Star Trek: The Next Generation: Yesterday's Enterprise   Rewatch 
November 5, 2020 6:42 AM - Season 3, Episode 15 - Subscribe

A Starfleet ship narrowly survives a savage battle, only to become trapped in a dark and cataclysmic future where the Federation is near annihilation. (Note: not a Star Trek Discovery rerun)

Poster's Log, Preface:
Yes, this is early. But you remember when you were a kid, and some years were such shit that, like, everybody in the family, even your parents, was like "Fuck it, let's do Christmas early"? This is week is like one of those years—not to mention this year, of course—and this episode is easily the Christmas present of season 3. So I figured, fuck it. You're welcome. Sorry, Jack, for stepping on DISCO this week ;)

Who is to say that this wiki is any less proper than another?:

• The story for "Yesterday's Enterprise" was based on a spec script that Trent Christopher Ganino wrote and submitted to the TNG writing staff through Michael Piller's open submission policy. A cover letter that Ganino included with his script submission suggested that he was following the TNG Submission Guidelines by creating another Enterprise crew, but if he really had a say in the matter, he would prefer the story involve the original USS Enterprise featuring Kirk, Spock and other characters from Star Trek: The Original Series. Years later, after the release of Star Trek Generations, Rick Berman admitted that if he had known in 1989 that they would be making TNG movies in the 1990s, he would have kept "Yesterday's Enterprise" for the first TNG feature film.

• At the same time, following a conversation with Denise Crosby at a convention, Eric Stillwell developed a story (along with Ganino) that would allow Tasha Yar to return to the series after a two-year absence.

• When Stillwell pitched this idea to Michael Piller, Piller suggested combining it with Ganino's "Yesterday's Enterprise" story – which had also developed a Tasha Yar element by this point, largely on the suggestion of Piller, who had also wanted to find a way of bringing the character back – with Ganino and Stillwell retaining joint story credit. The Vulcans were replaced by the Klingons, and the Sarek/Surak plotline replaced with the idea that Yar would fill an absence on board Enterprise-C after the death of a female Captain Garrett. The finished storyline treatment was largely as broadcast, with the exception of Guinan's presence in the episode (in the completed pitch, an alien probe provided the crucial information about the timeline alteration).

• Production on the episode was originally scheduled for January 1990 following the Christmas hiatus; however, with the introduction of Guinan into the episode, the filming schedule needed to be moved up in order to accommodate both Crosby and Whoopi Goldberg. As a result, the pitched storyline needed to be turned into a teleplay over the Thanksgiving weekend of 1989, prior to filming commencing on December 11. Four members of the writing staff – Ira Steven Behr, Ronald D. Moore, Hans Beimler and Richard Manning – divided the episode amongst themselves in order to get it completed on time. In particular, Moore was responsible for the Yar-Castillo romance. Behr noted that although the writers were unhappy about the timescale pressure and having to work over a holiday, they enjoyed the chance to write an episode far darker than had been done in the past, with a great deal more tension – something many of the staff had felt was lacking in the series.

• Given the unusually rushed nature of the script, the writing staff were skeptical that the episode would work. Stillwell recalled, "Most of the writers were not very happy with the script. They thought it was going to be horrible, because they don't like having to write [something] and make it work in three days."

• Time and budgetary constraints put an end to the much more gruesome climactic battle sequence that was originally envisaged in the script. The only death to survive to the broadcast episode is Riker's – others that were written but unfilmed included the decapitation of Wesley Crusher and the electrocution of Data.

• Both Christopher McDonald (Castillo) and Tricia O'Neil (Garrett) were Star Trek fans before appearing in this episode.

• Composer Dennis McCarthy cited the score for this episode as his favorite score. Much of the score was performed by a contemporary orchestra with electronics sparingly used to speak for the time vortex.

• Castillo mentions that Federation had been negotiating a peace treaty with the Klingon Empire at the time of the Narendra III attack, though Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country later established that a peace treaty had been established over fifty years earlier.

• Rick Berman cites this episode along with "The Measure Of A Man" as one of his favorites.

• Michael Piller remarked, "That was a classic episode. I never met Denise Crosby in person, but I am sure an admirer. She did a great job for us. That's just about as neat a show as we could do. It was as entertaining and unique a time travel show as you'll ever see. I don't know that there was a better episode third season. Hell, Picard sends 500 [sic] people back to their death on the word of the bartender. Come on, that's hard. I was very happy with it and, frankly, I give the credit to the director and the cast and the people who post-produced it. The script was not one of the best scripts we wrote that season. Conceptually, it was marvelous, coming out of the heads of some people here… There are little holes in the episode that we couldn't fix. It was such a complicated and fascinating premise, but it was ultimately the character material that really made everybody proud."

