Star Trek The Next Generation: All Good Things...

... must come to an end.

It's been awhile since I saw this episode and I'd forgotten how good it was.

Maybe it succeeded because they went with their strengths: an emotional time travel story (Star Trek was always great at time travel) that featured the acting skills of Patrick Stewart, who gave a terrific, poignant performance. The rest of the cast got plenty of opportunity to demonstrate their acting skills, too.

Jumps in time, especially a lot of them, need to be done skillfully or you'll confuse your audience. The costumes and makeup always made it easy to track which of the three time periods we were in. They began in the present where a freaked out Picard in his jammies interrupted Deanna and Worf's date on the holodec, shifted to a fragile and ill Picard twenty-five years in the future, in the family vineyards we saw so memorably back in season four's post-Borg episode, "Family." And then we returned to the series pilot timeline in "Encounter at Farpoint," full circle.



It almost seems pointless to track the changes in the lives of our characters, since we know this future will change: Picard a former ambassador with "irumodic syndrome," whatever that is; Geordi as a novelist, married to Leah Brahms; Data as a professor at Cambridge with a dozen cats. Of course, Riker was an admiral (shades of James T. Kirk); Beverly the captain of a medical ship; Worf the governor of a Klingon colony. I loved the older Geordi without a visor because I always disliked how it obscured LeVar Burton's face, and Data in civilian clothes with the fake skunk-like streak of gray in his hair. Riker went totally gray, while Beverly had her partially graying hair in a professional-looking bun. (Maybe that was a bit of Janeway foreshadowing).

All logical steps for our characters, and enjoyable to see. What I found most disconcerting about these future segments is that twenty-five years have passed for real since this episode aired in 1994, and we actually know how these actors look today. Well done, wasn't it?

Since it's the series finale, it was a perfect bookend that the shifts to the past centered on Picard taking command of the Enterprise for the first time at Farpoint. What stood out, other than the old body-stocking uniforms, was the return of Tasha Yar and Miles O'Brien, along with Worf's old make-up (not quite the same) and sash, and Deanna in a miniskirt. I particularly liked the contrast between the very human-like future Data and his manic, annoying and unemotional past persona.



In the present and the future, our characters all know Picard very well, even when they think he's suffering from futuristic Alzheimers. But in the past, he was an unknown quantity. When he started giving inexplicable orders to his new crew, they had a real problem with it. I'm glad they didn't go with an unbelievable mutiny. Instead, Picard gave a lovely speech in the end, asking for a leap of faith and the trust of a crew that didn't know him yet. And of course, he got it.

As we followed the cast from past to present to future, the technobabble was kept to a minimum and the focus remained almost entirely on the interaction of these characters that we've grown to love so much. But there was also a compelling plot: the "anti-time" anomaly that connected all three time periods, and intriguingly, how it started in the future, grew as it traveled to the past, and how it wound up screwing up the goo in the primordial soup a couple billion years ago.



Which brings us to Q. What a difference seven years has made. In the series pilot, a hostile, unsympathetic Q put humanity on trial and sarcastically roasted Picard with words. Here, Q in his own uniquely annoying way, helped Picard find the solution to this huge, humanity-ending time paradox… while still sarcastically roasting Picard with words. Whatever we might think of Q as an uncomfortable deus ex machina, or of Gene Roddenberry defaulting too often to god-like aliens as plot devices, it was pretty much perfect that Next Gen began and ended with Q. It wouldn't have been quite right without John deLancie.

Although I have to say that the way the writers wound up our cast's romantic relationships was unsatisfying. Sadly, Deanna died young, and Worf and Deanna never became a couple because of Riker's discomfort with the idea. How utterly dog-in-the-manger and disappointing of Riker. The delightful fact that Picard and Beverly eventually married was followed almost immediately by the not-so-delightful news that they also divorced. And yet, the scene where present day Beverly ordered Picard to sleep because she was so worried about him, followed by a genuinely lovely kiss, made me tear up.



Fortunately, all of this probably won't happen because knowledge of this possible future will change it. (I guess we'll find out for certain when Star Trek: Picard premieres in January of 2020, only three months from now.)

