In the twenty-fifth and penultimate episode of season six of The Next Generation, THIS IS SO COOL. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
WOW THIS WAS SO SPECTACULAR. So good! I know I’ve been talking lots about serialization and the flaws inherent in episodic television, but I love that “Timescape” reminds me of how much fun a 40-odd-minute romp can be. This episode is brutal at times, but only because we don’t fully understand what we’re seeing. In that sense, I’d argue that “Timescape” is a study of perception. What happens when time moves differently for different people? Even more specifically, how do the members of the shuttle crew interpret events on the Enterprise when they’re only allowed to look at a snapshot of it?
Well, let me back up, because there’s quite a bit that happens prior to this. I honestly thought my Netflix stream had fucked up when Geordi “froze” for the first time. THIS IS A BELIEVABLE OCCURRENCE FOR ME, OKAY. As the moments of frozen time increased in frequency, I was more and more confused. GOOD. Clearly I was meant to be! I like that this script wants a very specific reaction from the audience, and I gave it each and every one. Seriously, the shock of seeing the Romulan warbird and the Enterprise locked in battle? Or the sight of the trashed bridge? Or Riker in the midst of an attack? OR BEVERLY BEING SHOT BY A DISRUPTOR BLAST AT POINT BLANK RANGE?
All these things – including the warp breach – set up a very frightening limitation on the mystery. Whatever the crew does to unravel this nightmare, they second they resume time, everyone on the Enterprise and the Romulan ship dies. The end. There’s no other outcome from this linear path, especially not when the runabout crew can’t even figure out what’s going on. On top of that, the audience knows that the Enterprise answered a distress call from a Romulan ship. How the hell did that action end up resulting in this nightmare?
Again, it goes back to perception. All the initial information points to an attack by the Romulans. So it was a trap! I thought. EXCEPT NO. And I love that “Timescape” turns into a chance for these four crew members to use their knowledge to solve a complex, dangerous problem. AND WHAT A PROBLEM THAT IS. I think it’s generally pretty satisfying to get stories that don’t have a traditional antagonist, especially in this context. The unnamed species didn’t deliberately try to destroy either of these ships; they just needed the singularity to incubate their young and mistook the Romulan engine FOR A BLACK HOLE. It’s about survival on both fronts. The runabout crew are trying to save their friends and the Romulans. The Romulans were trying to save themselves, and it just looked like an attack. And the unnamed alien species was just trying to save their offspring!
Look, I don’t know that I have a whole lot to comment on this episode, but not because it wasn’t good. On the contrary, this is a really solid episode. The performances are stellar. (Particularly Picard’s moment of euphoria where he drew a happy face on the cloud of the core breach. I never knew I needed that in my life.) The tone of “Timescape” is creepy as hell. Apparently, the vast majority of this cast and its extras are REALLY GOOD AT STAYING ABSOLUTELY STILL FOR LONGER THAN ANY HUMAN SHOULD. (Seriously, I only saw like three people moving at all.) Basically, as I approach the season six finale of this show, I don’t feel an overwhelming need to analyze the hell out of it. It’s just so rewarding and fun that I want to let it exist as it is. I have no idea what to expect from the finale, but I do hope we’ll get another two-parter. I AM ANTICIPATING A CLIFFHANGER IN MY LIFE. As for season six of The Next Generation? I don’t know that I feel any difference much from season five aside from the occasional variance in quality. I’m just glad that this season is ending on a high note, at least so far.
The video for “Timescape” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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