This is a review of the two-part TNG series finale. A review of the entire seventh season will follow shortly.
In these episodes, Jean-Luc Picard—who will always be the heart of the series—finds himself hopping back-and-forth in time. There are three distinct timelines. There is the present-day timeline; there’s a future timeline, around twenty-five years after Picard leaves the Enterprise; and, there’s a past timeline, which I’ll call the Farpoint timeline because it takes place just before the USS Enterprise-D set out on its first historic mission.
In the future timeline, Picard is visited by Geordi La Forge at his vineyard. Geordi has learned that Picard has something called Irumodic Syndrome. Incidentally, Geordi no longer wears his VISOR, he’s married to Leah (Brahms, I’m assuming, whom he fell in love with the first time as a hologram), and has three children. Geordi is apparently a writer as well, since Picard mentions reading his last novel.
After having a hallucination of some ragged-looking people jeering and laughing at him, Picard time-hops to the Farpoint timeline. Lt. Tasha Yar, that Trek character who refuses to stay dead, is shuttling Picard to the Enterprise-D for the very first time in a scene reminiscent of a similar one in Star Trek: The Motion Picture, when Scotty does the same thing for Kirk.
After his brief journey to the future and to the past, Picard finds himself in the present once again. He tells Deanna Troi and Dr. Beverly Crusher about his experiences. Crusher finds no evidence that he’s been anywhere but on the ship, but she does discover a structural defect in his parietal lobe that could one day lead to Irumodic Syndrome.
Admiral Nakamura contacts Picard and tells him about a volatile situation in the Neutral Zone. At least 30 Romulan warbirds are heading for some sort of spatial anomaly in the Devron system. Nakamura orders the Enterprise to approach the Zone as well, along with 14 other Federation warships, but they are not to cross into the Neutral Zone unless the Romulans do.
Suddenly, Picard is in his vineyard again, in the future. He decides he needs to see Data, who is at Cambridge University. Geordi takes him. Data listens to Picard’s tale of time-hopping and agrees to help him get to the bottom of it.
Picard travels to the Farpoint timeline again, to his welcoming party as he comes aboard the ship for the first time. Starfleet issues an alert very similar to the one Admiral Nakamura issued in the present. A number of vessels, freighters and transports, no Starfleet ships, are heading towards the Devron system in the Neutral Zone. Starfleet has canceled their mission to Farpoint Station and orders them to the Neutral Zone as soon as they leave spacedock.
Picard ignores the command, saying they will travel to Farpoint as planned.
Then the captain finds himself in the present again. Dr. Crusher finds evidence in his temporal lobe that suggests Picard isn’t delusional. Picard discusses everything with his officers. No one has any memories of Starfleet diverting them from Farpoint Station, which suggests that there is a discontinuity between the timelines. Picard also doesn’t believe that it is a coincidence that there’s an anomaly in the Devron System in both timelines.
Picard asks Riker to assume command if he seems disoriented again. Riker is experiencing some distraction himself. Worf’s new romance with Troi seems to be driving a wedge between the two friends.
Picard returns to the future. It seems logical that there must be some sort of anomaly here as well. There’s no Neutral Zone in the future because the Klingons have taken over the Romulan Empire. Relations between the Federation and the Klingon Empire aren’t great at the moment either. They contact “Admiral” Riker in an attempt to get a ship to take them to the Devron system. Riker refuses, after hearing the story, but says he’ll have the Yorktown do some long-range scans of the area and will get back to them. Data suggest they arrange passage on a medical ship.
The captain of the USS Pasteur turns out to be Beverly Crusher. Or, maybe it should be Beverly Picard, since she and Jean-Luc apparently got married at some point. Picard gets into a turbolift and appears in the Farpoint timeline again.
The ship is at the coordinates where they encountered Q for the first time. Sure, if I were Picard, I’d think that Q was behind all of these shenanigans as well. But, Q isn’t there.
When Picard steps into his ready room, he’s back in the courtroom we all remember from “Encounter at Farpoint.” And Q is there, as the Judge. Q says he’s responsible for Picard’s time-hopping, but he had nothing to do with the spatial anomalies. The trial from seven years ago never ended and a verdict wasn’t reached until now. Q sees no evidence that humanity has grown at all. As a result, humans will be wiped out of existence. The kicker is that the Q-Continuum aren’t the cause of this annihilation: Picard is.
Back in the present, Picard meets with his officers again. Picard believes that Q is actually giving him a chance to save humanity with all of this time-hopping. Just as they are about to communicate with one of the Romulan warbirds on their side of the Neutral Zone, Picard timeshifts again to the future. Here, Governor Worf, formerly of the Klingon High Command, agrees to join them as they head to the Devron system at Warp 13. Yeah, that’s right. Warp 13.
Now, in all three timelines, Picard is approaching the anomaly. Except there is no anomaly in the future, and the anomaly in the past Farpoint timeline is larger than the one in the present. Two Enterprises and one Pasteur begin directing an inverse tachyon pulse at the spatial anomaly, for reasons lost to me in the technobabble. Data has determined the anomaly is a multiphasic temporal convergence in the space-time continuum (try saying that three times fast).
In the future, the Pasteur is attacked by Klingon battle cruisers. Admiral Riker shows up in a repurposed Enterprise-D that he took out of moth balls to use as his personal ship. The ship also has a cloaking device, which means the Federation ban against them was lifted at some point. Riker rescues the crew of the medical ship just moments before a warp core breach. Riker and Worf still seem to have bad blood between them.
In the present, time-reversal phenomena are occurring. Geordi is growing eyeballs again. Nurse Ogawa loses her baby because it grows in reverse. That sort of thing.
Q returns to give Picard more clues. Picard takes a big time-hop back about 3.5 billion years. The anomaly is so large in the distant past that it can be seen from Earth and spreads across the entire Alpha Quadrant. Q shows Picard a pool of primordial ooze, which the anomaly is preventing from forming the first proteins. Life on Earth will never begin; humanity will never exist.
Picard determines that the three tachyon pulses converging at the same point in three timelines is what cause the spatial anomaly in the first place. In each timeline, Picard has the Enterprise flown directly into the anomaly (a small one has appeared in the future), again for reasons I can’t fully explain. This does cause the anomaly to collapse, but the Enterprise is destroyed in every timeline.
Then we’re back in the courtroom. Q the Judge says Picard has passed the test, but the trial never ends . . .
Back in the present day, no one else remembers the events that have taken place.
In our poker game outro, the conversation between our regular cast indicates that Picard has told them all everything. Riker and Worf seem determined not to let Troi affect their friendship. For the first time, Picard shows up at Riker’s quarters and asks if he can join the game.
And then Star Trek: The Next Generation is over. At least on television.
I love this finale. It has that time travel element that I always seem to like. The return to the courtroom from the pilot episode gives me the feeling of everything coming full circle. I also like the glimpse into a possible future for our favorite cast members. It’s a kind of closure.
I’m not sure if the science holds up under close scrutiny, but that’s not as important to me as what’s going on with the characters. Picard saves the day. He not only saves the ship, again, but he saves all of Humankind. Pretty impressive for a day’s work.
This one easily lands on my All-Time Best Trek list, and very close to the top.
5 out of a possible 5 stars.