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Season Seven:
-252-253: "Descent"
-254: "Liaisons"
-256-257: "Gambit"
-263: "Parallels"
-265: "Homeward"
-268: "Thine Own Self"
-272: "Journey's End"
-273: "Firstborn"
-277-278: "All Good Things..."

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(Star Trek - The Next Generation episode production code 263)
  • written by Brannon Braga
  • directed by Robert Wiemer
  • music by Dennis McCarthy


Of all of Brannon Braga's Star Trek writing, this episode is probably my favourite, mostly because he delves into the concept of parallel universes very thoroughly and excellently, demonstrating that even at this early stage in his Star Trek writing, he knows enough that he should be able to cure his knack for getting time travel wrong. If we look closely, however, we can see that even in this story, he neglects to connect a few of the final dots, and most of the time travel traps that he and other Trek writers fall into repeatedly still manage to rear their heads here.

Once again, we have a mysterious unknown "quantum fissure" in a certain region of space (think "cloud") generating the episode's premise, although it still needs to combine with Geordi's visor to trigger each event.

Worf is our main character today, perhaps an unusual choice, but we do at least get a lot of good humorous mileage out of the early set-up scenes, helping them to hold up on their own even before we begin to contrast them to any of the alternatives that crop up later on. The side plot with Troi is interesting to explore in this episode, under this story's premise, but it's something I never really wanted to invest in as a running arc. I'm thankful it didn't go anywhere after season seven.

The "Alternate Realities" box set
features Parallels along with:
  • Audio commentary by writer Brannon Braga.
  • "Parallel Dimensions" retrospective production featurette
  • NTSC Region 1 version includes English, Spanish, and Portuguese audio tracks and subtitles
More info & buying options

Braga never really does treat his shifts from one universe to another as elegantly as they manage consistently on the show "Sliders", particularly with respect to Worf's doubles. Indeed, Worf travels from universe to universe in a manner reminiscent of Sam Beckett in Quantum Leap, where he ends up replacing his indigenous double each time. On Quantum Leap, we know that the people Sam replaces show up in the futuristic accelerator from which Sam began his journey, and get put back when Sam moves on to take the place of yet another person. What's going on with Worf's doubles here? Seems to be one of the loose ends that Braga never really ties up. Earlier cases may easily go unnoticed by the casual viewer, but the latest double he replaces happens to be the husband of that world's Deanna Troi, who emotes a lot of concern for him. It's very hard for the viewer to not start thinking about it after that. If Braga is going to flaunt his loose ends like that, he really should tie them up.

Worf seems uncharacteristically secretive about his experiences at first, unwilling to give his fellow officers his complete perspective when they ask him directly for it. However, he soon loosens up and allows the rest of the crew to apply their genius to the problem.

"For any event, there is an infinite number of possible outcomes. Our choices determine which outcomes will follow. But there is a theory in quantum physics that all possibilities that can happen, DO happen in alternate quantum realities."

And the exploration of the phenomenon actually has an impressive degree of accurate scientific depth to it, roping in discussion of quantum physics to explain the differences between universes, echoing ideas presented by Stuart Hameroff in the "What the Bleep Do We Know" movies, and Paul Parsons in the "E-Space - Fact or Fiction?" extra on the DVD for "Full Circle" (Doctor Who story no. 112).

BUT, the significance of all these quantum differences hasn't really penetrated Braga's paradigm of time, space, and choice. If it had, perhaps the episode would be titled "Branches" instead of "Parallels". It is at the point of choice that what was once one universe splits off into two or more universes. Hameroff theorizes that the human brain does this approximately 40 times per second, or more. I rather suspect that Braga believes the alternate realities existed before and after the choice, and just coincidentally happened to be identical to each other leading up to that choice. Kind of pointless, unless you want to keep each universe isolated to promote timeline re-writing and anti-choice time travel conundrums within any given one. Which remains pointless.

Anyway, although Worf's transitions through each universe fuel a kind of freaky, fascinating, and disturbing quality of not being able to trust the relationship between your memory and your environment, Braga is really making a bigger and bigger mess to clean up as the episode continues. And it seems to be at its biggest when 285 thousand doubles of the Enterprise and crew show up at the end (out of a reported possible 10 million).

First of all, let's track some of the known activities of Worf's doubles. We know that one of the first new universes our Worf visits originally contained a Worf who received a ninth place finish in the tournament, and made a log entry in his shuttle. Presumably, that shuttle passed through the same quantum fissure, so that Worf probably shifted to a new universe the first time he encountered Geordi. That Worf is probably among the 285000 at the story's end, hoping to get home. His Enterprise will need to send his shuttle for him. It makes you wonder how many Enterprises should be sending shuttles to pick up their own Worfs in the mass gathering at the end, all of which could attract fire from rogue Enterprises. Whoa.

Secondly, you have to wonder about the reason for the gathering in sickbay that greets our Worf when he arrives in the final universe. The team in the previous universe that he came from were there to investigate his "sliding" phenomenon. Presumably, the gathering in the new final universe would only be gathered there if investigating the "sliding" effect of one of Worf's other doubles. Otherwise, he'd have to start explaining his "slides" over again from scratch with this crew, which would bore the audience, and which doesn't actually happen. How many of Worf's parallel doubles are sliding? And how do we explain this if half (or most) of them never took a shuttlecraft back from the tournament and passed through the quantum fissure?

