Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Next Generation 5x26 "Time's Arrow, Part 1"

rating: ****

the story: Data's head is unexpectedly discovered in a cavern below San Francisco.

similar to: "Storm Front" (Enterprise)

my thoughts: Well.  Here we go: the secret origin of Guinan and Picard's relationship.  Was it worth the wait?  It's complicated...but yeah, it really is.  It just needs some special insight.

Remember Enterprise's Temporal Cold War?  That was an arc that lasted the span of the series, but ended on an incredibly ambiguous note in the fourth season two-part opener "Storm Front," in which we never find out who Future Guy is, one of the central riddles of the series.  Or do we?  I have my theories.  I believe that the alien who collaborates with the Nazis is Future Guy.  But without confirmation, it's just speculation.

"Time's Arrow" is a little like that.  Guinan is one of the trickiest characters in franchise lore.  Steeped heavily in mystery in her earliest appearances, the more we learn, the more we must decide if all that mystery was really worth it.  This is the central question of just how much was lost from the creative transition from the second to third seasons.  And it entirely hinges on "Time's Arrow."  Clearly the entire season had been leading toward it, just as Worf's in "Sins of the Father" inevitably led to "Redemption" (which itself served as a sequel to "Yesterday's Enterprise," which is what led to "Time's Arrow"...), so again, the question must be asked, Was it worth it?

Before we even get there, we have to examine what the bulk of the episode is actually about, which is an improved version of the previous "Next Phase," in which the crew once again deals with matters of mortality.  It's odd that the episode is so heavily centered on that (actually, two-part Star Trek episodes often work like that) without a lot of fan memory making much of it, but there you go, and as Data episodes go, it's a pretty good one, worthy of the finest tradition ("The Measure of a Man," for instance).

But in order to solve the mystery of what happened to him, and possibly prevent it (or cause and remedy it), the crew has to journey to the past, and at Guinan's insistence. 

...And in order to find out the answer to the question I keep posing, you will have to wait until the second part of this episode...(Hint: it's totally worth it.)

criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential (all criteria met)

notable guest-stars:
Whoopi Goldberg (Guinan)
Jerry Hardin
Marc Alaimo
Alexander Enberg

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