TNG: S3E15: “Yesterday’s Enterprise”

In which Worf drinks the drink of a warrior, one image is all you need, and the Federation doesn’t believe in quickies.

If we continue the naming schema from TOS, the word ‘Yesterday’ in the title means this one will be about time travel. I love time travel.

Do you think the Enterprise has Anomaly Insurance?

Do you think the Enterprise has Anomaly Insurance?

Worf sits in Ten-Forward and Guinan makes him drink prune juice. It is a “warrior’s drink” and she tries to get him to stop drink alone because Earth females are ‘too fragile.’ Clearly, he’s never heard of Rule 34. If you’re not familiar with Rule 34, don’t look it up. This is a family show. Anyway, all of a sudden an episode starts to happen. Because I know vaguely what’s about to happen, I will point out what a wonderful setup scene this is. They can be hit or miss, but this one is delightful in how it emphasizes Worf as a self-exiled outsider aboard the Enterprise, which is probably how he’s been his whole life, at least since Khitomer. Human children are fragile, but the chances are that a woman willing to be Worf’s first human lover will be is vanishingly small. He’s carrying a lot of baggage from his childhood and it would be best if he puts it down, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, so this pulsing anomaly opens up and Guinan seems almost to recognize it, because she is scary in how little we know about her. We don’t see her exhibit powers overtly, but I will remind you that Q is wary around her. The analysis of the wormhole indicates there’s temporal displacement, which is not outside of what our models predict wormholes could do, if only because relativity makes time more malleable than you’d like to think it is. A ship pops out, it’s a Starfleet ship in a capital class, and all of a sudden the whole bridge changes and Tasha Yar is back at tactical. And Picard’s first thought is that the ship might be an enemy. Guinan looks confused, and everyone in Ten-Forward is wearing a tactical harness, and, she recognizes that something is different.

I love everything about this shot.

I love everything about this shot.

Those of you dubiously fortunate enough to be watching Star Trek for the first time with me as your guide, I want to play a game. From this image, what can you infer about this version of the bridge? Because here’s what I see: As compared with the Enterprise we’ve come to know, this one places all the emphasis on a single command presence. There is no panel of advisers – the Captain reigns. There are two people at Tactical, including the second-highest ranking person on the ship. On Kirk’s Enterprise, that rank was filled by a science officer, and they were at war with the Klingons. We also see Riker wearing a phaser on the bridge, which tells us that they expect to deal with boarders at any moment, but not with internal power struggles. This isn’t the Mirror Universe, but it is a timeline with a profoundly military bent and externally-focused wariness.

Oh yeah also they identify the ship as the Enterprise C, but that’s just the plot. The real beauty here is the establishing worldbuilding. The details coming out of the theme song like Picard saying “Military log” and “Combat Day” instead of “Captain’s log” and “stardate” are just to hammer it home for people who weren’t lucky enough to have Netflix when the episode first aired so they couldn’t pause.

Interestingly, the external details of the Galaxy-class are the same, but the interior design is, as we discussed, different. Also note that Worf has vanished between Ten-Forward and here. Rachel Garrett of the Enterprise C is sending out a distress call that they’ve been attacked by Romulans, but that’s not in the history books. Also, Klingons are inbound and they are not friendly. So that explains where Worf went.

Also, just as an side, Crusher clearly failed her classes in Information Security and lets slip the the little tidbit about them being from an Enterprise basically immediately. And with the Klingons on the way, they may have to scuttle the ship because there aren’t towing ships available to spare.

Every background detail in this episode is incredible.

Every background detail in this episode is incredible.

Guinan is going to be our guide to how the timeline is ‘supposed’ to be. She remembers the timeline that I will now designate as Prime. She has two overlapping sets of memories, only one of which includes the war with the Klingons that you can see raging on the map behind her.

Rachel Garret had answered a distress signal from a Klingon outpost at Narindra III. I wish I could watch this episode again for the first time, because it all falls into place so beautifully. Garrett answers a Klingon distress call twenty-two years ago and maintains the peace that Gorkon, Azetbur, and Kirk all worked so hard to save. Garrett gets sucked into a time warp and the peace falls apart. But if they go back, the Romulans will finish destroying the C and Narendra III. Also, somehow regular weaponsfire opened up the rift, and caused twenty years more of war. An incredibly devastating war that’s taken out half of Starfleet.

