Series: The Next Generation
Air Date: November 12, 1990
Written by: J. Larry Carroll and David Bennett Carren
Directed by: Les Landau
Riker is told that he's woken up in the future and forgotten sixteen years of his past, goes through the five stages of grief backwards.
It starts off with Riker celebrating his birthday. He attempts to entertain his guests with a trombone solo, but, as Troi puts it, some things get better with age, maybe his trombone playing will be one of them. In the middle of enjoying cake, he's called to the bridge. The Enterprise is on her way through an area of space that's near the Romulan Neutral Zone when they pick up some strange readings from a nearby planet. Following these readings, Riker leads Worf and Geordi on an away team to check them out. They could be a hidden Romulan base. When they get down to the planet, all they get is poisonous gas. It knocks the team out, and Riker awakens in sick bay... sixteen years in the future.
Or so he's told by Beverly Crusher. She explains to him that while he was on that planet sixteen years ago he picked up a parasite that only just now caused his sixteen year memory loss. In the years since that away mission, he has become captain, Picard has become a paper-pushing admiral and Data has become Captain Riker's first officer. Riker is confused and a little overwhelmed, but he Accepts his situation. On his way to the bridge, he learns that Geordi is running a diagnostic on the ships computers, so they're running pretty slow. Once there, he meets with Data and sees a Ferengi at the helm next to Worf. He also passed a female Klingon on the way to the bridge; clearly a lot has changed even in the Federation. But this is not taken into account when a Romulan warbird decloaks right in front of them and he goes to Red Alert.
|"What in profit's name?"|
The son is named Jean-Luc Riker and Troi explains that his mother had died a long time ago. You would think that the discovery of a son might make Riker happy, but he's actually a little confused and Depressed. He tries to get to know his son, but the loss of his memory makes it difficult. So he takes a break from that to join the peace talks with Ambassador Tomalak where he'll be able to make Bargains for the betterment of the galaxy. But then Tomalak asks for something he's wary about giving: the location of a particular Federation base. Picard takes Riker aside and explains that in sixteen years, the strategic importance of this base has diminished. It's okay; we can give that away. Riker is yet unconvinced, so he pauses to go back to his quarters and look up pictures of his son's mother.
|"How do I pull up Facebook on this thing?"|
Tomalak ignores the question and puts Riker in a prison cell along with a child the child that Riker knows as Jean-Luc. Tomalak says they used his image to augment his program. The child introduces himself to Riker as Ethan and as soon as Tomalak is gone, Ethan helps Riker to escape. They run through the base and hide in a "secret place" for a while where the Romulan scanners can't reach them. But then Ethan slips up and calls Tomalak an ambassador. He was only an ambassador in the simulation. In real life he's a captain. At the same time, the Romulans are catching up to them. In full on Denial of his situation, Riker allows the Romulans to catch up and demands some real answers. The whole simulation falls away and all that's left is Ethan.
This is a really good episode, especially if you're seeing it for the first time. At first you think "okay, is he going to go back in time or something?" and then you think "yeah, it's totally Romulans," and then it smacks you in the face with this Barash kid. It's one of those stories that you can't see coming, but when it's all revealed, it makes total sense. It reminds me of "The Cage" with all the illusion stuff going on, the difference, of course, being that Pike knew he was being kept captive and Riker had to figure it out. And that single difference makes this episode the better one, in my opinion. Thumbs up!