(written from a Production point of view)
After an away mission to Alpha Onias III interrupts Commander Riker's birthday party, the first officer suddenly awakens in sick-bay sixteen years in the future where he is the captain of the Enterprise and about to negotiate a peace treaty with the Romulan Star Empire.
- "Captain's log, stardate 44286.5. The Enterprise is conducting a security survey of the Onias sector near the Neutral Zone. Despite our proximity to the Romulan territory, the mission has been quiet and uneventful.
Commander Riker is having his birthday party in Ten Forward. In front of everyone, he plays the trombone and fails to hit a high note. Everyone laughs as he wishes for music lessons when blowing out the candles on his cake. Captain Picard and Lieutenant commander Data are leaving to join the party on the bridge when Ensign Gleason detects some unusual subspace frequencies. The source is determined to be coming from the M-Class but uninhabited planet Alpha Onias III near the Romulan Neutral Zone. Picard mentions a rumor about a secret Romulan base in the sector, and sends Riker to lead an away team and investigate whether the Romulans are involved. Riker, Worf and La Forge beam down to the surface. The mission is aborted after the surface unexpectedly fills with methane gas. The away team falls unconscious and transporter chief Hubbell tries to have them beamed up but informs Picard that there is too much interference to obtain a positive lock.
Riker awakens in sickbay to nurse Alyssa Ogawa. Doctor Beverly Crusher comes over, happy that Riker remembers her and asks him what else he remembers, calling him "captain." In the mirror, Riker sees himself aged.
Crusher gets some water to go through the explanation she clearly expected with Riker and tries to calm him. He explains the last thing he remembers was being on Alpha Onias III. She states that was sixteen years ago. She explains to him that he is recovering from Altarian encephalitis he picked up on that away mission all those years ago. This virus has caused a form of amnesia, destroying all his memories from the moment he became infected to the present. Riker tries to piece together what has happened in the sixteen years since that away mission. He is now captain of the Enterprise, a position he has held for the past nine years. Crusher suggests they try associational therapy to see if he can gain back those memories. Riker tells her he wants to get started, as nothing is more familiar to him than the interiors of the Enterprise. Crusher warns him that in many cases, the memory loss is permanent.
Crusher leads Riker to his quarters, but he changes the destination to the bridge, saying that will be most likely location to jog his memory. On the way, he notices a significant delay in the computer. Crusher explains that La Forge is running a diagnostic due to a malfunctioning processing attenuator. As he enters the bridge, he is surprised to see La Forge no longer needs his VISOR due to having cloned implants, Data is now his first officer with Worf in Data's old position, and his helm officer is a Ferengi ensign.
Captain Riker temporarily places the Enterprise on red alert when a Romulan warbird decloaks. He is quickly informed by Data that the warbird was expected and there is no cause for alarm. The Enterprise opens communications, and Admiral Picard appears on screen with Deanna Troi to say hello, and they beam over. It turns out that the admiral and a Romulan ambassador have arrived to sign a peace treaty between the Romulan Empire and the Federation. Captain Riker has been a key figure in these negotiations after having saved some Romulans in a prior encounter.
After the briefing, Troi goes with Riker to his quarters to talk more. He still does not remember anything. Suddenly, he hears a trombone in the next room. It is his son.
Riker's son, whose name is Jean-Luc after the admiral, starts talking about school, however, it's clear he doesn't remember him. Troi asks to talk to Riker alone. She explains she didn't tell Riker since shocking him might produce a better effect. He asks who the mother is. Troi calls her Min, an "excellent captain's wife and ship's counselor," and says she died two years prior. After Troi leaves, Riker has a brief exchange with Jean-Luc on the trombone, and then tries to call up his service record, but the computer stalls again.
Later, Riker goes with Troi and Picard to the transporter room to meet the ambassador and give him a tour of the ship. However, it is revealed that the ambassador is none other than Tomalak. Riker is surprised as the last time the ambassador encountered the Enterprise at Nelvana III, he stated he would take the Enterprise's hull back to Romulus as a trophy. Troi privately tells him that was a long time ago.
