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Silverdawn Watches Star Trek For The First Time

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Season 7, Episode 21 - "Firstborn," or "Alexander the Late"

Firstborn is a story about Alexander and Worf, the bonds between father and son, between the older generation and the new, and the pressure a family places on their own children to uphold their traditions. It is a story about the pride and violence of Klingon society, about the weight of duty and expectation, and the way that weight can crush the shoulders of someone far too young and too innocent to bear it. It's a story about the tension between being a Klingon and being an officer of the Enterprise, and the problems of inheriting the sins of one's father, and his father before him, and his father before him, on and on to the beginning of Klingon culture.

It's also a story about time-jumping Klingons yelling at their younger selves.

No Klingon child is tabula rasa. They are all of them born with the weight of duty around their necks. And it's a sad thing. Alexander is about to come of age. Like any young Klingon, he must participate in a rite of passage, distinguishing him as a warrior and a man. Worf is rather insistent that Alexander undergo the Rite of Ascension, but Alexander--who loves water balloons and science class--will have none of it. He has too much of his mother in him. K'ehleyr told Alexander he never needed to participate in any "silly Klingon rituals," and Alexander has always held on tight to his mother's words as if it were a talisman, staving off the specters of Klingon culture.

Alexander is clearly the most sympathetic character here. I think we're supposed to take Alexander's side after we consider, in retrospect, just how brutal and unfeeling Klingon culture is. It feels almost predatory and destructive to inculcate a boy like Alexander into a culture of violence and bloodshed. I appreciate that the episode avoided making Worf an angry disciplinarian of a father, trying to browbeat his son into submission. Worf really does love Alexander, and I nodded in approval every time Worf took his son's side over the side of his culture.

The two of them come to a compromise by visiting a great Klingon festival--think of it as a kind of Klingon San Diego Comic Con. Except instead of comics, it's about violence. There are street vendors, dramatic re-enactments, some admittedly charming desplays of Klingon opera, and a good time to be had.

The episode took a dramatic shift once K'mtar shows up. Ostensibly a retainer for the House of Mogh, K'mtar saves Worf from an assassin's dagger, and then proceeds to take personal responsibility for the upbringing of Alexander. Worf, understandably, takes umbrage to the way K'mtar insinuates himself into the family. K'mtar comes off as a loyal an decent Klingon, but one obsessed with the old ways. Like some kind of 19th century samurai trying to teach a modern Japanese family the spirit of bushido, his presence in the episode always felt a little bit out of place. As a viewer, I've seen enough TNG to have developed a healthy skepticism for the "sanctity" of Klingon culture.

There's a reason for that. I don't think Klingon culture is particularly sacred or pure. We've seen far too many Klingons resort to deception, betrayal, manipulation, coercion, and cynically abuse their own code of honor to seize power from their peers. So while I couldn't give a fig about Klingon culture, I do care about Worf's culture. Klingon culture is important to Worf because it gives him a sense of identity; it is a pillar for him to lean on in difficult times. Worf is a classic Klingon, one of the rare adherents of the spirit of Klingon culture. He is honorable and loyal, and if Klingon culture gives him a context through which to practice his loyalty, then all the power to him.

Consequently, K'mtar came off--at least for the first half of the episode--like some kind of ultraconservative uncle barging into a relative's family, ordering their daughters to marry this and their sons to study that, all while tapping their knuckles on some holy scripture and declaring, "never forget where you came from!' I am, on my best day, viciously antagonistic toward such people, having known too many of them in my life. Consequently I was ready to write off K'mtar as another zealot of a hidebound culture, trying to mold impressionable children like Alexander into psychologically fractured zealots through a combination of manipulation and shame. K'mtar spends so much of the episode yelling at Alexander, telling him he's not good enough, trying to manipulate him into becoming a warrior, that I ended up hating him.

Then, about three quarters into the episode, K'mtar comes out with the kind of story twist so ham-fisted and bizarre I'd almost dismissed it out of hand.

K'mtar is Alexander. He found a way to travel back in time so he could cajole, coerce, threaten, or manipulate his past self into becoming a great warrior, so that one day, in the future, he might be strong enough to defend his father from his inevitable murder.

I don't think I was prepared to handle a revelation that shocking, and part of me wanted to roll my eyes in disdain at Star Trek for pulling out a twist like this. But the more I thought about it, the more I appreciated this twist. It made a great deal of sense. K'mtar does look like Alexander, for one. He behaves quite like I imagined Alexander would.

