21 February 2004 | Li-1
The best example of Star Trek; better than all the movies.
Rating: **** out of ****
While the original crew had it better with the movies, The Next Generation was the only Star Trek TV series that I watched consistently. The show had a cast that at least equalled that of the original, boasted better production values, and plots that were intriguing and touched on varieties of concepts that Kirk, Spock, and Bones never got the chance to explore. Deep Space Nine was too mired into the whole "war of the quadrants" to explore any ideas with real satisfaction, and while Voyager had the best effects and the best premise, the cast was middling at best. Enterprise took a while to get going but had a superb third season and a solid fourth.
All Good Things..., the swan song episode for TNG, is possibly the best of Star Trek, period, focusing on mind-boggling concepts while retaining the character development and human interest that made the show so appealing. It's the seventh year that the crew of the Starhip Enterprise have been together, but Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is experiencing odd timeshifts. He's constantly switching between three different time periods; in the past, right before the Farpoint mission, in the present, and in the future, where the crew has long split up, Picard is retired and is diagnosed with a debilitating mental illness. Naturally, the rest of the crew is skeptical (be it in any time period), but when Picard discovers the true nature of his constant shifting, he realizes it is both the means and cause with which the existence of mankind could be erased.
I hesitate to give too much away, though I doubt anyone with a passing interest in Star Trek hasn't already seen this episode. But it plays as an interesting comparison and contrast to the series' first episode, Encounter at Farpoint, which it directly ties in to with Picard's timeshifting to the past. There's been a notable improvement in the quality of the sets and the visual effects, and also the acting, the pacing, and the plot development.
All Good Things... has all the solid acting one expects from the cast, and a human touch that was missing from the latest film, Nemesis. It's interesting to note that this episode (meaning the whole series, as well) ends with the door open for all sorts of possibilities; at this time, this clearly implied the much-hyped transition to the big screen.
Unfortunately, some of the more open-ended questions this episode focused on were never even touched on. Sure, the Worf/Troi/Riker triangle was resolved, but one of my favorite ongoing side stories, the burgeoning romance between Picard and Dr. Crusher, was completely ignored in the movies. And the final scenes lead one to believe that the movies would take us to "places" never explored, even though the most recent film was merely a plot less action movie that didn't even have enough action to warrant the movie's existence.
Stewart is the true highlight of this episode, displaying the great acting chops he's been known for. The fact that we care for him and the rest of the crew as well, adds a sense of urgency and involvement in the proceedings that the otherwise quite frantic pace alone might not have been able to develop. The plot twists are pure Trek, each mysterious element giving away to some big revelation that only leads to more questions. The story is engrossing, the dialogue is strong, and the performances and characterizations are spot-on.
There are a few problems with All Good Things. The timeshifting obviously means we're going to see past and future versions of the cast, but everyone's aged to a certain extent where they can't quite pass for their more youthful selves and the old-age makeup is never entirely convincing (Old Riker's first appearance gave me a good laugh). That said, I would like to make mention of what full-blown hotties Marina Sirtis and especially Gates McFadden became (McFadden is easily the most attractive post 50-year old actress I've ever seen).
The continuing movie series actually began quite well; Generations and First Contact were enjoyable adventures, but everything seemed to fall apart with Insurrection. Funny, All Good Things... is a title that turned out more self-prophetic than anyone would have guessed.