When they reach the bridge, Riker asks to speak to Troi and Picard privately to express concerns with trusting Tomalak given all the previous events. He is especially alarmed that they'll be taking Tomalak to Outpost 23 to sign the treaty, since it is the key to the Federation's defences in the Neutral Zone. Picard assures Riker that Outpost 23 no longer serves that purpose. Breaking the conversation, Crusher informs Riker that Jean-Luc is hurt in sickbay.
Jean-Luc was playing parrises squares and broke his arm. Riker initially scolds him, but Crusher sets him straight, asking if he was hurting himself like this when he was his son's age. Riker starts taking to a fatherly role and tells Jean-Luc that he is the most important to him, and explains that his father wasn't there for him. He commits to building new memories with Jean-Luc, mentioning his Curtis Creek program. Back in his quarters, he calls up family records. However, he recognizes his wife in the video as really Minuet, a holodeck character who appeared to Riker three years prior. Thus, he immediately realizes that he is not in the future, and gets angry. La Forge calls him to the bridge.
On the bridge, Riker interrogates La Forge on why he shut down the warp engines. La Forge responds he has discovered that the antimatter containment fields are fluctuating and he will have the warp core back online. Riker doesn't believe him, and questions him on the constant computer delay and the supposed diagnostic: "For 30 hours? It would never take you more than four (hours)" and tells him he would never be capable of that level of incompetence. Next, he demands Worf to remember the time he received one of his battle scars in which Worf is unable to answer. Finally, he confronts his first officer, who cannot complete computations as fast as the real Data would. In fact, Riker catches Data saying "can't" instead of "cannot," immediately calling him out for using a contraction when the real Data would not. When Picard arrives on the bridge and interrupts the Captain's tirade, Riker tells the Admiral to "shut up". He then informs everyone that he has discovered the lie and demands to know the truth.
Tomalak walks away from the others and agrees. The Enterprise and all its people disappear as holograms. He appears now to be in a Romulan holodeck.
It seems that this has all been a holodeck fantasy put on by the Romulans for their own purposes in getting information from Riker. Tomalak asks how he figured it out, and he explains the time lag is due to the neural scanners. Riker informs him that Minuet is really a holodeck character. Tomalak is surprised, since, in Riker's mind, she is quite real. Riker is skeptical of the situation, asking why can't the neural scanners figure out the location of Outpost 23. Tomalak says they are calibrated for Romulan minds. Riker is unconvinced, given the incredible detail of the entire program, but Tomalak ends the conversation and orders that Riker be taken away.
He takes Riker to a cell while explaining that he and his "colleagues" beamed down a kilometer away from the location of the Romulan base. La Forge and Worf were allowed to beam back to the Enterprise, which has left the area. In the cell, he sees the child whose image was used for Riker's son. He has apparently been abused in some way. Tomalak leaves him to "give careful thought" to his situation. The child identifies himself as Ethan, the son of researchers on Miridian VI which is close to the Neutral Zone. Riker is surprised that the Enterprise didn't know about this research station, but promises to help him escape.
Suddenly, Tomalak comes in with a guard to question Riker again. Riker doesn't answer, but Ethan charges at the guard. Riker subdues them both and fires their disruptor at a few other Romulans on the way to Ethan's secret hiding place which Ethan had found earlier.
The chasing Romulans use their scanners to find them, but leave. Ethan says he heard them earlier say that the rock masks the scanners. Ethan takes Riker even further into the hiding place and shows him he has mapped the area and knows how many guards there are in different areas. Ethan suggests going to the shuttlebay and stealing a ship, but Riker says the best plan is to reach the communications array and send a message to the Enterprise. Ethan immediately says the array is protected by voice print identification and the only person who has access is Ambassador Tomalak. Riker catches this, explaining that Tomalak is a Romulan Captain and was only an ambassador in the simulation, something he never told Ethan. The Romulans break in and demand Riker's weapon, but Riker has realised it is the boy who is behind everything and demands it be brought to an end, refusing to play along in his fantasies any more. The Romulan base disappears, leaving Riker with Ethan in a large cave-like structure.