K'mtar being Alexander makes his story that much more sad and unfortunate. He really did grow up to be a kid who couldn't resolve his own sense of identity. Unable to reconcile himself with his father's death, he blamed himself for not being strong enough.

Why is it that the best of us are always the hardest on ourselves? Alexander going back in time to fix a problem that was never his to fix is the classic example of a child trying to recover from the trauma of losing a parent. His actions are all in vain, trying to bring his father back from a death he can't prevent, and trying to redeem himself for being complicit in a crime that was never his fault.

There's a really lovely moment at the end when Worf discovers himself father to two sons; he must console Older Alexander while also bringing up Younger Alexander. And I enjoyed watching Worf dispense the right kind of wisdom to both Alexanders. To the Older Alexander, his wisdom was mature and compassionate; to the Younger Alexander, his wisdom was that of the harmless lie. And I liked it. I liked seeing Worf handle his own problems with no outside help, and succeed brilliantly at fatherhood.

There's a whole side-arc here about hunting down the Duras sisters, cameos from DS9, and a few cool scenes of Riker being a badass, but I didn't go into them because they're mostly distractions from the main plot, which is between Alexander, Worf, and Alexander.

"Firstborn" should've been called "Fatherhood," really. It's ostensibly about Alexander's rite of passage in becoming a man, but I think this episode is really about Worf becoming a real father.
"Now, my bright lance, precede me, and lead me to his head."

-Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1942
Posted Sep 6, 17 · OP · Last edited Sep 6, 17
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Season 7, Episode 22 - "Bloodlines," or "Who the Hell is Daimon Bok?"

Does anyone know? Am I supposed to know? Some Ferengi named Daimon Bok approaches Picard via hologram and promises to deliver swift and terrible vengeance. Some fifteen years ago, Picard killed Daimon Bok's son. Picard remembers the event, although I honestly had no idea. Daimon Bok, moved by some paternal Ferengi rage, plots a brutal revenge on Picard by killing his son. Wait, what?

So Picard does indeed have a son by a woman he knew for two weeks while on shore leave, some two decades ago. I didn't know how to feel about this revelation. Picard with a son? What is this? As The Federation Turns? Secret lovechilds introduced late in the season are usually signs of a dying show, or a soap opera. TNG is neither. Consequently I was never comfortable with the prospect of Picard having a secret child. It feels like such a cheap plot device, conjured up in a moment of desperation, as if the show were trying to shake up the legacy of its characters just before the final curtain.

Before I go on, I feel obliged to tell you that Picard doesn't actually have a child, and it was all a fabrication by Daimon Bok. I trust you all know this and it isn't some horrible spoiler. But I didn't know it. I've come to a place in TNG where I can no longer dismiss massive, permanent changes to a character's history. It's the last season, after all. Anything goes.

A lot of this episode's misdirection owes itself to Stewart's brilliant acting as a hesitant, uncertain Picard trying to make sense of becoming a father so late in life. Stewart's performance is so subtle and beautiful that I believed it. He singlehandedly transformed a canned soap-opera plotline into something meaningful and even sweet. I think Picard was just as surprised as the audience was to discover he's a father. So much of this episode focuses on Picard slowly coming to terms with this realization.

It is also some of the most vulnerable I've seen Picard in this show. Service on the Enterprise has aged Picard, and seven seasons on TNG has aged Stewart. I don't know if it's a trick of the lighting or a quirk of makeup, but Picard seemed older and more aged in this episode than any I'd seen.

But for as much as I respected Picard, I admit I didn't care much for his strange new son. Did you know that if you close your eyes, Jason Vigo-Picard sounds exactly like Tom Cruise? That would've been pretty weird. I wonder if Picard discovered his son were Tom Cruise, would he disown him or jettison him into space first? My problem with Jason isn't so much the acting, but that Jason's story is so predictably hammy. He's the son of a virtuous single mother; he lost his way in his youth and earned a huge criminal record. He's flirtatious to the point of being seriously creepy. And he's held a lot of undeserved anger for Picard over the years.

