Written by J. Larry Carroll, David Carren, Joe Menosky, and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Les Landau
This episode marks the second time in the recent run of episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation that the writers manage to fool the first-time viewer by leading in them in one direction when the end result turns out to be something totally different.
The android Data (Brent Spiner) picks up strange energy readings from the planet Alfa Onias III. The planet is on the Federation edge of The Neutral Zone – an area of space which serves as a border between the Federation and the Romulan Empire – and supposedly uninhabited. Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes) leads a team to investigate. While on the planet’s surface the team is overcome by a mysterious gas. He awakens in the sickbay of the Enterprise 15 years later with no memory of the fifteen years that have elapsed.
Even upon first viewing, I realized that there was no way the series would jump ahead fifteen years and ditch a good portion of their characters. Something else is up. The writers do a very good job of leading us in the direction of believing that someone – probably the Romulans – are doing this to Riker for an ulterior motive.
It is interesting to see what Riker’s life might be like in fifteen years, however. He has a son (portrayed by Chris Demetral) with a wife who died a few years before. It looks believable that the child would be his, making the scenario all the more convincing. Both Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) are still serving on the ship. He is also about to embark on negotiations for a peace treaty with the Romulans, something he now feels incapable of doing.
Dr. Crusher informs him that the memory loss is due to an illness. Riker seemingly believes the whole story without question. The clues are there, but for whatever reason he misses them until his late wife is displayed as a woman he created on the holo-deck (a virtual reality room that would put our current technology to shame) many years before.
Seeing the actors aged fifteen years is interesting. It’s always fun to imagine what life would be like in the future and this is one of those “what ifs”. Frakes’ performance is unspectacular. In light of the tense relationship he’s had in the past with his own father, I would have liked to have seen more of how he would forge a relationship with his own son. Instead we are hit over the head again and again with how much time has passed and what he has missed. That fact could easily be stated once instead of over and over again, giving more time for character development during the story.
It’s nice to see Andreas Katsulas reprise his role as Romulan Commander Tomalak. The writers here seem to understand one of the items missing from the movie Star Trek: Nemesis, and that’s the need to use characters familiar to the fans whenever possible.
Overall the episode is not bad, but it’s just not one of those that will dazzle you. The final resolution feels too much like “and they lived happily ever after” and there is no follow-through on what happens beyond it. It’s one of those “alien of the week” stories that feel just like filler in between the juicy stories.
Casual viewers and non-fans will probably be lost as they will not understand the history between Riker and Minuet, where Tomalak fits into the picture, nor any of the host of other small references in the episode. It’s just not that great to use as a way of introducing someone to the series.
Though not bad, it’s not one I would seek out to watch again. Trying to figure out what is really going on is entertaining if you have nothing better to do, and that’s about the best recommendation I can give it.