Star Trek: The Next Generation: Future Imperfect   Rewatch 
January 11, 2021 8:14 AM - Season 4, Episode 8 - Subscribe

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 Star Empire.

Story and script
  • Brannon Braga recalled, "We've had some amazing pitches, but the most notable we ever heard was in 'Future Imperfect,' where the team came in and said we have a story where Riker wakes up from an accident fifteen years in the future… Riker has a son, is the captain of the Enterprise and has no idea what happened. Mike Piller said, 'Stop, we'll buy it.'" (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 211)
  • The only major change to J. Larry Carroll and David Bennett Carren's pitch was the addition of the Romulan fantasy within a fantasy. Michael Piller commented, "The first draft was a little flat after we got into the story, just like "Remember Me". You had a situation where you are into it and something strange is happening and yet it can't just turn out to be a dream at the end of the show because it's not satisfying. What you do is you get to the third act and you need to do something that moves the action forward. This is one of the best examples of the notion that you shouldn't censor yourself. I just talked and David Carren said, 'You mean that he thinks it's a real Romulan plot for an act?' and I said, 'That's not what I mean at all' – then I said, 'Stop, wait a minute, what if that's exactly what we do and play it out as a Romulan gag for an act.' That's what I think made that show work." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 211)
  • The turbolift scene with Riker and Barash was added because the episode was running short. Carroll and Carren met with Rick Berman and Michael Piller to create a new scene the night before it was filmed. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 148))
  • This episode's title is a play on words. In English grammar, the "past perfect" tense is used to indicate that one past event occurred prior to another past event. The title "Future Imperfect" employs the converse of both words. The false reality (set in the "future") created by the alien for Riker was inaccurate (or "imperfect") in ways that allowed him to find out what was going on.
Cast and characters
  • Guest star Andreas Katsulas was not comfortable with his recurring role as Tomalak in this episode. "I felt much more comfortable when he was an incredible giant on the screen, just a face. Suddenly when I had to account for everything else, I didn't feel support and nothing was supporting what I was doing. I was happy not to recur unless it would have gone back to a screen character." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 211) Katsulas would subsequently appear as Tomalak one final time in "All Good Things...", once again seen only on a viewscreen.
  • This episode marks the first appearance of Alyssa Ogawa, albeit only in the illusory future. Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) does not appear in this episode.
  • Michael Westmore recalled that the aging make-up in this episode was intentionally more subtle than in previous installments. "Each member of the TNG cast was supposed to have aged sixteen years. The producers decided that rather than having each actor sit in a makeup chair for two or three hours, it would be a better idea to suggest their age by changing the hairstyles, and maybe doing a little rubber stretching around the eyes. I thought it was a sensible approach, because most of the actors were in their thirties, and even aging them sixteen years would only put them somewhere in their forties. Most people don't look dramatically different at that age, and it would have been a waste of time and energy using prosthetics to achieve that effect." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 180)
  • The song Riker plays on his trombone is Misty by Errol Garner.
  • The sets for the Romulan base in Barash's illusion were redresses of the Borg interiors from "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 148))
  • In the episode's trailer, Riker's line "Shall we end this charade?" has him using the British pronunciation "shuh-RAHD", whereas in the finished episode, the line is dubbed with the more familiar American pronunciation, "shuh-REYD".
Poster's Log:

Did Frakes forget a line or need prompting at his birthday party? The moment where Troi asks him what he wished for and then has to jog his arm to get a response feels unscripted.

Rewatching this episode prompted me to research Frakes's trombone playing - yes, he actually does play trombone, and has a platinum album for playing on the Phish album "Hoist".

I'm honestly surprised that Riker waited 30 hours to confront Geordi about the length of time his diagnostics were taking. Also, the annoyance that flickers across Geordi's face in that moment is beautiful - an emotion we don't often see from that character.

The concept of multiple layers of illusory "reality" will come back and bite Riker again in the future.

I try not to complain too much about the alien makeup / appliances, but Barash's "true" form is definitely one of the bargain-basement costumes.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:

As alluded to a couple of days ago, we got another child actor this week (Chris Demetral, playing "Jean-Luc", was 13 when this episode was filmed). Demetral was known to audiences at the time for his recurring role on the HBO comedy series "Dream On" and had guest-starred on a number of popular late-80s sitcoms.

I remembered this one as worse than it actually is. It's one of the episodes that demands closer attention on rewatch, looking for the more subtle clues to what's really going on.

