Feb 5 2013 4:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Parallels”

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels“Parallels”
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by Robert Wiemer
Season 7, Episode 11
Production episode 40276-263
Original air date: November 29, 1993
Stardate: 47391.2

Captain’s Log: Worf is en route back to the Enterprise via the shuttlecraft Curie from a bat’leth competition, where he achieved championship standing. Riker meets him at the shuttlebay and brings him up to speed—apparently the Argus Array has stopped transmitting data for the third time this year, and Starfleet’s concerned that it’s not just damage—but Worf is distracted, as it’s his birthday and he’s anticipating a surprise party. Riker assures him that he hates surprise parties, and he’d never do that to Worf, even accompanying him into his quarters to assure him that nobody’s planned any such thing.

He leaves, Worf sets down his trophy and bat’leth, and then goes into the other room—

—where Data, Crusher, Troi, La Forge, and a bunch of others are waiting in the dark and yell “SURPRISE!” Riker then reenters, says he loves surprise parties, and puts a party hat on the security chief. Then everyone breaks into a Klingon translation of “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” (Troi bitching that there’s no Klingon word for jolly). Worf gamely blows out the candles and then Crusher makes the supreme tactical error of handing him a knife. However, Worf does not disembowel everyone, instead cutting the chocolate cake. Riker passes on Picard’s good wishes, but he was needed on the bridge.

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels

Data hands him a present: his expressionist painting of the Battle of HarOs. Worf very obviously hates it and Troi and Riker take great delight in hanging it where he had a shield on the wall. La Forge walks up to Worf and then suddenly Worf gets dizzy. He blames the painting, and then is handed a piece of vanilla cake. Worf is confused, having thought it was chocolate, but then is distracted by Troi—who cared for Alexander while he was at the tournament, and who is now visiting Worf’s parents on Earth—giving him Alexander’s birthday present, a cast of his forehead ridges. Picard then asks how old Worf is—which is another surprise, as Riker had said Picard was on the bridge.

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels

The Enterprise arrives at the Argus Array, which supposedly went down six days ago. Data reports that it is still transmitting—but the images are being sent to an uninhabited sector. Riker and Data lead an away mission to retrieve the logs, and then Data meets with Picard, La Forge, and Worf in engineering: the array is now observing Deep Space 5, Starbase 47, the Adara colony, and the Utopia Planitia shipyards. There was also a Cardassian ship near the array six days ago, when the Federation stopped receiving images.

La Forge hands Worf a padd, and Worf leans over the engineering workstation to take it—and then gets dizzy again. Suddenly, La Forge and Data have switched places and Picard isn’t there. Worf reports to sickbay, where Crusher thinks it’s a side effect of the concussion—but Worf never had a concussion. Crusher insists that he was injured in the bat’leth tournament in the fight he lost, but Worf is sure he won the tournament. Going to his quarters, he finds that, instead of the championship trophy, he has a ninth place trophy. He plays his personal log, which verifies Crusher’s version of events: a contender used an illegal move and Worf finished ninth.

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels

Worf reports to the bridge, where Data asks for the results a metallurgical scan that Worf has no memory of Data asking him to conduct. Then a Cardassian ship approaches, and the gul verbally fences with Picard. Worf points out that that was the exact same ship that they saw in the imaging logs—but neither Picard nor Riker have any clue what he’s talking about. They never downloaded any logs from the array. Picard gives him the benefit of the doubt and has Data download the images.

Crusher says that Worf is just suffering more aftereffects, but Worf remembers the imaging logs too clearly for it to be just that. As he’s discussing it with Troi, La Forge comes in and reports that the imaging logs show no evidence that the array was reprogrammed—it was just a mechanical malfunction. In mid rant about how that can’t be right, Worf has another dizzy spell—at which point the painting of the Battle of HarOs has moved to a different wall, though Troi insists that the new spot is where she hung it. The painting then changes to that of a Klingon ship in space, and Troi has gone from being in blue civilian clothes to her standard uniform. La Forge moves to put a comforting hand on his shoulder—

—and suddenly Worf finds himself on the bridge, the ship at red alert, a Cardassian ship attacking, and Worf unable to operate the tactical station, as the configuration has changed. Riker takes over, and the Enterprise takes heavy damage—La Forge suffers from severe plasma burns and is taken to sickbay. They get away, but the Cardassians succeed in destroying the Argus Array. Worf asks to be temporarily relieved of duty, which Picard—who has no knowledge of these memory losses Worf is referring to—readily accepts.

He returns to his quarters. The Battle of HarOs painting is still a spacescape, but it’s back on the original spot on the wall. There’s no bat’leth trophy of any kind on the table, but instead a pot of flowers. Checking his personal logs, Worf finds that he did not participate in the tournament due to necessary repairs on the Enterprise deflectors, so he sent his brother Kurn in his place.

Troi then shows up and acts like she lives there and is in a romantic relationship with Worf—because, as it turns out, she lives there and is married to Worf. He is frustrated, because things keep changing and he’s the only one who seems to notice. Troi assures him that she believes him and she’ll help him figure this out.

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels

In engineering, Data scans for temporal anomalies, and Worf queries him regarding his relationship to Troi. Data and Worf go back over Worf’s recent memories to track the discontinuities, and Worf realizes that La Forge was proximate to Worf every time it happened. They go to sickbay to see if he’s well enough to talk, but Dr. Ogawa (!) sadly reports that La Forge has died from his burns. Data scans his body and finds nothing unusual. Ogawa suggests his VISOR, and Data activates it—

—at which point Worf gets dizzy again. He’s now in a red command uniform, Crusher is the CMO again, and he’s now a full commander and first officer of the ship. He and Troi are, however, still married. Data scans Worf himself, and discovers that Worf’s physical structure down to the subatomic level doesn’t match that of everything else in the universe—which means he’s from a different one.

They backtrack the course that Worf remembers taking the shuttlecraft on. Along the way, the tactical officer, Lieutenant Wesley Crusher, detects a subspace anomaly. Data describes it as a quantum fissure in the space-time continuum, and that a type-6 shuttle did pass through it. He theorizes that the fissure is a fixed point across multiple quantum realities. When Worf’s shuttle came across it, it put Worf in a state of quantum flux that sends him to a different quantum reality every time he encounters La Forge’s VISOR (which emits a subspace pulse). Wes suggests a subspace differential scan to find Worf’s original quantum state.

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels

Troi and Worf return to their quarters (with the expressionist version of the Battle of HarOs back on the original spot on the wall), where Worf discovers that he and Troi have two children, and that Alexander was never born in this timeline.

A Bajoran ship attacks the Enterprise (apparently the Bajorans overthrew the Cardassians), which destabilizes the fissure. Suddenly, hundreds of Enterprises appear, as the barriers between realities have begun to break down. Wes reports 285,000 hails.

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels

Data theorizes that if they can find Worf’s Enterprise and put him in the same shuttle he used to traverse the fissure the first time, he can emit an inverse warp field that will collapse the fissure, and return everything to normal. The Enterprise we’re all familiar with contacts them and says that their Data had the same notion. They send the Curie over and Worf—after a final smooch for Troi (isn’t that kissing another man’s wife?)—boards it and takes off.

But then one of the Enterprises fires on the shuttle. That Enterprise is commanded by a wild-eyed William Riker with a beard halfway to his chest, who screams that they won’t go back. “The Federation’s gone, the Borg is everywhere!” The notion of being returned to their universe is so terrifying that crazy Worf—the only other person on the bridge with crazy Riker—fires on the shuttle with his counterpart on it. Captain Riker reluctantly orders Wes to fire on and disable the ship, but the vessel is too damaged from its encounters with the Borg and is destroyed.

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels

Worf goes through the fissure, he engages the pulse, multiple Worfs appear on the shuttle for a second, and then the reset button is hit. He’s back in his right uniform, he has a championship trophy from the tournament, and Picard is in command of the Enterprise.

To Worf’s, er, surprise, there is no surprise party, only Troi, who was feeding Alexander’s hissing beetle. She talked Riker out of throwing the surprise party, and Worf thanks her by inviting her to stay for dinner—which includes champagne.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: In the Star Trek universe, every decision begets another alternate timeline where different things happen. The fissure that Worf encountered was allergic to the shuttle’s warp engines, and put him in a state of quantum flux, pushing him to a different timeline each time he got too close to La Forge’s VISOR.

All matter in the universe resonates with a quantum signature—it’s a universal constant. Worf, however, kept the quantum signature of his universe every time he hopped to a new one, which is how they were able to find the right shuttle for him to fly.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: We get to see Troi wear every outfit she’s worn on the show since the second season started over the course of this episode. (Her two first-season outfits—the miniskirt uniform she wore in “Encounter at Farpoint” and the brown thing she wore for the rest of the season—were left out for some inexplicable reason.) In one of the timelines, she agrees to become Alexander’s Soh-chim, which would make her responsible for Alexander should anything happen to Worf—it makes Troi, in essence, Worf’s step-sister. When Troi points out that that makes Lwaxana Worf’s stepmother, he is taken aback, but then bravely says that it’s a risk he’s willing to take.