At the same time, the Enterprise finds his signal and successfully contacts him. After confirming with Picard that La Forge and Worf were beamed up to the Enterprise an hour before and are alright, Riker turns to the boy. He reveals that he was stranded here by his mother intentionally to save his life from invaders that killed his people, and was given technology up to the level of a sophisticated holodeck. She promised that she would return at a later time, but as Riker notes, it's clear that she wasn't able to keep it. He has lured Riker into this because of his desperate loneliness. Riker sympathizes and offers to take him back to the Enterprise, telling him he doesn't need to be alone anymore. The boy then shows his true identity as an insectoid child named "Barash". Just before the two transport up to the ship, Riker says, "To me you will always be Jean-Luc."
"So, what did you wish for, Will?"
- - Troi and Riker, after hitting the wrong note on his trombone earlier
"Number One? Happy birthday."
- - Picard
"Dr. Crusher? He's awake."
"Will, you remember me. That's good. What else do you remember, captain?"
- - Ogawa, Crusher, and Riker, when Riker awakens after "losing" sixteen years of memories
"What's the problem?"
"I had to shut down the warp engines, captain."
"Antimatter containment fields are fluctuating. It's nothing to worry about, though."
"We're on the edge of the Neutral Zone, at impulse power and you're not concerned?"
"I'll have the engines back online in no time."
"Like you tracked down that faulty processing accelerator…"
"I'm running a level 1 diagnostic!"
"For thirty hours? That would never take you more than four. You're incapable of that level of incompetence, Mr. La Forge!"
- - Captain Riker to La Forge, when Riker discovers the future is false
"WORF! Where did you get that scar?"
"What battle? When? Which sector? Which unit?!"
- - Captain Riker to Worf, who is unable to remember when he got a battle scar
"Mr. Data, if we left immediately, when would we arrive at Outpost 23?"
"At warp 1: three days, four hours –"
"What about at warp 7? At warp 8? AT WARP 9?!"
(Data is unable to answer)
"What's the matter, Data? What happened to those millions of calculations per second?"
"Pardon me, sir. I am experiencing sub-space interference which limits my abilities, I can't operate as quickly as I…"
(interrupting) "…What did you say?"
"I said I cannot operate as…"
(interrupting) "No, that's not what you said. You said I CAN'T. You used a contraction didn't you?"
"Sir, I can explain if you would just give me a moment"
"No, you CAN'T, don't even try!"
- - Captain Riker and Data, about Data's ability of speech
"Captain, perhaps it would be best if we discussed this…"
"…I beg your pardon?"
"I said SHUT UP! As in close your mouth and stop talking!"
"Will, I sense how upset you are. You're angry and impatient."
"Deanna, back off." (pause) "Well, would anyone else like to speak up? Or shall we end this charade?"
- - Captain Riker, Admiral Picard, and Deanna Troi, after Riker discovers the future is false
"My name is Barash."
"To me, you'll always be Jean-Luc."