The writers were really dredging season 1 for plot points, weren't they? I think hanging Riker's comprehension of the real situation on his (and the audience's) recognition of a one-episode character from early in the series' run is risky, and almost feels like they were hanging a lot of hope on syndication and consistent rerunning.

Coming as close as it does in this rewatch to the S3 finale of Discovery, it might bear some comparing the circumstances in both episodes - powerful children, hidden by their deceased mothers, believing themselves to be (or actually being) the last of their race.
posted by hanov3r (21 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I think hanging Riker's comprehension of the real situation on his (and the audience's) recognition of a one-episode character from early in the series' run is risky, and almost feels like they were hanging a lot of hope on syndication and consistent rerunning.

I haven't rewatched this one yet, but this point has always stuck with me, so I'll comment quick. I am actually one of those people who saw this episode before having seen the first season. Definitely confusing!

Of course, I caught the Bynar episode later. Riker was head over heels for Min. The Bynars created the perfect woman for him. He went back and spent some significant time trying to dredge her out of memory (and failing). I have a hard time with the idea it took him so long to realize his wife was actually a holodeck character from his past.
posted by Fukiyama at 9:06 AM on January 11, 2021

The main payoff of the episode for me is seeing alternate/future versions of the characters, something that's usually a treat because of how the characters and sets get reimagined. In fact, the combadges with the rank bars get reused in the S7 episode "Parallels", which also features a bridge officer of a race not currently part of the Federation.

The episode was also good in general; I don't remember being fooled by the initial set-up--that it was going to be Captain Riker and Admiral Picard from now on--although that might have been because I'd already seen episodes after this one before I saw this one for the first time. The Romulan holodeck was a nice head-fake, though. And the kid actor was pretty good, too, better than Alexander's first actor last ep. (Barash's true form, though... that was just ass.) Nice to see Minuet again, too, although wasn't Riker's trombone playing a lot better in "11001001"?
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:06 AM on January 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

I still love the big moment where Riker recognizes Min. What a fabulous reveal, and what a reward for the viewers who managed not to bail on the show during season one. The downside of that moment is that Frakes IMO overplays his reaction and looks about ready to fuckin' murder that kid, which, I dunno, I think a Starfleet officer ought to be savvy enough to tamp that reaction down a hair, phantasmagorical circumstances notwithstanding.

Speaking of hair: the Lenin look works for Jean-Luc, but Riker's beard work is distractingly inconsistent and way too Frosted Mini-Wheaty.

And speaking of costuming: Lil' Jean-Luc's natural form just…never should have made it onto the set. It's one of those rare times when I want a basic rubber forehead appliance.

It sounds like I'm complaining, but I do enjoy this episode quite a bit. Very good pacing, some nice weirdness, Tomalak!, and a nice resolution.

I should also mention that this is one of those episodes that makes it almost impossible for a Trek RPG gamemaster to introduce a "mindfuck" storyline whereby the players are told by all the NPCs that something whackadoo happened and they just don't remember it. You even hint at that kind of thing as GM? and the players are INSTANTly, incurably suspicious.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:44 AM on January 11, 2021 [8 favorites]

Yeah, this one was much better on the rewatch than I recalled, and I found myself hooked in again even though I knew how it turned out. I'm really glad they toned down the makeup for the most part, because not everyone in their forties or even fifties is going to look "old"--for whatever values of old you mean. (In my fifties, most people thought I was around 30 to 35, and I still get people telling me I can't possibly be as old as I am.) They especially go heavy-handed usually on making the women look like hags, so thank goodness this time they toned it down. I'm betting future skincare is pretty amazing, to be honest.

Though I will say Picard's Lenin look does not do it for me at all, sorry! I was like "oh JL, take that silly thing off your face."

The moment referred to above, about whether Frakes might have forgotten his line about his wish, is one of my favorite moments, and I'd totally forgotten it myself--that moment is so refreshingly naturalistic, with his "music lessons" response and laughter, and it's the kind of moment you don't see much on the series. (I think that's one reason I loved Suzie Plakson so much and was so angry--she was just so naturalistic in that role, she brought a casual attitude and relaxed approach that you never got to see, and I really love it.)

Although I laughed out loud at another moment--I can't recall who said it, or which episode we were discussing, but someone (CheesesOfBrazil?) mentioned Riker's Captain McAllister squint and I about died when he wakes up in this and does that squint straight into the camera. OMG it was gloriously hilarious.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 11:23 AM on January 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Illusory cards from the Star Trek CCG:

A dilemma which sticks around until a crew can pass some requirement was known as a 'wall'. We get a literal, but very easy, wall in the form of Impassable Door in Premiere (one crew member to pass) and the far more sturdy and useful wall Hologram Ruse (probably 4+ crew members to pass). Oh and there's Jaron who is apparantly just a regular Romulan trooper, nothing to see here.

