TNG: S2E13: “Time Squared”

In which Riker makes scrambled monotreme eggs, reversing the polarity always helps, and I get flashbacks to SimAnt.

This will either be an episode about time travel or New York or both. Just kidding, it’s about time travel and anomalies. I suggest going back to look at how time travel is treated in TOS for a brief refresher, so we know what we’re comparing temporal anomalies to. Also, take a quick refresher of “We’ll Always Have Paris” for what we’ve seen of time travel in this series. If I recall correctly, things are about to get crazy.

We see Riker cooking at the dining room table. By which I mean making an omelette on a hot plate while he expounds on the virtues of cooking for oneself. The Replicator creates food without flair, you see. The food that it makes is always the same. Makes me wonder: if I order twelve steaks from the Replicator, will they all be the same steak? Did someone program in a variable selection of steaks, each with different marbling? Does the computer procedurally generate each steak from a salt based on the exact time, thus ensuring that no two steaks are ever quite the same? I have to assume it’s either option one or three – even with the vast storage space available in the 24th century, storing dozens of patterns for each foodstuff the Replicator can produce seems incredibly inefficient.

How's that racism taste, Pulaski?

How’s that racism taste, Pulaski?

It’s amusing that there’s really no setup for cooking in Enterprise. It makes sense – that’s what the replicator is for, and one 3x5x2 foot piece of equipment takes the place of pantry, refrigerator, stove, and drawers upon drawers of kitchen implements. Also that Riker makes a big deal about cooking and didn’t even vet his eggs. Worf is the only one who can stomach them. Still, with a fencing room and a phaser range and all these other rooms that are niche and superfluous on a starship that has a holodeck, you’d think that either the Enterprise would have a galley beyond Ten-Forward or that Riker could have booked a holodeck to cook on. Also, if it’s all about subtly altering the ingredient proportions for flair, why not replicate the raw ingredients and just recycle the unused portions into the replicator? Why rely on mystery-species-eggs?

We are saved from further culinary abominations by Picard calling Riker to the bridge. There’s an automated distress call from a Federation shuttle, despite the Enterprise being the only ship supposed to be out this far. They intercept, and the distress beacon does not appear to include any identifying information on it. If it had, the lead-in to the opening credits might have been a little stronger, since the shuttle, tumbling and without powerless, and having to be tractor-beamed into the shuttlebay, (via a neat two-stage process) is the El-Baz from the Enterprise herself.

Dun dun DUNNNNNNN!

Dun dun DUNNNNNNN!

As a matter of fact, it’s the same shuttlecraft that’s already sitting in the shuttlebay, and it’s full of an unconscious Picard. Riker calls Awake Picard (to whom we shall now refer to as Picard-A) and Data down to the shuttlebay to see Picard-B and El-Baz-B. This has to be some kind of violation. Who’s minding the bridge?

Picard-B has some confusing mecal readings – strong hearbeat, irregular pulse, odd brainwaves which Pulaski says are ‘out of phase.’ I’m going to assume that she’s refering to some sort of circadian rhythm that the 24th century medical technology is able to detect, rather than nonsense. Troi, however, confirms that Picard-B is, as far as she can tell, Jean-Luc Picard. not a clone or a duplicate or a shapeshifter. Sadly, Data can’t pull the logs just yet because they have to jump-start power back into the shuttle and the shuttlebay doesn’t have an easy power cable in reach.

No, I guess they do, but the shuttle is not compaible with Enterprise power systems. I have no words for how stupid that would be if it were a) by design and b) something Geordi didn’t already know, so we’re going to have to assume it’s a result of whatever problem gave us a duplicate, antimatter-scarred shuttle in the first place.

Pulaski puts Picard-B in a restraining force field, because his levels are going wild and she wants to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself or anyone else. Picard-A insists that they wake Picard-B to find out, in the common parlance, doubleyou-tea-eff, and the normal stimulant nearly crashes him. With this, and the way the shuttle required a polarity phase inverter, the technobabble is steering us towards the notion that Picard-B and El-Baz-B are time-reversed. This is not how I would expect time-reversed matter to behave, but hey. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Picard-B will hit his head on something, suddenly wake up, start walking and talking backwards with decreasing agitation until he merges with Picard-A in a flare of antiprotons that scours the Enterprise clean of organic molecules. That would be awesome. I would watch that episode.

Geordi and Data get the shuttle up and running by doing all the power systems wrong, and iturns out that the shuttle is from 6 hours forward in time. They fail to mention that the shuttle clock is counting down, so there goes that nifty idea of it traveling backwards in time. Pulaski manages to wake Picard-B briefly, and he does not look happy.

