Monday, March 13, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 63 (Yesterday's Enterprise)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

Most of the first two seasons of The Next Generation weren’t that good.  You had episodes like “The Naked Now” that were rehashing episodes of the original series.  Then you had some like “Shades of Grey” that were just being used as filler.  The third season had its stinkers, too, but the quality seemed to be getting better.  One of the better episodes is “Yesterday’s Enterprise”.

The U.S.S. Enterprise is just minding its own business when a vortex opens up.  (It’s funny how vortexes seem to open up when the Enterprise is around.)  Out of the vortex comes another ship, the U.S.S. Enterprise.  The Enterprise from The Next Generation is the fifth to bear the call sign NCC-1701, making it NCC-1701-D.  The one coming out of the vortex is its immediate predecessor, NCC-1701-C.  As soon as it emerges, everything changes.  The Enterprise-D is now a battleship.  Star dates are now combat dates.  (I mean, really?)  Everything is darker and the bridge layout has Riker manning a station rather than sitting next to the captain.  Gone is the Klingon chief of security, Worf.  In his place is Tasha Yar, the former chief of security who had died late in the first season.

The Enterprise-C is badly beaten, which is understandable.  They were defending a Klingon outpost from a Romulan attack.  This explains why history has changed.  In the new history, the Enterprise-C was lost.  There’s no record of them defending the Klingons, who are now at war with the Federation.  Returning the Enterprise-C would surely result in its destruction, but that destruction would be viewed favorably (read: honorably) by the Klingons.  Add to this Guinan, who runs the ship’s lounge, Ten Forward.  Ten Forward exists on both ships, as does Guinan.  The alternate Guinan senses that it’s all wrong and urges Picard to do the right thing.  (It’s actually Guinan’s insistence that gets Picard to even consider it.)

So, the decision is made to send the Enterprise-C back to meet their fate.  At the last minute, Tasha Yar decides to go back with the Enterprise-C.  The reason for this is that Guinan suddenly senses that Tasha Yar isn’t supposed to exist.  All she knows is that the chief of security died a senseless death.  I’m not sure how many times the two met in the alternate timeline.  I find it odd that Guinan picks this moment to get the willies.  Either way, history is set right and the normal Enterprise-D barely picks up what appears to be a ship and go off on their merry way.

This is one of the few cases where I’m going to pick apart an episode I like.  Yes, I’m giving it more than three stars.  Yes, I’m recommending it.  This does not mean I don’t have issues with it.  First, I find it odd that both versions of the Enterprise-D happened to be near the vortex.  Generally, when you have alternate histories, the same characters exists.  If the histories diverged several generations prior to the events of the episode or movie, the odds of the same people being involved are low.  Do you realize the odds of all the parents and grandparents having the same set of kids?  The same sperm would have to hit the same egg billions of times.

Granted, we only have a 22-year divergence here and yes, we do have a character that ended up not dying when she should have, to say nothing of what happened to Worf.  (We’re left to assume that he’s somewhere safe in the Klingon Empire.)  Still, there are other time-travel episodes.  There’s even a two-part episode that sets up how Picard met Guinan.  It’s hinted that a very specific set of events need to occur.  I wonder if those events happen in the alternate time line.  The presence of Guinan was ultimately only necessary to send Tasha Yar back.  I’d imagine that the crew could have come to realize that they needed to send the ship back on their own.

Another thing that got my attention was that it was implied that the Enterprise-C defending the outpost was the cause of peace with the Klingons.  Star Trek VI would seem to indicate otherwise.  I think this was one of those cases where the episode aired before the movie came out.  It’s possible that something happened in the intervening years.

You really can’t watch this episode in isolation.  You really have to have seen the preceding episodes to understand this.  There was an emotional impact of losing Tasha Yar and a certain joy in seeing her return.  There is also a lasting impact on future episodes.  It’s one of those episodes where, if you’ve watched the entire series, your head will start spinning thinking of all the things that should have been and were necessary in the other timeline.

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