SFX Blogger Stacey Whittle reminisces about an episode that makes her go all tingly just thinking about it…
I know I’ve written blogs about older shows before, like Robin Of Sherwood and 10 th Kingdom , but forgive me, I’m in my mid thirties now and I get nostalgic. Which is why I want to talk today about Star Trek The Next Generation .
I used to watch this programme with my whole family. It was unmissable television for all of us, and I have very fond memories of sitting in the dark (that’s how my parents like to watch television) glued to the screen. ST:TNG is my Star Trek , the way Peter Davison will always deep down be my Doctor. And though rewatching episodes now – as I have been thanks to one of the Sky channels showing reruns – I can see that things that date it quite a lot, and that it can be somewhat embarrassing in its OTT and technobabbly ways, there is so much still to love and be in awe of. The Borg episodes are still terrifying and innovative and the final episode can reduce me to tears.
But “Yesterday’s Enterprise” is the shining pinnacle of what Next Gen could achieve. It probably doesn’t need yet another brilliant review 21 years after its first broadcast, and I am aware that I am not alone in my reverence of this episode so please humour me and wallow in the nostalgia too!
]The premise of the episode is that our Enterprise (the Enterprise D) comes across a time rift in space from which a ship emerges that instantaneously everything changes. The Federation has now been involved in a long and bloody war with the Klingons and the Enterprise itself changes; the bridge is completely different – darker, busier – and most shocking of all, Worf is gone and in his place is Tasha Yar, his dead predecessor! Guinan is the only one who notices the change and understands the only way to correct the timeline is to send the new ship back.
Everything about this episode is sublime and perfect. The changes in the Enterprise D are many and appropriate; the darkness, the business, the lack of Troi – who needs a counsellor in time of war? The slight differences in character are subtle and beautifully portrayed. Gone is Picard the diplomat, the assessor, the man who will take ideas and leads from his staff; instead, here is Picard the general who is completely in charge. Gone is his easy relationship with Riker, who is far less confident than the Riker we know. 10 Forward has a more canteen-like look where rations are served. Replicators take up too much weapon power, and the uniforms are different and darker too. The whole effect gives us a very good insight into this awful timeline. It’s lovely also to see the red uniforms from the movies used for the Enterprise C crew. Adding to the brilliance of this episode are the characters Captain Garrett, a strong female captain I wish I could have seen more of and Lt Richard Castillo, who helps Yar provide exposition and goes on to save the day.
So, the sets are great, the actors are great, but above all it’s a perfect premise. I like very much that no explanation is forthcoming to the nature of the anomaly; it’s beside the point and would have spoiled something for me. The simple fact is history has been altered; its ramifications are enormous so the timeline must be restored. That simple premise gives scope for some brilliant emotional storytelling and most of all a noble and better death for Tasha Yar, a character who was initially bumped off in a less than dignified manner. It gives nice resolution for her and a very satisfying watch for the viewer. This episode is also somewhat of a stripped down episode – there’s not much technobabble, something the series tended to overuse – there is nothing extraneous; everything that needs to be there is there and nothing more. That helps so much with the believability of the second timeline.
This episode is one of the shining jewels over the entire Star Trek franchise as far as I am concerned – but we will not speak of any Romulan Yar descendants as that may well give me physical pain!