They play back the logs, making no mention of the Tempoiral Prime Directive, and they show an anomaly, the Enterprise flying into the anomaly, getting knocked around and then obliterated, which will occur three and a half hours from now.

Knowing what they know now, and apparently not knowing where this is going to happen, they don’t immediately separate the battle bridge and saucer sections so that that chain of events can’t happen. Riker argues that these events may be unalterable now that they have foreknowledge of them. It’s a reasonable supposition, although I have problems with in in the context that it implies the Star Trek universe might have souls and no free will. Thus agreed that there’s no way to avoid the anomaly, they decide to go and meet it head on and not make the same mistake that they already will have had made. The cognitive dissonance inherent here is staggering. I thought I remembered liking this episode.

Also, Picard-B is so messed up because he’s out of place in time. This also feels very stupid, but it’s consistent (somewhat) to the behavior Spock exhibited when the Sarpeidon portal sent him back in “All Our Yesterdays”. As they approach the time that the disaster happened, Picard-B is slowly becoming more lucid, even though he should still, by rights, be six hours off from where he ought to be at that point. Achillies couldn’t catch the tortoise if they were both traveling at the same rate. Ergo, Picard-B oughtn’t to catch up to Picard-A if they’re both aging at the rate of one second per second.

With the only information sources scrambled, both the shuttle and Picard-B, Picard-A is definitely worried about the fate and future of his ship, and very upset with what he knows of Picard-B. Our current information indicates that Picard-B left the ship in a time of crisis, an act of cowardice. Furthermore, the evidence of his future self having made a wrong choice means he’ll be second-guessing himself. Is Picard-B the result of a decision Picard-A would have made? Or a result of a decision he will only make because he’s second guessing himself due to Picard-B, back when Picard-B was Picard-A.

Picard and Riker are trying to puzzle out how the shuttle got here, and apparently the shuttle doesn’t have warp capability. They mention the Traveler and Manheim’s experiments, neither of which seem to apply, and Riker reminds Picard that they need to wait for the problem to happen, because wild speculation won’t be productive. Just then…

A wild Spacetime Anomaly appears!

A wild Spacetime Anomaly appears!

 

Verily, this visual is a virtiginous vista, the ventral vortex diving vertically into the vastitude of the void.

Verily, this visual is a virtiginous vista, the ventral vortex diving vertically into the vastitude of the void.

A huge vortex appears, which happens to be oriented to the Enterprise’ ventral side. You know what, I’m going to throw another image in here. It’s a big anomaly, but it’s important to remember that ‘ventral’ doesn’t equal ‘down’ in space. The ship isn’t going to fall in. It might get sucked in, but it won’t fall. In fact, it is pulling in on the Enterprise at about 30% of the warp engine capacities, and Troi senses a presence which she likens to instinct, rather than intelligence. After some dithering about what Picard-B did, Picard-A decides to try to escape, and the cortex pulls them back in. Imagine if you will an ant with a full suite of scientific equipment trying to investigate an antloin nest.

The pull of the vortex intensifies. They launch a probe, which is destroyed, and then both Picards are zapped, but nobody else. Whatever is at the center of the thing is focused on the Picards, and so Picard-A realizes that if he were to leave the ship, it might have time to escape while the entity is focused on him. Never mind the fact that thiat’s what Picard-B did. Picard-A decides to release Picard-B to let him escape to the shuttlebay. On the way, Picard-A tries to interrogate Picard-B about any other options he might have considered. There’s a vague allusion to some possible option, but then Picard A shoots Picard-B before he can get into the shuttle.

Since the Enterprise can’t fly out, Picard (now the only one) tells helm to fly into and through the anomaly, with no knowledge of what’s at the center or what destroyed the Enterprise last time, when Picard-B had tried to escape to save the ship. As the ship flies through, dead Picard-B and El-Baz-B vanish and everything is hunky-dory, with no questions answered as to the nature of the anomaly, why the creature was zapping Picard, or any of it.

It’s also worth noting that if Picard-A had let Picard-B go through the loop again, which Worf speculated might be some sort of Möbius curve, he might have come out the other side un-reversed and able to explain what was going on. Just a thought.

 

2 thoughts on “TNG: S2E13: “Time Squared”

  1. Pingback: Worlds in a Blender | TNG: S5E26: “Time’s Arrow: Part 1″

  2. Pingback: Worlds in a Blender | TNG: S4E18: “Identity Crisis”

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