(written from a Production point of view)
Enterprise finds a small craft – apparently from the future – adrift in space, and both the Suliban and the mysterious Tholians are intent on retrieving it.
Enterprise finds a shipwreck adrift in deep space. Scans indicate no life signs inside, but T'Pol says that its hull seems to be scattering Enterprise's sensors. Reed then says that he can't read any weapon signatures, indicating that the ship may have been disabled in an accident. Captain Archer orders the vessel to be brought into Launch Bay 2. After its arrival, neither Reed nor Archer can see anything that makes sense about its design, but T'Pol finds a hatch, which has been fused shut. Using their weapons, the officers open the small hatch, whereupon entering the captain finds a long-dead corpse. T'Pol confirms that the corpse is Human.
Phlox confirms that the pilot was a Human male and comments that the Enterprise crew are apparently not the first Humans to venture so far into deep space. Archer asks the doctor to perform a DNA test, and to check the Starfleet genetic database to see if there is a match. T'Pol enters sickbay and says that there are no inhabited systems for several light years. Archer wonders if this Human could be Zefram Cochrane, who disappeared years before while piloting a one-man vessel. He was rumored to have been testing an experimental warp ship, which would explain how the vessel traveled so far if that is indeed who the occupant is.
In the hangar, Reed, Travis Mayweather and Trip Tucker are making an analysis. The vessel's hull seems to absorb EM radiation, and without the damage it never would have shown up on sensors, suggesting it could be a stealth ship. They eliminate a number of possibilities pertaining to how it could have gotten there, and finally conclude that it may have been taken there in a cargo ship. Tucker also realizes that the ship did not have any apparent power source, engine, or propulsion system.
Wanting more information about the mysterious ship, Archer talks with Admiral Forrest, who informs him there have been no new missions to account for it. Forrest skeptically says it could be from the distant Vega colony, and that he'll consult the Earth Cargo Authority for more information. Archer tells him his theory that the corpse may be that of Zefram Cochrane, and the admiral says that if so, this could be the solution to the greatest missing person mystery of the century.
Continuing their analysis, Tucker and Malcolm Reed find another hatch inside the ship covered by organic circuits. When they manage to open it, they see a tunnel that leads deep into the vessel, a physically impossible occurrence, because it would mean the ship is "bigger on the inside than it is on the outside". Once they descended, the officers find a chamber with a wall that has a very faint energy signature. Meanwhile, a Suliban ship drops out of warp. Its captain hails Enterprise and claims possession of the vessel. Archer argues that it's an Earth spaceship because of its Human pilot, to which the Suliban replies that they don't want the corpse, just the vessel. Archer continues to argue with the Suliban, asking why it is so important for them to take a damaged ship. After repeating their demands, the Suliban charge weapons and fire on Enterprise.
Archer returns fire, while in the launch bay, Reed and Tucker get some kind of box out of the mysterious ship's chamber. They immediately realize that Enterprise is under attack and get out of the vessel. Tucker tries to contact the bridge, but two cloaked Suliban appear and attack him. Reed gets a phase-pistol and shoots one of them and starts a firefight with the other, who goes to the control room to try to open the launch bay doors. On the bridge, Hoshi Sato is unable to lock out the intruders, but Enterprise damages the cargo vessel's weapons sufficiently to force them to withdraw, beaming out the two attackers in the launch bay as they do.
Looking at the box that was found in the mysterious ship, Tucker tells Archer he thinks that it must be very important, since it was heavily shielded, and guesses that it's the black box – which could reveal essential intelligence about its builder or why it was there – and it seems to use the same organic circuitry as the rest of the ship. Phlox requests Archer's presence immediately in sickbay.
Once there, the doctor says that he only managed to find a few undamaged cells but enough to make a genetic analysis. The corpse's DNA did not match anyone in the Starfleet database, but did show him to be no ordinary Human. Phlox found an unusual deviation in the nucleotide sequence, with a familiar chromosome structure. Further research in the interspecies database revealed that the dead body has Vulcan and Terrellian nucleotide sequences, along with those of an unknown species. Phlox believes this is the result of several generations of interspecies breeding.
