Written by Jeri Taylor, Joe Menosky, Brannon Braga, and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Les Landau
At the end of the fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, fans were left with a cliffhanger on several fronts. The main one being the discovery of the android Data’s (Brent Spiner) head in a cave below San Francisco in the 24th century. Knowing that Data “died” somehow in the past, I was left wondering how the writers could manage to alter that reality with the head already having been discovered.
Time’s Arrow Part II opens with Samuel Clemens (portrayed by Jerry Hardin) telling a reporter about people from the future in San Francisco. Hardin’s performance is the highlight of the episode, as he gives a terrific performance for a guest star and manages to capture the notorious flamboyance of the author. He also succeeds at the task of making his interaction with the crew of the Enterprise from the future completely believable.
Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) figures out that what seems like an unusual number of deaths from a cholera epidemic is actually these aliens, the Devidians, preying on sick people. There are two aliens posing as a man and a woman walking around San Francisco and somehow draining of those who are ill of their neural energy.
Clemens gets into Data’s hotel room and messes with the device Data has built to detect these aliens. When Data and Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) return to the room, they discover Clemens hiding in a closet. Clemens is suspicious of the pair, thinking they are up to no good.
Guinan is actually not the Guinan from the 24th century, but existing in this time. Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) makes the statement that he knew her species was long-lived, but he didn’t realize quite how long. It’s an interesting piece of the story that really brings together the paradox of Guinan knowing what will happen on this mission, while at the same time Picard is confronted with knowing what will happen in Guinan’s future and is not able to tell her.
But that is never touched on here, and that’s where the episode misses. In their fervor to tell the story of Time’s Arrow, the writers Jeri Taylor and Joe Menosky miss out on many possibilities for the characters. The most glaring for me was this oversight. Picard knows the Borg will overrun Guinan’s world and leave only a handful of refugees behind, plus he knows of the death of some of the survivors in a transport ship (although these events occur during Captain Kirk’s era, they are not seen until the film Star Trek: Generations) but he never shows any conflict over this knowledge. In fact, the subject of her species being nearly wiped out by the Borg is never even brought up, and it would have seemed appropriate, given the close friendship that Picard and Guinan share, that he be at least a little bit conflicted over possessing this knowledge and being unable to tell her.
The story does resolve itself, ending the threat the Devidians present to 19th century San Francisco. The entire build up of the crew of the Enterprise dealing with Data’s “death” in the first part of this episode is negated, and that’s another let-down in many ways.
It being almost a period piece, compliments must go to the makeup and costuming staff who did a terrific job transforming the crew from the 24th century to characters able to blend in 500 years before. The actors pull it off well, and the moments of comedy when they are posing as an acting troupe come off very well and give a good break to the seriousness and fast pace of the rest of the story.
I recommend this episode, but only because you have to conclude the first part of the story, and the terrific acting by Jerry Hardin. It’s interesting to think that some of Clemens’ writing might have been inspired by actual visitors from the future.