Written by Joe Menosky and Michael Piller
Directed by Les Landau
As season-ending cliffhangers go, Time’s Arrow Part I is one that has a good story and weaves a good mystery. The problems with it only really come to light when the sixth season opener, Time’s Arrow Part II is viewed and much of the build-up of the first part feels like a let-down.
The Enterprise is recalled to Earth. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and the android Data (Brent Spiner) beam down to an excavation taking place near Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco. Items in the cavern are from the late nineteenth century. There is evidence that extraterrestrial life existed on Earth in the cavern during that time. Picard is mystified as to why the Enterprise was called back to investigate this until he is shown another artifact – Data’s severed head.
Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) pins down the potential origin of the mysterious extra-terrestrials to Devidia II. The Enterprise heads off to investigate. Meanwhile, the crew, and in particular those who are friends of Data, deal with learning that he will essentially “die” at some point in the future during their time when something causes him to travel back to the late nineteenth century on Earth.
Most mysterious, however, is the reaction of Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) when she learns of the occurrence. She seems almost to sense what is going to happen, despite the fact that she is not telepathic. This is a good part for Whoopi Goldberg, as she is given a lot to sink her teeth into with Guinan for the first time in a long time. How does she propel events and yet not interfere with them at the same time? Goldberg pulls it off quite well, giving Guinan the usual mysterious air about her.
Geordi, Commander Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), and the Klingon Chief of Security, Worf (Michael Dorn) beam down to Devidia II. They find the same indications of an alien presence here that there was on Earth. Deanna’s empathic abilities allow her to sense human life all around them, all terrified.
They think the aliens exist in a different phase than them, sort of like what happened to Geordi and Ro in The Next Phase. (I guess all that techno-babble was a primer for Time’s Arrow Part I.) The only one who has the capability of creating a subspace field to possibly view these aliens is Data. He phases himself, but can be heard through his communicator and sees the aliens all around them. Something happens, and Data winds up in late 1800s San Francisco.
On the ship, they are concerned about Data and are trying to figure out a way to get to him. Riker prepares an away team to travel back in time to where he is. Guinan meets with Picard and cryptically tells him that he must be a part of that Away Team.
In the late nineteenth century in San Francisco, Data manages to beat a group of card sharks at poker and is living in a hotel trying to build a phase-shifter when he sees Guinan’s picture in the newspaper. The literary reception, she is at is also being attended by Samuel Clemens Mark Twain (portrayed by Jerry Hardin) who overhears Guinan and Data talking.
These scenes are terrific, as Data manages to fit in with that society without hardly a blink from anyone. Brent Spiner does a terrific job, both in his stoic portrayal of Data discovering that he “died”, and adapting to life in an unfamiliar setting. Spiner manages to contrast Data’s acceptance of his fate (and even some relief) to the emotional denial portrayed by his friends in the crew.
Jerry Hardin is terrific as Samuel Clemens and will get more exposure in Time’s Arrow Part II. He captures all of the flamboyance normally associated with the colorful author, while not going overboard and making him unrealistic. As a side note, watch for Marc Alaimo, who portrays Gul Dukat on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as one of the gamblers Data faces off against.
The build-up for next season comes as Geordi enacts the phase-shifter and Picard, Riker, Troi, Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) and Geordi see these aliens around them and then follow them into the vortex they created. Viewers are left wondering how Data will “die”, will he remain “dead”, and how will the crew remedy the situation and return to the Enterprise. It may not be a cliffhanger the equivalent of The Best of Both Worlds Part I, but it is a good story and a good place to leave fans hanging for a few months.
Previous episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Inner Light
Next episode in the series (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Time’s Arrow Part II