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Real world article
(written from a Production point of view)

A time traveler claiming to be from the 26th century arrives to witness an attempt to save a doomed planet.



"Captain's log, Stardate 45349.1. The Enterprise is on its way to Penthara IV where a Type C asteroid has struck an unpopulated continent. The resulting dust cloud could very well create a phenomenon not unlike the nuclear winters of 21st century Earth. Commander La Forge has begun work on a plan that would counteract the devastation."

The USS Enterprise is trying to fix extreme weather problems resulting from an asteroid collision on the planet Penthara IV, a colony with a population of some twenty million persons. On their way to Penthara IV, Worf notices a space-time distortion, followed by the appearance of a small vessel. Captain Picard tries to hail the ship, to which the occupant replies that Picard should move over. Picard takes a stand saying that the Enterprise will not go anywhere until the man explains himself. But the problem is clarified as soon as Picard takes a step away from the position on the bridge where he was standing: the man immediately beams onto the same location. He introduces himself as Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a historian from the future (specifically, the 26th century), specializing in 24th century interstellar issues. He tells Picard he has come back almost three hundred years to find them.

Act One[]

Rasmussen tries to convince the crew that he is actually from the future. In order to prove it, the crew tries asking him questions that only a man from the future would know the answers to. Doctor Crusher wants to know if they cured the Telurian plague by Rasmussen's time, but Picard says they shouldn't ask questions like that, despite the temptation. After the meeting is over, Counselor Troi says Rasmussen is holding something back but is unsure that it has to do with his wanting to keep information from his century from the crew of the Enterprise. Picard, having examined Rasmussen's credentials, finds him to be a legitimate historian and tells his crew they will afford him every courtesy.

Berlinghoff Rasmussen looks over Data

"This is really a thrill, Data."

Rasmussen tries to study Data in a turbolift while he escorts him to his newly assigned quarters. Once there, Data tries to ask Rasmussen whether or not he lives to see the 26th century, but Rasmussen avoids his questions and tells him that it would be better if Data kept those assumptions to himself. Data complies, apologizes, and leaves Rasmussen alone. After Data leaves, Rasmussen looks around his quarters with a gleeful expression on his face.

Act Two[]

"Captain's log, Stardate 45350.3. We have arrived at Penthara IV and can see for ourselves the atmospheric devastation caused by the asteroid's impact."

The Enterprise arrives at Penthara IV. Meanwhile, in Ten Forward, Riker, Worf, and Crusher are talking about Rasmussen's presence while sitting at a table. His presence on board is quite disruptive since he refuses to reveal anything he knows about the future, but he nevertheless drops many hints that something important is about to happen. Rasmussen arrives in Ten Forward and Dr. Crusher invites him to the group's table. He asks them to each take a questionnaire. Then they talk about how they view the world and what they each think the most important inventions/advancements in the past 200 years were. Crusher says the way surgery was changed, Riker says warp coils, and Worf says phasers. Rasmussen says that it's typical that they would provide such different answers since Beverly is a doctor, Riker is a commander and an explorer in Starfleet, and Worf is from a warrior background, which he finds "delightfully primitive."

Later, Rasmussen visits Geordi La Forge and Data in Engineering. La Forge conjectures that Rasmussen is there to witness the mission at Penthara IV after he comments on how little is known of Data's part in the mission in the 26th century. La Forge figures out the parameters of how much CO2 to inject into the air at Penthara IV and tells Picard he is ready to transport to the planet's surface. When La Forge leaves, Rasmussen steals a PADD left on the master systems display table. Before going to the bridge to witness the event, he rhetorically tells Data "who said these moments were any less exciting when you know the outcome, hmm?" Data, puzzled, tells him he knows of no one who said that.

La Forge and Data with Dr. Moseley are coordinating the start of the procedure and monitoring. After several phaser drills, CO2 emissions finally start and monitoring stations see the temperature holding and even increasing. Rasmussen continues to make small comments about Picard's crew, and it's to the point of annoyance.