- - Barash, reveaing his true appearance to Riker
- Final draft script: 13 September 1990 
- Premiere airdate: 12 November 1990
- First UK airdate: 25 May 1994
Story and script
- Brannon Braga recalled, "We've had some amazing pitches, but the most notable we ever heard was in 'Future Imperfect,' where the team came in and said we have a story where Riker wakes up from an accident fifteen years in the future… Riker has a son, is the captain of the Enterprise and has no idea what happened. Mike Piller said, 'Stop, we'll buy it.'" (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 211)
- The only major change to J. Larry Carroll and David Bennett Carren's pitch was the addition of the Romulan fantasy within a fantasy. Michael Piller commented, "The first draft was a little flat after we got into the story, just like "Remember Me". You had a situation where you are into it and something strange is happening and yet it can't just turn out to be a dream at the end of the show because it's not satisfying. What you do is you get to the third act and you need to do something that moves the action forward. This is one of the best examples of the notion that you shouldn't censor yourself. I just talked and David Carren said, 'You mean that he thinks it's a real Romulan plot for an act?' and I said, 'That's not what I mean at all' – then I said, 'Stop, wait a minute, what if that's exactly what we do and play it out as a Romulan gag for an act.' That's what I think made that show work." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 211)
- The turbolift scene with Riker and Barash was added because the episode was running short. Carroll and Carren met with Rick Berman and Michael Piller to create a new scene the night before it was filmed. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 148))
- This episode's title is a play on words. In English grammar, the "past perfect" tense is used to indicate that one past event occurred prior to another past event. The title "Future Imperfect" employs the converse of both words.  The false reality (set in the "future") created by the alien for Riker was inaccurate (or "imperfect") in ways that allowed him to find out what was going on.
Cast and characters
- Guest star Andreas Katsulas was not comfortable with his recurring role as Tomalak in this episode. "I felt much more comfortable when he was an incredible giant on the screen, just a face. Suddenly when I had to account for everything else, I didn't feel support and nothing was supporting what I was doing. I was happy not to recur unless it would have gone back to a screen character." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 211) Katsulas would subsequently appear as Tomalak one final time in "All Good Things...", once again seen only on a viewscreen.
- This episode marks the first appearance of Alyssa Ogawa, albeit only in the illusory future.
- Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) does not appear in this episode.
- Michael Westmore recalled that the aging make-up in this episode was intentionally more subtle than in previous installments. "Each member of the TNG cast was supposed to have aged sixteen years. The producers decided that rather than having each actor sit in a makeup chair for two or three hours, it would be a better idea to suggest their age by changing the hairstyles, and maybe doing a little rubber stretching around the eyes. I thought it was a sensible approach, because most of the actors were in their thirties, and even aging them sixteen years would only put them somewhere in their forties. Most people don't look dramatically different at that age, and it would have been a waste of time and energy using prosthetics to achieve that effect." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 180)
- The song Riker plays on his trombone is Misty by Errol Garner.
- The sets for the Romulan base in Barash's illusion were redresses of the Borg interiors from "The Best of Both Worlds, Part II". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 148))
- In the episode's trailer, Riker's line "Shall we end this charade?" has him using the British pronunciation "shuh-RAHD", whereas in the finished episode, the line is dubbed with the more familiar American pronunciation, "shuh-REYD".
- Several items from this episode were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay, including a component from the Romulan holodeck. 
- Barash's simulated future is quite prescient:
- Riker comments on the unlikelihood of a Ferengi ensign, though Nog became an ensign just seven years later in DS9: "Favor the Bold".
- A female Klingon appears as a Starfleet officer on board this version of the Enterprise. About four years after this episode airs, a female half-Klingon by the name of B'Elanna Torres works as a chief engineer of USS Voyager, a Starfleet vessel.
- Geordi La Forge's eyes have been replaced with cloned organs, so he doesn't need his VISOR anymore. In Star Trek: First Contact, his visor is replaced with technological implants and in Star Trek: Insurrection, the regenerative effects of the planet Ba'ku's rings temporarily regenerated his retinas.
- The events of this episode state that Riker becomes a captain seven years after the away mission on Alpha Onias III. However, Riker takes command of his own ship, USS Titan, twelve years after the events of this episode.
- The simulation supposedly takes place sixteen years into Riker's future. This would be 2383, four years after the events seen in Star Trek Nemesis. Admiral Picard states that the peace talks with the Romulans originated in an event four years prior, the same time period as Nemesis. And Riker's ship was in charge of the task force handling discussions with the Romulans.
