Star Trek: The Next Generation: Time Squared   Rewatch 
August 14, 2020 7:15 AM - Season 2, Episode 13 - Subscribe

I get that the 24th century is different from ours, but who serves scrambled eggs at a dinner party? Also: time travel.

Don't turn away. Look at me. Memory Alpha! Look at me!:

- The original title was "Time to the Second". In some episode listings in syndication, the original title is used.

- Hurley intended this episode to lead into "Q Who". He explained, "The way it was originally designed, is that three episodes later they're going through space and all of a sudden Picard finds himself stuck in a shuttlecraft in a flash, and he sees the ship falling in to the top of the vortex and exploding. He thinks he's lost his mind; he doesn't know what's going on. Q appears and says, 'Hey, how ya doing?' Picard says, 'You caused that and all these other things?' Q says, 'Ah, well, surprised you didn't put it together earlier. Oh well, you are slow. Just a kind of calling card, something to do. Interesting, wasn't it?'" The idea was nixed by Gene Roddenberry. Hurley complained that it added confusion to the ending. "Why would going into the vortex's center save you? It doesn't make sense. But it does if Q is pulling the strings."

- In a closing scene present in the revised final draft script but not in the final episode, Riker invites Dr. Pulaski, La Forge, and Worf back to his quarters to make up for his omelette fiasco from the teaser and fixes them Alaska stew, which agrees with La Forge and Dr. Pulaski, but disgusts Worf, who "would have preferred another omelette."

- Picard references the slingshot effect from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday", as well as Doctor Paul Manheim's experiments from "We'll Always Have Paris", and The Traveler from "Where No One Has Gone Before".

- Ronald D. Moore later described this episode as "so ponderous. They agonize about what to do the whole show. All right, already!"

"There is the theory of the Mobius. A twist in the fabric of space where time becomes a loop."
- Worf

"What's our other option?"
"This is our only chance."
"I let you… But first tell me: What is – what was – your other choice? What was it? You don't know what I'm talking about. You're locked into a single intent. Unable to change. Unable to alter…"
"…There is no other way."
"What was the other choice?"

- Picard, interrogating his future self

Poster's Log, Emergency Posting Hologram substituting:

Let me save everyone some... time and cut to the chase: Great set-up, somewhat decent execution, not-great finish. If you've been watching Trek for a while, then you probably already know that there isn't really a consistent theory of time travel in the franchise, with changes sometimes resulting in the former timeline being erased, and sometimes just setting up an alternate universe. It can be kind of a mess sometimes, but it also allows for interesting twists on the time-travel story such as this one, in which a crew member comes back from six hours in the future, potentially able to warn the crew about what's going to happen... except that he and his shuttle are out of phase, meaning that they can only get a scrap of the log and the guy can't tell them anything except that he's in severe emotional distress. It gets cranked up several notches when it's clear that Future-Picard basically abandoned ship, which distresses Present-Picard to no end, understandably.

But then, once the moment is arriving, things become a mess. It seems like there's some sort of awareness or intentionality on the part of the anomaly, but this is never really explained. Neither is F-Picard's unstoppable obsession with getting off the ship, even though he knows that it will result in the destruction of the E-D. What up with that? The only explanation that really makes sense is that F-Picard is still kind of time-warp-discombobulated, which takes him off the hook but also essentially means that that's essentially not really Picard at all, but just some stumbling fleshy automaton without any real volition. He fucks things up because he's really fucked up. And that, of course, takes away the existential drama of P-Picard meeting himself. And don't even get me started on P-Picard killing F-Picard. Good thing that we're in the version of time travel where the alternate future people just kind of disappear, eh? (Something tells me that it may have made more sense in the original version of the story that Roddenberry nixed. It also would have made for a pretty decent Brick Joke [TVTropes].)O'Brien is staring at where F-Picard and his shuttle used to be, wondering, wow, how messed up is this business, is this as crazy as it gets? Oh, Miles, good thing you can't see your future.

