Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Television Series Episode Review: Star Trek - The Next Generation: Time's Arrow (Part 1)

While on my month-long trip through the Southern United States, I binged the third season of Star Trek: Picard. As it was a reunion of the main characters and their actors from Star Trek: The Next Generation, I wanted to go back and check out some of my favorite episodes from when I was young and see how they hold up today. 

Whoopi Goldberg's Guinan was always a special character to be. Whenever she was in an episode, I would always get excited as episodes that included her were almost always something special. Time's Arrow serves as an origin story, of sorts, for Guinan. The set-up for the first part of the two-part episode immediately draws you into the episode. Signs of extra-terrestrial life were discovered on Earth in the nineteenth century. Federation scientists call in the USS Enterprise-D to investigate because they had found the android Data's severed head among the old relics.

As fossil records indicated the presence of inhabitants of Devidia II, the Enterprise travels to the planet to investigate. Captain Jean-Luc Picard tries to keep Data from going on the away mission, but when the precise calculations of his positronic brain are needed, he reluctantly acquiesces. He shifts his body to be slightly out of sync with time, which causes him to become invisible to his crewmates. However, as Data has not shifted as far out of time as those on the planet, he is not visible to them.

However, things quickly get out of hand, and Data is sent hurtling back in time to the Earth's past. He arrives in San Francisco in 1893, gambles to win money, and sets himself up in a hotel where he tries to build a device with nineteenth-century materials meant to track the time shifts. Things don't go as planned when he discovers the presence of Guinan. He goes to see her and discovers that she is not from the future as he expected, but rather is from that time period as her species is very long-lived. She is entertaining high-society guests including the author, Mark Twain.

The first episode is every bit as fantastic as I remember it. However, I do wonder how a black woman managed to become so ingrained in high-society America in 1893. There are hints of a book written by her as well as the fact that her father sent her to Earth. It does manage to keep Guinan mysterious, which I like, but it would have been great to get more of a background on that, considering the intense racism present in America at that time. While more background would have been appreciated, the lack of it doesn't detract from the episode, as it works as it is presented.

The episode ends with a great cliffhanger, as the Enterprise crew travels through a portal back in time to discover the reason why aliens were on Earth and to try to rescue their missing shipmate and friend. This was a cliffhanger ending for season five, and it served its purpose well. At this point, Star Trek: The Next Generation was firing on all cylinders and it was an exciting preview of the fantastic adventures the crew would go through during the last two seasons of the show.

Final Verdict:
4½ out of 5

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