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Season Two:
-127: "The Child"
-135: "The Measure of a Man"
-136: "The Dauphin"
-139: "Time Squared"
-141: "Pen Pals"
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Time Squared

(Star Trek - TNG episode production code 139)
  • story by Kurt Michael Bensmiller
  • teleplay by Maurice Hurley
  • directed by Joseph L. Scanlan
  • music by Dennis McCarthy

Time Squared

This is the earliest Next Generation story to put time travel front and center in the plot, and it easily proves that the Star Trek franchise continued to be largely clueless with the concept. My lasting memory that this tale made no sense whatsoever still stands after my latest viewing.

At best, I think the writers were trying to come up with something as creepy and powerful as the early Twilight Zone episode "Judgment Night" from 1959, in which a confused German passenger is haunted by a vague déja vu of doom while on a British boat crossing the Atlantic in 1942. "Time Squared" doesn't manage to come close to the level of excellence found in Rod Serling's piece.

I shall draw attention to three big problems with "Time Squared", all of which I think need to be tackled head-on before this story could have a chance of rising to become half-decent.

The first and most prolific is the large quantity of "second guessing" that most of the crew spend way to much time engaged in. As elsewhere, this kind of thing provides low quality drama, as characters argue positions without being able to cite anything convincing that backs them up. This easily dissociates the audience from the characters, preventing them from investing in them emotionally. The writers basically need to figure out what is actually going on, ensuring that it is something that will provide an honest, engaging drama, and let the characters figure out what is going on fairly early in the show, so that they can spend the remainder of it engaged with something interesting.

Far too many dialogue scenes in this story are poorly constructed, with characters unable to articulate the ideas that are consuming them. The duplicate Picard may have a fairly legitimate reason for being inarticulate for most of the episode, but near the end, when his faculties are coming back to him, he is still unable to say a single thing that makes any real sense.

Part of the lack of sense in this plot stems from the fact that the writers never really show how the events of the episode form the endless loop of time that seems to be stronger than any other idea they put forth about what is going on here. All we ever get is a visit from an alternate (parallel?) Picard from the future who made a mistake that cost him his ship, and HE seems to be about to make the same mistake again. Nothing that unfolds on the character level ever suggests that our Picard will loop back and become him, or that he also encountered an alternate Picard before he made his fateful initial decision. The looping concept will be done fair justice in the season five episode "Cause and Effect". Meanwhile, "Time Squared" is a very poor substitute.

The second major problem is the inexplicable violence of the Captain's last minute solution to the episode's "trick question" plot. Now if it had been Kirk vs. Kirk concluding this episode, I suppose we should expect them to get into a brawl, and rip each other's shirts off before coming to a solution. But this is Picard up against himself, for cryin' out loud. Talking eloquently is his style, his trademark. How could he not have found his solution that way? Instead it looks as though he's shot his double dead. And Star Trek's values once more go down the toilet when challenged by time travel.

In fact this second problem is the one that is going to really tank this episode's ranking. Giving our main protagonist and series lead such a self-destructive behaviour for a final fix absolutely demands extra-ordinary justification, and no way can the justification hold up if we have to find it by digging through the absolutely nonsensical excuse for temporal theory and plot that this episode presents. How would the stun setting on the phaser not be equally "effective", if indeed it makes any sense that any of this would be effective? For those that think it's an interesting artistic choice to leave problem #1 as an unanswered mystery, it really cuts the rug out from under Picard and leaves his character irredeemable, unless we regard the entire episode as a writer's mistake and dismiss it.

Our third problem is the magic wand clean up that later takes place, which sees the double of Picard and the El-Baz shuttlecraft disappear into thin air as the Enterprise sails out of its danger zone. In other words, the writers could no longer account for the existence of these doubles, and copped out. It's all made additionally ridiculous here by having O'Brien come down to the shuttlebay to watch and report it to the others, when none of them should have been able to expect this, and neither does it seem a prudent way for them to spend their time during a shipwide emergency and dangerous flight.

A side comment I want to make is on Riker's omelette-making scene at the beginning, in that it seems to have little to do with this episode, and everything to do with being a partial set-up for the next episode "The Icarus Factor" concerning Riker and his father. If so, fair enough. But it does make this episode's main plot feel even more empty and lost, as though it didn't have enough quality content on its own.

It is another curiosity that when Picard and Riker put their heads together to try and figure today's puzzle out, they mention the Traveler from "Where No One Has Gone Before" (TNG season 1) as though that story had something to do with time travel, which it never definitively did. They also mention Dr. Mannheim's work from the episode "We'll Always Have Paris" (TNG season 1), completing the list of Next Gen. stories to feature time travel, yet fail to note anything that the Federation has previously learned from Captain Kirk and crew's exploits. Surely the Federation formula tested in "The Naked Time" (TOS season 1) and later used to save the Earth in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home would be an obvious avenue for alternate Picard to have used to get to this crew? Or does Starfleet protect such dangerous secrets with some form of conspiracy? Not too unbelievable, considering how much they fear "alterations of the past".

Well, unlike other Star Trek time travel flops, "Time Squared" never remotely approaches the kind of popular emotional thread that has made fan favourites out of other episodes, so this one is probably regarded as a bit of a stinker by all. If so, it actually does deserve it. Enough said. Next episode, please....

This Next Generation Season Two story is available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Two (1988-1989):

Includes 22 episodes @ 45 minutes each.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for more information:

DVD Canada

6-disc DVD set

DVD Canada


DVD Extras include:

  • Mission Overview (14 min.)
  • Selected Crew Analysis
  • Starfleet Archives
  • Departmental Briefing: Production (17 min.)
  • Departmental Briefing: Memorable Missions (16 min.)
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
Dec. 4, 2012.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
Dec. 4, 2012.
Blu-ray U.K.

NEW for
Dec. 10, 2012.
5-disc Blu-ray box set

Blu-ray features add:

  • 2 Audio Commentaries:
    • "The Measure of a Man" by writer Melinda Snodgrass and scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
    • "Q Who" by director Rob Bowman, visual effects supervisor Dan Curry, and the Okudas.
  • TNG 25th Anniversary Cast Reunion (HD, 62 min.) with
    Patrick Stewart (Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Riker),
    LeVar Burton (Geordi), Michael Dorn (Worf),
    Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher), Marina Sirtis (Troi),
    Brent Spiner (Data), and Wil Wheaton (Wesley).
  • "Making It So: Continuing The Next Generation" (HD 2-part documentary, 81 min.)
  • Energized! Season Two Tech Update (HD, 8 min.)
  • Gag Reel (HD, 10 min.)
  • Deleted Scenes
  • "The Measure of a Man" HD extended version (57 min.) and hybrid version (56 min.)
  • Promos for each individual episode
  • plus, all featurettes from the DVD version.

Article & reviews written by Martin Izsak. Comments are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read our next Star Trek review: "Pen Pals"

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