170. Yesterday's Enterprise
FORMULA: Mirror, Mirror + The City on the Edge of Forever + Skin of Evil + The Undiscovered Country (which wasn't out yet)
WHY WE LIKE IT: The first real alternate universe episode in TNG. A wonderful way to bring back Tasha. Excellent acting. An Enterprise we'd never seen.
WHY WE DON'T: The Yar-Castillo romance. Uninspired space battles.
REVIEW: A bona fide classic, Yesterday's Enterprise still comes across today as a very mature story, throwing us in the deep end without the usual endless technobabble explanations. Patrick Stewart carries the piece with some of his best work to date on the show, bringing great drama to all his scenes, especially as he struggles with his faith in Guinan, his duty to history, and his wish not to see friends erased from it. If he trusts Guinan, it is surely in part due to desperation, as he admits the Federation will likely lose the war.
Part of Picard's dilemma is Tasha Yar. She know she's not alive in the other timeline, and that sending her with the Enterprise-C is just as much a death sentence. While I didn't like Tasha in Season 1, and I still don't like her here, I must say the scene where she asks for her death to have meaning is the strongest Denise Crosby ever gave or got. The music underplays it here, and I think to good effect. Up to now, some of the "moving" music on the show has been overpowering. On the other hand, there's really nothing to Tasha's implausible romance with Richard Castillo, which really wasn't necessary to motivate her transfer to the E-C. You just know you're in television land when people fall in love so rapidly and for no discernable reason.
I'm really glad the creators didn't give in to the temptation of putting Worf aboard one of the Klingon ships. Shows like this already strain credibility by having everything the same yet different, when in all likelihood, the cast would be much different, as would the ship's configuration. I won't go into the details of how, on a ship without families, Wesley would not have gotten his shot at being an ensign, etc., since this is immaterial. We want to see all the same characters in a different context, and so we accept things as they are. Worf's present might have stretched credibility too much, so he isn't here. He still gets a decent scene, in which prune juice is (perhaps unfortunately) introduced.
Rachel Garrett makes a good showing as the doomed Enterprise captain, and her death is nothing short of shocking. Riker also kicks the bucket, but this isn't as effective since we know he'll be back. Great details on the Enterprise, including stiffer uniforms, Ten-Forward as a mess hall, and the ship being packed with people (it's incredible how much value this adds to the show). The space battles are pretty dull however, with ships usually treated as sitting ducks. Shaking bridge scenes aren't great, but they don't call attention to themselves as much. After the model work in The Defector, I might have expected more. The budget must've been maxed out already. A minor niggle, since the drama is excellent regardless.
LESSON: It makes me wonder if Guinan senses something's amiss because of her experience in the Nexus. Is she in contact with herself there? Does the Nexus impart some impression of the true timeline?
REWATCHABILITY - High: Yesterday's Enterprise manages to gives us great acting, an acceptable return for a dead character, a lot of bang for its buck, some intense scenes, a cool alternate universe story, and fills in a blank in the Star Trek universe's history. Quite excellent.