Surprise! I’m dropping your son off with you with no notice!
I’m going through “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and reviewing every episode, complete with commentary and a grade from A-F. I’ve also included a score and comment from my wife, who has never seen the show before. There are SPOILERS for each episode below.
“A Matter of Time”
On the way to try to resolve an environmental disaster on a nearby planet, the Enterprise encounters a time distortion. It turns out to be an apparent time traveler in a super advanced ship. The traveler, Berlinghoff Rasmussen, claims to be a historian and wants to observe the crew of the Enterprise going about daily routines. Things are not as they seem, however, as it turns out a major planetary crisis is developing on Penthera IV. Not only that, but Rasmussen appears to be taking things. After Picard tries to enlist Rasmussen’s help in making a decision, a major risk manages to save the planet and all the lives thereon. Rasmussen decides to leave, but is confronted and exposed for stealing various items from the Enterprise. It turns out he is, in fact, from the past and not the future but stole the vessel from a traveler in the future. The ship disappears and Rasmussen is stuck in his future.
Boom! Plot twist! That was a great ending in an episode that made me think I had it pretty much all figured out. From the start I was suspicious of Rasmussen’s story, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. By the end, I thought that he was either actually from the future but not a historian or a straight fraud. But to have him be from the past and in a ship from the future? That’s the kind of twist that both surprised me and made me think it totally fit the episode.
Rasmussen’s character is well-acted as well, with enough mix of eccentricity and annoying traits to make a convincing character. When the twist is sprung at the end, it seems entirely believable for his character to be so underhanded.
The scene in which Picard tries to get Rasmussen to help make a decision to save millions of lives was intense. Picard’s response to Rasmussen saying it would be a shame if all the people died is perfection: “Yes, it would be. It would be quite a shame.” The false smile he has plastered on his face with the delivery just proves again that Patrick Stewart is a phenomenal actor. Well done!
This isn’t in the all-time great tier of episodes, but it is a solidly-acted episode with a great twist and good plot. I don’t really have anything to complain about. Another winner on the time-travel front from TNG.
Grade: A “Just enough of a mystery to keep me interested all the way through.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “It was pretty good. The Rasmussen character kept me guessing until the end.”
As the Enterprise participates in a test for a new technology to facilitate Warp Speed traveling, Worf’s mom shows up with his son, Alexander, for a visit. It turns out she has decided Alexander needs to stay with Worf. As the experiment with Warp goes awry, Worf must struggle with the difficulties of relating to a son he hardly knows and who appears to have some discipline problems. Worf decides to send him to Klingon School, but an emergency cuts off their fight over the issue. When the Enterprise takes damage, Worf and Riker must try to save Alexander before Picard has to pull the trigger to save a colony. Worf, with parental adrenaline, saves Alexander and decides he can stay on the ship with him.
First off, there is a really awesome scene here with Geordi getting all pumped up about making scientific history while Worf and Data are completely not pumped. Geordi tries his best to get them excited, but their deadpan deliveries of their lines was hilariously appropriate. Poor Geordi. I thought it was a cool scientific moment!
Anyway, this episode does a great job combining the plot points in a way that the main plot–Worf learning about parenting–is never overshadowed nor drowns out the secondary plot–new Warp technology. This is a pretty deep episode when you think about it at all, because Worf hasn’t really taken the time to get to know his son (his inability to tell the teacher Alexander’s birthday was a poignant reminder of this). That’s a pretty tough flaw to swallow for a character who is one of my favorites, but the story of “New Ground” helps vindicate him a bit.
Worf continually tries to make what he thinks are the best decisions regarding his son’s health and life, but it seems like he hasn’t always succeeded. The increasing tension from the secondary plot allows us to explore this dimension with some real consequences and tension. The involvement of seemingly the whole crew in Worf’s struggle was contrived at points, but still helpful. Troi’s interest, in particular, seemed genuine and touching. When Worf finally decides to let Alexander stay with him, viewers can breathe a sigh of relief and feel that confidence in Worf is not ill-placed.
Finally, when I was little I loved this episode because of the field trip. I thought it was so cool to get insight into what field trips would look like in the future. Weirdly, they look an awful lot like they do today, but with cooler animals. Who knew?
Grade: A “A surprisingly deep look at the struggles of parenting.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A “It showed us characters in ways we hadn’t seen before and the varying plot points worked together nicely.”
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