Welcome back to Star Trek: The Next Generation. I am doing an episode-by-episode watch, recap, and reaction and blogging about it here. There will be no spoilers for the series beyond the current episode. You can find my prior recaps HERE.
For those of you that don’t want to read the long recap, I provide a quick episode summary here at the top. You can also just scroll down to the “REACTION” heading below.
THE QUICK AND CLEAN SUMMARY:
The Enterprise experiences a time distortion on the ship. Not long after, the ship receives a distress call from a famed scientist who is working in the area of time and gravity studies. Picard assumes that the distortion on the ship is related to the work being done by Dr. Manheim, the scientist. Picard also knows that the scientist’s wife is Picard’s own ex-love interest, Jenice. Picard never properly told Jenice goodbye, twenty-two years earlier, when he shipped out for Starfleet.
The Enterprise arrives in time to save Manheim’s life, though he is still sick and dying with no cure. In any case, Manheim is able to give some advice and Data is sent alone to Manheim’s lab so that he can patch the hole that Manheim created between our universe and another dimension. That hole is the source of periodic time distortions seen on she ship and at increasingly far away distances from the lab. Data succeeds in patching the hole, using anti-matter. Patchng the hole cures Manheim completely. Eventually, Manheim returns to his lab to resume his work and Picard says goodbye to Jenice – properly this time.
THE EXTRA DUSTY RECAP:
Captain’s Log Stardate 41697.5
The Enterprise is going to Sarona VIII for a much-needed shore leave. Picard has allowed himself the luxury of a head start. He is practicing… fencing. The unnamed Lieutenant gets the better of Picard initially. Picard disarms him in their second bout. The confused Lt. asks Picard what technique he used the second time through and Picard says it was the technique of a desperate man. A moment later, the two men have the exact same verbal exchange and it alarms both of them. Picard uses his comm to ask Riker if anything unusual just occurred on the bridge and Riker tells him that they just experienced a loop where things repeat themselves. He ends his fencing match and goes to the bridge.
On the bridge, Worf reports that the phenomenon occurred on all decks. Data reports that the computers were effected too, which indicates that it was not an illusion but occurred in real time. Picard instructs Riker to ask if anything similar happened elsewhere within their sector in space. A moment later, Worf receives an emergency transmission from the Pegus Minor system. The message is from Dr. Paul Manheim. He states that his group is in need of help and that the need is urgent. He provides coordinates. Worf tells Picard that the message is automated – meaning he cannot establish contact. Picard instructs Geordi to lay coordinates as given by the message. Riker tells Picard that he is reacting as though the emergency message is related to the time look experience and Picard says that there is a connection.
Picard tells Riker that fifteen years ago, Dr. Paul Manheim went off to conduct experiments on non-linear time.
Picard: It appears he may have achieved some measure of success.
Geordi announces to the bridge that they have just under five hours until arrival. Riker notes to Picard that he has never heard of Paul Manheim. Picard asks Data to provide Manheim’s bio. Data describes him as a highly respected scientist who advanced several time related theories. Data says though that his theories did not receive wide acceptance. Picard jumps in and tells Riker – and the rest of the bridge – the fifteen years ago, Manheim assembled a team of scientists to expand his research. He says that the scientists disappeared and have not been heard from since.
Picard tells Riker that he did not know him personally but says that he knew of him. The Captain says Manheim was teaching in Paris while he was studying at university there. Picard stands to change out of his fencing attire when Troi says that she wishes to speak with him privately. He says that this is not necessary. Troi more quietly but still on the bridge says that when Manheim’s name was mentioned, Picard reacted with intense emotion.
Picard: Yes, please, get to the point.
Troi: I don’t want to interfere with your personal life but unresolved strong emotion can interfere with personal judgment.
He asks her what she thinks he should do and she says that he generally prefers to suppress feelings rather than to confront them. She suggests that he use the time between now and when the ship arrives to analyze his feelings and to put them into perspective. He thanks her and tells her that he will reach out of he needs anything.
An introspective Picard puts away his rapier and changes into his Captain’s uniform. He asks the computer how long he has until arrival and is told just over two hours. He decides to visit Holodeck 3. Picard – with the apparent intent of confronting a personal memory – sets the holodeck to take him to a specific Parisian cafe, as it appeared twenty-two years ago, at three o’clock, on a warm spring day, and he enters.
