“All Good Things, II:” Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Marie Brownhill
Game Industry News is running the best blog posts from people writing about the game industry. Articles here may originally appear on Marie's blog, Fan Collective Unimatrix 47.

HERE THERE BE SPOILERS

In the final installment of the series, TNG takes us back to the beginning in a literal sense, which, as I mentioned last week, makes for a really, really satisfying conclusion. Watching “All Good Things” makes me wonder where this level of quality was in the writing for the rest of season seven. The first part of the episode serves to introduce the problem, but the episode really begins to shine in the second half. Picard has some answers, and he can finally begin acting instead of reacting. We get the Picard we know he can be, and the series finale is all the more satisfying for it.

Plot Ahoy!

When last we left our heroes, Captain Picard had called for a conference with his senior officers in the present, and he informed them of Q’s involvement. Upon reaching the Devron System, they find four Romulan Warbirds in a stand-off against two Federation vessels. Picard negotiates with Commander Tomalak, and they both agree to send a single ship into the Neutral Zone to investigate the anomaly.

In the future, Captain Beverly Picard exchanges greetings with now-Governor Worf on the viewscreen. Worf initially refuses their request to venture into the former Romulan Neutral Zone, but Jean-Luc Picard talks him into allowing them passage. Worf’s sole condition is to be allowed to accompany them. Jean-Luc Picard accepts this condition, and the Pasteur makes its way to the Devron system, where it finds zero evidence of a temporal anomaly. Data suggests using an inverse tachyon pulse to scan the system, but outfitting the Pasteur will require at least fourteen hours. Worf informs the bridge that the Klingons have dispatched warships to track down a rogue Federation vessel. Captain Beverly Picard gives Data six hours to attempt the modifications, and Picard protests only to have his ex-wife dress him down for it in her ready room. She returns to the bridge, and Q appears, reminding Picard that he has his time-shifting to help. Q also reveals that Picard himself destroys humanity.

Back in the present, Picard orders Data to initiate a reverse tachyon pulse, and Geordi La Forge suddenly experiences stabbing pain. Later, in Sickbay, Dr. Crusher explains that La Forge appears to be regrowing his eyes. Furthermore, members of the crew report spontaneous healing of old scars and injuries, almost as though their cells are becoming younger, the closer to the anomaly the Enterprise gets. Picard jumps back to the past and has his Data initiate the same reverse tachyon pulse. He next transitions to the future where the Pasteur is losing the fight against hostile Klingon vessels. Just as the Pasteur’s warp core begins to breach, the Enterprise decloaks and runs off the Klingons. Admiral Riker has the entire crew beamed aboard and gives the order to return to Federation territory over Picard’s strenuous protests. Captain Picard sedates him, and Picard awakes in the present. Q appears and whisks him back to the moment when life began to form on Earth, and Picard can see the anomaly in the sky, proving that the anomaly is largest in the far past. Q notes that the amino acids fail to merge into the first protein, preventing the evolution of life on Earth, and Picard deduces that he caused the anomaly.

With the aid of a few more time-jumps, Picard and the three Enterprise crews realize that having three Enterprises in three different time periods direct a reverse tachyon pulse at the same coordinates caused the subspace barrier to rupture. In order to contain the rupture and collapse the anomaly, each Enterprise must enter the anomaly and create a static warp shell. Picard time-jumps to each Enterprise in turn to give the order, and the crews valiantly proceed. However, the stress of maintaining the static warp shell forces each ship’s warp core to breach, destroying them one by one. Just as the future Enterprise explodes, the anomaly collapses, and Picard awakens in Q’s courtroom. Q grudgingly reassures him that humanity in general as well as his crew specifically is safe, and he explains that in the moment when Picard realized the paradox, Picard became open to possibilities of existence he’d never before considered. Q emphasizes that the real journey lies in realizing those possibilities, and he bids Picard farewell.

Picard comes to himself back aboard the current Enterprise, where he once again interrupts what could have been a post-date kiss between Troi and Worf to ask Worf to name the stardate. Later, he joins the senior staff for poker and admits that he should have done so years before. Troi tells him that he was always welcome, and the series ends with Picard dealing cards for game night.

Analysis

Last week, I neglected to mention how much I love how the scenes transition from one to the next. There have been episodes in the past that have featured fantastic transitions, but “All Good Things” leaves them all behind. Picard walks into a turbolift in one time and walks out into another seamlessly. The editing for this episode is fantastic, and since most of the exposition occurred in the first half of the episode, Part 2 can make even better use of this conceit, especially as Picard begins jumping faster and faster in order to manipulate the three Enterprises more effectively.

