This review contains spoilers.
Finally! A decent 'Next Generation' episode that isn't cringe-worthy to watch.
Just as new viewers were wondering if it might be time to call it a day on this new incarnation, after a fair Pilot but some pretty dodgy follow up episodes, at last a semi-decent story comes along with "Where No One Has Gone Before".
No simple Original Series plot rehash, no awkward blaxploitation story, no laughable introduction of a "big new alien menace", THIS episode finally has a story worth watching.
The previous episodes of the series had a definite rather ropey, uncertain feel to them; "Where No One Has Gone Before" is the first real episode, in my opinion, to have a more settled, slick feel to them, a welcome sign that the series might finally be finding its feet.
One thing that sticks out in the first season, and this episode in particular, is that, at this stage, there is no regular engineer chief, a position that would not be filled on a regular basis until it was given over to Geordi at the start of the second season. He sure wouldn't have let anyone tamper around with his engines sending the ship hurtling out of the known galaxy!
The arrogant yet incompetent Kosinski is perfectly played by Stanley Kamel, but star of the show is Eric Menyuk as his mysterious assistant, "The Traveller". Although some don't care for the metaphysical ramblings, I thought Menyuk did really well in the role and, outside of Q in the Pilot, makes the Traveller the first story guest character of any real note in TNG.
Zipped off to galaxy unknown and the curious properties that come with it, the writers employ the old "crew members' imaginations get the better of them and act out of character" chestnut; it had already been done a few episodes previously in (the terrible) "The Naked Now", which itself was a reworking of the Original Series' "The Naked Time", and there are a number of similar examples in Trek lore. Although I suppose we got the nice scene of Picard meeting his dead mother, I felt these "imagination" scenes were mostly used to pad out the story, and the only real element of the episode that bring my overall rating down a little.
And then, of course, there is the development of Wesley. I really liked the strange bond that Wes and the Traveller developed through the episode. Some have criticised the revelation that Wesley is "special"; well, I'm not exactly Wesley's biggest fan, but at least it gives some potential to the character, other than being the annoying brat who seems to save the ship every five minutes.
Although maybe dated now, the special effects of the unknown galaxy actually aren't too bad coming from a modest 1987 TV budget, and in fairness actually hold up quite well today.
I also liked the in-episode musical score of this one, sounding suitably mysterious, and not like the cheap-sounding synthesised music heard in some other episodes of the season.
When I first watched this episode, when it was first shown here in the U.K. on BBC Two on October 1990, I had become a little disappointed by this new Trek incarnation, but this episode blew me away! Although definitely superseded by countless later instalments, I'm surprised that so many don't particularly like this episode. In my opinion, at least it has a decent (and original!) plot, and shows what TNG might actually be capable of after all!
I know many will disagree, but I like this episode enough (and have enough fond memories of how taken with it when I first saw it as a youth 21 years ago), that I give it a very strong 9.5. (It is only the aforementioned "imagination" sequences that maybe stop it getting a top-scoring 10 from me!)