Sep 26 2011 1:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Time Squared”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Time Squared”“Time Squared”
Written by Kurt Michael Bensmiller and Maurice Hurley
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan
Season 2, Episode 13
Production episode 40272-139
Original air date: April 3, 1989
Stardate: 42679.2

Captain’s Log: Riker cooks breakfast for the crew, making what Pulaski describes as omelettes, but which are actually scrambled eggs. The eggs are ’Owon, and Pulaski and La Forge can’t stand them — Data doesn’t even try them — but Worf thinks they’re delicious. Those crazy Klingons...

Picard summons everyone to the bridge, where they’ve encountered a drifting shuttlecraft, that turns out to be from the Enterprise — a neat trick, given that all their shuttles are accounted for. When they open the shuttle door, they see an unconscious Jean-Luc Picard in the pilot’s seat. His life signs are confused, seemingly out of phase. Pulaski takes the other Picard to sickbay where her attempt to revive him with a stimulant has the opposite effect.

Data and La Forge’s attempts to power up the duplicate shuttle also meet with resistance. Eventually, they get the power up and running, and the shuttle’s clock indicates that it’s from six hours in the future. The last visual record is of the shuttle departing the Enterprise shuttlebay, Riker seeing the shuttle off. Both shuttle and ship are near a spatial anomaly, and shortly after the shuttle’s departure from the ship, the Enterprise blows up, all hands lost. This is something that will happen in three hours.

Nobody understands how this happened, as Picard would be the last person to abandon the ship when it was in danger. The future Picard’s reasons for leaving the Enterprise are not made clear. The crew decides that they should not try to alter their course, and they continue toward their intended destination.

Eventually, they encounter a spatial anomaly that looks very much like the one on the shuttle visual record. Picard hesitates, not sure if they should stay and investigate or get away as fast as possible. The decision comes out of his hands when he attempts to leave but it fails — the anomaly has caught the Enterprise. La Forge has to keep the ship at warp seven just to keep the ship still. A probe is instantly destroyed.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Time Squared”

Then a light beam zaps both Picards. Troi has been sensing an instinctive presence, and when Worf arms the photon torpedoes, Picard is zapped again. The presence is focused entirely on Picard now, and Troi feels that if Picard leaves the Enterprise, they might be able to break free while the anomaly focuses on Picard.

Of course, that was probably what happened the first time. Picard goes to sickbay and frees the future Picard. The two of them go to the shuttlebay together. The future Picard is obsessed with leaving the Enterprise, even though he’s already seen that it doesn’t work.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Time Squared”

So Picard shoots him, thinking that will break the chain. (Points for Alexandrian thinking...) The future Picard was convinced that going forward into the anomaly would destroy the Enterprise, which convinces the current Picard that it’s his best option. So he returns to the bridge and orders the Enterprise down into the vortex. It’s a bumpy ride, but they survive. The other Picard and the shuttle just disappear.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: At one point, the future Picard’s emotions are sufficiently turbulent and urgent that it seems to cause Troi physical pain. Well, either that, or give her an orgasm, it’s hard to tell from the way Marina Sirtis plays it....

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Time Squared”

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: It seems that time travel (at least in this episode) makes things work in reverse. Stimulants put you into a coma, and Data and La Forge use, in essence, negative power to get it running. Pulaski describes it as the alignment of the internal clock, and the future Picard becomes more stable as he gets closer to the time period he left.

Oh, and a bit of dirt sprayed on the side is apparently the residue from an antimatter explosion. Who knew?

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf makes the ridiculous and sexist observation that in human families women participate in the cooking. Given that we later met his human fostermother in “Family,” and she obviously did the cooking, the comment makes a trifle more sense.

I’m a Doctor, Not an Escalator: When Riker says that he has his father to thank for knowing how to cook, Pulaski simply says, “Your father?” She gives no indication that she knows him, even though “The Icarus Factor” will reveal that she and Kyle Riker had a relationship.

Pulaski also has to have Troi explain Picard’s emotional state and his concern about what the future Picard represents — doubt, hesitation, an inability to make command decisions — even though it’s something that’s fairly obvious even to someone without psychiatric training.

Welcome Aboard: This episode’s only guests are the recurring characters of Diana Muldaur as Pulaski and Colm Meaney as O’Brien, the latter in a wholly pointless role, as he just stands in the shuttlebay and reports that future Picard and the shuttle disappeared.

I Believe I Said That: “Release him.”

“Do you know what you’re doing?”

“No. Release him.”

Picard giving an order, Pulaski understandably questioning it, and Picard giving a bluntly honest answer.