Thirdly, after one of these slides, Worf replaces one of his doubles on the bridge during a battle. Think about this from the perspective of the double that got replaced. He was working away, minding his own business, while Geordi was no where around, and yet he suddenly got popped off to who knows what parallel universe. Which makes it rather lucky that our Worf always does see Geordi and any other clue he needs to put the whole mystery together. Not all of his doubles were so lucky it seems.

Yes, this one becomes a really messy mind-job if you try to really wrap your head around all of it, nicely emphasized by one of the best images in the episode as we see about a dozen or more ghost images of Worf, typically sour and unfriendly, in all kinds of Starfleet uniform variants, buzzing about in the shuttle. Cool. And creepy and thought-provoking. Not to worry about the mess though, for Star Trek will pull a classic stunt to get out of it, also known as waving their magic wand. Let's blame the fissure for everything, seal it with a magic beam, and watch everything snap back to its proper place. Presto! And Braga has cleaned his room and put all his toys back where they belong before bedtime.

Now you might think this adventure is just about sliding, but no, no, no. The magic wand may as well throw some gratuitous time travel into it just for fun. It must have been hard for Braga to resist. Thus Worf also gets the typical Trek fantasy of rewinding events in order to do them differently, although I rather think he would have preferred to skip them, especially if he ends up shifting universes again. Time travel throws way too many more variables into Braga's mess if it puts Worf back to a time when the fissure was still open. Having Worf and most of his doubles do their shifting slides twice? And what happens when they come to the end of their second sliding adventure and get thrown back in time again to have a third go? Talk about your endless Flying Dutchman nightmare!

Whoa! Well, let's keep this a bit simpler. Worf comes home safe and sound, right? Hmmm. There's no party, because apparently Troi talked Riker out of it before he had a chance to set it up. How early would that have to be, to be ahead of the invitations and planning? If she did that BEFORE Worf popped back into place on the shuttle, he never really did get back to his home universe, and time appears to be compressed enough to say that that's the way it happened. He's still as lost as the regulars on "Sliders", so Wesley apparently didn't do as good a job as he thought he did. If, however, Troi convinced Riker after Worf popped back, then the shuttle trip took much longer than it seemed to.

Perhaps the biggest tragedy is that this story didn't air two slots earlier in the schedule. Then when Geordi starts calling Data's cat "she" in what would be the next episode, even though Spot always was a boy previously, we could just nod our heads knowingly and say: Yep, Worf sure didn't make it back to the same quantum universe. And Data's cat would beat Logan St. Clair of "Double Cross" to be the first female double of a previously established male TV character.

Either way, Worf is in a new state of mind after this return than he was at the beginning of the adventure, and that alone is enough to cause him to branch off along a different timeline to the one he followed the first time. Whether his continuing path included a return to the exact same point he had occupied once before or not doesn't really matter. He will manifest a set of circumstances around himself that agrees with and reflects what he needs most for the next phase of his growth. Thus his relationship with Troi contains greater understanding. Thumbs up!

Yes, this story has some significant holes, relating to some oversights and crutches that are typical for Trek's regular writing teams. But this is a cool, thought-provoking story too, and we're prepared to give it its share of rope. Nice one. If only Brannon Braga had built future Trek stories based on this tale's successful bits instead of its holes....

(The episodes
"Firstborn" and "All Good Things..." can now be found on their own pages.)

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

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Season Seven (1993-1994):

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:

  • Mission Overview: Year Seven
  • A Captain's Tribute
  • Departmental Briefing: Production
  • Starfleet Moments and Memories
  • Special Profiles
  • Inside Starfleet Archives: Dressing the Future
  • The Making of "All Good Things..."
Blu-ray U.S.

NEW for
Dec. 2, 2014.
Blu-ray Canada

NEW for
Dec. 2, 2014.
Blu-ray U.K.

NEW for
Dec. 15, 2014.

Blu-ray features add:

  • 3 Audio Commentaries:
    • "Parallels" by writer Brannon Braga (2008).
    • "Lower Decks" by co-writer René Echevarria and
      scenic/graphic artists Mike and Denise Okuda.
    • "Preemptive Strike" by the Okudas and
      writers René Echevarria and Naren Shankar.
  • Three-part documentary "The Sky's the Limit - The Eclipse of ST:TNG" (HD, 90 min. total) with all seven regular castmembers, plus Wil Wheaton (Wesley), Whoopi Goldberg (Guinan), Natalija Nogulich (Admiral Nechayev), and John de Lancie (Q), writer/producers Rick Berman, Ronald D. Moore, Braga, Echevarria, Shankar, Larry Nemecek, André Bormanis, producer/director David Livingston, and many others.
  • "Journey's End: The Saga of ST:TNG" (45 min.) (1994)
  • "Closed Set: A Tour of the Real Enterprise" (11 min.)
  • "In Conversation: Lensing ST:TNG" (42 min.) with Livingston,
    director James L. Conway, D.O.P. Jonathan West, and
    camera operator Kris Krosskove.
  • Gag Reel (HD, 5 min.)
  • Deleted Scenes (HD) from 15 episodes.
  • Episodic Promos
  • plus, all featurettes from the DVD version.
  • Main audio tracks in English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Japanese.

Article written by Martin Izsak. Comments on this article are welcome. You may contact the author from this page:

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Read the next Star Trek review: "Homeward"

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