“With most life forms I can usually feel something. I may not be able to understand or interpret it, but I feel something, if only a presence. With him, nothing. Empty space. It’s as though he isn’t even here.”
Four episodes into regular production and we’re treated to our first bonafide, genuine douchebag character in Kosinski, an idiot who calls himself an engineer but instead comes across as a man who swallowed a Risk Management binder whole and then chased it with a half-gallon of two-day-old Sanka. Yuck! Other than Jett Reno, I can’t think of a more instantly unlikable character the franchise has dared to introduce. He claims to have developed a formula that will increase the efficiency of the warp engines. Does it involve mushrooms? Running it by interim Chief Engineer Argyle (Bif Yeager!), Riker comes to the conclusion it’s all nonsense, but Picard thinks it won’t do any harm to try the new computations.
For some reason, Picard doesn’t meet Kosinski until after disaster strikes. If somebody’s messing with your ship’s engines, you might want to shake hands at some point. Kosinski brings with him a strange alien man who calls himself a “traveler.” He takes a liking to Wesley Crusher immediately, obviously because he senses his enormous intelligence or something. I’m not really sure. I don’t understand how Starfleet would give this two-bit snake oil salesman carte blanche to mess with the warp engines of the flag-ship, but here we are. Kosinski is so obviously full of shit, and Argyle and Riker see through his facade, yet they fail to notice that his assistant, the Traveler, is doing all of the work. The engines kick into overdrive and the Enterprise is thrown some two million light-years from their previous position, farther than even Voyager’s journey.
Even more ridiculous, Wesley notices that the Traveler is phasing into and out of existence, but Riker tells him to bugger off. For a split-second, Picard contemplates exploring this previously unknown section of the Universe, but he’s more interested in getting the ship and crew home. The attempt to return puts the ship in further jeopardy, as they enter an area of space where thoughts can become reality. Worf sees his pet targ, and Yar hugs her old cat. One crewman fancies himself a violin player, and another imagines herself as a ballerina. Picard even sees his grandmother (not his mother – people seem to mess that up) sitting before a lovely tea service in the corridor. This is one of the more confusing narratives of the series.
When Wesley starts to quote John Lennon lyrics back to the Traveler, he becomes alarmed because apparently the Universe is not ready for such talk. It’s a very silly moment that begs the question, doesn’t the Federation have laws protecting free speech? Regardless, it becomes clear in short order Kosinski is a fraud who has been using the Traveler’s “powers” to effectively boost warp power with a shot of proverbial nitro. This isn’t exactly a product you can bottle and sell, so I have no idea what Kosinski’s end-game is.
The Traveler confides in Picard that Wesley is special. When I was 15 and watching this episode, I thought it was the coolest thing in the Universe. I liked Wesley. Watching it now, I cringe. The Traveler will die if he does not return to his home, so Picard basically orders good “vibes” from the crew and to send positive energy to the Traveler. What? Indeed, Troi is so overwhelmed by all the positive vibes on the ship, she almost achieves orgasm. This is weird, Bruh! After the ship is safely returned, the Traveler disappears. Try to understand, he’s a Magic Man.
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