The problem is that I just didn't care. Well, I mostly didn't care. I couldn't get myself to like Jason. I didn't even feel all that bad for him. He was always so annoyed about being on the Enterprise, so touchy around Picard. And I get that he's hesitant to open up to the man who suddenly declares himself his father, but he had no other redeeming qualities. There is one outstanding scene between Picard and Vigo. It happens on the holodeck, when the two of them climb up a rock face and sit on an outcropping. They talk a little bit about life. Picard talks about how deeply he regretted not knowing his father, and how much he'd wanted to be a part of Vigo's life. The scene was sweet and affectionate. I rather liked it.

Still, I was relieved to discover Picard wasn't really the father. Vigo's genetic code had been altered by Daimon Bok in a ham-fisted attempt to make Picard think he's lost his only son. It's the kind of over-the-top villainy and ridiculous capitalism that the Ferengi have been practicing since Season 1. (Oh, THAT'S where Bok came from.)

This sort of storyline isn't really suited for Picard and isn't suited to TNG so late in the show's life. It just feels off. It is the kind of story that doesn't belong in the show. There's nothing especially meaningful about a Secret Lovechild plotline. And "Bloodlines" had nothing ironic to recommend it, no variation on the old, familiar cliche. I almost felt bad for Dr. Crusher, reduced to a tawdry Maury stand-in when she tells Picard he "is the father."

Still, there are enough strong performances by Stewart to recommend this episode. Picard's inner turmoil and introspection are so real they're almost palpable. His scene with Jason Vigo on the cliffside is one of the most personal Picard moments in the season. I'm ambivalent on "Bloodlines." A weak first half and a stronger second half averaged to a largely forgettable, if harmless, episode in which nothing almost happened.
"Now, my bright lance, precede me, and lead me to his head."

-Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1942
Posted Sep 6, 17 · OP
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Daimon Bok first appeared in "The Battle", season 1 ep 8; the one where he tried to mind-control Picard into attacking the Enterprise with the Stargazer.
Posted Sep 7, 17
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Season 7, Episode 23 - "Emergence," or "The Long Train to Nowhere"

Like a train on a mobius strip, the final episodes of Season 7 return to the show's point of origin in Season 1. I'm almost completely certain we've seen this theme of an emergent artificial intelligence play out before. Didn't Wesley accidentally create inorganic nanobots who attained sentience? Anyway, whatever. In "Emergence," the ship malfunctions in weird ways, and Picard nearly dies in the holodeck. The crew spend the rest of the episode figuring out what's wrong, and eventually realize the Enterprise is slowly approaching intelligence.

I mean, that's basically it. I don't know what else to say, because nothing else really happens in this episode. I get the feeling that the writers were so caught up in the central premise of the story ("The ship is slowly approaching sentience") and the clever storytelling mode ("Holodeck as dream sequence") that they forgot all about the basics. Like...antagonists. Or conflict. Or stakes. Or resolution.

I really wish I had more to talk about in this review, but there's just not much here. Major malfunctions on the Enterprise are nothing new, and have been responsible for some of my favorite episodes in the series (see: Disaster). I'm curious about the possibility of the Enterprise becoming sentient, and I did enjoy Data's clever analogy of the Enterprise's internal computer slowly starting to resemble the synapses of a positronic brain. In other words, because artificial intelligence is both spontaneous and emergent, no one could have predicted when (or if) the Enterprise would ever develop intelligence.

It's a little like having all the ingredients for life boiling in a primordial stew, but without the magic spontaneous "something" that turns it all into the self-replicating pattern of coded proteins we call DNA. The premise is fascinating, and the implications of a self-aware, hyper-intelligent Federation starship are potentially horrifying. If the Federation has a real problem with Data, a single human-android, they're going to flip out if they discover the Enterprise is alive and thinking. Does this mean the Enterprise resents being described by female pronouns, by the way?

The trouble is that while the episode introduces a fascinating premise, it never develops that premise or delivers any resolution. We're left with the haunting mystery that the Enterprise is slowly waking up from its eternal and nameless sleep, the way the Buddha awakens into consciousness or something. There's no real conflict because no one's life is in danger and nothing is at stake. Most of the episode spends its scenes inside the holodeck, where a strange dream-like sequence aboard a train symbolizes the Enterprise's incipient awakening.

The train scenes were interesting, symbolically. I admit I was intrigued, following the Enterprise's nascent sense of logic, watching it try to make sense of the world through the world. The Enterprise was building metaphors; the train was the metaphor of its journey toward its destination; its destination a metaphor for its awakening; and so on. Unfortunately, while these metaphors had interesting symbolic value, they had no real narrative value. Sure, someone pulled a gun on one of the crewmembers, but that conflict fizzled out before long.