Trivial Matters: Picard and Riker mention the slingshot method of time travel used in “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” “Assignment: Earth,” and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, as well as both the Traveler from “Where No One Has Gone Before” and Paul Mannheim’s experiments from “We’ll Always Have Paris.”

Peter David established the unknown intelligence behind the anomaly as being Trelane (from “The Squire of Gothos”) in the novel Q-Squared.

Riker states in the teaser that he grew up with a single father, and he never knew his mother. This will be expanded upon in “The Icarus Factor.”

TNG will do a much better time-loop-and-the-Enterprise-blows-up episode in “Cause and Effect” in the fifth season.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch by Keith DeCandido: “Time Squared”

Make it So: “A lot of questions, Number One — damn few answers.” If Star Trek had never done a time-travel episode — well, this’d still be a lousy episode, but it wouldn’t be quite so annoying.

Nothing in this episode makes any kind of sense, especially in the context of Trek’s previous time travel stories, which wouldn’t be so bad except they specifically mention past time travel notions when Picard and Riker are talking in the captain’s ready room. So why does this particular time travel — unlike any other — have such catastrophic effects on biology and technology? Why is the future Picard so locked into the actions of getting onto the shuttle and leaving the ship that he won’t even discuss it, especially when they’re actions he’s already committed in his past?

Picard is zapped twice with ray beams, and on the strength of that alone, as well as Troi’s feelings, he thinks leaving the Enterprise is a good idea — that simple link doesn’t track at all with future Picard’s massive anxiety regarding getting off the ship.

Plus we never find out what the consciousness behind the anomaly is, nor why it targets Picard. At one point, the present Picard tells Troi that he recognizes nothing in himself in his future self beyond the face, and the problem is, the viewer doesn’t either, and never does, even when future Picard starts talking coherently.

The episode just never makes any kind of sense, and has nothing else to hang onto to make up for it, with the lone exception of a too-short, utterly irrelevant scene in Riker’s quarters at the top of the episode.


Warp factor rating: 2

Keith R.A. DeCandido has a story in a new anthology called Liar Liar that is filled with stories about lies, and also is the author of new novels Guilt in Innocence, part of “Tales from the Scattered Earth,” a shared-world science fiction concept, and the fantastical police procedurals SCPD: The Case of the Claw and Unicorn Precinct. Find out more about Keith at his web site, which is a portal to (among many other things) his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, his blog, and his various podcasts, The Chronic Rift, Dead Kitchen Radio, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World.

David Thomson
1. ZetaStriker
I remember liking this episode, actually. While it certainly doesn't gel with other Trek time travel, having future-Picard exist as more of an "echo" of the event, rather than a future version transported to the past with full memory, was an interesting choice in my mind.
Kristoff Bergenholm
2. Magentawolf
Any episode with twice the Patrick Stewart is worth a few extra points in my opinion, even if he was just unconscious in sickbay for a while.
Mark P
3. Mark P
TNG would go to the well of stories that centered on time-travel paradoxes so often that today it's a bit of a joke and our common perception is that they did it too damned often.

And that may be true. However, at this stage of the second season "Times Squared" was one of the first time-travel paradox stories that TNG, as opposed to the TOS, had done. It may even be the very first, though I'm not going to check and you guys would know better than me.

Point is, we hadn't seen all those later time-travel-based episodes back then and, like ZetaStriker above, at the time I quite liked this episode because the time-travel theme had some novelty in the context of both TNG and television SF.
Mark P
4. Drachasor
Picard also kills his future self on purpose without need. That's pretty out of character
Mark P
5. C. Wildeman
I love at the beginning of the episode when Riker makes subtle, individual omelettes (with flair) for 4 people, which seems to turn out as a single scrambled egg with no other ingredients.
Margot Virzana
6. LuvURphleb
Picard pulls out a phaser and shoots his future self. Just shoots him. Couldnt he just punch him or restrain him with force fields or in the brig? Why does he have to kill him? Obviously after going thru the anomaly the extra picard vanishes. Shooting him seems like overkill to me.
Mark P
7. Megaduck
Like Zetastriker I found the time travel being more of an Echo then actual travel as interesting.

I also really enjoyed this episode because it doesn't explain everything. As a matter of fact it doesn't explain anything at all and that makes it one of the creepier star trek episodes in my opinion. The kind that gives you a chill in your spine after you watch it and I do like the fact that Picard (and a little bit the rest of the crew) seemed rather disturbed by meeting his future self. I'd give this ep a rating of 6.
Mark P
8. Pendard
My main gripe about this episode is that it feels like they're trying to draw out a very small amount of material for a full hour.

