Star Trek The Next Generation: We'll Always Have Paris

"Be honest, do our bums look big in this?"
"Captain's log, stardate 41697.9. We're en route to Sarona Eight for much needed shore leave. The entire crew is looking forward to the diversion. On a personal note, I have allowed myself the luxury of a head start."

Last week the crew laid one of their own to rest. Not that you'd know it from watching this episode.

Even though Denise Crosby's name is still in the opening credits, there's no mention whatsoever of the late Lt. Tasha Yar. Which isn't all that surprising. This was made in the 80s, back when people still used their phones as phones and TV characters didn't dwell on what happened the previous week. So no time for grieving, everyone has to forget all about whatsherface and move onto the next adventure. And this time it's personal...ish.

As you can probably guess from the title, this episode was a take on Casablanca with Picard in the Bogie role. At least this isn't a remake of an Original Series episode. I really don't have a problem with TV shows repacking famous movies so long as they produce something fun or interesting. That is not the case here. This episodes takes the Rick and Ilsa's story from the film, mixes it with some time distortion nonsense and, well, that's it. Mon Capitaine encounters his former lover, sparks fly, but ultimately, nothing happens. She goes back to work with her husband, and he flies off in his starship. La fin.

A romantic storyline like this might work in a film, but not in a weekly TV series, especially not one from this phone using era where nothing was more important than maintaining the status quo. We know that Picard and Jenice won't rekindle their romance, we know she won't leave her husband and we know that he won't leave his ship because that is not how a show like this works. Still, it is nice to see another side to the captain other than the stern leader. Patrick Stewart is a valuable resource that this series has so far failed to really utilize. Picard may be the captain of this ship, but too often he seems more like the angry captain in a clich├ęd detective show who is only there to pass out assignments and tell the lead detective (in this case Riker) that they are out of line. So it is great that Stewart gets to do more than just stand on the bridge going "Make it so". It's just a shame the material he's been given isn't all that great.

Instead of Nazis, the threat is time disruptions caused by Manheim's experiments. See, this is why the whole money thing in the future is bad because it means crazy scientist can get equipment and resources to indulge their wackiest ideas without considering the consequences. Manheim is just lucky the crew were able to fix everything by having Data poking the problem with a stick. After all the trouble Manheim's experiments caused, I found it shocking that the crew just left him alone to continue his work. This guy caused the temporal equivalent of a ecological disaster. Surely that is at least worthy of an inquiry?

Notes and Quotes

--No Wesley. That alone is worthy of an extra point.

--How exactly is the holodeck able to accurately recreate an exact day in Paris? Does the Federation monitor and record everything? That is boarding on time travel. The fact Picard encounters a situation almost exactly like the one he avoided is trite and improbable.

--Writers Deborah Dean Davis and Hannah Louise wanted Picard and Jenice to have sex, but the idea was vetoed.

--Could Dr Crusher look any more jealous?

Picard: "Enough of this self indulgence."

Troi: "Are you all right?"
Dr. Crusher: "Why wouldn't I be? I've got one of the medical wonders of the galaxy dying in my sick bay!"
Troi: "That's not what I meant."
Dr. Crusher: "I don't think I want to talk about what I think you mean!"

Two and a half out of four hills of beans, that don't amount to much in this crazy world.


Juliette said...

To be fair, they're military, so while I'm sure they're sad, it makes sense that they're keeping stiff upper lips over the death in action of a comrade. And they lost redshirts nearly every week. (But as y'all know, I have a great love of episodic television and will generally defend it in all circumstances!)

This episode is terrible though. I'd completely forgotten about it and was halfway through the review before I remembered it!

Billie Doux said...

Great review, Mark. Not a good episode, even though I usually like nearly every episode that centers on Picard. I was deeply into Patrick Stewart during the run of this series, and afterward. I did like the turbolift scene and the three Datas (and their fractured reflections) taking down the time thingy.

The most interesting thing about this episode is Michelle Phillips, who played Denise. Not that her performance was memorable in any way, but she's interesting: she's a singer, an actress, and was married five times (once to Dennis Hopper for only eight days; I bet that was an interesting experience). She's the only surviving member of the sixties rock group, The Mamas and the Papas. My mother loved The Mamas and the Papas.

drnanamom said...

Great review - better than the episode. There were things that I liked about it. I enjoyed watching the Captain be the tiniest bit mushy and I liked the exchange between Data and Picard about Data being indispensable. Did I miss something or is Picard a very clunky fencer?