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.
The Enterprise crew unwittingly stumbles into a time rift which sets in motion an alternative future in which war has persisted with the Klingons for many years. The only one who notices anything is different is Guinan, who tries to figure out how to revert things to the past. Meanwhile, the future-Enterprise encounters a ship from its own parallel past, the Enterprise C. It seems that because C came to the future through a time rift as well which has disrupted this future because the C would have fought Romulans and perhaps prevented this long war. Ultimately, the C is sent back to its doom, along with Tasha Yar who will die in the line of duty instead of senselessly being murdered.
It’s a convoluted plot, and I apologize for having to take so long to explain it, but it is a good one! The sense of wrongness about seeing the Enterprise as a warship instead of a vessel of exploration is exacerbated by having Tasha Yar in the flesh once more. Guinan knows something is wrong, and of course the viewer knows it too, but the way it develops unfolds a mystery that is both fun and compelling.
Showing off the alternative-future Enterprise is a lot of fun, and it is also interesting to see how the war with the Klingons may have developed had peace not instead been reached. It is particularly surreal to see the bridge crew armed at all times and watch the Enterprise function as a warship.The explanation of having the C die defending the Klingons (ultimately to no avail!), thus showing the honorable nature of the Federation to the Klingons is genius and also provides a lot of great background information.
The only major downfall of “Yesterday’s Enterprise” is its continued moralizing to the extent that it seems a bit like getting the questions the episode raises rammed down viewers’ throats. Is war okay? Is a death in one fashion better than one which is senseless? Is sacrifice of the few for the many good? Should we mess around with time travel anyway? Etc., etc. I normally like the moral questions TNG raises, but the massive number of questions so intentionally raised and dangled past viewers here was just overdone. Overall a solid episode, but just hampered by too much reflection. This is one that could stood by just having the action continue.
Grade: A- “A great episode with just a little too much moralizing.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: B+ “I enjoyed the concept and it was pretty well acted, plus it was fun to see Lieutenant Yar again.”
Data creates another android he refers to as his child. The android picks gender as a female human and her given name is Lal. Admiral Haftel comes to investigate and argues Lal should be given to Starfleet to raise her, but Data counters that he is the most experienced one to do this task. Data’s creative skill is so good that she surpasses him, and as the Federation tries to decide what to do with her, she short-circuits. Haftel tries to help Data but ultimately she succumbs and she suffers a total failure of her cognitive net. She dies saying that she loves Data and will feel enough love for both of them.
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this one, as I remember in the past being bored by it. Maybe it’s the fact that I have a child on the way (well, by the time this publishes I’ll have a newborn!), but this hit me right in the gut. It’s an incredibly touching episode made all the more impressive by the fact that it is headlined by the character without feelings, Data. This was a smart choice by the writers as they were able to utilize the emotional roller coaster of the episode to make Data’s own striving for humanity and emotions all the more interesting.
The mounting drama between Picard and Haftel over the fate of Lal is done very well. Picard, despite chastising Data for his project (to which Data humorously responds that no other crew members have to discuss their procreation with the Captain), sticks up for his own in a fashion that we have come to expect from him. Having Haftel turn from antagonist and villain to co-operator when trying to save Lal is another genius move as it makes him a more realized character while also adding to the emotional gravity of the moment. Haftel’s description of Data continuing to work despite the fact that hope was being lost was gripping.
Really, this episode could be summarized as “All the feels.” An excellent episode, and one which improves upon re-viewing.
Grade: A “An amazingly emotional episode centered around some awesome questions.”
Wife’s Grade and Comment: A- “It was a very good exploration of personhood and development… and Data.”
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