Suspecting the Temporal Cold War may be involved, Archer goes with T'Pol to Crewman Daniels' quarters, where his database from the future is secured. While they search the database, T'Pol says she finds it unlikely that Vulcans and Humans could reproduce because of their significant biological differences, causing Archer to wonder if a child with Vulcan and Human parents would have pointed ears. Finally they find information about the mysterious ship: its commission date is almost nine hundred years into the future. Archer remembers that Daniels talked about historians from the future who traveled back in time to study the past, which could be what the pilot was doing. The database says the small vessel is powered by a temporal displacement drive, which is probably why the Suliban want it. Archer is concerned that if they get their hands on it, they may use its technology to change the course of the Temporal Cold War. Archer receives a call from the bridge; another alien vessel is approaching at high warp.
Archer and T'Pol arrive at the bridge, where T'Pol says she recognizes the vessel as Tholian, an extremely xenophobic race. Reed reports some unusual thermal readings; the temperature is over two hundred degrees inside the Tholian ship. T'Pol says they're believed to be a non-humanoid species. Archer opens a channel with them and starts to talk but is interrupted by the Tholians who say they were sent to retrieve the vessel. They say it is dangerous to Enterprise's crew because of its "temporal radiation". Archer denies the request and the Tholian ship locks onto Enterprise with a tractor beam. The captain tells the Tholians that if they don't release Enterprise he'll destroy the vessel in the launch bay. The Tholian ship withdraws, leaving Archer to wonder if there are others who think they have a claim on the vessel.
Phlox joins T'Pol in the mess hall, and delightedly tells her that he's found another nucleotide sequence in the pilot's genome that appears to be Rigelian. She tells the doctor that the captain asked her to perform a metallurgical analysis of the vessel's hull, revealing several unusual alloys. The doctor comments about Archer's theory that the vessel traveled from the future, and he thinks there is a lot of evidence to endorse it. T'Pol remains skeptical. Phlox remembers the Vulcan Science Directorate has asserted that time travel is impossible, and suggests that after Enterprise's findings, they might reconsider their opinion. She replies that the impossibility of time travel is not an opinion, but simple logic. Phlox remembers a time when Denobulans believed they were the only intelligent species in the galaxy until the B'Saari made first contact, eventually forcing even the hardened cynics to re-evaluate their beliefs. T'Pol states that she prefers to embrace logic over surprises.
In engineering, Reed and Tucker try to make the mysterious device work. Realizing that it could be from the 31st century, Reed recalls his childhood dream of building a time machine, but Tucker dislikes the idea of knowing the future and rejects the hypothetical invitation to go there. As an example, he asks Reed to consider learning the name of the woman he will marry from a book from the future. When he eventually he married her, would he do it because he loved her or because of the foreknowledge he had received? Reed thinks that is irrelevant. Finally, Tucker manages to power up the device, and goes to the ship to get some organic circuits to build an interface. In the launch bay, Tucker says that he would like to travel to the past to see the dinosaurs, while Reed says he'd choose to go to 1588 to witness the defeat of the Spanish Armada. When they open a hatch on the vessel's hull, the situation repeats itself: Tucker anticipates Reed's choice of destination as 1588, while Reed has a feeling of repetition. The conversation starts over a third time, and each officer anticipates what the other is about to say.
They visit Phlox to see what's happening with them, but the doctor can find nothing wrong. T'Pol says that the craft is emitting some type of high energy particles, which could be the temporal radiation mentioned by the Tholians. Phlox believes there are unlikely to be any lasting effects since the radiation intensity is quite low. Archer orders Launch Bay 2 sealed to prevent more incidents, and learns from Tucker that he was unable to get data from the black box. T'Pol asks to speak with the captain in private, and she comments that she thinks that it's too dangerous to keep the craft with them, since they've been attacked by two hostile species and the radiation could spread to other sections of the ship. She suggests destroying the vessel. Archer dislikes this option, saying he is tired of the Temporal Cold War interfering in his century, and it's time they took a more active role in it. T'Pol does not fully believe that this war really exists, but even so she comments that they should not become involved. Archer replies that they've been involved since they left spacedock. He also remembers that Daniels told him that there were other factions in this conflict, and wonders if the Tholians are working with one of them. T'Pol thinks that Archer's curiosity is placing Enterprise in an unnecessary danger, but he has already made his decision, saying that this situation is an important opportunity to gather information. She leaves the ready room but advises Archer to put the ship on tactical alert.
Archer enters engineering to see what Tucker has learned about the device. Tucker says that it is not a black box or some kind of data-storage matrix, but that it started to generate a subspace signature working like an emergency signal. T'Pol informs them that there are several Suliban vessels approaching.
