The Enterprise inexplicably encounters one of their own shuttlecraft drifting in space, carrying an unconscious Captain Picard from six hours in the future. The crew realize that the Enterprise is destined to be destroyed in a matter of hours, and Picard is wracked with doubt over his decisions of how to avoid it. Eventually, though, they do (and that’s not actually that much of an abbreviation).
Teleplay by Maurice Hurley. Story by Kurt Michael Bensmiller. Directed by Joseph L. Scanlan.
Sadly, Time Squared isn’t as bad I remembered. This is the danger of reviewing these episodes after so much time – I may find I have to re-evaluate my dearly held opinions. I always remembered Time Squared, which I didn’t see on its first airing, but rather sometime later, as a complete waste of effort – a dull, pointless mess that doesn’t go anywhere. Now, watching it again, I find that although it still a pointless mess that doesn’t go anywhere, the trippy premise keeps it from being completely dull, at least for a good chunk of the time.
Part of the potential appeal is that the plot point of barely-from-the-future Picard showing up does have genuine implications on Picard as a character. “Doubt” is brought up more than once, but left unsaid is the sense of failure that he represents – Picard somehow survived while his entire ship was destroyed – a bit reminiscent of The Doomsday Machine in the original series. This could have been genuinely interesting, and there is an effort made. Sadly, it’s nowhere near enough to make the episode actually good.
Actually, watching this story makes one feel like no one was really trying to make it particularly good, at least from a writing point of view. The concept of the second Picard is massively under-utilized by keeping him unconscious or in a daze the entire time. And there is a lot of time spent talking about the Captain’s mental state. Some of that is interesting (for example, the Riker’s input to Picard, although I don’t really agree with it) while other parts just feel like filler (Troi & Pulaski).
To make it worse, there is blatant refusal to actually explain at all what is really going on in the story. No explanation is given as to what is causing the vortex the ship is caught in, or what the “presence” that Troi senses is. And there is a lot of whoop-de-do made in the climax as Current-Picard tries to wrangle from future-Picard what he didn’t do. This turns out to be fly straight into the vortex. The episode treats it as if this is some sort of revelation, but as a strategy it’s not based on any reason or evidence. And even if it was, one Picard didn’t need to chase the other Picard around to come up with it – all he had to do be on the Bridge trying to solve the problem. When the idea of leaving the ship came up, he’d just have to say, “No, we know that won’t work – how about another option?”
Like everything else, there’s no reason given why flying your ship straight into the crushing vortex would result in its survival. In fact, there were a lot of things that the first Picard didn’t do. For example, he didn’t order the ship to self destruct. He didn’t have the ship start doing barre rolls while firing all its weapons in random directions. He didn’t cancel the ship’s meals and order a big karaoke party. Generally, these things aren’t any less crazy sounding than what he did do.
I’ve heard that Maurice Hurley’s intention was to later reveal (in another episode) that this was all caused by Q, just playing his games. That’s as good an explanation as any, I guess, though if that’s true, it’d still make this installment seem as lame as it was.
So generally, it’s still a pretty bad episode. I was just surprised to find I found it more watchable than I remembered – thanks largely to the weight of the premise in the first half, as well as to a nice (though ultimately irrelevant) character scene featuring Riker during the teaser.
Shout-Outs to the Past
References are made to the series’ previous encounters with time travel: the Traveler moving through time (Where No One Has Gone Before) and Mannheim experiment (We’ll Always Have Paris). There is also a reference to using the “slingshot” method to travel through time, as seen several times in the Original Series and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
Setting Up the Future
• Riker’s mentions his father, with hints of the distance between them. Riker’s father will show up later this season.
• That’s a very nice Riker moment at the start, with him cooking. It’s very human and normal. We also get a bit of his backstory, with his mother passing away and references to his father.
• Wesley does not appear in this story
• And that’s as detailed a viewing of the tractor beam as we’ll ever need to see.
• Picard is pretty brilliant to be able to identify those dark smudges on the outside of the shuttlecraft as specifically being caused by an antimatter explosion
• Worf mentioning the moebius seems surprising.
• I think it’s pretty typically Star Trek-y to not try to run away from prophesy’s of pre-determined doom. Maybe in the old days, there were a bunch of stories where people did try to run away only to run straight into their doom. By this time, the trope seems pretty reversed. Maybe it’s time to start double-subverting it. Especially because in Star Trek, these pre-determined things are almost always avoidable.
• Dr. Pulaski is ready to relieve Picard of command a lot quicker than Dr. Crusher ever was. (See Lonely Among Us).
• Picard orders Geordi to fly the ship out of the vortex. Geordi is at engineering. Isn’t there a helm officer on board? Oh well, at least they are shown trying to leave.
• As a special effect, the Vortex is a little too clean, but still pretty impressive looking
• Why on earth does Picard kill the other Picard? That seems completely unnecessary, and perhaps unintentionally indicative of how Picard feels about himself failing. More likely, it’s probably just meant that he tried to just stun him but the other Picard’s weakened condition led to him dying instead.
Dialogue High Point
Nothing brilliant, but Picard has a pretty good line about the situation they are in:
Yes, This is not some rock on the trail which once seen can easily be avoided. This is much more complex.