There's really nothing standing in the way of the Enterprise and its simulated train destination at all. The crew spend most of this episode sort of...helping the Enterprise along, the way an eager parent helps along a toddler taking her first steps. Most of the dialog is riddled with meaningless technological jargon, and I had the distinct impression I was a fly on a wall during some meeting with engineering. So the crew watch on with a mixture of bewilderment and disbelief as the Enterprise seems to crawl ever closer to self-awareness. Worf and Deanna mill about the inside of a train like a pair of polite travelers in sharing a hotel with a LARPing convention, trying very hard to be polite, not get in the way, and occasionally shovel some coal in a fire.

But nothing. Really. Happens. And I'm left rather at a loss, because I simply haven't anything else to talk about. This is an episode ostensibly about the Enterprise awakening to consciousness, but it's really about the crew standing around and watching, maybe giving a little bit of help, while the Enterprise navigates itself across the galaxy. The ideas here are intellectual curiosities and might tickle the lore-reflex of serious fans, but I'd like to think that after seven seasons of reviews, I am a serious fan. And I don't feel particularly tickled.

Do you know what I would have loved? I would have loved to watch Data perform my favorite Shakespeare play, The Tempest. The episode even opens with Data performing a Prospero monologue before a train nearly runs him and Picard over. With a cold open that fascinating, how do you end up with an episode so soporific?

I don't know what else to say, so I will leave you with my favorite line from my favorite play.

"The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, the solemn temples,
The great globe itself. Yea, all which it inherit shall dissolve.
And like this insubstantial pageant faded and leave not a rack behind.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on."
"Now, my bright lance, precede me, and lead me to his head."

-Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1942
Posted Sep 7, 17 · OP
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Season 7, Episode 24 - "Pre-Emptive Strike" or "The Ro Less Taken"

I don't think I've ever been disappointed in an episode with Ro Laren. After seven whole seasons of The Next Generation, I conclude that Ro Laren is my favorite B-list character. Not a regular member of the crew, but featuring in enough episodes to have grown and developed as a character, Ro is TNG's most pleasant surprise. She is, more than any other character (yes, maybe even Worf), the best and most complex metaphor of cultural warfare.

Bajorans fascinate me. They are the perpetual underdogs of Star Trek, peculiar not just for their longstanding enmity with the Cardassians (and frankly, who isn't an enemy of the Cardassians?) but for being a disenfranchised minority relegated to the margins of the galaxy against the juggernaut of Cardassian power. The Bajorans are the Rebel Alliance of TNG, scrappy and full of fire, economically poor but wealthy with culture and pride. They rival even the Klingons in their curious culture, their believable and well-defined traditions, their style of clothes and their cuisine, their social mores and deeply rooted sense of racial honor.

It helps that I just love Ro, as a character. By turns fiery and thoughtful, rebellious and dutiful, flirtatious and stand-off-ish, Ro adds a much needed spark of passion and intensity to the sometimes clinical, sometimes stiff milieu of the Enterprise Bridge. She's had interesting relationships and exchanges with absolutely everyone -- even Geordi, even Guinan.

So, like I said, I've never come to regret watching an episode with Ro Laren. I don't know if Pre-Emptive Strike is my favorite of the Ro episodes (Disaster might be), but it's certainly the most gripping. Strike does...well, it does interesting things with its story, the most powerful of which, I think, is the pacing. "Strike" is what I like to think of as a middle-heavy episode, whereby its Second Act constitutes the vast majority of the episode's time. We have a very short intro, an even shorter conclusion, and the middle is this big, long story full of brooding and emotions and actions. It is, I think, the Ro Laren episode.

Cardassians come under attack in the Federation De-Militarized zone. The Maquis are behind the attacks -- a group of disaffected rebels putting up a violent resistance against Cardassian occupation. Naturally, the Federation isn't happy about the Maquis challenging the integrity of the DMZ. Picard summons Ro Laren, now Lieutenant, and gives her an unfair mission: infiltrate the Maquis, earn their trust, and eventually find a way to destroy them from the inside.

First of all, I feel compelled to point out that when I said "unfair," I meant this mission is unfair to both Picard and Ro. It's obviously unfair to Ro. As a dyed-in-the-wool Bajoran, she of all women has cause to hate the Cardassians. She's the most likely to sympathize with the Maquis cause. For this reason, she's both the perfect agent for this mission and the riskiest choice. It says a lot about Picard's trust in his own officers that he grants Ro the responsibility of this mission. It means that Picard trusts Ro to be an officer of the Federation before a Bajoran loyalist.

