Sunday, May 14, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 109 (A Matter of Time)

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

During the seven-year run of Star Trek: The Next Generation, it seemed like The Enterprise was always rushing somewhere. In “A Matter of Time”, the Enterprise is on its way to a planet that’s been hit by an asteroid. The planet is experiencing a nuclear-winter type scenario and millions are at risk. On the way, the Enterprise detects a temporal anomaly. A small ship suddenly appears and the ship gets a strange message asking Captain Picard to move over.

Once Picard moves over, a man beams in. He calls himself Rasmussen and claims to be from the late 26th century. (He says that he’s from 300 years in the future, but if you do the math, it should be somewhere between 200 and 250.) Rasmussen claims that he’s an historian doing research on the Enterprise. Everyone is to carry out his or her business and simply allow Rasmussen to conduct his research. Picard orders Rasmussen’s ship taken aboard so that the Enterprise can continue with its mission.

When they arrive at the planet, tropical rivers are freezing over. Things look grim. The ship tries to create a greenhouse effect by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but that ultimately makes matters worse. There is a plan B, but it’s very risky. Rasmussen’s presence presents Picard with an interesting avenue. He pleads with Rasmussen for some bit of information to help him, but Rasmussen refuses, claiming that he’s not allowed to interfere with what he considers history. At the very least, it’s not obvious why Rasmussen picked this mission.

Picard ultimately makes the correct decision. However, Rasmussen is discovered for what he really is. It turns out that he’s actually from the New Jersey of the 22nd century. Someone from the 26th century visited his area and was discovered by Rasmussen, who stole the ship and took it to the 24th century. He was planning on stealing things so that he could return to the 22nd century and ‘invent’ them. Unfortunately for Rasmussen, he had set his ship for autopilot and it disappears back into the 22nd century without him.

There are a few flaws with the episode. First off, Rasmussen claims that most time-traveling historians are careful about detection, which is true. (It’s been established in the other series.) Why is Rasmussen so obvious about it? Ok. He was obvious because he was a thief, but shouldn’t that have been a red flag for the crew? It’s hard for me to believe that the entire bridge crew could have been taken in so easily.

Actually, why would Rasmussen be so obvious about it? Shouldn’t a thief be more careful about making himself known? The Enterprise is a pretty high-profile target. If I were Rasmussen, I’d probably sneak in to some minor ship while the ship was in spacedock undergoing repairs and had a minimum crew. That way, I could just take stuff and bring it back for further study. If Rasmussen knew enough to find the Enterprise’s location right before a critical mission, he certainly could have identified some of the more significant things like phasers. At the very least, if he knew everyone’s names, then he had to know that there was an empath aboard. If I was going to pick a date, I would have picked one where she was on vacation.

Also, the Enterprise is in a rush to get to the planet, but they wait so that they can sit around and talk to Rasmussen before bringing the ship in. I’ll grant you that it’s a minor point, but I think it would bother me if I was awaiting aid from a starship and the captain was sitting around talking to someone.

The major problem that I had was Rasmussen. The acting was good, but the character was annoying. Think of that kid in middle school that constantly pestered you about petty stuff. We’re talking about the kid that was almost annoying to actually slap. Ever wonder what happened to him? Rasmussen is your answer. He keeps prodding the crew for details. He hits on Dr. Crusher. He even has to beam in right where the captain of the ship is standing. (I’m figuring that he had to do that to make himself feel important or something.)

There was also no follow up to the episode. It would have been interesting to see what happened to Rasmussen. It also would be interesting to see what happened to the time machine. There was an episode similar to this one in Star Trek: Voyager where a man from our time actually does get his hands on technology well past the 24th century. It might have made an interesting tie-in with this episode.

It’s an interesting episode and could be watched by a non-Trek fan without much confusion. For someone watching the series, it could easily be skipped. I wouldn’t recommend skipping it, though. Despite the flaws, it was an entertaining episode. I just think it could have been written a little better. 

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