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-152: "Who Watches the Watchers?"
-157: "The Vengeance Factor"
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-163: "Yesterday's Enterprise"
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-174-175: "The Best of Both Worlds"

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Yesterday's Enterprise

(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 163)
  • story by Trent Christopher Ganino & Eric A. Stillwell
  • teleplay by Ira Steven Behr, and
    Richard Manning & Hans Beimler, and Ronald D. Moore
  • directed by David Carson
  • music by Dennis McCarthy
  • 45 minutes

Yesterday's Enterprise

Star Trek The Next Generation has only dabbled idly with time travel on a few occasions up until now, but this really is the point where the new show put its feet in the cement and defined how it, and subsequently the other Star Trek spin-offs, would treat the subject. And that treatment would continue very much in the same clueless vein as in the original series episode "The City on the Edge of Forever", postulating the single re-writable line of time, instead of the endless branching lines that reflect reality so much more elegantly.

But does this show still stand up well in the light of more elegant theories of time? It still remains a bit painful to see the boneheaded view dominating the dialogue, but some very good moments of voicing alternate viewpoints do come through as well, and basic action remains strong. While this story won't win any awards for time travel genius, it is considerably better than the original series "City" episode.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment is in the imagery that most fans will remember long afterwards, as visual effects are brought in to support the writers' limited view of time in this episode. Here, it looks as though Tinker Bell's magic wand of time can change the whole universe magically in one fell swoop.... a very bad idea that many Trekkers now have a hard time shaking themselves free of.

The "Alternate Realities" box set
features Yesterday's Enterprise along with:
  • Audio commentary by director David Carson.
  • "Alternate Lives, Part 1" retrospective production featurette
More info & buying options

The Blu-ray TNG Season 3 box set
features Yesterday's Enterprise along with:
  • Audio commentary by director David Carson.
  • Audio commentary by
    co-writers Ronald D. Moore and Ira Steven Behr, and
    scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.

Of course, since our expanded view of reality includes an infinite number of parallel universes, each with equally valid timelines branching out from each other, we have a slightly different view of what is in play here. We don't believe we witness time change here. We believe we slide to a parallel universe, one which is quite cool and worth exploring. In terms of the characters, only Guinan slides with us, or to be even more accurate, only a part of her consciousness slides with us. Guinan is THE touchstone character for this episode, and it is a bit of a pity that the story doesn't focus a little more strongly on telling itself from her perspective. I'd find the universe shifting effect at the beginning far more appropriate if it had happened over Guinan's face instead of Picard's. But of course, they want to emphasize the fact that Worf is replaced by Ltn. Yar for this episode. Fair enough. The effect works so well that it deeply impresses the fantasy of magical changes happening through time travel as a Star Trek staple, which has sadly dumbed-down a lot of the thought that fans may have had on an interesting subject.

To be fair, better viewpoints are given significant voice in this story, and Picard in particular has a lot of the best lines in this regard, often in exchange with Guinan:

"Who is to say that this history is any less proper than the other?"

"I suppose I am."

"Not good enough, damn it, NOT good enough!"

Sweet. But still, lines like these aren't particularly seen to win the argument or decide the actions that will flow from the discussion, which is sad. In actual fact, neither history is any more or less proper or wrong than the other, although I'll give you that one is more preferable than the other, and for sure, if you want to highlight your ability to choose one or the other, go ahead by all means. But we need to understand that the choice they discuss is accessed 22 years in the past. Staying where they are while another ship comes in or out of that past is not by itself enough to see history flip back and forth between the two.

Thankfully, the temporal rift phenomenon is a bit of an unknown, and if it has a side-effect on Guinan (and/or other members of her species) to "slide" her back and forth between these two histories.... cool! I'm there.

"There's no logic in this at all!"

I think many of the characters end up arguing for and believing something that isn't really true, however, and if the cameras had been in all the right places at the right times, we would have seen many of them bitterly disappointed, or worse. I don't buy that the dark history came into being on Combat-Date 43625.2, and then winked out of existence again at the end of the episode.

"This timeline must not be allowed to continue."

Sorry, but both timelines branched off from each other 22 years prior to the episode's opening, and both continue regardless of what happens here. The characters we spend most of our time watching in this episode are most akin to the characters in the "Mirror, Mirror" universe in the "Enterprise" two-part story "In a Mirror Darkly", who don't really get to interact with or become aware of their counterparts in the regular Star Trek universe, leading separate lives both before and after the episode in question.

