In which Commander Riker displays a surprising lack of breakfastly skill.
Memory Alpha says: The Enterprise discovers a duplicate of Picard from six hours in the future. (Please click the Memory Alpha link for detailed information.)
This is another of those early episodes that I can’t remember ever having seen. I am an optimist; therefore:
Further in ‘stuff I found on Tumblr,’ wrap your eyeballs around this:
(Source.) That just tickled me to bits – though I think Pinkie Pie would be Q’s favourite pony. Picard would prefer Twilight Sparkle.
Okay, enough of that, let’s go and see what actually happens in this episode.
- A technique that they’re using more often for teasers now is showing a brief ‘slice of life’ scene interrupted by the beginning of whatever is going to be the real story for the week. I love this, because glimpses like this built up such a vivid picture of the relationships and community of the Enterprise for me. In a funny way, it’s as if, over a year into their tour together, everyone has started saying ‘okay we’re clearly going to be together for a while; let’s socialise more.’
- So Riker is scat-singing and setting the table for a breakfast party. Strangely, he’s doing food prep over the dining table, and he has to beat his eggs in a weird future-bowl that has no base – it’s just a hemisphere that rocks around on its rounded bottom. Given his lecture on delicious fake meat in ‘Lonely Among Us,’ I’d really like to know whether the eggs are replicated, or whether there is – a glorious thought – a henhouse on the Enterprise.
- And it looks like Geordi and Data brought… a hotplate? In two bits? Riker says ‘Eggscellent – that’s eggsactly what I needed.’
- So for his breakfast party, Riker has invited Data, Geordi, Worf and Pulaski. Pulaski brought beer. Why don’t more people love her? I mean, she calls it ‘ale’ because Star Trek is weirdly Ren Fest about beer, but she still brought beer to a breakfast party, which is so Chaucery of her. Furthermore, in the foreground of this shot is a glass coffee table with more glasses on it and a bottle of wine in a lucite stand. Is this actually a breakfast-for-dinner party (mm, brinner) or does Riker really like to start the day with some alcohol? He also has what looks like a small silvery statuette of a woman with no arms or head and her ass on the front of her body. Don’t just take my word for it.
- Data points out that this isn’t an efficient way to ‘prepare sustenance’ and Riker Siskos ‘No, you’re right, Data. The ship’s computer would be more efficient, but it wouldn’t allow for the subtlety needed for great cooking. It would give you all of the ingredients in pre-determined measurements, but wouldn’t allow for flair or individuality. And Data, as we both know, flair is what marks the difference between artistry and mere competence.’ Is that… a neg? Also, you’re making scrambled eggs over a hotplate your friends brought over. Don’t talk it up too much.
- Pulaski decides to educate Data a bit too, about how ‘the breaking of bread was a symbol of friendship and community. Something we have gotten away from in the twenty-fourth century.’ This seems like an odd thing to say in response to Riker’s spiel about cooking. Should we really take it that friends and family don’t have meals together any more? Of course, I can see that happening in some situations, but only some (e.g. Beverly probably has to put her foot down to get Wesley to just sit down and eat dinner with her, instead of eating in front of his computer).
- From how Riker pours beaten eggs onto a hotplate, we get an odd segue to dropping in some of his family backstory: that his mother died when he was tiny and his father made him cook for both of them. This will actually be relevant before long because I think Riker’s dad shows up in the next episode. They really were reaching towards continuity more than I remembered.
- There’s one of those ‘progressive but in a way not really’ bits, as Worf says ‘It is my understanding that in most human families, the woman shares in the cooking.’ So, progressive, yes, in the idea that family cooking isn’t all woman’s work any more, but kind of not in the overlooking of the fact that there might be human families formed by two men or two women.
- Incidentally, in defiance of Riker, I am currently drinking my lunch in the form of a meal replacement shake, which really are wonderful when you realise you ought to have a meal about now but feel no interest in preparing or eating actual food. On the other hand, for dinner tonight I’m making this and serving it with smoked salmon. I do try. I try harder when there are other people involved.
- Data is watching the cooking very seriously – while Pulaski pours the beer. I would prefer a mimosa, but more power to her.
