Picard finds himself mysteriously moving back and forth between three different eras of his life: the day when he first came aboard the Enterprise as Captain, far future when he is long-retired, and the “present day.” In all three time frames he becomes aware of a mysterious anomaly in space that threatens to destroy the universe. He is also told by Q that he must solve this mystery in order to prove that humanity is worthy to exist. Eventually, Picard realizes that his actions in the three time zones have led to the creation of the anomaly in the first place. This realization allows Q to undo the effects of the three frames and restore Picard to his proper place. Picard shares what he learned about potential unpleasantries in the futures of his crew so that they can avoid them (incuding Worf and Riker having a falling out over their mutual attraction to Troi).
Written by Ronald D. Moore & Brannon Braga. Directed by Winrich Kolbe.
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And so, after a fairly unsatisfying last third or so of this final season of Next Generation, we come to this, the final episode of series ever, and it’s one of the very best. Or at the very least, one of the most satisfying, some holes in logic notwithstanding.
The episode uses the three timelines to celebrate the series’ history and to explore its future (or potential future, anyway). This is the sort of exercise that could easily crush the episode under the weight of its own nostalgia, but the story is able to celebrate the series’ history without being bogged down by it. Indeed, this is one of the best things about the episode. We enjoy the visits to the past–with things like returning characters Tasha Yar and Miles O’Brien–but never lose sight of the future, or the story the episode is trying to tell. For my money, one of the best examples of this is near the beginning, when Picard begins to see the over-cooked figures from the courtroom scene back in Encounter at Farpoint. The revelation that the trial from that episode never ended is a bit of a storytelling masterstroke, and connects the origins of the show with everything we’ve seen since. Indeed, a close runner-up of the episode’s best dialogue is Q’s, “The trial never ended, Captain.”
Of course, the heart of the story is Picard himself, which of course is as it should be. He’s brought to life with one final bravura lead performance from Patrick Stewart. Here, he is really playing two version of the character: the present day Captain Picard (who is essentially the same in both of the earlier timelines) and the older, retired Picard, whose mind is deteriorating because of his mental condition. Patrick Stewart is excellent as his older self, and once again does what he does best, which is making Picard someone who is determined and commanding, and yet vulnerable. This has always been the thing that has made the character special, and been a highlight of many of the show’s best episodes (eg. Family, Chain of Command part 2, Inner Light, etc.)
Though, the episode sort of highlights how Picard hasn’t really changed all that much in the last seven seasons of TV, we do get to see how much his relationship with his crew has grown. The ensemble of characters have gone from young and unformed, to confident and experienced and comfortable with each other–something akin to a family (I have to admit). Of course, we also see a future where they have moved on and gone on with their lives, often not in the way we’d wanted. Deanna has died, Worf and Riker no longer speak, Beverly and Picard were married and divorced, and Picard himself is rapidly deteriorating due to a congenital illness. These touches give the future we see a sad realism.
Though this is Patrick Stewart’s episode, all of the supporting cast have a good moments, none of which are glitzy or feel forced. I particularly enjoyed Jonathan Frakes as the elder Riker, and it’s nice to see Gates McFadden finally getting to play out Picard & Beverly’s story. Also to be commended is Brent Spiner as Data, who is able to distinguish between the three versions of his character without the benefit (for the most part) of the old-age makeup that everyone else has.
If there is a weakness in All Good Things…, it’s just a few gaps in logic in the science fiction premise, to do with this whole time anomaly mumbo-jumbo. It’s not dwelt upon, but there’s definitely an implication that part of the cause of the anomaly is the fact that the three inverse tachyon pulses that were fired into the same place in different times were all completely identical–something that would make sense if they all came from the Enterprise. But of course, the beam in the future came from Beverly’s ship, the Pasteur–which sounds like something that probably happened in a rewrite somewhere. Another point is the fact that if the anomaly is actually moving backwards in time, then one presumes that when the Pasteur showed up, it should have been really little, and when they tried to scan it, it should have disappeared entirely. But of course, then we would have been denied the truly awesome climax where all three crews enter in the anomaly and blow up one after the other in their efforts to save the universe.