In the holodeck, at the cafe, he is directed to a table. Rather than sit at the table, Picard wanders over to stare at his view of the Eiffel Tower. A flying vehicle flies by and Picard sighs, saying that he has been away too long. Picard then begins telling the host that many years ago, he was slated to meet someone at this cafe, at the table he picked out.
Host: Your young lady, she did not come?
Picard: Actually I don’t know. I always imagined that she did.
Host: You, however, did not. Ah.
He takes Picard to the table and tells him that he will bring the Captain something very special, just for him. While Picard sits, he watches two women discuss at another table whether a man is coming. One of the two women says that he is not coming and she says that her friend is making a fool out of herself. The friend leaves but the woman remains behind. After a moment, she notices Picard staring at her and she asks if they know each other. He says no. She says that he is looking at her as though she reminds him of someone and he says that she does.
Woman: He’s not coming. Why? What did I do to drive him away?
Picard: Maybe you did nothing. Maybe he had no choice. Maybe he was afraid.
She asks if Picard thinks that he is afraid of her and Picard suggests that maybe her man is afraid of being connected too closely to her. Abruptly, Picard says that he’s had enough of self-indulgence. He exits the holodeck and returns to the bridge.
Riker informs Picard that they have received communication from a farming colony and from a freighter and he says that both described the same time distortion that they experienced on the ship. Geordi announces that the ship has reached the specified coordinates and he notes that there is nothing here. Word reports suddenly that he is receiving new coordinates and that they are receiving the coordinates as part of a relay system. Geordi tells us that the new coordinates are in a very remote area of space. Picard instructs to set course for the new coordinates.
Riker: Why is he making it this difficult to find him?
Picard: Hopefully he’ll tell us, Number One.
The ship reaches the new coordinates. Data says that they point toward a planet in the binary star system wherein they are now located Picard instructs Geordi to set them to standard orbit around the planet. Worf tells Picard that the planet has a forcefield around it and that the forcefield is impenetrable. Picard instructs Geordi to open hailing frequencies.
Picard announces their presence and a woman replies. She says she is glad they are here and states that she does not know what to do because *he* is having convulsions. Picard asks his bridge officers if they can lock on to the woman’s coordinates and Geordi tells him no, saying that the forcefield is preventing all contact other than audio. Picard is acting somewhat strange and nervous while talking to this woman. He asks her if she can take down the forcefield and she says she will try. When she gets the forcefield down, Picard claps his hands and instructs his officers to lock onto her coordinates. He orders that the two be beamed directly to sick bay. He uses his comms to let Dr. Crusher know that two will be beaming directly up to sick bay. Picard leaves the bridge for sick back, pauses at the door to leave, then calls for Riker and Data to join him.
The woman and Dr. Manheim appear in sickbay. Dr. Crusher rushes over to help as Manheim convulses. The woman tells Dr. Crusher he has been convulsing like this for several hours, at least, and she says that he was in his lab so that she cannot say for sure.
As Dr. Crusher works on Manheim, Picard, Riker, and Data enter the room. Picard stops just past the doorway and the woman turns. She smiles and calls the Captain “Jean-Luc.” She smiles, walks closer, and says she should have known because who else would have charged to her rescue.
Picard introduces the still unnamed former love interest to Riker and Data. Picard introduces the two officers to Jenice Manheim. Picard asks if they can all sit down because he has a number of questions for her. Picard asks her first what happened to the rest of her crew. She says that the others were working at a second lab and that something happened there a few weeks ago. She reports that they were all killed though she does not know exactly what happened.
Data asks her about the nature of her husband’s work. She replies that he has been working on time and says that he has never believed it is immutable anymore than space itself is immutable.
Jenice: Over the last decade, he came to believe that we reside in one of infinite dimensions.
They discuss Dr. Manheim’s theories on time some more. Jenice says he reported that he was very close to proving his theories until the accident. Picard asks Jenice if her husband anticipated that his experiments would be dangerous. She says that she did not think so at the time but now in retrospect she thinks her husband probably did anticipate that they would be dangerous.
