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Season Five:
-200-201: "Redemption"
-202: "Darmok"
-203: "Ensign Ro"
-207: "Unification"
-209: "A Matter of Time"
-213: "The Masterpiece Society"
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A Matter of Time

(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 209)
  • written by Rick Berman
  • directed by Paul Lynch
  • music by Jay Chattaway

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 especially so.

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. Good stuff.

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. Nice!

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

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Five (1991-1992):

Features 26 episodes @ 45 minutes each, including both parts of "Unification".
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:

  • Mission Overview: Year Five
  • Production & Visual Effects
  • Memorable Missions: Year Five
  • A Tribute to Gene Roddenberry
  • "Intergalactic Guest Stars" clip
  • "Alien Speak" alien writings and speech
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
Nov. 19, 2013.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
Nov. 19, 2013.
Blu-ray U.K.

NEW for
Nov. 18, 2013.

Blu-ray features add:

  • 4 Audio Commentaries:
    • "Cause and Effect" by writer Brannon Braga and moderator Seth MacFarlane.
    • "The First Duty" by writers Ronald D. Moore and
      Naren Shankar.
    • "I, Borg" by writer René Echevarria and scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
    • "The Inner Light" by co-writer Morgan Gendel and the Okudas.
  • Two-part documentary "Requiem: A Remembrance of ST:TNG" (HD, 59 min. total) with 1981 interview clips of the late Gene Roddenberry, plus Patrick Stewart (Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Marina Sirtis (Troi), Michael Dorn (Worf), writers Moore, Braga, and Shankar, and executive producer Rick Berman.
  • In Conversation: The Music of ST:TNG (HD, 65 min.) with composers Ron Jones, Dennis McCarthy, and Jay Chattaway, and host Jeff Bond.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD)
  • Gag Reel (HD)
  • Episodic Promos
  • plus, all featurettes from the DVD version.

Also sold separately:
The mid-season 5 two-part story "Unification", uniting
Patrick Stewart, Leonard Nimoy, Brent Spiner,
Mark Lenard, and Denise Crosby.
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
Nov. 19, 2013.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
Nov. 19, 2013.

Bonus Features include:

  • Audio Commentary by co-writer Jeri Taylor and scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
  • "From One Generation to the Next" featurette (17 min.)
  • Deleted Scene (2 min.)
  • Episodic Promos

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: The Masterpiece Society

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