- And there is no hen-house on the Enterprise, because Riker got these eggs at Starbase 73, their ‘last stop.’ This seems to make Geordi apprehensive, and for a moment I thought they were saying Riker bought these eggs back during ‘Measure of a Man,’ but that was Starbase 173. That would have been interesting, though. ‘Monday: nearly got little android buddy deactivated and disassembled; curse this silver tongue. Tuesday: bought yummy eggs at farmers’ market!’
- Why does Riker say ‘For you, Data – something special’ when he’s just serving him eggs from the same pan as everyone? It would be blisteringly adorable if he had actually made him something special (Mickey Mouse pancake!). Dude, Riker, did you even season these eggs while you were beating them? Salt, pepper, a little bit of milk and butter? Chopped parsley if you’re feeling posh? Of course, if this is just the kind of bachelor cooking you did as a kid for your dad, okay, but you did invite your friends over and set the table and make a big deal about flair.
- Then he tries to coax an android to eat eggs by saying ‘Don’t be afraid. They won’t bite you.’ Not that Riker couldn’t coax me into an awful lot of things, but… Wisely, Data does not react.
- ‘A cook is only as good as his ingredients,’ Riker says, belatedly trying to cover his ass in case his eggs are horrible – as Geordi and Kate certainly seem to think. Even Data looks troubled. But Worf is very happy. And Riker gets to ditch his guests with the clean-up because Picard calls him to the bridge.
- I notice Data has followed Riker to the bridge, although Picard didn’t ask for him. Oh, so has Worf. I guess they didn’t want to help with the dishes (though I imagine Worf finished all the unwanted eggs in three mighty chorfs). Anyway, the strange thing is that they’ve found a Federation shuttle floating around on its own, far from any known Federation ship’s position. There’s a live humanoid on board, although the power’s off so they can’t talk to that person, so they decide to see who it is by intercepting the thing.
- So they tractor-beam it into their shuttle-bay, and things are getting spooky, because it’s one of their own shuttles. The El-Baz. But the El-Baz is parked right over there. And inside the recovered El-Baz is… Captain Picard.
- Establishing a running theme of ‘people tagging along when they weren’t requested,’ Riker asks Picard to come and see his double and bring Data; Picard turns up with Data and Deanna Troi. Now why wasn’t Deanna invited to the breakfast party? Would it have been uncomfortable, given that she’s probably had quite a few breakfasts with Riker, under rather different circumstances? Why is Deanna here now, when she wasn’t called for? I’m going to go with my preferred explanation for any unexplained appearance by Deanna: she’s just nosy. It’s as good a reason as any to go exploring space.
- Interesting that when Pulaski, examining Picard 2, comments that his brain-waves are strange, Picard asks ‘In what way? Non-human? Artificial?’ Clearly he’s thinking in terms of replicants, and possibly ‘What Are Little Girls Made Of?’, one of the more creepily-titled TOS episodes. (Also, how much does that episode suck for Christine Chapel? One reason why I’d like both Chapel and Rand to show up in the next reboot movie [besides the fact that the crew cast, to date, is a sausage fest and there need to be some more women alongside Uhura for balance] is because I hope they’ll get to have some cool adventures, particularly ones that don’t involve finding out their long-lost fiancés are androids or just generally being rejected or overlooked by every man they like.)
- Deanna justifies her presence by giving a read on Picard 2. There’s an interesting bit where, as Picard approaches her, he smiles hopefully, then becomes more serious as he sees how serious she is and asks ‘Counselor?’ Picard is disturbed to hear that as far as Deanna can tell while he’s unconscious, the double is him.
- Anyway, the reason Riker asked for Data was because Data’s the brainiest so they need him to download and read the shuttle’s logs. That doesn’t sound like a job requiring the attention of the Ship’s Nerd to me, but whatever. The shuttlecraft’s primary and back-up batteries are totally flat, so Data’s going to have to connect it to the Enterprise’s power supply – and for that, Geordi is summoned from Engineering. You need the Chief Engineer to come all the way down to the shuttlebay to, basically, plug in an extension cord? Make Wesley do it. Gosh.
- (It does turn out to be more complicated than that, but there’s no way they could have known it at this stage.)
- Picard starts to leave for Sickbay, but Riker calls him back, pointing out some minor black scuff-marks on the El-Baz 2‘s hull that we’re told look like damage from an antimatter explosion, just out of range of the shuttle. It looks more like someone in the props department gave it a few kicks wearing shoes with cheap black plastic soles (like my awesome two-tone wing-tips that leave scuffs on the kitchen lino).