Anyway. About those scrambled eggs: OK, there's something that looks like shredded cheddar, and maybe tomatoes, on the table, but Riker really should have some bread for people who don't like 'Owon eggs, that is, everyone but Worf (and why did he even serve any to Data? Just to be polite?). The cut epilogue where he makes some stew--you know, a real meal--would have fixed that.

Poster's Log, supplemental: "Times Squared" is really a pretty neat name for a time travel episode. They should have saved it for a better one, maybe set in Times Square itself. Also, time travel as a Möbius strip eventually gets used in Avengers: Endgame.
posted by Halloween Jack (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
P.S. In the original timeline, I didn't forget the "Greatest Gen" episode link, I swear.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:24 AM on August 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

where time becomes a loop.
posted by Kyol at 7:28 AM on August 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

I was watching this and thinking "I didn't remember this episode being so good" until we got to the end which made zero sense and realized that's why I didn't remember this as a good episode.

Interesting to learn about the proposed multi-episode continuity.

That omelette making scene has always been etched in my brain, I found it very memorable for some reason. The scrambled eggs look pretty overcooked to me, and it looks like a meal a seven-year old might serve his parents when first learning to cook. Scrambled eggs, no salt, no seasonings, served with nothing else.

Strange that it's not a Riker episode, why bother with that scene when you're going to spend the rest of the episode focused on Picard?
posted by skewed at 7:49 AM on August 14, 2020 [4 favorites]

Scrambled eggs are often used to illustrate time's arrow (you can turn raw eggs into scrambled eggs, but can't turn scrambled eggs into raw eggs), but of course Time's Arrow is a completely different episode.
posted by ckape at 8:00 AM on August 14, 2020 [7 favorites]

The only explanation I can propose for the egg scene is that they needed a potentially-disgusting dish that Riker would nevertheless perceive as innocuous enough for his purpose, so they landed on eggs. I mean, I like eggs, but even if I was serving on an FTL starship, I'd hesitate before eating non-Earth-based eggs. I hear "alien eggs" and I think xenomorphs, John Hurt, and the worst possible indigestion.

MA seems to suggest that there is, as of this episode, a Temporal Prime Directive; I wonder if Picard violated it by killing his time-clone.

The primary timey-wimey issue AFAICT: why would F-Picard be so damaged by this time jaunt when we've seen plenty of other people make similar (or even more arduous-seeming) jaunts with no such issues? The simplest explanation is that whatever conscious entity created the vortex also induced that mental trauma somehow, possibly as an unintended side effect.

I concur with Jack and skewed that it's a strong episode for most of its running time, partly because it's tight and efficient: it relies on the actors' faces a lot more than this series (and Trek in general?) seems to, it leaves a lot unsaid, it takes a simple sci-fi story idea and stretches it out (at times noticeably, TBH). It may help that I haven't seen this one more than a couple times prior to this rewatch. And it may also help that I sometimes just shrug helplessly at the "resolution" of lots of time-travel stories.

I have a funny hunch here that Picard's brooding demeanor throughout this one may have been Patrick Stewart's own performance choice. The episode script at doesn't seem to include any (Picard glares) direction or anything, though perhaps they never do.

It's pretty weird that O'Brien just shows up in the shuttlebay so that someone can be there to witness the disappearing act. Can't decide whether it would've been less weird to instead just have Pulaski stay there. But I get the motivation: based on the next several episodes, I sense that we're at the point in the show where they start to realize what an asset they have in Colm Meaney, and they're looking for opportunities to put him in the lineup.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 8:23 AM on August 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

a crew member comes back from six hours in the future, potentially able to warn the crew about what's going to happen

This idea kind of shows up against in DS9's "Visionary" when O'Brien bounces back and forth between a few hours in the future and ends up saving the station from being destroyed by the Romulans. He even trades places with his future-self to do it after his present-self dies in the future. I hate temporal mechanics.
posted by Servo5678 at 9:43 AM on August 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Star Trek CCG Cards of the episode:

There are two, one is extremely generic, the second is extremely STCCG.

