Star Trek: The Next Generation: Timescape   Rewatch 
September 10, 2021 4:25 AM - Season 6, Episode 25 - Subscribe

The Enterprise and a Romulan warbird face mutual destruction in a region of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey…stuff.

Would you care to join Memory Alpha in some…empirical research?:

• The plot for this episode was based upon a story by Mark Gehred-O'Connell, who pitched the one-sentence concept of a "ship trapped in time like amber".

• Gehred-O'Connell commented: "In my original idea, neither ship was the Enterprise. My story involved the Enterprise coming across two other ships in this situation and having to diffuse it because it endangered the whole sector. But when I pitched the story, Brannon blurted out, 'Oh no, one of those ships has to be the Enterprise!' The minute I started in, I could tell the wheels were already turning in his mind". Gehred-O'Connell was unable to work any further on the script as the episode was rushed into production when another script was jettisoned.

• Brannon Braga developed the pitch after another story was scrapped. He sought to out-do his previous "Cause and Effect" by providing an even more unusual time-travel story. He noted, "This is 'Cause & Effect' times ten. Time is not only looping, it's moving backwards, accelerating and stopping and moving backwards." Elsewhere, he added, "I wanted to do this as 'man against nature,' or 'man against time'. What The Abyss was to deep-sea diving, this would be to 'deep-time diving'." Consequently, an early title for the episode was "Deep Time".

• From the outset, it was known that this episode would be extremely complex to produce. Braga remarked, "As I was writing it, I was thinking there's no way." Jeri Taylor recalled, "It was absolutely bizarre. It's full of opticals and complicated sequences. Do you do split screen? Do you do blue screen? Do you do anthromorphic [sic] lenses?"

• The challenge was given to director Adam Nimoy (son of Leonard Nimoy), who had previously directed "Rascals". Rick Berman recalled, "My feeling was that nobody should be asked to be judged on a work that was so unusual in terms of having to come in and direct these kids. I basically said I would like to give him another shot to work with adults."

• David Livingston stated, "I think this is the longest optical memo we have ever had. It [was] over six pages long. Adam was very specific about what he wanted and I knew he was going to do great on it. He's got good genes."

• Nimoy endeavored to bring to life what he referred to as the "eerie ambience" of the teleplay. His favorite moments of the show were the frozen-time reaction and reveal shots aboard the runabout, which Nimoy said were inspired by German impressionistic films such as The Hands of Orlac (1924).

• This episode features a runabout, a type of spacecraft that was more commonly seen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. The name of the runabout in this episode was never revealed, however. It is simply known as the Enterprise-D runabout, although reused footage from DS9 gives the ship the USS Rio Grande's registry (NCC-72452). The interior aft set was built on the budget of The Next Generation to help its sister show; ironically, it was never shown on DS9, although the rear windows were seen in the alternate timeline in "The Visitor" and the whole set was redressed for a room on the USS Prometheus in "Second Sight".

• Dr. Vassbinder would later be referenced by Wesley Crusher in the episode "Journey's End", and by Chakotay in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Year of Hell, Part II".

"Hello, Diane... I understand you're an empath. I'm a very... (winks unsubtly) sensitive man myself. I'm doing a thesis on interspecies mating rituals... Would you care to join me in some 'empirical research'?"
- Deanna Troi, imitating Dr. Mizan

"He just kept talking in one long incredibly unbroken sentence moving from topic to topic so that no-one had a chance to interrupt; it was really quite hypnotic."
- Picard, on Dr. Vassbinder

Poster's Log:
Sir Pat does a pretty dead-on Kissinger.

Despite being basically a mash-up of "The Next Phase" and "Cause and Effect," I enjoy this one for its funny and creepy bits. The pacing here also stands out—maintaining tension and uncertainty really well—and it's nice for Troi to get some good hero-stuff for a change.

