“All Good Things...”
Written by Ronald D. Moore & Brannon Braga
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 7, Episode 25
Production episode 40277-747
Original air date: May 23, 1994
Captain’s Log: Worf and Troi have just finished a date on the holodeck, and their goodnight kiss is interrupted by Picard in his bedclothes wanting to know what the date is. He’s been moving back and forth in time. He can’t remember specifics—one moment he was in the past some time, before he took command of the Enterprise, talking to someone; another moment he was in the future, somewhere outdoors. His fleeting memories have such vivid sense impressions that they must be far more than a dream.
While he’s in the middle of describing it to Troi, he finds himself standing in a vineyard twenty-five years in the future. He’s interrupted in the tending of his vines by a visit from La Forge. Both men have facial hair—Picard is bearded and is retired from his ambassadorial career, La Forge has a mustache (and bionic eyes). La Forge’s wife Leah heard that Picard had been diagnosed with Irumodic Syndrome, and La Forge wanted to check in on him.
Picard and La Forge head back to the house, but then Picard sees three people in rags jumping up and down and shouting. Then he finds himself suddenly on a shuttle with Yar, heading to the Enterprise for the first time to take command shortly before “Encounter at Farpoint.” Just as the shuttle approaches the ship, he’s back in the present, telling Troi that he just saw Yar.
Crusher examines Picard and finds nothing. No indication of time travel, no indication that he’s even been off the ship. She also scans for Irumodic Syndrome, and doesn’t find it, but she does find a defect in his parietal lobe that could, down the line, lead to a disorder, including Irumodic.
Picard gets new orders from Admiral Nakamura: the Romulans have diverted 30 warbirds to the Neutral Zone, and they’ve picked up an anomaly in the Devron system in the zone. Nakamura’s sending 15 ships to respond, including the Enterprise, which is specifically tasked with examining the anomaly in Devron.
The future: Picard is back in the vineyard, insisting to La Forge that he was somewhere else with the same intensity that he insisted to Troi in the present. He wants to see Data, and La Forge agrees to, though he’s obviously worried. Picard is also still seeing the people in rags.
Data is now the Lucasian Chair at Cambridge, and La Forge and Picard visit him at his residence. Data is willing to give Picard the benefit of the doubt and will use the equipment at Cambridge to examine him.
The past: Picard is formally taking command of the Enterprise, reading his orders—but he also sees the people in rags again, this time on the upper level of the shuttle bay and in the shuttle. Various crewmembers—Troi in her miniskirt, Worf in his cloth sash, and O’Brien in a red uniform, along with Yar and others—are there for the command-taking ceremony. Then he orders the ship to red alert, confusing the hell out of everybody.
Yar and Worf perform scans that reveal nothing unusual, and Troi doesn’t sense anything. O’Brien then informs Picard that Starfleet has cancelled their mission to Farpoint Station and ordered them to report to the Neutral Zone to investigate an anomaly in the Devron system. Picard, however, will continue with the mission to Farpoint. He assigns an engineering task to O’Brien, and also meets up with Data.
The present: Picard is retaining more memories with each time shift. Crusher performs a scan, and while there’s no other physical manifestation of the time shifts, Picard’s brain has accumulated over two days worth of memories in the five minutes since she last examined him.
Picard meets with the senior staff, expressing concern, especially since the events he’s experiencing in the past don’t match what actually happened. While the Enterprise continues to prepare for whatever they might find at the Neutral Zone, Crusher orders Picard to get some rest. She’s worried about him, and actually kisses him.
The future: Picard wakes from a nap and insists that they have to get to the Devron system. The problem is, that’s not in the Neutral Zone anymore, it’s in Klingon space, ever since the Klingons conquered the Romulan Empire, and the Klingons have closed their borders to Federation ships. La Forge and Data go along with the notion. However, they need a ship. They ask Admiral Riker, but all he can do is send the Yorktown to check the system.