Throughout the series, I have always loved the tongue-in-cheek poker games. They were a lovely way to have multiple characters interact and decompress... okay, you know, they were just fun. Picard finally joining the game ("You were always welcome") made me cry; I'm crying now as I write this. Thank you, Ron Moore and Brannon Braga, for giving us a perfect moment with these characters as the final scene in this series. It couldn't have been better.

This might be a good spot to get personal. I fell in love with original series Star Trek when I was a girl, and the entire time Next Gen was airing, it was my absolute favorite show. Star Trek has been a big part of my life, and I believe in its optimistic portrayal of a positive future for humanity. I've also always thought that Next Gen was exactly what it should have been, a second chance for Roddenberry's original Star Trek to fulfill its not-quite-realized potential.

Six of us here at Doux Reviews began reviewing Next Gen in July 2014, and nearly all of us hung in until the end; we were later joined by two other Doux writers. I want to thank J.D. Balthazar, Juliette Harrisson, Joseph Santini, Mark Greig, drnanamom, CoramDeo and Mallena for every single one of their contributions. It's hard to believe we're finally done.



Bits:

— Stardate 47988, 25 years in the future, and seven years ago. The neutral zone, the Devron System, and future France.

— There were brief moments with returning characters Admiral Nakamura (Clyde Kusatsu) and Commander Tomalak (Andreas Katsulas).

— I really enjoyed Q doing the ten yes-or-no questions. It was very Q.

— Warp 13? Come on, guys. Isn't warp 10 the ultimate speed limit?

— Apparently, Damon Lindelof was inspired by "All Good Things…" when he wrote the Lost episode 'The Constant.' Which, like "All Good Things," reminded me of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.

— Another personal note. When Next Gen aired, I had never written an episode review. I was a member of a huge Star Trek discussion list and when a new episode aired, we would all wait for a guy named Tim Lynch to post his review. Lynch's were the first television reviews I remember ever reading, and he inspired me to start writing myself. His reviews are still available (hey, it's the internet) and I still enjoy reading them.

Quotes:

Beverly: "Personally, I think you just enjoy waking everybody up in the middle of the night."
Picard: "Actually, I really like running around the ship in my bare feet."

Geordi: "Captain, we've got a problem with the warp core, or the phase inducers, or some other damned thing,"



O'Brien: "We have to realign the entire power grid. We'll all be burning the midnight oil on this one."
Data: "That would be inadvisable."
O'Brien: "Excuse me?"
Data: "If you attempt to ignite a petroleum product on this ship at 0000 hours, you will activate the fire suppression system, which would seal off this entire compartment."

Picard: "I prefer to look on the future as something which is not written in stone. A lot of things can happen in twenty-five years."

Beverly: "Do you really think he's moving through time? I'm not sure I do, either. But he's Jean-Luc Picard, and if he wants to go on one more mission, that's what we're going to do."

Worf: "What is a Q?"
Tasha: "It's a letter of the alphabet, as far as I know."

Q: "It's time to put an end to your trek through the stars, make room for other more worthy species."
I always like it when the words "star" and "trek" are put together as lines in the show. It almost never happens.

Data: (to Picard) "Q's interest in you has always been very similar to that of a master and his beloved pet."

Worf: "Four hands in a row. How does he do it?"
Riker: "I cheat. (pause) I'm kidding!"

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

"All Good Things" is a totally superior series finale. Four out of four hands in a row,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

4 comments:

Tim said...

Congratulations to all the TNG Doux-reviewers for completing this epic task.
I've enjoyed reading them all.

Now then, who's doing Voyager? ;-)

Billie Doux said...

Tim, thanks!

We seem to have some momentum with Deep Space Nine, so we're probably going to finish that first. But it would be nice to finish Voyager, too. And Picard is coming!

CoramDeo said...

I'll plug Tim Lynch's reviews, too. He did some great stuff.

Anonymous said...

A perfect finale for an amazing series. Thanks Billie & co, another big series fully reviewed!.

This brings tears to my eyes. Now I can only say: please, ST: Picard, don't suck!.

Beverly: "Do you really think he's moving through time? I'm not sure I do, either. But he's Jean-Luc Picard, and if he wants to go on one more mission, that's what we're going to do."

This line was fantastic back then. Now, it looks prescient.

It's going to be three long months.