• Jonathan Frakes admitted, "To this day I do not understand 'Yesterday's Enterprise'. I do not know what the fuck happened in that episode. I'm still trying to understand it – but I liked the look."

• Roberto Orci cited this episode as a primary inspiration for the screenplay of Star Trek (2009).

• The episode was voted the most popular episode of the series on six separate occasions – by Starlog readers in 1993 and by a viewer poll in 1994, and was voted as the most popular episode of all-time by UK Trek fans in 1996. The US publication TV Guide listed it as one of its top five all-time Trek classics in 1996 and again in 2002. Entertainment Weekly also ranked it as the #1 episode on their list of "The Top 10 Episodes" to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

"But there's something more when you look at me, isn't there? I can see it in your eyes, Guinan. We've known each other too long."
"We weren't meant to know each other at all. At least, that's what I sense when I look at you. Tasha, you're not supposed to be here."
- Yar and Guinan

"We've known each other a long time. You have never known me to impose myself on anyone or take a stance based on trivial or whimsical perceptions. This timeline must not be allowed to continue. Now, I've told you what you must do. You have only your trust in me to help you decide to do it."
- Guinan, to Picard

"The war is going very badly for the Federation, far worse than is generally known. Starfleet Command believes that defeat is inevitable. Within six months, we may have no choice but to surrender."
- Picard, to Garrett

"Attention all hands. As you know, we could outrun the Klingon vessels. But we must protect the Enterprise-C until she enters the temporal rift. And we must succeed! Let's make sure that history never forgets… the name… Enterprise."
- Picard

Poster's Log:
Absolutely one of TNG's best. This has gotta be about the 20th time I've seen this one and it's lost none of its punch. If anything, it's gained some. For instance, seeing Yar again after participating in this deep TNG dive was more impactful somehow. Gonna quote Bernd from Ex Astris Scientia (spoilers for subsequent TNG seasons at that link); this is one of his summations that I'm 100% in agreement with:
"Yesterday's Enterprise" is the best episode of the series so far and arguably one of the most memorable of all Star Trek. It is a mystery thriller about a time anomaly that is eerie right from the start and that holds several well-timed surprises to keep up the suspense. It does not neglect the ethical dilemma that most obviously troubles Picard ("Who is to say that this history is any less proper than the other?"), although it is comparably briefly in the focus of interest. The episode becomes a solid action thriller towards the end, and although the visual effects of the space battle appear dated by now, the directing and acting is to the point and more than makes up for the technical shortcomings.

"Yesterday's Enterprise" has a great deal of rather unusual character interaction that works quite well despite the fact that the circumstances are weird. Tasha was only resurrected as a regular crew member due to a time anomaly and now encounters a fellow officer and soulmate from the past. Picard chooses to trust Guinan, although she should have no business with command decisions and although she has an almost schizophrenic perception of the diverging timelines. It is all plausible, we can understand their motivations at any point of the episode, which is the perhaps most astonishing accomplishment in light of the chaotic production history.

Even Tasha and Richard Castillo's romance comes across as credible and appropriate in their situation. The two do have a lot more chemistry than in most other relationships of a crew member with a guest star. And once again, we have to keep in mind that Denise Crosby returns just this one time in her role as Tasha, and still it is like she had never left the series.
I also want to call out Tricia O'Neil (Cpt. Garrett) for absolutely nailing it in her performance. It's been said (perhaps most memorably in the context of why the original Cpt. Janeway, Genevieve Bujold, didn't work out) that there's a certain hard-to-define acting language—physicality, intonation, etc.—necessary to pull off a space captain, particularly in Trek, and some actors struggle to find it; O'Neil has it, effortlessly, it seems. Her performance is so good that it makes her early death actually affecting.

I've probably said this before, but the Ambassador-class is my favorite Trek ship design, period. I can't quite articulate why except that it's a perfect blend of the OG-1701 (no-bloody-ABC-or-D, just OG) and the -D. Here's some fan art to geek out over:
Dorsal and starboard view
External and internal details
Deckplan for a presumably-rehabbed 24th-century Ambassador

About the only thing that actually bugs me about "Yesterday's Enterprise" is the fact that they didn't go all-out with bolder uniform changes for the Grimdark Universe, but I'm sure that's a budgetary thing.

