TV Review: Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation Part 11

All Good Things Parts 1 & 2 (original airdate: May 23rd, 1994)
Written by Brannon Braga & Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

We live in an age where the future is a blur, hazy, and unfocused due to so many dire circumstances. The clash of ideologies with fascism gaining a sort of traction that it hasn’t had in a long time. The screaming threat of climate change, setting off klaxons, and demanding our immediate action. The existential crisis of the soul that has come about from two decades of war. The hypernormalization of a system that is collapsing. Star Trek posits that one day this human strife will end, and we will ascend into new enlightenment, a socialist utopia where our species unites with the galaxy. It’s hard to see that while you stand in the middle of the burning forest but I hope this show is correct.

We begin the final episode, but not the last mission of the crew of the Enterprise-D with a spotlight on Captain Picard. It’s a return to the argument begun in Mission to Farpoint, the very first episode. The omnipotent being Q believes that humanity hasn’t evolved as far as it thinks it has. Picard has faith in his species ability to become more and reach even higher plateaus. This is put to the test when a spatial anomaly is detected and finds Picard’s consciousness leaping between his present, his past (the show’s first episode), and his future. In all points of time, he retains an understanding that he is being displaced. Picard is reminded of where he began with the Enterprise while seeing a potential future.

The future Picard glimpses has him retired and living in the vineyard his family founded. The crew of the Enterprise is scattered to the winds as Picard attempts to reunite them. Data lives and works at Oxford as a professor. Worf has returned to the Klingon Empire in a leadership role. Crusher captains a medical ship. On and on. The common theme is that events in their past tore them apart, destroying the family dynamic they once had. Picard knows that by coming together, they can solve this seemingly impossible problem. The MacGuffin of the anomaly works to push the theme of the story, which is “Humanity can solve great problems by uniting.” In turn, this plays into Picard’s character arc of putting down his emotional walls and embracing his crew for what they have always been, his family.

I love reading about the behind the scenes work of these episodes, and this was an interesting one. The script for Star Trek: Generations was writing concurrently with this finale and the two blend so beautifully when it comes to theme and especially Picard’s arc. From a plot perspective, Picard running the vineyard makes sense when we get to Generations and find out the fates of Robert and Rene Picard. Data’s more emotional behavior also rings true because that arc begins in Generations. The foresight in how the television show would transition into films started great. I wish that consistency had continued as the films went on.

There were originally ideas to include a jump back to Picard’s time as Locutus and somehow have Hugh coming back in time to undo the events of Best of Both Worlds. There was also a sequence that had the old crew stealing the Enterprise-D from a Starfleet museum in the future. It was deemed too similar to Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. I think what we ended up with was a perfect closing of the curtain for the television program. Making Q, the chief nemesis connects to the beginning of the show, and making it a Picard episode kept the character arc clear.

But wait! We’re not done yet. Now it’s time to begin a Prelude to Picard. Up next, my review of Star Trek: Generations!

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