3/5/13

Star Trek: Asterisk "Time Squared"

Vital Information
Series: The Next Generation
Episode: S02E13
Air Date: April 3, 1989
Written by: Maurice Hurley and Kurt Michael Bensmiller
Directed by: Joseph L Scanlan

Premise
Picard comes back from six hours in the future to warn the Enterprise of an oncoming galactic toilet.

Review
We start off with a vaguely familiar sight. Granted, it's only familiar because we watched Star Trek: Enterprise first, but it's nonetheless amusing. Riker preparing a meal. He's not in a kitchen; he's in his quarters scrambling up some eggs that he got at a nearby station. Pulaski, Data, Geordi and Worf come to join him. The humans hate it, the android is apathetic, the Klingon loves it. Riker says chef is only as good as his ingredients... but considering he said he was making an omelette and then came out with scrambled eggs... I'm putting the blame squarely on his shoulders.

It doesn't take long before an emergency comes around. The Enterprise is on her way to the Endicor system when they come across a shuttle in the middle of nowhere. With no warp capability, it's unlikely that it could have gotten there on its own. They take it in to the shuttlebay and find that it's one of theirs... except the exact same shuttle is not five meters away. When they open the shuttle they find something unexpected: Captain Picard. But Captain Picard is on the bridge... Riker calls him down and Picard takes a good look at himself.
"Am I really that bald?"
The unconscious other Picard is carted off to sick bay while Data and Geordi get to work on fixing the damaged shuttlecraft. In sick bay, Pulaski finds that her medication has an opposite effect on the other Picard while on the shuttlecraft, Data and Geordi find that their fixes have an opposite effect on the shuttle. When they finally get the shuttle working, they find that the chronometer reads from six hours in the future. And that can only mean one thing, right? TIME TRAVEL! Further examination revealed that the shuttle logs recorded the Enterprise exploding inside some kind of vortex. Quite unfortunate.

So, now they have to figure out how to keep themselves from exploding when, apparently, it's already happened. The future Picard is still out, coming in and out of consciousness, but, as Troi put it, living in a nightmare of vague images. The good news is that the closer we come to the six hour mark, the better he appears to be. But that's not really good enough when it only takes a few more minutes before they find themselves stuck in the giant space toilet.
As if God himself flushed time down the drain.
Picard reasons that his best bet is to do what doesn't come naturally. But that's a really difficult thing to ascertain, isn't it? I mean, it's easy to know what comes naturally, 'cause you just do it. But what, wouldn't you do? You have to really know yourself to come to that conclusion. His first instinct is to explore, but then he says that's exactly what he would have done the first time, so RUN AWAY! That doesn't work, though. The time train just pulls at the ship even harder. Even at Warp 9, they can't go anywhere. So, they launch a probe and the probe is immediately destroyed.

That' when the space drain reaches out and touches Picard. Literally. A spark knocks Picard off his feet and even hits the future Picard who's still in sick bay. Picard decides that was a personal attack. Troi says there's some kind of intelligence out in the vortex that wants him. Picard decides that if he left the ship, he would distract the intelligence's attention so the Enterprise could get away. Realizing this must have been Future Picard's plan, he goes to sick bay and orders him released. Future Picard is now much more aware of his surroundings, but not so much so. He heads to the shuttle bay with a single-minded purpose.
"So, what do you think? Rogaine, or...?"
When they get to the shuttle bay, Future Picard starts to get into the shuttle, but Regular Picard insists there must be another way. Future Picard kind of alludes to another way, but dismisses it as a terrible idea. Picard, figuring out what that other way is, shoots Future Picard before he can take the shuttle so as to end the cycle. Picard then goes back to the bridge and orders the Enterprise to go straight into the vortex. Future Picard and his shuttle disappear, and then they come out the other side safely and are back on their course to the Endicor system. Later, Picard remembers the quote, "If you travel far enough you'll meet yourself." He says that, having experienced that, it's not something he'd like to repeat. Now, what all this has to do with Riker preparing eggs, I'll never know.

Overall Thoughts
This is a fun episode if for no other reason than the fact that there are two Picards and one has gone crazy. It's also a nice lesson on letting go and sometimes just letting things happen, even if you're scared. This is a lesson I know a lot of people need to learn. I would like to know more about that vortex, though, and exactly what the intelligence was behind it. But, then again, I guess there are some mysteries we'll never know.