HERE THERE BE SPOILERS
Closing a long-running series is always a difficult task because the episode must serve as not only the farewell to the characters and the world created in the series but must also do so in a manner that is satisfying. A poor ending can effectively undo any good that came before it; Game of Thrones season 8, I’m looking at you. Granted, television writing in the nineties differs significantly from the series structure that has become more popular in current television. TNG, like most of its contemporary shows is episodic, so therefore, the writers did not have to contend with resolving season or series-wide overarching plot-lines and could instead focus on writing a solid series finale. While I don’t dislike the incorporation of these larger story arcs, there truly is something to be said for an episode that can and does allow for a solid goodbye to characters who have become a fixture in our viewing schedule over the course of the series’ seven-year run. As I say above, “All Good Things” offers a masterclass in how to strike a balance between nostalgia for the everything that came before it with a story that would have made for a decent episode on its own.
“All Good Things” has a lot of plot to summarize, so I cannot stress enough that you check the Memory Alpha link. In general, however, Captain Picard is jumping between three time periods: the past, the present, and the future. For the purposes of the episode, the past refers to the moments before Enterprise’s first mission. The future falls sometime around 2395, and the present refers to 2370, the date of the series’ last season.
In each time period, despite their initial confusion and concern, his crew steps up to help him determine not only why Picard has been bouncing between time periods but also what that temporal strangeness might have to do with a spatial anomaly that has appeared in the Devron system, located in the Neutral Zone. In the past, Starfleet cancels the original mission to Farpoint Station to send the Enteprise to investigate. In the future, Picard must convince Data and La Forge to get him aboard a ship that will take him to the area, now under Klingon control. In the current political climate, tensions between the Federation and the Klingon empire mean that only medical ships are allowed to cross into sectors located in what once was the Romulan/Federation Neutral Zone. Picard begs a favor from his ex-wife Beverly Crusher who happens to be the current captain of the U.S.S. Pasteur.
In the present, Starfleet sends the Enteprise directly to the Devron System, which suits Picard’s purposes. Crusher eventually determines that Picard’s experiences are quite real when she finds chemical changes in his brain indicating that he has formed far more memories than he should have given the time elapsed. She also finds a defect in his brain that could potentially result in Irumodic Syndrome, based on the knowledge he gained from the future. Crusher explains that she worries for him and finally, finally sneaks a kiss.
Back in the past, Picard reaches the location of the barrier that briefly halted their progress to Farpoint back in the series premiere, but they find nothing. He screams for Q, and he finds himself in an all-too familiar courtroom. Q informs him that he didn’t think Picard would ever figure out he was behind the timeskipping. Picard tries to drag more information out of Q, but he doesn’t get much. Q does explain that the triall from Farpoint never ended and that humanity has been judged guilty. He also informs Picard that Q will not destroy humanity. Picard will. After that revelation, Q sends Picard back to the present where he immediately calls for a Red Alert and a meeting of the senior staff.
Of the series finales in Trek, “All Good Things” and “What You Leave Behind” are probably the two best, and “All Good Things” is undeniably far and away the better story. I should perhaps deal with “All Good Things” as a single story rather than breaking it down into the two parts as I’m going to do here because for all intents and purposes, it is a single episode. However, it did not air that way. “All Good Things, Part 1” ends on that fantastic note with Picard waking up in his ready room and calling a Red Alert, and I remember having to wait an entire week to find out the events of the conclusion. There’s a reason that Disney+ and Paramount+ have gone back to a weekly distribution model, and it’s not solely limited to their desire to lengthen subscriptions. Rather, that week of anticipation and speculation heightened the experience and gave me a week to annoy my friends with my rampant speculations on what the anomaly was and Q’s role in the whole shebang.
“All Good Things” opens with Troi and Worf exiting the holodeck after their date, and while I will never quite understand why the Powers That Be decided to pursue that relationship, I do appreciate that “All Good Things” opens with an immediately obvious link to the characters’ lives. TNG wasn’t always great about finding the balance between maintaining these kinds of story elements, and more to the point, opening that way grounds the episode opening as occurring within a very specific timeframe. That’s a decision that makes sense in light of the greater story. Similarly, I love that the Captain Picard we get in “All Good Things” has rediscovered his sense of humor and general competence, especially considering the version of him we got in both “Homeward” and “Preemptive Strike.” It takes a certain level of comfort for Picard to be able not only to interrupt Worf walking Troi home but also to do so barefoot and wearing his bathrobe. That level of comfort is not something we would have seen in season one, so even though the next timeskip is to the far future, we’re already primed with a fantastic visual reminder of just how far Picard has come as a character.