The Boy!?: In one of the timelines, Wes is the tactical officer. He even gets to toss around some technobabble for old time’s sake. What’s especially cool is that no big deal is made about it, he’s just there. (This was apparently deliberate on the part of writer Braga.)

If I Only Had a Brain...: In one of the timelines, Data’s eyes are blue. Even more so than Wes’s appearance, this is incredibly awesome because no mention is ever made of it. It’s just a detail that’s different with no comment.

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels

In the Driver’s Seat: In one of the timelines—one in which Bajor is a major antagonistic power—there’s a Cardassian at conn, the first time we’ve seen a Cardassian in a Starfleet uniform.

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: This is the first episode to overtly suggest a relationship between Troi and Worf, though the seeds for such were sown waaaaay back in “New Ground” and “Ethics,” as well as to a lesser degree in “Cost of Living” and “A Fistful of Datas.” After seeing how happy they were in two other timelines, Worf takes tentative steps toward pursuing a relationship with her at the end of this episode.

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels

Amusingly, in one timeline, Worf asked for Riker’s permission to court Troi. In another timeline, they had two kids, and Alexander was never born. (Well, either that, or K’Ehleyr just never told Worf about him...)

I Believe I Said That: “I know Klingons like to be alone on their birthdays. You probably want to meditate or hit yourself with a painstik or something.”

Troi trying to give Worf the best possible birthday present, to wit, leaving him the hell alone.

Welcome Aboard: Wil Wheaton returns for an entertaining cameo as Lieutenant Wesley Crusher, and Patti Yasutake gets to be a doctor instead of a nurse for one of the timelines.

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels

Trivial Matters: This storyline takes what was established in “Mirror, Mirror” on the original series and takes it a step further: not just a single alternate timeline, but an infinite number of them.

In the first timeline in which Worf and Troi are married, they chose to pursue a romantic relationship after the events of “Ethics.” In the timeline in which Worf is first officer, Picard was killed during the events of “The Best of Both Worlds,” and Riker became captain.

Worf’s experiences in this episode will serve him well in two pieces of tie-in fiction (both of them, amusingly enough, involving Q): in Q-Squared by Peter David, in which three parallel timelines collide on each other, and in your humble rewatcher’s Q & A, when the events of this episode’s climax repeat themselves.

This episode sets up the 2009 Star Trek, since the timeline created when Nero and Spock go back in time is simply a parallel timeline like the ones Worf visited in this episode. (The film’s co-writer Roberto Orci even cited this episode in an interview with TrekMovie.com.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels

In addition, the notion of infinite parallel timelines was the impetus for the Myriad Universes series of novels, which has included nine short novels published in three trade paperbacks (as well as the IDW comic book miniseries The Last Generation). One of the novels is your humble rewatcher’s A Gutted World in Echoes and Refractions, in which Cardassia never pulled out of Bajor and the Dominion War happened a lot differently.

The original plan was for Tasha Yar to be at tactical in the timeline that had Wes in it, but it was decided that it would be too similar to “Yesterday’s Enterprise.”

Several of the bridge modifications will be seen again in the 25-years-in-the-future parts of “All Good Things...” and one of the combadge variations Worf encounters are the same ones from the fake future of “Future Imperfect.”

The Curie is named after Marie Curie, the scientist who discovered radiation.

Originally, the crew was to sing “Happy Birthday” at Worf’s surprise party, but they went with “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” instead, as that song is public domain and wouldn’t require the producers to pay a fee to the composers of the former song. (Most people don’t realize that “Happy Birthday” isn’t public domain, and the difficulties of paying a royalty for same was the subject of a particularly hilarious subplot of an episode of Sports Night a decade and a half ago.)

Make it So: “We won’t go back!” I have always loved this episode, and rewatching it now, I love it even more. While it’s ultimately a technobabble episode, the technobabble is, at least, kept to a minimum, and it’s a fairly common concept. Hell, Marvel (What If…?) and DC (Elseworlds) have been doing this sort of thing in comic books for decades.

Everything in this episode works. It starts out as a bit of a mindfrell, as the details that change are minor—but with each of Worf’s dizzy spells, he finds himself in a world that is farther and farther from the one he’s familiar with. Having it center on Worf is as much a masterstroke as having Data be the focus of the day-in-the-life episode, partly because no one does frustrated befuddlement better than Michael Dorn.

And there are so many brilliant touches: Riker’s redecorated ready room with the prominent trombone, Data’s having blue eyes in one timeline, Dr. Ogawa, the Cardassian conn officer, Wes at tactical, La Forge dying, the evil Bajoran Empire, the magical moving painting, the combadge changes, the bridge getting weirder and weirder (and I loved that Worf got shifted far enough away from his own timeline that the console configuration was too different for him to operate), the rearranged engineering, and on and on and on.

I especially like that the climax happens on the Enterprise where Riker is captain and Wes is tactical officer—for that segment, the script acts as if this is a show about Captain Riker and First Officer Worf, and the Enterprise we’re familiar with is just one of 285,000 “other” ships.

But the piece de resistance, the moment that cemented this as one of TNG’s top episodes, was the Enterprise that fired on the shuttle. Nineteen years later, I still remember how haunted I was by that one scene. The disheveled, deranged Riker plaintively screaming, “We won’t go back!” stuck in my head for weeks after I first saw the episode. It’s one of Jonathan Frakes’s best moments—not just as Crazy Beard Riker, but also as Captain Riker, as he very (and uncharacteristically) subtly plays Riker’s anguish, seeing himself in that state, knowing that it could just as easily have been him. (This right after his pained “It’s good to see you again” to Picard over the viewer.)

Star Trek: The Next Generation on Tor.com: Parallels

I’d originally intended to give the episode a 9, with the point being knocked off because this started Worf/Troi going, but having been rewatching the show twice a week for almost two years now*, I’m impressed with how completely natural a progression the relationship actually is. The line from “New Ground” to “Ethics” to here is a pretty straight one, and their pairing up actually works from a story perspective. (Mind you, it’s totally blown out of the water by how perfect Worf and Dax are together, but we’ll get to that when we tackle Deep Space Nine...)

*Yes, it’ll be two years in May. Where the heck does the time go?


Warp factor rating: 10

Keith R.A. DeCandido has a bunch of short stories currently available in More Tales of Zorro, Tales from the House Band Volumes 1and 2, Liar Liar, Apocalypse 13, V-Wars, and the new release Defending the Future 5: Best-Laid Plans. He’s also got two short story collections due out this spring:Tales from Dragon Precinct and Ragnarok & Roll: Tales of Cassie Zukav, Weirdness Magnet.

1. CajunC2
Not only is this one of my favorites ever, but I think the best part is "when we tackle Deep Space Nine" at the end.
2. Ben74
"We'll get to that when we tackle Deep Space Nine"...

Is this an official announcement that there will be a DS9 rewatch? ;-)
3. Ben74
"We'll get to that when we tackle Deep Space Nine"...

Is this an official announcement that there will be a DS9 rewatch? ;-)
Jack Flynn
4. JackofMidworld
I watched this one within recent memory but had missed a lot of the little changes and was getting excited and looking forward to rewatching it myself tonight. Then I got to the end and saw that little "we’ll get to that when we tackle Deep Space Nine..." bit at the end. I just finished rewatching DS9 about a week ago and am now doubly enthused!!
Keith DeCandido
5. krad
No, that was not the official announcement that there will be a DS9 Rewatch.

That announcement was made a week ago. And shame on each and every one of you for not reading my blog..... :-p

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
jeff hendrix
6. templarsteel
that was a good episode for season seven given how many clunkers there are.
Paul Weimer
7. PrinceJvstin
This has always been one of my favorite TNG stories, especially because I loved the glimpses at all of the time lines we see.
8. Ender's Ghost
So much awesome here! This is one of my favorites as well, and probably only just barely got edged out of that "Top 5 Fan Favorites" special they ran a while back (and would have been included I'm guessing if the didn't count "Best of Both Worlds" as two separate episodes).

Awesome to hear that you are doing a DS9 rewatch as well! Here's to another 2 years of rewatches (at least).

Also, LiveJournal? Really? Is it still 2006?
Michael Burstein
9. mabfan
One of my favorite episodes of all timelines. :-)

-- Michael A. Burstein
10. TonyCaselli
This episode is absolutely a 10! It was one of my favorites when it aired, and is still one of my favorite sci-fi episodes of any show!

