We'll Always Have Paris
Time loops? What an idea... I wonder if TNG can make use of that somewhere. Time loops? What an idea... I wonder if TNG can make use of that somewhere. Time loops? What an idea...
Picard is fencing with Lieutenant Bit-Part when they both experience a brief time hiccup. There's a distress call from one Dr Paul Manheim... Picard seems to know that name, so Troi dutifully points out the obvious, which in season one is her not-so-useful power. Instead of spilling the beans, Picard pops into Holodeck 3 and recreates a café in Paris, complete with that rarest of things, an actor who can actually speak French. After some bittersweet foreshadowing, the Enterprise pops over to Dr Manheim's lab where we meet the good doctor's wife, Jenice, who warmly greets the captain and even gives him a quick smooch, causing Dr Crusher to raise a metaphorical eyebrow. Picard, Data and Riker then run into themselves in the corridor. Data dubs it 'the Manheim effect'. Catchy name!
The sci-fi story takes a back seat to the romance as we learn about how Picard stood up Jenice in Paris, how Dr Crusher is harbouring feelings for Picard (okay, we kind of knew this, but now she's talking openly to Troi about it), and how Dr Manheim looks and sounds just like Sigmund Freud from Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure. Data beams down to the lab, does some flying forward rolls to dodge the defence systems, and then gets stuck in a hiccup so disorientating that he uses a contraction. He pops some anti-matter into the hole et voila, job done. Then it's back to Holodeck 3 for a chance for Jenice and Picard to share a bottle of champagne. Et pourquoi-pas...?
Our first time loop episode, hurray! There's basically one of these in one form or another in every season of TNG (if you count Yesterday's Enterprise as a time loop), although they're all quite different and distinctive. The script uses 'another dimension' as its load bearing concept, but thankfully by the time we make it to the final act this idea has fallen into the background and does very little work. Instead, the 'Manheim effect' steps up with all its crazy timey-wimey nonsense - and gives us some truly memorable sci-fi scenes.
This is the first script to have been affected by the notorious writer's strike of 1988, and the screenplay diverges from the final episode to such an enormous degree that it is like looking back in time to an early and unrevised script. The romantic subplot between Picard and Jenice is much the same in the screenplay, but everything that makes this story such a delightful time-hiccupping romp was added during production. There's no Manheim effect, none of the mind-bending moments, nothing that makes this episode such a fun sci-fi story. Some think that Data's use of a contraction ("It's me!") is a result of the writer's strike too... which is plausible, as it doesn't appear in the screenplay.
Even though the final episode is better than the screenplay, I don't want to be too hard on Deborah Dean Davis and Hannah Louise Shearer's writing. All the romantic story is still there in their original script, and you can count me among those who really enjoy this part of the tale. Not only do we get a steamy dollop of Picard backstory, we get to see the human vulnerability of the captain - something later stories also bring out rather well, but this is still quite a rarity at this point in the show's run.
And it's fun to watch too. It's enjoyable to reference Casablanca, it's charming to have the holodeck recreate a café in Paris... and this is also the most overt confirmation of Doctor Crusher's feeling for Picard, which up until now had largely just been teased. Incidentally, the Casablanca references are all from the original screenplay, including name-checking the Blue Parrot café, which was Rick's establishment in the famous Humphrey Bogart movie.
Did you spot Denise Crosby in this episode? No. That's because it's just her arm. The footage was shot before she officially left the show, and I guess they thought nobody would notice. Trek fans, however, have eyes for the most trivial of details.
Dan Kern's walk on part as Lieutenant Dean in the teaser is an interesting one.
The screenplay has the fencing taking place between Riker and Picard, but it's a safe bet Jonathan Frakes doesn't know a thing about swordplay. Patrick Stewart, on the other hand, wields his blade with confidence - we see a little of him fighting with a sword in John Boorman’s 1981 epic Excalibur, and rumour has it he might have fenced at university. It seems that Kern must have been cast just because he knew how to fence, since they didn't manage to use the character for anything else in this episode.
Michelle Phillips, who plays Jenice, was a regular on the Dallas spin-off Knots Landing, which I always had a soft spot for, but is perhaps even more famous as a member of the band The Mamas and the Papas. She gives a solid but unremarkable performance in this episode.
Her on screen husband is played by Rod Loomis, who as I teased above also played Sigmund Freud in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure.
Is it time for a new Transporter Chief? Why yes, meet Ensign Herbert, played by Lance Spellerberg.
His closing credits text arguably contradicts the later canon about Chief O'Brien's rank, but to say that nobody cares would be an understatement. It wouldn't be hard to fanon this away, anyway. We'll see you again next season, Ensign Herbert!
Models, Make-up, and Mattes
It's so cheap and easy to do little time hiccup moments that it's no wonder sci-fi shows love them so much. Just a little digital compositing and suddenly you're meeting yourself in the turbolift - brilliant! Less marvellous is the asteroid in the binary system, which is thoroughly underwhelming, but it's hardly a big deal as it's just a small establishing shot.
This futuristic musical instrument, however, looks like something you could get arrested for in about half the US states…
The special effects star of this episode, though, is the beautiful matte painting of Paris in the holodeck! They even have two shuttles zwoosh by, although in the original cut it's very hard to make out what they are. (In the remaster, they're easier to make out, but it's still not clear where this model came from). I don't know who painted this matte, but Michael Okuda reports that this was a rental - just a generic backdrop of Paris for use in movies and TV shows. Imagine owning a store that rents giant paintings... what a great job!
We'll see this matte painting elsewhere in Trek, but never again on TNG. It appears most memorably behind the windows of the Federation President's office in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and twice more in DS9 episodes in the same role. For this episode, Production Designer Herman Zimmerman painted some futuristic buildings onto some removable material attached to the matte, so it could be returned to its owners intact. I love this shot so much, it almost makes me forget how wonderful it is that Wesley Crusher isn't in this episode.
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How old is Picard supposed to be?!?! He acts like an old man and looks like an old man but here we are 40 years later and he really looks like an old man which makes me think maybe he wasn't so old in this show afterall. Even though I did enjoy this episode, he had no chemistry with this woman. Not that he has any with crusher either but maybe that'll come in later seasons?
The accompanying photos are really good in this one, and that matte is pretty cool.