse that, "I was going to hand it round". Picard confiscates it, as imbibing it would only dehydrate them further. It would serve better as a disinfectant or coolant, and Picard orders it to be kept under guard in the medicine box.
On the Enterprise, Dr. Crusher is instructing her staff on three small island groups where the biggest radiation effects will be on the planet. Fortunately, they are sparsely populated and Dr. Crusher plans to replicate hyronalin for those population centers. Deanna Troi is behind her, and waits for her to finish. She attempts to assuage her fears of losing Wesley and Picard by noting that, while the nearest Federation ship is not that close, there's the possibility of the miners performing a search while they deal with the current situation. Crusher is thankful for Troi's concern but says that right now, she doesn't have the luxury of worrying about Wesley. She is a Starfleet officer and duty demands that she put her feelings aside to deal with the crisis at hand. On the bridge, Worf confirms that the miners can start the search. In the meantime, Riker and La Forge configure the thrusters. It works for a bit, but one of the thrusters fails and Riker is forced to use the tractor beam.
In the cavern, the three find a section with an increased level of the energy readings Wesley found earlier. Upon investigating, the trio find a strange fountain of water. A thirsty Dirgo finds out the hard way that it is protected by a tightly-confined annular force field. Dirgo hastily fires at the field with his phaser, unexpectedly triggering a sentry energy weapon which knocks the weapon from his hand and encases it in a selenium-fiber shell. In the commotion, a landslide begins above Wesley, but Picard pushes him out of the way and himself is caught in the path of the falling rocks.
Wesley determines that Picard is suffering a broken leg, fractured arm, and is bleeding. Dirgo initially helps staunch the bleeding, but is skeptical that Picard will survive and leaves. Weakened, Picard tells Wesley that he has to take charge and deter Dirgo from any further rash attempts to breach the force field. But clearly, their need for water is greater than ever.
Back at Gamelan V, the Enterprise continues to tow the waste vessel by tractor beam while dosing themselves with hyronalin. Unfortunately, they only have thirty-eight minutes before the radiation becomes lethal. Crusher initiates radiation exposure protocol for all non-essential crew. Seeing that they won't clear the asteroid field for 51 minutes, Riker risks ordering the towing speed to be pushed to the limit. It quickly destabilizes the beam, so La Forge suggests bringing other fusion reactors online, even though the coolant pressure is reaching its maximum. Lethal exposure will now be reached in thirty-five minutes.
Meanwhile, Wesley is getting closer to figuring out how the sentry works, but Dirgo runs out of patience and tries to convince Wesley to make another attempt to breach the force field with phasers. When the young ensign refuses, Dirgo orders Wesley to set his phaser on automatic, set it to maximum, and fire at the force field, while he fires on the lowest setting from the other side of the room. The miner, in his desperation, believes that two phasers firing together can lure the sentry away from the fountain. Wesley tries to stand firm and talk him out of it, pointing out that there's no evidence that variable phaser settings will do any good, but Dirgo does not yield. Dirgo begins to fire, with Wesley following suit in frustration moments later. The sentry re-appears and begins to encase Wesley's phaser. But just as Dirgo's plan seems to be working, he stops firing for a split second before firing again from a different angle. The sentry ceases its attack on Wesley's phaser and quickly envelops Dirgo, encasing him in a selenium shell, and killing him.
In the Gamelan system, the Enterprise-D finally manages to get the leaking barge through the asteroid belt and release it directly into Gamelan's sun. The crew breathe a collective sigh of relief, they were less than ten seconds away from lethal radiation exposure. Riker wastes no time in ordering the ship back to the Pentarus system to participate in the search for the missing shuttle.
Wesley tends to Picard. The sun has gone down, and so the temperature has dramatically reduced. Wesley heats up some rocks with a phaser to keep Picard warm. Picard becomes temporarily unresponsive, so Wesley recounts his perspective of their trip to Starbase 515 to keep his attention focused. He remembers dreading the trip at first because of Picard's discomfort with children, but that he was profoundly impressed by Picard's willingness to open up to him. He says he feels extremely lucky to serve under Picard, and Picard in turn regrets his selfishness in bringing him along, as he worried he wouldn't see him again due to the procedure he was undergoing to repair his artificial heart. Wesley promises to get to the water.