- Picard is an admiral in the simulated 2383, working on relations with the Romulans. Canonically, Picard is promoted to admiral between 2379 and 2385, in order to take charge of the Romulan rescue armada. (Star Trek Nemesis, PIC: "Remembrance", "Absolute Candor") (Non-canonical material, including the press kit for Picard and the novel The Last Best Hope indicate Picard was promoted in 2381.)
- Troi appears in a standard uniform in this episode. She begins wearing a standard uniform with TNG: "Chain of Command, Part I".
- The Starfleet communicator features horizontal bars, rather than an oval, around the Starfleet insignia, in a design similar to the design seen in Star Trek Generations, and also used in "Parallels". The bars are used to replace the rank insignia from the collar of the uniform. Officers have silver arrowheads with gold bars (for full pips), silver bars (for hollow pips), and black bars (used to fill out the design to have four bars). The admiral's communicator uses inverted colors, with a gold arrowhead, with a silver star, and silver bars. Given that the admiral has four bars and a diamond in the center, he is a full admiral.
- Although apart from the rank insignia, the uniforms seen in Barash's simulated future resemble those in use in 2367, Admiral Picard's uniform bears a slight resemblance to those actually in use in the 2380s.
- The relationship between Riker and his son is strikingly similar to that of Benjamin Sisko and his son, Jake, at the beginning of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, only three years later. Most notably, both fathers lost their wives a few years prior and fishing is an important hobby.
- Riker references the claim Tomalak made in "The Defector" that he would display the broken hull of the Enterprise in the Romulan capitol. He also recalls Picard's comment from the same episode, "You've always said it's a chess game with the Romulans," where, indeed, Picard had previously stated, "It's always a chess game with them, isn't it?"
- Director Les Landau observed, "It was an opportunity for Jonathan to take charge of an episode and it just shows the dynamic quality of Riker to have to deal with not only having aged fifteen years, but to discover that you have a son and have been married and [are] captain of the Enterprise. Can you imagine waking up one day and finding out that you've skipped fifteen years on your CD? There were lots of tricks and false leads, and yet there was something universal about the theme of this alien at the end which was the embodiment of this little boy. The final moment where Riker sees this alien being in the caverns of this other world and says I will take you with me and you will always be a part of me, goes back to the basics of what Star Trek is all about. It's that caring for the Human condition, love for the universal being. It sounds very esoteric and snobbish to talk this way, but that's when Star Trek is at its best." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 211)
- A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 15, pp. 50-53.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 41, 9 March 1992
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 4.3, 4 June 2001
- As part of the TNG Season 4 DVD collection
- As part of the TNG Season 4 Blu-ray collection
Links and references
- Patrick Stewart as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard / Jean-Luc Picard (hologram)
- Jonathan Frakes as Cmdr. William Riker
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge / Geordi La Forge (hologram)
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf / Worf (hologram)
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher / Beverly Crusher (hologram)
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi / Deanna Troi (hologram)
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data / Data (hologram)
- Andreas Katsulas as Tomalak (hologram)
- Chris Demetral as Jean-Luc / Ethan
- Carolyn McCormick as Min Riker
- Patti Yasutake as Alyssa Ogawa (hologram)
- Todd Merrill as Gleason
- April Grace as Transporter Chief Hubbell
- George O'Hanlon, Jr. as Transporter Chief
- Arratia as Alfonse Pacelli (hologram)
- Rachen Assapiomonwait as Nelson
- Majel Barrett as USS Enterprise-D computer voice
- Bowman as sciences division officer