In spite of that, All Good Things is the best final episode that Star Trek ever had (although I must admit I never saw the last season of Enterprise), and one of the best last episodes that I’ve seen of any show ever. It really ticks all the boxes that one wants from the finale of a beloved show–a celebration of the series’ history while still telling a satisfying story that moves things forward, giving everything we enjoy about the program a satisfying send-off.
It’s just too bad, in retrospect, that it was followed by Star Trek Generations only a few months later.
• Tim Kelleher plays Lt. Gaines. He had small parts in Voyager and Enterprise, as well as on The West Wing, and the movie Apollo 13.
• Pamela Kosh plays Jessel. She previously played Mrs. Carmichael in Time’s Arrow part 2.
• There are lots of recurring cast members: Q (John de Lancie), Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby), O’Brien (Colm Meaney), Alyssa Ogawa (Patti Yasutake), Tomalak (Andreas Katsulas), and Admiral Nakamura (Clyde Kusatsu).
• I don’t know why I’ve never mentioned her before, but Majel Barrett plays the voice of the Enterprise computer, a part she’s listed online for playing about 93 other times in the series. She also listed as playing the voice of the same or a similar computer 257 times in other Star Trek series, movies, video games, etc. Of course, she was also Nurse Chapel and Lwaxana Troi, among others.
Shout Out to the Past:
Many! Let’s see…
• Of course, pretty much everything from the earliest timeline comes straight from the series’ first episode, Encounter at Farpoint, including the presence of Q, Tasha, O’Brien, baby-faced Riker (even if his footage is not taken from that episode), and everything about the trial.
• We see the next stage of Troi and Worf’s romance subplot (“It was…very stimulating.”)
• Geordi is married to a “Leah” who is the director of the Daystrom Institute. Presumably, Leah is Leah Brahms from Galaxy’s Child and Booby Trap.
• There is a reference to Admiral Norah Satie from The Drumhead
• Data from the earlier timeline is definitely the “awkward Data” we saw a lot in the early days of the show.
• We also build upon the romance between Picard and Beverly which was made possible by the events of Attached.
• Q refers to some of the recurring elements of the series: “Riker’s career, Troi’s psychobabble, Data’s quest for humanity.”
• Probably it’s unintentional, but the conversation amongst the crew about second guessing themselves in the face of a “predestination” conundrum is pretty much the same one they had back in Time Squared.
• Worf is a member of the Klingon High Council, which was sort of predicted in Firstborn.
• Tomolak reappears again after several years.
Setting Up the Future:
• There’s a reference to Federation ships having cloaks, something we’ll eventually see in Deep Space Nine.
• Riker talks about always having wanted to get back together with Troi, which finally happens in the last couple of Next Generation movies.
• Patrick Stewart plays confused Picard at the start very effectively.
• The first time shift is brilliantly directed and edited
• Geordi has become a novelist! He has a nice exchange with Picard:
Geordi: How about Mr. Picard?
Picard: How about Jean-Luc.
Geordi: I don’t think I could get used to that.
• Present-day Picard appears to sleep in a jedi-robe. He hasn’t been off-ship for weeks.
• When Beverly asks Deanna to excuse them, Deanna seems slightly miffed.
• Future Cambridge! Data is a professor, living in Sir Isaac Newton’s house.
• Cute joke about “Tea, Earl Grey Hot!” in future-Picard’s conversation with Data’s housemaid.
• Jessel is funny. “If you’re really his friend, you’ll get him to take that grey out of his hair. Looks like a bloody skunk.”
• Data’s gone a little loopy though, in his quest to be like a human: “Jessel, she can be frightfully trying at times, but she does make me laugh.” And then, about his streak of grey hair: “I found that a touch of grey adds an air of distinction.” Also, Data of the future has lots of cats.