Thanks for a great re-cap! I may have to Netflix this episode, it's been a while.... :)
Percy Sowner
11. percysowner
I loved this episode fully. I am probably the ONLY fan who actually enjoyed Worf/Troi and thought they were good together. Okay, the idea of them having kids who would beat up an opponent and then feel their pain is kind of funny, but I thought the Worf/Troi relationship worked. And I wasn't that impressed with Dax as a character, so I accepted their relationship, but secretly wanted Worf to give it another go with Troi.
Christopher Bennett
12. ChristopherLBennett
The episode worked well, but personally I've never been fond of the idea that there's an unbounded number of alternate timelines, that everything that could happen must happen. It leads to the problem Larry Niven spelled out in "All the Myriad Ways" (and that Peter David alluded to in Q Squared, name-dropping Niven in the process): If every decision gets made every way, then it renders every choice meaningless. It takes the drama out of the heroes winning if you know that in another equally real timeline, they lost; and conversely it takes the drama out of a tragedy if you know that in another timeline, the person lived and everyone was happy. It reduces choice and consequences to the flip of a coin.

And the many-worlds interpretation of quantum physics doesn't actually require every possible timeline to be real. It just says that the wave equation of the universe is a summation of multiple different states, without specifying how many. And of course, in reality as opposed to fiction, it isn't the decisions of living beings that cause the timeline to split, but the changes in state of subatomic particles. A person's decision about whether to turn left or right, whether to pull the trigger or not, whether to get married or stay single, isn't going to be affected by whether a given electron in your brain is spin-up or spin-down. So even if there are a whole bunch of different timelines, they might differ only on a particulate level and be essentially identical on the level of macroscopic events and personal choices.

So I'm happier with the idea that there's only a finite number of different timelines in the Trek multiverse. I like to think that a lot of the timelines glimpsed here were temporary aberrations generated by the anomaly -- more like glimpses into realities that might have been rather than ones that actually had a permanent existence. The big ones like the Evil Bajor universe could be permanent, but a lot of those 285,000 Enterprises might not have been.
Christopher Hatton
13. Xopher
I sympathize with Worf on the surprise party issue. Anyone who threw me a surprise party would be demonstrating that they don't know me very well.

I seem to remember that when this was first broadcast I thought the differences were continuity errors!
14. Lalo
1) Thank GOD for the DS9 re-watch. It gives me a reason to take back my DVD sets from my friend ;)

2) I do follow your blog :P

3) I love this episode, I really do. While I'm STILL not a fan of Worf/Troi (as you said Worf/Dax makes his other relationships fall to pieces), I loved how they kept having a more and more personal history together as things adjusted more and more.

I could be wrong, but is this the only time we see a (full) Cardy in a Starfleet uniform? i'm fairly certain its never played for serious in DS9 right?
15. Sanagi
I too love this episode, for all the reasons mentioned already. It also nicely demonstrates how Troi and Wesley can be great characters when they're written well. Seeing Wesley in the uniform, just like when Troi adopts it in Chain of Command, makes me think "See, that's all I wanted. Wasn't that easy?"
16. gilbetron
ChristopherLBennett: I love the conversation about the value (or lack thereof) of the infinite multiverse idea. It's interesting to me, though, that in this episode we see 285,000 universes. That sounds rather finite to me, since if every choice really did result in a new universe, we'd have billions upon billions upon billions of alternate timelines.

In any event, I'm not convinced the existence of infinite universe really "reduces choice and consequences to the flip of a coin." Is Hamlet's angst really less dramatic or important if we know he made different choices in an alternate reality? Ultimately, knowing there are alternate universes doesn't change the fact that we have to deal with the consequences of our actions. Those consequences are real to us, and to the fictional characters we care about. So I think they still matter quite a lot.
Rowan Blaze
17. rowanblaze
I give this episode a 9.99999.

For a 10, at least one of the parallel cakes should have had mint frosting. :-P
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
18. Lisamarie
I really like this episode too (I'd seen it beofre the rewatch on a VHS my husband had in his collection of Star Trek tapes). I actually think Troi/Worf is pretty intriguing and had some potential. Yes, they are very different, but seeing how their strengths play off of each other and cause conflict could have been really interesting if they had developed it more.

I am in agreement that pondering the 'what ifs' is very interesting, and the way the episode gradually changes things kept me hooked. I also was pretty haunted by crazy Riker.

That said, CLB at @12 definitely hit on something that is always a niggling feeling at the back of my mind at 'infinite realities' episodes. If everything CAN happen, what does it matter that we won in this universe if alternate me is suffering horribly in some other? Is their suffering any less real? Is it inevitable that somewhere, that horrible reality HAS to come to pass, just because it is possible? I get this same niggling feeling when I ponder the existance of the Mirror Worlds in Wheel of Time too closely.

It is definitely intriguing to consider the different possibilities that can occur based on different choices or a slightly different circumstance, but it also bothers me when (and I don't think this episode did this to too much of an extent) it shows a person making radically different choices in a moral sense or acting completely out of character because it's one of the 'infinite possibilities', but everything else being more or less the same. I am aware that much of my personality and choices are a factor of both my genetics and the environment in which I was raised, and so some other version of me would not have the exact same personality. That being said, circumstances would have to be vastly different for me to end up being, say, a murderer (at least I hope so) - to the point where I might not even be recognizable as 'me' at all, or perhaps not even born. I'd like to think of my identity being at least consistent enough that a 'random' universe created because an electron is a different spin doesn't mean I make completely different decisions - hopefully my reasoning is not also that random. This is not to say there aren't a bunch of different things I could see reasonably being different if there were alternate universes, and some of those things could snowball into pretty big changes for me. Some of them are based on decisions I could have made differently, although I'm not sure what would also have to be different to have made me make a different decision.

Then again, it does make me pretty grateful for the life I have had...kind of a 'but for the grace of God go I' feeling. Many of the factors contributing to my nice life are things beyond my control when I really think about it...
19. Cybersnark
Is anybody else kinda surprised that the Klingons give out awards for ninth place?

I wouldn't expect them to be big on consolation prizes.
20. adam2
Terrific episode. I always loved the "It's good to see you again" moment from alt-Riker to our Picard.
Andrew Love
21. AndyLove
Nineteen years later, I still remember how haunted I was by that one scene. The disheveled, deranged Riker plaintively screaming, “We won’t go back!” stuck in my head for weeks after I first saw the episode.
Me, too. Gave me the chills everytime I thought of it.
22. Kevin Lauderdale
Love this episode, EXCEPT the solution always seemed to me to be the same as saying, "If I put a cork in the wine bottle, all the spilled wine will flow back inside."
23. ChrisG
Krad: "But the piece de resistance, the moment that cemented this...." Yes, yes, and yes. I had exactly the same reaction. I love that whole segment.

I feel that the Worf/Troi relationship gets a bad rap. It builds slowly and naturally in small moments and in how they help each other (mosty Troi helping Worf) through adversity and challenge. I thought the affection seemed natural and that they complemented each other, which was illustrated well in this episode. I was disappointed in the eventual Riker-Troi bond as it seemed so...default.

Another moment I liked here was when Work allowed the Argus array to be destroyed. There was a delicious moment of surprise: failure like that is just not something we've seen much through the show.

@22 +1 Nice metaphor!

Great episode!
24. Ashcom
I'm not sure I'd have given this a 10 simply because the "jumping around in different realities" thing has been done so many times in so many different shows. But it was done extremely well here, especially with all the little touches mentioned in the review that are seen but not made a big deal of. Also, the scene with Troi starting to massage Worf's shoulders is one of my favourites, the look of confusion on Worf's face gives a great sense that he is both enjoying the attention and being made uncomfortable by it simultaneously.

My one major issue I had with the episode though was the unlikelihood that all 285,000 Enterprises all happened to pop into existence in different locations. Given the vastnass of the area perhaps not totally impossible but you'd think at least in one or two cases two Enterprises might have attempted to occupy the same space with all the consequent disaster that would have caused. However, not only is this not seen to happen, but it isn't even mentioned as a possibility by Data when he explains how long it will take for the area to fill with Enterprises.
Christopher Bennett
25. ChristopherLBennett
@24: "because the 'jumping around in different realities' thing has been done so many times in so many different shows."

Like what shows? I've seen a number that sent the characters to one alternate reality, but how many prior to "Parallels" had done multiple different timelines in a single episode? All I can think of offhand is that Stargate SG-1 episode where a bunch of different duplicates of SG-1 kept coming through the Stargate from various different timelines (all conveniently color-coded by different uniforms), but that was quite a few years after "Parallels."
Heather Dunham
26. tankgirl73
This was one that I really haven't seen, maybe just once or twice, since the original airing. So I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It was hugely entertaining. And you're right -- the fact that those little subtle changes weren't even mantioned but just treated as normal is a brilliant touch. In fact, I did not notice several of the changes at all -- Data's blue eyes and the Cardassian officer, for instance.

I now want to watch it yet again, to catch all these little details.

