"All Good Things..."

Season Seven, Episodes 25 & 26
Feature-length finale
Written by Ronald D Moore and Brannon Braga
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Main Cast:
Patrick Stewart as Capt Jean-Luc Picard
Jonathan Frakes as Cmdr William Riker
LeVar Burton as Lt Cmdr 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:
John de Lancie as Q
Denise Crosby as Lieutenant Tasha Yar
Colm Meaney as Chief Miles O'Brien
Andreas Katsulas as Commander Tomalak
Clyde Kusatsu as Admiral Nakamura
Pamela Kosh as Jessel
Tim Kelleher as Lieutenant Gaines
Alison Brooks as Ensign Chilton
Stephen Matthew Garvey as Ensign

Picard finds himself drifting through time, certain points in past, present and future colliding. He journeys back seven years to when he first came aboard the Enterprise just prior to the Farpoint mission. In the future, he is an old man suffering Irumodic Sybdrome, a degenerative neurological disease. In two of the time frames -- past and present -- Starfleet reports a spatial anomaly in the Devron system, along the Romulan Neutral Zone and in both cases the Enterprise is sent to investigate. In the future, Picard seeks the help of Geordi and Data, the latter a professor at Cambridge, to secure passage to the Devron system. After all, the anomaly seems to be the common link in both other time periods. They arrange transport aboard the USS Pasteur, a medical ship commanded by Captain Beverly Picard, Jean-Luc's ex-wife.

Back in the present, Picard once again finds himself in Q's kangaroo court, again having to defend humanity. He learns not only that Q is responsible for his travelling through time, but that the stakes are higher than he had imagined -- the fate of humanity is hanging in the balance. In addition, Q tells Picard that it is *he* who is responsible for the imminent destruction of mankind. The key, it would seem, lies in the shifting time-frames. In the future, Picard is astounded when they reach the Devron system, to find no anomaly. It is in the other two time frames, so why not the future? His former crew are starting to doubt his sanity, and a skirmish with two Klingon ships results in the destruction of the Pasteur, though luckily Admiral Riker and the Enterprise arrive in the nick of time to rescue its crew.

Picard eventually determines the cause of the anomaly -- it was caused by the convergence of three tachyon beams, each originating from the Enterprise in past, present and future. An erruption of "anti-time", the anomaly started in the future time frame and travelled back in time, getting larger as it did. Q shows Picard how anomaly was responsible for disrupting the beginings of life on earth. Data determines that, to seal to anomaly, all three Enterprises must converge in the centre of the anomaly and create a warp shell. Although all three ships are destroyed, the plan works, the anomaly is sealed and humanity is saved. Picard finds himself back with Q, who congratulates him, determining that in the instant he solved the problem, grasping the paradox, he was open to new options and expansion of thought. "That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulas, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence." And with that, Picard is returned to the present, at the very moment the adventure began. Having been given a rare glimpse of his past and future, Picard has a new appreciation for his friends and, for the first time, joins them for a game of poker.


"Goodbye, Jean-Luc. I'm going to miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end." Indeed, and it is with this final, feature-length offering that The Next Generation crew bow out, trading the TV screen from the movie screen. Given the sharp decline in quality this seventh season, it's probably not a moment too soon either, but I'm happy to say that the writers really pulled through and succeeded in delivering a fitting farewell that's worthy of the series. Although not without its flaws, All Good Things... is a definite triumph, unquestionably the best episode of the seventh season and indeed one that ranks among the show's finest episodes to boot.

Concocted by the writing team of Ron Moore and Brannon Braga (who would go on to script the first two TNG feature films), All Good Things... is bold episode, highly ambitious and innovative in equal measure. The episode does a superb job balancing a well-developed, high-concept sci-fi plot with pointed characterisation whilst providing a satisfying book-end to seven years of intergalactic adventure.

