Written by Kurt Michael Bensmiller and Maurice Hurley
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan
Season 2, Episode 13
Production episode 40272-139
Original air date: April 3, 1989
Captain’s Log: Riker cooks breakfast for the crew, making what Pulaski describes as omelettes, but which are actually scrambled eggs. The eggs are ‘Owon, and Pulaski and La Forge can’t stand them—Data doesn’t even try them—but Worf thinks they’re delicious. Those crazy Klingons…
Picard summons everyone to the bridge, where they’ve encountered a drifting shuttlecraft, that turns out to be from the Enterprise—a neat trick, given that all their shuttles are accounted for. When they open the shuttle door, they see an unconscious Jean-Luc Picard in the pilot’s seat. His life signs are confused, seemingly out of phase. Pulaski takes the other Picard to sickbay where her attempt to revive him with a stimulant has the opposite effect.
Data and La Forge’s attempts to power up the duplicate shuttle also meet with resistance. Eventually, they get the power up and running, and the shuttle’s clock indicates that it’s from six hours in the future. The last visual record is of the shuttle departing the Enterprise shuttlebay, Riker seeing the shuttle off. Both shuttle and ship are near a spatial anomaly, and shortly after the shuttle’s departure from the ship, the Enterprise blows up, all hands lost. This is something that will happen in three hours.
Nobody understands how this happened, as Picard would be the last person to abandon the ship when it was in danger. The future Picard’s reasons for leaving the Enterprise are not made clear. The crew decides that they should not try to alter their course, and they continue toward their intended destination.
Eventually, they encounter a spatial anomaly that looks very much like the one on the shuttle visual record. Picard hesitates, not sure if they should stay and investigate or get away as fast as possible. The decision comes out of his hands when he attempts to leave but it fails—the anomaly has caught the Enterprise. La Forge has to keep the ship at warp seven just to keep the ship still. A probe is instantly destroyed.
Then a light beam zaps both Picards. Troi has been sensing an instinctive presence, and when Worf arms the photon torpedoes, Picard is zapped again. The presence is focused entirely on Picard now, and Troi feels that if Picard leaves the Enterprise, they might be able to break free while the anomaly focuses on Picard.
Of course, that was probably what happened the first time. Picard goes to sickbay and frees the future Picard. The two of them go to the shuttlebay together. The future Picard is obsessed with leaving the Enterprise, even though he’s already seen that it doesn’t work.
So Picard shoots him, thinking that will break the chain. (Points for Alexandrian thinking…) The future Picard was convinced that going forward into the anomaly would destroy the Enterprise, which convinces the current Picard that it’s his best option. So he returns to the bridge and orders the Enterprise down into the vortex. It’s a bumpy ride, but they survive. The other Picard and the shuttle just disappear.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: At one point, the future Picard’s emotions are sufficiently turbulent and urgent that it seems to cause Troi physical pain. Well, either that, or give her an orgasm, it’s hard to tell from the way Marina Sirtis plays it….
Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: It seems that time travel (at least in this episode) makes things work in reverse. Stimulants put you into a coma, and Data and La Forge use, in essence, negative power to get it running. Pulaski describes it as the alignment of the internal clock, and the future Picard becomes more stable as he gets closer to the time period he left.
Oh, and a bit of dirt sprayed on the side is apparently the residue from an antimatter explosion. Who knew?
There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf makes the ridiculous and sexist observation that in human families women participate in the cooking. Given that we later met his human fostermother in “Family,” and she obviously did the cooking, the comment makes a trifle more sense.
I’m a Doctor, Not an Escalator: When Riker says that he has his father to thank for knowing how to cook, Pulaski simply says, “Your father?” She gives no indication that she knows him, even though “The Icarus Factor” will reveal that she and Kyle Riker had a relationship.
Pulaski also has to have Troi explain Picard’s emotional state and his concern about what the future Picard represents—doubt, hesitation, an inability to make command decisions—even though it’s something that’s fairly obvious even to someone without psychiatric training.
Welcome Aboard: This episode’s only guests are the recurring characters of Diana Muldaur as Pulaski and Colm Meaney as O’Brien, the latter in a wholly pointless role, as he just stands in the shuttlebay and reports that future Picard and the shuttle disappeared.
I Believe I Said That: “Release him.”
“Do you know what you’re doing?”
“No. Release him.”
Picard giving an order, Pulaski understandably questioning it, and Picard giving a bluntly honest answer.
Trivial Matters: Picard and Riker mention the slingshot method of time travel used in “Tomorrow is Yesterday,” “Assignment: Earth,” and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, as well as both the Traveler from “Where No One Has Gone Before” and Paul Mannheim’s experiments from “We’ll Always Have Paris.”
Peter David established the unknown intelligence behind the anomaly as being Trelane (from “The Squire of Gothos“) in the novel Q-Squared.
Riker states in the teaser that he grew up with a single father, and he never knew his mother. This will be expanded upon in “The Icarus Factor.”
TNG will do a much better time-loop-and-the-Enterprise-blows-up episode in “Cause and Effect” in the fifth season.
Make it So: “A lot of questions, Number One—damn few answers.” If Star Trek had never done a time-travel episode—well, this’d still be a lousy episode, but it wouldn’t be quite so annoying.
Nothing in this episode makes any kind of sense, especially in the context of Trek‘s previous time travel stories, which wouldn’t be so bad except they specifically mention past time travel notions when Picard and Riker are talking in the captain’s ready room. So why does this particular time travel—unlike any other—have such catastrophic effects on biology and technology? Why is the future Picard so locked into the actions of getting onto the shuttle and leaving the ship that he won’t even discuss it, especially when they’re actions he’s already committed in his past?
Picard is zapped twice with ray beams, and on the strength of that alone, as well as Troi’s feelings, he thinks leaving the Enterprise is a good idea—that simple link doesn’t track at all with future Picard’s massive anxiety regarding getting off the ship.
Plus we never find out what the consciousness behind the anomaly is, nor why it targets Picard. At one point, the present Picard tells Troi that he recognizes nothing in himself in his future self beyond the face, and the problem is, the viewer doesn’t either, and never does, even when future Picard starts talking coherently.
The episode just never makes any kind of sense, and has nothing else to hang onto to make up for it, with the lone exception of a too-short, utterly irrelevant scene in Riker’s quarters at the top of the episode.
Warp factor rating: 2
Keith R.A. DeCandido has a story in a new anthology called Liar Liar that is filled with stories about lies, and also is the author of new novels Guilt in Innocence, part of “Tales from the Scattered Earth,” a shared-world science fiction concept, and the fantastical police procedurals SCPD: The Case of the Claw and Unicorn Precinct. Find out more about Keith at his web site, which is a portal to (among many other things) his Facebook page, his Twitter feed, his blog, and his various podcasts, The Chronic Rift, Dead Kitchen Radio, and the Parsec Award-winning HG World.