Thursday, July 20, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 127 (Time's Arrow: Part 2)

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

I should warn you that I’m going to reveal details in this review that will probably ruin the story of both this episode and the one before it. If you choose to proceed, don’t blame me for ruining the surprise.

Since the end of the third season, Star Trek: The Next Generation has been doing cliffhangers where the end of one season was the first part and the beginning of the next season was the second part. Time’s Arrow II opens the sixth season of The Next Generation, picking up where part one left off. To recap, Data’s head was found beneath San Francisco, despite the fact that an intact Data was alive and well in the 24th century. He was sent back by a freak accident, which the mysterious Guinan seems to know something about. This is because Data was able to locate Guinan in the19th century. Captain Picard, Commander Riker, Counselor Troi, Dr. Crusher and Chief Engineer La Forge go back to the 19th century to find him.

And so the new season begins. Picard, Riker, Troi, Crusher and La Forge have a room, but apparently can’t afford to pay rent. (They all seem to have clothes, even though the entered the era in their uniforms. For some unexplained reason, Riker has a policeman’s uniform.) Crusher has discovered that the aliens are using a cholera epidemic as cover for their attempts to steal human neural energy. The aliens feed off the neural energy and apparently can’t find a substitute for it.

The rescue team (Picard and company) manages to chase off the two aliens, which attracts Data’s attention. A police officer delays the rescue team long enough for Data to get there and join up with them. From there, it’s a matter of figuring out how to use the aliens’ device to get home. When they do accidentally activate the device, it splits Data into two pieces. His head remains in the cave in the 19th century and the rest of his body is sent back to the 24th century. Riker, Troi, La Forge and Crusher go back to the 24th century; Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) follows them; once back on Devidia II, they beam back up to the Enterprise and try to fix Data. Picard stays with Guinan in San Francisco.

While La Forge puts Data back together and attempts to get him working again, Riker tries to figure out a way to get Picard home. He’s given a way to get there, but only one person will be able to return. Clemens offers a solution. Since he’s supposed to be in the 19th century anyway, he’ll go back so that Picard can return home. We’re given another last-minute save here. Picard gets back to Devidia II just as modified weapons destroy the aliens’ lair permanently. Clemens helps an injured Guinan, but leaves a gun, his watch and Data’s head in the cave beneath San Francisco.

It’s an interesting episode that reminds me of “City on the Edge of Forever” from The Original Series, in which Kirk and Spock have to go after Dr. McCoy. The trouble is that Part I had a nice setup, but Part II was a letdown. We had all of this mystery about Data’s head and about Guinan. This episode was just kind of like, “Ok. Here’s what happened” and doesn’t really do much beyond that. There are some funny moments, like learning that the bellboy at Data’s hotel is actually Jack London and that Twain’s breaking into Data’s room allows Twain the opportunity to tell London to become a writer. We also get to see that Guinan is over 500 years old and also that from this episode on, Data’s head will have 500 years on the rest of his body.

There was a lot of explanation missing. For instance, how did the rescue party get clothing? As I said, they didn’t take it from the Enterprise. I’d be very interested to find out how Riker got a policeman’s uniform. Also, although no exact time frame is stated, they’ve apparently been there for several days. Do they have several sets of clothing? If not, how do they wash their clothes? They also managed to come across several copies of Shakespeare’s plays, yet paying rent is difficult. Data at least had the poker money.

On a similar note, after returning to the Enterprise with Twain, Troi escorts him around the ship. She beams back up with her 19th-century clothes, but at some point changes into her regular clothes. There was no mention of her stopping in her quarters to change.

While in the cave in the 19th century, Picard manages to enter a code into Data’s head that will (hopefully) allow Data to warn Commander Riker not to use unmodified photon torpedoes. How does Picard know where or how to enter the message?

I know that I beat up on a lot of the episodes, but this one had its share of bad moments. Alone, I’d have to give this episode three stars. The only reason that I do recommend it is that I recommended the first episode. It’s too bad that you can’t buy both episodes on one tape. You really can’t buy one and not buy the other and as I said in the review of Part I, you can’t get them as part of the same season set. You might be able to find a deal on eBay or if you’re lucky, but I wouldn’t recommend buying this episode without the other.

IMDb page

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