by Mark Greig
Remember that episode of Futurama where an alien kidnapped the original cast of Star Trek and made them act out badly written fan fiction? 'Future Imperfect' is a lot like that, only without any of the good bits.
It's Riker's birthday, but the party is cut short when the Enterprise detects something unknown on an uninhabited planet. The crew, being trained Starfleet officers, naturally obey their first instinct and beam down to try and poke it with a stick. One gas attack later and the birthday boy wakes up in sickbay only to discover it's 16 years later, he's going grey, and has a teenage son, who, like all teenagers in the 24th century, is an annoying goody two-shoes. I can only assume this is because future scientists have discovered a cure for adolescence.
The problem with episodes like this, where a character wakes up to discover everything has changed, is that you know from the very start that everything you are seeing is false. TNG was not the type of show to pull a 'Phase One' and radically alter the status quo. No matter what happened in any given episode, by the end things would always be more or less back to the way they were at the start.
So when Riker wakes up to find himself 16 years in the future with a son, we know that it is either a dream, or that he's stuck in a holodeck simulation of some kind. The question is who is responsible for this and why? Which, now that I think of it, is actually two questions, both of which I had no interest in finding the answers to. As a mystery story 'Future Imperfect' is as bland and monotonous as the fantasy worlds that Jean-Luc/Ethan /Barash create for Riker.
Episodes like this live and die by how fascinating and memorable the alternative realities they create are. Unfortunately, the future reality in this episode is as forgettable as I don't know what because I've completely forgotten about it. I'm sure the prop department had some fun coming up with new com badges, but there is nothing here that made me go "Wow! I would totally read a spin-off set in this reality."
Notes and Quotes
--One of the best parts of the fantasy is that it allowed LeVar Burton to take that damn visor off.
--Marina Sirtis also got to wear a proper uniform for once.
--This episode marks the first appearance of recurring character Alyssa Ogawa.
--This guy wins the award for most unnecessarily intense line delivery.
Data: "It appears we are being probed, sir."
Picard: "Captain, I think it would be best if we discussed this..."
Riker: "Shut up!"
Picard: "I beg your pardon?"
Riker: "I said shut up! As in close your mouth and stop talking."
Two out of four grey hairs.
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