Jenice: That would explain the unusual precautions he began taking even before the accident. The forcefield. The elaborate security system. And every time he started a new experiment he insisted that I stay in what he called a protected room.
She goes on to say that her husband would never knowingly hurt anyone but she also says that as he saw his goals becoming possible, he became increasingly obsessive. She suggests that may have clouded his judgment. Finally she addresses Picard, on a personal level, and says that this is not how he imagined seeing her again. He replies that he did not imagine it this way, either.
As Dr. Crusher stands in the doorway listening, she tells Picard that he has done well. She says that Captain of a great starship, on the far reaches of the galaxy, is everything he had hoped for.
Picard: Ah, not exactly. Nothing works just as you’d hoped.
Picard tells Jenice that they will need to send a team down to the lab and she says that will not be possible. Dr. Crusher then speaks up and interrupts, saying to Jenice that her husband is stable and that they would like to run some tests on her as well. Jenice kisses the captain on the cheek and returns to the lab.
Once she is gone, Crusher tells Picard that she believes Dr. Manheim is dying. She says his neurochemistry has been effected and she says that she has never encountered anything like what she is seeing with him. Riker asks how long he has and Dr. Crusher replies, “maybe a couple of days.”
Picard asks if it is possible to speak with him, and she replies that they cannot do that yet.
On the elevator, Data tells Picard that the effects of the time distortion are being felt farther away. Riker states, as the elevator doors close, that without Manheim’s help they will not be able to pose good questions, let alone find answers. Abruplty, the doors to the elevator open. Another Data, Picard, and Riker are outside the elevator, with the other Data telling the other Picard that the effects of the time distortion are being felt farther away. The two Datas look at each other and state that neither of them feel any disorientation. The second Data – who does not get on the elevator – tells the other Riker and Picard that he believes that the Manheim Effect is becoming more pronounced.
In the Captain’s quarters, Riker and Data enter and report that the lab is on the far side of the planet. They say that they have otherwise learned very little to clarify their current situation. Riker and Data both believe that they need to get to the planet and find Manheim’s notes to learn more. Picard asks them about the defense shield that Jenice spoke of and Riker postulates that it was turned off when she lowered the forcefield. He says, otherwise, they will have to deal with that from on the planet. Picard instructs Riker to prepare his team.
Riker, Worf, and Data attempt to beam down. However, the transporter does not work. The transporter operator reports to the bridge that there is a lack of integrity at the landing point and says that he is losing them. Picard instructs the officer to bring them back immediately. The transporter operator, Chief Herbert, manages to get Riker and Data back to the ship. A few moments later Worf returns as well.
Riker: What are we doing back here?
Herbert: You’re lucky you made it back at all, sir.
In sickbay, Dr. Manheim wakes up and asks where he is located. Jenice is relieved to see him awake and tells him that he is on the USS Enterprise. She tells him that they answered his distress signal. He seems confused about having sent a distress signal. Dr. Crusher asks him what he sees and he replies, vaguely, that he has been on the other side and that he has touched another dimension. He says a part of himself is still there.
Dr. Crusher tells him to be calm if he can and he replies that his mind is floating between two places. He says that it is difficult to know which is which. Picard enters the sickbay and announces himself as Captain Picard.
Dr. Manheim: The same one? [Jenice nods]
Picard asks Manheim to explain his work to Lt. Data. Data tells him that he is versed on all of Manheim’s theories and Manheim replies that he is not versed on all of his own theories. Data then explains that he is an android. Manheim says that most of his theories are now obsolete and Data deduces that Manheim has discovered a dynamic energy source. Manheim says that they are using from the planet itself. He says his team learned to enhance and focus that energy. He says that using the energy from the pulsar star and the planet, they were able to open a crack, a window, into another dimension.
Picard describes that crack as the time distortion that they felt. Manheim seems alarmed the distortion is not confined to the planetoid. Data tells him that the distortion ranges at least several thousand light years. Manheim then tells Picard that it must be stopped. He tells Picard that he will give them the correct coordinates to beam safely to the planet so that they can bypass the security system.