Data has another solution: the Klingons have allowed medical ships to cross the border since an outbreak of Terellian plague on Romulus. They contact the U.S.S. Pasteur, a medical vessel commanded by Crusher—the captain’s ex-wife.
Once Picard goes to get some rest, Crusher, Data, and La Forge admit that they don’t entirely believe him, but, as Crusher says, he’s Jean-Luc Picard, and if he wants to go on one final mission, then that’s what they’ll do.
The past: The Enterprise heads toward Farpoint Station, but Picard is annoyed to find that Q hasn’t materialized the way he did in “Encounter at Farpoint.” Data doesn’t detect Q’s force field, Troi doesn’t sense anything, and Picard is frustrated. He goes into his ready room.
The present (kinda): Picard finds himself back in the 21st-century courtroom where Q put humanity on trial back in “Encounter at Farpoint.” Q’s back in his judge’s robes and refuses to explain what’s going on—but does agree to answer any questions Picard has, as long as it has a yes or no answer.
Is he putting humanity on trial again? No. Is there a connection between the trial seven years previous and what’s happening now? Yes. Is the Devron anomaly part of what’s going on? Yes. Is it a Romulan plot to start a war? No. Did Q create the anomaly? No. Is Q responsible for Picard’s time shifts? Yes.
When Picard asks why, Q says that isn’t a yes-or-no question, and he refuses to answer any further questions.
Q reveals that the trial never ended—until now. They find humanity guilty of inferiority. And humanity will be wiped out—but not by Q. No, Picard will be responsible for the destruction of the human race. And then he adjourns the court.
Picard is back on the Enterprise, and calls for red alert. They agree not to second guess themselves and simply proceed as normal. They arrive at the Neutral Zone, alongside the Concord and Bozeman—while three warbirds are aligned on the opposite side. Picard orders Worf to hail them.
The future: Worf answers the Pasteur’s hail. He is now the governor of H’atoria, a minor planet near the Federation border, and is no longer a member of the High Council as Picard and the others had believed. Worf cannot allow them passage, as it’s too dangerous and would be against regulations. Picard plays on his sense of honor, just like he always does, and Worf gives in, just like he always does, and grants permission—but only if he comes on board.
The past: Picard has given up on finding Q and orders O’Brien to head to the Devron system. Troi expresses concern over his bizarre orders, but Picard feels he has no choice. He also contacts Riker on Farpoint Station, saying that they’ll be delayed indefinitely. Troi also takes advantage of the opportunity to tell Picard that she and Riker had a previous relationship.
The present: Picard speaks with Commander Tomalak, and they agree to each send one ship into the Zone to investigate the anomaly in Devron. (Tomalak is particularly amenable once Picard admits that the plan isn’t sanctioned by Starfleet Command.) They detect a subspace anomaly, and Picard orders it to be examined.
The past: The Enterprise arrives at the Devron system to find the same anomaly, but it’s much larger in the past than it is in the present.
The future: The Pasteur arrives at the Devron system to find—nothing. Data searches thoroughly, and comes up with a modification—an inverse-tachyon pulse—that will enable an even more thorough search. But Worf reports that some Klingon warships are headed to this system to go after a renegade Federation ship, so Crusher will only stay for six hours before leaving the system.
Q appears as an older man and reminds Picard that what he was and what he will be will inform his decision, and also reminds him that he will destroy humanity.
The present: Data reports that the anomaly is putting out tremendous energy. Picard suggests the same inverse-tachyon pulse that future-Data made on the Pasteur to more thoroughly scan the anomaly.
As soon as the pulse starts, La Forge’s optic nerves start regenerating. Ogawa reports that two crewmembers have had old scars heal by themselves. Data reveals that the anomaly is an eruption of “anti-time,” a relatively new theory. The rupture is the result of a collision between time and anti-time.
The past: Picard again suggests an inverse-tachyon pulse to Data, who is unfamiliar with the theory of anti-time. Picard quickly says he doesn’t have time to explain, but orders Data to make the modifications.