But it is also an unfair episode for Picard. Twice in the last few episodes alone, Picard has been given the unwelcome task of playing Federation Bogeyman and strongarming some uppity faction of spirited rebels into submission. First it was Space Native Americans, and now it's the Maquis. Picard really can't catch a break.

Frankly, neither can Ro. She'd always struggled to balance her duty as an officer with the dictates of her heart. It is a classic and beloved trope in storytelling: an honorable officer must put aside his personal feelings and do what's right for the country. I never get tired of that story, because it's so real, so human, and makes for some of the strongest drama. This episode certainly didn't disappoint. Ro portrays all the internal angst, all the emotional turmoil of a loyal Federation officer forced to turn against her own people.

And for most of the episode, Ro the Officer is winning the battle against Ro the Bajoran. She's a fantastic spy, and part of me wishes there were some miniseries featuring Ro as a sharp-eyed and brilliant Bajoran agent waging a one-woman war against the Cardassians. I would watch the **** out of that show, and don't pretend you wouldn't either. She has a penchant for espionage. Living a double life comes sadly naturally to her, and for a long time, Ro lives among the Maquis, guiding them and leading them on one daring foray after another.

Her plans come to a head when she receives word of a Yridian convoy on its way from Deep Space Nine (thereby elbowing every viewer to hurry up and watch that show) into the Demilitarized Zone. This is the perfect moment for the Maquis to strike, seize the convoy for themselves, and turn the tables on the Cardassians. It is also the perfect trap. The Enterprise awaits just beyond sensor range, ready to ambush the Maquis attack force.

Ro is ready to go through with the plan until she meets a warm, avuncular old man named Macias. Macias becomes the father Ro never had. They connect on a deep paternal level, breaking bread and sharing songs. Cardassian agents attack a Maquis market. Macias dies in the slaughter. It is the moment that shakes Ro to her core, and reminds her of the brutality of Cardassian rule, and the long history of slaughter and bloodshed between their people. It's the second time Ro's lost her father.

I should've seen Ro's betrayal coming, but honestly, I didn't. I didn't expect her to do her duty and hand her own people over to another slaughter, either. I expected her to do what she very nearly did: betray the Federation, give the Maquis a chance to escape their ambush, and then turn herself in to Federation authorities for punishment. She would've been shipped off somewhere or stripped of her rank, but she would've had her pride.

That's what I expected would happen.

What actually happened took me entirely by surprise. Ro does, in fact, betray Picard and the Federation. The Maquis escape the ambush unharmed. But Ro goes with them, never again to return. It's a strange turn for the character, but not one I disapprove of. More than anything, it left me curious. I wanted to know more. I'd come to love Ro so much as a character that I simply assumed we'd see more of her in DS9.

But, we won't, and that's not by any fault of this episode. Indeed, "Strike" did set up Ro for the next series (or for an appearance in DS9), but that setup never materialized. For reasons related to production, politics, or the vicissitudes of the industry, Ro never returned to Star Trek. It's a sad thing. I really liked her, so I'll just pretend that she went on to become a Bajoran hero.
"Now, my bright lance, precede me, and lead me to his head."

-Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1942
Posted Sep 11, 17 · OP · Last edited Sep 11, 17
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Season 7 - "All Good Things"

It never occurred to me that Star Trek: TNG could ever truly end. The benefit, I think, of watching a classic show so many decades after its apotheosis into the pantheon of modern culture, is that I know how Star Trek ends. And it doesn't. Star Trek has become part of our shared cultural heritage. It's more a pattern than a story -- stories begin and end, but patterns perpetuate themselves on and on.

TNG does end, though. It ends after twenty six episodes of seven seasons. I suppose I should not be surprised. All this season, I've been ruminating over TNG's awareness of its own mortality, contemplating the way TNG seems to contemplate its own end. I've made the argument that past episodes are self-reflections, an attempt by TNG to write its own legacy, and look forward to the next series.

In that sense, Season 7 has felt less like a real season, and more like a twenty-six episode valediction. Realizing there would be no more seasons, the show consigned itself to preparing for its finale. With a budget of twenty-six episodes, it spent those episodes exploring strange new stories, wrapping up loose ends, or sending characters off on a new direction. I will be honest. I did not enjoy Season 7 much. There were a few bright stars, but the season was otherwise dark and rather empty. Not much happened, because not much could happen anymore.