• Young, awkward Data is pretty funny: “It appears that we will be required to ignite the midnight petroleum, sir.”
• Picard and Beverly kiss! About time. “A lot of things can happen.”
• “Data, find the USS Pasteur. I have some pull with the Captain. At least, I used to have.”
• Cute moment when Beverly and Picard both respond to “Captain Picard.”
• Also funny when older Picard gets angry about being patronised, and then decides to go get some rest.
• I like Beverly’s line: “But he’s Jean-Luc Picard, and if he wants to go on one more mission, that’s what we’re going to do.”
• The revisit to the courtroom scene is a good one, and I like the whole thing with Q giving Picard ten questions. Q has some good lines: “I believe my exact words were a dangerous, savage, child race.” “You’re guilty” / “Guilty of what?” / “Of being inferior.” “It’s time to put an end to your trek through the stars, make room for other more worthy species.” And “You obtuse piece of flotsam. You are to be denied existence.”
• Worf has aged a lot in these years, compared to how we later see Klingons aging later in Deep Space Nine.
• Good exchange between Worf and Picard.
Worf: You have always used your knowledge of Klingon honor and tradition to get what you want from me
Picard: Because it always works, Worf!
• “Tea, Earl Grey, Hot,” has not been programmed into the system yet.
• Good to see Tomolak again! “So Captain, how long shall we stare at each other across the Neutral Zone?”
• Well done editing between the three zones as they discover the Anomaly (or not discover it in the future)
• Beverly reprimands Picard — awesome. “I understand that you would never have tolerated that kind of behavior back on the Enterprise and I won’t here. I don’t care if you’re my ex-Captain or my ex-husband.”
• Future Enterprise has a third nacelle. Why don’t you take your wimpy little Klingon ships and go home!
• Sad, Alyssa losing her baby.
• I love the way that Data in the past talks about a theoretical device that could be used to scan the anomaly, leading to Data in the present to use it.
• Guinan doesn’t appear in this episode, sort of thank goodness, because no doubt she’d be used to spill out all sorts of mumbo-jumbo about what’s going on.
• Deanna’s funeral–Riker has turned into an angry old man too (like Picard). “Did I? I didn’t want to admit that it was over. I always thought that we’d get together again. And then she was gone. You think you have all the time in the world, until…yeah.”
• I love it when older Picard sounds like he’s completely babbling to Riker. “When the tachyon pulse used. I mean, I mean when the Pasteur used the tachyon pulse, then, then, we I mean everything started, Will. We set everything in motion. It’s like the chicken and the egg, Will, the chicken and the egg! We think it started in the past, but it didn’t! It started right here, in the future. That’s why it’s getting larger in the past.” Great job by Patrick Stewart.
• Good moment between Riker and Worf, even though it doesn’t really amount to anything. “Worf, we could use a hand.”
• Picard is gives another rousing speech: “All I can say is that although we have only been together for a short time, I know that you are the finest crew in the fleet and I would trust each of you with my life.”
• The drama of the three ships entering the anomaly is great. Great directing, great editing. The containment system going, Picard maintaining his position, it’s good stuff.
• Amazing shot after the explosions of Picard, devastated.
• Good lines from Q in his final scene with Picard as well. “The anomaly. My crew. My ship. I suppose you’re worried about your fish, too,” and “You just don’t get it, do you, Jean-Luc? The trial never ends.” Also, “For that one fraction fo a second, you were open to the options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits yo. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknowable possibilities of existence.”
• Fantastic moment at the end, with Picard playing cards with his crew. “I should have done this a long time ago.”
Dialogue High Point
There are some other good lines, but it’s impossible to look past the episode’s fantastic final scene, with Picard joining his crew for cards.
I should have done this a long time ago…So. Five card stud, nothing wild, and the sky’s the limit.
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