Mark Watches ‘The Next Generation’: S03E15 – Yesterday’s Enterprise

In the fifteenth episode of the third season of The Next Generation, THIS WAS SO FUCKED UP AND SO GOOD AND I AM A BALL OF HURT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a show make up for killing off a character terribly, but here it is. At the end of the day, this was an episode about Tasha Yar, and she’s the focus of it for me. I do think that Guinan and Picard play a vital role in “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” so I don’t want to ignore them. But Tasha gets to rewrite her own story and she gets to choose her own ending, and I can’t imagine a better way to deal with the fact that this show utterly wasted her. (Well, aside from bringing her back permanently, but alas, that’s not going to happen.)

Oh god, I LOVED THIS SO MUCH.

The Switch

I admit that the big change in the cold open confused me for about twenty minutes because it was so intensely rapid. In the blink of an eye, the bridge of the Enterprise changed, and the writers did practically nothing to explain it. We figure out that the time travel aspect, as well as the collision of the parallel universes, is responsible for this, but I love the choice not to openly explain it to us. This script is so smart because the writers trust us. They trust us to put the pieces together and they trust us to accept this journey. It’s a million times more rewarding because it’s such a challenging story. Why does the Enterprise revert to a parallel world’s storyline once the Enterprise-C enters the temporal rift? I think there’s a very basic idea at work concerning the paradox of time travel, but I can’t sit here and say I understand everything.

And that’s okay. The experience alone is worth it. I was so impressed by how detailed the worldbuilding was here, y’all. From the set design to the costuming to the behavior to the alternate history… good lord. There’s just an unreal amount of detail here, and I still can barely fathom how this episode is only 45 minutes long. In the best sense possible, this felt like it was hours long. Look at how the lighting changes! Look at the difference in the uniforms! REVEL AT THE BEAUTY OF CAPTAIN PICARD RIPPING RIKER TO SHREDS. MARVEL AT THE FACT THAT PICARD STILL HATES CHILDREN IN THE ALTERNATE TIMELINE. I am cackling at the decision to keep that detail in both worlds.

Worf is gone. Troi is gone. Guinan is the only character aware of the two worlds, and even then? It’s more complicated than her being aware, since she can’t fully define why this new alternate timeline is wrong. And I really think it speaks to the relationship between Guinan and Picard that in the end, Picard trusts Guinan solely on her intuition. I WANT TO KNOW HOW PICARD AND GUINAN MET. SO BADLY. Because y’all: Picard has to decide whether or not to send an entire group of people to their immediate death. Odds are that they’ll be annihilated by the Romulans the second they’re sent back through the rift. And again, he ends up agreeing to let the Enterprise-C return to their time on the advice of Guinan, and I fucking love it.

I want an entire show about Captain Rachel Garrett. I want an episode explaining to me what happened at the last stand agains the Romulans at Narenda III, the one that shifted history in favor of the Federation. I want so many things because of this one episode, and I really adore that.

Tasha Yar

But I’m not the slightest bit dissatisfied with the end result of this episode, and I know that’s largely because of Tasha Yar’s return and her subsequent ending. An ending, I might add, that’s on her terms. This was a cruel exercise at times, knowing that Tasha couldn’t possibly survive through the end of the episode, but goddamn, I’m happy that this basically was an exercise in re-writing the existing canon of The Next Generation. I mean, I don’t even think that’s a secret, given that Guinan tells Tasha that her death was empty and pointless. LIKE, WE KNEW THIS. I KNEW THIS. IT IS THE DARKEST TIMELINE COME TO LIFE. So how do you bring back a character like Tasha Yar after disposing of her in such an awful way?

You give her a story. That’s a common complaint you’ll see from me when I talk about why character deaths can feel so offensive: they often die for someone else’s story. And look, there’s a clear path this episode could have taken that would have resulted in a similar story, but I’m thankful that Tasha’s character matters so much in “Yesterday’s Enterprise.” She confronts Guinan about her fate in the “real” timeline, learns that she was never supposed to be alive, and accepts this. Her decision to tag along with the Enterprise-C (and Castillo, WE ALL KNOW SHE TOTALLY WANTED HIM) was a way for her to accept her role in history, though slightly altered from what we all experienced the first time around.

Here, Tasha displays the courage and tenacity that we got to see (sporadically) in the first season. We get to see her bravery, and we get to see her have agency. There was no reason for her to get on that ship, except, of course, for all the reasons she felt she had to. The most important one? She wants her death to count for something. She wants to go out with a bang, so to speak (SORRY, HAD TO USE IT AGAIN), and she wants to give the Enterprise-C a fighting chance, even if that chance only lasts a few seconds.

The end of this episode is both hopeful and horrifically dark. It’s easy to imagine that the Enterprise-D was blown to bits in this timeline, especially after watching Riker and other crew members dying. But did it ever happen? Did Tasha’s action cancel out this world? Hell, does it even matter? What matters is that the world snaps back into place, with only Guinan aware of how one small detail changed: Tasha Yar died a hero. She chose to board a dying ship on an impossible mission, and it worked.

What an absolutely stunning episode, y’all. I’m astounded by how good this was.

The video for “Yesterday’s Enterprise” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– The Mark Does Stuff Tour 2015 is now live and includes dates across the U.S. this summer and fall Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be the remainder of The Legend of Korra, series 8 of Doctor Who, and Kings. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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