But All Good Things is TNG's last great hurrah. It occurred to me, about five minutes into the episode, how much the episode must mean to the crew, the staff, indeed to Star Trek fans everywhere. For me what is the end of a season was, to them, the end of an era. All Good Things is acutely aware of itself, shirking the usual familiar patterns of an episode. A hundred minutes long, with no familiar "Captain's Log, Stardate..." intro. The show knows these are its last minutes, and it makes good use of them.

Captain Picard is traveling through time.

Randomly and without warning, Picard finds himself shifting from one timeline to another. In the present, he is the disoriented Captain of the Enterprise, seven years into his service, wandering the decks in his nightgown and complaining about disorientation. In the future, Picard is an old man tending to a vineyard, probably somewhere in France. He's cantankerous and snarly, and doesn't seem to be quite all there. In the past, Picard is a young (ish?) Captain stepping aboard the Enterprise for the first time, looking at faces he hasn't seen in years, and a crew far younger than the seasoned veterans he now knows.

The time jumps are as disorienting for me as they are for Picard. I have no idea when they're coming at all, and so I spent the first half hour of this episode rather tense and on-edge. I never knew if a scene would cut mid-line, if a tense personal moment would suddenly vanish like a waking dream. To make matters worse, Picard never remembers his previous timeline when he swaps between them. It is like a man waking up from a dream into another dream, perpetually waking and never remembering the details of the world from which he just entered. The episode--to its credit--makes no attempt at explaining anything to the viewer. It asks us to trust it. And if the viewer can't keep up after seven seasons of this show, they aren't going to bother trying now, anyway.

The time-jumping is a curious mechanic, like juggling three separate continuities all at once. I marveled at TNG's remarkable narrative dexterity, carefully balancing the tension of one timeline before suddenly whisking us away to another. I've seen stories that bounce between the present and past in flashback, but bouncing between past, present, and future? And remaining coherent in all three timelines? That is remarkable. And it speaks to the talent and brilliance of TNG's team that they could pull this off.

I appreciated how plausible each timeline seemed. This isn't like Worf quantum-leaping between one timeline and another, always retaining his essential Worf-ness. Future-Picard seems like a cantankerous git tired of life and battling with senility. Young-Picard has all the uncertainty and bright-eyed optimism of an enterprising (I'm so sorry) Captain with no conception of the Borg.

Also, I appreciated the measured care with which the episode dragged me along, always giving me just enough new information with each time-jump to keep me hooked, but also withholding just enough information to keep me guessing. I was being played with, taken for a ride, learning as much as Picard learned and only ever keeping up with his own reasoning. I was never ahead of Picard, and I appreciated that as well. We learn a few things early on:

First, with each time-jump, Picard remembers more of the other timelines. This pattern continues until, eventually, Picard is capable of transitioning from one timeline to another without any disorientation. Second, Picard is suffering from...well, Alzheimer's. It isn't Alzheimer's. Thank goodness. It's the closest equivalent to Alzheimer's in the TNG universe. It's "code" for degenerative memory loss. "Irumodic Syndrome" it's called. A small anomaly somewhere in Picard's cortex reveals itself to be a possible signature of Irumodic Syndrome, and we realize, with a slow, sad horror, that Future Picard is suffering from its full effects.

Irumodic Syndrome gives Picard the necessary problem of credibility. Nobody's going to believe he's shifting through time, and his impending memory loss only makes people fear he's losing his mind. The effect is most acute in the future, when an aged Geordi looks at a rambling Picard with obvious pity, wondering if his Captain's mind is slowly rotting away.

Picard is remarkably spry and agile in his old age. He's smart enough, at least, to figure out the common link between all three timelines. In both the Present and the Past, Picard receives news of a strange temporal anomaly in the Devron System, deep in the Neutral Zone. This is where the episode starts to get really interesting, because each Picard deals with the news in a different way. Past-Picard initially ignores it, and instead travels to Farpoint in order to have his "destined" meeting with Q -- the meeting that occurred during the show's very first episode.

Q does meet with Picard, and here we learn a few new bits of information. First, Q is responsible for Picard's time-warping. And, second: that Picard is being tested, and must save the entire human race from total annihilation.

