For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here.
Episode Overview – (Star Trek: the Next Generation: Season 4) On his birthday, Commander Riker leads an away team where they are overcome by a gaseous emission. When he awakens, he is in the future, captain of the Enterprise, and with no memory of the last 16 years. He is expected to complete treaty negotiations with the Romulans while coming to grips with a future that is almost perfect.
Score: 7/10 – A fun “what if” glimpse into a possible future for our Enterprise crew. These sorts of episodes are always fun as they provide a scenario that changes things without having to stay true to those changes. Seeing another Klingon officer, a Ferengi helmsman (possible foreshadowing of Nog?), first officer Data, Admiral Picard, and Geordi with eyes all very interesting. The nice thing is that just when you think you have the twist to the story figured out, you are given a curveball by the writers.
Relevance – 2 points. This episode draws heavily upon the past. Tomalak, a Romulan adversary from a couple episodes last season, is back and apparently up to his old tricks. A fairly unusual reappearance of a holographic character, Minuet, from Season 1 is quite a clever throwback. In a show such as this, it is difficult to tie into future episodes, but some of the events in the perceived future are quite telling and actually do have a fair amount of alignment with things that are to come. Of a particular note, this episode marks the first of 18 appearances of Patti Yasutake as Nurse Alyssa Ogawa, although she appears as a future version of herself first.
Continuity – 3 points. Character continuity gets a point. This is exactly how Riker would act. Everyone else’s inconsistent behaviour is forgivable as it is not really them. Story continuity works well, as does Trek universe, so each scores a point as well.
Character development – 2 points. This is a strong Riker episode. He deals with a traumatic experience of losing his memory, the shock of learning that not only is he an important captain in Starfleet, he is the widowed father of one son, and the nagging feeling that something just isn’t quite right. Since none of the other characters seen for much of the episode are actually themselves, there is little of their development that is real.
Societal commentary – 0 points. As fun as this episode was, I just could not make a stretch that would teach us a lesson.
Cool factor – 3 points. As with this type of episode, the entire possible future is very cool to see. Whether it is Troi in a standard uniform for the first time since the pilot episode, Geordi not having a visor, or even fine details like the new design of the com badges, all is good. Tomalak being back is cool, as he does more than just appear on the viewscreen. I also thought that the design of the alien Borash was a unique twist on the traditional alien design. It is always cool to have actors display their natural talents, and seeing Riker (ie Johnathon Frakes) getting to play the trombone again is fun.
Rank – Captain (17 points). A good stand-alone episode that allows the actors a chance to play slightly different versions of themselves. I would recommend this for fans new and old to watch.