The future: The Pasteur is attacked by two Klingon attack cruisers. Just before they’re destroyed, the Enterprise (with a third nacelle and with Riker in charge) decloaks and drives the Klingons off. But the Pasteur is too badly damaged, and explodes, after Riker has the entire crew beamed off. Riker takes Worf to task for letting a defenseless ship into hostile space, and Worf counters that if Riker had helped Picard when he asked him, this wouldn’t have happened.
Picard insists on staying to find out where the anomaly is, but Riker won’t hang around. Crusher sedates him to shut him up.
The present: La Forge’s eyes are regenerating, and he no longer even needs his VISOR. Unfortunately, the news is less pleasant for Ogawa—her pregnancy has miscarried. The anti-time caused the fetal tissue to revert.
Picard orders Data to try to find a way to collapse the anomaly before it starts killing the crew. Q then appears and tells Picard that it’s a ballsy decision to mess with an anomaly he knows nothing about. To ease the decision, Q takes Picard to prehistoric Earth, just before life ever formed on the planet. The anomaly is visible in the entire Earth sky, having grown to encompass much of the Alpha Quadrant.
Q shows him a pile of goo that would be where amino acids formed the first protein, thus starting the process of life on Earth—but the anomaly prevents that from happening. And, as Q keeps insisting, Picard caused it.
The past: Picard, Data, and O’Brien speculate on how to scan the anomaly more thoroughly. Data mentions a tomographic imaging scanner that is in development at the Daystrom Institute.
The present: Seven years later, Daystrom has developed it, and they have one on the Enterprise. Data uses it and discovers three tachyon pulses, all identical, all coming from the Enterprise. (Of course, one of them should be different, coming as it does from the Pasteur, but we’ll let that go.)
The future: Riker shares a drink in Ten-Forward with La Forge, Data, and Crusher. Worf sits off on his own. He and Riker have been on the outs for 20 years. Riker says he tried to reconcile at Troi’s funeral, but Worf wouldn’t even talk to him. Riker admits that in the back of his mind he always thought he’d get back together with Troi, and he admits that he got in the way of Worf and Troi truly becoming a couple.
Picard shows up in Ten-Forward, insisting that the Pasteur’s tachyon pulse caused the anomaly. Data backs him up enough that Riker is willing to go back to the Devron system to check it out. Riker also invites Worf to join them on the bridge.
Sure enough, there’s a tiny subspace anomaly: an anti-time eruption. Data theorizes that cutting off the tachyon pulses might do the trick.
The past and the present: Picard orders the tachyon pulses to be disengaged twice over, but it doesn’t have an effect.
The future: Data and La Forge theorize that the Enterprise would need to enter the anomaly and form a static warp shell, which would collapse the anomaly—but the other two Enterprises would need to do it as well.
The past: Picard orders the ship into the center of the anomaly, at which the crew balks. Yar expresses the confusion that everyone’s feeling. This new captain they don’t know has been acting beyond bizarre, and now he’s ordering the ship into a dangerous anomaly. Picard speechifies, telling the crew how awesome they are, and they go in.
The present: Picard sends the Enterprise in.
The three ships all encounter each other in the center of the anomaly, all forming their static warp shells. The anomaly starts to collapse, but not before each of the Enterprises goes boom.
Picard wakes up in the courtroom. Q assures him that he’s saved humanity. Q reveals that putting humanity through this test was under orders from the Continuum—but tossing Picard around through the timelines was Q’s idea, and Picard thanks him for it.
Q also says that the trial never ends—but the point is for humanity to explore, not star systems and nebulae, but the possibilities of existence.
Picard winds up back on the Enterprise, back in his bathrobe, asking an about-to-smooch Worf and Troi what the date is. And like Scrooge, he realizes that it was all the same night. Nobody else remembers anything that happened, and there’s no anomaly in the Devron system.
Later, Picard—who told the crew about what he saw in the future—walks in on the poker game and asks to be dealt in, saying it’s something he should have done long ago.
Data gives him the cards to deal, and Picard calls five card stud, nothing wild—“and the sky’s the limit.”
Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Anti-time can be created by tachyon pulses being fired into things. Or, y’know, something.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: In the past, Troi—back to the miniskirt she wore in “Encounter at Farpoint”—expresses concern over the crazy-ass orders Picard is giving, complicated by Picard’s rather peculiar refusal to take the past crew into his confidence. He claims it’s to avoid polluting the timelines, but those are pretty well filthy from the moment he shows up on the shuttle with Yar. No I think it’s more than these people don’t know him or trust him yet, which Troi points out to him more than once.
In the future, Troi died some five years after when the present part takes place, which saves Marina Sirtis from having to be dipped in latex or have gray added to her hair, or both. To be fair, she already went through that nonsense in “Man of the People.”
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: In the future, Worf leaves Starfleet and eventually ascends to the High Council—but later descends to a planetary governorship with very little standing in the empire, which has gone ahead and conquered the Romulans.
In the past, Worf has the shorter hair and cloth sash he wore in the first season, but his makeup is the same as it is in the present and future rather than the less refined crest he had in season one.
If I Only Had a Brain...: In the future, Data is the Lucasian Chair at Cambridge. He lives in the traditional residence for the chair, going back to when Sir Isaac Newton held the post, with a cranky housekeeper and a mess of cats. He’s also put a streak of gray in his hair to make himself look more distinguished (though I’m with the housekeeper: it makes him look like a skunk), and in the intervening 25 years, he’s mastered contractions. When he declaims on how the anomaly might have been formed in Ten-Forward, he paces and gestures as if he’s lecturing a bunch of undergrads.
In the past, Data inexplicably has a junior-grade lieutenant’s pips, and he struggles with idioms and slang and also babbles a blue streak. It’s kinda fun to see that again.
No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Troi and Worf’s relationship is proceeding apace, though Worf appears not to have gotten any further in consulting Riker on how he feels about it since his pathetic attempt in “Eye of the Beholder.” Riker’s disapproval will keep the relationship from developing in the future segments, leading to a rift between the two friends that will last two and a half decades.
Picard and Crusher share a kiss in the captain’s ready room. In the future we see that they’ve been married and divorced in the intervening 25 years.
What Happens On the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck: Worf takes Troi to the Black Sea for a romantic barefoot walk on the beach, which Worf describes as “stimulating.” Troi takes him to task for his lack of poetry, and pushes him to be more eloquent in describing it. Worf accedes to this request by saying that it was “very stimulating.” Such a gooshy romantic, is he.
In the Driver’s Seat: In the past, O’Brien takes the conn; he was first seen as a relief conn officer in “Encounter at Farpoint.” In the present, Ensign Gates flies the Enterprise one final time, while the Pasteur’s conn officer is Ensign Chilton, who’s killed during the firefight with the Klingons.
I Believe I Said That: “You have always used your knowledge of Klingon honor and tradition to get what you want from me.”
“Because it always works, Worf!”
Worf and Picard in the future summing up their relationship.
Welcome Aboard: The main guests are all folks we’ve seen before for one final roundup. For the past segment, Denise Crosby returns as Yar, and Colm Meaney takes a break from Deep Space Nine to serve as O’Brien again. In the present, Patti Yasutake is back as Ogawa, Clyde Kusatsu reappears as Nakamura, and Andreas Katsulas appears for the first time since the fourth season’s “Future Imperfect” as Tomalak And of course, John deLancie brings things full circle, reappearing as Q.
In addition, Pamela Kosh is delightfully harumphy as Data’s housekeeper Jessel, while Tim Kelleher, Alison Brooks, and Stephen Matthew Garvin fill out assorted future Starfleet officer roles.
Trivial Matters: This episode was adapted not only into novel form (just like “Encounter at Farpoint,” “Unification,” “Relics,” and “Descent”), but also comic book form. Michael Jan Friedman wrote both, with the art for the latter provided by Jay Scott Pike & Jose Marzan Jr. The novelization included several additional characters, among them Wes, the Traveler, Guinan, Sam Lavelle (as Admiral Riker’s aide in the future segment), Pulaski, and Ben.
