Future Imperfect (ST:TNG Rewatch, Season Four, Episode 8) Riker Van Winkle

Rewatching ST:TNG after 30 years.

After playing the trombone at his birthday party and passing out on a gassy planet, a gray-flecked Riker awakens in sickbay, where he learns 16 years have passed and he is now the captain of the Enterprise.

After the requisite medical technobabble (virus, amnesia, blah blah), Dr. Crusher tries to usher him to his quarters, but Riker instead heads to the bridge, where he’s startled by the arrival of a Romulan warbird carrying a bearded Admiral Picard and a warmly professional Troi.

Stunned to learn that the Federation is counting on him to finalize a peace treaty with the Romulans, Riker gratefully accepts Troi’s offer to walk him to his quarters — where he gets an even bigger surprise: a trombone-playing boy chirps, “Hi, Dad!”

The story efficiently covers Riker exploring his totally unfamiliar family life, his lingering suspicions about Romulans, and minor technical glitches that at first seem random but then start making sense. Soon an angry Riker tells the admiral to shut up, and he is suddenly in a Romulan prison, with a boy who looks just like his “son.”

This time Riker catches on very quickly that something’s wrong, which prompts yet another plot twist. This final story is touching, and the empathetic response he gets from Riker is good Trek — but they might as well have saved what little money they spent on the final, very cheesy appearance of “Barash.”