On the bridge, T'Pol alerts them that the ships will be within weapons range soon. Archer orders the ship to go to maximum warp, but the Suliban match speed. With less than three minutes to the rendezvous with Tal'Kir, the captain tries to contact the Vulcans, but Sato gets no response. Instead, the Suliban hail Enterprise and tell them to prepare to be boarded. Archer tells them that there is a Vulcan combat cruiser nearby and that if they do not stop bothering Enterprise, they will have one more enemy. The Suliban commanding officer doesn't believe that the Vulcans would defend an Earth vessel and starts to fire, trying to blast the launch bay doors.
Enterprise drops out of warp near the rendezvous point, where they see the Tal'Kir almost destroyed by Tholian vessels, which see Enterprise as it approaches.
Enterprise tries to escape the Tholian ships, but they all fire together, disabling the warp engines, weapons, and hull plating. The cell ships drop out of warp and start a firefight with the other aliens. Archer asks Tucker about the warp engines and is told that it will take a few hours to fix them all; the weapons have also been rendered inoperable by scrambled power relays. Archer orders Tucker to bring the mysterious device online, believing its subspace signature could bring the future vessel's builders to help Enterprise. T'Pol thinks that even if the captain is right, it is unlikely that aid will arrive in time. He asks Reed to get a torpedo and send it to the launch bay where he is going.
Once there, Archer and Reed try to remove a warhead from the torpedo to destroy the future craft. T'Pol informs the captain that the Suliban are losing the battle, with more than half of their ships already destroyed, and that there is not much time left. When they finally remove the warhead, time repeats itself just as it did with Tucker and Reed earlier, and he tries to remove it once again, but faster, before the loop repeats again. Although time is repeating itself in the launch bay, outside it is not: all the Suliban ships are defeated, and the Tholians hail T'Pol asking once more for the vessel. She tries to delay them, but their ships dock with Enterprise. Security teams rush to the airlock as the Tholians try to blast the doors. Meanwhile, Tucker manages to get the future device online. Despite the time loops, Archer manages to put the warhead onto the ship and opens the launch bay doors, dropping it into open space. A Tholian ship locks onto it with a tractor beam. Reed tries to detonate the warhead, but it is too late: the Tholians have neutralized it.
In engineering, the future device disappears in front of Tucker, along with the corpse in sickbay, and the vessel itself. The Tholian ships withdraw, causing Archer to wonder why they didn't continue the fight. With the battle ended, Archer asks about the Tal'Kir's status. Their warp engine is damaged, but the life support is stable, and he prepares a shuttlepod to help the Vulcans. The captain still doesn't believe what happened.
Tucker, T'Pol, and Archer are dining, and Tucker says that he wishes he had had more time to explore the future ship, wondering how many rooms could be down in the ship. It appears everything was sent back to the 31st century, but T'Pol says there is no evidence to support that view. Tucker replies that there is no evidence to contradict it either, but he still does not understand how quickly everything disappeared, since the device was online for less than a minute. Archer says that time is irrelevant to these people as, if it were from the future, whoever sent it had plenty of time to locate the signal and then travel back to any point in time to retrieve it. Tucker leaves and, alone with T'Pol, the captain says that he will make contact with the Vulcan High Command to apologize for the trouble to Tal'Kir and thank them for the help. T'Pol thinks that the gesture will be appreciated and, before leaving, she says that the High Command asked her to prepare a report about this incident with his permission. Archer gives it, and wonders what the High Command will make of Vulcans and Humans exchanging chromosomes some day. T'Pol dryly says they're probably more likely to believe in time travel.
- "Captain's starlog, supplemental. We've contacted the Vulcan ship Tal'Kir. They've agreed to meet us in three days to take the craft back to Earth. Hopefully, we won't have another visit from the Suliban before we reach the rendezvous point."
- "Captain's starlog, supplemental. A Vulcan transport is en route to tow the Tal'Kir. Fortunately, there were no casualties. Our long-range scanners show no sign of Tholians or Sulibans in our vicinity."
"There's no windows. I'm not sure whether this end's the bow or the stern."
- - Reed, examining the time travel pod
"Apparently, you're not the first Humans out this far."
"Whoever this is, he's rewritten our history books."
- - Phlox and Archer, on the mysterious pilot
"How did this thing make it into deep space without an engine?"
- - Tucker, after he finds no propulsion system on the pod whatsoever
"A hundred light years from Earth, you might have solved the greatest missing person case of the century!"
