Oct 14, 2020
Star Trek: The Next Generation “All Good Things...”, 25 years later
As anyone who’s seen this episode knows, Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s final episode “All Good Things…” depicts a future 25 years from the current point in the series. Hence, I thought it appropriate to look at that landmark piece of television on its silver anniversary.
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The episode begins with Troi and Worf exiting one of the holodecks after taking a nice stroll on a beach. Things are about to get a little more romantic when Picard suddenly interrupts asking them for the current stardate. After Worf gives it to him, Picard informs them that he’s moving forward and backward through time.
Once the title sequence concludes, Picard is explaining things to Troi. He says that he can briefly recall talking to someone from a time before he took command of the Enterprise, although he can’t recall that person’s name. Picard then states that, all of sudden, he was an elderly man doing something, although again, he can’t recall the activity. Troi suggests that this could’ve been some kind of dream, although Picard says that it seemed too real.
That’s when the scene changes to Picard as an older man, tending to some vines. He’s warmly greeted by an approaching LaForge, not wearing his VISOR. As they begin to catch up (during which we hear that LaForge ended up marrying Leah Brahms, who appeared in “Booby Trap” and “Galaxy’s Child”), Picard tells him that he suspects his former engineer really stopped by because he heard Picard is suffering from a mental ailment.
Picard assures LaForge that he’s fine, before being startled by the sight of Tasha Yar. They’re both in a shuttlecraft that’s taking them to the Enterprise for the first time, with Yar assuring him that the ship is a beauty.
As they see the ship, Picard is back in the present, where he informs Troi that he just saw Yar. In Sickbay, Crusher examines him, and in private, informs Picard that he has a defect which could potentially lead to the ailment LaForge mentioned. Picard notes that she’s close to tears as she’s giving him this news, and reassures Crusher that he’ll be fine. Riker arrives to say that Worf didn’t find anything unusual. An admiral then rings Picard and orders him to head to the Devron system, which is located in the Neutral Zone. The admiral states that many Romulan ships have been sent there to investigate a spacial distortion, and tells Picard that other starships will join him to do the same.
Picard is then back in the future, where he tells LaForge about his time-shifting. The latter is skeptical, but Picard talks him into going to Cambridge to see Data and discuss the matter further. But LaForge remains unconvinced, especially when Picard claims there are also random people popping up jeering at him. At Cambridge, we see that Data is a renowned professor, with an unflattering streak of gray in his hair and a sarcastic housekeeper. Data is also skeptical, but is willing to look into Picard’s story.
That’s when Picard is suddenly in the past, arriving on the Enterprise for the first time. His speech before his gathered crew is interrupted by the jeering crowds, to the confusion of his crew. This confusion isn’t helped when he suddenly orders a red alert, sending everyone to their stations. In the observation lounge, Picard notes in a secure log that he won’t tell those in the past of his time-shifting. Yar, Troi and Worf enter and say that they scanned the area and there’s nothing unusual. Picard makes a brief faux pas when he orders Worf to initiate a security alert, prompting Yar to remind him that this is her job.
They’re called to the bridge, where O’Brien informs them that Starfleet has cancelled their scheduled mission to Farpoint Station, ordering the ship to the Devron system to investigate an anomaly. But everyone is surprised when Picard says they’re going to Farpoint anyway. As he goes to help O’Brien with the engines, there’s some clever dialogue between the two to get around the fact that the ship had a revolving door of chief engineers during its first season. Picard is amused when Data comes by, complete with the naivete he had in the show’s first season, and helps Picard with something else.
In the present, Picard tells Crusher and Riker that there was another shift. Picard begins to remember more of what he encountered. Crusher’s scan reveals that Picard has acquired two days of memories in just a few minutes. In the observation lounge, Troi tells Picard that she doesn’t recall him ordering a red alert or Starfleet cancelling their mission to Farpoint when they first met. But Riker notes that the trouble in the Devron system was reported in both the past and the present. This is why Picard orders them to prepare for what lies in the Devron system, and then dismisses them. Riker briefly asks Troi to dinner and is dismayed when she says she already has plans with Worf. Picard calls Riker out when he notices that Riker is preoccupied with what just happened. Picard goes to his ready room and is quickly followed by Crusher. She expresses her concern for him again. His reassurances lead to Crusher tenderly kissing him.
Next thing we know, Picard is in the future awakened by LaForge, who says that Data is ready to run some tests. But Picard informs him of the situation in the Devron system. LaForge points out that it won’t be easy, because the Klingons have now conquered the Romulan Empire and that they’ll need a ship. To that end, they contact Riker, who’s now an admiral. But Riker says it’s too dangerous and tells his former captain that he can’t help him.
