Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Future Imperfect"


Air date: 11/12/1990
Written by J. Larry Carroll & David Bennett Carren
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

An away mission goes bad, and Riker finds himself waking up 16 years after the last thing he can remember — which was that mission. An aged Crusher tells him that he contracted a virus on that mission which, after lying in wait for years, put him into a coma and wiped all memories dating back to the original incident. (Sort of like Memento, except just once instead of every few minutes.)

"Future Imperfect" paints an interesting "what if" premise. Riker awakens to a changed world. Not so changed, mind you, that he can't quickly (perhaps too quickly, and taking it awfully well) be brought back up to speed. He's now captain of the Enterprise, he had a wife (now dead), and he has a young son, named — perhaps too ham-handedly — Jean-Luc (Chris Demetral). And Riker is scheduled to complete treaty negotiations between the Romulans and the Federation. Like tomorrow.

In a show like this — where a reset is inevitable and it's really hard to buy into the emotional arc of the story — the truth is in the details, and I liked a lot of the details. The Enterprise sets have been modified just enough to seem like the future in a fanboy sort of way. Geordi no longer has the visor. A bearded Picard, now an admiral, is on hand for the negotiations. The ambassador in the Romulan negotiations is onetime enemy Tomalak, which puts a visceral chill into Riker.

And there are strange things going on here. The computer keeps lagging when Riker asks for personal information about himself. Is any of this real? That question is answered with a nice touch of continuity when video of Riker's wife reveals that she was ... Minuet. My favorite part of the episode is when Riker, having destroyed the illusion of the ruse, goes on a rampage to prove it — demanding that Data make elaborate calculations and telling Picard: "Shut up! As in close your mouth and stop talking!" It's all a holodeck simulation by Tomalak trying to trick him into revealing classified information. (Although, how sad is it that Riker's most intimate recent connection with a woman, at least according to the mind-scanners, was with a hologram and took place in a matter of a few hours? Like I said: plot details, not emotional arc.)

But wait; the story even has a twist upon the twist. The Romulan prison is an illusion too, concocted by an alien boy who was playing the part of Riker's son. He's actually an orphan with no company but all this equipment that can make pretend stuff. Of course, I'm always amazed at how perfectly pretend stuff can be created based on a person's memories. "Future Imperfect" is an engaging illusion show with some nice hypothetical scenes, but it has a howler of a closing line: "To me you'll always be Jean-Luc."

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17 comments on this review

Stef - Wed, Mar 5, 2008 - 5:48am (USA Central)
Data's Day: My favourite moment, is Data realising he is idly tapping his finger in a very human way as he becomes suspicious of T'Pel. That is a great scene, and all the better for not having it explained.

Legacy: She was hot wasn't she?

Clues: I really enjoyed this show, just didn't like Troi's "Alien takeover" voice.

Future Imperfect: There was something about Riker's confidence and stance as he tells Picard to SHUT UP , that I think is probably his best scene so far, he comes across very natural. It's a shame his waistline had to expand so much in later years.
stviateur - Wed, Jul 6, 2011 - 2:55pm (USA Central)
"Future Imperfect" started out good and got better as soon as tomalak made his appearance but became a huge disappointment when it all turned out to be an illusion by some kid alien...ugh! And why didn't Riker notice that anything was strange as soon as he woke and found that Dr. Crusher had served aboard the Enterprise for over 15 years! Not to mention other past crew members...who the heck stays aboard the same ship for that long without moving on and up? And then, after supposedly losing his memory of the last 15 years, he's allowed to stay in command?! Even I knew something was wrong at that point!
Jack - Fri, Jun 15, 2012 - 3:50pm (USA Central)
Sure was convenient to have a mirror on the console right above Riker in sickbay...
Jay - Mon, Jun 18, 2012 - 5:46pm (USA Central)
I thought it was funny that the Ferengi helmsman seems to have incomplete Ferengi makeup....seemed like a mask covered the actor's mouth. I suppose if the character had no lines, why attach the makeup to their lips...
Will - Thu, Oct 11, 2012 - 3:49pm (USA Central)
This episode was really good, until the ending. The funny thing is, the ending was soooo bad, it was hilarious xD