Alternate Universe included the Decius, positioned as a sort of counterpart to the future Klingon and Federation ships in this set from All Good Things, with high stats and an [AU] icon to staff.

Decipher was never one to let a product pass without including a gimmick, so as promo cards in the Introductory 2-Player Game you got Admiral Picard, Commander Data, and Commander Troi as not-really-holograms, but instead having a 'Barash' icon instead. This killed two birds with one stone, as they didn't need to include the hologram rules in the I2PG and it offered another 'broken link' for future exploitation. Plus, I dunno, I just think they look cool with their rows of icons on the left side of the cards. At various points the official rules considered Commander Data's species to be 'not an android at all' or alternately 'an android, but not for cards that call for Soong type androids' because yay fiddly complexity.

The Barash icon would return on Ambassador Tomalak, one of three personas of him in the game and the only one that doesn't kinda suck. And then there's Prot. Barash himself appeared five years after his icon a and finally provided it an actual use.
posted by StarkRoads at 12:56 PM on January 11, 2021

I have to say, I think the reveal of how the alien actually looks at the end of this episode is just SO GOOFY that it kind of damages the episode.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:06 PM on January 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Romulan fakeout plotline was of course shamelessly stolen from the class G.I. Joe episode "There's No Place Like Springfield" (Part 1, Part 2) where Shipwreck awakes in the future.

Ok fine, 36 Hours may have done it much earlier, and it's a trope but the G.I. Joe version scarred more than one 80's kid.
posted by Pryde at 3:08 PM on January 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

So, I'm one of those people who did bail on Season One, and had no idea who Min was supposed to be until I read this thread. I hate to be the one to break this to y'all, but, like I say, I haven't seen that random S1 holodeck episode, but I have seen the much more recent Hollow Pursuits, so my takeaway was that
a) everyone on board goes down to the holodeck once in a while to do warp core maintenance, and
b) Riker has a particular favorite program in his bookmarks
Honestly, my reaction was mostly relief that they finally went there instead of dancing around the issue forever. And now I find out that there's context, and I have to watch a whole S1 episode to get it? Bogus.

I liked this episode a lot, partly for the "Yesterday's Enterprise" everything's-a-bit-off vibe, partly for the makeup and costuming choices (the hair does most of the heavy lifting here and I am here for it), but mostly because it's a chance for Jonathan Frakes to do what Jonathan Frakes does best, which is register mounting annoyance. That scene on the bridge where he tells everyone off? It is perfect. Honestly you get the feeling he doesn't care if it's all an illusion or not, be just wants to call everyone out for being such insufferable blowhards. Yes, tell Jean-Luc to shut up, you know you want to.

I'm sympathetic to the production team where the lousy alien is concerned. It really felt like they had some sort of ace forehead prosthetic all lined up and ready to go, and the prop master was already in his car at the drive-thru on the way home when the the call comes through, yes, hello, what? he grunts around a mouthful of Filet-o-Fish, hefting the paleolithic DynaTAC to his ear, there's what with the who now?, and from the other end of the static-drenched connection, NEED ANOTHER PLAN, they say, KID'S GOT A LATEX ALLERGY, and for fuck's sake as he accelerates back onto the highway, stopping at the shop only long enough to stuff a rubbery form into the passenger seat, screetching up to the set ten minutes later, and wait, shit, is that Mac and Me? and he's just fuck you, it will be on screen for ten seconds and no one's going to give a shit and he shoves it out the passenger window and peels off, maybe doing a donut in the lot as he flips everyone off, and the crew is all like "welp" and an hour later that's a wrap
posted by phooky at 6:19 PM on January 11, 2021 [8 favorites]

Ok, has every episode this season, except The Best Of Both Worlds Part II, been about family? Maybe not Remember Me, but kind of.

The bit at the birthday party where Riker doesn’t say what he wished for is meant as a joke. He grins at Troi, there’s a beat, she slaps his arm and he says “music lessons,” and everyone laughs. The joke is his wish is something sexual. But this is a joke Riker is making, and everyone gets it, that’s not actually his wish.
posted by rodlymight at 6:55 PM on January 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

I should also mention that this is one of those episodes that makes it almost impossible for a Trek RPG gamemaster to introduce a "mindfuck" storyline whereby the players are told by all the NPCs that something whackadoo happened and they just don't remember it. You even hint at that kind of thing as GM? and the players are INSTANTly, incurably suspicious.

