Naturally, the episode starts off with the Enterprise picking Wesley up from Starbase 310. Everyone welcomes him back as he gets settled into his quarters, but he doesnt seem very enthusiastic about his return. Meanwhile, Picard has a meeting with Admiral Nechayev regarding some new border agreements with the Cardassians. A few planets have ended up changing hands in the arrangement and the colonists on those planets will have to evacuate elsewhere. Nechayev tasks Picard with overseeing the evacuation of Dorvan V. Picard recognizes that planet as the one where the settlement of the North American Indians is located. Thats right, they had to leave the entire planet Earth to find some land that the government wouldnt steal from them, and now the government is even stealing that. Picard points out that thats a dick move, but Nechayev replies that theres simply nothing to be done about it. The decisions been made and all Picard can do is carry out his orders.
Picard has a meeting with the leaders of the Indian settlement. They resist his offer to find them a planet with similar environmental conditions, saying that their choice to live on Dorvan V was a spiritual decision, and that it took them two centuries to find a place that was right for them. They decide to take a break and reconvene the next day. Picard invites the settlers to join him on the Enterprise, and they agree. Wesley shows up, still wearing an emo scowl, and sits alone in the corner, until one of the settlers, a man named Lakanta, approaches him and says hes had a vision of his arrival. Yep, we all knew this was going to happen eventually: Wesley Crusher is actually being told hes The Chosen One. Lakanta offers to help Wesley find some answers. The next day Wesley beams down to the planet to speak with him.
Picard meets with the leaders of the settlement again, reminding them that none of them have a choice in the matter. They say that Picard was fated to be the one chosen to speak with them because one of his ancestors took part in a massacre following the Pueblo Revolt, and this is his chance to redeem his family for it. Then they all get up and walk out, because thats evidently all they had to say. When Picard exits the meeting room, he finds that a team of Cardassians have beamed down to conduct a survey. They are displeased to learn that the evacuation hasnt started yet. Picard tells them that its still a Federation planet for the time being and that they had better not do anything rash. He tries to persuade Starfleet to reconsider the border agreement, but fails. He reluctantly orders Worf to prepare to remove the settlers.
Latanka conducts a vision quest for Wesley, in which he has a vision of his father. Jack tells him that the journey hes been on is over and that he should begin following his own path. When the vision is over, Wesley walks outside and sees Worf determining the transport settings necessary to beam everyone away. Wesley decides to screw him over by announcing the plan to the settlers. Picard brings Wesley back to the Enterprise and chews him out, saying that he respects Wesleys objections to the mission but that while he wears a Starfleet uniform he will obey Starfleets orders. Wesley replies that he wont be wearing the uniform any longer, and that hes resigning from the Academy. His mother has a few things to say about that decision, of course, but he says that hes been feeling depressed as graduation approaches and when he saw the vision of his father everything clicked. Beverly accepts this logic alarmingly fast, not even bothering to bring up any of the practical issues regarding dropping out of school with no further plan. She instead mentions The Traveler and his prediction that Wesley would go on to do special things, wondering if this is that start of that.
The settlers take the Cardassians hostage. Worf protests that the treaty gives them the right to be on the planet, but the settlers refuse to honor the treaty (see what they did there?) The Cardassians threaten to send down troops to occupy the settlement, but Picard tells them that they cant afford to let the situation escalate like that. Regardless, a fight breaks out on the planet, and then...
Wesley Crusher stops time. Yes, you read that right. Its not a dream, not a holodeck program, and not the work of some futuristic science; Wesley Crusher literally stops time with his mind. Latanka appears and reveals that he is really the Traveler in disguise, because that doesnt raise any questions or anything. He tells Wesley that he has officially ascended to a higher plane of existence and is ready to travel around the universe with him, not really doing much to help the whole "sexual predator" vibe hes always given off. Wesley asks what they can do for the people on Dorvan V, and the Traveler says that they should just leave it alone, because like Spiderman says, with great power comes vacation time. And remember, this situation is partially Wesleys fault to begin with, and now hes just wandering away from it without so much as wishing them luck. Truly he is a man among men.
Picard convinces the Cardassian captain to beam his men off the planet rather than firing on the settlers, as no one there wants to start a war. They come to an agreement to let the settlers give up their Federation citizenship and live autonomously on Dorvan V. The Cardassians promise that theyll honor the agreement, so surely the Indians will never have any trouble ever again. After all, being left alone and defenseless against the warm and understanding Cardassians ensures their eternal safety.