Picard’s orders to take command of the Enterprise were written by Admiral Norah Satie from “The Drumhead.”
Nobody noticed the mistake that present-Data discovered three identical tachyon pulses, even though one was from the Pasteur and should’ve been different. It was first noticed when the episode aired—by executive producer Rick Berman’s ten-year-old son. Oops.
Besides going back to the unitard uniforms, several other set changes were made to the past segments to achieve the look of the first season, including restoring some (but not all) of the bridge set design, most notably the more reclined conn and ops chairs.
Both the Pasteur and Enterprise in the future go as fast as warp 13. This contradicts what was later established in Voyager’s“Threshold,” that warp 10 is unachievable, though it does track with higher warp speeds seen on the original series’ “By Any Other Name.”
The images of past-Riker that Picard spoke to alerting him to their delay in arrival at Farpoint Station was taken from “The Arsenal of Freedom,” thus saving Jonathan Frakes having to shave. (You can see the image of Captain Paul Rice from that episode standing behind him in one shot.)
The future-Enterprise has a cloaking device. Since the Klingons conquered the Romulans in that future, the treaty with the Romulans—established in “The Pegasus” as being the reason why Federation ships don’t have cloaks—is no longer in effect.
Future-La Forge has replaced his VISOR with what appear to be bionic implants, similar to the ones the character will wear from the movie Star Trek: First Contact forward.
Worf and Troi’s relationship is never again seen on screen. When he moves to the cast of Deep Space Nine, Worf eventually starts up a relationship with Jadzia Dax, finally marrying her in the sixth season, while Troi and Riker become a couple again in Star Trek Insurrection (amusingly, at one point in the film, Worf gives them his blessing) and they get married in Star Trek Nemesis. The novel Triangle: Imzadi II by Peter David chronicles the rise and fall of the Worf/Troi relationship in the period between Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact. (Speaking of David, there are some structural similarities between this episode and his novel Imzadi, with three time tracks, and a future where Troi is dead and Riker is an embittered old admiral.)
The Devron system is seen again in the novel Serpents Among the Ruins by David R. George III and the video game Away Team. The planet H’atoria plays a role in the plot of your humble rewatcher’s A Singular Destiny.
The events of this episode play a large role in your humble rewatcher’s Q & A, which reveals Q’s ultimate purpose in his constant meddling with the Enterprise in general and Picard in particular. Picard’s experiences in this episode serve him well during the climax of that novel.
This episode won the 1995 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, TNG’s second win in that category, having got it in 1993 for “The Inner Light.”
Ronald D. Moore & Brannon Braga wrote this script simultaneously with that of Star Trek Generations, filming of which began while this episode was being shot (the Enterprise-B prologue was lensed while “AGT” was being done). Moore & Braga wasted no time in trashing the future seen in this episode by destroying the Enterprise in the movie.
When choosing a title for the 20th anniversary TNG short story anthology, editor Marco Palmieri went with The Sky’s the Limit, after the final line of the series. (Your humble rewatcher has a story in that one, “Four Lights,” a sequel to “Chain of Command Part II.”)
Make it So: “It’s time to put an end to your trek through the stars.” Star Trek’s track record with endings is notably poor. The original series’ “Turnabout Intruder” was a misogynistic disaster even by the low standards of the third season, while even the animated series’ most fervent fans (myself included) are unlikely to use “The Counter-Clock Incident” as an example of why Filmation’s efforts deserve to be counted alongside the live-action ones from Desilu.* As for the spinoffs, Deep Space Nine’s “What You Leave Behind” was a noble failure,** Voyager’s “Endgame” was an ignoble failure, and Enterprise’s “These are the Voyages...” was an embarrassment.
But man, did they get it right here.
“All Good Things...” is the perfect ending to TNG, bringing the show full circle from “Encounter at Farpoint,” giving everybody a moment in the sun, showcasing the amazing talents of the ensemble in general and Sir Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner in particular, showcasing a Roddenberrian view of humanity—being capable of greatness—while drowning us in just enough technobabble with warp fields and anomalies and time travel and other nonsense. Plus, we get TNG’s best antagonist in John deLancie’s Q.