Sometime later, in a conference room, Data explains that if what the professor explained to him off camera is correct, they can shut down the experiment, however, they must time their actions to perfectly coincide with another time distortion event. Riker asks if they can predict when the next one will occur. Data says he believes they can predict them. Picard tells Worf to check and recheck the coordinates for beaming down to the planet because he wants no one going down there unless they can be reasonably certain that they can get through.
Just then, Jenice enters the conference room and apologizes for intruding. Picard informs her that she is not intruding because they just finished. The other officers leave Picard alone to speak with her. She tells Picard that she knew he would not come to her, and he agrees that he would not under these circumstances. She then tells him that they have unfinished business and he again agrees.
Jenice: Why didn’t you come to meet me that last day in Paris?
Picard: I was afraid.
She laughs and says she did not want this. When he asks what she says the truth. Picard replies, questioningly, that she wants him to lie. He then makes up a story as to why he did not show up wherein he got the day of their meeting confused. Then he says he went to the wrong cafe.
Jenice: Ah, that’s better. It was raining and you couldn’t find a cab.
She then says seriously that she waited all day. She says it was raining and that it rained the rest of the week after. She tells him that she went to Starfleet headquarters looking for him but he had already shipped out. She asks him for the truth and he tells her that it was fear. He says he was afraid of seeing her and losing his resolve. He says he was afraid of staying and losing himself. He says he was also afraid that neither of his choices were right.
Jenice tells him that for a long time, not a day went by when she did not look up into the sky and wonder about him. Picard then confesses to her that each time he returned to earth, since, his thoughts were filled with her. Jenice tells Picard that she believes he is leaving out his greatest fear – that life with her would have somehow made him ordinary. Picard just responds to this by laughing and telling her that she is wonderful. He asks her if he is that transparent and she replies “only to me.”
Dr. Crusher is alone with Dr. Manheim. He is asleep. Crusher says to him that she wishes she could speak with him. She supposes aloud that he was really something. Troi enters the sickbay to check on him. Crusher tells Troi that nothing she does seems to make any difference. Abruptly, Dr. Crusher realizes that Troi is not in the sickbay to check on Dr. Manheim.
Troi: I thought I was the empath.
The two women leave Dr. Manheim’s bedside and walk to Dr. Crusher’s office. Troi asks Crusher if she is alright and Crusher responds with a question, asking why would she not be alright. Crusher says she has one of the medical wonders of the galaxy dying in her sickbay.
Troi: That’s not what I meant.
Crusher: I don’t think I want to talk about what you mean.
Crusher tells Troi that she cannot compete with a ghost from the Captain’s past. Troi says that the woman is not a ghost. She’s in the here and now. Crusher wisely replies that she may be present here and now but it’s the ghost that the Captain sees.
On the bridge, Data tells Riker and Picard that if Manheim’s information is correct, the next time distortion should occur sometime in the next 27-48 minutes. Abruplty, Crusher calls to sickbay saying that Dr. Manheim is awake and wishing to speak with Picard alone.
Picard arrives. Manheim tells Picard that he is not certain if he remembered all of the security codes. The Captain replies that he will tell his Away Team to be cautious. Manheim then tells Picard that he wants to speak with him about Jenice. He asks Picard, in the event that anything should go wrong, for Picard to take care of her. Manheim confesses to Picard that his wife has had a terrible time these last few years. He says that had they not been so isolated, she might have left him and he never would have known.
Manheim: Perhaps I am not a man who should have a woman like her. She deserves better. [weeps]
Picard: You underestimate her. I know because I once did.
Later, Picard tells Data that he wants the android officer to be an Away Team of one. Data says that seems reasonable, noting that he is himself dispensable. Picard says Data is indispensable. He explains that Data handles the effects of the time distortion better than others. Data seems to agree noting that he seems time as a fixed constant whereas human do not.
Data: Hence the expression, ‘time flies when you’re having fun,’ which until now has always confused me.
Data leaves immediately. As he approaches the lab, it begins firing lasers at him. He manages to leap, roll, and avoid them. He uses his own phaser to destroy the phasers which are shooting at him. He reports the incident to the ship and proceeds forward into the lab. Once inside, he sees an instrument that is supposed to confirm the precise time that the next time distortion is slated to occur. Data reports that according to the machine, the next even will occur in 90 seconds. Data’s stated task is to place a specific amount of anti-matter into the lab’s system to realign it – plugging the hole into the other dimension. Data says that it should work in theory but admits to Picard that he does not know if it will work in reality.