Yar gives some stats on the Galaxy-class warship Enterprise to an overawed helmsman: 42 decks, a troop capacity of over 6,000, and from the way she’s looking at him she’s probably happy to have her own bunk. You go, Tasha.

Let’s talk about Picard’s relationship with Guinan. She is the bartender and he not only allows her on the bridge of a warship, but leaves the bridge as a crisis is developing to speak with her. He is seriously considering doing everything she says just because she’s saying it. What their history actually involves is, I believe, left entirely to the viewer. Guinan, for her part, seems to deserve that level of trust, but what did she do to give her opinions so much weight? Then again, the prospect of averting 40 billion war casualties has to be tempting.

Nobody is happy with the prospect of sanding the C back to the past when it comes up in conference, especially since arming the C with modern weaponry risks changing history off the very limited rails that Guinan provided. Something interesting comes up that I want to remember to talk about later, though: Data suggests that Guinans species might have perceptions beyond linear time. That’s a phrase that ought to ring alarm bells for anyone who’s seen Deep Space 9. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.

Data points out that even the certain death of the C wouldn’t be meaningless, because the honorable act of a Federation ship sacrificing itself to try to save Klingons might be (and was) enough to hold together a peace. Someone makes an offhand comment about not knowing whether they’re alive in Guinan’s timeline, and Tasha figures out why Guinan was looking at her funny earlier.

Sidebar: The turbolifts always move slower when the camera is inside them. Watch how fast people get to random crew quarters when called from offscreen, compared to how long it takes the lift to go six decks but when Data and Yar are having a serious discussion. I have a theory but this post is going long already so… teaser.

As it turns out, Garrett is less upset about going back than Picard is about asking her to. Her crew doesn’t want to face life in the wrong time, or don’t like not finishing a fight, and were only even willing to stay because the Federation needs more ships. But since the Federation is, in fact, losing the war with the Klingon Empire and one more 20-year-old ship won’t turn that tide, they’re going to be ware more helpful trying to fix the timeline. Yar stays a moment longer to try to give the C any edge she can, and they’re about to finish up when a Klingon ship shows up and ruins everything. Garrett dies in the attack, so history is broken forever.



Helmsman Castillo basically demands to lead the charge back into the past anyway, and he and Yar have one of those moments in the transporter room where you have to hope they touched their genitals together earlier and offscreen because it’s just unbearable otherwise and they’re never going to get the chance unless, say, Yar does something brave and self-sacrificing only not really because Guinan kept staring at her and she just had to ask…

On any other day, telling Tasha Yar she died a meaningless, empty death would be the most brutal thing you could possibly say to her. Today, she can transfer to the C and if she survives the transition through the anomaly than she’ll have the chance to change that. And the C does need someone at tactical to acquit herself with Honor. Picard doesn’t like it, but he wouldn’t be Picard if he didn’t feel every loss, no matter how necessary. Seriously, though. She and Castillo can’t go for a life-affirming quickie in Garrett’s ready room?

The Enterprise is now screening the C from three Klingon ships, and all they have to do is hold out long enough for Castillo to limp her to the rift. Despite all participants being capital ships, you can see a little bit of actual maneuvering sullying the ‘shoot lasers at each other until someones shields fail’ image of space combat in TNG. One Klingon ship takes point to soak the first torpedo spread and then move off so that the two undamaged ships can have a longer firing run. And so that they can also try to take out the C. If they only knew what she was trying to do. It helps that the D surviving isn’t actually that important as long as they last long enough. Because they’re not going to survive, you see.

"Uh oh..."

“Uh oh…”

This is what it looks like when the antimatter containment is in the process of failing. You can tell it has not finished failing because the Enterprise is not a burst of gamma radiation. The engine room is basically gone at this point, Riker gets his throat sliced open by an exploding console, and Picard takes tactical. Just before the D explodes, C enters the rift and everything fixes itself, and Guinan asks Geordi to tell her about Tasha.



2 thoughts on “TNG: S3E15: “Yesterday’s Enterprise”

  1. Pingback: Worlds in a Blender | TNG: S7E26: “All Good Things…: Parts 1 & 2”

  2. Pingback: Worlds in a Blender | TNG: S5E01: “Redemption: Part 2″

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