The episode is told almost entirely from the perspective of Picard, who finds himself leaping through time to three different points in his life -- one in the past, the present and the future. Amid his time-shifting, he begins to piece together a puzzle that seems to link each time frame -- specifically, the discovery of a space anomaly in the Neutral Zone. I must admit the words "space anomaly" do not exactly evoke an enthusiastic response and that's to put no fine a point on it. However, it's worth bearing in mind that we're going back to a time before Voyager (dis)graced the airwaves, driving us all insane with its exceptionally tedious fixation with "anomalies, anomalies, anomalies!" (Particularly in its first couple of seasons). In some respects, I suppose you could say that this is the mother of all space anomalies! Nevertheless, the plot is well-conceived and for the most part nicely executed, only getting bogged down in technobabble toward the end. The notion of the paradox -- that the anomaly was actually created in the future, and being an "erruption of anti-time", travelled backwards in time is a clever idea and is put across in reasonably effective terms.

Q's involvement adds a whole other dimension to the episode and is intricately woven into the tapestry. It transpires that Q is responsible for Picard's time-travelling; that in so doing, he is actually giving Picard the opportunity to save humanity. As with Q's last appearance in Tapestry, it's interesting to note that rather than causing the problem at hand, he's actually offering a solution to it. It also ties in with the pilot episode, Encounter at Farpoint, where Q put Picard on trial for "the crimes of humanity". It seems the jury never reached their verdict. It was a master-stroke on the part of the writers to tie this episode in with the events of Encounter at Farpoint. This not only provided a nice book-end to the series but also lent it a sense of purpose and structure, however loosely, that was only evident in retrospect. John de Lancie is simply a delight as Q and, as ever, nabs all the best lines. However, there's an undertone of danger and urgency behind his barbs that highlight the character at his most effective.

Speaking of characters, it's a relief that in this instance a well-developed plot does not come at the expense of characterisation. Picard's time-hopping gives us enjoyable glimpses into the past, underlining how far some of the characters have come over these seven years (particularly Data, who has come a long way indeed) and reacquainting us with crew-members long gone (Denise Crosby makes a welcome appearance as the ill-fated Tasha Yar and Colm Meaney takes time off from DS9 to appear as O'Brien). Even more interesting and compelling, however, are the future segments which present by far the juiciest characterisation. It's a whole lot of fun to see what becomes of the crew in this future scenario and it's not altogether a happy ending for them. Picard is now retired, tending vineyards in France and suffering from "Irumodic syndrome", which is evidently a fancy, futuristic name for Alzheimer's. At some point he married, then divorced Beverly Crusher -- sorry, Beverly Picard (she kept the name) -- who is now in command of a medical ship and seems slightly more hardened and world-weary than the Bev we're used to.

Geordi is a novelist, which I guess I can accept (frankly, given that Geordi is one of TNG's broadliest-drawn characters pretty much anything would have gone down). Data, with his awful grey-streaked hairstyle ("looks like a bloody skunk!" frowned his house-keeper in perhaps the episode's funniest, laugh-out-loud line) is a Professor at Cambridge, which seems quite fitting. Riker, meanwhile, has evidently escaped the nursing home and comandeered the Enterprise! Looking freakily like a nightmare version Santa Claus he's a staunchy, grumpy old fart -- so, no, not much change there. Poor Troi is dead, although we aren't privvy to exactly what happened to her, the episode choosing instead to focus on the bitter conflict between Riker and Worf in the wake of her death. From the episode's opening scene it's clear that a romantic relationship is developing between Troi and Worf, having been brewing quietly throughout the season. Of course, this doesn't sit too well with Riker, who is evidently allowed to sleep with as many women as possible, whereas Troi is meant to stay celibate for the rest of her life. Men, eh? We make me sick! ;-)

In itself the Troi/Worf relationship was something of an enigma, and one which evidently fizzled out sometime between this episode and Generations, leaving Worf free to romance and marry Jadzia Dax on DS9. It does nevertheless provide some meaty character conflict, a notable rarity on TNG. As a side-note it's very interesting to note that it's not until the final episode that the writers actually attempt to develop and advance any of the character relationships! Whilst Troi and Worf have had a flirtation going for the past several episodes, it's not until now that anything becomes of it. As for Picard and Beverly -- after seven years of dipping their feet in the water and skirting around the issue they finally make some headway...in the last-ever episode! Don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned this speaks volumes about the series. The writers never had the guts or inclination to change the status quo at all and, as a result, TNG never really branched out into bold, risk-taking territory with its characters. That's what I loved about DS9 -- it took risks with its characters and storytelling and, for the most part, those risks payed off well. But, this isn't DS9 and never was, so comparisons are probably best left out the equation.