I did love the last Enterprise bridge, with all the transparent bits. But my favourite bit of all, is when the screen just gets filled up with all those Enterprises. It's over the top in a gloriously amazing way. It's just so crazy. It's like a Crowning Moment of Awesome. And then the punchline... "we're receiving 285 THOUSAND hails..." The recap just doesn't give full justice to how eye-poppingly gut-bustingly fun this scene is -- especially the very first time, when we didn't know it was coming. :) It's right up there with the Enterprise blowing up over and over again before every commercial break...
Mike Kelmachter
27. MikeKelm
This is definitely the highlight of season 7 for me, one of the best episodes of the entire series really. KRAD touched on a lot of it, but we see some amazing acting not only by Michael Dorn but by the rest of the cast, some impressive work by the set guys making each Enterprise just a little bit different than the one before that, and a great job by Braga to essentially skip right over all of the differences, leaving the audience to go "Hey wait a minute" about 20 times in the last half hour.
I agree with KRAD also that Jonathan Frakes acting not only as Captain Crazybeard (in a single line the audience gets to not only imagine, but shutter at a timeline where the Borg run rampant) but his shocked response, as well as his perfect delivery of the "It's good to see you again Captain- it's been a long time" were a quiet but important selljob of the different timelines.

As far as the discussion of alternate realities, I seem to recall reading something about quantum elasticity, which basically works by saying that a small change in a timeline won't create another timeline, but once you cross a certain threshold of significance it would have that effect. So Riker has oatmeal instead of eggs for breakfast doesn't create another timeline, but one where a significant effect does or doesn't happen might. So if you think about history, there probably is a finite, albeit very large, number of turning points.

One other thing that I thing does make a difference in the later seasons and is key to DS9 is continuity between episodes. So we see the start of a relationship between Troi and Worf that does come into play for other episodes- the first few seasons really didn't have this, instead choosing to have more "stationary" characters who weren't really affected by what happened in a previous episode, a la M*A*S*H and just about every other episodic show. It's a very nice change as a viewer, because you go "Hey, what about all the stuff that happened last week" which the characters seem to ignore, except in the later seasons, they simply don't.
Christopher Bennett
28. ChristopherLBennett
@27: That "elasticity" idea sounds like something I proposed in the novel DTI: Watching the Clock.
Joseph Newton
29. crzydroid
I'm really surprised that someone didn't mention the fact that they DIDN'T have the birthday party when he gets back home, even though the first timeline we see has the birthday party. So did he jump universes the first time when he went through the fissure? If so, then the Enterprise with "our" Worf's quantum signature should not be sending their Curie...the first Enterprise he jumped to should send their mismatching Curie. Unless in our universe, Geordi had been in a side corridor or something, causing Worf's first jump but not the shuttle's. Or it's something to do with patching the fissure, which seems to be implied...except that that doesn't really make sense to me. It would seem like patching the fissure is now creating a different timeline.

Watching this so many times, I also noticed that Geordi was handing Worf the padd with the Cardassian energy configuration specs when he jumped...and that padd should not have jumped with him (since we've seen that his uniform does not go along). So it's weird that Worf would know the ship they see later has the same specs...but maybe he did see them on the screen in Engineering and was able to remember.

Also, I thought it was funny that one of the alternate universe changes was that Geordi's corpse became less covered with the blanket.

But I always loved this episode too. I was a sucker back in the day for alternate reality bits..."Parallels," "Yesterday's Enterprise," "Mirror, Mirror," "Back to the Future part II," and of course, the "What if?" style comics.
30. Ginomo
Man, I love this episode. One of my favorites, I knew you'd give it a 10 (though, I'm noticing a definite Worf-bias in your warp factor ratings, not that I'm complaining.) I just love that this is a Worf ep that has nothing to do with him being Klingon. It could have been anyone, giving Worf a technobabble episode could have been a major fail, but it worked.

I also can't tell you how excited I am that you're DS9. Here's to two more years!!
Heather Dunham
31. tankgirl73
@29 -- I believe the intent was indeed that patching the fissure created a new, different timeline. However, I think you could also make the argument that the birthday party was after the first jump. The Curie would still have to be sent from the original ship -- presumably, if a jump happened when he was in the shuttle, he would have jumped to a different shuttle, the one native to the new universe. Wherever "our" Worf was, the original shuttle never left "our" universe.

As for the padd being passed along, there's no need for it to be the SAME padd, just A padd that was passed to him. My suspicion is that after the jump, it's the details of the metallurgical scan Data wants him to do (and asks him about later).

I noticed that in "our" universe, there was still a Worf on the bridge... they were giving him significant looks when talking to the alternate crew. Presumably, closing the rift put everything back to rights and even had a time jump back to before this all started, so Troi not only got 'her Worf' back, she never lost him at all.

But what I'm really interested in, is how the adventure played out for the OTHER Worfs. If I understand the tech right, the Worf we're watching is the keystone of the whole thing -- it's HIS shuttle that broke the universe, the others, for whatever reason, did not. So are they jumping around whenever he does, all of them? Or does he just 'swap' with whichever one he's jumping to next, and the rest stayed put? Did the Worf who ended up on 'our' Enterprise manage to figure out what was going on? How was his experience different than 'ours'?

And why does Data keep calling it a "fizhure" and not a "fishure"? Is there some regional pronunciation of fissure that I'm not familiar with?
Mike S2
32. MikeS2
he’s just there
Yeah, that made the episode. Restraint is sometime the most brillant.

From Keith's blog:
Tor.com will likely do something with the four TNG movies
What are you talking about? I am of the opinion it's too bad they never made any TNG movies.

(last item, bonus mouseover)
Dale Norman
33. dokipen
Yes! DS9! Yes yes yes yes!

In other news, Parallels is, possibly, my favourite episode of all TNG's run. I do love All Good Things... though.
Kit Case
34. wiredog
I always thought this would've made an awesome series finale. One of the best episodes of TNG followed, a couple weeks later, by one of the worst. (Bev acquires the family ghost? Really?) But "Lower Decks", another good one, is also coming up.
Christopher Bennett
35. ChristopherLBennett
@29: Geordi's VISOR's subspace signal is what triggered Worf's subsequent jumps, but presumably the fissure itself, which was a subspace phenomenon to begin with, was what caused the first jump. So we didn't see Worf in the original, Prime timeline until the very end of the episode.

@31: I tend to pronounce it as "fizher" myself. I thought that was an equally valid pronunciation, though I can't seem to find it in the dictionary. It's possible that it's an overcorrection, something people devised to distinguish the word from "fisher." Or else it's from the equally unofficial "fizhen" pronunciation of "fission," which is probably by analogy with the pronunciation of "fusion." (A quantum fisher, of course, would be someone angling for Schroedinger's catfish. And then tells stories about the one that both did and didn't get away.)
alastair chadwin
36. a-j
The point about the existence of parallell universes removing tension is taken. However, the fact that there may be a universe out there where I get paid for doing a DS9 re-watch does not diminish the tragedy that in this universe I do not.

Agreed that this is one of TNG's best episodes and great news that Krad is doing DS9 as I've greatly enjoyed this one.
alastair chadwin
37. a-j
Oh, and if we are going to have a DS9 re-watch, shouldn't we be having a Babylon 5 one as well and we're only allowed to follow one.
38. lorq
@26: Totally agree about that "many Enterprises" scene, plus the punchline. It's a truly delightful moment.
Kit Case
39. wiredog
ChristopherLBennett @35

You need to write a book, or at least a short story, about the Quantum Fisher. "The Old Man and the Anomaly."
40. Tesh

Maybe it's not so much a consolation prize as a badge of dishonor. It is, after all, just a ball on a stand. Sort of a "Here, you obviously can't be trusted with pointy objects, go sit in a corner and ponder your shame" sort of thing.
41. John R. Ellis
I really love this episode. I think it helped a lot in getting my non-SF friends an entry to the show....everyone understands the allure of exploring the paths not taken.

It helps that even the more overblown scenes are awesome popcorn,

(Seriously. Borg-crazed Riker -makes- the climax.)

I think this, The Lower Decks and ...All Good Things are the saving graces of Season 7.
42. John R. Ellis
ChristopherLBennett: Fredric Brown gave the view in What Mad Universe gave the view that alternate versions of yourself making different choices doesn't render choices meaningless in that they are not "you" anymore than an identical twin who shared the same womb is the same person.

Personally, if it does exist, I highly doubt EVERY possiblity is played out somewhere. That goes too much into the nonsensical, pointless "KOZMICK BALANCE" crap guys like Grant Morrison spout.

(The late Dwayne McDuffie does an interesting decontstruction of this in the Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths cartoon. Owlman justifies his nihilism and cruelty by the existence of multiple realities, reasoning that somewhere else he's a good guy so nothing matters. Batman calls him on that line of crap.)

Rather, I think moral agency is real, no matter which universe you're in.
43. CPRoark
I haven't rewatched this one in a while, but is it ever explained where the other Worfs go?

Why isn't Worf bumping into himself? Or is it just his consciousness that's jumping?
Rowan Blaze
44. rowanblaze
@31 Tankgirl: What region do you live in? I (a native of California) have always pronounced the word "fizhure."