- Picard going to sickbay means Riker is in charge on the bridge, so they whizz off, with their scanners turned up to 11.
- Geordi gets that extension cord plugged in, but there’s something wrong because the control panel pukes blue sparks on Data. (Geordi holds his hands in front of his VISOR at the brightness. Shouldn’t it have, like, a dimmer?) Weirdly, even though this is a Starfleet shuttle, its power circuits aren’t compatible with the Enterprise‘s, and they’re going to have to rig up a kludge to get it started. Geordi asks ‘Data, what do you think is going on here? I don’t mean just with the shuttle, I mean everything.’ Data, sensibly, answers ‘I do not have enough information.’ Sadly, he does not produce his Holmes pipe and suck on it thoughtfully.
- In Sickbay, Pulaski is examining Picard 2, and a nice job is done of a shot in which Patrick Stewart lies in the foreground as Picard 2 while Patrick Stewart enters in the background as Picard 1. You can’t see the strings. Picard 2’s vital signs are peculiar, although he doesn’t seem to have any head injuries. Pulaski puts shimmery force-field restraints on him, ‘for his own protection,’ I guess in case he panics when he wakes up, thrashes and falls out of bed.
- Picard asks Pulaski to wake Picard 2, but the stimulant injection she gives him turns out to have the effect of a shot of sedative, causing an OD, and she quickly has to give him an antidote (presumably, more sedative to counteract the stimulant) Clearly, Picard 2 is a profoundly contrary man.
- In the shuttlebay, Data is figuring out something similar, that the mystery shuttle seems to work backwards, so he and Geordi manage to mend it by doing stuff that should break it. I like how, when Geordi points out that their kludge could be dangerous, Data suggests that he step out of the way, and Geordi reminds him ‘you’re not indestructible yourself, you know.’ Although he kind of turned out to be in ‘Contagion.’ Data’s pleased-and-surprised ‘hm!’ when cranking the shuttle backwards works is delightful. And now that the dashboard clock is on, Geordi can see that this copy of the El-Baz is… from six hours in their future.
- Speaking of which, it will probably never cease to tick me off that Lost didn’t wrap up that bit with the mystery outrigger. It would have taken one scene, Damon. Maybe even one line. You had time to give Richard a stupid boring romantic backstory that didn’t shed any light on interesting questions like how his relationship with Ben developed over the years that they knew each other and worked together or how and why decisions like the Dharma Purge were made, but you didn’t have time to establish who was in the other goddamn outrigger shooting off a gun? Anyway, here the El-Baz sort of is the other outrigger, I suppose.
- So Picard 2 is Picard from the very near future, from later the same day. I agree with this episode’s screenwriter, Maurice Hurley (HURLEY) that this is interestingly different from the usual kind of time-travel plot where the difference is decades or centuries. We’ve probably all wished that we could go back a few months or years to tell our younger selves ‘Study (x) instead of (y)’ or ‘Don’t get too serious with (Z), you’ll only hurt each other,’ and I personally would love to have a thirty-second rewind feature for all the times when I’ve stood up under an open cabinet door, tried to open a can of soda too soon after it was dropped, or grated the tip of my thumb along with the cheese… what might the later-the-same-day version of you have to tell you, or warn you about? (‘Don’t eat the eggs.’) And is there time for that to make any difference?
- Back in Sickbay, everyone is very perturbed. Pulaski has another shot at waking up Picard 2, who doesn’t speak yet, but seems distressed. Picard stops her giving him a sedative shot (wouldn’t a sedative make him hyperactive?) and asks her to let him remain conscious. (This reminds me a bit of how he thought Wesley should be able to face death awake, back in… blessed if I remember which episode.) Although the cutting of shots doesn’t make it quite clear, I think the two Picards exchange a look; certainly, Picard looks at Picard 2, but Picard 2 may be too disorientated to make eye contact.
