the story: Picard saves Guinan's life, and Mark Twain meets the 24th century.
similar to: "Storm Front" (Enterprise)
my thoughts: Okay, so let's recap. Enterprise later ambiguously (or not) concludes its Temporal Cold War in "Storm Front," and everyone's wondering in "Time's Arrow" just how Guinan met Picard, and the nature of their intense bond.
It helps to keep in mind the nature of Guinan's people as explored in Star Trek Generations. There, we learn that they have incredibly intimate bonds. It's what they do. So naturally, that's what Guinan forms with the guy who saves her.
That's the short version.
The longer one actually has Guinan spending more time with Data, who's busy trying to keep his head attached to his body. Guinan actually meets the whole crew in turn of the 20th century San Francisco. But it's Picard who decides to stay behind and make sure she's okay. This is a younger Guinan, who hasn't yet lost her planet to the Borg. She's young, she's rebellious, and she's exploring her potential. The imp who later challenges Q ("Q Who?") doesn't yet exist. The know-everything Guinan, who's more aware than anyone ("Yesterday's Enterprise") doesn't exist yet. But they can be reconciled. Picard is the person who makes it possible, with a leap of faith
Actually, it's possible to explain this by analogy, and it's right there in the episode, with an old codger named Mark Twain. A lot of this is implied. If you know Twain at all, you know him as a cynical optimist. History remembers him best for The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and his many famous quips. Yet by the time of the events in this episode, he's nearing the end of his life, and more cynical than ever. He doesn't believe in a hopeful future, certainly not in Data and his odd experiments...
I must confess. I didn't always like this episode, and it was because of Twain. Frankly, I found him annoying and obnoxious. And I didn't see how any of it explained the bond between Guinan and Picard. But then I realized, Twain's journey parallels Guinan's. And the bridge? The unnamed young Jack London.
In the episode, London hasn't even become a writer yet. Yet he is destined to complete the literary era of American frontier adventure, which Twain himself embodied. So he continues and expands on the narrative, just as Star Trek as a whole does. Guinan was every bit as lost as Twain, as London, before Picard came along, the symbol of the hopeful future. It's this hope Guinan embraces, just as Twain does, just as London is about to.
And that's why Picard is so important to her, and why she's so important to him, because they prove to each other that they're not wrong. That's Star Trek in a nutshell. And that's why this one's a classic, and absolutely essential.
criteria analysis: franchise - series - character - essential (all criteria met)
Whoopi Goldberg (Guinan)