Friday, March 24, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 82 (Future Imperfect)

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

There are some movies that keep you in suspense.  You wonder if they’re going to pull something off or if someone will live or die.  TV shows are a little different.  There are certain things you assume, like all of the regular cast will be back next week.  Yes, Star Trek: The Next Generation did mix up the cast on several occasions.  In fact, Wesley Crusher will leave the series as a regular in the very next episode.  However, you can usually tell if a big change is real or is hinting to a big lie.

In “Future Imperfect”, Commander Riker is celebrating his birthday.  Before Picard and Data can join him, the ship’s sensors pick up an energy reading on a nearby planet.  Since it’s near the Romulan Neutral Zone, it warrants investigation.  Riker beams down with La Forge and Worf, only to find increasing levels of toxic gasses, so they signal to beam out.  They can’t due to interference.  Riker passes out, only to wake up in sickbay…16 years later.

Things have changed.  Riker is now in charge of the Enterprise.  Picard has been promoted to Admiral, taking Troi with him.  Data is his first officer and La Forge no longer has his signature VISOR.  Klingons other than Worf are serving on the Enterprise and there’s a Ferengi piloting the ship.  Oh, and Riker’s on the verge of finishing a peace treaty with the Romulans.  The ambassador is Tomalak, who once threatened to take the Enterprise’s broken hull back to Romulus to be hung as a trophy for all to see.  My, how times have changed.

This is where Riker’s BSometer starts going off.  Tomalak starts asking about a secret base.  As luck would have it, this is where the treaty is to be signed.  (Just tell us where it is.)  Oh, and Riker has a son, named for his former captain.  The big tipoff comes when Riker looks up footage of his deceased wife, Minuet Riker and realizes that she was the hologram the Bynars created for her in the episode 11001001.  He goes up to the bridge and calls shenanigans on everyone, even telling Picard to shut his mouth.

Tomalak walks over and admits the ruse.  The holographic image fades, revealing Tomalak and Riker to be in a Romulan facility.  (I find it odd that whenever a holographic image is about to fade, several people have to walk into position.  They can never just end the simulation from wherever they are.)  Tomalak says that they were trying to extract the information from them, but their mind-reading machines are calibrated for Romulans and don’t work so well on humans.

Tomalak throws Riker in with the boy used for the image of Jean-Luc Riker.  At first, the kid is afraid, but he eventually opens up and tells Riker that there’s a secret compartment that the Romulans don’t know about.  The kid, now going by Ethan, says that he was only caught because he had to come out for food.  The Romulans can’t scan the area.  Once again, Riker picks up on the ruse when Ethan refers to Tomalak as Ambassador.  Ethan should only know Tomalak as a captain.

Ethan admits everything.  He’s actually an alien that was left on the planet by his mother.  His home planet was attacked and the mother left the child there to protect him.  She set him up with this nice holodeck that will provide for his every need.  (I can only assume that this includes food.)  Since she knew she’d be hunted, she left him to sacrifice herself.  All he really wanted was an actual, live playmate.  Riker understands, but is eager to get back to his ship.  He tells the alien that he can come, although it’s not specified what, exactly, will happen.  Since we never hear of the alien again, we don’t know.

There are a few things that bother me about this episode.  Some things are understandable while others aren’t.  First, I’ve seen complaints that Commander Riker refers to his fake wife as Mrs. William Riker.  Yes, her name was mentioned, but it was in passing and it’s understandable if he didn’t pick up on it or wasn’t sure of the exact pronunciation.  What got me was that Jean-Luc/Ethan/throwaway alien of the week did the same thing.  Doesn’t he know the full name of his own mother?

Speaking of throwaway alien of the week, the true form of said alien isn’t shown until the actual last minute of the episode.  The costume was horrible.  I understand that Star Trek was known for occasionally having to work within a budget, but this is uncalled for.  We’re talking something you might find at a dollar-store post-Halloween clearance sale.  It’s almost worth watching the episode just to see how bad it is.

The one thing I remember about this episode was liking the fact that the title made a play on the name of a verb tense.  I don’t know what it was.  Maybe it was that the episode aired while I was just starting high school, so that sort of stuff was still fresh in my memory.  That was the only thing I can remember liking about the episode.  It’s one of those throw-away episodes that are heavy on the fluff and light on the meaning.  What are we supposed to take away from this?  Is this supposed to teach us that it sucks to be an orphan, even if were left in this really cool automated daycare?

And that’s another thing.  We have this really nice fancy holodeck.  There’s no mention of anyone going down to figure out how it works.  Wouldn’t it be nice to have a mind-reading holodeck?  I get that it doesn’t work on humans as is, but it could be modified.  It could also be used as the interrogation technique that the fake Tomalak wanted to use it as.

All things considered, it’s a skipable episode.  The only thing I liked about it was basically the flash.  I liked the new commbadges, but that was about it.  If you’re watching the episodes in order, I can’t blame you for sitting through it.  It’s not a horrible episode.  It’s just that I wouldn’t recommend rushing out to watch it. 

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