TNG: S1E24: “We’ll Always Have Paris”

In which the Enterprise has too many rooms, time anomalies make less sense than time travel, and worrying implications of holodeck technology are discussed. 

Is that even a legal move?

Is that even a legal move?

En route to Sarona VIII for some shore leave that is apparently desperately needed. Picard is taking some time on what should be a peaceful journey to get some fencing in. The poor Lieutenant he’s facing off against feels the need to apologize for scoring a point. Even though Picard is very friendly about it, that’s kind of weird that he felt the need to do that. What really strikes me is that, as strange as this sounds, that room doesn’t look like the holodeck. What I mean is that when simulating a gymnasium there’s no real reason to conceal the arch and change the style of the door if you’re still leaving the door there. So it seems like this is actually a fencing room. Even on a ship as extravagant as the Enterprise D, that seems a bit on the esoteric side. At the end of the bout, they salute to each other and then are put through a brief time loop, which they immediately notice. At the end of the bout, they salute to each other and then are put through a brief time loop, which they immediately notice.

In fact, everyone seems to have noticed – Riker up on the bridge immediately says that they experienced a loop where everything repeats itself. So that’s odd, and points again to the Star Trek universe being non-deterministic, although weakly. If physical actions are rewound and repeated, you would expect the same to hold true for mental actions if they were the mere product of the state of neurons. Weak evidence for the existence of Souls or, at least, mental functions that are the product of some component of the body which is not locked in traditional space-time. Sadly, this cuts Picard’s pre-cation short, and he comes right up to the bridge in his fencing outfit.

One of the functions of the tactical console is to monitor communications, both intra and extraship. He’s the one who monitors the switchboard that Uhura used to control, as well as controlling communications. Coming from elsewhere is a communication from a Doctor Manheim, whose work relates to ‘nonlinear time.’ Where’s the Department of Temporal Investigations when you need it, I ask you. They jump to Warp 8 to investigate, and one is left to wonder what happens if the Enterprise encounters a pocket of deja-vu time while bending space-time around itself to render it immune from the traditional laws of physics. Clearly, nobody is worried.

They built a covered walkway under the tower.

They built a covered walkway under the tower.

I do love time travel episodes. Apparently Manheim used to teach various theories of time at the University in Paris. Troi tries to do her job by reminding Picard not to let his obvious strong feelings regarding Manheim to get in the way of his judgement, and is told to faff off, although it does look like he’s going to take her advice to reflect on the old times. He goes to Holodeck 3 to remember himself a cafe in Paris. Apparently he was supposed to meet someone at a table in Paris, but he never showed up. Picard has a conversation in the holodeck with a young lady who may actually be a holographic recreation of the woman he was supposed to meet. That has rather worrying implications.

Picard, you see, requested a representation of the cafe as it was on a specific day at a specific time. I had rather been hoping that the computer was procedurally generating it based on demographic information, but if it actually has that information in its database, that rather indicates that the Federation is a total surveillance society, and worse, that those records can be requisitioned by anyone, anywhere, at any time.

In the future, all lab safety gear will be slashed up the sides. Tastefully, of course.

In the future, all lab safety gear will be slashed up the sides. Tastefully, of course.

The Enterprise reaches the  source of the transmission, and Picard does not identify himself by name, but tells the woman on the other end to lower the force field so that the last two survivors can be beamed directly to sickbay. Fortunately, when the woman who will clearly turn out to be the woman Picard left at the table beams up, it does not turn out to be the same actress as the holodeck used, so hoorayfor procedural generation. This leaves us with another conundrum – the Holodeck clearly heard Picard talking to the waiter about how he’s regretting having l stood someone up, and then adjusts the program so that two of the ladies present just happen to have a young woman in the same predicament? In case we needed more evidence that the Holodeck is primarily used for pornography, there it is, because the other alternative is that Troi was keeping tabs on Picard, saw he went into the holodeck, and did some tinkering to try to get him to confront his feelings, and I’m not sure which is worse.

There was an accident that took out everyone but Jenice and Paul Manheim in the other lab. Doctor Manheim’s work was about opening windows up to other kinds of time, and needed to happen on this precise planet because of some local stellar conditions. Apparently he got obsessive toward the end, and then the lab exploded, and Manheim’s brain is breaking down slowly due to whatever happened and is continuing to happen to Time.

"Oh my god, I'm BALD?"

“Oh my god, I’m BALD?”

The time distortions are now not causing reversals, but duplicates which can interact with each other. This is unlike any kind of temporal effect we’ve seen so far in all of Star Trek (by which I mean in TOS). The two groups, which are at different points on the same timeline, diverge when Picard2 stops to gape at Picard1 while the whole of Team1 has no memory of the incident. The camera stays with Team2 as the turbolift doors close. I will stop speaking in the royal plural now, because I don’t know about the rest of you, but it leads me to wonder if Team1 evaporated in a puff of paradox. They step into the turbolift and indeed, there is no team 3. These hiccups in time do not appear to be consistent thus far. Riker, Data, and Worf try to beam down, but they can’t manage it and the transport is barely reversed in time.

Manheim wakes up and starts ranting about having been to the other side, and claims that he’s floating between dimensions. It’s Picard who brings him back to something resembling sanity through the healing power of jealousy. As it turns out, the disruptions are another spacetime intruding on this one. Picard briefs the team on the plan, and when that conferences is over, Jenice asks him why he didn’t show up and they flirt for a while before Picard is allowed to tell the truth. That he was afraid. To be fair ,he tries at first and she tells him to lie at first.

After some discussions with Manheim, Picard says that Data should go alone,. Data presumes that this is because he is dispensable, but it is in fact because Data is apparently better at dealing with the time distortions. Unless there have been incidents we haven’t seen, this hasn’t been shown yet, but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.  He beams into the lab successfully this time, managing to locate a beam-in spot that’s insulated from the distortions. There are security lasers that attempt to shoot Data, but he’s too quick for them takes them out.

Fluorescent light bulbs make a great security measure when you understand how bad for you all that mercury is.

Fluorescent light bulbs make a great security measure when you understand how bad for you all that mercury is.

He gets to the machine and gets ready to do the technobabble at the exact right time, during the next distortion at the exact right moment. One can see the problem approaching – if the force fields only align at a precise moment to let the time distortion out, and the distortion makes time go all funky, how will he know when the actual moment really is?

"Which one of us is in the correct time frame?"

“Which one of us is in the correct time frame?”

Sure enough, three Datas, each with a quantity of antimatter to drop into the time distortion. They ask which one is in the correct time frame, and the one in the middle says its him. Presumably this is because he is the average of a foreshadow and an echo, but I would like to propose an alternate theory: they all are. Data isn’t getting duplicated, each one is existing in a timeline that happens to be folded in on itself. Nonetheless, if all of them were in the correct time frame or just the one they followed, everything is still fine. Data manages to close the gap and Manheim just magically recovers.

At the end, Troi takes Jenice to the cafe on the holodeck, and she appears to have never seen one before. I mean, sure the two of them get closure and blah blah blah, but are holodecks new? How long has she been on that barren rock with Timey McBeardface? I’ll be looking for evidence of this or against it as the series goes on. It’s also possible she’s wondering how he got an exact replica of that cafe from that day, which would go back to implying that the Federation is a surveillance state but nobody knows it except for the military. Dun dun dunnn…


2 thoughts on “TNG: S1E24: “We’ll Always Have Paris”

  1. Pingback: Worlds in a Blender | TNG: S6E18: “Starship Mine”

  2. Pingback: Worlds in a Blender | TNG: S5E23: “I, Borg”

Did we miss something awesome?