Picard, Data, Troi and LaForge are lounging in the back section of a runabout (seen only in this episode), reflecting on a conference they just attended, when they start running into pockets of space where time moves at different rates.
They find the Enterprise-D and a Romulan Warbird frozen in time, apparently in the middle of a battle.
LaForge rigs anti-time-bubble armbands so the crew can board the time-frozen Enterprise-D to see what’s going on.
On the bridge, Riker is on the floor and armed Romulans are looming over him; in a transporter room, Worf has been beaming Romlans to sickbay; and in sickbay, a Romulan has fired a disruptor at Crusher. (Troi doesn’t notice that one of the Romulans in sickbay was only pretending to be frozen.)
Most troubling, In engineering, a warp core breech is in progress — a puffy cloud is bursting out of the warp core, and Data says time is not actually frozen — he can track the explosion expanding very slowly.
Picard has a laughing fit, having drawn a smiley face with his finger in the exploding cloud. It turns out the anti-time-bubble armbands don’t completely protect the wearer; but otherwise, nothing really comes from this plot point.
Next the team beams aboard the Romulan Warbird, with a nice little shout-out to Troi’s involuntary undercover gig (s6e14 “Face of the Enemy“). Troi notes that the Romulans aren’t at their battle stations; rather, they seem to be evacuating to the Enterprise-D. They appear to be trying to shut down an energy beam that seems to have caused the warp core breech on the Enterprise, and there are some unexplained dark spots in the Romulan’s power core, which Data thinks might be organic.
Stuff happens. We see the Enterprise blow up, then watch as time rewinds and the ship un-explodes. LaForge seems ready to treksplain what’s going on, but he’s jumped by an unfrozen Romulan, and then there’s a flash, and he and his attacker drop. (I’m not sure I folllow exactly what happened, but I’m sure it’s related to Plot Contrivance Particles.) Realizing that LaForge is dying, Troi cleverly rips off his anti-time-bubble armband, which synchronizes him with everyone on the slowy-exploding Enterprise (but for the moment he’s safe).
A big reveal comes when Data notes the injured Romulan isn’t really Romulan, and we learn how some of the dots begin to connect.
I can just see the meeting in the writer’s room where someone says, “Okay, so time distortion bubbles. What if they’re caused by aliens who laid eggs in a Romulan ship’s artificial black hole?” and someone else says, “Right, and when Data scans the egg-invested Romulan black hole with his tricorder, that makes the time bubbles loop back and forth,” and a third person says, “Ok, got it. Next item on the agenda, do we want to order Pizza or Chinese for lunch?”
Some extraneous scenes to give Riker more to do develop his dislike of cats and show him with Data testing a time-related aphorism,