Plot Synopsis: Captain Picard encounters a woman from his past after her scientist husband’s experiments begin to unravel the fabric of time.
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here serves to pique our interest. The Enterprise is on its way toward some shore leave; the captain is fencing when suddenly time backs up a couple of seconds and repeats itself. Upon coming to the bridge they receive an automated signal only relaying coordinates and a name: Paul Manheim. Picard informs us he is a scientist who was studying non-linear time. They race toward the coordinates. Plot A involves Manheim and the time distortions, plot B is about Picard and Jenice Manheim; both plots are fairly uninteresting. Picard has some connection to Manheim that’s unclear, so Troi suggests he deal with his strong emotions before they arrive, so he heads to the holodeck for a decent scene before he gets fed up with it and goes back to the bridge. They beam up Manheim (who’s out cold) and his wife, who we find out is the captain’s old girlfriend. Oh geez! Jenice says that there was a catastrophe during their experiments and now there are uncontrolled time distortions which need to be stopped. A lot of talking ensues–a lot. The plot here is pretty sedate, lots of dialogue, some reminiscence, but the only remotely interesting hook here is stopping the time distortions. The ending is alright, involving a slight bit of action and suspense, but ultimately not satisfying.
Favorite Scenes: Umm, I dunno. None of them are really great, but I think the fencing scene in the teaser comes the closest. Perhaps the climax with Data at the end?
Use of Cast/Characters: Wil Wheaton didn’t work this episode. Picard is on center stage in this episode, and gets some character development. We learn about his fencing hobby, his French background and of course a bit more of his personal history. Troi serves a purpose in this episode, sensing what the captain is going through and giving him advice on how to deal with it–and the captain actually takes it! Not that it helps. Later she fails to work with Dr. Crusher about the semi-love triangle. Data is once again the answer-man, though it’s more forgivable as an android’s mind could be more valuable in sifting through reams of scientific research. Riker doesn’t have much to do, and Geordi and Worf have even less. Rod Loomis who plays Manheim is pretty dramatic…in fact he rides the line of overacting. Michelle Phillips does a decent job: nothing exceptional but nothing terrible. There is some chemistry between her and Patrick, but not a lot, and their scenes together don’t really work that well. There are a couple of moderately hot “French” chicks in the holodeck scene and they do a decent job I suppose, but they don’t have big enough parts for me to call them guest stars on the show.
Blu Ray Version: Two seconds of footage from this episode couldn’t be located and so they just upconverted the DVD transfer at 12:25 when the camera is focused on Riker. I actually missed it the first time I saw this episode, but this time it stuck out like a sore thumb.
Nitpicks: About nine minutes in when Picard first enters the holodeck, as he’s walking into the cafe there’s a musician behind him playing some kind of instrument. Is it just me, or is it a fairly phallic-looking thing? Also later on, why would there be lasers shooting at people in the lab, I mean c’mon! I think somebody decided it was the only thing about Home Soil that didn’t completely suck so let’s include it here too. Data uses a contraction here toward the end: “It’s me!”
Overall Impression: This episode could have been good. We could have seen some really cool time distortion effects, or had things in the lab get a more extended and interesting treatment. Instead things slow down to a snail’s pace and what we get is a boring episode, again only partly saved by good acting on the part of Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner. It’s not outright horrible like some other episodes, but it’s certainly not good viewing either. This episode does make some use of the holodeck in the first half of the episode, but not much. Finally, the ending makes no sense: after putting his wife through hell for the past several years, killing all of the scientists and almost unraveling time itself, let’s just go back down there like nothing happened! Maybe a better ending would have included Manheim actually learning something, like there are some things that shouldn’t be messed with instead of just an empty promise that “things will be different this time.” I don’t know that I have a lot to say about this installment other than it’s pretty forgettable. I rate this 1.5 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: This is the first in what will be several appearances by celebrities on TNG. In this episode it’s Michelle Phillips, one of the members of the band The Mamas and the Papas. The lesson here is that the next time you hear California Dreamin’ you’d better think of Star Trek! There are shades of Casablanca in this episode. The title, the reference to the Blue Parrot Cafe, even the old romance between Picard and Jenice. Of course if you are expecting any chemistry like the kind between Bogart and Bergman you’re going to be terribly disappointed. In the original draft Picard and Jenice were supposed to have some off-screen sex but it was objected to by most of the men, particularly Patrick since Jenice is a married character.
Missable/Unmissable? Totally missable. Maybe if Michelle burst into song or something. The next episode is the only one I’d really recommend for the remainder of the first season.