During the initial test something goes wrong - the Enterprise jumps past warp ten, leaping across millions of light years in seconds. Wesley sees the assistant "phasing" in and out of existence as it happens, something nobody else notices.
Despite the ship being centuries of travel from home, Kozinski claims himself to be delighted at what has happened, declaring that he has made the warp scale obsolete and a new "Kozinski scale" may be needed. He confidently asserts that he can get the ship back again without difficulty by just doing what he did before. Picard is reluctant to trust him, but sees little choice.
Wesley, talking to the alien, realises that he has been the one upgrading Starship engines all along, merely letting Kozinski take the credit. Although exhausted from the phasing, he says he will help Kozinski get the ship back to its own galaxy. Although Wesley tries to inform Riker of what he has learned, the First Officer dismisses his attempts to talk to him.
Kosinski attempts the return trip, but something goes wrong - the traveller falls unconscious, drained by the effort, and although the ship's velocity never registers beyond Warp 1.5, they find themselves more than a billion light years from home. The area around them looks nothing like any space they know of, with clouds of mysterious light swarming around the ship.
Within minutes the crew begin to hallucinate objects and people from their past - Worf sees a pet Targ, Yar a time in her past when she was caught by a rape gang. The alien confesses his role in events to Picard and informs him that in this realm, revealing that he is a member of a powerful alien species who travel the universe, exploring other cultures. He had been using his knowledge of propulsion to gain passage on Starfleet ships in an effort to get to know Humanity. He tells Picard how impressed he has been with Wesley, and that the boy has a special genius for science which Picard should encourage.
He also reveals that this realm is a place Humanity should not be in until the distant future, since thoughts have a habit of becoming real here. They cannot remain here long or their reality will disintegrate; the alien, who calls himself a "Traveller", offers to try and return the ship home. Picard accepts, and the Traveller goes to engineering. The crew are ordered to concentrate all their thoughts on the well-being of the Traveller, hoping to aid him. The attempt is successful, and the ship is returned to its starting point - though the Traveller phases completely, vanishing from the ship.
For his help in the crisis, Picard appoints Wesley as an acting ensign and orders him to learn ship operations. The ship resumes its course with Wesley proudly taking a position on the bridge.
The major irritant about this one is the emphasis on Wesley. I have absolutely nothing against Wil Wheaton, who strikes me as quite a cool guy from what little I've seen of him, but I'm one of those who belong to the "Wesley should be shoved out the nearest airlock" club. The character as written is irritating in the extreme, and this episode shows off just why. He's just too damn smart, too damn perfect.
The basic premise of Kozinski is also rather a stretch. Just how does this guy get to even be in Starfleet in the first place? This is an organisation who supposedly only takes the best of the best - and with the apparently tiny size of Starfleet compared to the probable population of the Federation, they could certainly afford to be extremely choosy - yet Kozinski is clearly both colossally arrogant and marginally competent at best. But even accepting him, the idea that he just traipses around from ship to ship working on their engines seems stupid. Does Starfleet really work this way? In the real world I would think that when an engineer devised an improvement he would have to submit it to Starfleet where it would be checked by others. If it didn't make sense it would be discarded or at least questioned, and I can't see it being implemented until he could explain it.
One might assume that Kozinski was a chief engineer on a ship somewhere (an ore freighter, one imagines); judging by Geordi and Scotty, chief engineers can and do tinker quite a bit with their engines, so he could implement his ideas on his own ship that way. And one might imagine that the Captain of that ore freighter would be more than happy to send him off elsewhere as a way of getting rid of him. But even then, is Starfleet really going to authorise him to go off and tinker with other ships without the kind of checks I mentioned? I just don't see it. And that's before we get to the mysterious alien assistant they let him drag around, apparently without any knowledge of who or what he is.
Still, these kind of criticisms are not show-killing issues but more like just standard gripes. Overall, a reasonably decent episode.
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