@24 Perhaps you are thinking of Sliders with Jerry O'Connell? That show first aired almost a year after TNG ended. IIRC, the only story with multiple differing timelines that predates this episode is the Back to the Future trilogy, and that had a different underlying premise. Is this a case of looking back at the "coinage" by TNG of a cliché—like thinking Miami Vice is full of 80s fashion clichés, when in fact those fashions come from the show itself?

I am no physicist, but while I can't preclude the possibility of multiple universes—or infinite multiverses, for that matter—I don't think that simply because we can do a math problem, that it truly reflects reality. Perhaps the quantum fluctuations in subatomic particles are simply "possibilities" until they actually occur, at which point they become "facts"—however unknowable. Just like the Uncertainty Principle is not about the reality of a given quantum state, but about our inability to observe it without affecting it.

In any event, like many other commenters, I am a sucker for alternate reality episodes on any show or book. They take familiar characters and put a fun spin on them, even though some spins (Captain Crazybeard) may be haunting.

One little fridge logic issue: while it is cool that the script didn't highlight details like Data's blue eyes, leaving the audience to discover them on our own; it seems to me such differences should have been a bigger clue to Worf that something was amiss besides his "memory lapses." In light of which their going unmentioned is odd.
Lee VanDyke
45. Cloric
Always loved this Ep, and Borg-universe Riker (as I've always referred to him) stands out in my memories as a MUCH bigger piece of the action, but I suppose that's the impact the small reveal had.

I had totally forgotten they bring Wes back, and I get why they decided to go with him rather than Tasha, but I still would have liked to have seen her. Oh well, at least we get her back for "All Good Things..." And is it just me, or wouln't a small cameo from Diana Muldar as Dr. Pulaski have been nice as well.

Also, was Patti Yasutake really pregnant? I always assumed that Nurse Ogawa losing the baby in "All Good Things..." was just a minor plot point, but the way they framed her, and the way she held the padd at an odd angle over her stomach, seemed to suggest that she might actually have been starting to show a baby bump.
Christopher Bennett
46. ChristopherLBennett
@42: I don't see it as a matter of moral agency, but of storytelling choice. If a given point of decision splits the universe into one reality where the hero defuses the bomb and another reality where the bomb blows up and kills everyone, and if they're both equally real, then isn't the storyteller essentially cheating by choosing the universe where the hero succeeds? If reality is all one big Choose Your Own Adventure book, then any choice of outcome is the result of the storyteller's arbitrary selection rather than the result of the heroes' own abilities and accomplishments. From a dramatic standpoint, I find it more satisfying to believe that the outcome of an event is directly due to the characters' actions, and thus that it only happens in one way.

@43: It's not just Worf's consciousness that's jumping, since his quantum signature is that of his home universe. Implicitly, he was physically swapping places with his duplicate in each of the realities he visited. So presumably there were 285,000 different versions of this same story, 285,000 different Worfs each discovering an escalating series of discrepancies, gradually realizing they were jumping universes, and trying to figure out how to get back where they belonged. We just happened to be following the particular Worf we were familiar with from the previous 6 years of the series.

@44: A number of quantum physicists do believe that the Many-Worlds Interpretation is basically a mathematical convention rather than something physically real. Personally I'm fond of the idea of Quantum Darwinism -- that when a particle exists in multiple states, those states propagate outward through particle interactions and "compete," and it's the most stable state that "survives" and spreads far enough to affect the rest of the universe, while the others just sort of fizzle out as alternative possibilities that never got off the ground. So if you looked at the timeline on a really fine, subatomic, nanosecond scale, it would look less like a line and more like a piece of yarn with a bunch of short, fine threads sticking out to the side of the main trunk. Although, of course, if it is an evolutionary competition between states, that means that occasionally you could have "speciation," with more than one state being stable enough to survive, thus causing the timeline to split into two or more. So there could be a finite number of real, stable alternate timelines, but most potential realities wouldn't be more than brief, unrealized possibilities.
Joseph Newton
47. crzydroid
@31: I think you are misunderstanding my point about the padd. Of course it is a different padd with different information on it; that's why it's weird that he would know the energy configuration.

@35 I had always assumed that the fissure was the first jump, which is why I thought there was a discrepancy about the shuttle. I kind of like tankgirl73's suggestion at 31 that only Worf jumped and he went to a different shuttle...except that it seems to me the shuttle would've jumped too, and also they wouldn't need to get the same shuttle back otherwise. It could just be an error.

@45: I believe there is a scene in the novelization of "All Good Things..." with Dr. Pulaski. She is having a conversation with someone (Lwaxana???) and they were discussing Riker's beard, and she mentioned he had just grown it when she knew him.
Joseph Newton
48. crzydroid
Oh, and @44: The Data with blue eyes didn't come until after Worf knew what was going on, or had at least started noticing all the discrepancies, so by that point, they didn't need to hang a lantern on it.
Christopher Bennett
49. ChristopherLBennett
@47: On things like the shuttle and the padd, that's where it helps to keep in mind my idea, that we were following only one of thousands of Worfs (Worves?) who were experiencing essentially the same sequence of events with relatively slight (but escalating) differences. So you had a whole bunch of Worfs who were returning from a bat'leth tournament and passed through the same quantum fissure, and "our" Worf jumped from his shuttle to Worf B's shuttle upon passing through the fissure. And maybe the Worfs in two different timelines were both looking at a padd containing the same energy signatures in their parallel stories, though I don't remember the details well enough to be sure that's the case.
50. John R. Ellis
"If reality is all one big Choose Your Own Adventure book, then any
choice of outcome is the result of the storyteller's arbitrary selection
rather than the result of the heroes' own abilities and

Don't storyellers actually do that? They're the ones who create the characters, then brainstorm the twists and turns.

Good characters, of course, are said to write their stories, but that's more a convenient term we have of describing a well-written character.

When talking about fictional universes...yeah. It's the author who's chosen the particular version of the story.

Again, I don't see this as making choice meaningless. More, such stories allow us to explore the nature of our choices , via the fantasy conceit that an ENTIRE WORLD will be spawned of we stayed in college instead of getting married (or whatever).

You complaint more seems to be it's a bit harder for you to suspend your disbelief, as part of the viewer likes to believe these stories somehow, somewhere could actually happen.

But many of them just can't. That's fantasy for ya.
Christopher Bennett
51. ChristopherLBennett
@50: No, ideally that's not what we do; we have the outcomes of events arise logically from the characters' choices and actions rather than just being random chance. Even if it is ultimately the writer's will shaping events, the reader believes that the choices the characters made led to a single, inevitable outcome, and that makes their choices meaningful and gives them agency.

See, if character choice really matters, if it isn't arbitrary and empty, then the same character in the same circumstances should make the same choice in every timeline that branches off from that moment. Maybe occasionally there can be some cases where the probabilities are balanced on a knife edge and could go either way (my novel Myriad Universes: Places of Exile is predicated on just such a point of decision, on the idea that a character just choosing his words differently at a key moment can cause everything that follows to unfold in a profoundly different way), but those have got to be rare if we want characters' choices and actions to have any real motivation and purpose behind them rather than just being an endless progression of coin flips. The assumption that every outcome is equally inevitable is what renders every decision meaningless. In most cases, there should be only one most likely outcome, and that outcome should be the same in just about every timeline, rather than having one timeline for each possibility as if all choices were completely arbitrary.

Although I guess you could argue that the multiverse is a probability distribution, with the majority of timelines conforming to the most probable outcomes and a smaller number of timelines representing less likely ones. So that, say, in 94 percent of timelines, the hero is skillful enough to successfully pull off the shot that prevents the president from being assassinated, but in the other 6 percent the hero misses and the president is injured or killed. So maybe you could say it's not arbitrary because the probabilities aren't equally balanced -- the hero's skill does skew the probability heavily in her favor.

Except the problem there is that most fiction goes out of its way to ensure that the odds of success are heavily against the heroes -- that the shot that saves the day is a one in a million chance, or that the odds of the small cadre of heroes getting through the horde of a million enemy stormtroopers without getting shot are infinitesimal. So arguably most stories present one of the least probable outcomes of events. Although maybe the counterargument is that it's a question of how you define probability -- the odds of any random person hitting the target successfully or avoiding that many attacks would be a million to one because only one person in a million is skilled enough to do it, but Our Hero is that one extraordinarily skilled person, so the odds of her success were actually extremely high.
52. Idran
Not to detract from the parallel reality talk, which is cool, but you know what's funny about Happy Birthday To You, given that it's such a classic example of unexpected copyright troubles? It probably is actually legally public domain, it's just no studio has ever wanted to spend the money on the legal battle to prove it so vs. just avoiding the song or paying the Hill estate royalties.

There's more detail on that here: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1111624
53. Jonellin Stonebreaker
This was perhaps my favorite episode of TNG and the one with the best SF premise. What struck me most,though, after seeing it for the first time was realization that Worf never got home...