It occurs to me, though, that maybe it should have been Klingons or Cardassians, not Romulans. Of the three, who would the Enterprise crew be LEAST likely to beam over with sidearms intact and functional?: the Romulans, I'd say. Klingons would've added an extra element of WTF, but I think we might know too much about how their propulsion systems work? And Cardassians might've been a suitable compromise, but not as cost-effective; pretty sure neither TNG nor DS9 have had any actual scenes on a Cardassian ship yet, so there'd be no existing sets to re-use.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Whether or not they wanted to build out a Cardassian bridge or engine room or whatever, I agree that they shouldn't have reused the Romulans after "The Next Phase"; when this ep had its reveal of the Romulan (or "Romulan") that was aware of the little band, I was like, "Wait, really, again?" (As it was , I thought it was neat that they used their "borrowing" of a runabout to build out the aft compartment set. MA is wrong about it never being used on DS9, although I couldn't tell you off the top of my head which episode we saw it in.)

This was definitely fixable, though, and certainly had its moments. It was neat that Data could actually see that the warp core breach was moving, albeit at the edge of his perception. (I know that I've seen that plot device before--where someone is in the process of being killed when time is stopped--but I can't remember where or when. It's not terribly dissimilar to the scenes with Quicksilver in X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse in which his perception is speeded up so much that he can see lethal events--bullets flying, the X-Mansion blowing up--and move bullets' trajectories and rescue people ahead of the explosion's progress. Obviously, that won't help Crusher here, since she's already been shot, not to mention everyone on the ship with the warp core breach, until they come up with the "rewinding" thing.) And, of course, the time-punch-drunk Picard and his smiley face. (Shades of what would eventually be called "temporal psychosis" on VOY.) And the crew making fun of people they'd met at the conference was 100% legit, if you've ever been to one and met those exact types of people.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:11 AM on September 10, 2021

Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:

Some general use items before we get to the green stuff: Warp Core Breach and Emergency Transporter Armbands are general use offensive and defensive options, respectively. Probably not game-winners, but you never know. Temporal Narcosis provides a different spin on the 'silver bullet' that beats other specific cards by giving you an advantage, instead of countering them. Oh, the Federation gets the Runabout, which is pretty beefy for its lack of staffing requirements. Just the thing to play on your Docking Pads.

Alright, Romulan stuff: Investigate "Shattered Space" is one of those high point, high-requirement missions you can really build a deck around, like Hunt for DNA Program from a bit ago. It even bumps up the points on your PNZ. Quantum Singularity Lifeforms on its face is a fairly nasty anti-Romulan dilemma, but with Scout Encounter first you can send in your own Romulan ship right before it to freeze opponent's ship. Pretty popular combo, if you weren't really playing green. There's also a few personnel here, like Takket and Taul, along with Jera and Tomek, who are kludged into being holograms just so Rom players could have some.

Second Edition digs us Mareth and Relam, along with the returning Taul, Jera, and Tomek, Displaced Alien, the latter two of which get somewhat more accurate representations this time around. Disruptor Accident is a nice straightforward dilemma, whereas Timescape is one of the best Dilemmas in the game, effectively slowing down opponents with two fully staffed crews flying around. A foil copy was a permanent fixture of my dilemma pile.
posted by StarkRoads at 8:03 AM on September 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

I really liked this episode-- Picard drawing a smiley face in the plasma cloud that is destroying everything he loves in slow motion is absolutely nutty and incredible-- but the first six or seven minutes? Where they talk about whether or not they like cats and then how boring this academic conference was and start doing impersonations of dull professors compete with cringe worthy ethnic accents? That was the dullest Trek ever filmed. When Geordi froze, I thought it was because he was about to launch into one of his trademark "wait, sorry, this is really boring" bits. I was half expecting the time jumps to be an artsy representation of Troi just tuning the fuck out. Glad I stuck around, but wow.
posted by phooky at 8:47 AM on September 10, 2021 [1 favorite]

That was the dullest Trek ever filmed.