Poster's Log, Supplemental: The "Greatest Gen" guys are also among the ardent admirers of this one.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (17 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I do my best not to see what the name of the episode is until it comes up, and play "how many seconds does it take me to recognize the episode?" As soon as I saw Guinan doing some character work with Worf I started to get giddy--they're giving Worf a scene because he's not in the rest of the episode because it's YESTERDAY's ENTERPRISE!!

Anyway, Michael Dorn is just killing it with Worf at this point. He does a great job of showing that Worf feels he needs to project the posture of a bad-ass (telling Guinan that human women would be too fragile for him), while also showing that Worf is, in fact, a bad-ass (not rising to her bait when she says "you'll never know unless you try" and his great response "then I will never know.")

That's all for now, I only watched the cold open, I wanted to save the rest for tonight, when hopefully I can really watch, not just be distracted from the election.
posted by skewed at 7:16 AM on November 5, 2020 [5 favorites]

What is there to say about this? What wrinkle could I finesse that hasn't been explored already?

The story is great. The look is incredible. I 100% agree with the assessment of Tricia O'Neil's work. Bringing back Yar was a bold choice, and it pays off. The way Denise Crosby allows horror to slowly build as she comes to realize she's supposed to be dead is some tremendous acting. And I totally buy the chemistry between Yar and Castillo.

Everything just works.

"Hell, Picard sends 500 [sic] people back to their death on the word of the bartender."

Put nearly anyone else in the two roles and it just wouldn't work. Whoopi Goldberg's periodic cameos as Guinan elevate this show. It's only reading Michael Piller's comment that I realize just how absurd that situation is, and yet I've never once questioned it in the moment. So good.

Anyway, Michael Dorn is just killing it with Worf at this point.

Agreed, no reservations at all. He is so comfortable in that character. I love the tiny glimmers in his eyes when he's playing comic relief.
posted by rocketman at 7:25 AM on November 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Cards of the Episode from the Star Trek CCG is back with a vengeance:

Premiere('94): Temporal Rift. Making an opponent's crew disappearing for TWO turns? Sounds fair, says Premiere.

Alternate Universe('95): Wartime Conditions; Rachel Garret; Richard Castillo; Tasha Yar - Alternate; U.S.S. Enterprise-C. I wouldn't be surprised if this was the main episode they were thinking of when they picked the set theme! Our Ent-C captain stands toe-to-toe with the original bridge crew and can restore the odd Errant Moon by herself. Tasha is just directly better than the original cuz she's armed, and errata'd version can hand the weapon off to whomever needs it.

Blaze of Glory('99): Gravimetric Distortion; Full Phaser Spread. GD is a decent stopper regardless of the ORs.

Necessary Evil('04): Standing Your Ground. Fractured Time('04): Tasha Yar, Tactical Officer.

Captain's Log('06): U.S.S. Enterprise-C, Yesterday's Enterprise; Rachel Garrett, Displaced Captain. Typical of later 2E ships, the Ent-C can act as a centerpiece of a deck, providing some 'TNG' style bonus points to your Earth, Home of Starfleet Command.

In A Mirror Darkly('07): Beverly Crusher, Battleship Doctor; Data, Battleship Officer; Jean-Luc Picard, Battleship Captain; Wesley Crusher, Battleship Helmsman; William T. Riker, Battleship First Officer; U.S.S. Enterprise-D, Battleship. Most of yer TNG bridge crew, inexpensive(as in, all commons) in the marketplace but expensive(all 4+ cost) in the game itself. You only got 7 counters per turn, so a 4 cost card is a commitment. But there are some carrots to make it worth your while.
posted by StarkRoads at 9:44 AM on November 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

"Yesterday's Enterprise" does a magnificent job of worldbuilding in the time allotted. The Federation-Klingon War is well presented. The guards outside the Ready Room add that nice touch and that display that is behind Picard in some of the scenes that is never quite in focus is cool.
posted by Fukiyama at 11:27 AM on November 5, 2020

One of my favorite episodes as well, and one I often return to, especially that amazing first shot of Picard changing right before our eyes from diplomat to soldier as the lights go dim and red - and then we see Tasha fucking Yar behind him and we know that this is going to be Huge.

