Written by Maurice Hurley, Kurt Michael Bensmiller, and Melinda M. Snodgrass
Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan
The Enterprise finds a small ship in space. Upon attaching a tractor beam and dragging it into the shuttle bay, it becomes apparent that this is one of their own shuttles. Of course, this is unusual since the shuttle in question is sitting right next to it in the bay. Upon opening it up, they discover an unconscious Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) inside.
But Captain Picard is also on the bridge.
The man inside the shuttle is dazed; stunned; incoherent. All medical procedures tried by Dr. Pulaski (Diana Muldaur) on him seem to have the opposite effect. Likewise, any attempts to re-power the shuttle by the android Data (Brent Spiner) and Geordi LaForge (LaVar Burton) also have the opposite effect. It takes them a while, but they finally figure out that by doing the opposite of what they would normally do, they can power-up the shuttle.
After downloading the Captain’s logs from the shuttle, the crew learns that the Captain Picard from the shuttle witnessed the complete destruction of the Enterprise with all aboard lost approximately six hours from the current time.
This is one of the best depictions of time-travel that I’ve seen in the Star Trek universe (not including the marvelous City on the Edge of Forever in the original series). We have two shuttles and two Picards aboard the Enterprise at the same time. This means he is caught in a temporal loop. That is, he is aboard the Enterprise. For some yet unknown reason, he boards the shuttle and leaves the Enterprise. The Enterprise is destroyed. He is catapulted into the past and is dragged aboard the Enterprise where it starts all over again.
Fearing for the lives of his crew, Picard begins to second-guess all of his decisions. Should the Enterprise keep on with its current course or stop and sit tight for a while? Which ends up costing the crew their lives? When they encounter a strange vortex in space, should he explore it or just skedaddle on out of there?
Though I thought this part of the script portrays Picard as weak, Patrick Stewart handles the job very well. As both the current and future Picard colliding together and wondering about what decisions have to be made, he is magnificent. The doubt surrounding him with each decision is somewhat contradictory to what we just saw two episodes prior in Contagion. In that episode, he talks about doing his duty and later on dealing with the emotion after the crew is eyewitness to another starship blowing up. In this episode, Picard has problems carrying on with his duty, not knowing whether or not his actions will result in the death of his entire crew.
That is both the plus and minus of this episode. Because of what I’ve seen of Captain Picard in only the first and second season up until this point, it’s hard to believe the doubts he has. Had this episode come after The Best of Both Worlds, because of the character build-up on Picard, I think he would not seem so out of character in parts. However, on reruns after having viewed seven seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation the episode does work nicely.
The other actors are supporting Patrick Stewart’s performance here nicely – this is decidedly a “Picard” episode. The exception to this is Diana Muldaur on a bit of overkill as she debates whether or not to remove Picard from command. She seems to want to jump at the chance to do it, and it’s distracting as it lead me to question her motives and wonder if there was another side-story I was missing.
The opening of the episode offers some nice insight into Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) as he talks about his mother dying when he was very young and it being just he and his father for the majority of his life.
Not one of the most spectacular episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but a decent one. it handles time-travel a bit differently than we’re used to seeing in science fiction and keeps the situation mysterious all the way through until the end.
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