"What are you talking about?", you say. "Of course he got back to his universe!"

But if he had, why is he met in the shuttle bay by Troi?

In the beginning of the episode, which we the watchers assume is the mainline universe ( why would we assume otherwise?) Worf is coming back from his bat'leth tournament with his 1st prize trophy and is met in the shuttle bay by his BFF and poker buddy Riker, who has planned and executed his surpise birthday party. Geordi walks up to him and our hero begins his inadvertent tour of the multiverse.

During said tour, he discovers that the multiverse seems to like W/T and it gets him thinking .
At the end, the reset button is hit, and we're back on the shuttle with the first place trophy, correct uniform, correct Captain, etc.

Then why isn't Will Riker standing in the shuttle bay, ready to "surprise" him?

Our hero finds that in this universe, Troi is apparently seen as the one who is the expert on all things Worf, so no annoying surprise party is planned.

He has realized that he thinks W/T is a good idea, and (perhaps subconsciously) that where is now may be the best world he can be in.

Worf may be happy, but he is not home.
Sky Thibedeau
54. SkylarkThibedeau
I wonder if the Happy Birthday variants such as Happy Birthday to you...you live in the Zoo.... are copyright violations?
Christopher Bennett
55. ChristopherLBennett
@53: As I said before, the episode does not open in the Prime timeline, because it begins after Worf has already passed through the quantum fissure. When the episode starts, we think Worf is still in his original timeline, but he's actually in a nearly identical alternate timeline. So we don't actually see the Prime timeline until the closing scenes of the episode. So yes, Worf did return home.

@54: I'm pretty sure it's the melody for "Happy Birthday" that's copyrighted, regardless of any variations in the lyrics (since after all, the third line is "Happy birthday, dear (recipient's name here)," so it has no single fixed set of lyrics to begin with). After all, in the episode, the crew sang the lyrics in Klingon, so if it were just the lyrics that were the problem, they could've still used the melody. But they didn't.
Keith DeCandido
56. krad
Jonellin: Uhm, Riker does meet him in the shuttle bay. He walks him to his quarters at the end of the episode, same as at the beginning, except Worf is expecting the surprise party.

Anyhow, as Christopher said, we don't see the mainline timeline until the episode's end.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Heather Dunham
57. tankgirl73
@44 "Tankgirl: What region do you live in? I (a native of California) have always pronounced the word "fizhure.""

I'm actually in Canada, but I watch a lot of US TV shows (of course) so I'm familiar with most regional accents. I'll have to watch the show again -- I noticed Data's "fizhure" stuck out to me, so I'm curious what other characters said.

Oh, I've never heard "fizhin" for "fission", either... That seems weird... Would you say "mizhin" for "mission"? Or "tizhue" for "tissue"?

To the issue of whether Worf's first jump (assuming it was at the fissure) would have to include the shuttle or not... Since his uniform does not jump with him, I think it's well-established that it is *only* his own flesh body that is jumping. It's not explained WHY his "stuff" would not go with him, why only the biological organism is affected by the fissure, but that does seem to be the intended implication.
Christopher Bennett
59. ChristopherLBennett
@57: No, it's only "fission" and "fissure" that get pronounced that way. As I said, I think it's mostly due to the influence of "fusion" and perhaps partly to distinguish it from fishin' and fisher.
Heather Dunham
60. tankgirl73
Yes, I was pretty sure you didn't pronounce the other words that way. ;) My point was that it seems kind of strange to pronounce fissure that way since the pattern of how to pronounce that letter sequence is established in those other words. You're probably right about 'fusion' being the reason why, though English is so full of homophones that it's probably nothing to do with distinguishing it from 'fisher'.

Dictionaries seem to universally call for the 'fisher' pronunciation. So 'fizhure' seems to be a localized or an intermittent variation that is not technically correct (kind of like nukyular, or Feb-you-ary, or lye-berry).

So, whether or not it's relatively common nowadays, it still seems unlikely that DATA, of all people, would use a pronounciation that is not 100% accurate -- just as he would not be heard to say "nukyular".
Justin Hilyard
61. Idran
@55: No, Warner Chappell (I got the claimed copyright holder wrong earlier; mixed up the melody writers with the urstwhile owner of the lyric IP) claims that the lyrics are what's copyrighted, because the melody is definitively public domain; it's the melody to the tune "Good Morning to All" by Patty and Mildred J. Hill, 1893. A translation of the lyrics into Klingon wouldn't have worked unless it was just nonsense and not an actual translation, because translations are derivative works. (And even if it was nonsense, if the contextual intent was to communicate "Happy Birthday", I think it still might have been a legal issue?)
62. Nandros
I have to agree that the haunted Riker in the climax of this episode was absolutely terrifying and still is.
Christopher Bennett
63. ChristopherLBennett
@60: Well, at least the "fishin'/fisher" thing was a factor in my own preference for the "zh" pronunciation. Maybe it's just me.
64. NullNix
ChristopherLBennett@51, in the many-worlds interpretation, of course you get a probability distribution. (In fact, every quantum event yields not a single alternative universe but an unknowably vast number of them, corresponding precisely to the probability distribution of the expected results of that quantum event. Alternatively, you can equally well consider those universes to have always existed, diverging only at the moment of that quantum event). This is also where Niven went very wrong in _All the Myriad Ways_: it *does* matter if the dice are loaded, because physics has never suggested that the universe splits exactly six ways if you throw a die. The system of die, plus human, plus surrounding air, plus some subset of all the subatomic particles that lie within a light-second or two of the dice throw, is what actually participates. There are a *lot* of possibilities in there.

Further, under that interpretation, we *already* have access to some of those alternate universes: much quantum weirdness, including wave/particle duality, can be explained in terms of them, and the measurement problem disappears, explained instead in terms of the measuring apparatus, and then the experimenter, and then other things, all diverging in multiple universes until they are too distinct to influence one another anymore.

The many-worlds interpretation is wonderfully demented and extravagant, and not disproved, nor indeed disprovable on its own (if it were, it would make different predictions to the other interpretations, and be an hypothesis, not an interpretation.)

Lisamarie@18, Greg Egan's _The Infinite Assassin_ is a braintwisting treatment of this phenomenon (higher-order flows between sets of universes and all). The protagonist of that has a really big problem defining who 'he' is, since there are lots of variations of him with a similar job, and he jumps universes a huge number of times in every job. His personal definition is that 'he' is 'the ones who succeed', which presumably works great up until you fail. :)

(I definitely have a 'there but for the grace of God' feeling with this episode, since in almost all members of the sheaf of universes that diverged from this one around my birth date, I'm dead, and in most of the rest, I have a wildly different personality to my current one. So the only reason I ended up in this universe is that there weren't many other choices! Sorry for forcing your hands, guys...)

Another piece of agreement here that Crazy Riker was a crowning moment of this episode. Most of Braga's episodes were pretty awful, but now and then he pulled amazing stuff out of his hat. This is one such.
Christopher Bennett
65. ChristopherLBennett
@64: I still tend to agree with what Greg Egan pointed out in one of his stories (I think it was "Singleton") -- that the MWI only says that there are multiple realities; it does not require every conceivable outcome to happen.

I also don't agree that we would have different personalities in most timelines. Again, it's a conceit of fiction that the differences in timelines are differences in macroscopic events or personal choices. The divergences are on the quantum level, and in most cases those quantum changes would not affect macroscopic events. There's a reason the "quantum immortality" thought experiment -- in which you basically keep trying to kill yourself and always perceive yourself as failing, because you only survive in the timeline where the gun doesn't go off -- requires a setup where the firing or non-firing of the gun is dependent on the decay of a radioactive particle or other quantum event. It's because it's differences in quantum states that cause timelines to diverge, so the triggering event has to be a quantum-level process. If it's a classical-level process like a conscious decision whether or not to shoot, or some macroscopic physical process like a flip of a coin, then that won't produce two timelines with different outcomes. The outcome of such a process won't be determined by any quantum-level change, so it would be the same in any timeline that branched off from that moment.

So unless you're a believer in quantum consciousness -- a fringe idea without any solid scientific support -- there's no reason to assume that our personalities or life experiences would be radically different in most timelines. For the most part, every quantum reality would probably unfold in pretty much the same way on a macroscopic level. There would only be some infrequent cases where the course of our lives might be affected by a quantum-level change. For instance, such a change might determine whether a person got cancer or not -- or maybe it wouldn't, since that probably relies on multiple mutations rather than just one. Or maybe a quantum-tunneling event could cause a malfunction in a piece of advanced electronics and thus have an effect on people's lives. But usually the difference between two divergent timelines might be undetectable on a macroscopic, human scale. Maybe there'd be cumulative slight changes that would cause two timelines to diverge slowly over centuries, but rarely anything that would be noticeable over the span of a single person's lifetime. It's solipsistic to think that the shape of reality is about what happens to us. Our lives are just a side effect of the subatomic processes that are at the root of reality.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
66. Lisamarie
Another episode that gives me that 'but for the grace of God' feeling is the one where Riker meets his double...again, which one is really 'him', you know? Especially since, as it turns out that in some future episode he goes rogue. I wonder if, were that to happen to me, if I would feel guilty for those actions in some weird way? At any rate, it is probably a little more believable (ha) that something like a double undergoing very different experiences would result in different selves or choices, as opposed to the quantum shift timelines causing the people to be very different.

