When we all first met the crew of the Enterprise-D, I was an undergraduate living in a dorm at the University of Virginia. Seven years later, I was a Ph.D. student in a dorm at the University of Toronto. I saw the series finale on a channel that was hosting a huge live watch party at what was then known as Toronto’s SkyDome.
When a certain iconic spaceship appeared and blew a hole through a hostile vessel, through my open windows I could hear a huge roar from the 40,000 trekkers watching a few blocks away.
I’ve really enjoyed my ST:TNG rewatch, and I’m sorry it’s over.
The final episode begins with Troi and Worf in casual clothes, discussing a romantic holodeck program. As Troi plans their next date, Worf uncomfortably brings up Riker, but Troi is unconcerned.
As they lean in for a kiss, a disheveled Picard interrupts the moment, demanding to know what date it is — as one does when one has been jumping around in time.
After the opening credits, Picard is a bit calmer, discussing his impression that he had been somewhere else, and whoopsie, he’s standing in a vineyard with a full beard. A greying LaForge (who can see without his visor now) has paid a visit to check on Picard’s recently diagnosed degenerative neurological disorder.
Picard is unnerved by visions of jeering ragged people, and suddenly he is in a shuttle piloted by Tasha Yar, on his way to board the Enterprise-D for the first time.
Back in the present, Crusher confirms something she wouldn’t have noticed if she hadn’t looked for it: Picard has a minor brain defect that could make him susceptible to the illness he was facing in the future timeline.
An admiral ramps up the dramatic tension by announcing a fleet-wide yellow alert, due to something strange happening in the Neutral Zone.
Picard is back in his vineyard looking confused, seeing more jeering figures. Grumpy and defensive, he says he wants to see Data.
With a streak of gray in his hair, comfortably using contractions and expressing (or at least emulating) wry humor, Data in this future timeline is a mathematics professor at Cambridge (and his study is crawling with cats). He offers to use the university’s equipment to confirm Picard’s time-hopping tales.
Suddenly we are with Picard in the past again, as he assumes command of the Enterprise-D. In the modest clump of actors representing a crowd, we see Troi in her blue miniskirt, and O’Brien in red, as they appeared in the show’s first episode.
In this version of the past, the Federation has issued an alert due to a large Space Thing in the Neutral Zone. Picard asks a nervous O’Brien (who feels out of his depth) to do some upgrades in engineering, where we encounter an especially quirky Data, tripping over figures of speech and otherwise missing social cues, as he did frequently in the first season.
Back in the present, Picard checks with Troi to confirm that she remembers the same sequence of events that he first experienced, and that his recent visits to the past are following a different timeline.
In a bit of B plot, Riker asks Troi to a friendly dinner, and is visibly distressed when she turns him down because she has plans with Worf.
Still in the present, Crusher fusses over Picard, worried about him now that she has learned about the illness he faces in the future timeline. Picard says he doesn’t see that future as inevitable, and they share a rare kiss.
He wakes up in the future, and, using the information he just learned from the present timeline, makes plans to visit the Devron System, which in this timeline is under Klingon rule.
A video call to Admiral Riker does not go well; Riker is curt, and will only commit to sending one ship to do long distance scans.
Picard calls in a favor from the captain of the medical ship Pasteur; of course it’s Beverly, who looks quite at home in the captain’s chair. We get just a tiny glimpse of how their relationship went in the future, but the story doesn’t slow down for exposition.
With future Picard out of the room, we learn that his former shipmates are really just humoring him.
Meanwhile, back in the past, Tasha and the crew are wary of Picard’s unusual actions (he decided he wouldn’t tell them about his time-jumping).
Impatient, Picard calls out to Q. And we are back in the courtroom full of jeering figures where Q put humanity on trial in the first episode. Q makes a game out of helping just a bit.
In the present, Picard talks over this new experience with the senior staff, and clever editing ramps up the storytelling. For instance, in the present when Picard orders an incoming communication to be put on the screen, we suddenly cut to the future where we see a graying, frazzled Governor Worf responding to the Pasteur’s hail. Just when things seem to be falling into place, Picard in the future doesn’t see something he’s expecting to find, and Captain Beverly starts to put her foot down.
There’s no villain in this story. The drama depends not just on un-technobabbling the jimberjam in time, but on Picard’s ability to draw on the loyalty and special skills of his crew in three different timelines, and getting them all to work together. It’s very clever time-travel storyline that focuses on the characters.
A big plot hole comes from the fact that Data reports 3 streams of plot contrivance particles coming from the same ship in 3 different timelines, when in fact one of those streams comes from Beverly’s ship. Later a different stream of plot contrivance *anti*-particles do stream from 3 different versions of the Enterprise-D, but that hasn’t happened when Data delivers the line in question.
My guess is that someone up the chain shifted lines around to balance out the lengths of the acts, and didn’t pay close enough attention to the overall storyline. But in truth, I really didn’t mind. I can see where that line *should* have gone.
This was a character-driven story, and all the supporting characters got their moments.
The final scene in at the poker game, with Picard joining in for the first time, and the overhead camera angle fading into a beautiful shot of the saucer section, was just fantastic.
I don’t think I want to rush into the TNG movies anytime soon; I’d like to leave these characters where they are, on the iconic Enterprise-D, enjoying their regular weekly poker parties together.