Then I have bad news for you about, like, eight episodes of season 7.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:06 AM on September 10, 2021 [7 favorites]

"He just kept talking in one long incredibly unbroken sentence moving from topic to topic so that no-one had a chance to interrupt; it was really quite hypnotic."

This shows how much Picard has lightened up over the years. Can you imagine Picard of Season 1-2 having a fun moment like this with his officers?
posted by Servo5678 at 9:40 AM on September 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

I really love Marina's "Dr Mizan" accent (is it a mangled Geordie accent?). And, it's good to see her plexing when her anxiety is starting to ramp up - physician, calm thyself.
posted by hanov3r at 10:44 AM on September 10, 2021

That was the dullest Trek ever filmed.

Gauntlet: thrown.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:59 AM on September 10, 2021 [2 favorites]

I do like this episode. Picard drawing the smiley face in the warp core breach is definitely one of my favorite scenes, though I have no idea why.

I agree the accents were a bit cringey. But after going to several conferences back in my academic days, I totally get it.

I find the time travel interesting in this. Especially as it goes backwards. Seeing the E-D hanging there mid blow up (am I remembering correctly since I haven't rewatched yet?) was pretty cool.
posted by kathrynm at 11:06 AM on September 10, 2021

"He just kept talking in one long incredibly unbroken sentence moving from topic to topic so that no-one had a chance to interrupt; it was really quite hypnotic."

This isn't the only quote of Picard's that made it into DarkMateria's Picard Song; the whole point of the song is to be chock full of Picard soundbites. However it's the quote I most strongly associate with it. (The speech from The First Duty is a close second.)
posted by radwolf76 at 11:57 AM on September 10, 2021 [3 favorites]

This is another one that, weirdly, I had no memory of so it was like watching a new episode. Eventually, after the second time I watched it, a few moments came back to mind, but overall, it's just so weird that some of these later-season episodes have vanished from my memory, especially when I enjoy them, like this one. I love timey-wimey stuff, it's just my favorite, and this had a lot of cool little bits.

I kind of agree with phooky in that I found the two recountings of conversations to be just bizarrely dragged out; the sentences themselves when you see them in print aren't that long, but in the show both Deanna's and Jean-Luc's lines feel interminable to me. I have a bad habit of trying to finish people's sentences when they're slow-talkers, so that was excruciating to me. It was nice to see that effect I liked from Time's Arrow again, of someone phasing in and out and then vanishing. JL's blunt tips for his long nails just need a buffing to complete the look. I refuse to accept that Spot attacked Riker unprovoked--he's an orange tabby and they are just the chillest, most awesome cats, so I think Riker's leaving something crucial out, the cat-hating bastard.

These guys (MA or the actual staff themselves?) are a copyeditor's dream in how poorly they use words, you could keep yourself employed for years correcting them: "diffuse" for "defuse" and "anthropomorphic" for "anamorphic." Hilar. And that was just for this week.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:59 PM on September 10, 2021 [4 favorites]

The [sic] on "anthropomorphic" (lol) is MA's, not mine, so they at least caught that. But otherwise, yeah, MA has enough errors that I just disregard them unless they might actually confuse things. Still, MA's way better edited than a lot of fan wikis!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:03 PM on September 10, 2021

This one is great for all the reasons mentioned. The only problem I have with it is just a quibble with the SFX. Picard draws a smile on the cloud. Everyone looks to see why he is laughing and we see Picard standing there looking at the cloud and pointing at his handiwork. The actual cloud looks great, but it always takes me a bit out of it when it's obvious Picard standing where he is should not be able to see the side of the cloud with the smiley face. Just my quibble.

Did the crew of the runabout ever do anything the head off the warbird firing its disruptors at the Enterprise?
posted by Fukiyama at 5:20 PM on September 10, 2021

I like the stuff in the shuttle. We never really see these people just hang out like that, shooting the shit like friends and co-workers. I guess some people found it boring but I think it humanized the characters a lot in just a few minutes. That slow start also makes the creepy stuff land harder. Everybody is relaxing and then suddenly they're in a Twilight Zone episode with instantly rotting fruit and Picard growing crazy nails.