Still an interesting episode though :) And I DID notice the Cardassian at con on this rewatch (and thought it was pretty cool) I did NOT notice Data's eyes until it was brought up here.

Two years, wow :) Congrats, krad! We ordered our DVDs last January for my husband's birthday...we powered through a few seasons and caught up somewhere around the fourth season, and we just finished season 7 sometime this past January...so it took us about a year. Playing with the idea of getting the DS9 DVDs too (if for no other reason to keep following the rewatch). We have one season on DVD but not the whole collection...
Rowan Blaze
67. rowanblaze
@57 A quick poll of my office mates (from all over the U.S.) has it almost universally pronounced "fizhure" and "fizhun," so it may be an Americanism—perhaps influenced, as CLB said, by "fusion." Just as differing letter combinations can produce homophones (sometimes depending on regional accents), similar spelling constructions can be pronounced differently, even within the same regional accent ("Science" versus "Conscience" for instance). "Nookyular" is such a fun word, and how I pronounced "nuclear" until I was in my teens. And as a Canadian, how do you pronounce "about"?

I am fascinated with these subtle differences in pronounciation over time and distance. After all, it's how we ended up with French and Italian, or German and Dutch. (English is just a whoring, thieving bastard of a language, in a class all its own.)
pir anha
68. piranha
quoth CLB: "If every decision gets made every way, then it renders every choice meaningless. It takes the drama out of the heroes winning if you know that in another equally real timeline, they lost; and conversely it takes the drama out of a tragedy if you know that in another timeline, the person lived and everyone was happy. It reduces choice and consequences to the flip of a coin."

i always find it fascinating what other people, especially writers, consider important in storytelling. i couldn't disagree more in this case -- i am a total sucker for alternate timeline stories, and it doesn't take any drama away for me, because in each timeline the heroes act unknowing of the other timelines, and their choices matter to THEM -- if tragedy strikes, that tragedy is just as real, no matter whether it is averted in another timeline. and extra drama for me lies in the variations; in fact it might underline the tragedy if i can see the alternate good outcomes that were possible. i generally enjoy thinking along alternative lines to explore my own feelings about different choices, and when i have to make tough decisions i will actually line them up and try to discern different pathways along the possibilities. but it doesn't feel like a series of coin tosses; more like chess or go instead of binary choices.

it also strikes me as unreasonably rigid that even a principled character would always make the same choice, and that each choice leads to a single, inevitable outcome. that is not how life feels to me; it's more like water flowing and cascading over or around obstacles, and each choice will interact with the choices of other people, and who knows what all can happen. i know that at a number of junctions in my life i could easily have chosen differently and my life would have altered, quite possibly by a lot -- but my character wouldn't have changed significantly. it probably makes sense that in fiction i am usually bored by epic conflicts between good and evil, and instead prefer morally ambiguous stories.

i really enjoyed this episode, it's the highlight of season 7 as of my own personal rewatch. it's well plotted with the slow twisting of the timelines away from the main, and the many small details that are not remarked on (because they are perfectly normal for the characters in that specific timeline) are a fabulous touch.
Christopher Bennett
69. ChristopherLBennett
@68: Sure, there's room for flexibility, but as I've said, what I object to is the simplistic assumption that every conceivable outcome must happen, whether it makes sense or not. Some decisions could go either way, but others could not. Say you're driving and you turn right at an intersection. Presumably you had a specific reason to turn right, so there's not inevitably going to be another timeline where you turned left. True, one can contrive a scenario where you were torn about which way to turn and it could've easily gone either way (as in the Doctor Who episode that's actually entitled "Turn Left"), but those points of decision are unusual. Much of the time, probably most of the time, you're going to have a reason to favor one choice over another.

So I'm not saying that a character would always make the same choice. It's the very concept of "always" that I object to here, in that I reject the assumption that every conceivable outcome must occur. That's too simplistic -- and the assumption that a character must make a single choice with a single guaranteed outcome is also too simplistic. My whole point is that it's more nuanced than that, that making broad, absolutist assumptions is in error and the matter needs to be considered case-by-case. There are some cases where a decision could plausibly go either way, and other cases where it makes no sense to assume it could go either way. It depends. That's what I'm saying.
Keith DeCandido
70. krad
Just so everyone knows, thanks to the snowslaught that is continuing to dump metric buttloads of snow on the northeast, Tor.com's offices closed early today before Chris had a chance to code the rewatch. So we're just going to declare it a snow day, and we'll pick up Tuesday with "The Pegasus" (spoiler alert: I really liked it), and then "Homeward" on Friday.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
71. Lisamarie
Too bad this wasn't Winter Storm Khan or Q ;) It was Nemo, this time around, right?

We got slammed by Draco last month, that was pretty fun. I got to work from home and watch Harry Potter.
Keith DeCandido
72. krad
Lisamarie: Yes, Snowslaught 2013 has been nicknamed "Nemo" by weather.com. And yes, we found it....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
74. MvComedy
I'm a little surprised that nobody has mentioned the “aggressively useless trivia” bit from the "Second Chances" rewatch, wherein it was mentioned that all the main male cast (other than Wesley) had worn two different colored uniforms. I say this because, with this episode, all the male cast members including Wesley have done so, and this without counting the various outfits he wore before the command division uniform in "Yesterday's Enterprise."

Just thought I'd throw it out there.
75. Robby the Robot 34
I'd like to see an episode about how the crazy out of control beard Riker got to that point. In that timeline Picard was assimlated and the Federation fell. They were very desperate. It would have been nice to see and episode on how the Federation had fallen and what steps could be taken to prevent it in the future. Each time line presented a potencial story or episode that could be expanded upon.

I still think the Troi/ Worf romance would have worked better. They are opposite personalities. More chances for dramatic conflict.
76. Robby the Robot 34
Looking at this episode I wish KRAD was still writing Star Trek novels. I am sure he could expand all these stories into novels and create a series of New York Times best sellers.
77. Electone
Where was Friday's re-watch?
Christopher Bennett
79. ChristopherLBennett
@75: There was a storyline in DC's TNG comic, "The Worst of Both Worlds" in issues 47-50, that sent the Enterprise-D into a parallel timeline where the Borg had conquered Earth. It was kind of similar to the Borg-victorious timeline glimpsed here, though not identical. And it came out several months before "Parallels" aired, though I'm sure the similarity was coincidental.
80. NullNix
ChristopherLBennett@66, you misunderstood me. Most people probably would not have different personalities in timelines close to this one, and they'd shift only very slowly across vast numbers of timelines. This differs for those of us who have genetic conditions (mostly classified as developmental disorders of one sort or another) that greatly affect our personalities (~50% of *everyone's* personality is genetically influenced, but for some of us the percentage is a lot higher). Adjust those conditions by causing recombination to happen differently (which *is* a molecular-scale event) and bingo! instant personality change, um, N years later. :)

You're right that it is hokum to expect a change on the quantum level to cause significant changes in a mature human (except changes that lead to strokes or epileptic fits or death or something like that).
Christopher Bennett
81. ChristopherLBennett
@80: The combination of chromosomes is molecular-level, sure, but not quantum-level. DNA molecules are huge; a single strand contains something like 200 billion atoms, each atom containing from 1 (hydrogen) to 31 (phosphorus) nucleons and 1 to 15 electrons, for a total of maybe a few trillion particles. That's a huge ensemble of particles, huge enough for any quantum superpositions of the individual particles to decohere. So genetic processes would be classical, and thus unaffected by timeline divergences for the most part. Maybe a quantum variation in one particle or atom could cause a slight mutation here and there, in the way that particle-level damage from radiation or toxins can cause cancerous mutations if enough accumulate, but it would be unusual, and unlikely to have a major effect on a person's identity or life history.
82. NullNix
ChristopherLBennett@69, annoyingly, no variant of the many-worlds interpretation nor of the various sorts of multiverse that have been proposed says that every conceivable outcome must happen. The most extravagant only say that every possible *consistent* outcome must happen. This shoots down a bunch of Star Trek time-travel episodes. The timey-wimey ball is impossible (actually worse than impossible: meaningless, senseless, incoherent), which is a real shame because it means that _Cause and Effect_ is physically impossible. If there's any episode of TNG I really wanted to happen, it was that one. :)

