(written from a Production point of view)
The Enterprise discovers a duplicate of Picard from six hours in the future.
En route to the Endicor system, Commander Riker is in his quarters busily preparing an omelette made from 'Owon eggs he picked up at Starbase 73. Soon, Data, La Forge, Worf, and Pulaski show up for the meal. Pulaski observes that Riker has a practised hand in cooking. Riker tells her that it is due to his father, as he left him to do all the cooking after the death of his mother. La Forge and Pulaski take the first bites of their omelettes but are immediately disgusted while Data observes. However, Worf is rapidly eating the omelette, which he describes as "delicious." Soon after, Captain Picard calls Riker to the bridge.
Once the pod is brought aboard the Enterprise, the crew discovers that it is not only the El-Baz, one of their own shuttles, but it contains an unconscious double of Picard. After Doctor Pulaski examines the unconscious Picard, it is found that his brain waves are out of phase, but his heart is strong. Also, Counselor Deanna Troi detects very little emotion from him, but she believes he is truly as much Picard as their captain. Finally, the shuttle he was in appears to be off-line.
Back en route to the Endicor system, Lieutenant Commander Data and Lieutenant Geordi La Forge attempt to transfer power from the Enterprise to the shuttle, but end up shorting out its circuits. In sickbay, Dr. Pulaski examines the other Picard in more detail. She is able to determine that he is alive but all other readings seem to fluctuate erratically. At Captain Picard's request, Pulaski attempts to revive him but instead almost kills him. It seems that the stimulant had the opposite effect.
Meanwhile, La Forge and Data apply a variable phase inverter to the shuttle to try and extract the logs from it. After an adjustment fails, Data suggests doing the opposite of the previous procedure, and the power comes back online. La Forge sees that the stardate on the shuttle's onboard chronometer is six hours in the future and deduces that the other Picard must also be from that time.
Pulaski is now successful in waking the future Picard, but he is very disoriented and confused. The present Picard calls a staff meeting in the observation lounge and La Forge shows him the logs he was able to retrieve from the shuttle. The visual log shows some sort of distortion, and the shuttle leaving the Enterprise, with Riker watching, then the Enterprise itself being destroyed. This is followed by an audio log by the Captain himself:
- "Captain's personal log, supplemental. I have just witnessed the total destruction of the USS Enterprise with a loss of all hands, save one – me."
Despite this, the crew decides to remain on course as they realize that the Enterprise crew may have already committed to a series of unalterable events.
Pulaski theorizes that as they move closer to the time in which the other Picard left, his internal body clock is realigning, and that when normal time intersects with the time in which he left, for that instant he would begin to function normally and there will be two Picards. Troi begins to feel emotion from the future Picard and realizes that his one wish is to urgently leave the Enterprise.
Still on course to Endicor but not far from a meeting with fate, the other Picard is now more coherent. The present Picard begins to question him, becoming frustrated at his counterpart's abandonment of the Enterprise. Troi tries to reason with Picard, saying that the other is afraid. Picard, now disgusted at his other self, denies all familiarity with him and leaves sickbay. Pulaski then tells Troi that she will relieve the present Picard of duty should his judgment become impaired which Troi assures her it won't. Pulaski hopes the counselor is right about that and Troi leaves sickbay.
In his ready room, Picard now debates with Commander Riker as to how and why the other Picard traveled through time, bringing up the slingshot effect around a star, The Traveler, and Paul Manheim's experiments with time. Riker suggests that Picard suppress his natural tendencies to try and save the Enterprise from decisions he may make and not to second-guess himself.
Suddenly, without warning, an energy vortex appears beneath the Enterprise.
In order to avoid being pulled in, La Forge has to hold the warp engines at 30% just to maintain their position. After being probed by the center of the vortex, Picard decides to stay and investigate, but then begins to worry that staying may have been the mistake which caused the destruction of the Enterprise. He decides to leave immediately, but trying to escape the vortex only results in the Enterprise being pulled further inside.
The warp engines now have to be held at warp 7 just to maintain their position. A Class-1 probe is launched, but is destroyed by the vortex. Almost immediately after, both Picards are struck by some sort of blue energy beam. When the beam strikes again and La Forge is forced to hold the ship at maximum warp, Riker suggests destroying the vortex. Picard is again struck again by the energy beam right before he can give Worf the order to fire the torpedo. Troi deduces that the energy wants Picard and he must leave the ship to distract its attention from the Enterprise, now realizing what the plan of his counterpart was.
Returning to his counterpart in sickbay, who is now much more aware of himself and his surroundings, he orders him released and follows him to shuttlebay two. The other Picard says that the entity recognizes Picard as the "brain" of the Enterprise and wants him, not the ship. Both Picards now argue as to what to do, with the present Picard trying to get as much information from the future Picard as he can before he gets to the shuttle.