Tropes featured in "Journey's End":
- Battle-Interrupting Shout: Happens literally! A battle breaks out between Cardassian soldiers and Federation colonists, and in response to Wesley's Big "NO!" TIME FREEZES including phaser beams in mid-air.
- Broken Aesop/Clueless Aesop: Starfleet wasn't trying to steal the settler's land. They were forced to cede some planets to the Cardassians to avert further interstellar war. The colony had also been there only 20 years and was warned before they settled that the planet was hotly disputed by the Cardassians. This makes it hard to sympathize with the Indians because the Cardassians had already been depicted as pretty evil in previous episodes. Also, the colonists were few enough in number that Enterprise was large enough to evacuate them all (for contrast a similar situation in The Ensigns of Command had a colony of 15,000 that had been there for about a century). This is probably why the Federation felt okay with letting the Cardassians have the planet. It probably would have cost more lives to fight to hold onto it in another border war than the total number of settlers living there. And of course, there's the entire fact that the whole story is just an excuse for the show's entitled Creator's Pet to become an actual god.
- Hypocrite: Wesley, who in early seasons did everything he could to foist himself into the operations of the Enterprise despite Picard's clear initial desire to treat him the same as any other kid on board. Now he regards his career in Starfleet, which he pushed relentlessly for, as some kind of massive unwanted burden. It's possible the events of "The First Duty" soured him on a life in Starfleet.
- In Harmony with Nature: The American Indian revivalists claim to have this with Dorvan V, although apparently they haven't lived there very long. Also, despite there being plenty of habitable planets around, they seem very picky about exactly what nature to be in harmony with. Doesn't being in harmony with nature imply *all* nature?
- Innocuously Important Episode: Events in this episode help pave the way for the Maquis development on DS9, which in turn would pave the way for Voyager.
- Magical Native American: The Indians of Dorvan V have shades of this, talking about being in connection with the spirits of their forefathers, and feeling a special connection to nature. Not *all* nature, mind you, just of very specific planets.
- Manipulative Bastard: The Traveler. He was actually the one that originally persuaded a reluctant Captain Picard to encourage Wesley to pursue the path towards a career in Starfleet. Now he is directly manipulating Wesley himself, including masquerading as a Magical Native American and helping Wesley have a phony Vision Quest in which his father tells him it is time to pursue a different path (not so subtly implied to mean leaving with the Traveler). That he has been outright deceptive in getting Wesley to do what he wants is not perceived as an issue by Wesley.
- Reasonable Authority Figure:
- Nechayev, actually. Picard attempted to mend some bridges at the start of the episode and she accepted. Whereas normally one would expect her to make things difficult for Picard, she actually tried to help him and give him support in his efforts.
- The Cardassian captain beams out his troops rather than retaliate against the colonists, which would lead to war with the Federation as the Enterprise would come to their aid.
- Space Amish: The Indians seem to still adhere to the trappings of (somewhat stereotypical) American Indians from the 19th century.
- Tastes Like Friendship: Invoked by Picard, who prepares a Spot of Tea and Admiral Nechayev's favourite canapes in an effort to reduce the tension between them. She appreciates the gesture.
- Time Stands Still: Wesley does this once the fighting breaks out, and then walks away allowing things to continue only without him having to be troubled by it at all.
- Too Dumb to Live: The Dorvan V colonists. Despite being so conscious of their history that they can recall one of Picard's distant ancestors participating in atrocities against the Pueblo people some seven centuries earlier, they don't see the inherent issue with insisting on staying on a planet soon to be officially claimed by militaristic aliens who had absolutely no problem with enslaving the Bajoran civilization on its own homeworld!
- The first three Cardassians show shades of this as well, deciding to stay on the planet and antagonize a people that don't want them there and at the moment outnumber them rather then retreating and waiting for the Federation to finish the evacuation.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Wesley due to becoming disillusioned with his current path.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: The writers seem to have forgotten that in TOS: "The Paradise Syndrome", Kirk discovered a planet (Amerind) occupied by actual Native Americans transplanted from Earth by mysterious aliens. One would have thought that this planet would have made an ideal destination for a group a Native American revivalists trying to return to pre-colonization culture. But it is not mentioned at all.