Guinan's counterpart is perhaps the most unusual, because her everyday consciousness must have been either displaced by or merged with the consciousness that slid from our familiar Star Trek universe, a temporary condition that we trust is reversed at the end of the episode. Her part in this tale is easily the one that raises the most questions and red flags. It is the merged or foreign part of her consciousness that feels that everything is wrong, struggling to find a way to slide back to where it came from. Guinan seems somewhat unsophisticated and unspiritual to constantly lay so much negative judgement on this equally valid line of history, demonstrating that she is as clumsy with understanding temporal dynamics as most other Star Trek characters, and I tend to not want to root for her these days as much as the writers had probably intended. Perhaps it truly is best that they didn't focus the story more on her, at least not before they come to better understand time and choice. Refreshingly, director David Carson speaks far more about parallel universes than time travel in his interviews and commentaries, so perhaps the trend in perception is shifting back onto healthy lines....

"...We'd better get used to being in the here and now."

A great balancing line from Captain Garrett. The "here and now" are where any person's true choices lie, no matter when they find themselves. And the great thing about this story is that, even though "here and now" motivations don't quite get as much air-time as Guinan's ideas, they are still present and very well fleshed-out and articulated throughout the story.

Firstly, unlike in "The City on the Edge of Forever", the repercussions from the actions of 22 years ago that led to the differences in the two timelines are credible and logical, based on the values of the Klingon race and nicely pointed out by Commander Data. Good.

Also, Tasha Yar and others have clearer, more solid choices and motivations as well. The crew of Enterprise C has the option of making a small difference in Combat-Date 43625 in a fight that isn't really theirs, or a bigger one 22 years ago by defending an outpost that called for their help. They make a fair choice, with Captain Garrett voicing many good non-time-travel reasons that the rest of her crew have. The mission they choose remains noble and heroic without any time travel aspect. Enterprise C gets my blessing.

Yar herself makes a fair choice. I don't believe there was any danger of her winking out of existence should she stay on Enterprise D while Enterprise C succeeded, but enough time is spent examining her character and motivations to make anyone believe that she is on-purpose, following her heart, and let's face it, being quite noble and heroic. Right on. Plus, she may also be surviving longer by getting off Enterprise D before it has a warp core breach. Yar gets my blessing.

Picard and the Enterprise D characters busy themselves with supporting Yar and Enterprise C, a move that seems to be heading towards costing them their lives and their ship. It's also very noble and heroic, and gets my blessing. The cameras simply don't stick around in that dark timeline long enough to give you the final word on their fate, which is fair, but I'll bet most of the people making this episode and watching it think the timeline ended there. I say it continues. We know at minimum that Riker bought it. Should Picard and others survive, possibly without their ship, they may well doubt that they achieved anything. But they did, and I find their situation quite reminiscent of the one I imagine for the 22nd century rebels in "Day of the Daleks" (Doctor Who story no. 60). They assisted their doubles in a parallel (or branching) universe, helping make that place more noble, more harmonious, and more interesting. They helped the versions of themselves that we follow week after week on the regular series. It's good. However, they will still have their own war with the Klingons to deal with, one that doesn't disappear in a wave of temporal magic, and their choices in dealing with that remain in their present. Good luck to them.

For the regular "home universe" crew of Enterprise D that we see each week, this is pretty much "The Adventure That Never Happened", and it's always a disappointment whenever a time travel story boils down to that. Except that we can still say that part of our Guinan's consciousness had an outing, spending a couple days in an alternate universe, and coming back without missing a second in this one. Even if she never expressed herself as elegantly as we would have liked while in that dark universe, she did help inspire others to greatness, and it's hard to be too disappointed with that. And her last line clearly indicates that she remembers everything. Excellent. She probably won't feel able to REALLY discuss all the details with everyone.... but then again, why not? She doesn't seem to be afraid to bring up some of the subjects. All good.

The episode seems to introduce a number of firsts for the show, including what seems to be the first use in all of Star Trek of the word "gravimetric", which will go on to become one of the most overused staples of nonsensical technobabble in the franchise. I've been guilty of throwing it into my own Star Trek screenplays as well, and wondering exactly what I was talking about afterwards. My encyclopedia actually mentions "gravimetric analysis" as a destructive chemical process performed on a substance so that you can weigh it to find out what it is. Somehow, I don't think starship sensors are doing this at long range to outer space phenomena, as Mr. Data's dialogue would indicate in this episode, or most other characters' dialogue would indicate through the rest of Star Trek. Oh well. The phrase still sounded fascinating at the time.

