Written by Deborah Dean Davis, Hannah Louise Shearer, Tracy Torme, Hans Beimler, and Richard Manning
Directed by Robert Becker
Every now and then I come across an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that I swear I haven’t seen before. In actuality, I learn I have seen it – it just wasn’t the least bit memorable.
This is one of those episodes.
It can be called a bad rip-off of Casablanca, because that’s exactly what it is. It seems the writers were shooting for a Casablanca-like story, right down to the reference to the Blue Parrot Cafe at the end. Unfortunately, they fail miserably.
After experiencing a sense of deja vu – or a skip in a moment of time – the crew of the Enterprise are busy trying to figure out where it came from when a distress call is heard. By Picard’s (Patrick Stewart) reactions, it immediately seems that he knows something about the people or experiments involved.
We learn later on that these experiments are being led by a Professor Manheim (portrayed by Rod Loomis) and his wife, Jenice (portrayed by Michelle Phillips) is an old girlfriend of Picard’s.
The main problem (besides the obvious Casablanca rip-off) is that this episode is too schizophrenic. It tries to hard to be a scientific show and at the same time have all this emotional character development for Picard. In his scene where he confronts the demons of his past and admits that he did not go to meet Jenice at the cafe on that fateful day simply because he was young and afraid of having an “ordinary” life, we are given a glimpse into why Picard is the Captain of the Enterprise, sacrificing all for duty.
The only problems with the scenes between Patrick Stewart and Michelle Phillips is that she is a terrible actress. Most of her function seems to be sitting there looking pretty and as soon as she opens her mouth the dialogue seems very awkward.
We see a bit of development in the relationship between Picard and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) as well as she shows so signs of jealousy. Though this avenue is dropped for a bit in the Star Trek: The Next Generation universe, it is interesting as they hint more at the feelings between the two of them.
I found the concept of the futuristic city of Paris to be intriguing when we see it on the holo-deck (which is sort of a virtual-reality room). It was one part of the episode that really grabbed me as I scanned the skyline looking for the differences.
The scientific parts don’t seem to work, however. Terms are thrown around as if they will somehow legitimize what is happening. Manheim finds himself caught between two dimensions, leading to intense pain and sometimes being “out of it” when others are in the room. However, when Picard walks in, his thoughts seem to clear immediately and he is lucid.
The android Data (Brent Spiner) is sent in to repair the rip Manheim has caused in the space-time continuum. For some reason, he must ask Geordi (Levar Burton) to give him a 27-second countdown. I know this is done for the viewer’s benefit, but it would have made much more sense for him to use his own functions to time it.
To reach Professor Manheim’s laboratory, the Enterprise was sent first to one site then led to the real laboratory. It is obvious he went to great pains to make sure he could perform his experiments in secret. Why then, at the end, when Picard talks about the Federation coming and giving him help does he seem to accept it so readily?
Patrick Stewart does give a great performance here, but it is a shame that it is wasted on a poor story and unimpressive guest stars.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Symbiosis
Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Conspiracy
Not the worst of the lot for Season One, but…it’s not my cup of “Tea, Earl Grey, hot.”
It wasn’t as horrible as some episodes this season, but it just didn’t work