The Enterprise is now joining the search for the trio. They discover the shuttle debris, and Dr. Crusher briefly fears that they are dead, but Data points out that there is far too little debris to account for the whole shuttle. Geordi remembers that Dirgo had rigged his thruster modules in an unorthodox way, and correctly deduces that one of the modules must have failed, causing the explosion. The crew also correctly deduces that they also probably had enough maneuvering capability to make it to one of the planets or moons in the system. Focusing on M-class worlds, they eliminate Pentarus II and V, as the miners have already searched them. Fortunately, there are four such moons, and the closest moon that could support life is Lambda Paz.
Wesley struggles to modify his tricorder to deal with the sentry, while keeping Picard conscious and comfortable. During some tense and emotional exchanges, Picard tells Wesley that he envies him, saying "you're just at the beginning of the adventure." He urges Wesley to seek out a man named Boothby as he considers him the "wisest man at the Academy." Wesley asks what he teaches, to which Picard answers, "He's the groundskeeper." Wesley confesses that everything he has done to succeed on the Enterprise has been to make Picard proud of him. Picard tells him that he's always been proud of him.
Heading towards the fountain, Wesley jury-rigs his combadge and tricorder to interfere and possibly disable the energy sentry. In trying to explain this to Picard, it seems he has some temporary memory loss due to dehydration, but he remembers his solution to the problem. He activates the sentry and it distorts and warps its shape as Wesley manipulates it with his tricorder. Suddenly, the sentry rushes forward, ready to encase Wesley, but it passes right through him and disables the force field around the fountain. Wesley tentatively checks for the force field before he is convinced it is indeed disabled, and he brings water to Picard in one of the shuttle's survival kit cases.
Wesley is woken some time later by his mother, who is joined by Data and Worf. She informs her son that Picard is all right and his vital signs have been stabilized. As Picard is carried out on a stretcher by Martinez and another medic, he grabs Wesley's hand and confesses, "You will be missed."
"Captain? Of a mining shuttle?"
"Yes, ensign. Captain."
- - Wesley Crusher, talking to Geordi La Forge while Dirgo overhears their conversation
"She seems a very… a very sturdy craft."
- - Picard, struggling to give Dirgo a compliment on his shuttle, the Nenebek
- - Picard, upon viewing the surface of Lambda Paz
"Are you telling me there's no water?"
- - Picard, after discovering Dirgo carried no emergency supplies on the Nenebek
"And you were worried about how tough the captain is?"
- - Wesley Crusher, after picking up Dirgo when he fell due to exhaustion from the heat
"Sir, in the past three years, I've lived more than most people do in a lifetime."
- - Wesley, reflecting to an injured Picard about his time on the Enterprise
"If there's one thing that I've learned from you it's that you don't quit, and I'm not going to quit now!"
- - Wesley Crusher, trying to keep a severely injured Picard alive
"Oh, I envy you, Wesley Crusher. You're just at the beginning of the adventure."
- - Picard
"Wesley, you remember. I was always proud of you."
- - Picard
"What are you doing in such a filthy uniform?"
"You don't look so shipshape yourself, sir."
"Wesley… you will be missed."
- - Picard and Wesley Crusher (last lines of the episode)
- Final draft script: 17 September 1990 
- Premiere airdate: 19 November 1990
- First UK airdate: 1 June 1994
Story and production
- This episode was created expressly with the purpose of providing an appropriate way for Wil Wheaton to leave the show. Wheaton had asked to leave The Next Generation so he could pursue offers to appear in feature films. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 149))
- Michael Piller commented, "There had been a lot of very bad feeling around here about the way Tasha Yar was sent off. So we were determined to give Wesley a send-off that had real value and something that stayed with us. We finally decided that he would go to the Academy, which I think was Gene's idea [and] the most reasonable and easiest idea, which also keeps him alive for future episodes." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 212)
- In the original story, Wesley and Picard crashed on an ice planet. On the suggestion of Rick Berman, this was changed as it was believed that a desert planet could be created more realistically. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 212)
- This episode was previously titled "Turnabout". 
