Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Time’s Arrow, Part II”

“Time’s Arrow, Part II”
Written by Joe Menosky and Jeri Taylor
Directed by Les Landau
Season 6, Episode 1
Production episode 40276-227
Original air date: September 21, 1992
Stardate: 46001.3

Captain’s Log: We’re filled in on the salient details of Part 1 before moving on to the conclusion.

Samuel Clemens is walking the streets of 1893 San Francisco, telling a reporter that he has learned of people from the future coming to their era to foul the past, just as Hank Morgan did to the 6th century in one of Clemens’s recent novels. The reporter thinks he’s talking about a sequel to A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, which annoys Clemens almost as much as being referred to as “Mr. Twain.”

Riker (dressed as a police officer) and Crusher (in the garb of a well-dressed lady) are in a morgue where cholera victims have been taken. The number of corpses is out of proportion to the cholera strain that hit San Francisco, and several of the corpses’ central nervous systems have been drained of all electrochemical energy—and those people did not die of cholera. The Devidians are traveling back in time and using the cholera epidemic as cover to collect human neural energy and bring it back to the 24th century to feed their fellows in the cavern. (Which we already knew, but this is the first time our heroes have been able to put it together.)

Many of the victims have come from a charity hospital, and the same triolic waves they found in the cavern were on the victims—so maybe they can identify the Devidians (who must be disguised as humans to blend in) via triolic waves.

Riker and Crusher return to the boarding house where they all have taken up residence, joining Picard, Troi, and La Forge. They’re interrupted by the landlady, Mrs. Carmichael—prompting La Forge to remove his VISOR and replace it with a pair of sunglasses—who demands the rent of “Mr. Pickard.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor,com: Time's Arrow, Part II

Clemens has convinced Jack to let him into Data’s room, allegedly to find a letter of intent for a business venture. We also find out that Jack’s last name is London, and that he wants to go to Alaska. (Gawrsh.) After Jack departs, Clemens swipes a piece from Data’s machine (which the android is using to track the time distortions) and hides in a wardrobe when Data and Guinan arrive.

They have been able to determine where the cavern is where Data’s head will be found 500 years hence, but it’s in the middle of an army base, so it will be incredibly difficult to get to it. They find Clemens, who has been tracking Data’s movements quite skillfully, and makes it clear that he will stop them from whatever nefarious plot they have to wreak havoc.

Crusher manages to get a job working as a nurse at the charity hospital (one imagines the turnover is significant, and she might be volunteering—the script doesn’t make that especially clear), while Picard is replacing the burners on the gaslamps in case of an earthquake. (The doctor who runs the place finds the idea ludicrous; and boy will he look foolish in thirteen years…)

After the doctor leaves, La Forge, who’s lurking with Troi, puts his VISOR back on, and detects triolic waves with it on one bed. A patient died there the previous night, and he was visited by a strange doctor and nurse, apparently. The two of them leave Crusher alone in the ward, and then the scanners Picard put in with the new lamps go off.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor,com: Time's Arrow, Part II

Turning, Crusher sees the same duo who killed the 49er in Part 1, dressed now as a doctor and nurse. A brief scuffle ensues before they disappear—and Data’s machine back in his hotel room goes nuts—but they leave behind their snake-head walking stick. Riker had to use his phaser on the Devidian—which had no appreciable effect—which leads to the police being called. The cop who arrives doesn’t recognize Riker, and is suspicious of La Forge holding “a gentleman’s cane” (that one line showing more awareness of 19th-century race relations than anything in Part 1), forcing Riker to reluctantly palm-heel the poor guy in the jaw so they can all run away.

As soon as they get outside, Data comes around the corner with a horse-drawn carriage, just as more police are bearing down on them. (If you heard the Mighty Mouse theme in your head when Data showed up with the carriage, you would not be alone.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor,com: Time's Arrow, Part II

The walking stick is also giving off triolic waves, and they’re able to zap it with a phaser to show its true form for just a second: the ophidian the aliens were carrying back on Devidia. It gives off time-distortion bursts (whatever those are)—obviously the Devidians are using it to facilitate their time travel.

Data takes Picard to his hotel room, where Guinan is waiting. (“Do you know me?” “Very well.” “Do I know you?” “Not yet”) She has come up with a way to get them into the mineshaft. When they all arrive, they realize that the cavern has been configured to serve as a lense for the ophidian’s bursts of time distortion.