*changes into super-cheesy 50's-style alien*
"My name is Barush =3"
xaaos - Mon, Dec 10, 2012 - 2:41pm (USA Central)
I laughed out loud when I saw a Ferengi as a Federation helmsman. Barush has a great sense of humor.
mike - Sat, Apr 13, 2013 - 7:55pm (USA Central)
Tolerable episode, not great. Put yourself in Riker's place. Would you buy into this Rip Van Winkle story even one bit? No, of course not, so how can I? And who the hell is stationed on a ship for 15 years anyway?
bob - Sun, Jun 23, 2013 - 11:50pm (USA Central)
I love this episode for one reason, when riker finds out the truth and screws with data and then tells captain Picard to shut his mouth! Hilarious!
William B - Wed, Jun 26, 2013 - 1:42pm (USA Central)
The scene where Riker goes to the bridge and tells everyone to shut up is indeed a season highlight and well worth the price of admission.

On his birthday (universal symbol of aging), Troi asks Riker to make a wish on his birthday cake, and he jokes, "Music lessons!" Then he finds himself waking up in the future, older and in a scenario which we learn from Barash was meant to be a fantasy where Riker would be happy. In principle, the episode's premise would suggest that it's about aging and about things you wish for. In effect, though, while he tries, I don't think Riker really commits to this future enough for this seeming emotional core to work all that well. It is interesting to consider the choices made by Barash, assuming that he wanted Riker both to dote on his "son" and that he otherwise wanted to be happy: the crew is mostly there, but Riker gets to be captain of the Enterprise. Maybe the reason he carted Troi away is to avoid any questions of why Riker married someone else instead of Troi. There are two possible explanations I can think of for the Romulan/Tomalak plot in the Enterprise future: 1. Barash thought Riker would want there to be peace in the galaxy, and thought Tomalak being a good guy now was the best way to demonstrate this; 2. Barash was already planning for his scenario failing and had been planning the backdoor to the program wherein it's revealed that Tomalak is probing Riker for information already. Supporting the latter is the whole plot about revealing secret information about Sector whatever early on.

Since the future seems to be geared less toward being interesting (it's certainly much less creative and well-developed than, say, the "All Good Things" future), the question I guess becomes about Riker figuring out that it's not real. This episode is a bit like "Frame of Mind," isn't it, wherein there is an illusion version of the Enterprise crew and Riker has to figure out that it's not real. I wonder why that lends itself so well to Riker stories. Maybe this is a guy with trouble telling apart fantasy and reality? That Minuet is still the woman about whom he has the most passionate feelings, apparently, suggests that Riker probably does have those issues. Actually, that appearance of Minuet is one of the oddest and most interesting choices in the episode, and suggests that while Riker consciously knows she wasn't real and was just a fantasy woman designed specifically to keep him distracted, subconsciously she is his ideal. Maybe the thing about Riker is that he is someone with a lot of ambition and a lot of strong desires, but (as Troi asked him in BOBW), what does he *actually* want? He doesn't quite know. His ideal woman is imaginary: what is it in real life that he wants, romantically? I suppose here I feel like giving a shoutout to Riker/Troi -- from this point forward it's not entirely clear why they don't get together, since their reason for breaking up was Riker's meteoric career rise and Riker has decided that he'd rather stay on the Enterprise than be a captain (or at least that seems to be what he decided post-BOBW). Out-of-universe, the writers probably recognize that getting Riker and Troi together would make it harder for them to tell stories about them because they don't really know if they can write couples well. In-universe, I wonder if maybe Riker is too attached to his fantasy of the perfect woman -- represented by Minuet -- to "settle" for someone whom he loves deeply, but who is flawed and can be frustrating (and aristocratic, as he describes her in "The Loss"), and so he keeps searching for casual flings with beautiful women whom he can maintain fantasies about.

This is mostly speculation, though, because the episode doesn't have that much to say, though it is generally entertaining. There is something nicely Trekkian about the last few minutes (except for that terrible, hysterical final line), wherein Barash admits to living the life he's living because he's a war orphan and this is the only life he could have, and he asked Riker to join him in his fantasy because he was so lonely. He is treated not as a villain but as a scared kid who needs to be loved, and Riker's offer to him to get out of that life and to be with people is nice, though I'm not exactly clear what Riker's plan is here. Send Barash to live with Worf's parents, maybe? If we continue to make this about Riker, Riker himself had drawn a comparison between "Jean-Luc's mother's" death and his own mother's death, and so the idea of Barash hiding in a world of illusions because he had nothing else after his parents' death, and yet finding that world lonely and needing to leave it behind, maybe does describe Riker, abandoned by his mother through death and his father through indifference, and who is only on the Enterpise starting to figure out what he really wants out of life besides the notions of an awesome career and great sex, which he still places emphasis on but are maybe not the real things he actually wants. Maybe.