We also get what is probably television Star Trek's most ambitious and lengthy space battle yet, particularly in the number of new optical shots required, and the number of ships in each shot. Far fewer stock shots of the Enterprise are used in this story than normal; instead we always seem to get something new and unique that highlights the situation's tactics. Impressive stuff, even outdoing some of the original feature films. This will become staple fare in the TV shows going forward, but "Yesterday's Enterprise" is definitely pioneering it and taking it to a new level here. Excellent.

We also see Wesley Crusher in a proper red Starfleet uniform for the first time.... or at least a parallel Wesley in a parallel proper red Starfleet uniform. It sure beats the grey thing with the pants always retardedly coming undone in the back, which we will still have to put up with until "Ménage à Troi" near the end of this season.

Although the story is keen to ensure that Worf gets his due given the fact that we won't see him in the dark timeline, Troi is not seen in the dark timeline either, and unlike Worf, she doesn't even get any lines this episode either. We just see her in her bright blue dress sitting on the bridge during the opening and closing of the show. A pity, as her perspectives might have been interesting. Then again, we doubt that these writers could have given her much to improve on their take of the temporal situation.

Dennis McCarthy's score for "Yesterday's Enterprise" is available here:
Audio CD
Yesterday's Enterprise /
Hollow Pursuits

1-disc album

Find out more....

Star Trek often seems to thrive best when doing soul-searching just before an impending great battle, a pattern common to both this fan-favourite episode and the upcoming season three cliffhanger. Perhaps it's just an excellent way of triggering a deeper examination of the human condition than usual for large ensembles of characters all at the same time, followed of course by some exciting action. Nice formula. This episode also adds darker, moodier lighting for most scenes, which is good, although Ten Forward is a good contrast by having much brighter lighting than usual. It's a very successful mix this time around.

Director David Carson does an excellent job here in his second Next Generation episode (the first being "The Enemy" earlier in the year). In fact, I think he does much better with this television gem than he would later do in the seventh Star Trek feature film "Generations". Shot compositions are more thoughtfully and artistically constructed, showcasing clarity and story-telling economy. Also, notice we only get brief camera shakes when it will have emotional impact, unlike the constant overuse featured in "Generations". "Yesterday's Enterprise" is a tour-de-force for Carson.

In the end, even if this Star Trek episode can't get full marks for its handling of time travel (surprise, surprise), a little creative thinking, free from any need for the characters to have expressed accurate time theory during the story, can easily have you thoroughly enjoying the story and continuing to root for the characters most of the time, including when it counts the most. And so, I'm pleased to announce that "Yesterday's Enterprise" is an enjoyable, imperfect, thought-provoking big winner.

(The episode "Captain's Holiday" can now be found on its own page.)

This Next Generation Season Three time travel story is available on DVD and Blu-ray:

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Three (1989-1990):

Captain Jean-Luc Picard and crew hit their stride in this third season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, and truly began to shine as only they could. Watch all 26 ground-breaking episodes, culminating in the season cliffhanger that many regard as the first half of the best Next Generation story of all time.

Includes 26 episodes @ 45 minutes each.
Click on the Amazon symbol for the desired disc format and location nearest you for more information:


DVD Canada

7-disc DVD set

DVD Canada


DVD Extras include 4 featurettes:

  • Season 3 "Mission Overview" (17 min.)
  • Crew Changes (14 min.)
  • Dept. Briefings: Production (20 min.)
  • Dept. Briefings: Memorable Missions (13 min.)
These extras feature interviews by cast and crew discussing favourite memories, cast input and response to character development, and new writer Michael Piller's insights into episodes' story mechanics.
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
April 30, 2013.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
April 30, 2013.
Blu-ray U.K.

NEW for
April 29, 2013.

6-disc Blu-ray box set

Additional Blu-ray Bonus Features include:

  • 5 Audio commentaries including:
    • "The Bonding" with writer Ronald D. Moore and scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
    • "Yesterday's Enterprise" with Moore, the Okudas, and co-writer Ira Steven Behr.
    • "Yesterday's Enterprise" with director David Carson.
    • "The Offspring" with writer René Echevarria and the Okudas.
    • "Sins of the Father" with Moore, the Okudas, and visual effects technician Dan Curry.
  • "Assimilating the Next Gen." (HD) 3-part season three making-of documentary (90 min. total), with Moore, Behr, Echevarria, Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Brent Spiner (Data), Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher), Michael Dorn (Worf).
  • "Inside the Writers' Room" (HD) roundtable interview (71 min.) with Moore, Echevarria, Brannon Braga, and Naren Shankar.
  • A Tribute to head writer Michael Piller (HD, 14 min.)
  • Gag Reel (HD, 9 min.)
  • In Memoriam: David Rappaport (5 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 the next Star Trek review: "Captain's Holiday"

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