The little touches are amazing - one I especially loved was Picard's chair being up on a pedestal, but there were many others.
posted by Mogur at 1:05 PM on November 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

Sorry, Jack, for stepping on DISCO this week ;)

No problemo. I've been looking forward to this one being posted. It would be the uncontested S3 champion, but for the season finale, and is still a contender. One of the remarkable things about it is that it brings in metacommentary on two perennial hot-button fan topics:

- Star Trek isn't, and shouldn't be, military SF. This was something that I got tired of seeing on the Star Trek and Daystrom Institute subreddits, for the relatively short time that I followed them: someone cruising in to ask why Starfleet didn't just arm their ships to the teeth and roll over the various empires. Critiquing this POV was the main point of the Mirror Universe, and it cropped up in other places, in particular the inaccurate historical recreation of "Warship Voyager" in VOY's "Living Witness", but also in Kelvin-timeline Star Trek Beyond and even in DIS; literally the first time we see Stamets, he's complaining about being drafted. The shorter answer is that it would suck; the slightly longer one is that it would suck really badly. Even the mirror universe, for all its butchness and nasty-sexy aesthetic, isn't that great; they have to repeatedly steal or stumble across tech from other cultures (the humans at Bozeman raiding the Vulcan first contact ship, the 22C Empire getting the 23C Constitution-class ship, the 24C rebels getting the plans for the Defiant) in order to keep up technologically. As awful as it is for the surviving E-C crew to go back to certain death, it's better than the billions lost in the Warship Enterprise timeline.

- Tasha's death was bogus. Maybe a smaller point, because it deals with only one character's death, but it's still remarkable for something that happened only about a season and a half ago. Throwing away the life of a main cast member to make a point that Anyone Can Die Because Space Travel Is Dangerous, Yo is dumb because a) that's what redshirts are for and b) you probably just haven't figured out the character's arc yet and don't seem to have faith that you can or will. Crosby wanted to leave out of frustration that her character didn't have enough to do, and even if she wanted to take breaks for films, her character could have been transferred off the ship, or sent on extended off-ship deployments, and then back if applicable. (I'm reminded of the decision to kill off the X-Man Thunderbird, because Chris Claremont couldn't figure out what to do with him; when he finally did, it turned out that John Proudstar had a younger brother, James, who not only looked exactly like him but had the exact same powers.)

And, really, the rest of the episode is just great. I kind of like Guinan having lower-key psychic powers like this; I feel like that's what the VOY showrunners wanted to do with Kes before they succumbed to the temptation to go all Dark Phoenix with her, speaking of X-Men references.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:48 PM on November 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

I almost missed this since I wasn't looking for it, but I'm so glad you brought ST Christmas a little early! This is my favorite episode; time travel and noble sacrifice are some of my favorite tropes, and this one nailed both perfectly. I'm honestly surprised about all the Sturm und Drang of making it, because to me back at the time, it felt nearly flawless. And that it came only one other episode after Deja Q is miraculous--two of my top three, right there within a couple weeks.

From that opener with one of my favorite Worf lines ("A warrior's drink"), where you're thinking this is probably just going to be some kind of domestic episode, to that gasp-inducing change from light, normal, well lit Picard on the bridge to dark, sinister, anxious Picard with freaking Tasha Yar behind him, it takes you on such a ride. It's funny that Frakes says he doesn't understand it, because it made perfect sense to me, and I don't understand sciencey stuff at all--and I think Data's point in the briefing is the most poignant and most lucid explanation: that the Klingons value honor above all else, and a noble sacrifice for Narendra III could change the course of the war.

I loved the slow way Tasha begins to unravel, through subtle changes in Guinan's responses, that something's really wrong, and I even loved the het romance, because I'm a sucker for a a good "we'll die tomorrow but for now we live" kind of hook. (I wonder if that's the only time Christopher MacDonald's ever played a heroic guy; he always seemed to get stuck playing sleazes.) And Tasha's resolution at knowing that if her "real" death was not a "good death" according to Guinan (which was a scene that gave me goosebumps originally) but she can help make this one, and the sacrific of the E-C crew, an honorable one, was a better acting moment than she ever got in first season. I also loved how Picard starts to argue with her again and then just tells her to report to the C.

For me, at the time (and honestly since then, I still feel the same way every time I rewatch this), FINALLY seeing a freaking woman captain, in action, and especially on the bridge of an Enterprise, was so powerful I had trouble expressing it. Women built the goddamn Star Trek fandom, we created it, and yet we have been effectively erased from the histories in most circles, and pretty much of all the women I knew were beside themselves over Captain Garrett. The actress was amazing, she had massive command presence, and I was devastated that she died.