I won't spend my review doing a scene by scene synopsis. There's far too much to cover, far too many moving parts in an episode as long as elaborate as this. I will say that the episode kept me guessing until the very end. I was unable to anticipate the truth behind Q's words, that Picard himself causes the temporal anomaly. I loved the pseudo-science behind the temporal anomaly, because it was just weird and interesting enough to keep me fascinated. The temporal anomaly is anti-time, and like Merlyn in Once and Future King, travels backward through time, growing and growing from the future toward the past.

I even liked the strange causality paradox whereby Picard accidentally creates the very thing he's trying to destroy, that the temporal disturbance seen in the past was caused by Picard after he decided to investigate it. It's the kind of weird, loopy causality you see in science fiction all the time. Arrival. Futurama. Pretty much everything in the middle. Casuality paradoxes are a trope of science fiction, but they're a beloved trope.

I also loved the multiple time-line mechanic, and the way Picard could learn something from his past self and explain it to future Data. The conceit feels a little like Edge of Tomorrow. It helps that I happened to love that film. I love these sorts of meta-textual conceits where the protagonist actually becomes aware of the structure of the story, and uses it to his advantage.

Ultimately, Picard does heal the temporal rift and fix the timelines, but not without tremendous personal cost, destroying all three versions of himself and the Enterprise in the process. The sacrifice hit me rather hard in this episode, and I think it's because this isn't a normal episode at all. We've seen Picard repair the timeline by destroying another Enterprise before, but it's...different this time.

I believe it's because the three convergent timelines are, in a way, a metaphor of TNG itself. When Picard is saving the world by sacrificing the stories and memories we've created together over the last seven years. Or, in my case, the last sixteen months. The narrative currency spent in this episode is, in a real way, our own fandom. All Good Things is an episode about honoring the entire journey, about coming full circle and yet not somehow at the point where we began.

Endings aren't really endings. They aren't cessations, a place where stories close and never start again. Something always comes next. Life doesn't simply terminate in an infinite abyss of total darkness that stretches on into eternity. TNG came to a close, but it didn't end -- I watched it for the first time twenty years later, and now I, too, am experiencing that ending. Picard returns to the Enterprise when the timelines converge. The crew plays poker together. Picard deals out a hand. Queen of Hearts. Five of Diamonds. Perhaps in one timeline, they are aces and clubs. It doesn't matter.

It is telling, and poignant, that this episode is called "All Good Things..." The end of that sentence is left unsaid. In that ellipses are infinite possibilities and untold stories.

It's been a nice ride. Thanks for coming along.
"Now, my bright lance, precede me, and lead me to his head."

-Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1942
Posted Sep 13, 17 · OP
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I always enjoyed the final moments of the last ep of TNG, it felt like Picard actually having a moment with his crew, not just as "the boss" Janeway and Sisko would have plenty of these, but Picard was always the most distant, something I wish they'd have gone into a bit more, but alas.
Posted Sep 13, 17
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SD, thank you for this amazing journey. You've helped me discover ST TNG all over again by seeing beyond its surface to deeper themes. I think in some ways it's very much been like that essay I recommended to you, the one about the reader being part of the story -- you've seen so much more depth than I did when the series first aired, and added your vision to what was there to make it new and better.

I know it's been both a chore and a delight for you, as well as an excellent writing exercise. I don't know if you want to do anything like it ever again, but if you do go on to DS:9 I am eager to see your take on it and your joy in seeing how old threads and characters from TNG get woven in.

/salutes
bye4i.jpg
Posted Sep 14, 17
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wrote:
SD, thank you for this amazing journey. You've helped me discover ST TNG all over again by seeing beyond its surface to deeper themes. I think in some ways it's very much been like that essay I recommended to you, the one about the reader being part of the story -- you've seen so much more depth than I did when the series first aired, and added your vision to what was there to make it new and better.

I know it's been both a chore and a delight for you, as well as an excellent writing exercise. I don't know if you want to do anything like it ever again, but if you do go on to DS:9 I am eager to see your take on it and your joy in seeing how old threads and characters from TNG get woven in.

/salutes

<3 <3 <3

I won't be reviewing DS9, sadly, owing to how huge the project will be. But I will absolutely be watching it.

I will, however, be writing a review of a short, cool show next week.
"Now, my bright lance, precede me, and lead me to his head."

-Edna St. Vincent Millay, 1942
Posted Sep 14, 17 · OP
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