Picard's smiley face giggle fit is an unforgettable moment, because it is so utterly out of character for him. It's downright eerie to see him act like an idiot.

incredibly unbroken sentence moving from topic to topic so that no-one had a chance to interrupt; it was really quite hypnotic.

Well, now I'm pretty much obligated to link to this song. Biggest Trek earworm since Wrath of Khan.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 12:21 AM on September 11, 2021 [6 favorites]

I love thinking about this episode from Riker's point of view.

Your boss is out of town, and you're in control. You make a risky choice to help out some potential enemies. And then, right as you're realizing everything is going to hell and something really bad is happening, you get knocked to the floor and you look up and he's right there standing over you, taking charge again.
posted by meese at 11:44 AM on September 12, 2021 [7 favorites]

he's right there standing over you, taking charge again.

"I swear, I can't leave you kids alone for a second."
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:19 PM on September 12, 2021

I absolutely love this episode. Everything about it is delightful. The acting and directing are flawless. It's among my favorites.

I also love provoking drunken arguments about how the physics of it work. The explosion of the ship takes 12 hours in slow time, but less than five seconds in real time - so the invisible-suit divers are moving through the ship something like 10'000 times as fast as normal. Moving through an office environment at that speed seems like it should be a lot more dramatic than what we see.

Every footstep on the deck plates (tens of kg moving at 10^4 m/s) has the same momentum as a bowling ball traveling at 50'000 kilometers per hour. The floor should be buckling. (Let's leave aside the question of how artificial gravity works across time-regions.)

As our heroes walk around, they're traveling at 50'000 kph: that's around mach 40, and nearly twice as fast as a space shuttle during re-entry. They should be surrounded by a shockwave of plasma from the air they disrupt while walking down the hall, destroying the furniture and all of the crew they pass. From their point of view, the objects they encounter should have astonishingly small momentum and weight: lifting a human should take as much effort as lifting a Hershey's Kiss. It's amazing they are able to move things around and touch buttons without accidentally throwing them through the bulkheads and out into space.

You can get even more geeky and ask about things like temperature. If the temperature of the air in the room scales linearly with the kinetic energy of gas molecules (square root of velocity) - as it does in the real world - then they are walking around a ship that's around 3 Kelvin. I hope the air they're breathing is generated within the force-field suit.

You could invent wacky head canon to explain away most of this. (I'm sure many people have.) Perhaps they use something like a warp field to lower the mass of the heroes. Maybe the same technology that allows transporters to cause huge volumes of material to vanish without leaving cavities and shock-waves in their wake magics-over the air disruptions. Presumably the invisible diving suit takes the redshifted ~4 mm microwave radiation they actually receive when looking at things and creates an optical-wavelength representation. (The resolution is surprising. But, maybe there's some fancy sub-wavelength interferometry trick in the suit.)

And, yes, I realize it's just a show and I should really just relax. But, it's also fun to think about what the experience would be like in a slightly more realistic world.
posted by eotvos at 10:23 PM on September 12, 2021 [6 favorites]

Damnit. Ignore what I said about doppler shift in the above comment. I'm an idiot and missed a factor of a thousand. That's not actually a big problem. Sorry.
posted by eotvos at 10:37 PM on September 12, 2021

Of course Geordi says that the guy that makes a weird pass at Deanna is a perfectly cromulent expert on interspecies relationships
posted by StarkRoads at 7:55 AM on September 13, 2021 [3 favorites]

You all really gonna let this thread die without figuring out what the hell was going on in that last scene between Riker and Data? I felt like I needed to stop them and remind everyone that the episode was over.
posted by skewed at 7:52 PM on September 16, 2021 [1 favorite]

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