- - Forrest, on Archer's theory that Enterprise has discovered Zefram Cochrane's body
"It's unlikely we could reproduce... Humans and Vulcans."
- - T'Pol, making herself clear after she got a strange look from Archer
"If a Human and a Vulcan did have a child, I wonder if he'd have pointed ears?"
- - Archer, teasing T'Pol
"I'm tired of these factions interfering with our century."
- - Archer, on the Temporal Cold War
"GIVE US THE VESSEL!"
- - Tholian pilot to Archer, demanding Archer to give them the mysterious vessel
"What did he say?"
"I don't know, but I don't think he was paying you a compliment."
- - Archer and Sato, discussing the Tholian's untranslated parting comments
"When I was young, I always wanted to build a time machine...see the future."
"You're probably the kind of person who jumps to the end of a book before you read it."
"Don't tell me you've never wondered what it would be like. How our mission will turn out."
"Wondering about the future and knowing it are two different things."
- - Reed and Tucker
"If Daniels came here and offered you a chance to see the 31st century, you wouldn't take it?"
"Some things are better left a mystery."
"And you call yourself an explorer."
"Where's the fun in exploring if you know how it all turns out?"
- - Reed and Tucker, about exploring the future
"Suppose you could look into some future book and find out the name of the woman you're going to marry. Would you want to know it?"
"Absolutely. Think of all the awkward first dates I could avoid."
"Fine. So one day you meet Jane Doe, you go out a few times and then you pop the question. She says, 'I do', and the two of you live happily ever after."
"Now, did you marry her for love, or because some book told you to?"
"If we're living happily ever after, what difference does it make?"
- - Tucker and Reed
"Now, if I had a chance to see the past, I'd jump at it. I always wanted to meet a Stegosaurus."
"He'd probably make a quick meal out of you."
"The Stegosaurus was an herbivore."
"If I could travel back in time, I know exactly what year I'd pick. 1588."
"What happened in 1588?"
"England defeated the Spanish Armada."
"I'm sure someone named Reed had a lot to do with that."
- - Tucker and Reed, about traveling back in time
"I found another nucleotide sequence in the pilot's genome! It appears to be Rigelian. That corpse is FULL of surprises!"
- - Phlox, to T'Pol
"I wonder if they'll [The Vulcan Science Directorate] believe that Humans and Vulcans will be... swapping chromosomes one day?"
"They're more likely to believe in time travel."
- - Archer and T'Pol
- A working title for this episode was "Crash Landing". It is also the episode title used by Sky in the UK. 
- This episode is the first appearance of the Tholians in almost 35 years, since their debut in TOS: "The Tholian Web", though no Tholian is actually seen, only heard.
- An involvement of the Tholians into the Temporal Cold War had already been hinted at in "Broken Bow", as one of the proper nouns uttered by Klaang was Tholia, which many reference works consider to be the name of the Tholian homeworld.
- Behind the captain while Reed is cutting into the timeship on a counter sits the exocomp prop device from TNG that was modified in "Dead Stop" to repair Reed's leg.
- An early pitch for the story that became "Future Tense" had the USS Defiant (which likewise appeared in "The Tholian Web") appearing instead of a timeship from the 31st century. This was deemed impractical at the time for story (by seeing the Defiant, Archer would know too much about the future) and production reasons. The Defiant later appeared in "In a Mirror, Darkly" and "In a Mirror, Darkly, Part II" (both also written by Mike Sussman), dragged into Tholian space in the mirror universe as well as the 22nd century, where Archer's counterpart had no such scruples.
- This episode alludes to TOS: "Metamorphosis", in which Zefram Cochrane is discovered alive and well living with a non-corporeal lifeform.
- The time-ship is run by organic circuitry, a 31st century descendant of Bio-neural circuitry, first used by the Intrepid-class starship.
- The ending of the episode was not exactly what co-writer Mike Sussman had hoped for. In an earlier version, a time traveling character from the 31st century (similar to Crewman Daniels) appeared on the bridge at the end of the episode. He claimed the time ship and the body inside, revealing to the crew that the corpse was actually his. This unnamed character also gave Archer some additional clues about the Temporal Cold War and the Tholians' role in it before departing.
- Among the images in "Daniels' database" are schematics for a Klingon Raptor-class ship, an Intrepid-class starship (possibly USS Voyager), an Intrepid-class aeroshuttle, the Mir space station, the US space shuttle orbiter, a Nygean ship, a 24th century Romulan D'deridex-class warbird, a Nova-class ship from the same era, the unnamed ship that attacked Enterprise in "Fight or Flight", and an upside-down Suurok-class starship.