This is hilarious to me, because it sounds a lot like what the real Enterprise crew did in season 5's "Conundrum." Those fuckers couldn't help but unravel the mystery that they inadvertently left for themselves.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:57 PM on January 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

Ah, I should have watched first. Riker did pick up on Minuet pretty quick once he had seen the home movie and heard her name again. But I did notice something else! If Riker's been in a coma for ten days and his fever broke only that morning, why is he dressed in his uniform?

Anyway, this is a good one for the things everyone has pointed out. That part where Riker is chewing out Geordi is a great example of how LeVar was hobbled by the VISOR all those years. The way he kept side-eyeing Riker was awesome.
posted by Fukiyama at 7:24 PM on January 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

First off, I love this episode. My jaw hit the floor when Riker recognized Minuet the first time I saw it. That kind of continuity just blew me away. And for once I agree with the producers that the third-act in the Romulan prison really ratcheted up the drama. I knew in the back of my mind that everything was going to have to go back to status quo, but I didn't spend the episode thinking "how are they going to undo this?" I think that's the mark of a good episode.

Barash really bit off more than he could chew here.. maybe he would have had a chance if he hadn't dropped Riker into a high-stakes negotiation with the Federation's most dangerous enemy, all while coping with the loss of a wife he never knew, and the presence of a son he doesn't remember. Then, as a fall-back scenario, he tries to shoehorm them into some kind of prison-break buddy movie. If I were Barash, I think I would have woken up Riker on Risa, and told him that he was a private detective and I was his lovable kid-sidekick, and that we have zany adventures with a new visitor to the planet each week. Or maybe put us in a small town on Earth and say now that he's retired, he coaches me on the local little league team and we need to do training montages to get ready to play our big crosstown rivals. I have a number of good scenarios, memail me for details.

Picard's goatee is awesome, it's the Mirror, Mirror Picard we were robbed of.
posted by skewed at 8:00 PM on January 11, 2021 [2 favorites]

Honestly, my reaction was mostly relief that they finally went there instead of dancing around the issue forever. And now I find out that there's context, and I have to watch a whole S1 episode to get it? Bogus.

I don't think that you'll regret it; "11001001" is one of the better S1 eps, if one that you actually have to work to remember the title of.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:28 PM on January 11, 2021 [3 favorites]

I screwed up my link to Prot somehow before, here he is.
posted by StarkRoads at 10:20 PM on January 11, 2021

Picard's goatee is awesome, it's the Mirror, Mirror Picard we were robbed of.

Have you seen the TNG Mirror Universe comic? Obviously not in canon, but sublimely hilarious, from what I've seen of it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:07 AM on January 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

"Future Imperfect" is a good example of one of those mature, polished, by-the-numbers TNG episodes. It's a decent hour of entertainment. Of course the highlight of the episode is when Riker realizes things are not as they seem and challenges Data, Geordi, and Worf, before telling Jean-Luc to "shut up." I can buy Riker not immediately recognizing Min for who she was. She was real to Riker so I assume he assumed she was one of his past relationships made good without really thinking about it. I agree, the alien at the end was a bad idea. And it's actually a little weird considering how little effort BermanTrek put into its aliens overall. Speaking of the alien, Ethan's people had some pretty advanced sensory, holographic, and AI tech that has fallen into the Federation's lap to assimilate. But of course, that's the kind of follow-up that TNG hardly does.
posted by Stuka at 8:21 AM on January 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

I got excited when I heard the first few notes of Misty! My favorite version has a trombone.

More Frakes playing trombone.
posted by chinesefood at 11:23 AM on January 12, 2021

Have you seen the TNG Mirror Universe comic?

My god, the GUNS on that Picard!
posted by showbiz_liz at 1:23 PM on January 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

no you CAN'T
don't even TRY

(It's one of my favorite Riker lines.)
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 5:02 PM on January 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

Oh sure NOW (fake) Crusher is all, "he just broke his wrist, just like a lot of other boys his age". Where was that with the Talarian episode?

I do like having the rank combined with the commbadges, though you lose the thing where you can always tell someone's rank even in a close-up head shot.
posted by ckape at 5:30 PM on January 16, 2021

Also, everyone's streaks of grey remind me of Data during the future scenes of All Good Things...
posted by ckape at 5:32 PM on January 16, 2021

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