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Debbie David as Russell
- Gil Combs as Romulan officer
- Nyra Crenshaw as operations division officer
- Robert Daniels as illusory Romulan officer
- Michele Gerren as science division officer
- Tim McCormack as Bennett
- Michael Moorehead as civilian
- Keith Rayve as civilian
- Joycelyn Robinson as Gates (hologram)
- Richard Sarstedt as command division officer
- Dana Tjulander as Barash
- Natalie Wood as Bailey (hologram)
- Unknown performers as
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dennis Tracy – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- James Washington – stand-in for Michael Dorn
2366; 2367; 2374; 2379; 2381; 2383; ability; accident; advice; age; agreement; alliance; Alpha Onias III; Alpha Onias system; Altarian encephalitis; antimatter containment field; Apollo spacecraft; arm; association; associational therapy; away team; Barash's mother; Barash's species; Barash's species homeworld; battle; battle cruiser, Romulan; birth; birthday; birthday cake; birthday party; brain; brain pattern; brain tissue; calculations per minute; candle; case; cavern; celebration; cell; Celsius; charade; chess game; class M; colleague; coma; combat; communications (communications system); communicator transponder scan; compression attenuator; computer; concern; contraction; Curtis Creek (creek); Curtis Creek program; damage; "damn it"; day; D'deridex-class; debate; deceit; Decius; defense; delirium; desire; distrust; DNA; dream; Earth Outpost Station; embouchure; Ethan's parents; "explanation; eye; family record; fantasy; Federation; Federation space; feeling; Ferengi; fever; fictional Starfleet uniform; first officer; fish; fishing; Fornax Disaster; Fornax Disaster sun; friend; Galaxy class decks; Greenburg; guard; gym; hail; hand; heavy metal; "hello"; hiding place; holodeck; holographic program; home video; host; hour; "house of cards"; hull; Human; hydrogen sulfide; idea; image; implant; impulse power; incompetence; infection; information; invaders of Barash's homeworld; "jog my memory"; kidnapping; kilometer; Klingon; level 1 diagnostic; life sign; life support; living quarters; location; marriage; Melbourne, USS; memory; memory banks; memory loss; memory pattern; methane; million; minute; mission; Miridian VI; mistake; Misty; mouth; mouthpiece; musical note; muscle; music lesson; name; namesake; Nebula-class; neck; negotiation; negotiator; Nelvana III; neural scanner; neural synapse; nova; number one; Onias sector; opportunity; order; Outpost 23; Parrises squares; particle-wave emission analysis; patient; peace; picnic; picture; power emission; pressure; problem; processing accelerator; question; ramp; recovery; red alert; report; research station; response time; retrovirus; Riker, Kyle; rock; Romulan; Romulan base; Romulan battle cruiser; Romulan Neutral Zone; Romulan territory; scar; sector; security survey; security system; service record; session; ship's counselor; shuttle; shuttlebay; smell; song; sound; spokesman; Starfleet Command; storeroom; strain; subspace frequency; subspace interference; subspace message; subspace transmitter; sulfur dioxide; supply depot; surface; survey team; thought; "Three Blind Mice"; time lag; tone; tooth; tour; Transporter Room 6; transporter signal; treaty; tricorder; trombone; truth; tunnel; turbolift; unit; vacation; VISOR; visual record; voice; volcanic gas; war trophy; warbird, Romulan; warp coil; warp engine; water; weapon; week; "whoa"; wife; wrist; year
- Service Record – Captain William T. Riker (remastered): Alpha Onias expedition; Axanar; Beta Quadrant; Brettner; Deneva Special Congress on Interstellar Affairs; Enterprise-D, USS; Excalbian Campaign; Gamma Hydra sector; Grankite Order of Tactics; Karagite Order of Heroism; Praetor Campaign; Preantares Ribbon of Commendation; Sargon Region; Starbase 384; Starfleet Academy; Starfleet Citation for Conspicuous Gallantry; Starfleet Medal of Honor; Titan, USS; Zavolta Planetary Geosciences Survey Expedition
- "Future Imperfect" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Future Imperfect" at Wikipedia
- "Future Imperfect" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Future Imperfect" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
|Star Trek: The Next Generation