I loved that everyone got a little bit to do here, like Riker's salty, kind of rough relationship with Picard, Geordi's dealing with the meltdowns in engineering, etc. The subtleties of the different ways each of the crew relate to each other is fascinating, and frankly, I kind of like that they couldn't make a big old battle scene and the C just passes into the portal. That little kicker with Guinan calling up to the bridge and everyone wondering what the heck is up with her felt perfect.

Well, I do go on, but I just adore this episode. I have been known to talk about it for pages, so believe me, you're getting off easier. I'ma go watch it again because I need it.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 3:26 PM on November 5, 2020 [16 favorites]

During its original run, I gave up on TNG shortly after the second season. I'd seen a couple of third season episodes-- Deja Q, at least-- but never this one.

My jaw is on the floor. I'm sold. This was an amazing episode.
posted by phooky at 5:22 PM on November 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

This episode blew me away the first time I saw it, and I thought it might not live up to my memory on rewatch, but no it’s actually better.

Maybe because the Yar-shaped wound is fresher this time around, maybe because I know more of the inside baseball stuff thanks to CheesesOfBrazil, Halloween Jack, and hanov3r’s great posts, maybe just because I’m older and wiser and a more savvy media consumer these days, but yeah, this one really works.
posted by rodlymight at 8:53 PM on November 5, 2020

This episode is an amazing do-over for the death of Tasha Yar. Yar's death was just so pointless on every level you can look at it, and this episode just turns it upside down. She's choosing her destiny here, and going down in a blaze of glory. Love it.
posted by kaibutsu at 10:18 PM on November 5, 2020

For me, at the time (and honestly since then, I still feel the same way every time I rewatch this), FINALLY seeing a freaking woman captain, in action, and especially on the bridge of an Enterprise, was so powerful I had trouble expressing it. Women built the goddamn Star Trek fandom, we created it, and yet we have been effectively erased from the histories in most circles, and pretty much of all the women I knew were beside themselves over Captain Garrett. The actress was amazing, she had massive command presence, and I was devastated that she died.
If I could favorite this more than once, I would. My friends and I were all Captain Garrett stans before that concept even existed. This is still my favorite episode and one of the best Trek episodes ever.
posted by mogget at 11:40 PM on November 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

This episode is so popular and such a landmark that some years ago (long after the series ended), Hallmark sold a Christmas ornament of the Enterprise-C. They typically don’t do that for one-off ships.

Watch for the continuity blooper at the end of this episode when Geordi in Ten Forward wears the alternate timeline uniform instead of the normal one. The sleeve cuffs give it away.
posted by Servo5678 at 12:25 AM on November 6, 2020 [2 favorites]

About the only thing that actually bugs me about "Yesterday's Enterprise" is the fact that they didn't go all-out with bolder uniform changes for the Grimdark Universe, but I'm sure that's a budgetary thing.

Budgetary, perhaps. But, keeping a strong family resemblance helps tie the Grimdark Universe to "our" universe in a "it could happen here" sort of way.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:15 AM on November 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Something I forgot to mention that in subsequent years has pleased me so much (because the Bechdel Test wasn't yet a big cultural thing back then) is that there are multiple women in the episode, having conversations that are about important stuff. (And the most fun representation of it is the almost Kirk-McCoy-like bickering about getting out of sick bay between Captain Garrett and Doctor Crusher.)
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:01 PM on November 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Guinan hooking Worf on prune juice, "A warrior's drink!" has been one of the golden touches in the franchise for me.

"Drink your prune juice."

When I first saw this ep, it felt so "Important!" from the lighting and effects (and costumes!) budget.


Why can't transporters fix medical damage? It does. Sometimes, elsewhere(?). But not normally.


Guinan's first 1/3 interlude is spectacular.
posted by porpoise at 11:49 PM on November 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

Interesting that all the CCG mirror universe cards for TNG are all from this episode. I suppose it makes sense since it's the only series in the franchise to not have an actual mirror universe episode, and the other parallel universe episodes are even less appropriate.

I had forgotten that this was the episode that introduced Worf to prune juice
posted by ckape at 7:15 PM on November 7, 2020

Guinan headwear watch: Purple teardrop and then a blue teardrop.
posted by Kyol at 7:10 PM on January 17, 2021

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