In the final episode of The Next Generation, all good things must come to an end. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
In the end, the possibility is the promise of the future.
I think that thematically, the conclusion of this specific story makes a hell of an end for The Next Generation as a whole. The script references the very beginning, sure. But I think it goes beyond that. If this was always meant as a story about humanity going into the great unknown, then that is what I want to see when it’s all over. What future do these characters have? What lesson have they learned after seven years, and how does it relate to the story being told?
Now, like the pilot, Jean-Luc Picard is at the center of Q’s test, and I do find that fitting and necessary. It works. Picard has always been a moral force within the show, and a great deal of The Next Generation focused on him and his role within a chaotic universe. So, it made sense to me that Q would pull Picard out of his reality in order to complete the most important test of his life. Well, not just of his whole life, but for ALL HUMANITY. That test, which we were dropped into during the first half of “All Good Things…,” becomes more frantic here, both as Picard begins to put the pieces together AND as the stakes of this disaster are raised to the most ridiculous levels yet. WHICH I AM FINE WITH. I’m totally down for the last episode being about HUMANITY NOT EXISTING ANYMORE.
And in terms of emotional and visual storytelling, it’s pretty damn clever, too. We get to witness some of the best editing in the entire run of the show. (Those quick cuts between the three timelines are BRILLIANT. Bravo, The Next Generation.) Patrick Stewart, Gates McFadden, and LeVar Burton all put in performances worthy of a series finale. I believed the stakes that the writers set before us, and that alone is a feat to be admired. As the three timelines converged (literally!), I was thrilled. I was frightened. I wanted to know what the implications of this convergence would be. Even as the show began to eliminate each version of the Enterprise, I was still hooked. How were they going to top that? Were they really going to end with the ultimate sacrifice?
But before I talk about that conclusion, I do want to back up a bit. “All Good Things…” has provided me with a chance to talk about why The Next Generation remains so iconic and important, but it’s also provided me with a chance to talk about its flaws, too. I really do enjoy this finale and think it is a touching way to end the series. At the same time, it’s also singularly frustrating. This is a story about possibility and potential. I’ll write about that towards the end, but I found it infuriating that every character here is given a future that challenged me and kept me interested…
…except for Deanna Troi. I find her treatment in this episode to be completely outrageous. How are we supposed to celebrate her character when she is LITERALLY DEAD and LITERALLY PROVIDES THE EMOTIONAL FRAMEWORK FOR TWO OTHER CHARACTERS? There is no possibility for her in “All Good Things…” She exists solely to create a story for someone else. Gone is the potential she had when she earned the role of Commander this season. Gone is her relationship potential with Worf. Gone is her expertise and stunning insight as a counselor. She is only here in flashback or spoken of like a distant relative who doesn’t come around the family gatherings anymore. I understand the idea that not everyone can be alive twenty-five years in the future, but in this specific context, it feels like a glaring mistake, especially since her role in the other timelines does not make up for her absence in the future timeline. I suppose that this would feel less egregious if this show didn’t already have a problem writing Deanna Troi and figuring out how she fits in with the cast as a whole. But it really does feel that way! It’s like no one knew what to do with her in the future, so they just killed her off and gave any possible growth to Worf and Riker.
WHICH IS BOGUS BECAUSE IT’S NOT EVEN THAT INTERESTING. Riker, you aren’t in a relationship with Deanna anymore, GET THE FUCK OVER IT. How can that even be possible twenty-five years in the future? Though… that’s kind of perfectly in character with Riker, isn’t it? He has been shown to be pretty stubborn. Yet seriously, is that the story you want to give both Worf and Riker? That is what their future is? A twenty-five-year feud over a woman?
Booooo. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Not gonna buy it.
So even in the end, The Next Generation is flawed. It has its problems, yet there is a part of me that has been thrilled to talk about it. It’s what I do here, and this show has provided me countless opportunities to address things like sexuality, race, and worldbuilding. It has also forced me to re-think my own imagination. Like The Original Series, I’ve enjoyed the incredible chance to venture out into the galaxy, to meet new species, to be entertained by new conflicts, all as these characters struggled to find morality and faith and loyalty amidst all the drama. That’s why I am so pleased with the theme of “All Good Things…” As Picard realizes that in the future, he was responsible for the very spatial anomaly that traveled back in time, guaranteeing that the human race would never exist, he makes another choice. That choice is a scary one, but that’s the point. That’s what Q eventually appreciates the most. Picard thought of a future that was uncertain, that had no promise, that was outside his understanding of what the universe was capable of.
That, my friends, is progress, and it’s what the Q wanted to see. They wanted to know if these people could imagine a world they had never seen, and after seven years? That’s something that Picard can do. It’s something all of these people can do. After experiencing countless temporal disturbances; parallel universes; a species that spoke solely in cultural and historical metaphors; the Borg; the Continuum; after all of this, their understanding of the universe has irrevocably changed.
And it’s for the better. Maybe the Q Continuum truly will test humanity for the rest of their existence. But for now, Picard saved humanity by sacrificing himself three times. I normally hate the reset button on this show, particularly since it has been used so often to deny development and serialization on The Next Generation. However, I wouldn’t take it out of this story. Armed with the knowledge of a future that could have been, these people will continue living their lives with open minds and open hearts. They will accept that they can change, that they have the choice to improve themselves, and that the world holds possibilities they can possible conceive of. They just have to accept that these possibilities will present themselves.
The sky is the limit, and for the crew of the Enterprise, there’s still hope that they can continue celebrating the journey into that great unknown.
The video for “All Good Things…, Part II” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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