I never felt this was particularly inconsistent with the way Star Trek does time travel, because Star Trek time travel is not consistent. Sometimes the time travelers' actions in the past are already part of their own past, and therefore predestined, like in "Assignment: Earth," "Time's Arrow" and "Little Green Men"; sometimes the future can change to its own past by time traveling, like in "The City on the Edge of Forever," "Yesteryear," "Past Tense," "The Visitor", "Trials and Tribble-ations," "Timeless" or "Fury"; sometimes the past can change its own future through foreknowledge, like in this episode, "Cause and Effet" or "Children of Time," despite the fact that versions of them in an earlier iteration of the same time loop made different decisions; and sometimes the past and future can change each other, like in "Future's End," the temporal cold war episodes of Enterprise. The moral of the story is that you shouldn't go looking for consistency in Star Trek time travel episodes!
Keith DeCandido
9. krad
Actually ther is one consistency in every one of Trek's time travel stories EXCEPT this one: time travel has no physiological effects on the time traveller. Whether via the slingshot, a black hole, the Guardian of Forever, the Orb of Time, soooper-doooper Borg technology, or Q having a laugh, when folks go back (or forward) in time, there are no aftereffects to the person's biological structure.

Except in this episode.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Mark P
10. Lsana

I pretty much had the same thought. Trek doesn't have a good "cannon" way of doing time travel: it works however any given writer says it works, and if works differently next week, well, the characters will just have to cope.

My main issue is whether or not the story is any good. "City on the Edge of Forever," "Yesterday's Enterprise," and "The Voyage Home" can do anything they please with temporal mechanics because I'm far too busy being entertained to care. In...certain other episodes, I'll nitpick every cause/effect problem in the time travel because while I'm doing that, I'm not thinking about the stupidity of the alleged plot.
Mark P
11. Pendard
@Lsana (#10): Exactly right -- a good episode excuses everything.

Put another way: There's no wrong way to succeed.
Mark P
12. Pendard
@Krad (#9): Sometimes there's a physiological effect. The slingshot effect makes everyone have a strange acid trip and then pass out in Star Trek IV. Data is unconscious when he arrives in the 19th century in "Time's Arrow." Transporter time travel also knocks out Sisko, Dax and Bashir in "Past Tense." The time loop in "Cause and Effect" gives Geordi vertigo because he can detect that he's out of sync in parts of the EM spectrum that normal people can't see. Picard being unconscious and then incoherent could be some version of these effects, or a totally different one. At the very least, it doesn't seem to affect everyone the same way every time.

(Yes, you could say I'm rationalizing, but making up explanations for inconsistencies is part of the job of every Trekkie.)
Mark P
13. Pendard
Oh, and I forgot about Mannheim's symptoms after his time experiments in "We'll Always Have Paris," which are very similar to Picard's symptoms in "Time Squared."
Mark P
14. Idran
@Pendard (#8): I thought so too, but if you want to see an awesome way of taking _all_ Star Trek time travel and weaving it into a single cohesive whole, using stuff based on actual real-life quantum mechanics (as part and parcel of an amazing novel overall, of course), I'd suggest you read Christopher L. Bennett's "Department of Temporal Investigations: Watching the Clock". I didn't think it was possible to make Star Trek time travel make complete sense, but he managed to do it quite well.

And speaking of: krad, that's a Trivial Matter you missed; it offers up an alternate explanation for the time vortex here.
Mark P
15. Lance S.
I always liked this episode *because* nothing was explained. It was just an anomaly, which may or may not have had some alien intelligence behind its formation, and there was no rational way to deal with it.

As for Pulaski's "Your father?" comment in the breakfast scene, after seeing "The Icarus Factor" I attribute her shock to the fact that during their relationship, he never cooked for her. :)

(And why is the site saying that I need to pick a different alias? I'm pretty sure I posted as "Lance" before... not to mention, the CAPTCHA has a 1/2 symbol. a Greek letter phi, and a superscripted "2" - which I suppose makes sense in the context of the episode being called "Time Squared"...)
Michael Burke
16. Ludon
@ krad #9

Even in the original series there was an episode with an effect. The Librarian in All Our Yeaterdays insisted that he had to prepare them before they go. If I remember right, there was also the suggestion that without being
perpared one could only stay in the past for a short period of time. Then there was the bit about after having been prepared to live in the past one could not go back to their original time.
Mark P
17. Mike S.

I think you're way too hard on this one (though you are right in saying that it's not in the same league as "Cause and Effect", but that's a borderline top-5 TNG episode, IMO).

