Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Episode Review - Yesterday's Enterprise (Next Generation. Season 3)

For those who are new to my episode reviews, you can find the post where I establish my point criteria here

Overview – A time rift has Picard’s Enterprise encounter the previous ship that bore the same name, having been transported about two decades into the future. The appearance of the older Enterprise vessel causes the timeline to change and has the Federation in the midst of a brutal war against the Klingon Empire. In addition to the war, Lieutenant Tasha Yar was on the bridge of the Enterprise, not having died two years prior. The only person who seems to have any recollection of the previous timeline is Guinan, and she tries to convince Picard to send the Enterprise-C back to restore the timeline.

Tasha Yar is back.

Score: 10/10 – “Yesterday’s Enterprise is one of those special landmark episodes that makes a bold move in the story telling in that it admits that they got something wrong and are trying to fix it. In this case, it was the past death of Tasha Yar. She had died in the late first season episode “Skin of Evil” and both the fans and those involved in the making of the show had felt dissatisfied with it. This was a collaborative effort between Trent Christopher Ganino and Eric Stillwell and it was thought that as well as telling a fun story, it would give Tasha Yar a more meaningful death. What we were given was a great episode that is usually in people’s Top 5 TNG episodes (it’s ranked #4 on mine). We see a much different Enterprise here and the tone is considerably darker than most of what has come before. The amount of detail that went into this new reality was impressive, down to the finer points like having a male voice for the computer and much more spartan sets. The new Enterprise has one function, and that is war. Throw in the mystery surrounding Guinan and the return of a beloved character that many felt was gone too soon, and mix in some exciting battles, and you get a classic episode. These types of episodes where we see the what-could-have-been scenarios play out are always fun. It allows us to see things we wouldn’t expect, such as Riker getting killed by an exploding console. Originally, we were also supposed to see the deaths of Data and Wesley Crusher, but those were cut from the story. That would have been fun and added to the intensity of the final scene, but we still get a good dose of that when Picard mutters “That’ll be the day” as the Klingons demand his surrender and the good captain jumps behind the weapons controls. We also get some great guest stars with Tricia O’Neil as Captain Rachel Garrett and Christopher McDonald as Richard Castillo, and their characters quickly became fan favourites. Overall, this episode is gold on many levels.

The U.S.S. Enterprise NCC 1701-C

Relevance – 3 points. One point scored for bringing back Yar and giving her a death that has meaning. Being snuffed out by a giant, evil oil-slick is not the best death that one can imagine, and Tasha deserved better. Another point is scored as this story ultimately leads to Denise Crosby returning as the half-human, half-Romulan Commander Sela. The third point? Well, it’s likely less epic but definitely noteworthy. This is the episode where Worf gets his first taste of prune juice. His love for the beverage will carry on throughout the rest of TNG and DS9 as well.

Two Enterprise captains meet

Continuity - 2 points. Character continuity is hard to measure in an episode as anything that is different with our characters is going to be attributed to the fact that this is an alternate reality. Still, our characters continue to act in familiar ways, and everything that is slightly different makes sense. Even the absence of Worf and Troi in the alternate timeline makes sense. Worf, being Klingon, is obvious. For Troi, it makes sense that her skills would not be necessary on a warship. Universe continuity is also intact here, but again the differences (e.g. at war with the Klingons) is are easily explained with the time rift. Where I am going to dock them is on story continuity. In the closing scene, where Guinan asks Geordi to tell her about Tasha Yar, Geordi is still wearing the more military-like uniform of the alternate timeline. A minor oversight on the part of the producers, but it is enough.

Look at Geordi's cuffs. He's wearing the wrong uniform.

Character Development – 1 point. OK, this is a hard one for me. Any character development is almost a moot point as whatever happens gets reset when the timeline is restored. So, I will look at it this way, the most development goes to Guinan (not a main character), Picard (but it gets voided when they successfully return the Enterprise-C to its proper time), and Yar (who used to be a regular cast member but is now a guest star). Well, I can stretch it a bit and give a single point here. The impact of this episode will not be truly felt until “Redemption: Part II”, so the minimal impact on Worf’s love a prune juice will get us a single point here.

Worf tastes prune juice for the first time

Social Commentary – 2 points. The actions of the past often have unforeseen impacts on the future. Just as one ship sacrificing itself to defend an outpost could prevent a devastating war, our own acts of kindness, no matter how small, can end up changing someone’s life in a way we cannot predict. In addition to that little message, there is also the theme of second chances that is given here. When Tasha learns that she had died a meaningless death in the other timeline, she knew that she had a chance to make a difference. How many of us would want to do the same? Some food for thought.

Castillo and Yar

Cool Stuff – 3 points. A point for the great amount of detail given in the alternate timeline. New uniforms, new set designs, all of it was cool. Seeing Tasha Yar again was also very cool. I quite enjoyed her character and was sad to see her killed off in Season 1, so any reason to have her brought back is great, and they way they did it was very cool. I also found that having two Enterprises of different eras was fun. Having Garrett and her crew wearing the movie era uniforms was also a good attention to detail.

Riker's fate in the alternate universe

Rank – Admiral (21 points). I cannot fully express how amazing this episode is. It brings a much-needed closure to one beloved character and opens up the possibilities for another. While the tone is dark, the impact is enlightening. If this is not on your Top Ten list of the best TNG episodes, perhaps you need to rewatch it.

A tale of two Enterprises

If you would like to read other reviews from the Next Generation, click this link.

If you would like to read an episode review from any of the Trek series, click the following link to get to the series catalog. If the episode you want reviewed has not been done yet, then feel free to request it in the comments and I will see what I can do. 

Let us make sure that history never forgets the name "Enterprise"

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