Sunday, May 14, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 126 (Time's Arrow: Part 1)

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

The Enterprise is called back to Earth. Captain Picard and Data are called down to an archaeological site, where they're shown several artifacts, including a watch. Picard knows that these things can't possible warrant calling Starfleet's flagship all the way back to Earth. That's when they're shown something utterly amazing: Data's head. It had apparently been sitting there for 500 years, despite the fact that it's still attached to the rest of Data. At some point, presumably in the near future, Data will go back in time and be 'killed' in such a way that his head is left below San Francisco in the 1890s. From this point on, everyone is conscious of Data's presence, abruptly ending conversations when he appears.

Chief Engineer La Forge is able to find a microbe that can be traced back to a planet called Devidia II. The ship goes there to find a cave; upon beaming down, Counselor Troi, an empath, senses a great many people and they're all afraid. There also seem to be aliens who are out of phase with normal time, meaning that they can't be seen, even if the phase shift is only by a few seconds. Captain Picard is reluctant to send Data down for fear that this will be what sends him back in time, but Data's presence is necessary to be able to see the aliens. He's able to phase himself so that he's in sync with the aliens. Using a delay mechanism, Data is able to communicate with the ship and the rest of the landing party, but loses contact after a minute or two. Data finds himself on the streets of San Francisco and the landing party is left to assume what happened.

Data manages to find his way to a hotel, but doesn't have the money to pay rent. Data gets lucky when he finds out that there's a poker game going on. He sells his badge, which has gold in it, for three dollars and cleans out the rest of the players. (If one of the other players sounds familiar, imagine him as a Cardassian. The one doing most of the talking is Gul Dukat.) Data is able to set himself up in one of the rooms so that he can try to figure out how to get back.

Back on the Enterprise, Guinan seems to know what's going on. She had overheard Data before the accident and seemed to know what was going to happen. (Her connection is revealed when Data sees Guinan's picture in a newspaper.) Guinan tells Picard that he has to join the away team; history depends on it. Picard joins the away team. The episode ends with Picard, Dr. Crusher, Commander Riker, La Forge and Troi entering a temporal rift to go after Data.

It was a great episode overall. There were only two problems that I had with it. First, no one seems to notice Data just appearing on the street. The street was somewhat crowded and while not certain, I'd say that it's probable that someone would see him materialize. The second point is that Data has to lie several times during the episode. First, he tells someone that he's a Frenchman. He later tells someone that he's an inventor. Granted, he can't tell someone what he really is or why he's there, but I thought Data wasn't supposed to be able lie. It looks like the writers had to conveniently forget about this for the episode.

Overall, it's a four-star episode. The acting was good and we got to see Jerry Hardin return to the series, this time as Samuel Clemens. (He had appeared in the first-season episode, "When The Bough Breaks".) It's also interesting to see Guinan in the 19th-century setting. Her relationship with Picard has always been a little mysterious, although the two characters won't interact with each other in the 19th century until the next episode.

The only trouble is that you'll have to buy a separate DVD set to watch the conclusion if you're not using streaming.  This will be the last episode of the fifth season with the next episode being the first one of the sixth-season set. I'd recommend the episode, but I though it fair to include this information in the review.

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