Season Five - TNG

Star Trek: The Next Generation – A Matter of Time

Written by Rick Berman
Directed by Paul Lynch

I often wonder if I knew ten years ago what I know now and if I would have made the same decisions. How many of us can say with certainty that if we knew what the future held we still would have followed the same course? It’s an interesting concept for many, and that theme is explored in a somewhat silly way in the episode A Matter of Time.

The Klingon Worf detects a temporal distortion in space while the Enterprise is on its way to aid Penthara IV, a planet that has been hit by an asteroid. When the crew investigates the distortion, they find an object which hadn’t been there a few moments before. The man inside, Rasmussen (portrayed by Matt Frewer), claims to be a historian from the future.

Part of the problem with the episode is that Rasmussen is just plain annoying. He claims to be there to watch a significant bit of history which will occur that day but just seems to stand around making stupid comments to the crew most of the time and being generally annoying. This is a weak story as I can’t see Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) putting up with his annoying narrative.

The idea of the planet in peril is a nice one. As the crew is trying to fix the problems of a “nuclear winter” type caused by the asteroid, Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Although this seems to solve the immediate problem, these actions cause seismic and volcanic activity, making the situation much worse.

It’s interesting to think about trying to solve a problem and causing other ones. Picard must choose between evacuating the entire planet – something that probably wouldn’t be possible in time to save everyone – or trying a risky procedure that could possibly kill everyone on the planet.

Only then does Picard breaks his own rule and solicits the advice of Rasmussen, in an attempt to find out what is the correct solution. The debate between the two men is fairly interesting, as Rasmussen brings up the usual arguments about not knowing the future. What if he does help Picard save millions of lives and one of them turns into a Hitler, or a Khan?

The way Captain Picard acts is extremely out of character for him. It’s hard for me to believe that after all the situations he has been in where many lives were at stake (even on a planetary scale), he is looking for answers from Rasmussen and is unsure of how to proceed. Likewise, I also think it unlikely that Picard would take Rasmussen’s story at face value so easily and grant him the run of the Enterprise. Could you see the Captain of a nuclear submarine or aircraft carrier allowing someone who suddenly appears on his ship claiming to be from the future the run of the ship? I’d be shocked if they didn’t have him carted off in a straight-jacket.

Frewer is being Frewer here. If you’ve seen him in just about any role he’s had (including Max Headroom), then you know what the character of Rasmussen is like. That it takes until the very end of the episode for the crew to figure out that something is amiss really is a stretch. They should all be sent back to Starfleet Academy for re-training if they can be fooled so easily by someone like Rasmussen so soon after almost allowing the Enterprise to be taken over by another race in The Game.

With a better actor in the role of Rasmussen and a few tweaks in the script, this might have at least been an episode I could have recommended. As it sits, it’s nothing worth watching as all I came away with was wondering how these supposedly more-highly-evolved humans of the future could be so gullible.

Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Unification Part II

Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – New Ground

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