Act Three[]

Troi and Crusher are in sickbay discussing if Rasmussen is really just after historical facts or more. Troi cannot be certain, feeling that he is trying to confuse or misdirect the crew. Just then, Rasmussen comes into sickbay and Troi tries to excuse herself, but he manages to talk about how she doesn't trust him, but she does finally leave. Rasmussen makes a pass at Crusher by telling her she has been the only person to make him think about not returning to where he is from. Crusher deters him by saying she could very well be his great-great-great-great-grandmother. Rasmussen leaves sickbay with a neural stimulator he claims he would like to examine.

Meanwhile, the initial attempt to release carbon dioxide from inside the planet into the atmosphere was briefly successful, but unanticipated volcanic activity released more particulates into the atmosphere, making the problem worse.

Rasmussen goes to Data's quarters and finds him listening to 4 pieces of music loudly and Rasmussen is confused as to how he can listen to all that simultaneously. Data replies that he is capable of distinguishing over 150 simultaneous compositions from each other. Just then, La Forge sends a transmission to Data from the surface of the planet, and while they are discussing if Data made any errors, Rasmussen pockets a tricorder from Data's room. Data then notifies Picard in his ready room that they have already done everything they can, and if they try again and err, they will completely burn off the planet's atmosphere.

Act Four[]

"Captain's log, supplemental. While Doctor Moseley takes La Forge's plan to the leaders of the colony. I find myself weighing the potential consequences of a more philosophical issue."

On the planet, Doctor Moseley and La Forge are trying to work out new parameters to stop the planet from freezing over or burning up the atmosphere. Rasmussen is called by Picard into his ready room because he faces a dilemma of how to help the Pentharians.

Enterprise plasma reaction

The Enterprise initiates a reaction

The Enterprise can initiate a chain reaction in the atmosphere that should fix the problem, but if calculations are ever so slightly off, life on the planet will be wiped out. Picard forcefully asks for Rasmussen's help: can he tell what happened to Penthara IV? While Picard concedes that there might be some sort of Temporal Prime Directive in the future that precludes Rasmussen from aiding him, he argues that this is certainly a situation where the directive could be violated. Picard also theorizes that since Rasmussen's past is Picard's own future, choosing to try is the right thing to do. Rasmussen refuses to help and Picard ultimately chooses not to play it safe and decides to try and save the planet.

Act Five[]

"Captain's log, Stardate 45351.9. Doctor Moseley has met with the colony leaders who all agree they are willing to take the risk."

The Enterprise prepares to discharge an immense amount of energy from the deflector dish using an auto-phaser interlock. La Forge and Data's plan is that the phaser energy will ionize the particles in Penthara IV's atmosphere, eliminating the electrostatic energy and returning the planet's ecosystem back to normal. The plan is set in motion, and everything goes well, with the Enterprise sending the resulting energy that shoots out from the planet into open space. Doctor Moseley and La Forge report that the particulate levels are where they are supposed to be and that Penthara's sun is shining through.

Meanwhile, a number of small objects have been found missing and Picard suspects Rasmussen. He nods to Worf right after Rasmussen makes a hasty departure from the bridge after Penthara IV has been saved, telling them he needs to start packing. Later, Rasmussen is confronted by Picard, Riker, Crusher, Worf, Data, and Garvey in one of the Enterprise's shuttlebays shortly before he heads back into the future. Rasmussen asks to let Data inspect his time-pod for the missing items, Picard reasoning that Data is the only person who can be definitely trusted not to divulge about anything he witnessed inside the pod. Once inside, Rasmussen attempts to abduct Data and reveals that he is indeed from 200 years outside the Enterprise's timeframe, but in the opposite direction – he is actually from New Jersey on Earth in the 22nd century. He stole the time-pod from the original time traveler from the future, and he plans to return to his own time with the high-tech objects he has stolen, now including Data, and "invent" them once a year.

