Written by Brannon Braga and Rene Echevarria
Directed by Adam Nimoy
Back before Star Trek: Voyager went into overkill having episodes where some of the regular cast were put into dire circumstances only to have their apparent doom negated in the end, Star Trek: The Next Generation told some terrific stories while that storyline was still novel. Even more surprising, the episode was written by Brannon Braga. I suppose he figured if it worked once, he should keep using the story idea and beat it to death.
One of these episodes is Timescape. Captain Picard, Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi, Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge and the android, Data, (Patrick Stewart, Marina Sirtis, LeVar Burton, and Brent Spiner, respectively) are returning from a conference in a shuttle to rendezvous with the Enterprise. Deanna experiences a moment when everyone else seems to be frozen while she can still move. After the brief pause, Geordi – who was talking when it occurred – picks up his conversation as if nothing had happened. Only Deanna is aware of what happened. Soon after, the same thing happens in reverse. Later on, they run out of fuel in one of the engines, which then shows having been in operation for 47 days. Soon they are picking up temporal disturbances throughout the system they are in.
When they locate the Enterprise, it seems to be frozen in time, engaged in battle with a Romulan war bird. When the shuttle occupants figure out how to transport over despite the plethora of temporal anomalies in the area, they find some disturbing scenes on the ship, including Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) being hit by a Romulan disruptor blast.
It’s nice to see a section of the cast isolated like this. With just these four actors basically carrying the show, it gives them a better chance to interact with each other and show the familiarity the characters should feel after having served together for six years. It’s not an episode that could have been pulled off in the first, or even the second season.
There’s a warmth between the characters, especially the trio of Captain Picard, Geordi, and Deanna. As they discuss the conference initially, it has the same feeling of a typical office. Captain Picard is relaxed with just some of his senior officers, not needing to maintain an air of authority; he is confident that already exists with those surrounding him.
The only one on the outside would be the android, Data. That’s fine, as Data plays second fiddle for most of the episode here, relegated to the background while the other three seem to actively try to solve the mystery of what has caused all of these anomalies as well as to figure out how to set it right. Data only really rises up to take over for Geordi once he is incapacitated. Spiner does a fine job as a supporting actor here, a part he has not often played in the series.
The effects for this episode are quite good as the foursome wander around the ship in between their “frozen” crewmates. On occasion, I could see people wavering and moving slightly, but there were no overt movements or eye blinking except where it should have been. The four crewmembers investigating the scene must also react to effects that will be painted in later on, such as the disrupter blast crashing into Dr. Crusher’s abdomen.
Adam Nimoy (Leonard “Spock” Nimoy’s son) directed and I think having a director who was acquainted with the series history and the use of friendships throughout the story bolstered Braga’s script. Perhaps this is something missing from his later efforts as well. It’s not enough to tell the story and solve the problem presented here, but the actors and audience have to believe that there are deeper emotions being drawn on except in the case of Data, of course.
It’s one of the finer episodes of the series, and doesn’t have the feel of being mere filler as the series builds toward it’s sixth season finale. Well worth watching, even viewers not well acquainted with the series and the characters can easily enjoy viewing it.