Star Trek 284: All Good Things...

284. All Good Things...

FORMULA: Encounter at Farpoint + Emissary + Future Imperfect

WHY WE LIKE IT: Plenty of reasons, but above all, that final scene.

WHY WE DON'T: Future Data in totally unnecessary "Sherlock Holmes" pacing mode.

REVIEW: TNG's series finale. It had better be cool, funny, sad, exciting, well made, have something for every cast member and a fun villain. Lo and behold. The real genius of the episode is its taking place in three time periods, with Picard shifting between them. As in Darmok, he's a little dense at times, working it out ever so slowly so the less SF-minded members of the audience can follow along, and there's entirely too much "hardly remembering" acting going on. But once Picard's figured it out, it's pretty impressive how smoothly he negotiates the transitions. The editing is always nice in that respect too. I took so many notes, let me divide the show into those time periods:

The past section helps cement the bookending of the series, especially given the return of Q, at his most sinister and effective. The trial didn't end 7 years ago, and now humanity's time is up unless Picard can show growth. Their scenes together are always good, and though a funny line, it's true that Q treats the Captain as a pet, to which he doles out equal measures of kindness and cruelty, might I add. The past gives us a chance to see TNG #0, as it were, the moments just before Encounter at Farpoint. Tasha's back, but Picard is so used to Worf being the Chief of Security it causes an awkward moment. O'Brien, who appeared as "Ensign" in Farpoint, here gets a chance to actually play it in character, and Data returns to his more naive roots. Still, this is the least substancial section because we've visited it before.

The future is of course a monument to coolness. New uniforms (pretty good), new ships (the Klingons' are cool, the Future Enterprise is ridiculous with its third warp nacelle but it's great to see it come from a different axis, and the Pasteur harks back to the Daedalus class concepts that predated the Constitution), some of the best ageing make-up ever seen on the show (more subtle than the rubber masks usually seen and the actors really sell it in their physicality too), and of course the chance to see what everyone's destiny is. And that's an important element here. Since TNG was going into movies, it wasn't necessary or even advisable to tie off characters' story arcs in the series finale, but we still needed a rewarding finish. So the creators had their cake and ate it too by showing the possible fates of characters without tying the story down to those points. So we have a Picard-Crusher romance that pays off, but ends badly. We have friends who have lost touch with each other and now must rally around Picard for one last mission (shades of the TOS movies). We have Geordi with eyes and a strong marriage to Leah Brahms (I've never liked him this much). We have Worf on the Klingon Council and a defeated Romulan Empire. We have Data teaching at university with a semblance of emotion (is it emotion chip-driven? Subroutines he evolved himself?) And Troi is... dead. Ah well. The direction here also gets my admiration, with its tilted angles, dark lighting and dissonant music, it's never comfortable for Picard.

The present is where most of the problems get solved, and since this is the version of the crew we like, it's the way it has to be. The subplots are largely dominated by Worf and Troi's relationship, and how it is affecting Riker. It's all rather funny despite the fact we know this will create a rift between the two men that will last long into the future. Other bits, such as Picard and Crusher finally kissing, as a result of the adventure never actually happened, but we don't feel cheated. Likewise, don't worry about Geordi regrowing his eyes or Ogawa losing a baby. In the end, Picard still chooses to reveal the future he saw to his crew, which has two immediate effects. One is that Riker and Worf agree not to let a girl come between them. Originally, I'd read that as Riker coming to terms with the relationship. In the wake of everything that came after however, it's now clear that Worf broke off the relationship in deference to his friend. And then Deanna walks in, unawares... The other effect is that Picard invites himself to the poker game for the first time. It's actually amazing that he never has before, like this moment was all planned. And what a great moment it is. It starts out comically, and then just pulls the tears out of you. I get teary just talking about it. And the camera starts spinning above the table, then above the ship... Wow.

Random other notes on the story: Well, first of all, don't look too closely (stay miles away, in fact) at the anti-time plot. It makes no sense and is full of plot holes (the anomaly should have been there in the future and shrunk while being scanned, for one thing). There's so much fun stuff going on, you just don't think about it. Tomalak gets a nice little cameo and I'm glad, though it makes me think of wasted potential. The time-displaced Bozeman from Cause and Effect gets a mention here - it's stationed on the Neutral Zone border. For some reason, you can follow its adventures through the next couple of movies as well. Q gets a cute line about "your little trek through the stars" as well as many digs at the show's tropes (Troi's psychobbable, the unreligiousness of the Federation), but my favorite Q insult ever remains "you obtuse piece of floatsam!". And did I mention the humor? Picard is especially funny throughout, the tea jokes getting a particular chuckle. Heck, though I cited future Data as a bit of a git, everyone in the cast is excellent in one time period or another.

LESSON: You do NOT date your superior officer's ex. (THAT's what I retained from TNG? I guess so.)

REWATCHABILITY - High: An immensely satisfying and beautiful love letter to the series. For a long while, I had a tape cued to that last scene.


De said...

You pretty hit my thoughts point for point with your review. The finale is fondly remembered by me for the little touches, the character building, and a look at what could be (though we now know there will be no three-nacelled Enterprise, at least in the sense Riker described it).

Hated, hated, hated the technobabble plot though. I guess if the episode was going to showcase the strengths of the series, it would showcase its weaknesses as well.

Anonymous said...

The plot has more charm if you think of the technobabble as a put-on by Q. It's nonsense, but works in the same way that "a midget on a block of ice" works as the solution to a closed-room murder riddle. It's contrived, but that's almost the point.

I also like to think of the surplus nacelle as a big middle finger at the nonsensical Warp Speed Limit, but that may just be me.

Moriarty said...

I love Picard joining the crew for poker. Like you said... if it wasn't planned for this all along, then it was a beautiful moment that fell into the writers' laps.

Now on to my favorite of all the Star Trek series... DS9!!!

Don't know if it's been mentioned before, but thank you for the daily visits to the Star Trek universe. It's one of the few blogs I make point of checking out every day :)

Dan said...

That curious obsession with Dr. Frasier Crane's ship is, methinks, thanks to Brannon Braga, who's from Bozeman, Montana.

Alain Degrace said...

Nitpicking : Data mentions that the anomaly was caused by the tachyon pulse originated from all three Entreprises. However, the one from the future was done by the Pasteur.

Siskoid said...

Complete nonsense, I agree.


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