There are good things lurking within "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow," but they're buried within an episode that's completely off-kilter in its sluggish execution of an overused Star Trek staple. This story benefits from a few good ideas, but it suffers from a slew of very tired ones and off-the-shelf parts. And for an episode that should have an open, world-building feel, it comes across as weirdly small and claustrophobic, and with a complete lack of urgency.
It's lonely being La'an Noonien-Singh. As security chief, she intervenes in daily headaches that don't make her especially popular, leaving her feeling isolated and angry. She has an inner-torment from being a descendant of scourge-of-the-Earth Khan Noonien Singh — a torment that she hasn't resolved. But today, a mysterious dying man appears in a flash of light in the corridor and tells her there was an attack in the past that must be stopped. He gives her a device and tells her to "Get to the bridge" before dying of a gunshot wound and then vanishing in a ripple of light. La'an arrives on the bridge, where the captain is James T. Kirk (Paul Wesley). He has no idea who La'an is, and there's no record of her existence at all.
After examining the available facts, La'an concludes she has moved into an alternate timeline. Kirk is captain of the Enterprise, but there is no Federation. (Earth is fighting a costly war with the Romulans and the Vulcans are not allies.) When La'an pushes a button on the mysterious device, she and Kirk are instantly transported to 21st-century Toronto. Neither of them knows what they're supposed to do once here (except to heed the vague instruction to prevent an unspecified attack, of which they don't know the time or location). The entire first act grinds to a halt as we spin our wheels while Kirk and La'an secure clothing (by stealing it from a store) and money (which Kirk acquires by street gambling at chess, which seems unlikely to achieve such yields), and buy hot dogs from a street vendor. These scenes lack wit and just kind of burn screen time.
The two spend the night in separate rooms, and La'an ventures into Kirk's room while he's sleeping, before retreating, as if she had hoped to do or say more. This would perhaps work better if there were some sort of chemistry between La'an and Kirk, but it's conceptual at best, and seems mostly to stem from La'an's comfort from the fact Kirk doesn't know who she is as a descendant of Khan — since Khan was not a significant figure in Earth's history in his timeline. Paul Wesley still seems like he never should've been cast as Kirk, though I sure as hell don't know who should've. He's fine as a generic character, but he does nothing here to convince me that he will ever work as Kirk. He is more Pine than Shatner, which is very much getting us into the copy of a copy discussion.
On the other hand, Christina Chong's performance throughout is very good, revealing La'an's painful torment, and slowly breaking down the walls to reveal her vulnerabilities. This happens while the plot finally begins to unfold. A newly completed major bridge over Lake Ontario is bombed, and La'an and Kirk attempt to investigate the cause. La'an believes the explosion was caused by advanced non-human technology (based on charring on the bridge remains). In trying to follow the evidence, we end up with Kirk stealing a car and getting into a car chase with the cops. Sigh. This is boring and obligatory, and how does Kirk even know how to drive since he has never been on Earth? (He's from Iowa ... the USS Iowa.) As Kirk and La'an are about to be arrested, they're rescued by Sera (Adelaide Kane), who is a "social media journalist" or somesuch, who was also at the site of the bridge bombing. In a totally unbelievable scene, she cons/bullies the cops into releasing Kirk and La'an by recording them on her cell phone and threatening to expose their ... lawful arrest? Okay.
Sera is a nutty conspiracy theorist who also believes the bridge explosion was the work of ALIENS. She has a photo of an alien ship in her "personal research" files which Kirk recognizes as Romulan. Apparently, there's a cold fusion reactor somewhere in the city that's powering the facility where the conspirators are hiding the alien evidence. La'an hopes to build a tricorder to find it, so they drive to Vermont, where she knows Pelia is living among humans in this century. Amusingly, Pelia is of little help because she isn't even an engineer at this point in time — but she does conveniently have a wristwatch with a material that can serve as the pointer they need.
This leads our heroes to the facility where it's revealed that Sera is actually a Romulan temporal agent trying to alter the timeline. The facility is actually where the genetically-engineered Khan is being raised as a child, and Sera's plan is to kill Khan to alter the timeline for the benefit of the Romulan Empire. (In Kirk's timeline, which is far worse for humanity than La'an's timeline, Khan's absence appears to have proved Sera successful.) Sera shoots and kills Kirk in the ensuing struggle, leaving La'an to protect Khan for the benefit of the timeline.
Clearly, the inspiration here is "The City on the Edge of Forever," in which history must be preserved by taking counterintuitive actions and making personal sacrifices — in this case allowing a future despot to grow up to be himself and cause untold destruction in order for the long game of history to work out for the best. For La'an this is two time-travel dilemmas for the price of one — the "kill child Hitler" scenario crossed with the "grandfather paradox." By allowing Khan to survive, she preserves her own personal future as well as the Federation's — but must allow Khan's destruction of the 21st century to unfold as it always did. (Or almost always. The episode acknowledges Trek history alongside our own time passing the fictional timeline when Sera mentions that the Eugenics Wars were "supposed to happen in 1992," but apparently didn't because of other timeline shenanigans.)
When La'an returns to her timeline after preserving history, she's contacted by a Federation temporal agent from the future who assures her she did the right thing — and who also tells her not to discuss the matter with anyone. It's a strange burden. She contacts Kirk, who is a lieutenant J.G. in this timeline and doesn't even know her. It's a gutting experience for La'an.
In writing this review and recounting all that happens, it seems strange that this wasn't a better episode. As a plot, it probably works better on paper than on the screen. Somehow, the execution here fails, and what should be emotional and urgent comes across as clinical and detached. The plot beats feel perfunctory and the humor is lifeless. The romance is unpersuasive. The stuff that works best involves La'an and her tough choices at the end, and some smaller moments of temporal/existential logic, like Kirk questioning the wisdom of changing a timeline that would erase everything about his own life. But there have been so many time travel stories across Trek. We've been here, and done this so many times, in better and more fun ways than this.
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