In general, I love episodes of just about any of the Trek series that play with the questions of time and space, because anything can happen in those episodes. Granted, what DOES happen in some of those episodes doesn't work, but I'm always intrigued by the journey. I was on the edge of my seat while I watched this, and that means a lot in my book.

I do think the ending was weak, though, particularly the future Picard witholding information from the crew (I thought his entire original purpose was to SAVE the ship - by not revealing anything, he's not accomplishing that, especially since present Picard was completly on the same page with him until they reached the shuttlebay). That knocks this down from other time-travel/alternate reality stories, but like I said, most of the other ones are among my favorite Trek episodes ever.

As an aside, I think that Stewart did a great job in this episode of portraying present Picard's full range of emotions during this crisis. He starts out normal, then full of doubt, and when he realizes the alternative, I like how he showed that Picard's confidence was back.
Mark P
18. Seryddwr
This episode has not aged well - the pace in particular is funereal - but I agree with many of the above posters; it's not so bad. I remember being absolutely enthralled by it as a kid (though I was being presented with the time travel trope for the first time).

Agree re: the completely pointless teaser section. Season 2 does a nice line (or, rather, a rubbish line) in teasers that don't set up the story - teasers that do nothing, in fact, except fill up airtime, like 'Where Silence Has Lease', where Riker and Worf knock seven bells out of holodeck monsters for two minutes, just so Work can show everybody what an unreconstructed Klingon he is for no apparent reason. Meh.

@10: agree. By the time you get to TNG, time travel seems so ridiculously easy to accomplish that I'm amazed Wesley never knocked up a Tardis in engineering when Geordi's back was turned.
Adrian J.
20. LightningStorm
@KRAD #9 and Pendard #12: There is also Voyager's Relativity that had a progressive physical effect that eventually killed Seven of Nine so they had to keep grabbing a different version of her and then eventually Janeway to accomplish their mission.
Mark P
21. Christopher L. Bennett
This episode was rather incoherent, although the split-screen doubling effects were pretty good for the time. My understanding is that it was meant to be revealed at the end that Q was behind the vortex, as a lead-in for another episode, but the plan was dropped and the vortex was left unexplained. Kinda like how the time warp at the end of "The Naked Time" in TOS was meant to lead directly into "Tomorrow is Yesterday," but they abandoned the idea of continuity between episodes and so "The Naked Time" is left with a totally pointless time-warp ending. Except in this case, it's not just the ending that's left without rhyme or reason.

And yeah, as Idran says, I did try to make some sense of the episode in DTI: Watching the Clock, by tying it together with Manheim's experiments from "We'll Always Have Paris," which the events of the episode do bear some resemblance to. (There were time loops there, Manheim suffered neurological effects from being "out of phase" with time, and he described perceiving some entity on the other side.)
Mark P
22. Edgar Governo
Everyone else has already gone through the various questions I had about the time travel shenanigans in this episode, so I'll only add that that last photo from the episode is just begging for some kind of caption contest...
Mark P
23. Sumek
I read the same thing as #21 CL Bennett: "Time Squared" was supposed to lead into "Q Who?" but there was a change of broadcast order. Interesting that, as Krad notes, novelist Peter David maintained a possible Q/Trelaine connection.

I happen to like the visual effects in this one. I always enjoy it when they encounter bizarre phenomena in space. It gives one a sense of "travel and adventure" which, as Cleveland Amory remarked, TNG sometimes sacrificed (for the interplanetary politics, etc).
Mark P
24. Sumek
@ Governo #22: What about the =next to last= photo?!?

"I feel..." (fill in the blank!)
rob mcCathy
25. roblewmac
You guys liked this LESS than the Royle? I thought this one looked better at least!
Mark P
26. JMH
@ 18 May I please have that quote, to reference in conversation forever? Cited, of course. Because, maybe it's late... maybe class has melted my brain... but I think that's the best thing I've heard ever.
Mark P
27. Seryddwr
@26: Well, fine (coming from one who has mercilessly quoted from most of his favourite shows)! But what was it I said?
Justin Devlin
28. EnsignJayburd
This episode hasn't stood the test of time, no pun intended. It was exciting to watch way back when, though.
Mark P
29. Nick P.
I loved, and still love, this episode. Except for Night Terrors, and Schisms, this is the creepiest star trek episode ever. And I really can't STAND the argument that it doesn't explain anything, because once we start getting into the 5th season stuff, all the explanation really HURTS the plot. All the techno-babble starts seriously hurting star trek. I love that the second season had some just plain mysteries.

