Star Trek: The Next Generation – Time’s Arrow, Part II [6.1]

Picard and the crew settle in 19th century earth, where they track the presence of the time traveling aliens.  Data re-connects with his shipmates, and the crew wind up in the cave where Data has his head blown off.  However, returning to the present, Geordi and the others are able to repair Data, but Picard stays behind to help an injured Guinan (from that time period).  Picard is able to send a message via Data’s head that helps the crew defeat the aliens and save the earth.  Samuel Clemens also visits the future and is encouraged by the progress mankind has made in the intervening 500 years.  Clemens returns home and Picard is rescued.

Teleplay by Jeri Taylor.  Story by Joe Menosky. Directed by Les Landau.

Previous Episode: Time’s Arrow • Next Episode: Realm of Fear

Comments:
Time’s Arrow concludes in a way that is perhaps slightly better than it started.  The plot is reasonably imaginative, and makes a bit more sense than it did in the first part.  The set pieces are of course a bit different than what we usually see.  And while Samuel Clemens as a character is still a bit annoying and over-written, at least by now we’ve gotten a bit used to him.

The story has also moved on from being wrapped up in the novelty of Data’s head being found in the cavern.  No longer is the “meat” of the story about Data coming to terms with his own mortality, as if such a thing were very really in question.  Rather, it’s shifted to being about the relationship of Guinan and Picard, unfolding the secret history that we never knew they had.

Unfortunately, in spite of these overall upbeat elements, Time’s Arrow (either part) will never be remembered as a classic, because in the face of so many good Next Generation episodes, it won’t be remembered much at all.  It’s like someone had some far out ideas–Data’s head, Picard / Guinan, strange aliens stealing life energy from cholera victims in the past–but instead of weaving them all into a compelling and gripping narrative, just let them flounder around and spent most of the time making a story about Samuel Clemens having his faith in the future restored.  Jerry Hardin’s performance as Clemens is colorful, and the script gives him some amusing flashes of wit, but at the same time his very deliberate dialog and attention-grabbing performance make him seem like something you’d see at a historical re-enactment rather than a character in a story.  His presence serves no purpose other than to show himself off–he brings out nothing in neither our characters nor the situation.  And all the time that is spent on him results in less development in little things like, say, our cast or the story.

And some of those things could have really stood to have a bit more development.  The aliens are one example, but upon reflection I also wouldn’t have minded seeing a bit more with Guinan.  The scenes between her and Picard in the cave are nice, but in hindsight we know that this is as much exploration of their relationship as we’ll ever see.  I’d like to have had a greater sense of why they are so important to each other.  It’s not that I need all their mysterious backstory revealed in detail, but I think it would have been nice to take advantage of the situation to give them more action together.

Anyway, at the end of the day, Time’s Arrow part II is a watchable episode that I’d rate slightly ahead of Part I, but that still means it’s just “okay”.

Guest Cast:
• Alexander Enberg plays the young reporter at the beginning.  He later plays the Vulcan Taurik on the episode Lower Decks, and the Vulcan Vorik for a few episodes of Voyager.  I spent years thinking that that they were both the same character.

• William Boyett, who plays the police officer, previously appeared on The Big Goodbye as Lt. Dan Bell.

• Pamela Kosh plays Mrs. Carmichael.  She also played Jessel in the show’s final episode All Good Things…  She also played Miss Simpson for a few episodes of Saved by the Bell.

Shout out to the Past:
There have been references by Guinan to the fact that a bald man once was kind to her, and an old man once helped her, etc.  It’s certainly possible to say that this episode is what she was referring to.

Observations:
• The landlady’s pronunciation of Picard’s name is kind of funny.

• Picard’s crew covers up their activities by being an acting troupe playing A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  It’s the first reference to Shakespeare in a while.  Data in particular is kind of funny reading Puck.

• Having the bellboy revealed to be Jack London is cute, I guess, but also maybe a little distracting.

• Geordi gets a good a action moment, elbowing the baddie in the head.

• Funny scene of the characters practicing their Shakespearean play, including Geordi holding the play upside down

• Picard kisses the landlady!

• That male alien keeps getting himself beaten up

• Worf turns up literally about two seconds after security is summoned

• Cute line from Clements:  “Any place that doesn’t stock a good cigar doesn’t rank high in my book.” That leads into an interesting conversation where he interprets the Enterprise’s mandate to explore as a thin guise for expansionist imperialism.  When Troi sets him right, you get this exchange

CLEMENS: Young lady, I come from a time when men achieve power and wealth by standing on the backs of the poor, where prejudice and intolerance are commonplace and power is an end unto itself. And you’re telling me that isn’t how it is anymore?
TROI: That’s right.
CLEMENS: Well, maybe it’s worth giving up cigars for after all.

• Picard sends a message to the future via Data’s head.  This is a clever idea and interesting use of the whole time travel plot.  However, can you really send a message to Data by scratching some of his circuitry?  And he sure seems to have made some accurate deductions about what the aliens meant when she said that their weapons would destroy the earth.

• Clemens says, truthfully, “There’s risk in everything. The point is, it’s the right choice.”

• O’Brien is not in the episode, but he’s on duty.

Dialogue High Point
Most of the dialog is nothing special, but I like Clemens’ response when Picard orders security to look after him.

Security? What for? Are you afraid I’m going to go around stealing things?

And then of course, Worf enters and we get this memorable interpretation

A werewolf!

Previous Episode: Time’s Arrow • Next Episode: Realm of Fear

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