Energy Vortex, a very basic denial card from Premiere. Pretty obviously emulating Counterspell from Magic The Gathering, in a less punitive form.

Doppelganger, which simulates the relationship between Picard and Picard in this episode. Providing a cute in-game explanation for why both players can have the same unique personnel in play: they're temporally displaced! But if a Clone Machine is in play apparently they're just clones instead, NBD. As one may recall, Pulaski can prevent the time traveler's demise, though she was not totally successful in the actual episode.

This card exemplifies a couple traits things about this game:
1) Specific interactions between cards directly by name, rather than by a standard game mechanic. Sometimes this reflected some kind of story logic, other times not so much. Did you know Targs can defeat the Borg?

2) Using explicit references to unmade cards to generate hype. These were generally known as 'broken links'. The Clone Machine was first mentioned in the original manual for the game in 1994, and wouldn't see print for another 7 years.

Readers of this rewatch won't have to wait that long for the link to be mended.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:57 AM on August 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

The eggs were overdone? Gosh, I always liked my scrambled eggs cooked, even a little browned.

I always assumed Future Picard was so messed up because he was "displaced" in some way, out of phase, rather than simply being from the future. Being thrown back in time did more to him than just throwing him back in time.
posted by Fukiyama at 10:12 AM on August 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Scrambled eggs are not an omelette.
posted by rocketman at 10:58 AM on August 14, 2020 [6 favorites]

I was excited about this one coming up! I remember it being the first time I really felt, despite being hooked on the show because I was already a huge Trek nerd anyway, that this was a good show. I loved the premise, and was really digging it up until the end. I never totally grasped the reasons for Future Picard just powering forward and refusing to listen to Present Picard, refusing to answer the questions about an alternative for saving the ship. It was a peculiar character note, one that felt authorial rather than narratively motivated, and more because the author just didn't know what to do (whoever authored that decision, anyhow).

I'm not sure if they had handled it as a leadup to a Q interference that such a solution would have sat any better for me (and it'd be a strange choice in an episodic-style TV series, expecting your weekly audience to have remembered the details of previous episodes), but I suppose the background makes some of it now a little easier to swallow.

Unlike, apparently, Owon scrambled eggs. Which is a bizarre choice to serve at a dinner party, especially as the sole part of the meal. Still, I never tire of the everyone else hates something that Worf is over there rolling around in setups. The prune juice joke (a warrior's drink!) always makes me laugh.

And it was unusual for me to like Deanna at that point, because the very male-gaziness of her character and them giving her ~feelings as a power and just...ugh, the sexism, it burns, but I really started to like her here, even though she still can't do more than ~feelings. That scene where Present Picard is almost pleading with her to tell him that this isn't himself really worked for me.

I truly did love the whole concept of this, regardless of nitpicky details. Time travel gives me a headache (my god, the discussions after Avengers: Endgame made me want to spork my eyes out) but I love it, and the concept of him being out of phase until they get closer to the event horizon totally worked for me. Just wish there'd been a stronger final act. I really want to AU this in fanfic for some other fandom now.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 1:02 PM on August 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Ronald D. Moore later described this episode as "so ponderous. They agonize about what to do the whole show. All right, already!"

Agreed. Makes it agonizing to watch.
posted by juiceCake at 3:27 PM on August 14, 2020

I wonder if the idea of the eggs is, given that everything they eat on the Enterprise is replicated, having the opportunity to eat anything “real” is a special occasion worthy of a dinner party? Even alien eggs.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:57 PM on August 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

I thought the eggs were a shorthand for how knowledge gets lost when it's no longer needed. Cooking something is so weird that even knowing that you have to crack an egg open and pour the insides onto something hot is seen as a rare skill (or else the doc was just buttering up Riker for some reason). I know how to swap out the print head on a daisy-wheel printer but my son doesn't, my dad knows how to harness a horse to a plow, but I don't, and (I assume) my grandfather knew how to shoe a horse but I know my father didn't. And so on.
posted by Mogur at 4:12 AM on August 15, 2020 [3 favorites]

There's a scene in S4's "The Wounded" in which Keiko O'Brien expresses some wonder at the revelation that Miles' mother actually cooked and served raw meat.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:55 AM on August 15, 2020

Let's not forget "Family" when Picard goes home and they all talk about his sister-in-law being one of the finest cook in France, but how cooking was a dying art even there.
posted by Fukiyama at 10:25 AM on August 15, 2020

It's odd that Riker claims he had to learn to cook because his father didn't, in that case.

