Journey's End (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Wesley Crusher questions his future as the Enterprise is under orders to forcibly remove the descendants of native North Americans (here called 'Indians') from a planet being yielded to the Cardassians.
I've mentioned Journey's End before, but I haven't done a detailed posting on it. This posting should rectify that.
Most people thought this was an average-to-poor episode. Partly because of the muddled Native plot, but mostly because of Wesley Crusher's sendoff.
Only the Native plot is relevant here, so let's focus on that. Some commentaries on the politics in Journey's End:
Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Journey's End"
By Jamahl Epsicokhan
By Zack Handlen
Worse, it feels like treating an issue that’s relevant in modern times—guilt over the way white settlers and the American government murdered and stole land from an indigenous people—as though it will still have the same level of relevancy 300 years into the future. On the major dramatic cruxes of the episode is Picard’s guilt over having to moving a group of Indians. These Indians having been living on the same planet for 20 years, but now, due to a new treaty signed by the Federation and the Cardassian empire, that planet no longer belongs to them. The Cardassians are coming, and before they arrive, Admiral Necheyev tasks Picard and the Enterprise with making sure the planet’s current inhabitants have been moved to a less diplomatically desirable location. Unfortunately, the Indians don’t want to move, because the place has a special meaning for them, so now Picard has a big case of the ol’ White Guilt blues. It certainly doesn’t improve his frame of mind when the tribal leader tells the captain he’s convinced this is all happening because one of Picard’s ancestors was involved in a massacre of Native Americans centuries before.
Actually, I don’t really see how that should affect Picard’s frame of mind in the slightest, because it is ridiculous. The idea that he would feel some kind of racial culpability for a crime someone hundreds and hundreds of years dead committed is absurd, especially seeing as how he didn’t even know of the event until this episode.
By Keith DeCandido
Ned Romero returns to Trek as Anthwara—he played Krell, the Klingon in “A Private Little War” on the original series, and will return as the image of Chakotay’s grandfather in Voyager’s “The Fight.” George Aguilar and Tom Jackson play, respectively, Wakasa and Lakanta.
This episode starts an ongoing thread in both TNG and DS9 involving the Demilitarized Zone between Cardassian and Federation space, leading to the formation of a rebel group, which will be formed in the DS9 two-parter “The Maquis.”
Although it was never stated onscreen, the intention was always for Dorvan V to be the planet that the Voyager character Chakotay came from. The post-finale Voyager novels by Christie Golden and Kirsten Beyer have made that explicit.
The resettlement issue was potentially rich with drama, but TNG handled it no better than any superficial TV show. Among the missed opportunities:
What if they passively resist this effort? What if they actively fight it? Is Picard prepared to exchange phaser fire with them? To lock them up in the brig and transport them as prisoners?
And what if the colony has 10,000 or 100,000 or a million people, which is certainly possible? How would Picard transport that many people and their possessions? Especially if they didn't line up to be transported like good little sheep?
A sacred site is traditionally where an event central to the tribe's existence happened. Especially the tribe's birth--when it emerged from whatever came before. A typical example would be the Hopi Tribe's sipapu in the Grand Canyon.
The Dorvan V tribe, whatever it is, must have a place of origin back on Earth. That's where the people came from, so that location should be sacred. Sacredness isn't a quality you carry with you in a suitcase; it's attached to particular pieces of land for particular reasons.
American Indian history shows this. When tribes were relocated, they held fast to their traditional sacred sites, even if they were hundreds of miles away. Typically, their new homelands didn't become "sacred"--at least not for centuries, after which the old homelands might be forgotten.
In short, "sacredness" isn't transferable. So the whole premise of a 20-year-old colony world's being "sacred" needs to be interrogated. How did Dorvan V become sacred so quickly? Must the Federation take this "sacredness" as seriously as sacredness that's 10,000 or more years old?
No dissension in the Federation?
What if Picard went off-script and decided to take the colonists' side? What if the Enterprise crew split along ideological lines, with half arguing for the colonists and half for the Federation? What if Ensign Bearclaw (How Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth), at least, advocated the colonists' position?
I don't know how an hour-long show would resolve such an internecine conflict. Perhaps with Picard reprimanded or Bearclaw court-martialed. But it would be more dramatically interesting.
Like I said, Journey's End is a missed opportunity. Instead of a sophisticated political drama, the episode gives us a grade-school version of colonization. White man wants the Indians to move; Indians don't want to move. Which explains why Journey's End gets mediocre ratings.
For more on Star Trek, see The Native Spock and Critique of Journey's End.