The timeskips serve nicely to highlight the changes for all of the characters, not just Picard, as well as breaking the ensemble into groupings that further allow the individual characters to shine, and shine they do. In the future, Picard encounters a La Forge who is older, jollier, and more settled than the La Forge we get in any of the previous timelines. Gates McFadden dials future Beverly Crusher’s competence and strength up to eleven while Johnathan Frakes and Michael Dorn give us older, crankier versions of both Riker and Worf. Unsurprisingly, however, Data is the episode’s real standout. Brent Spiner gives us three entirely separate Datas, all clearly the same character at different points on his own development curves. To be fair, Spiner has plenty of experience playing different characters over the course of single episodes, but his performances in “All Good Things” set an entirely new bar. In particular, Spiner seems to slip effortlessly back into the awkward Data from season one. As with Picard’s first appearance, seeing Data back in the original jumpsuit and flubbing colloquialisms juxtaposed with the more polished, secure versions of Data from the present and future just hammers home exactly how much the character has grown over the course of the series.
The real beauty of “All Good Things” is that the story’s structure allows us to revisit where the series began. Denise Crosby returns as Tasha Yar, and frankly, her presence only adds to the overall tapestry in “All Good Things.” Picard’s obvious grief upon seeing her takes us back to “Skin of Evil,” but that grief is balanced by Crosby’s decision to channel Yar’s hopefulness and excitement. Even Colm Meaney returns, wearing the red jumpsuit from “Encounter at Farpoint.” It’s a nice nod and makes everything feel more complete.
The care with which the production team recreates the feel of the original sets also contributes to that sense of completion. I cannot imagine that anyone was thrilled to see the season one jumpsuits return, nor do I expect that Marina Sirtis was overjoyed to hop back into the short dress and knee-high boots. However, the episode would never have worked without them. As far as the future goes, beyond Data’s terrible grey hair, the details really make those sequences work as well. I’m fairly certain I saw a cat in Data’s digs at Oxford, which recalls Spot, and I appreciate the reminder that Data is a cat person. There is, however, one detail that I find both jarring and distasteful. The 2395 La Forge is married to a woman named Leah who has been promoted to director of the Daystrom Institute, and while the show never confirms one way or the other, the heavy implication is that La Forge has married Leah Brahms. I’m sure that’s meant to be an Easter Egg referring back to “Booby Trap” and “Galaxy’s Child,” but considering how problematic “Galaxy’s Child” is, that’s a reference that should have been skipped.
John de Lancie’s Q is as snarky has he’s ever been, but the story goes out of its way to remind us that even Q is not immune to personal growth. However snotty he may be with Picard, he makes it clear that he is still offering his help, albeit in his own peculiar way. The Q of the present learned to value humanity in a way that the Q of “Encounter at Farpoint” did not, and bookending the series with the same trial is an inspired choice.
An entire pot of Earl Grey Tea
Stray Thoughts From the Couch:
- If you look closely, you can see that the Enterprise bridge has been redressed to resembled itself from season one, and that’s definitely not a detail I caught when I first watched the episodes.
- The ties Picard uses to tie up his vines are very real and currently available. I have no idea why that particular detail sticks out to me as much as it does, but it’s nice to be able to tie up my own monsteras with the same material used by Captain/Admiral/Ambassador Picard in 2395.
- The Admiral Norah Satie who signed the orders Picard reads at the ceremony in which he assumes command of the Enterprise is the same Norah Satie that will nearly divest him of command in “The Drumhead.”
- The defect in Picard’s brain will be used to great effect in Star Trek: Picard, and rewatching this episode, I have to admit that the writers of the later series pulled a great deal from this episode.
- I will never not love a shot of a ship in spacedock, so I greatly loved getting to see Picard flying into the Enterprise shuttlebay for the first time. However, the ship design for the Pasteur is terrible.
- I have to believe that Picard’s brain has been scanned enough that the defect in his parietal lobe should have been noticed well before “All Good Things.” How did no one notice it when they were undoing all of the damage the Borg did turning him into Locutus? That said, I’m glad that Crusher finally gets to make a move because that’s been well overdue since “Attached.”