- Jeri Taylor recalled, "That's the episode I probably put more work on than any all year long, because it was a combination of a very delicate kind of interpersonal story, and the dreaded technical story which is the garbage scow in space. So I had this supertechnical thing going on at the same time as this delicate kind of interpersonal story." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 212)
- The shuttle Nenebek was named after Larry Nemecek. Jeri Taylor related to Nemecek years later that she had one of his TNG Concordances on her shelf, and simply altered two of the letters in his last name.
- Two days of location shooting were done on the El Mirage Dry Lake Bed in San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles to portray the surface of Lambda Paz. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 149))
- The fountain was created on Stage 16. Rick Berman recalled, "We had huge optical problems with the fountain. It was a nightmare. It was something we built and it didn't work. Then we were going to do it optically and that didn't work. So we had a lot of technical problems." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 212)
- The incident where Picard finds and commandeers the dresci and orders it to be kept in the medicine box is similar to, and may have been inspired by, a real incident that happened in Shackleton's Antarctic expedition as reported in a television reconstruction.
- This episode marks Wesley Crusher's final regular appearance on TNG. He later appeared in the episodes "The Game", "The First Duty", "Parallels" (in another quantum reality), and "Journey's End" as well as Star Trek Nemesis.
- Nick Tate later played Liam Bilby in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Honor Among Thieves".
- Wesley references his prior shuttle trip with Picard in "Samaritan Snare".
- Before beginning their trek to the mountains, Dirgo distributes some phasers he scavenged from his damaged shuttle. The props used are Starfleet phaser pistols circa 2285, from Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, which would make sense since Dirgo operated his shuttle with old and outdated equipment. This is supported by Wesley's observation that some of Dirgo's equipment looked "…about a hundred years old."
- The groundskeeper for the Starfleet Academy, Boothby, is mentioned for the first time. He later appeared in the fifth season Next Generation episode "The First Duty" and in the fifth season Star Trek: Voyager episodes "In the Flesh" and "The Fight".
- According to the graphic on Data's ops station, the shuttle Nenebek leaves through the main shuttlebay. The main shuttlebay was only seen once more in "Cause and Effect".
- Michael Piller remarked, "I think Jeri did a wonderful job on the script and Corey Allen, who is one of my favorite directors, gave you the best pieces of film you can get. If it gets an A- instead of an A, it's only because the story itself, of two guys trapped on a planets and how do we get off, in general is not very original, and the story of the garbage scow was no great shakes either. But I think we handled it pretty well." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 212)
- Rick Berman added, "That's one of my favorite episodes. I think it was very poignant and the acting on the part of our guest cast, Nick Tate, Patrick's work and Wil's, was just excellent. I thought it was just a terrific piece of drama." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 212)
- A mission report for this episode by Patrick Daniel O'Neill was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 15, pp. 54-56.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 42, 9 March 1992
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 4.3, 4 June 2001
- As part of the TNG Season 4 DVD collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Wil Wheaton as Ensign Wesley Crusher
- Rachen Assapiomonwait as Nelson
- Majel Barrett as USS Enterprise-D computer voice
- Karen Baxter as operations division ensign
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Tracee Lee Cocco as Jae
- Denise Deuschle as science division officer
- A. Flores as science division officer
- Marin as command division officer
- Michael Moorehead as science division ensign
- Randy Pflug as Jones
- Joyce Robinson as Gates
- Unknown performers as
- Joe Murphy as stunt double for Nick Tate
- John Nowak as stunt double for Patrick Stewart
- Noon Orsatti as stunt double for Wil Wheaton
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Randy Pflug – stand-in for Nick Tate
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dennis Tracy – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Guy Vardaman – stand-in for Wil Wheaton
- James Washington – stand-in for Michael Dorn
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- "Final Mission" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Final Mission" at Wikipedia
- "Final Mission" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Final Mission" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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