Data, however, says that it may be possible to get passage on a medical ship under the guise of a medical emergency. Picard knows just the ship: the U.S.S. Pasteur, commanded by his former wife Beverly Crusher. On the bridge, she greets them all warmly. LaForge suggests that Worf could potentially get them clearance to pass the border, because he’s governor of a Klingon colony. Crusher (or Beverly Picard as she’s called now, as she kept her married surname) politely tells Picard to get some rest. As he leaves, she, LaForge, and Data express their doubt about his story, but are willing to go along with it.
Picard arrives on his ship’s bridge in the past. He knows that this is the location where he and the ship first encountered Q in “Encounter at Farpoint”, but Data says that there’s nothing unusual on the sensors, and Troi says she’s not detecting any presence, either. Picard even shouts out for Q to appear, to no effect, before going back to his ready room.
But he finds himself in Q’s presence anyway, in the same 21st century court setting used in that episode, with the jeering crowd seen earlier. Picard learns that the anomaly in the Devron system is linked to what’s happening, and that Q has been shifting Picard through time. Q also informs him that humanity is doomed, and that Picard is responsible.
Once back in the present, Picard informs the other six regulars of his exchange with Q. He also thinks that Q shifting him through time is actually a way of assisting Picard in order to avert disaster. They return to the bridge as they approach the Devron system, facing off against Romulan ships. Picard contacts the lead ship.
On the screen is Worf, who expresses reservations about the Pasteur’s request to cross the border. But Picard’s knowledge of Klingon customs which he’s accumulated over the course of the series convinces Worf to help, as long as he can accompany them. Crusher allows Picard to give the order to engage.
The order is met with confusion by O’Brien, until Picard tells him to head to the Devron system. Troi asks Picard for a word in private after he asks Yar to hail Farpoint. In his ready room, Troi tells him that the crew is confused by what he’s doing. But Picard says he knows how good they are, even if they don’t. Yar gets through to Farpoint and Picard tells Riker (in the form of stock footage from “The Arsenal of Freedom”, which is better than CGI’ing his beard off) that they’ll be delayed picking him, Crusher, and LaForge up at Farpoint. After this calls ends, Troi reveals that she was once involved with Riker, and then Picard’s request for his Earl Grey tea is denied, as it hasn’t been programmed into the replicator yet.
His smile at that continues as he chats with Tomolak (previously seen in “The Enemy”, “The Defector”, and “Future Imperfect”) in the present, and they agree to each send one ship to look at the anomaly. They get a good look at the thing and begin scanning.
The crew in the past begins to do the same, with Picard knowing it’s larger in the past.
But to Picard’s dismay, the Pasteur doesn’t find anything in that location. Crusher begins champing at the bit to return to Federation space. when Worf informs everyone that Klingon ships are on the way. But she’s convinced to stay a bit longer, just as Data suggests sending out a special pulse to scan the area. But Picard’s annoyance at Crusher’s insistence on a time limit are met with anger by her in her ready room. Picard apologizes for his outburst, and Crusher says that he should still be open to the possibility that this is all a side effect of his ailment. After she leaves, Q pops up and says that Picard must find out why the anomaly doesn’t exist in the future.
Picard is in the present again, as Data continues scanning. He suggests the same type of scan that Data’s future self mentioned to help them out. Data and LaForge begin the necessary modifications in Engineering. As the pulse is sent, LaForge begins groaning in pain. In Sickbay, Crusher states that LaForge is actually getting new eyes, and other crew members have scars which are healing. Data states that the anomaly is a source of “anti-time”, and adds that like matter and anti-matter, anti-time and time could destroy each other.
Data’s past self is amazed when Picard repeats this info to him while asking him to set up the same pulse.
The Pasteur’s scan is disrupted when two Klingon ships appear and attack them. But the Pasteur has limited armaments, and it’s nearly destroyed just as Riker shows up with a souped-up, cloaking device-equipped Enterprise, which takes care of the Klingons and beams the Pasteur’s crew aboard before the ship blows up. Riker orders the ship to head back home, causing Picard to plea with him to stay, which in turn, prompts Crusher to knock him out with a hypo.
Upon arriving in Sickbay in the present, Picard is sadly informed that that Ogawa miscarried, and Crusher suggests that it’s for the same reason LaForge has new eyes. But she thinks that this reversion of cells could lead to all their deaths. In the observation lounge, Picard tells Troi to contact the nearest Starbase to see if the personnel there have experienced similar changes, and he wants Data to find a way to collapse the anomaly after scanning it. Once alone, Picard is joined by Q, who says that it’s a risk doing something or nothing about the anomaly. Q whisks them to Earth billions of years in the past, when the planet was uninhabitable. The anomaly is seen clearly at this point, with Picard noting that it grows the further in the past he travels. Q shows Picard a pond of goo, with amino acids about to form the first protein… but nothing happens, meaning the anomaly disrupted the start of life on Earth.