Similarly, the way Q drops breadcrumbs for Picard, couching them in insults with just enough information that Picard can at some point piece together the whole picture. That Q is willing to go out on this proverbial limb demonstrates that he respects Picard on some level. We’ve seen hints of this, of course, in other Q episodes, but this is lovely and subtle, even if Data does compare that affection to that of a master for his pet. Frankly, all of “All Good Things” is a love letter to Captain Picard as much as it is for TNG. Captain Beverly Crusher flouts Federation policy and good sense in order to give Picard one last mission. Worf eventually boards the Pasteur for the same reason. The crew on the present Enterprise goes along with it without question once they have reason to accept it, and the crew in past goes along with it, despite having no reason to accept everything on faith.

Interestingly, it’s that faith that ultimately puts humanity in jeopardy. That faith put the Pasteur in the Devron system where its warp core would breach and prompted Riker to follow Picard in the future Enterprise. The same faith took both the present Enterprise and Tomalak’s ship into the Devron system, scanning in the same area, and it’s what put the Enterprise in the past there as well. Picard even goes so far as to ask his fledgling crew for a leap of faith when Tasha finally demands an explanation for the seemingly crazy orders he’s issued. Had Beverly Picard refused to allow Picard that final mission or the original Enterprise crew refused to follow orders, all three ships would never have even been in a position to transmit the tachyon pulses that would cause the subspace barrier to rupture. Similarly, if any of the past-Enterprise officers refused to follow Picard’s orders, the original Enterprise would never have been there either. In that sense, Riker was correct when he opined that doing nothing was the better course of action. Still, that makes for an interesting juxtaposition against Q’s faith, which is ultimately vindicated.

I do appreciate that the episode makes some effort to explore the future versions of the characters. Choosing to have Troi die at some point prior to their gathering on the Pasteur mirrors Riker’s absence from the past-Enterprise. Pitting Riker and Worf against each other over her death is a nice way to highlight not only how important their past relationship is to Riker but also how the burgeoning romance between Worf and Troi could be cut short. Not only their anger but also Riker’s attempt to reconcile with Worf in the middle of a crisis feels very true to the characters, especially considering how unsettled present-Riker was to discover that burgeoning romance in the first part of the episode.

Of the main cast, I do think Geordi La Forge and Counselor Troi get a bit sidelined, however. La Forge exists mostly to provide proof of the anomaly’s dangers and to translate for Data, even where no translation is really necessary. Troi mostly gets to exist in relationship to the men in her life. She’s either explaining to Riker that she’s dating Worf, explaining to Picard that she once dated Riker, or explaining nothing because she’s both dead and the cause of a rift between Riker and Worf. She speaks to Picard first when he emerges from his quarters at the end of the episode, and rather than speaking to her, he walks up, pats her arm, and asks Worf what the star date is. Her last line in the series is literally her making Picard feel better. TNG had made great progress with Troi, if not with La Forge, and all of that gets sidelined in the series finale. Still, despite those problems, “All Good Things” really does stand up to a rewatch and remains a fantastic final episode for a beloved Trek series.

Rating:

At least two pots of Earl Grey Tea

Stray Thoughts From the Couch:

  1. Did anyone else find it hilarious that Picard couldn’t get his tea aboard the past Enterprise? I did.
  2. I really disliked the issue with Alyssa Ogawa’s baby. Pregnancy loss is a deeply traumatic and terrible life-event, and while I understand that the writers used it here to underscore the seriousness of Crusher’s warning to Picard, I do think that could have been handled better. Sure, Ogawa probably never experienced it after Picard resolves the anomaly problem, but the show treats that event somewhat callously.
  3. I like how apparently the episode forgets that a Romulan Warbird has followed the current Enterprise into the anomaly. I wonder what Tomalak thought when he watched the ship enter the anomaly.
  4. I do love that Q opts not to tell Picard what’s out there not only because it eliminates the need for the writers to pretend to omniscience they don’t have, but it also feels very in tune with Q’s character.
  5. I love that Q gets to say all of the lines that potentially break the fourth wall. He mentions the “trek though the stars” and actually uses “all good things” in an appropriate context. It’s a nice nod to the nature of a TV show.
  6. This is also the first time that we hear Q explain that humanity’s trial never ends. That comes up again in the Picard teasers, and according to Instagram, filming for season two is under way. I have to say I’m looking forward to seeing Q in the Picard universe.
  7. Next week, I’m going to transition to a DS9 rewatch, and I anticipate that will continue until we get new content. I will go episode by episode for that, however, as I’m not under any time crunch to hit highs and lows.

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