However, Clemens interrupts, pointing a familiar looking Colt revolver at our heroes. Right after that, the two Devidians show up, and grab the walking stick. Data struggles with them, and the cane explodes into a time portal, leaving only Data’s head behind. One Devidian goes through the portal, and most of the away team goes after him—only Picard stays behind, to tend to an injured Guinan. Clemens also runs through the portal, leaving one Devidian and Guinan (both unconscious) with Picard in the cavern.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor,com: Time's Arrow, Part II

Back in the future on Devidia II, the away team discovers Data’s decapitated body, still clutching the walking stick, as well as Clemens. They all beam back to the ship, where La Forge thinks he can attach the 500-year-old head. Troi offers to keep an eye on Clemens, who is not happy at the lack of cigars, and is quite cynical about the future, thinking it to be as imperialistic as the time he just left (and, in his defense, most of human history). Troi takes him to the lab, where La Forge is trying to reattach Data’s head—and Clemens gets his pocket watch back, which he’d only lost an hour ago, but which is now also 500 years old. Clemens realizes how terribly he’s misjudged the situation in general and Data in particular. Meanwhile, Riker tries and fails to get some guidance out of Guinan about what to do next, since she’s already lived through these events, but she won’t risk damaging the timelines.

Back in the 19th century, Picard is much more cavalier in telling Guinan about her future friendship with him than the older Guinan is with helping Riker. He also checks on the female Devidian, who is having trouble maintaining her disguise. She tells Picard that, if the Enterprise destroys the cavern on Devidia II with conventional weapons, it will only amplify the time distortion, and things will go boom, destroying the Earth in the 19th century. Which would, y’know, kinda suck.

Riker wants to go back and rescue Picard, but Crusher hasn’t completed her study of the ophidian, and both Worf and Troi prioritize stopping the Devidians from their mass murder over rescuing Picard. Riker reluctantly agrees and orders Worf to ready photon torpedoes.

La Forge keeps trying to put Data back together again, but it won’t work. He finds an iron filing in Data’s input polarizers—which, we subsequently learn, was left there by Picard when he used a nail to program a binary message into Data’s head. When La Forge activates Data, he tells them to not fire on Devidia II. They need to retune the torpedoes so they work in the same phase shift as the Devidians. That will take a couple hours to accomplish, leaving Riker with time to rescue Picard. But they’ll only be able to send one person through and one person back. Luckily, Clemens really needs to go home, so they can exchange him for Picard and all will be well.

Clemens arrives back in the 19th century and provides instructions on how to use the walking stick to get home. Picard returns, the Enterprise destroys the cavern, Clemens takes care of Guinan (and also promises Picard to settle up with Mrs. Carmichael), leaving his pocket watch, the revolver, and Data’s head behind in the mineshaft.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Triolic waves continue to serve as the plot-convenient-itis of the week, as our heroes are only able to accomplish—well, anything, due to their ability to detect triolic waves.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi gets to tell Clemens how awesome the future is, and also apparently somehow got a tan in 19th century San Francisco despite wearing a butt-load of Victorian clothing. (In truth, Marina Sirtis got married and went on her honeymoon during the between-seasons hiatus.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor,com: Time's Arrow, Part II

If I Only Had a Brain…: From this point forward, Data is walking around with a head that’s 500 years older than the rest of him. Obviously, Noonien Soong builds his androids to last….

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Upon seeing Worf, Clemens goes white (well, whiter), and mutters, “A werewolf!” Worf shoots Clemens a nasty look, but Riker defuses the situation by saying he’ll explain later. (Worf later refers to “Mr. Clemens” in about as snotty a tone as he can manage.)

Syntheholics Anonymous: Young Guinan manages to figure out a way to get into the mineshaft, because she’s just that awesome. (It’s not entirely clear how Clemens was able to get in, not once, but twice.) Meanwhile, Old Guinan is singularly unhelpful in guiding Riker, her silence enabling the artificial suspense of the climax. This is odd behavior, given how eager she was to influence the timelines in “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” (Of course, that was a “wrong” timeline, whatever that means…)

I Believe I Said That: “I just want you to know, I have the utmost respect for the law.”

Riker, speaking very solemnly to a cop right before he palm-heels him in the face.

Welcome Aboard: Returning from Part 1 are Jerry Hardin, continuing to leave no piece of scenery unchewed as Samuel Clemens, and Michael Aron, who is less annoying as Jack than he was in Part 1 solely by virtue of his only having one scene. The remaining guest stars are unremarkable, save for Alexander Enberg as the reporter who follows Clemens around like a lost puppy. He’ll be back in “The Lower Decks” in the seventh season as Taurik, and then have the recurring role of the similarly named Vorik on Voyager. (He’s also the son of co-executive producer and this episode’s scripter Jeri Taylor.)

