A Matter of Time
This is one of my favourite Star Trek time travel episodes.
It brings up a lot of the usual philosophical debates
about time travel / non-interference ethics,
including the first blunt statement that the
Prime Directive might have a temporal equivalent,
but in the end, everything boils down to character,
and you can't otherwise trust everything that you think you know,
or make too many quick assumptions. Rick Berman impressed me
with his writing ability on this one.
The title is not great, however, as it could too easily refer
to any story involving time travel, or involving a ticking clock
or other time pressure plot device
for that matter. Episode titles across the entire Star Trek
franchise often seem far too vague for my tastes, this one
Part of what I like about this episode is simply the situation on the
planet, which is interesting, futuristic, and offers opportunities
for a lot of cool optical effects. This is the type of thing
that should become the crux of temporal debates. I'm there.
We see here the temporal debates and non-interference debates
swing towards second-guessing quite often in this story,
but it is portrayed pretty much as one of the key dangers
that the characters must and eventually do overcome. Good one.
I also like the position Picard can argue here,
not giving a damn about future history proceeding to
someone else's possible plan
like clockwork, and embracing his right to choose
something different. This episode gives him and his crew
just the right perspective to advocate for choice
in the here and now, at the present moment. Sweet.
"I've studied a great deal about your century, including the
fact that you're all aware of the dangers of altering the past..."
...and with that line, Rasmussen both acknowledges a pattern
with Star Trek time travel stories, and admits why he's come
to these particular people - their usual pattern of thinking
makes them suckers, gullible to his schemes. In con-man vernacular,
they are "easy marks".
In many ways, the situation with Rasmussen is very reminiscent
of that with the two Vorgons from the future in
"Captain's Holiday" (TNG season 3),
(or for that matter, the donut Guardian portal in
"City on the Edge of Forever
[TOS season 1] ),
and Picard and the Enterprise crew have to overcome their
reverence for where he claims to come from, and treat him
as a character in the here and now. It is most refreshing to
see them do so, and see them benefit from a healthy bit of
skepticism in the end. All good.
Matt Frewer is good casting for this rather bizarre character,
I think. He's gregarious, and interesting, yet just enough
of something is a little "off" about him to make the
character on screen fit what was being led up to on the page.
Of all the time travel stories that Star Trek has struggled with
over the years, this one has one of the more refreshing takes
on the subject, and is one that I continue to like today.
"Cause and Effect"
can now be found on its own page.)