Season: 3 Episode: 15First aired: February 19, 1990Stardate: 43625.2
Ask any Star Trek fan to name some of his or her favourite TNG episodes and I’m willing to bet that Yesterday’s Enterprise will make it onto the list. This is no surprise either, as this time-warping, alternate-reality creating episode is one cracking bit of sci-fi.
The episode opens with Guinan conversing with Worf about possible mates for the Klingon warrior on the ship. They’re interrupted by an alert and Guinan sees a strange special anomaly out of the Ten-Forward windows, and shows immediate concern.
Moving to the bridge, Picard and his staff try to figure out what the disturbance is when a ship appears to emerge from the anomaly. As soon as it does, reality shifts, and the Enterprise we know and love becomes a battleship, with a darker and battle-hardened crew. Gone are the families and children, replaced by phaser-toting security, military shipwide announcements and… Tasha Yar.
Yes, Worf is no longer present, and instead, Yar returns as Chief of Security. Not only that, but the Federation is at war with the Klingon Empire, and is fighting a losing battle, with ships outnumbered and the situation getting worse by the day.
Guinan is the only crewmember who feels that there’s something wrong, although she can’t quite put her finger on what. She simply knows that this isn’t right.
We discover that the ship appearing through the special disturbance is, in fact, the USS Enterprise 1701-C, the predecessor to the Enterprise-D. It soon becomes apparent that the Enterprise-C’s appearance is the cause of the alternate reality. In the real timeline, the ship was lost with all hands as it attempted to respond to a distress signal sent by the Klingon outpost on Narendra III. The rescue mission was halted by a Romulan attack, and both the Enterprise-C and the outpost were destroyed. However, this act of bravery by the crew of the Federation ship was looked upon favourably by the honour-bound Klingons, and was one of the major events that brought about the Federation/Klingon peace treaty.
By leaving the battle at the outpost prematurely through the rift in space, these events were changed, and this peace treaty never happened, and all-out war continued.
Picard, on the advice of Guinan, reluctantly asks the Enterprise-C’s Captain, Rachel Garratt (Tricia O’Neil), to return through the rift in order to re-establish the real timeline. Garrett and her crew agree to this request, and reality returns to normal.
Alongside the main plot is Tasha Yar’s return, which explains that she never died trying to save Councillor Troi from her alien captor in Skin Of Evil. When Guinan sees her for the first time, she is notably disturbed at Yar’s appearance, and eventually informs Yar that she “is not supposed to be here”. She reveals that she died an empty death in the real timeline. Yar, not wanting to submit to such a fate, asks for a transfer to the Enterprise-C in the hope that she could help with the defence of the Klingon outpost. At the very least, she wants a good death – a death that means something. Picard agrees, and Yar returns with the Enterprise-C.
Yesterday’s Enterprise is one of the best off-the-wall TNG episodes as it features a compelling and darker side of the Federation. Instead of Star Trek’s usual bright and cheery outlook, depicting Starfleet as a powerful and peaceful entity, we see a reality where exploration has given way to war, and a Federation on the brink of collapse. The main cast, while still themselves (this isn’t an evil Mirror, Mirror crew) are darker and far more serious, and we even see the Enterprise destroyed, and crew killed (including a rather grizzly fate for Commander Riker).
However, while the main story involving the Enterprise-C takes centre stage (we always like some good old crossover action, after all), it’s the re-introduction of Yar that makes this episode stand out. Not all fans liked Denise Crosby’s character, but her return, and subsequent exit in one episode was an excellent addition to the story, and was skilfully used to create a paradox-laden future plotline that saw Crosby return as the Romulan offspring of Yar.
Some points in the episode aren’t quite as strong, however. The prime example being the Sonic Screwdriver that is Guinan’s never explained intuition. While it’s clear that Picard trusts her implicitly, if this is an alternate reality, where the Federation is at war, then what are the odds that Picard and Guinan would meet in the past (Time’s Arrow) and become such good friends, or even meet at all? If this is a warship, then why is there even a bartender onboard?
Admittedly, Time’s Arrow was a fifth season episode, and Yesterday’s Enterprise aired in the third season, but even without this knowledge, having such an unexplained mechanic is a little convenient, and a bit of a sore-thumb in the story.
Still, despite this arguable issue, Yesterday’s Enterprise is an excellent TNG outing. Not only do we see a great alternate reality and the Enterprise-D destroyed (again!), but we also get to see a different incarnation of the Enterprise and those cool old school uniforms too.
Star Trek – Alternate Realities Collection is available now.