"Time's Arrow, Part Two"

Season Six, Episode 1
Teleplay by Jeri Taylor
Story by Joe Menosky
Directed by Les Landau 
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Commander William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Geordi LaForge
Michael Dorn as Lt Worf
Gates McFadden as Dr Beverly Crusher
Marina Sirtis as Counsellor Deanna Troi
Brent Spiner as Lt Cmdr Data

Guest Cast:
Whoopi Goldberg as Guinan
Jerry Hardin as Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain
Michael Aron as Jack London
Barry Kivel as Doorman
Ken Thorley as Seaman
Marc Alaimo as Frederick La Rouque
John M. Murdock as Beggar
Sheldon Peters Wolfchild as Joe Falling Hawk
Milt Traver as Scientist
Michael Hungerford as Roughneck

"I'll see you in five hundred years, Picard."
"And I'll see you in a few minutes..."
-- Guinan and Picard


Disguised as inhabitants of 1890's San Francisco, the Enterprise crew discover that the Devidian aliens have been travelling back to this time period to feed off humans, perhaps using plague epidemics of the time as a cover. They meet with Data and Guinan who are being followed by writer Samuel Clemens, who believes they are part of an alien invasion. The crew discover the cave which they believe is used by the Devidians as a time conduit. A time vortex appears, causing Data to lose his head. Picard orders his crew into the vortex, while he stays to nurse the injured Guinan. Clemens also jumps through the vortex, finding himself in the 24th Century. Geordi manages to reattach the head recovered in the archaeological site to Data's body, while Clemens learns that the 24th Century isn't such a bad place after all. Riker prepares to fire a photon torpedo, destroying the cave and the Devidians, to stop their time travel. But Clemens volunteers to go back through the vortex so he can return to his rightful time and Picard his. Having sent Clemens back, and retrieved Picard, the cave is destroyed and history is restored.


In some ways the second part of Time's Arrow is more enjoyable than the first. But sadly the frailties of the whole plot are laid bare in what amounts to something of a mess as the writers scramble to end the story, leaving a number of plot elements simply untouched or forgotten. At one point, Guinan yells at Clemens "I keep telling you, there IS no plot!" Sadly that is very much true of the episode itself.

First of all, let's deal with some of the various problems that lie herein. 
For a start, there seems to be something of a jump from the end of Part One, where the crew enter the time vortex, to the beginning of this episode, where they seem to have adjusted quite comfortably in their new surroundings. This begs some questioning; where did those costumes spring from? How the hell did they manage to get jobs, for crying out loud?! Crusher seems to have a job at the local hospital, but how the heck did she get it with no references or anything? Could any Tom, Dick or Harry prance into a hospital and be given such a highly-skilled job? The fact they seemed to have no problem at all adjusting to life in the 19th Century stretches credulity more than a little. Or, to put it another way, if someone sent you back in time to the 15th Century, don't you think you'd have trouble adapting?!

Data, sadly, was little more than a plot device in this episode. As the crew run from the police after being caught in the hospital, who should happen to appear round the corner in a horse and carriage, no less?! Pretty convenient, huh? I'm also not sure what exactly did happen to decapitate him? There's a flash of light as the time vortex opens and bam, he's lost his head! How did that happen? Even more importantly, how the hell did Geordi manage to fit Data with the head that was discovered in the cave and make it work? It's five hundred years old, for goodness sake. I can't believe for a second that it would be in perfect working order. Alas, it doesn't end there. OK, so we're expected to believe that by using a piece of metal, you can scratch a message into Data's memory. Uh huh?!!! Even if Picard were a cybernetics expert like Doctor Noonian Soong, I very much doubt that such a thing would be remotely possible. In short, I don't believe a word of it, any of it. Not a word.

As for the aliens, I'm afraid we learn nothing more about them. Crusher suggests that they perhaps infiltrated this time period to use the health epidemics as a cover. But I wanted more than just a supposition; I wanted to know whether this was the sole time period, or even planet that they'd "visited", and how long they'd been doing this. And what was that "Ophidian" cane and why was it so important?

I really enjoyed Jerry Hardin's cameo as Samuel Clemens in the first part, but he was way overused here. After a while, that voice really started to get annoying. I also have a problem with the way he's treated once he's taken aboard the Enterprise. Given that he's an important figure in history it's a wonder that the crew not only give him a guided tour of the ship, but fill him in on what it's like living in the 24th Century! There's also little effort made to send him back to his own time (the way he does get sent back is pure chance). Whatever happened to all that torment over not disrupting the time-line? And another thing, the debate between Clemens and Troi started off reasonably interesting, but ended far too preachy, and quite irrelevant. As much as I love Trek's depiction of a golden future for Earth and mankind, I don't, repeat don't like when it's shoved down our throats with TNG's pat "we're just perfect" moralising. Less really is more, and certainly a lot more palatable.

Probably the biggest problem with the episode was the way the crisis was resolved. Basically they destroy an entire species, without any thought to the moral or ethical implications of doing so!! In order to seal the time portal to stop the aliens travelling to Earth, the crew destroy the cave with a photon torpedo. It's not clear whether or not that will destroy the aliens as well. Even if it didn't, it would basically leave them without any food, starving them to death. So, the crew destroy an entire (sentient) species just to protect their own. If that's not disturbing enough itself, what's moreso is that there is absolutely no thought given to this decision and that is just unforgivable. Perhaps humanity hasn't evolved as much as Troi would have us believe...

Well, that's most of the problem areas considered. As you can see, plot-wise this is muddled and ill thought-out at the very best. It's almost as if the writers had been too ambitious with the first part, setting up far more than they had a hope of resolving. As a result, it's a mad scramble to get to the finishing line, with quite a bit either side-tracked or ignored along the way. 

But it was still a reasonably enjoyable episode despite these quite substantial flaws. It was a pacey, engaging romp with one or two nice touches, such as the crew trying to masquerade as travelling actors performing "A Mid Summer Night's Dream". It was a delight seeing Picard trying to sweet-talk his hard-as-nails land lady, Mrs Carmichael. Riker also snagged one of the best lines of the episode, telling a policeman "I want you to know I have the utmost respect for the law", just before he knocks him out. 

Also enjoyable were the scenes with Picard as he cares for the injured Guinan. It's no wonder there's a bond between them, but I very much doubt that this is all there is to their relationship. There seems to be a subtext between the two -- more appears to be said in a glance than is ever written in dialogue. Remember in The Best of Both Worlds when Guinan told Riker that her relationship with Picard went "beyond friendship, beyond family"? If we're expected to believe that this episode explains it all, then I don't buy it. There's definitely more to it than that, but we're never likely to find out what. Good work from Patrick Stewart and Whoopi Goldberg, by the way, though I was bitterly disappointed we didn't get to see what happened when they were reunited on the Enterprise.

Summing up; an utter mess of a plot which strains credibility in more than one spot, leaves many questions unanswered and fails to touch upon the moral implications of deliberately destroying an entire species! Fortunately the episode is redeemed by a sense of fun and one or two inspired moments of humour and characterisation, elevating the score to a more neutral one.

Rating: 5

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