What can I say about this episode? Not a lot. It was fun!
It touched sideways on an argument between anecdotal evidence versus scientific evidence and scepticism. Kasinsky is arrogant but misguided, and although his actual changes are meaningless he has evidence to back him up. It isn’t mentioned in the episode, but based on the circumstances that the changes had an effect on the engines, we can say with certainty that if someone had taken his published findings and tried them on a starship without his (and more specifically, the Traveller’s) help, they would find nothing to back him up. Of course, given Kasinsky’s arrogance, he would put this down immediately to people not doing it right, only he is able to do it properly, and so on.
Riker and Argyle (the early, bearded chief engineer – or one of them) are the voices of scepticism putting Kasinsky down. They’ve analysed it from a scientific point of view and find errors with the reasoning. Kasinsky isn’t smart enough to answer these, and doesn’t have the core scientific value of trying to prove himself wrong, or testing under neutral conditions. That being said, Riker and Argyle appear hostile to Kasinsky but let him try anyway. They didn’t really have an opportunity to be anything but hostile, given Kasinsky’s general demeanour towards them – rude, condescending, dismissive of rank and disrespectful. I think the crew’s attitude is entirely justified. Actually, I think quietly stuffing him out of an airlock is entirely justified.
If Kasinsky is the only person who could make these changes work, is he planning to visit every starship and upgrade it personally? Did the other starships see continued improvement once the Traveller had left?
How did the Traveller end up with Kasinsky anyway? Kasinsky was investigating ways to get warp engines to run better. He presumably didn’t see results until the Traveller became his assistant, but how does a non-Starfleet person, a civilian, join a Starfleet research project? Was the Traveller involved in any research institute, hoping to hitch a lift on board starships? If his goal is to explore, finding Kasinsky seems like a roundabout way to do so. Maybe he only approached Kasinsky once there was a trial beginning to test his theories, or maybe Kasinsky was already doing his research on a travelling starship.
How would this have played on Deep Space Nine? They don’t really have engines, just ‘reaction control thrusters’ to move the station nearer to the wormhole in the first episode. The Defiant is the only ship with a warp engine. I can see O’Brien wanting to punch Kasinsky for his attitude – considering how Kasinsky treats Commander Riker, I can’t see him appreciating O’Brien’s authority (as an NCO) or later in the series, Rom’s (as a Ferengi working for the Bajorans!) Worf would actually hit him. He would guard the Defiant’s engine room with a bat’leth to stop Kasinsky getting near it (especially with knowledge of the Enterprise’s encounter…)
That being said, I think Sisko would overrule any misgivings based on personal feelings (O’Brien and Rom can be petty) and allow the changes to be made. Kira would have broken his nose in about ten minutes – twenty in later series, when she mellowed out a bit.
Given that the Defiant is more for defence of the station and engine efficiency is not the key point of the Defiant (officially – escort vessel, from the design brief – to battle the Borg), as well as the fact that it has a really convenient way of getting halfway across the galaxy faster than Kasinsky’s changes – it’s probably end of the queue for any changes.
Janeway would not hesitate to do anything that might make her engines a little bit faster. B’elanna would punch Kasinsky in the face if he treated her as anything less than chief engineer (let’s not forget, she never finished the academy and is a wanted terrorist). Seven of Nine would definitely need a chat with Janeway before she’d even work with Kasinsky, after the first antisocial encounter. His enhancements would probably not match whatever Borg magic she pulled anyway. How Kasinsky gets to the Delta quadrant to offer these enhancements, I don’t know – if he’s an alien, maybe there’d be a little more scepticism and mistrust from the crew.
In the second half of the episode, the problem is not Kasinsky’s stinking attitude – it is getting the ship home safely. I can’t help but think that with the parallels between Wesley’s inherent understanding of space and Sisko’s inherent understanding of time (as the Emissary) could give the spark of realisation a little sooner – the Prophets would give a little hint, perhaps, but Sisko would lead everyone with varying degrees of reluctance depending on his acceptance of his Emissary status in believing themselves home. And Kira already has a belief you can power a starship with, that will be proven right here. Dax and O’Brien might find it more difficult, as Dax is a hardcore scientist, and O’Brien is a very literal person. That being said, he’d already lived through this somewhere on the Enterprise (although I don’t remember seeing him in the episode)…
One fun thing to imagine is how rich Quark would be once he saw that belief (and he has incredible belief in his own abilities as a businessman and entitlements as a person, even without adding Rom’s faith in him to that) becomes real. The look on his face when it all vanishes too, would be absolutely priceless.
Voyager was a much less spiritual show. I only see Chakotay as being the one to start ‘believing’ them home, and maybe the crew would go along with it? There are so many scientific, literal people on the ship it might be hard to generate enough good will past the scepticism. How would Tuvok fall on the issue? B’elanna believes what she sees, Seven even more so, Tom is naturally cynical of everything and Harry questions everything. Janeway has a scientific scepticism – I remember one episode where she could not progress until she accepted something that wasn’t scientifically sound or reasonable, and spent days looking for the ‘trick’. So much of Voyager took beliefs, such as Chakotay’s, and any number of Delta Quadrant aliens and reduced them to an explainable, scientific curiosity. Could the crew then get behind an apparently unscientific belief?
That’s not why I don’t like thinking about Voyager facing this situation though. The reason I don’t like it is because they will be moved to the furthest galaxy we know, and I know they would be returned to exactly where they began, give or take a month’s travel. The whole episode would be entirely pointless and not cut any time off of Voyager’s journey at all.
Nice strong episode, no science to trip them up and a good example of “there’s amazing things out there that we don’t understand”, a bit of optimism about humanity’s future, I liked it. The background story of Wesley being someone special is begun here, and I’ll try to remember to watch out for more indicators of this beyond the child prodigy he normally displays.
It’s also a good example of Wesley saving the ship without causing the problem in the first place. His role, like Deanna’s in The Last Outpost, is a little understated – he just pays attention and tries to get people to watch the Traveller and see what is happening.
- Times Wesley saved the ship: 2
- Times flung out of known space by bizarre entity: 1