In the past, Data informs Picard of a device that in this time is still in the developmental stages, but could get a closer look at the inside of the anomaly. Picard asks the present Data to use that same, more commonly used device. The subsequent readings show two other pulses converging with their own.
Picard wakes up in his quarters and heads to Ten Forward to meet with Admiral Riker. At the bar, we learn that Troi has died, and as a result, Riker and Worf have been on less-than-friendly terms. Crusher, LaForge, and Data state that they should try to patch things up, just as Picard arrives. He seems to ramble on until Data says that he’s describing a paradox, and that they may have created the very anomaly they’re looking for. This convinces Riker to send the ship back to the Devron system, even asking Worf for a hand. They arrive to see the anomaly just beginning to form. Data suggests shutting off the pulses in the other two time periods.
His suggestion is quickly taken up by Picard in the present. He also takes it up in the past, but there’s no change in the anomaly. In the future, LaForge says that the only thing to do now is to stop it at the focal point by initiating a static warp shell. Picard says that it may be dangerous to do this in the past and the present, because it’s larger in both those periods.
This is confirmed in the past when Yar tells Picard that they need an actual explanation for taking action that would place the ship and crew at risk. Picard says he understands, and wishes he could be more specific. But Picard assures Yar and the rest of the crew that this is for a good reason, and while this crew hasn’t known Picard for very long, he knows they’re the best of the best. This convinces them to go along with his orders as the other two Enterprises do the same.
The three ships see each other on the viewscreen as they initiate their respective warp shells. As the efforts of all three ships increase, the past Enterprise blows up, soon followed by the present. Q pops up in the future ship to bid Picard goodbye, saying, “All good things must come to an end!”
The ship blows up, but Picard finds himself with Q in the courtroom again. Rolling his eyes, Q informs him that the anomaly has been destroyed, and humanity is saved. Picard thanks him for his help, although Q says that the Q Continuum influenced him getting Picard into it. He tells Picard that such “out of the box” thinking as the captain displayed is what’s in the future (someone didn’t see those TNG films) and then he departs.
Picard is in the present to disrupt Troi and Worf’s date again. They’re taken aback, and Picard quickly leaves after Worf confirms the date. In a subsequent log, Picard states that there’s nothing unusual in the Neutral Zone, and that he has no memory of what’s transpired.
Riker, Crusher, Data, LaForge, and Worf are playing poker, and we learn that Picard has informed them of what happened. They all realize that a new, unknown future awaits them all, since the anomaly never formed. Troi joins them before being followed by Picard, who pleasantly surprises everyone by asking to join them.
The series ends with Picard looking at each of them, saying that he should’ve done this sooner. The final shot is of their game beginning as the ship sails off into the stars.
Like Star Trek VI, this episode is a wonderful finale because it epitomizes why these characters have become so beloved. The story acknowledges the show’s beginnings and ends with the viewer wanting more. While some may complain about the technobabble and the reset button ending (both of which Voyager would squeeze the life out of), the story moves at such an exciting pace that the former doesn’t bother us, while the latter is irrelevant, since Picard later informs the rest of the main characters of what happened. Hence, they’re as affected by the events of the episode as he is.
This makes the final scene all the more special. Remove that final scene, and the reset button ending would have made the episode as annoying as the recent ending of Game of Thrones. But this ending makes this story both bittersweet (Yar’s appearance reminding us that our heroes have endured loss during the run of the series) and uplifting (in regards to the bond that Picard and company have formed during the show’s run, and the unknown future they now face together).
Some have called TNG’s final season a mixed bag. While it’s true that the season began with the so-so “Descent Part II” and gave us bona-fide clunkers like “Force of Nature”, “Homeward”, and “Eye of the Beholder” (I must confess, both “Sub Rosa” and “Genesis” are guilty pleasures of mine), we also got greats such as “Attached,” “Dark Page,”, the “Gambit” two-parter, “Parallels”, “The Pegasus”, and “Lower Decks”. I must also make special mention of the episode which immediately preceded “All Good Things…”: “Preemptive Strike”. These two episodes were a fabulous one-two punch which ended the season and the series on a great note.
I’ve made no secret of my disappointment with the four subsequent TNG movies. But while those movies were part of the plan when the series ended its run, this brings up another reason “All Good Things…” is such a triumph. It can be taken on its own terms without viewing any of those films to sour it. The aforementioned Star Trek VI appropriately ended with Kirk and his crew on the bridge of their Enterprise (with Sulu on the bridge of the Excelsior). This episode ends with Picard and his crew in Riker’s quarters interacting in a more personal but equally memorable way.
This episode would deservedly win the prestigious Hugo Award, and it’s telling that no other Star Trek production since has been so honored. I don’t see that changing with the way Discovery is playing out. But the news of another series with Patrick Stewart returning as Picard may give fans hope for masterworks on this level again. As a certain someone once said: “There are always possibilities…”