Pulaski is real quick to jump to talking about relieving the captain. He's not even acting particularly weird or possessed by an alien or anything. Also, she brings the alien ale, continuing her 'ghost of Bones McCoy' characterization.

And whats with ale in 24th century? That shit is flat. Same with the Romulan stuff. Is this another thing they've lost the art of, like omelettes?
posted by rodlymight at 11:28 AM on August 15, 2020

Riker's cooking also comes up in Picard, although in that case he has had more time to familiarize himself with the ingredients. And of course he seems to like cosplaying as Enterprise NX-01's Chef. (and in an earlier episode of Enterprise, Archer gets food from a replicator presumably on par with the Enterprise D's replicators and claims it's not as good as Chef's cooking).
posted by ckape at 2:07 PM on August 15, 2020

We had a whole kerfuffle in the Picard threads about Riker cooking real meat... which makes no freaking sense given everything else we've seen about meat in Star Trek, including Riker himself making it very clear that he thought it would be unnecessary and wrong to eat meat when the replicated stuff was just as good. But Riker's cooking did seem to have improved quite a bit since TNG.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:15 PM on August 15, 2020

This is the episode where Deanna Troi has an orgasm, as opposed to the spooky dead grandmother episode where Beverley Crusher has one. Check.
posted by zadcat at 6:02 PM on August 15, 2020

Also, she brings the alien ale, continuing her 'ghost of Bones McCoy' characterization.

Heck, that's the ghost of Dr. Boyce from "The Cage".
posted by StarkRoads at 6:07 PM on August 15, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's super weird that Pulaski is listening to Riker to talk about his dad like he's some far away figure, and then literally the next episode she's like "hey you know I used to bone your dad" when he shows up.
posted by dry white toast at 10:10 PM on August 15, 2020 [4 favorites]

All this talk of the cooking reminds me of something I was thinking about with the Wesley's first crush episode, when he shows her how to use the replicator (eyeroll). It comes in a glass dish, and I started to wonder--what happens to all the dishes the replicator makes the food in? Does it get somehow disintegrated, recycled, and remade in the machine? Tossed in the bin and ejected into space? Washed in the dishwasher and set up for more replicated food later on? I'm really curious about that. Disintegrating and recycling makes me think of the movie Fast Color, and makes me wonder if they have separate bins for paper, food soiled compostable material, glass, and plastic.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 11:28 PM on August 15, 2020

I know DS9 mentions dirty dishes being put back into the replicator to break them back down into energy.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:18 AM on August 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

I agree with Dry White Toast. I think "episodic continuity" is something that hadn't really been discovered in the late 20th century. The writers/show-runners can just barely begin to pull it off for galaxy-spanning corruption and The Borg at this point, so I'm not all that surprised that a relatively "minor" thing like Riker's relationship with his father (or Pulaski's relationship with Riker's father) wasn't fixed and communicated to the various writers.
posted by Alterscape at 12:04 PM on August 16, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ronald D. Moore later described this episode as "so ponderous. They agonize about what to do the whole show. All right, already!"

Having finally gotten around to watching it, I legitimately kind of kept waiting for the time loop to close and start over again until we were well past halfway through the runtime. That's how you know it's a modern time loop episode! You see the same thing 50 times!
posted by Kyol at 7:55 PM on December 21, 2020

I really liked this. There was so little cheesiness! I mean….comparatively.
posted by bq at 6:42 PM on November 28, 2021

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