- And it’s off to the conference room! Because they have some serious shit to discuss. Data and Geordi couldn’t get a complete copy of the shuttle’s log, because the files are partly corrupted (no real reason why is given, other than that it would kill the mystery plot for our heroes to have too much information at this stage). However, they did get a bit of video showing the El-Baz taking off from the shuttle bay, and shortly after, the Enterprise getting slammed into a wormhole and destroyed. They’ve also salvaged an audio clip of Picard 2 logging ‘I have just witnessed the total destruction of the USS Enterprise with a loss of all hands, save one. Me.’ So why will Picard leave the Enterprise in a shuttle, alone? Why would Riker even let him do that? If they knew there was a crisis, why wouldn’t they try to evacuate the civilians by lifeboat, or separate the hulls (other than ‘we’ve realised that looks silly’)?
- Nobody knows of anything on the route they’re travelling that could cause the kind of disaster they saw in the video. Data, if possible, further cements my word nerd love for him by saying ‘There is not enough information upon which to base a hypothesis.’ And of course there’s the question of whether it’s possible for them to avoid the events of the video, whether by picking up Picard 2 they’ve committed themselves to a loop in which his course of events must happen again, but to the present Picard in his turn. So everyone is very worried, but in that special TNG way where you play it super cool and don’t get sweaty or squirmy.
- Picard, thinking his way through it, says ‘We have to anticipate and not make… not make the same mistake once.’ There’s a reaction shot of Riker beaming appreciatively at the quip. He is such a suck-up.
- In the sickbay (Deanna is still following Picard around, I think equally out of nosiness and because she can feel that he’s considerably rumpled-up in spirit and wants to take care of him) Pulaski explains that time travel has put Picard 2’s body clock out of whack in some way, which is why he’s not talking or getting up, just lying down making faces. I don’t think this is consistent with any of the other cases of time travel in Star Trek, but I’ll accept it for the time being. Anyway, as they get closer to the point in time from which he jumped, he’ll become more lucid and get back to normal when he catches up with himself, so to speak. Picard finds this hard to accept. Deanna gets a clearer impression from Picard 2, that he urgently wants to leave the ship. (Because he thinks it’s his own ship that he’d thought he’d escaped from, or because he realises it’s earlier in the day and he’s not supposed to be here twice?) Anyway, this causes her to gasp and toss her head around in a manner that has given rise to many screengrabs and orgasm jokes.
- Time keeps on slipping into the future, and they’re about two hours away from the projected destruction. I find it quite weird that they don’t at least try to evacuate the civilians, when they know almost for certain that something extremely dangerous is going to happen. Keeping the crew so that they can try to deal with whatever it is makes sense, but what about all the little kids and non-Starfleet spouses and people like Keiko and Guinan who aren’t (currently) spouses or Starfleet but have jobs on the ship? What about the golden retriever puppies from ‘The Child’? If you manage to solve the problem and survive, just double back and pick them up. I know Picard 2’s voice log said ‘with all hands,’ but you could at least try to get around that part. For the puppies.
- There’s a strange bit where, after Picard heads off to Sickbay on the possibility of getting some sense out of Picard 2, Deanna sits there looking troubled, and Riker gives her a Look, and after a bit she gets up as if she’s Made Up Her Mind and hurries after Picard. I’m not sure what her inner conflict is supposed to be here. It can’t possibly be that she doesn’t want to interfere.
- It seems to me that Pulaski has called Picard back for nothing, since although she said Picard 2 was ‘more coherent,’ he still isn’t talking and can’t answer any of the questions Picard puts to him with increasing frustration and intensity. Deanna can feel that he’s still too confused about what’s going on to be helpful, and is full of remorse and fear. Picard 2’s remorse and fear faces are pretty funny.
- When Deanna points out that Picard 2 is afraid, Picard asks ‘afraid of what?’ and neither of the women answer him – they just give him Dramatic Looks. Should we take it that Picard 2 is afraid of Picard and his shouty questions?
- There’s an interesting development, as Picard can’t believe that Picard 2 is the real future him – ‘Except for his features, there is nothing about him that I find familiar.’ It seems to me that he’s resisting the possibility because accepting it would mean that he’s going to let down his crew, and flee from a doomed ship like a coward, as if saving his own life could possibly be worthwhile if he didn’t save any of the others. That’s simply too inconsistent with everything he believes about himself and his sense of duty for him to allow it.
