Time travel is one of my favourite plot devices in all of Sci Fi, and Star Trek is my favourite Sci-Fi show. So I thought what better than to go through them all and review the time travel episodes from each series? It gives me something to do and keeps me off the streets at least. I will be going through all of the shows time travel episodes from all six series (including the Animated) but will be starting with The Next Generation simply as it is my favourite series. But there are some stipulations as time has played a factor in many episodes, not all of which will be reviewed. So here is the criteria:
1 – Time travel has to be central to the plot. So if it is only a small part of the episode it wont be covered here, especially if it is only a passing mention. So the three day jump back at the end of TOS’ The Naked Time won’t count, neither does Voyagers episode Eye of the Needle as in the first instance the time travel occurs only in the last few minutes and does not impact the plot. In the Voyager episode, we only find out the Romulan guest is from the past at the very end- the story is about contact with the Alpha Quadrant.
2 – It has to involve the travel of our main cast. If it is just a visitor from another time that doesn’t count here as for all intents and purposes the episode is set in “current” time, current for the episode. So TNGs A Matter of Time and First Born won’t feature (though First born debatably involves a cast member but their future self and again it isn’t relevant till near the end and isn’t a main cast member as in Time Squared)
3 – Time dilation doesn’t count. TNGs Timescape is one of the best episodes of the show, but deals more with frozen and fast forward/ rewind of time rather than actual travel to another time period. Ditto Voyagers distress call in the episode Parallax. Ditto TNGs Relics as Scott has effectively been in stasis not travelling through time.
4 – The Holodeck doesn’t count, in Voyager’s The Killing Game they are not really in WW2, but still on Voyager.
Simply put, time travel has to involve the crew moving to another time period as the main thrust of the show. Here is a good guide to time travel episodes in this link, and I will use it as my guide. Basically, if those travelling are from the main cast and time travel is central to the plot then it is in – though episodes like Tapestry and Cause and effect are debatable, I will decide when I get to them whether or not to include them as in Cause and Effect it is a time reset rather than travel and in Tapestry it isn’t clear that time travel is actually occurring. So, every Saturday I will try to get a review up, the first one then will be The Next Generation episode Time Squared from TNGs second season where Captain Picard meets a version of himself that has travelled back in time.
We begin with the Season Two episode: Time Squared. This is a tricky one because it could be argued to not meet my criteria exactly as the episode takes place in “current” time and does not involve the crew going back or forward, and yet it does. The plot kicks off when Captain Picard is found unconscious inside a shuttlecraft and we soon learn he is from six hours in to the future. As such it features at least one main crew member travelling in time, and though the time travel is a puzzle that is ultimately a B story to the main tale, it is close enough to count. And so we begin here. Just a brief note however on how common time travel was in TNG.
It isn’t as common as I thought. This episode only just meets the criteria, but if we were being extremely strict we wouldn’t actually have our first fully fledged time travel episode until the final episode of Season 5 with Time’s Arrow. And yet there have already been six episodes that feature time troubles before that. Yet none of them really feature time travel as the main plot device, except Time Squared which as I admit is dubious. Those other episodesare:
Season One: We’ll Always Have Paris which only features a couple of very short time loops. The loops are not the main factor of the story, but of the scientist trying to work with them. The time loops are an annoying blip to the crew on top of the main storyline which is basically about Picard meeting an old flame.
Season Two we have this episode I am reviewing but in all honesty I could cut out.
Season Three has Yesterdays Enterprise… WAIT! I hear you scream, that IS a time travel episode. The Enterprise C travels to the future and changes the timeline. Surely that counts? I am mixed on this one, it does not meet any of the criteria really- the time travel isn’t central to the plot, but the change in time and this is more an alternate reality episode than a time travel one. Also, save for the guest character of Tasha Yar, none of the main crew travel in time. I admit I may yet still review this one, but we shall see when I get there… uhm… in a couple of weeks!
Then also in Season Three is A Matter of Time. This features a character coming form the 22nd Century to steal from the crew, but ultimately this is a B story, with the main plot focusing on saving a planet from destruction. The main thrust of the episode would continue without the time travel intervention. Also, none of the main crew travel.
Then we come to Season Fives Cause and Effect which is not so much a time travel story (the time travel only actually occurs in the final few moments when the Bozeman comes through the vortex. The time related escapades are time loops, however are the crew actually travelling in time? I don’t know and whether I review this will again be decided closer to the time.
So the first true time travel story we get is with Time’s Arrow. But a few earlier episodes come close enough to the criteria to be worth discussing.