Plus, if we ever did go to space, would we really have every bizzare scientific thing explained in a day? No way, and in that sense, I think this is one of the better star treks period. Plus, I thought the acting was pretty good (except for Troi, who NEVER is), and the reactions the crew had to their imminent destruction were perfect. Creepy, well done episode.

Oh, and the music was pretty good too, this is well before McCarthy got so bland it was unlistenable.
Mark P
31. Electone
A "2" is a ridiculous rating for this episode. Who cares if we never find out what is behind the time loop? Not every situation has a concrete resolution. This is good sci-fi, plain and simple. The only thing I find funny about this episode is that Picard gives a direct order to Troi to stay with the future Picard in case he awakes. Well, as soon as the "real" Picard leaves Sick Bay, Troi gets into a little tif with Pulaski and what does she do? She marches right out of Sick Bay and disobeys a direct order!
Mark P
32. CaptHarper
Hey come on! This was a great, exciting episode, a definite plus in the growth in the writing of the series. Keith you're just too critical of minor things. You spend the episode worrying about the ships pending doom, wondering how the other Picard will react when he becomes mobile again. and enjoying the overall mystery of what's going on. Star Trek at its finest. Another masterful performance by Sir Patrick Stewart in portraying his two selves. You feel Picard's anxiety and angst about himself not being able to make command decisions. I truly love episodes where you don't get every answer. It's part of the mysteries in space. Absolutely wonderful episode. I'd give it a 9
Mark P
33. Calibob
I'd gone so many years w/out watching TNG, and now am in a full-blown nightly ritual of re-watching.

I'm about 30 episodes in (in random order), and all I can say is - if Time Squared is just a "2", and as boorish as many have said, then TNG may indeed be the best series ever.

Some have mentioned the "creepy" aspect of this episode as a positive, and not having everything explained being a positive as well. For me, it was just great fun watching two simultaneous events unfolding throughout the episode, and both in their own way undeniably horrendous:

1) Picard having to patiently await the awakening of himself. A version of himself he visibly despises, since he is a living proof of his own apparent cowardice.

2) The crew trying to maintain composure and attention to duty, all the while knowing that in a few short hours they will in all probability be abandoned by their Captain to be destroyed by some unknown entity.

The tension created by these two realities, makes this episode quite intriguing and entertaining, albeit in a dark and menacing way.

An important step in the time-travel TNG style development to be sure..

I give it a 7.5
Mark P
34. ScottM
What I don't get about this episode is that current Picard has perhaps even more information than past Picard, and yet he needs past Picard to explain to him the obvious alternative solution?

The only point of the time travel here is to show them that their initial choice was incorrect. And considering that's the same premise as the vastly superior Cause and Effect, on rewatch this ends up being a completely disposable episode.
Mark P
35. Ant1
I love this episode even today. For me it's different enough from Cause and Effect to still be worth it. I agree that having the mystery unsolved makes this one more interesting than it would have been otherwise.

I also disagree that the random introductions are useless. They show the crew doing something non-mission related, which is nice to see from time to time.
Mark P
36. trekmynd
Yah...they were kinda Sharkey on the tyme-travel thing in this episode....maybe the bizarro.Picard decides to go ahead with leaving b/DC he doesn't remember the ship exploding by/c his mynd is in the time just b4 he MA Orly goofed....hey, here's another thought....since Riker thinks an omelet is something you SCramble, and it turns out rotten (despite his 'practed hand', well maybe a time-flung Riker would just throw an omelet together and it would turn out great! :-)
Mark P
37. SpaceCadet
I consider this episode a minor gem of the series. It's always fun to re-watch: the performances by the actors, particularly Patrick Stewart's doubt and uncertainty with present-day Picard, the sci-fi premise and unusual effects of time travel here, the music, the special effects, the overwhelming sense of dread, and the mystery of what it was all about. And the teaser was cute too. I would give this one a 7.
Mark P
38. matthewstan
One thing that nobody's mentioned is the makeup work on Patrick Stewart as future-Picard. How ashen and bizarre they made him look! At least, before he comes to — on first seeing him in the shuttle, I almost wondered if it could be another actor in a nearly-convincing rubber Picard mask, or some craggier-looking cousin of Patrick Stewart's playing the part. I've never quite decided how intentional I think this was in terms of mood-setting, or if they just wanted to underline the idea that his body (like the shuttle's systems) was out of rhythm in some way. But it gave the character an almost Uncanny Valley look, which really enhanced the above-mentioned creepiness factor of this particular time travel story.
Mark P
39. Stargazer4
I like how many guys began their post with "you guys didn't like this??" or something similar, yet it seems that most folks really liked the episode! I loved it the first time, and I always enjoy the rewatches :)

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment