Time Travel. When is it okay to know what is going to happen in the future? Is it okay to change the future if you know the results before hand? In the episode that first aired on November 18, 1991 this and more is explored. This is A Matter of Time.
Stardate 45349.1 A Matter of Time
When a time traveler arrives to study the Enterprise and witness their attempt to save a planet, they discover that he is much more than what they bargained for.
The Enterprise is heading to Penthara IV to assist a colony who’s planet was recently struck by an asteroid. On their way a man by the name of Berlinghoff Rasmussen appears claiming to be from the 26th century. The man claims to be a historian who is there to study Picard and his crew but something seems off about his actions and mannerisms. The crew ask about his credentials but Picard prevents them from prying to deeply as it could hurt the timeline. Troi detects that he is hiding something and not necessarily hiding facts about the future.
Meanwhile on the Enterprise, Rasmussen meets with some of the bridge crew in Ten Forward. After chatting about time and history, he continues through the ship witnessing history as it unfolds. LaForge finds him to be annoying although Rasmussen indicates that he is to be treated as A fly on the wall. As Rasmussen walks about, he casually pockets an engineering padd and continues his tour and finds himself in Sickbay where he talks with Troi and Crusher. Troi makes it clear that she doesn’t trust him and leaves. He begins to flirt with Crusher and casually walks out with a neural stimulator.
Despite Rasmussen’s appearance, the Enterprise is on a mission and must continue on their journey to Penthara IV to assist the colony. They arrive to see that the asteroid’s impact has already caused a devastating weather change on the planet. The Enterprise finds a way to possibly fix the atmosphere in time before it is too late. LaForge begins to work on methods to help fix the atmospheric disturbances. They try drilling into pockets of gas that should help force an artificial global warming. They manage to begin increasing the surface temperature of the planet, indicating success in their project.
Soon, however, the planet begins experiencing earthquakes and volcanic activity near the drilling sites. It appears that their experiment is having unexpected results, results that may have made matters worse. Data determines that there is a way to solve the issue but the solution runs a risk of completely burning off the planet’s atmosphere. Picard has a choice to make and he is not sure which way to go. Despite his knowledge that he can not ask what the future holds, he asks Rasmussen for his advice. Rasmussen declined to assist, stating that he can not change the future, despite how many people may die. Picard is furious that Rasmussen will not help him but recognises that he has the right to choose. He chooses to take the gamble and try. The plan goes into motion and soon it is apparent that they were successful in their attempt to fix the planet’s atmosphere.
After fixing the planet, it is discovered that many small items have turned up missing and, when Rasmussen attempts to leave, he is stopped by Picard and his bridge crew. Picard insists that he be allowed to inspect the time ship as many items around the ship have gone missing. They explain that if they are not allowed to search the vessel, he will not be allowed to leave. He agrees but only if Data is the one to search the ship. Data finds the missing items and Rasmussen pulls a phaser on him. He reveals that he is indeed from the past and has stolen the time pod from a legitimate time traveller. As an inventor, he decided to steal items from the future to invent them in the past. Unfortunately for Rasmussen, the phaser he stole was disabled and he is taken into custody. As the time ship disappears without him, Picard tells him that many legitimate historians will be thrilled to meet a man from the past.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
So far this series hasn’t really done much in the subject of Time Travel. Outside of the occasional breach of the space-time continuum, this is really the first time the crew of the Enterprise D has encountered a traveler in time and he is, of course, not what he seems to be.
One interesting bit about this episode is that Picard fully admits that sometimes the Prime Directive needs to be interpreted by those who are determining its place in a certain situation. That, when faced with some profound event, it is even okay to break it in certain circumstances. He goes on to admit that, he himself has broken it when he felt it was called for. The same, he reasons, should be considered for a temporal prime directive arguing that if you had a chance to prevent a catastrophe, you should regardless of the consequences. I find this intriguing as Picard has stated many times just how important the Prime Directive is, even using it as a crutch at times. In this speech, we finally get his true feelings.
Overall, this is just a fun episode with a good b story. It really manages to capture the more light-hearted side of the series. Matt Frewer, who plays Rasmussen, has appeared in numerous movies and television series and always brings with him a much-needed levity for a series such as this.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
I have to wonder what happened to the time traveler who was abandoned in the 22nd century. Who was he and where did he come from? And come to think of it…just where did the timeship hop off too?
We never see nor hear from Rasmussen again but I have to wonder what became of him as well.
We get the first mention of the Enterprise B in this episode, a ship we will not see until the movie Generations.
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Late To The Game 3/1/2020 (Originally published 9/7/2018)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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