In which Riker advocates animal cruelty. Beverly dies a hideously painful death, and the Enterprise blows up.
Riker’s been flirting with Klingon women again. Or playing Parises Squares. Or feeding Data’s cat while he’s gone. Beverly offers to feed the cat instead, and Riker offers her some advice as he’s called away to the bridge. A Romulan ship has suffered a complete engine failure. Or so they claim, as Worf is quick to point out. Riker goes to the rescue, since there’s 13 hours until Picard is scheduled to come back to the ship, but he is also going in with shields up and alert status on. It’s a fairly well done moment. We can imagine Picard showing good faith and going in with a less obvious alert status. Riker doesn’t care.
Cut to Picard, Geordi, Deanna, and Data, coming back from a conference about the psychological effects of long-term assignments. Complete, no doubt, with a case study in Kirk handing his ship over to a Vulcan cult leader so they could all go find god. Kirk was a boon to researchers in every field. Incidentally, look how big this shuttle is. It’s huge. Troi tells the story of how she was hit on by an expert in interspecies mating rituals, Picard talks about his own horrible lecturer in a manner that will eventually become a techno song. But as Geordi talks about his warp field seminar, he freezes, as does everyone but Troi. They unfreeze moments later. It’s unclear what could possibly have caused that, but one thing it surely isn’t is bubbles of altered timeflow, because a) Troi didn’t get hit even though she’s in the direction of travel of the shuttle and b) the shuttle didn’t shear in half as part of it suddenly stopped moving in relation to the other part.
Geordi pulls out a medical tricorder and rules out anything biological. Data doesn’t have a record of a pause, nor does his record differ from the computer. Also, I suppose Troi could have been hit by a bubble of sped-up time, but we should still have seen a discrepancy as it hit the forward compartment first, then Troi, then everyone, then everyone but Troi, then out the back of the shuttle. So we can definitely rule that out, we’re all agreed, right?
When investigating, Troi seems to have frozen for three minutes, and Geordi manages to pinpoint Troi’s aging on the minute-by-minute level. If that technology actually exists, it has to have come out of the most depressing lab in the history of history. Also, the Enterprise isn’t responding, so we all speed up, at least until the runabout’s nacelle cuts out mid-flight as one of the nacelles ages 47 days in moments, running out all of the antimatter fuel without exploding somehow. Likewise, all the fruit on the table has rotted, and Picard’s hand does too when he puts it nearby. Based on this, Data finds the time bubbles we all agreed couldn’t possibly be there. Gawd.
There are temporal disturbances everywhere, with time moving at a different rate in each one, and increasing in frequency as we approach the Enterprise rendezvous point, and from there as we follow the faintest traces of energy, until we arrive at what I would like to propose is the new definition for the term ‘still life.’
This event in space-time is the epicenter of the disturbances. I say ‘epicenter’ because we are dealing with a temporal phenomenon. The actual center of a temporal phenomenon would radiate out in all directions, and we don’t know if the fragments radiated into the past and the Enterprise just ignored the signs. How can I say that with such certainty? Hush your face and enjoy the episode, that’s how.
Picard demands, and suggests, a method to insulate people from the effects of the timeframes by using the emergency transporter armbands and modifying them to produce a skin-tight subspace force field. This level of technology will never be used again. In part, because it will take so long to build and this is the only type of emergency situation where time isn’t actually a constraint. Also, because activating them creates an artificial time pocket and that nonsense is dangerous, and almost knocks Troi out immediately. Still, I want to hear more about this being researched.
The bridge is a scene of chaos. Romulans on the bridge and no security officers. By touching objects, they are able to interact with them, as apparently this lets the objects attach to that time frame. Plus, they have to get around by Jeffries tube. Incidentally, I love the frozen particle effect on the ship. It’s particularly beautiful in the remastering.
Troi goes to sick bay on some excuse, and finds a Romulan blasting a hole in Beverly’s torso. As she leaves in a panic, one of the Frozen romulans turns out not to be so frozen. Meanwhile, Picard finds Worf seemingly in the middle of directing rescue operations. And Data has found a warp core breach.
Also, now seems as good a time as any to point this out. Everyone can see. Light is working. Light is being emitted from energetic gasses in the overheat lights, and from whatever powers the LCARS interface continuously, and that light is operating in real-time according to Picard’s frame of reference. Those photons are also entering the eyes of the frozen crew. When time returns to normal, the crew’s retinas ought to cook instnatly and burn their eyeballs out of their heads. Either that, or Picard and company ought only to be able to see by moving into the path of frozen photons, and be carving out tunnels of darkness as they walk and those suspended photons intersect their time-shields and resume motion. Phew. I’ve had that on my chest since I was like ten. Feels good.
Anyway, a warp core breach. Data can actually detect its rate of expansion. The basically-instantaneous warp core breach will finish destroying the Enterprise in nine hours or so, and there’s no way to stop it. Picard is remarkably calm when he looks at the thing that is about to destroy his ship. Possibly because the strain has snapped his mind.
Speaking of Troi’s terrified look at Picard, if they’re in individual isolated bubbles of normal time, can her empathic senses detect him? Or do they go out and hit a wall of slow time? It doesn’t really matter, I suppose. Picard seems to have suffered from the time-bends. I wish I was kidding.
Next step is to beam Troi over to the Romulan ship, since she’s familiar with the layout. They quickly determine that the Romulan ship is being evacuated, the Enterprise was transferring energy to it and got blown up by a feedback loop that the Romulans were trying to shut down, and that the Romulan engine is completely shut down, which ought to be impossible. They use an artificial singularity which apparently can’t be decommissioned, but which you can just open up a panel on the wall and stare into. The Romulan one has currently been replaced with a hole in space-time which is swarming with clockroaches. As Data scans it, the timestream starts returning and we notice some weird behavior by one of the Romulans, but it’s overshadowed by the Enterprise blowing to smithereens and then reconstituting as time flows back on itself.
Geordi notices a Romulan out of place, who attacks Geordi. Troi takes off his force field so that he’ll stay alive in the frozen time frame, and give our heroes a chance to save him. They take the Romulan back and, surprise, he’s not ‘native to our time coninuum,’ however you determine such things. When he wakes up, he begs Picard and company to save his young from the artificial gravity well of the Romulan engine core where they were placed by accident. These creatures use black holes to incubate their young, but they used the Romulan engine core, which shut down the engine and trapped the babies. Then the Romulans, in distress, called for help, the Enterprise tried a power transfer, which started killing the young, so the adults started the feedback loop to destroy the Enterprise. It’s all been a tragic misunderstanding.
Luckily, the tricorder seems to be able to remote-control time, which means they might be able to reverse it first this time, then make changes, then run time forward. Plus that means Bevery won’t have most of her insides vaporized, with any luck.
The backwards parameters of the time loop seem to extend back to the power transfer, but unfortunately the other time-alien stops Data from stopping the thing she was sent to stop, because Patricia Tallman’s characters just can’t catch a break. Ever, in any series. Data is knocked out and wakes up just barely too late to stop the transfer, and I am frankly impressed by that Ops crewman not creating frustrating delays by asking where Data suddenly came from, and instead answering his commands quickly and saving the puzzled bewilderment for later.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to stop the beam from the Enterprise, but the good news is they can remote control a dozen or so tons of very robust hull metal into the path of the beam. This also fixes all of space-time, by preventing the moment when time fractured in the first place, and now I need to read Thief of Time again.
Meanwhile, in his effort to become more human, Data is studying the subjective measure of time by watching a pot boil over and over again to see if it, in fact, never does.