Moore and Braga are aware not only of what makes TNG work, but also what’s wrong with it, and they don’t miss an opportunity to make fun of some of the show’s excesses. Most of those come from Q, particularly when he snarks off Picard for how much time he wasted the past seven years on mundane concerns like Riker’s career, Troi’s psychobabble, and Data’s endless quest to be more human, but others get their shots. After Data lets loose with a stream of technobabble, Crusher speaks for an entire viewership when she exasperatedly says, “English, Data,” and future-La Forge’s greeting to Picard is epic: “Captain, we’ve got a problem with the warp core or the phase inducers or some other damn thing.”
The entire cast shines in this one. LeVar Burton gives one of his best performances as the middle-aged, family-man novelist La Forge. (On the other hand, not nearly enough is done with his acquiring sight for only the second time in his life, the other being “Hide and Q.” That notion will be better used in, of all places, Star Trek Insurrection.) Michael Dorn is embittered and miserable as Governor Worf, Jonathan Frakes is cranky and crotchety as Admiral Riker, and Gates McFadden shows a Captain Beverly Picard who has gotten steelier with age, divorce, and a ship command. Denise Crosby’s guest turn is less intrusive here than it was in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” or either of her appearances as Sela because the first-season setting makes her feel like a natural part of the process, alongside Worf’s sash, Data’s babbling, and the unitards. And making use of Colm Meaney’s “Encounter at Farpoint” cameo to bring O’Brien back to the TNG for a last hurrah is a really nice touch, as is Picard making use of his knowledge of O’Brien’s future as Deep Space 9’s miracle worker. Andreas Katsulas is magnificent in his one scene as Tomalak, and deLancie is his absolute snottiest here, his banter with Stewart as sparkling as ever. As a last hurrah for TNG’s finest double-act, this is a bravura performance.
Speaking of whom, what makes this episode sing are the performances of Stewart and Spiner. A goodly chunk of TNG’s success was on the back of these two, and this final episode showcases them superbly. Stewart’s portrayal of the elder Picard is astonishing. As the oldest person in the cast, he’s lost the most in the 25 years that they’ve jumped ahead, and his struggles with space Alzheimer’s are heartbreaking. But you also see the drive and strength that lead everyone to go along with his crazy-ass notions, simply because he earned it after three decades.
And that’s as nothing to the trifecta of awesome Spiner pulls off, giving us three distinct Datas who are all very obviously still Data, but at varying stages of development. Spiner magnificently channels his first-season persona, with the babbling, the inquisitiveness, the cluelessness. (He’s aided and abetted in his first past scene by Colm Meaney as his straight man, standing there like a deer in the headlights while Data asks for the etymology of the phrase “burning the midnight oil.”) Meanwhile, future-Data is more relaxed, uses contractions, employs less stilted gestures, and smiles more naturally. (He also has a lovely line where he says he keeps Jessel around because she makes him laugh.)
In the end, the human race is (of course) saved, everyone’s back in place, and we end with one of TNG’s signature tropes, the poker game, with Picard finally being dealt in.
Sure the technobabble is mostly nonsense, the test is patently ridiculous and doesn’t really prove much of anything, but who cares? It’s the perfect ending to the show, and that’s what matters.
* True, it did have the coolness factor of showing us Robert April, but it was still the turn-the-crew-into-little-kids plot. That trick never works.
** It had its moments, but they mistook the end of the war for the end of the show, and wasted a lot of time with Sisko-Dukat nonsense when they should’ve concluded the show with Bajor entering the Federation, which was Sisko’s mission as stated to him by Picard in “Emissary.”
Warp factor rating: 9
Keith R.A. DeCandido’s plan to take over the Internet continues apace, as he now also writes about the New York Yankees for the Pinstriped Bible. Look for his baseball rantings at that site every Monday.