As Geordi gives Data a countdown for adding the anti-matter, a distortion occurs creating two additional versions of Data. The three Datas quickly confer among themselves as to which of them is the correct one to apply the anti-matter. They settle on the middle-Data. He applies the anti-matter and it seems to work. Picard asks Data if the hole is patched. Data replies that closed implies a permanent condition. He offers that it is well patched. Picard tells him well done and orders him to beam immediately back to the ship.
Dr. Manheim is completely recovered to Dr. Crusher’s amazement. Picard arrives in sickbay in time for Manheim to tell Jenice that he feels like he is coming out of a long tunnel. She asks him to describe what he saw and he says he does not have the words to describe it but he does tell her that it is vibrant. He asks Picard about his lap and the Captain tells him that it’s intact. Jenice asks him if they are going back to it and Manheim says that they must. He points out all of the sacrifices made by others and he believes that they owe it to them to complete the work. Jenice tells Picard that they will be going back.
Picard offers Manheim his assurance that the Federation will want to help in any way that it can.
Sometime later, Troi guides Jenice to the holodeck. She tells her that the Captain is waiting for her inside. Jenice is astounded to see Paris awaiting inside. Picard tells her that he wanted to say goodbye properly this time. She tells him goodbye and says thank you for Paris.
Later, the Captain returns to the bridge. His officers stare at him expectantly. Picard ignores them and instructs Geordi to set a course for Sarona VIII and some much needed shore leave. Riker, Troi, and Picard make plans to visit the Blue Parrot Café once they arrive.
It’s hard for me to watch this and remember that Patrick Stewart ‘s Picard is in his forties on this show. He just feels so timeless that it’s strange to put an age to him. Twenty-two years before the filming this episode, Stewart was legitimately a young man. Picard was a young man twenty-two years earlier in the story. I think in my head, he was born looking like Picard, he looked like Picard when he was in diapers, he was a dapper balding small child, he graduated high school as a stately balding chap with a love for Sherlock Holmes and the ability to quote Shakespeare… well, I feel that way because he still looks like Picard 35 years after this show ended.
Anyway, what do I think about this episode? It was… okay. We got a little glimpse into Picard’s background. Picard and Jenice had great chemistry together on camera. Am I surprised that he chickened out of telling someone goodbye? Well… no. It fits. Would Riker have done that? Or Kirk? Or Janeway? Well, no. Definitely not Janeway. But Picard is Picard, and that’s okay.
The time distortions were relatively small. That had the benefit of keeping the time travel consequences at a minimum – which I assume makes for easier writing. On the other hand, it kept the stakes relatively low, too. I was never at all concerned about this problem. That said, the show did some fun stuff with the set and the synth music when Data patched the hole into the other dimension.
Data was great as usual. Increasingly, I want a spin-off set in the far-distant future wherein “Old Man Data” is running Starfleet.
Troi had a chance to do her job a couple of times in this episode and she did it well. Telling Picard to confront his feelings was a good idea. Drawing attention to Crusher’s feelings was also a good idea (it also had the benefit of creating a relationship between Troi and Crusher – and relationships are something this ensemble cast is relatively bereft of.)
Dr. Crusher didn’t nearly kill the entire crew by letting an unknown pathogen onto the ship and she did not fail to do a basic quarantine. That’s a win for that character as far as I’m concerned. I actually liked her a bit in this episode. They humanized her by bringing up her obvious feelings for Picard and they made her likeable by having her handle those feelings well.
No Wesley again. That’s probably a positive.
No mention of the late Lt. Tasha Yar. That felt… odd.
Riker, Geordi, and Worf did practically nothing in this episode.
This episode was mostly just an opportunity for us to see a bit of Picard’s past. There was not much meat on the bone, as they say. I guess that’s okay. The episode overall just feels pretty forgettable to me. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t memorable. Nothing really happened.
The primary guest for this episode was Michelle Phillips playing Jenice. She got her start in the entertainment industry as a member of The Mamas and the Papas. In my not so humble opinion, it was a missed opportunity to not have her sing “Dedicated to the One I Love” at some point.