With the future Picard unwilling to divulge any more information and the present Picard now seeing that his counterpart is unable to alter his actions, locked into a single event and purpose, he realizes that it is not him that will enter the shuttle but his counterpart. Future Picard admits that there is another option, but he believes it will never work. Trying to get his future self to tell him, present Picard goes over every option he can think of.
Noting future Picard's reaction to the suggestion of going forward into the vortex, present Picard realizes that this is the other option. As future Picard starts to get into the shuttle, present Picard kills his counterpart with a phaser to stop him from leaving, and then returns to the bridge, calling Pulaski to the shuttlebay, who is accompanied by Chief Miles O'Brien.
Picard orders that a course be set for the center of the vortex with all the power the ship can muster, and that their position be held no matter what. With the Enterprise coursing through the vortex, Chief O'Brien witnesses the other Picard and his shuttle vanish from existence and seconds later the Enterprise bursts back out into normal space.
Later, Picard is in the conference lounge after the ordeal with the energy vortex, contemplating while looking out at the lounge's windows into space. Riker walks in and Picard reflects on meeting himself, telling him "They say if you travel far enough, you will eventually meet yourself. Having experienced that, Number One, it's not something I would care to repeat." Riker tells Picard that he will be on the bridge and leaves, while Picard continues to look off into space and reflects on his experience.
"What went wrong? You know, don't you? What did you do? What happened? Why did you leave the ship? Don't turn away. Look at me. Picard! Look at me!"
- - Picard, interrogating his future self
"What's our other option?"
"This is our only chance."
"I let you… But first tell me: What is – what was – your other choice? What was it? You don't know what I'm talking about. You're locked into a single intent. Unable to change. Unable to alter…"
"…There is no other way."
"What was the other choice?"
- - Picard, interrogating his future self
"Captain, I think this is one instance where you should suppress your natural tendencies."
"One of your strengths is your ability to evaluate the dynamics of a situation, and then take a definitive preemptive step, take charge. Now, you're frustrated because you not only can't see the solution, you can't even define the problem."
- - Riker and Picard
"Do you know what you're doing?"
"No. Release him."
- - Picard and Dr. Pulaski
"There is the theory of the Mobius. A twist in the fabric of space where time becomes a loop."
- - Worf
"Captain Picard! I cannot allow you to leave. Before we can go forward, the cycle must end."
- - Picard, killing his future self with a phaser
"Well, they say if you travel far enough you will eventually meet yourself. Having experienced that, Number One, it's not something I would care to repeat."
- - Picard
"Well, at least the waiting's over."
- - Riker, when the Enterprise is enveloped by the energy vortex
- - Worf, enjoying the omelette of 'Owon eggs
"A lot of questions, Number One. Damn few answers."
- - Picard, after his experience of meeting himself
- Revised final draft script: 25 January 1989 
- Premiere airdate: 3 April 1989
- First UK airdate: 10 July 1991
Story and script
- The original title was "Time to the Second". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 82)) In some episode listings in syndication, the original title is used.
- Teleplay writer Maurice Hurley commented, "We've seen a lot of people do time backs and forths and jumps around. They're always coming back 500 years or 1,000 years. Nobody's ever really come back six hours. Six hours is what fascinated me." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 178)
- Hurley intended this episode to lead into "Q Who". He explained, "The way it was originally designed, is that three episodes later they're going through space and all of a sudden Picard finds himself stuck in a shuttlecraft in a flash, and he sees the ship falling in to the top of the vortex and exploding. He thinks he's lost his mind; he doesn't know what's going on. Q appears and says, 'Hey, how ya doing?' Picard says, 'You caused that and all these other things?' Q says, 'Ah, well, surprised you didn't put it together earlier. Oh well, you are slow. Just a kind of calling card, something to do. Interesting, wasn't it?'" (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 178) The idea was nixed by Gene Roddenberry. Hurley complained that it added confusion to the ending. "Why would going into the vortex's center save you? It doesn't make sense. But it does if Q is pulling the strings." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 82))
- In a closing scene present in the revised final draft script but not in the final episode, Riker invites Dr. Pulaski, La Forge, and Worf back to his quarters to make up for his omelette fiasco from the teaser and fixes them Alaskan stew, which agrees with La Forge and Dr. Pulaski, but disgusts Worf, who "would have preferred another omelette." 
- Ronald D. Moore, who at the time was not working on the show yet, visited the set during the filming of the episode. (AOL chat, 1997) During this visit, Moore gave his tour guide (who turned out to be Richard Arnold) a copy of the spec script that would later become "The Bonding". (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, Introduction)
- Picard references the slingshot effect from the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Tomorrow is Yesterday", as well as Doctor Paul Manheim's experiments from "We'll Always Have Paris", and The Traveler from "Where No One Has Gone Before".
- Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) does not appear in this episode.
- Riker claims his father hated cooking, nevertheless in the fifth season episode "The Outcast", Riker tells Soren that he had a recipe for split pea soup. Furthermore, Dr. Pulaski seemed unfamiliar with Kyle Riker. However, in "The Icarus Factor", which was the next episode to be released, it became clear that they knew each other pretty well.
- This is the first time the destruction of the Enterprise-D can be witnessed. Later destructions include three times in the episode "Cause and Effect", and in Star Trek Generations. The first time of a destruction of a Galaxy-class starship was the USS Yamato in "Contagion". Another one was the destruction of the USS Odyssey in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine second season episode "The Jem'Hadar".
- The okudagram used to show the log taken from the shuttle El-Baz, albeit distorted, was reused from "Contagion", and could be briefly read as stating: "Access File • Captain's Log • USS Yamato • NCC 71807", which originally appeared in Donald Varley's personal log. This was corrected in the Blu-ray release.
- In addition, the visual log showed that the El-Baz left the shuttlebay on stardate 42592.72, which was supposed to have been six hours after the shuttle was found, on stardate 42679.2. This discrepancy was clearly on behalf of the art department (possibly reused from Contagion when Picard watches Captain Varley's logs), dialogue had previously indicated that the shuttlepod's clock read stardate 42679.5, which corresponded with the other spoken date reference.
- A mission report for this episode by Will Murray was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine issue 8, pp. 63-66.
- Ronald D. Moore later described this episode as "so ponderous. They agonize about what to do the whole show. All right, already!" (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 93)
- The episode was previewed at the 1989 StarFest convention in Denver, Colorado.
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 20, catalog number VHR 2503, 2 September 1991
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 2.5, catalog number VHR 4741, 7 June 1999
- As part of the TNG Season 2 DVD collection
- As part of the TNG Season 2 Blu-ray collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
Special appearance by
- Rachen Assapiomonwait as Nelson
- Dexter Clay as operations officer
- David Eum as Wright
- Guy Vardaman as Darien Wallace
- Adams (stand-in)
- James G. Becker – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Darrell Burris – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Dexter Clay – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Jeffrey Deacon – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Libby (stand-in) – stand-in for Diana Muldaur
- Tim McCormack – stand-in for Brent Spiner
24th century; ability; acceleration; ale; anger; answer; anti-grav lift; antimatter; antimatter explosion; anxiety; area; As You Like It; attention; audio; authority; automated signal; automatic locking device; base; body; body system; brain; brain wave; bread; breaking point; case; casualty; chance; chart; choice; circuit; class 1 probe; clock; computer; community; conference; consciousness; cook; cooking; course; cycle; damage; day; deck; destination; destruction; dimension; discussion; distortion; distraction; dog; effect; egg; El-Baz; emergency; emotion; Endicor system; energy; energy vortex; engine control; Ennan VI; Ennan VI ale; entity; event; evidence; experiment; facsimile; family; fabric of space; Federation; female; French; friendship; gift;gravity; hailing frequency; head injury; heartbeat; hell; hour; Human history; humanoid; hypothesis; idea; idiot proof; illusion; image; individuality; information; ingredient; injury; instinct; internal clock; irrational; life force; life sign; lifeform; Manheim, Paul; mass; maximum range; maximum warp; measurement; medical tricorder; medical workup; mind; minute; mistake; mister; Moebius; mother ship; mystery; nightmare; number one; omelette; order; 'Owon; patient; percent; Persian; "Persian flaw"; person; phenomenon; photon torpedo; place; polarity; power; power drain; primary power; problem; protection; pulse; quality; question; range; reason; red alert; remorse; rendezvous; reserve power; restraints; rhythm; Riker, Betty; Riker, Kyle; road; rock; scanner; screen; second; sedative; sensor; Shuttlebay 2; slingshot effect; solution; speed; Starbase 73; stardate; staff meeting; star; status; stimulant; sustenance; symbol; theory; time; timetable; tractor beam; tractor beam range; trail; trauma; Traveler, The; trombone; twist; Type 15 shuttlepod; unconscious; understanding; variable phase inverter; velocity; visual record; vital signs; voice; warp 10; warp drive; warp engine; weapons locker; whisk; word; year
- Scan=Local Temporal Continuum Anomaly 0347: capran lactare; coulombs per parsec; dynes per second; error; local temporal continuum anomaly; Lorenz-Fitzgerald analysis; Newtonian matrix; null vector; proton decay; ppm; quasar pulse rate; subspace field; system diagnostic; Tau factor; timebase torque
Unused production references
- Captain's personal log, USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D)
- Captain's log, USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D), 2365
- "Time Squared" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Time Squared" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Time Squared" at Wikipedia
- "Time Squared" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
|Star Trek: The Next Generation
"The Icarus Factor"