Trivial Matters: Back in “Booby Trap,” Guinan said a bald man helped her once when she was hurting, and she said something vaguely similar specifically regarding Picard in “Ensign Ro.” Picard’s staying behind in 1893 to help her is likely what she was referring to in both cases.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor,com: Time's Arrow, Part II

Just as Part 1 was iffy on the details of Samuel Clemens and Alfred Russel Wallace, so too is this episode, with its establishing that Jack the bellhop is Jack London. London bought a sloop, the Razzle-Dazzle, in 1889, and after it was damaged beyond repair a few months later, he joined the California Fish Patrol. In 1893, he sailed for Japan and back on the sealer Sophie Sutherland. Because of this, he would not have talked in 1893 about going to sea wistfully as something he might do in the future. After returning to San Francisco, he worked in a jute mill and a power plant, before becoming a tramp on the railways. (He was arrested in 1894 for vagrancy and served a month in jail in Buffalo.) It is, therefore, exceedingly unlikely that he served in a job as nice as bellhop at any point in 1893. He also admitted to wanting to be a writer as a student in Oakland, and he was reading voraciously as a child, so it’s equally unlikely that the notion of being a writer didn’t occur to him until 1893. There is also no evidence that London and Clemens ever met.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor,com: Time's Arrow, Part II

While this episode shows Picard and Guinan’s first meeting from Guinan’s perspective, their first meeting from Picard’s is shown in the Stargazer novel Oblivion by Michael Jan Friedman.

Clemens asks Troi if the Enterprise has ever encountered Halley’s Comet—two of the comet’s appearances on Earth occurred on the years that Clemens was born (1835) and died (1910).

While Joe Menosky, who had been a co-producer on the show in the fifth season, did provide the story outline, he left the staff of TNG between seasons to live in Europe. He would continue to freelance for TNG (his writing credit will show up five more times), as well as Deep Space Nine and Voyager, for the next few years, eventually returning to the states and joining the staff of Voyager in its third season, rising to the level of co-executive producer of that show before departing after its sixth season.

The walking stick changing to the ophidian used a then-new special effect called “morphing,” made popular in the 1991 film Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and used extensively on Deep Space Nine with Odo.

Make it So: “Maybe it’s worth giving up cigars for after all!” Where Part 1 was all dull setup ameliorated by some entertaining scenes here and there involving character interactions and Data’s assimilation into 1893, Part 2 is entirely moving the plot along at the expense of any of those entertaining scenes. We skip over finding out how, exactly, five people from the 24th century managed to get their hands on the clothes they wore or get the jobs they got. (The clothes are particularly odd, since only Picard is wearing working-class garb, which would be easy enough to steal a set of. Troi, La Forge, and Crusher are all wearing high-class clothes, and Riker is in a policeman’s uniform that is authentic enough to fool another cop—it’s Riker’s face the cop has an issue with, not the uniform—and one wonders how they got them, not to mention La Forge’s sunglasses.)

Meanwhile, we’re told that the mineshaft is on an army base and hard to get into, but Data expresses confidence in Guinan’s persuasive abilities. We’re then never shown how Guinan was able to get in, nor how Clemens was able to do so later on. For that matter, the mineshaft was still open and accessible after Clemens and Guinan depart, so why are Data’s head, the revolver, and the pocket watch still there?

After spending Part 1 bemoaning Data’s death, the means by which that is avoided are laughably simple, and the fact that he has a 500-year-old head is never mentioned again.

The absurdities pile up: Picard manages to input a remarkably specific message into Data’s head with a nail. Not satisfied with the contrivance of Mark Twain encountering our heroes, we get Jack London added on. (Though I admit to being amused at London trying the old “I’ve got an idea for a book, you can write it and we’ll split the profits” chestnut on Clemens.) The female Devidian lives just long enough to provide Picard with plot-necessary exposition. The Devidians leave triolic waves all over the place, making it tiresomely easy for our heroes to track them down. Clemens talks to a reporter about the visitors from the future for no obvious reason, and gets cranky when it’s assumed he’s talking about his next novel rather than the truth (which could charitably be called outlandish).

It was odd in Part 1 for Picard to have Worf report back to the Enterprise when it would’ve made more sense to send Riker back, but of course Worf would be hard to disguise in 19th-century Earth, so that’s convenient to the plot. But Picard had no way of knowing they’d be going back there, so why did he send Worf? (We’ve already seen that he looks cool in 19th-century formalwear…)

None of this would matter so much if the story was engaging, but it’s so totally not. Things happen and people do things more because the plot calls for it than for any obvious motivation, situations are contrived, and the technobabble runs fast and furious. The attempts at comic relief (mostly centering on Mrs. Carmichael and “Mr. Pickard’s” theatre troupe that’s putting on a show of A Midsummer Night’s Dream) induce more wincing than laughter. Even the first meeting of Picard and Guinan feels depressingly perfunctory.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor,com: Time's Arrow, Part II

A cliffhanger with at least a few vaguely interesting ideas has resulted in a sodden mess, elevated only a (very) little by Hardin’s entertainingly bombastic Clemens.

 

Warp factor rating: 3


Keith R.A. DeCandido is also having a bit of trouble believing that a Samuel Clemens who visited the Enterprise would continue to be as cynical and misanthropic a bastard as he was for his remaining 17 years of life.

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