However, Rasmussen's plan is foiled, as the stolen phaser he planned to use to knock out Data has been deactivated remotely via a signal they transmitted into the pod when the door was open. Inside, Data postulates that the handprint lock will probably work whether Rasmussen is "conscious or not." They step back out into the shuttlebay where Data reveals Rasmussen's intentions, and Worf goes inside to retrieve the stolen items. Once he returns, Riker orders that Worf take Rasmussen to the brig and they will drop him off at Starbase 214. As Rasmussen desperately insists that he must return to his own time, the pod vanishes, leaving him stranded in the future. As Worf leads Rasmussen away, Picard welcomes him to the 24th century, saying that there are "many legitimate historians that would be interested in talking to a Human from your era."

Memorable quotes[]

"They want you to move over, sir."
"Reply that the Enterprise isn't going anywhere, Lieutenant."
"Not the Enterprise... you."

- Worf and Picard

"Five... six... seven meters! Ha, I was right!"

- Berlinghoff Rasmussen, on the length of Picard's ready room

"If I hand my assignment in on time, can I get a glimpse into next week's poker game?"

- La Forge, to Rasmussen after he tells the crew he will be giving them questionnaires to fill out

"Everyone dies, Captain! It's just a question of when!"

- Berlinghoff Rasmussen

"Every choice we make allows us to manipulate the future. Do I ask Adrienne or Suzanne to the spring dance? Do I take my holiday on Corsica or Risa? A person's life, their future, hinges on each of a thousand choices. Living is making choices! Now you ask me to believe that if I make a choice other than the one that appears in your history books, then your past will be irrevocably altered. Well, you know, Professor, perhaps I don't give a damn about your past, because your past is my future. And as far as I'm concerned, it hasn't been written yet!"

- Picard, to Rasmussen about making choices for the future

"You know, Homer was blind. Milton, Bach, Monet, Wonder."

- Rasmussen, listing off notable blind people to La Forge

"Who said these moments were any less exciting when you know the outcome, hmm?"
"I know of no one who said that, Professor."

- Rasmussen and Data

"I hate questionnaires."

- Worf

"You don't like me very much, do you?"
"I don't dislike you, Professor."

- Rasmussen and Troi

"We came here to help these people."
"And look what we've done."

- Riker and Picard, when Penthara IV begins experiencing earthquakes and volcanic eruptions caused by the Enterprise

"To try or not to try. To take a risk or play it safe. Your arguments have reminded me how precious the right to choose is. And because I've never been one to play it safe, I choose to try."

- Jean-Luc Picard

"I assume your handprint will open this door whether you are conscious or not."

- Data, in a subtle threat to subdue Rasmussen after his phaser fails to fire

"I'm sure there are more than a few legitimate historians at Starfleet who would be eager to meet a Human from your era. Oh, Professor! Welcome to the 24th century."

- Jean-Luc Picard, to Rasmussen

"Yes, Professor, I know. What if one of those lives I save down there is a child who grows up to be the next Adolf Hitler or Khan Singh? Every first year philosophy student has been asked that question since the earliest wormholes were discovered..."

- Jean-Luc Picard

Background information[]

Story and script[]


Time pod on set

The time-pod on set




  • This episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Special Visual Effects, sharing it in a tie with TNG: "Conundrum".


  • Miles O'Brien mentions the events of this episode in the the novel Inferno, after the universe is destroyed in 2400 as a result of the Bajoran wormhole meeting and consuming a red wormhole created by the Pah-wraiths. In the novel, O'Brien cites his encounter with 26th century technology as a means of proving to his current "crew" – consisting of Quark, Rom, Odo, and Garak – that it is possible for them to change history so that timelines where the universe didn't end in 2400 come into existence.

Production history[]

Video, DVD, and Blu-ray releases[]

Links and references[]


Also starring[]

Guest stars[]



Uncredited co-stars[]

Stand-ins and photo doubles[]


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See also[]

External links[]

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"Unification II"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5
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