Warp efficiency tests send the Enterprise traveling far beyond known space, where the crew's imagination takes on real form. First appearance of Eric Menyuk as The Traveler.
This episode contains the following tropes:
- Boring, but Practical: Riker thinks the improved engine performance of the Ajax and Fearless was not because of Kosinski's experiments, but because the work done on both ships merely smoothed out inefficiencies of their older engines.
- Break the Haughty: Perhaps not by much, but Kosinski's ego is noticeably deflated in the final act.
- Character Shilling: The Traveler goes out of his way to tell everyone how how super-duper-awesome Wesley Crusher is. Specifically, he's made out to be, literally, a Mozart of starship propulsion. Picard is convinced, and Wesley is made an "Acting Ensign" at the end of the episode.
- Clap Your Hands If You Believe: According to the Traveler, this is actually how the universe works: thought literally can shape space and time for those who are advanced enough to master it, and the Traveler's species can act like a lens, allowing muggles like the Enterprise crew to shape reality through him.
- Continuity Nod: It is said that it would take the Enterprise about three hundred years to return from Galaxy M33. This was intended as a reference to the Original Series episode "By Any Other Name", in which the extragalactic Kelvans modify the original Enterprise to travel to their home galaxy (albeit a different one) in 300 years, and Kirk is amazed because it should take thousands. The implication is that a hundred years after Kirk, the Federation has now advanced to the point that they can equal the Kelvans' technology.
- Early Installment Weirdness: This episode introduces Argyle, one of four chief engineers who would appear on the Enterprise in Season 1, and only one to have a recurring role.
- Invisible Aliens: Faced with the Traveler's explanation of his propulsion method, the crew points out that he must also be a time traveler, and he admits this is true. When asked why no records of his species exist in Earth's history, he says that frankly, humans were too boring to pay much attention to before now.
- Jerkass: Kosinski irritates absolutely everybody.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Kosinski claims to be able to improve warp speeds by using his special engine calibrations which come off as utter nonsense to all the experienced engineers on the Enterprise. The calibrations are indeed as nonsensical as they look, and the real magic is worked by the mysterious alien assistant.
- Ludicrous Precision: When the Enterprise is stranded in Galaxy M33, Picard asks Data how long it will take the Subspace Ansible to transmit his Captain's Log back to Starfleet. Data's answer goes down to the number of minutes before he gets cut off.
- Ludicrous Speed: The Enterprise accidentally travels to another galaxy in less than a minute. Later, it travels to the edge of the universe in less than another minute and everything goes blurry for a few seconds.
- Magic Versus Science:
- This trope is called out rather explicitly when, due to the abilities of the Traveler, the Enterprise has been transported to a place where thoughts become reality.The Traveler: You do understand, don't you, that thought is the basis of all reality? The energy of thought, to put it in your terms, is very powerful.
Kosinski: That's not an explanation.
The Traveler: I have the ability to act like a lens which focuses thought.
Kosinski: That's just so much nonsense. You're asking us to believe in magic.
The Traveler: Well yes, this could seem like magic to you.
- Kosinski's relationship with the Traveler is particularly interesting, because in many real world magical traditions people supposedly worked magic by calling upon the assistance of supernatural beings (angels, demons, familiars, spirits, gods, etc.) who in turn provided the means to achieve greater feats of magic. Kosinski, a warp drive engineer, has been performing seemingly inexplicable improvements to starships with his "assistant" the Traveler by essentially having his thoughts and desire to improve the engines amplified by the alien. In this regard, he is not so very different from a magician working with a supernatural entity to perform "magic", whether he consciously accepts that fact or not.
- This trope is called out rather explicitly when, due to the abilities of the Traveler, the Enterprise has been transported to a place where thoughts become reality.
- Magic-Powered Pseudoscience: The incredible distances the Enterprise travels have nothing to do with the modifications Kosinski is making to the warp drive. They are the result of thoughts being amplified by the Traveler moving the ship to seemingly impossible velocities. Once he's gone, the Enterprise is back to having regular warp drive again.
- Not Now, Kiddo: Wesley tries twice to get Commander Riker's attention to explain what The Traveler did. Unusually for this trope, when Picard demands to know why Wesley didn't report it Riker admits that he didn't listen.
- Poorly Disguised Pilot: A minor example; some of the discussions the crew have when the Enterprise is stuck 300 years from home seem to have influenced Star Trek: Voyager.
- Readings Are Off the Scale: The Enterprise passes Warp 10. Later Jossed by one of the technical manuals. What really happened was that the creators of the show hadn't decided on the new warp scale yet. Although the episode can be reconciled with what they later set in stone (that Warp 10 would be infinite speed, so all speeds MUST be less than Warp 10) - it's possible that the nature of the Traveller's effect is such that it causes the computer to display an incorrect speed. Later in the episode, the Enterprise travels even faster, while the readouts show the ship never exceeding Warp 1.5 (which it clearly did, by a very large margin).
- Shown Their Work: Galaxy M33, also called the Triangulum Galaxy, is a real galaxy, one of the three large spiral galaxies in the Local Group besides Andromeda and our own Milky Way.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Kosinski, of course.
- Technobabble: One of the few times in the franchise that it's actually deliberate, as everyone is just confused at Kosinski's ramblings about how his invention works, and then it turns out he has no idea what he's talking about.
- Title Drop: After the second Ludicrous Speed jump into the realm of thought:Picard: Where are we?
Data: Where none have gone before.
- The Unpronounceable: Being a mysterious Alien, the Traveller naturally says his true name is this.
- Up to Eleven: Normally, during warp speed, we see the Enterprise zooming past individual stars. In this episode, we see the ship zooming past entire galaxies in rapid succession instead.
- Your Mind Makes It Real: Anything the Enterprise crew can envision, becomes reality. This includes such things as flashbacks, very real dangers like fire, and ultimately, getting the ship back to its own galaxy.