- Once Picard flounces out, the women talk about him and whether he can handle being so het up. Troi has a different interpretation of how Picard sees Picard 2: that he represents ‘Doubt. He’s afraid that seeing him here and knowing what happened to the Enterprise will make him timid, or worse, make him to hesitate.’ I’m not sure that makes sense. Anyway, Pulaski raises the possibility that if Picard seems to be losing his shit, she will have to take him down. It’s interesting how Deanna seems to be protective of Picard here, trying to defend and justify him to Pulaski, who doesn’t know him as well. After that conversation, Deanna flounces out of the room too, even though Picard told her before he flounced to stay with Picard 2, as she should be able to communicate with him before anybody else. I think she just had to make a dramatic exit, because staying in the same room after that conversation would be really awkward.
- Down in the shuttlebay, Picard is examining the Fateful El-Baz. Then in his ready room, he and Riker talk about what the hell is going on (none of the science stuff they know about can explain it, and they make references to the plots of Star Trek IV, ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’ and ‘We’ll Always Have Paris’ in the process) and Riker makes one of those speeches screenwriters seem to really love about how an analytical, strategic person is going to have to give up that way of thinking. Like that hugely irritating bit in Jurassic Park where Laura Dern tells Richard Attenborough ‘But you can’t think your way through this one, John. You have to feel it.’ (If you want a really good read, have a look at And You Call Yourself A Scientist’s review of Jurassic Park.) Anyway, Riker is mentally writing up his diary entry (‘I feel like we really bonded!’) when there’s some kind of Space Thud and they’re called to the bridge.
- And, for no reason, an energy vortex has appeared beneath them! I suppose it’s just one of those occasional random hazards of space – although Hurley wanted it to be Q fucking with them, for further continuity.
- And now, as Picard tries to decide what to do, he’s got the horrible problem of trying to second-guess whether he’s making the same decision Picard 2 did. Anyway, he decides to run away. It doesn’t help. And they’re getting sucked down the Plughole of Space! And both Picards get zapped by a weird blue beam! And Bridge Picard gets zapped again! It appears that whatever lives down the Space Plughole is interested in Picard in particular, so we can see how Picard 2 may have made the decision to flee the ship, hoping that in that way the Plughole Beastie would pursue him and the others could escape – not desertion after all. In character for Picard, the only reason he would abandon his ship would be to save her.
- ‘We may be on a road that has no turns,’ Picard says, but of course he’s hoping that he will find the turn, the opportunity, whatever it is, to head for a different outcome.
- Lovely exchange in Sickbay:PICARD: Release him.PULASKI: Do you know what you are doing?PICARD: No. Release him.
PULASKI: Security to Sickbay.
- The idea that the Plughole Beastie ‘recognised the Enterprise as a life form with me as its brain’ is a bit ‘Spock’s Brain’y, and an attempt to very quickly account for something that would really need quite a detailed explanation. Isn’t Computer the Enterprise‘s brain?
- Anyway Picard 2 is all KATE WE HAVE TO GO BACK and clearly not thinking clearly and won’t tell Picard what the other option he thinks there might be is, because he doesn’t think it would work, and URGENCY.
- And Captain Picard straight up murders himself! Ice cold.
- Why does O’Brien accompany Dr Pulaski to the shuttle bay? He looks as unsure as I am. And very sad about Picard 2 being dead.
- Anyway, I guess on the basis that doing things backwards has worked so far, Picard decides to fly into the Plughole instead of trying to get out. So she simply whizzes through and there are noisy noises and the dead Picard 2 and the duplicate El-Baz disappear before O’Brien’s eyes!
- And everything is all right again! Not so much as a skinned knee or a chipped teacup anywhere on the ship.
- Picard is left feeling quite creeped out, and Riker suggests that perhaps they all imagined it all. Picard suggests that Picard 2 was sent back in time so that a resolution would be possible – which doesn’t account for who or what he thinks was responsible for that sending. Picard is not the type of person to believe in Providence.
- The next episode is ‘The Icarus Factor,’ which reminds me there was an early episode of Friends called ‘The One With the Ick Factor.’
- I think the moral of the story is, don’t let Riker cook you some eggs.
- When I saved this episode WordPress suggested some tags I might like to use: ‘Pinkie Pie, Memory Alpha, Commander Riker, Geordi, and setting the table.’
- Which just sounds like a silly fic prompt. You could write about it in the comments if you like!