I did, by the way, find the "Romulan prison" section of the episode very dull, though that is probably because I knew how pointless it ultimately was. I probably would put the ep overall as a high 2.5 stars.
TH - Fri, Aug 30, 2013 - 12:18am (USA Central)
I always really liked this episode, but I always found it full of a couple of too glaring plot holes.

I am assuming that the alien's plan was to create an Enterprise future so real, he could forever be Riker's son. I assume his goal was NOT to have Riker figure out it was fake and live forever as a "prisoner" with Riker in the Romulan jail cell.

So on that assumption, I assume the alien chose Minuet as Riker's wife on the same basis that the "Romulans" chose her - because they thought she was a real person important in Riker's life.

If we assume that is the case, how come when Riker asks Troi about his wife, and Riker says he has no memory of her, Troi doesn't once correct him and say "you knew her before the accident, so you do know her" or "Do you remember Minuet?"

The plot would have unravelled much sooner.
Moonie - Tue, Nov 5, 2013 - 7:44am (USA Central)
To me, it's the resolution that made this episode tolerable. There were just too many holes and logical inconsistencies in the story, but the resolution saved it.

Will shouting "Shut up!" to Picard made me laugh out loud!
Jay - Sat, Nov 16, 2013 - 4:02pm (USA Central)
@ William B

It would seem that the "wife" HAD to be Minuet, since that was the key to Riker realizing that this reality was a farce.

I'm really enjoying your reviews within the reviews by the way!

Chris - Tue, Dec 24, 2013 - 11:07am (USA Central)
I'm not sure I agree with Beverly that losing 16 years pales in comparison to losing one's parents.
Baltar - Fri, Feb 21, 2014 - 1:12am (USA Central)
I always thought that Crusher's point was that while Riker is reeling from his understandably bizarre situation, he has (allegedly) lost only a fraction of his life, and he ostensibly has the foundation upon which he can relearn whatever he needs to. His son, by comparison, is young and finding his way, suddenly having to live with not just learning to cope with the loss of his mother, not even learning to cope with the loss of both parents, but effectively having lost both AND having to teach his father how to be a father, from scratch.

I thought it was a pretty good bit of emotional realism in the scenario, giving Riker something to focus on beyond his own bafflement-and, given how the scenario turns out, it's a good bit of manipulation on the kid's part.

I just rewatched this episode tonight; still engaging, even knowing what's coming...at least until that ending, which feels very much like a the writer had a poignant script going all the way through-right until that last page, which got composed on the bus ride to the studio to turn it in. Whoops. I think "howler" captured that nicely.
Rex Asden - Fri, May 9, 2014 - 6:00pm (USA Central)
Riker's issue is that, whenever there's an episode focusing (mostly) on him, everybody is trying to melt his brain or something like that. For example, Frame of Mind, in which he was abducted and his noggin probed (again). He does good as someone who loses his marbles, though. Then there was the episode where he is abducted by weird aliens -big shocker! *rolls eyes*- and used for bizarre medical experiments. Maybe it's that face of his when he doesn't know what is going on, or maybe it's just that people enjoy zapping him with mind-reading rays.
I don't think that this episode was too bad, considering some of the others that they've done.
$G - Thu, Jan 29, 2015 - 1:21am (USA Central)
I was enjoying this one for a bit. Riker's freakout is really well done, and I like watching characters feel out a scenario (Crusher did it just a few eps ago, too). The Minuet continuity was a really neat call back too. But I found that my interest really wavered during the Romulan prison section. It just felt so punch-less.

Then the ending, which - well... This might be the only Trek episode that guts itself entirely in the last 30 seconds. I *like* the idea of Barush, but that costume...


Absolutely the silliest, most moment-killing reveal in any Trek I can remember. I was laughing well into the credits and my girlfriend just facepalmed until the music stopped. I honestly don't even know how I'd rate this episode - it's not even *bad*. It's pretty okay, actually, but I'll never be able to think of this episode without laughing at it no matter what other merits it might have.
$G - Thu, Jan 29, 2015 - 1:25am (USA Central)
Hang on, I take back what I said about Barush being the silliest, most moment-killing reveal in Trek.

That award goes to Enterprise's season 3 finale.

Second place ain't bad.

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