The series finale of Star Trek: the Next Generation came after seven seasons of the show. In contrast, Star Trek was canceled after three seasons. The franchise was riding a popularity high in the spring of 1994. It was clear that while TNG was ending, the stories of exploration would continue with spin offs and more movies.
Imagine you’re on a date with a coworker you’ve known for seven years. You’re in the same department and have helped try to patch things up with his young son. You’re at the door to your apartment and about to kiss when your boss comes up to you and asks what date it is. Then he says he’s moving back and forth through time. If that seems like an out of left field opening for “All Good Things…” then it is. Captain Picard crashes Worf and Deanna’s date with his wild claim. Counselor Troi asks him about his experience in her quarters. As the captain begins to describe it, the viewers see it happen as Picard is suddenly an old man tending a vineyard.
It’s 25 years in the future and Picard has retired from Starfleet after serving as an ambassador. Geordi La Forge, also retired, arrives for a visit. It’s been nine years since they’ve seen each other. They catch up briefly before Geordi asks how Picard is really doing since he’d been recently diagnosed with Irumodic Syndrome. The captain shakes off Geordi’s concern. Before they return to the house for some tea, Picard is thrown back to the past, right before he assumes command of the Enterprise.
For a moment the captain is confused when he finds himself in a shuttle with Tasha Yar. She’s taking him to the Enterprise for the first time, right before the events of the series premiere “Encounter at Farpoint.” But before they actually board the starship, Picard is back in the present. In sickbay, Dr. Crusher can’t find anything that would prove the captain is either hallucinating or actually jumping through time except for a marker for Irumodic Syndrome, which only proves he may develop it.
An admiral from Starfleet calls Picard to order the Enterprise to the edge of the Neutral Zone to investigate an anomaly in the Devron system. They know on the other side of the Neutral Zone the Romulans are doing the same so Starfleet must tread carefully. As soon as the admiral’s call ends, the captain finds himself back in the future with Geordi. Picard tells him he was back on the Enterprise and it’s not just his Irumodic Syndrome causing a delusion. At first Geordi doesn’t believe him, but they visit Data who’s a professor at Cambridge. They promise to get to the bottom of it.
In the past, Picard orders a Red Alert as soon as he boards the Enterprise because he keeps seeing the strange people he also saw in the future. The crew follows his order with the briefest hint of hesitation as they have no idea what is going on. The captain begins to suspect Q is somehow involved. When Starfleet cancels the Farpoint mission because of an anomaly in the Neutral Zone, Picard defies orders and heads out to Farpoint Station because that was where they met Q the first time. In the present, only a few minutes have passed, but when Dr. Crusher re-runs her scans she detects nearly two days worth of new memories, proof that the captain really is jumping back and forth in time.
With an anomaly is detected inside the Neutral Zone in both the past and present timelines, Picard suspects there will be one in the future timeline as well. But there are a few complications in the future. The captain is retired on Earth with no access to a starship. The Neutral Zone no longer exists as the Klingons have taken over the Romulan Empire and do not get along with the Federation. Picard asks Riker, who is now an admiral, for a ship to get to the Devron system but Riker shoots him down. So Data suggests finding a medical ship, which the Klingons are allowing into their territory to treat a plague. Thankfully Picard knows a captain of a medical ship he used to have some pull with.
Captain Beverly Picard is in command of the USS Pasteur. Even though she doesn’t believe him, she’ll humor Jean-Luc and take him to the Devron system. It’s implied that they were married at some point but divorced. Before they can get underway, Jean-Luc is shifted back to the past. Q has not announced himself the way he did in “Encounter at Farpoint” Instead he drags Picard to his courtroom alone and plays 20 questions to help the captain figure out what exactly is going on. The omnipotent being is responsible for the time jumps, but he did not create the anomaly. The Romulans are not involved at all. The trial of humanity from seven years ago is connected to what’s going on in the present.
Present Picard slowly puts the pieces together. Now that he knows Q is responsible for his time shifts, he tries to coordinate his actions in all three timelines, past, present, and future. In the past, the captain orders the Enterprise to the Devron system at warp 9, which concerns Tasha and the bridge crew. In the captain’s ready room, Counselor Troi reminds Picard that it takes time for a crew to adjust to a new captain and vice versa. But Picard is confident of the crew’s abilities because he’s served with them for seven years already.
In the future timeline there is no anomaly, which frustrates Picard. Data suggests using an inverse tachyon pulse to scan further than traditional sensors. Beverly is uneasy being so far from Federation territory. Her ship isn’t well armed. Worf, who had left Starfleet and became a governor of a Klingon colony, reports that two Klingon ships are on their way to investigate what the Pasteur is doing. So Beverly orders they’ll have six hours to scan before returning to Federation space. When Picard protests, she reminds him that this could be all in his head.
In the present Devron system, Picard requests Data set up an inverse tachyon pulse to gather more information. It reveals the anomaly is an eruption of anti-time. Anti-time is the temporal equivalent of antimatter. Weird things are happening on the Enterprise. Geordi’s eyes begin regenerating. A pregnant crew member suddenly loses her baby. Dr. Crusher thinks the fetus grew backward until it no longer existed and everyone is at risk. In the past the anomaly is twice as large. Picard tells Data it’s anti-time and how to set up an inverse tachyon pulse. Q takes the captain to 3.5 million years ago on Earth to show how much larger the anomaly is in the past. It’s interfering with the formation of the first proteins, preventing life from ever beginning .
Unfortunately the Klingons attack in the future. The Pasteur is no match for them. Admiral Riker arrives with a modified Enterprise to rescue them. He had a feeling after Picard’s request that something like this would happen. Picard realizes that the three tachyon pules somehow create the anomaly. He convinces Riker to take the Enterprise back to the Devron system where there is a small version of the anti-time eruption waiting for them. The three timelines work to seal the anomaly, but it’s tough work. First the past Enterprise is destroyed. Then the present. As the future ship is about to blow up, Q stops by to remind Picard that “all good things must come to an end.”
After all three ships are destroyed, Picard finds himself back in Q’s courtroom. Q reveals that the Continuum wanted to see if humanity could expand their minds. When Picard managed to coordinate three timelines he proved that humanity was capable. He passed the test, though the actual trial never ends. Q places Picard at the beginning of his journey, when he crashes Worf and Deanna’s date. Satisfied that the events of the future timeline will not happen, Picard finally joins the officer’s poker game.
The ending of TNG isn’t a definitive one. The Enterprise‘s mission to explore strange new worlds did not end with the series. The crew would appear in four films. By the time TNG finished, two seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had already aired, and another show, Star Trek: Voyager would premiere in January 1995. Overall I liked “All Good Things…” especially how they brought Q back as a bookend with the trial. The only frustrating thing was how the writers killed off Deanna Troi in the future timeline to create tension between Worf and Riker. I was too busy trying to figure out what was happening with Picard and the timelines to care about needless drama.