- Also in the database is a news article on President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address for 2003.
- This is also the last time "Daniels' database" is seen.
- The timeship in this episode was partly inspired by the TARDIS from Doctor Who. Both timeships are considerably bigger on the inside than the outside. Mike Sussman noted: "my idea of the ship morphing into a police call box was immediately nixed by the producers!" (Star Trek Monthly issue 108)
- The time travel pod and its pilot are revisited in the Star Trek Online featured episode "Stormbound", in which the pilot's name was revealed to be Kal Dano. His ship was damaged by a Tholian attack in the year 2410, causing his temporal drive to malfunction and send his ship back in time to an unknown date. Just before he is sent back he sends a temporal distress signal, which is picked up by another timeship. After the player helps the timeship's captain lock onto the timepod's temporal coordinates, the ship manages to recover Kal Dano's corpse, ship, and all related objects once the device had been activated on the Enterprise. It is also stated that Kal Dano had been dead for centuries by the time he was recovered, which means it's unknown how long that ship had been there when the Enterprise came across it.
Links and references
- Scott Bakula as Captain Jonathan Archer
- John Billingsley as Doctor Phlox
- Jolene Blalock as Sub-Commander T'Pol
- Dominic Keating as Lieutenant Malcolm Reed
- Anthony Montgomery as Ensign Travis Mayweather
- Linda Park as Ensign Hoshi Sato
- Connor Trinneer as Commander Charles "Trip" Tucker III
- Jef Ayres as Crewman Haynem
- Mark Correy as Alex
- Daphney Dameraux as an operations division ensign
- Scott Hill as Ensign Hutchison
- Aldric Horton as an operations division crewman
- Roy Joaquin as science division crewman
- Mark Major as time-pod pilot
- Todd Wieland as an operations division crewman
- Shawn Crowder as stunt double for Connor Trinneer
- Marty Murray as stunt double for Dominic Keating (not shown)
- Computer generated voice as Tholian Officer
1588; 2003; 31st century; alloy; antimatter injector; B'Saari; biomatter; black box; Bush, George W.; Cabal; cargo hauler; cloaking device; chromosome; Cochrane, Zefram; Cochrane family; Cochrane's ship; combat ship; D'kyr-type; Daniels; Daniels' database; data storage matrix; Denobulans; density; DNA; Doe, Jane; Earth Cargo Authority; Earth vessel; EM radiation; emergency beacon; engineer; England; escape pod; exhaust port; first contact; generation; genetic analysis; genetic profile; genome; gesture; great-grandparent; herbivore; high warp; hitchhiking; hologram; Hussein, Saddam; hyperspanner; interspecies breeding; interspecies database; kilometer; Klingon Bird-of-Prey; Krenim warship; launch bay; launch bay doors; logic; metallurgical analysis; meter; micro-caliper; microcellular scan; micro-transmitter; missing person; Milky Way Galaxy; non-humanoid species; Nova-class; nucleotide sequence; NX-class; organic circuitry; plasma exhaust port; power grid; power module; power relay; propulsion system; Reed family; Rigelian; Silik; spacedock; Spanish Armada; spanner; spatial geometry; Starfleet database; stealth ship; Stegosaurus; stomach; subspace signature; Suliban; Suliban cell ship (cylindrical); Suliban cell ship (spherical); Suliban freighter; Suurok-class; Tal'Kir; Temporal Cold War; temporal displacement drive; temporal radiation; Terrellian; The whole kit and caboodle; Tholians; Tholian Assembly; Tholian language; Tholian ship; thruster quad; time machine; time travel; tractor beam; Vega colony; Vulcan; Vulcan combat cruiser; Vulcan High Command; Vulcan Science Directorate; Vulcan transport; warp reactor; warp ship; xenophobic
abortion; Aeroshuttle; Africa; AIDS; Akira-class; Bush, George W.; D'deridex-class; Defiant-class; Earth vessel; Intrepid-class; Iraq; Hussein, Saddam; Mir; Nova-class; Raptor-class; retrofitted dorsal carrier; space shuttle orbiter; State of the Union Address; Suurok-class; Tapper, Jake; Vulcan cruiser
- "Future Tense" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Future Tense" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Future Tense" at Wikipedia
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