Plot Synopsis: After an away mission to Alpha Onias III interrupts Commander Riker’s birthday party, the first officer suddenly awakens in sick-bay sixteen years in the future where he is the captain of the Enterprise and about to negotiate a peace treaty with the Romulan Empire.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here has a good hook: it starts with Will’s birthday party, and he’s playing the trombone. The Enterprise is charting planets close to the Romulan border and they get scanned from one of the planets that’s supposed to be uninhabited. Riker beams down with an away team and they all fall unconscious; when he wakes up to his surprise he’s older and now a captain. Plot A is about Riker‘s “future”, there is no plot B. Turns out he caught an alien virus while on the away team, and part of the side effect is memory loss back to when he first got infected–16 years ago. Everything’s changed: Geordi’s VISOR is gone, Picard is an admiral, Riker has a son, and the Federation is in peace treaty negotiations with the Romulans. As the episode progresses we are given hints that something is off and in the 30th minute the truth is revealed, or so we think. There are some surprising turns, and the ending makes sense.
Favorite Scenes: Hmm. There’s nothing here that I really liked in particular.
Use of Cast/Characters: Wil Wheaton had this episode off. The actual crew members are barely in this episode, and the crew we meet in the “future” are one-time-only appearances. Picard, Troi, Beverly and Data have some lines, and they’re reasonably interesting. We do get a preview of Deanna wearing a uniform, which will happen in season 6. This is a Riker episode, pure and simple. We get to see him navigate his way through the illusions he has to deal with, and I think overall he does a good job. Sometimes I think Frakes is a bit more reactionary than a particular situation calls for, but otherwise he does a good job. Andreas Katsulas is back as the Roman commander Tomalak in his third of four appearances, and he always does a great job. Watch him on Babylon 5 if you want to see how good he really is. Carolyn McCormick returns as Minuet, if only in video, but it’s nice they were able to get the same actress from 11001001. Chris Demetral plays Jean-Luc/Ethan, and is competent I guess.
Blu RayVersion: The matte painting we see when the away team beams down to Alpha Onias III is pretty fantastic in HD. If you pause the episode at about 2:54, you can see the cable running down the back of Frakes’ right hand, powering the palm beacon he’s holding. In looking at the scan of Riker’s brain, the graphic is far better, a lot more detailed. At about 13:39, only in HD can you see that Admiral Picard’s Starfleet insignia has a small silver star. For some reason the beam the Romulans use to remove Riker’s gray hair was changed from green to red for the HD version.
Nitpicks: “To me you’ll always be Jean-Luc.” What’s that supposed to mean, that he thinks of him as a son? That’s a bit much. I’m also not a fan of the alien’s appearance, doesn’t seem like a whole lot of thought went into it; it’s generic and a throwback to something from TOS.
Overall Impression: I didn’t like this episode at all the first time I saw it. Watching it now I don’t actually dislike it, but I feel it’s just an average episode that is pretty forgettable. The first 30 minutes are interesting, and the multiple twists in the last 15 minutes aren’t something I saw coming, which I always like. This is also one of the few Star Trek episode titles that I thought was good and accurate. Anyone wanting to see Picard with a goatee, it’s one time only! Ultimately, though, this doesn’t climb out of the “average” pile for me. I rate this episode 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: Go back and watch Riker’s reaction when Troi asks him what he wished for in the teaser. I think Frakes almost forgot his line. You can see Marina tap him on the arm to prompt him, and her reaction is pretty genuine laughter. As I re-watched that moment, I found it made me enjoy it much more. This is yet another episode involving family–an alien that lost his mother and is alone. This is the first episode with nurse Ogawa, who will be a returning guest star for the rest of the series. Watch the original episode promo and you’ll notice Frakes pronounces “charade” like the British do, but in the actual episode he pronounces it the American way. It looks like the same take, so he must’ve dubbed over his own voice. Don’t ask me why I remember that detail from something back when I was 15, but I do!
There are a lot of things shown in this episode that actually happen years later: a Ferengi becomes an ensign in DS9, B’Elanna Torres is a female Klingon in Starfleet in Voyager, Geordi does get better eyes in First Contact, peace talks with the Romulan actually happen in the Nemesis film, and Troi starts wearing a standard uniform in season 6. When Riker refers to Picard’s previous comment about how dealing with the Romulans is like a game of chess, it came from an actual episode: The Defector.
Missable/Unmissable? Missable. Don’t lose sleep about missing this episode. The next one is unmissable, as a family member of the Enterprise leaves for good.