It strikes me that in lesser hands this could have been a rather convoluted, disjointed affair, but Winrich Kolbe holds things together beautifully, coaxing solid performances from just about all the cast. Patrick Stewart, in particular, absolutely shines in what must have been a demanding and exhausting role. Nice work all around.

The momentum sags a little toward the middle of the second half, when the episode gets rather too bogged down in technobabble, which the series was only too notorious for. "In English, Data!" snaps Beverly as Data explains the anomaly -- hell, you know the technobabbly levels are bad when a character has to say that! :-{ It's around about this time that the episode gets a little overconcerned with using "tech" to explain things, although I've admittedly seen TNG do worse. I was less than enamoured with the eventual solution to the problem -- a "static warp shell"?! Ugh. Does that actually mean anything to anyone? Alas, while All Good Things... definitely highlights TNG at its best, it also underlines some of its failings -- though, as with DS9's What You Leave Behind, I'm happy to say the strengths definitely outweigh the weaknesses.

And whilst it's one of those ordinarily ghastly "it was all a dream/it never really happened" endings, it works so well in this instance that I've got little to complain about! The one real frustration, and it's a doozy, is that having spent the episode showing us the fates of the characters, the writers then back-track by hastily adding that this is just a possible future and that "the future we encounter will undoubtedly be different". Is it just me or is that a big, fat cheat? Do I detect writers wanting to have their cake and eat it? Hmmm .

Picard's final scene with Q, however, is utterly superb and lends a nicely mythic tone to the episode, reassuring me that although events of the episode never actually happened (or are never likely to happen....) it at least counted for something and something pretty major at that. Who better to explain than Q himself:

"The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons and for one brief moment you did [when Picard realised the paradox]. For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered -- and that is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence."

Wonderful, almost prophetic-seeming words. In my personal experience, one of the great discoveries of life, one of the most elusive of hidden truths, is that what you seek can never truly be found in the outer world in a physical sense, but only within oneself. This "prophecy" seemed to hint at a direction Star Trek might have taken, but which, alas, was certainly not fulfilled by Voyager, which was content largely to merely rehash old "possibilities of existence" by moulding itself as a frail, lesser clone of TNG. Arguably DS9 did take up on this: after all, it was never about exploration in a physical sense, but it tooks Star Trek to whole new realms in terms of storytelling and characterisation. One can only hope the mysterious, upcoming Series V will follow suit in this regard. Alas, I'm not holding my breath. But this is a review of TNG, so let's get back to TNG!

The episode's final scene, of course, became an instant classic, going down as one of the show's most touching and heartfelt moments. Having had a reminder of his past and a sobering taster of his future, Picard has a new appreciation for his crew and, for the first time, he joins them for their weekly game of poker. It's a delightful, subtly moving moment, with Picard finally finding himself able to cast aside the mantle of "Captain" and simply enjoy the company -- not of his crew, but of his friends. I'm feeling a glow just thinking about it! It's simply the perfect way to close not only the episode, but the series. Kolbe's graceful pull-back shot and the closing image of the Enterprise flying off are simply gorgeous.

And, so we have the end of TNG. Whilst perhaps not perfect in the strictest sense of the term, it's probably true to say that All Good Things... is not a long way short of it: it's an inventive, bold, rich and moving episode, epic in scope yet intimite in focus. It's a delightfully fitting and appropriate ending to the series, bearing in mind that this is merely the end of one chapter and the beginning of another. How wonderful that TNG got to bow out on a "high" worthy of the series. Unlike my review of DS9's finale, I'm not going to seague into a deep and meaningful analysis of the series as a whole, simply because I don't have the time or energy. My main commitment for writing these reviews was to DS9, and my TNG reviews were intended to be shorter and snappier. Hopefully you'll have enjoyed them regardless and aren't queuing up to get your money back about now! I'd like to thank y'all for taking the time to read my work and I'd like to extend my thanks to all the writers, actors, producers and directors who so beautifully brought this ground-breaking series to life. And, of course, to Gene Roddenberry, who in creating both TOS and TNG truly revolutionalised the genre and perhaps even television itself. This review, therefore is dedicated to the "Great Bird of the Galaxy" himself.

Rating: 10

"So, five card stud: nothing wild. And the sky's the limit...."
-- Picard

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