(A plus point: _Kaleidoscope Century_ is also impossible. Thank whatever gods there be.)
83. NullNix
ChristopherLBennett@69, you're making the same mistake Niven made. If all possible alternatives occur, that doesn't mean that they all occur with the same probability. If I throw a ball at a brick wall, it could bounce off at any of numerous angles, the wall could fall down, or the ball could quantum-tunnel through the wall. These are all possible events, and under the many-worlds interpretation all of them occur in some of the sheaf of universes that branch off at this point -- but that doesn't mean that they're all equally probable! The probability distribution is represented by a count of universes: the vast majority of them have the ball bouncing off the wall, a very few have them bouncing back and killing me or the wall falling down, a tiny proportion have the ball quantum-tunnelling through the wall (and if you do the math you realize just how very *many* universes we're talking about here: the numbers make merely-astronomical numbers like the number of particles in the universe or the number of Planck volumes in the universe since the Big Bang look tiny). If events that implausible happen, then any merely human action will surely have a tiny, tiny proportion of universes in which that action is followed by any action it is possible for you to carry out, no matter how ridiculous: turning left instead of right, rushing to the nearest electoral officer and declaring your candidacy for President as if the fiends of hell were after you, suddenly murdering the person standing closest to you, dropping dead (quite a likely one), becoming a militant Scientologist, *everything*. Heck, compared to the probability of a ball quantum-tunnelling through a wall, even strokes miraculously and precisely healing themselves years after the fact by sheer chance via thermal noise is relatively likely (you'd probably only have to wait 10^1000 years or so for that to happen, much less time than you'd have to spend lobbing a ball at a wall before it quantum-tunnelled through).

But, if anything can happen, are there no limits? Limits are what makes for good fiction, after all. The only limit I can think of is imposed by relativity. We can say with certainty that none of those ball-throwing universes, *none*, have the ball and the wall vaporized by a wall of plasma from the explosion of the sun -- either that, or all of them do (modulo a tiny proportion that survive the explosion by sheer chance, though everyone would then freeze to death since the sun is gone). That event, if it happened, happened eight and a half minutes ago, before we threw the ball at the wall, outside our light-cone at the time, so it was already fixed at the time these universes diverged. (Of course, the divergences themselves are merely the start of cones of divergence that themselves spread at lightspeed).

Egan is the only SF author I know of to have got this sort of stuff right: I'm sure Cramer could have, but as the deviser of a different interpretation of quantum mechanics (a particularly ingenious one) he naturally pushed that interpretation in his _Einstein's Bridge_. And it led to such an awesomely brilliant part-ending line that I'm glad he did.
Rob Rater
84. Quasarmodo
Very cool ep!
85. Solid Muldoon
One of my all time favorites from all the series.

I saw this episode when I was working at Disneyworld and a bunch of us would hurry out after work and watch together at a bar on a giant projection screen TV. It was great watching Star Trek with an audience (and beer).

There were about 15 of us. Since the episode started off slowly, with funny bits and subtle hints and sexy stuff, we were having a blast.

As it got more intense, the crowd grew quieter. The 285,00 hails line sent a shudder through the crowd. When crazy beard Riker showed up, several people actually jumped to their feet.

Just a great, great episode.
Brickhouse MacLarge
86. Midnightair
One of the best episodes, and well acted and directed. There is only one correct pronunciation of fissure, and that is the one with the sh sound. All other pronunciations are incorrect, popularity notwithstanding.
Christopher Bennett
87. ChristopherLBennett
@86: "All other pronunciations are incorrect, popularity notwithstanding."

That's a contradiction in terms. Language is shaped by usage. Despite the best efforts of prescriptivists, the fact is that whatever usage is most pervasive -- most popular -- is the "correct" one by default. That's how language evolves. It is about communication, after all, so the right usage is whatever one is understood by the most people.
Brickhouse MacLarge
88. Midnightair
@87. You are most certainly welcome to your opinion. I will not be engaging in a to and fro on that subject, as I am welcome to mine.

This episode is definitely one of my favourites. I loved that scene where Worf is looking past the corner into his bedroom wondering what Troi is doing. Very funny.
89. JohnC
I guess I'm not quite sure about the ethics of firing on "haunted Riker's" ship. Didn't they have as much right to choose not to go back as any of the others did to choose the opposite? Anyway, I kind of liked the fact that Worf was obviously warming to the idea of getting all up in Troi's business by the end of the episode....
Joseph Newton
90. crzydroid
@89: Well, for one thing, they were defending the shuttle and Worf who was being fired on by haunted Riker.
91. JohnC
True, I had forgotten the context...
92. Anthony Pirtle
I really enjoyed this episode, though it's certainly not in my TNG top 10. Top 25, perhaps. It doesn't have the weight of a time and space bending masterpeice like "Cause and Effect," Perhaps because of the direction, or perhaps just because nobody seems terribly moved by events (except Troi and Crazy Riker). Even when LaForge is killed, it's off-screen and nobody really seems to mourn. However, it is definitely must watch, if for no other reason than it's nice to see a good Worf story that isn't about his being the Uber Klingon or the worst father in the history of the universe.
93. aloysius
Just rewatched this and enjoyed all the cascading differences as Worf got further away from his home universe. But one detail bugs me: when Captain Riker calls up Worf's home ship and talks to Picard, we can see a Worf in the background over there, in his usual spot on the bridge. Picard arranges to send over the shuttle that matches "our" Worf's quantum signature, but we never see who pilots it, and don't get a moment with both Worfs, although presumably their Troi would not be looking so sad and smooching our Worf goodbye if her husband had just got back.

Otherwise it's a delightfully plotted piece but that seems like a loose end to me.
94. Electone
I'm not gushing over this one like every one else is, but it is one of the better episodes of mediocre Season 7. It is a solid plot with interesting touches, but I just can't get past the fact that it is an extreme low budget, bottle episode like much of Season 7.
95. BearUK
"we won't go back!" I very much enjoyed this episode when I first saw it. I too was 'haunted' by the crazy Riker scene and this episode manages all on it's own to make season 7 worth owning. I'd forgotten how many bad to mediocre episodes there are in Season 7, I always remembered it fondly.
96. Tom Green
I still feel like one question was left unanswered throughout the thread, although it was alluded to in comment 31. How did Worf's "correct ship" already have a Worf on it already? The Worf in that universe is supposed to be the one bouncing around everywhere. Where did a SECOND Worf come from in that universe?
Christopher Bennett
97. ChristopherLBennett
@96: Yeah, that Worf is bouncing around, but he's switching places with the Worfs he's replacing. I figure all 285,000 Worfs had their own encounters with the quantum fissure and were all swapping around with one another.
98. SethC
There are 2 things about this episode I've never understood. The first is how Worf and Troi could have a three-year-old and a two-year-old if they didn't become close until after 45587 (which computes to February 26, 2368) and didn't start dating until "six months after" as Data said, or stardate 46043.4 (Earth date August 26, 2368). The show takes place on February 13 2370 according to my stardate calculater, which means Worf and Troi's three-year-old would have been born in late-2366 or early-2367 and their two-year-old would have been born sometime in early Februrary 2368. They must have gotten very close indeed. I also have never understood how there was already a Worf on the Enterprise bridge of Worf Prime's "proper" reality. Was he the first officer of the ship Worf was on? If so, he didn't say anything to Picard, like "Sir, I thought we destroyed you on the Borg ship" or "Why is Willy first officer and not me?" He didn't say anything? Other than these two minor nitpicks (in the grand scheme of the episode) this was one of the top 15 for me.
Christopher Bennett
99. ChristopherLBennett
@98: We didn't see enough of the stuff on the main Enterprise to know what happened there. I assume that the other 284,999 Worfs (Worves?) were all going through their own versions of "Parallels" just like this one did, jumping between different realities, gradually figuring out what was happening, and confiding in the crews in those realities.
Keith DeCandido
101. krad
SethC: Because the two conversations you're referring to are from different quantum realities. Data's timeline of Worf and Troi's relationship was from a reality in which they didn't have kids. When Troi enumerated their offspring, it was after Worf jumped to another reality in sickbay (when things changed from Dr. Ogawa and Worf as security chief to Dr. Crusher and Worf as first officer).

And Christopher is correct, all the Worfs were likely going through their own episode of "Parallels." :)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Christopher Bennett
102. ChristopherLBennett
@101: It might be an interesting creative exercise for someone to pick one of those other Worves -- maybe the first officer from the final featured timeline in the episode, or the one from the Borg dystopia -- and retell "Parallels" from his perspective.
103. rosemary k
In the scene where Riker/Worf are confronting the "correct" Enterprise and explaining the solution that Data has proposed, Picard states that "their" Data had proposed the same solution, which implies very strongly that all of the Worfs (at least those involved in the skipping around) were experiencing the same stuff. The fact that time reverted back to the moment of the first shift also implies that none of the events that occurred after that shift - in ANY timeline - actually took place, which makes me wonder how Worf remembered them. No one else seems to have, at least not on HIS Enterprise.

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