Star Trek: The Next Generation

“Future Imperfect”

3 stars.

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

Review Text

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."

Previous episode: Reunion
Next episode: Final Mission

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Comment Section

73 comments on this post

    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.

    "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!

    Sure was convenient to have a mirror on the console right above Riker in sickbay...

    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...

    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"

    I laughed out loud when I saw a Ferengi as a Federation helmsman. Barush has a great sense of humor.

    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?

    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!

    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.

    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.

    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!

    @ 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!

    I'm not sure I agree with Beverly that losing 16 years pales in comparison to losing one's parents.

    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 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.

    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.

    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...

    Just... WHAT IN THE WORLD.

    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.

    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.

    I actually found Barush's real appearance quite endearing. My girlfriend and me were going "Aw, what a cute little alien boy, all alone on his planet", when we saw it. The way he holds his hands in an "X" has since entered our everyday behavior at home and never fails to elicit a laugh.

    This was of course another case of "Main character makes a new friend, who is then never heard of again". Maybe Riker put him in the same desolate part of the ship where Worf had stored that boy from "The Bonding", after telling him that he would now be part of his family. Keith R.A. DeCandido wrote in his review of this episode on that Barush's fate is further explored in one of the EU novels, where he moves to Earth to become head of the UFP's displaced persons office.

    Anyway, the biggest virtue of this episode for me is how much it tells us about Riker. Barush's technology can create what Riker would consider a perfect (for him) future, and it's interesting to see what this includes.

    In "The Best of Both Worlds 1", Picard had made Riker aware of his options: staying first officer on Starfleet's flagship, or taking command of his own ship on the outskirts of the Federation. As we see in Barush's creation, Riker wants both. He can move upwards in his career (which is what everyone expects of him and which was his main drive during the beginning of the series) and become captain, without having to leave all the things he likes about his current life: the Enterprise and his colleagues (who are his only friends and surrogate family). He moves out of Picard's shadow and out of the on-again/off-again relationship with Troi when they both leave for Starfleet Command, but still maintains a friendship with them. The Klingon-Federation relations are getting tighter, with at least one more Klingon serving on the Enterprise (who lasciviously roams the ship's corridor, thereby covering both Riker's interests in Klingon culture and hot chicks). He starts a family and has a son who can continue his legacy, but his wife dies, leaving him free to return to his old dating behavior.

    The most interesting thing for me was the role of Minuet, though. This is Riker's ideal woman, the woman for whom he still holds the warmest feelings, and which he sees as most fitting to start a family with. What do we know about her from her previous appearance in season 1's "11001001"? We know that the Binars had just refitted the holodeck and had created the Minuet character to divert Riker and Picard while they were using the ship for other tasks, so it's understandable that she was quite the sensation in comparison to other holodeck programs. But that's hardly enough to make her a candidate for "ideal woman". What is it that made her so unforgettable for Riker? For starters, she had the right looks (Riker had her look changed a few times before settling with what he liked). She liked the same kind of jazz music as him. She showed interest in what he had to say. She flirted with him. And that's about it. Riker's idea of the perfect woman is a pretty girl who finds him attractive and likes what he likes. Oh, and wait: She also flirted with Picard. Let's not go too far into what this means for Riker's idea of a perfect mate...

    In the end, the whole episode paints a rather sad picture of Riker, who usually serves as TNG's quasi-Kirk, an adventurous, lady-killing, charismatic leader. In Barush's materialization of Riker's wishes and dreams, he appears as deeply insecure and afraid of life-changing decisions. In both love and work, he wants to have his cake and eat it too: stay in his comfortable place on the Enterprise and rise to captain, start a family and still be a bachelor. And the saddest thing is that the TNG character with the most active (and most promiscuous) sex life cannot commit to a real person, but is still hooked to a holodeck creation with whom he spent one afternoon three years ago, and whose character was defined by the variables "pretty, likes jazz, flirts with Riker".

    Riker has a lot of good episodes under his belt, but I always felt that he did not get that much of a character arc when compared to Data, Worf or even Wesley Crusher. But this episode certainly gives us the deepest insight into his mind and shows how much of a tragic figure lies under his usual sunny-boy demeanor.

    I mean, it's hard to fully justify that last minute of the episode, both with Barash's appearance and "To me, you'll always be Jean-Luc." But while it's definitely goofy, I think that the weird, gawky, weird-looking but also weirdly adorable Barash that we see at the end is actually appropriate.

    CPUFP reminded me why I like this episode, and I think I'm going to expand further (on what CPUFP says, and also on what I said way back when). Notably, I don’t think this episode was carefully planned out as too deep an exposé of Riker’s subconscious, but I think it permits such readings surprisingly well. Barash is a child abandoned by its parents, alone in the world, and creates a fantasy for Riker to live out. Notably, though, his fantasy includes...Barash creating a fantasy version of *himself* who is the kind of kid that he *expects* will be lovable, which means making himself appear pleasing and a carbon copy of the father figure he wants to impress/entrap. He plays trombone too! I think the episode makes explicit the comparison between “Jean-Luc Riker” and Will’s predicaments; Will lost his mother when he was young, and the father-son mini-family is something like what Will’s childhood could have been like had his father been a real parent. That Barash creates the scenario to entrap Will is undeniable, and so leaving a mother out for himself is a sensible choice, but I also wonder if Barash simply omitted a mother figure (or girlfriend figure) for Riker is because neither Barash nor Riker can actually imagine what having a mother is like. Will doesn’t really know what having a good father is like, but he at least has a few good memories with his father, and Barash is giving Will the opportunity to make right his father’s mistakes. I think, relatedly, Minuet as absent, far-away lover both suggests that Will lives in a fantasy land, and also suggests that he has no real idea how to have a relationship, besides his on-again-off-again thing with Deanna, which he…also, I think, doesn’t really know how to pursue at this stage.

    Seeing Barash as a kind of analogue of Will makes a lot of sense to me. By the time of season four, Riker is more subtle about it, certainly than Barash. But I think it’s notable that Will does have that side of him, of, like Barash, trying to earn love and respect and friendship by presenting what he thinks other people want of him and then living out a fantasy role. In season seven, for instance, we have Riker acknowledging that Lavelle’s slick ingratiating behaviours annoy Riker because they remind him of himself at a younger age; we learn in “The Pegasus” the disastrous consequence of Will wanting very badly to impress a substitute father figure early in his career. His flirtatious behaviour at times actually seems quite sad to me, because I think Will very often is not so much flirting out of horndog lust but out of a compulsive desire to be liked and be viewed as attractive. I think this kind of explains why Will is sometimes put in the position of someone who is heavily objectified and whose body gets used and discarded, like in “The Host,” “First Contact” and (ick) “Angel One.”

    But anyway, even though the scenario which Barash creates for Will is the ultimate dream, Will actually doesn’t buy it. I think this shows a lot of promise: at his core, Riker is able to distinguish between fantasy and reality, and feels uncomfortable with a scenario that gives him too much of what he wants. Some of this may just be Will’s restlessness and discomfort in a scenario in which he has the possibility to be happy. That Riker can console Barash at the end and love him for his weird, goofy, ugly, silly looking self actually shows some hope, too, of Riker loving himself for who he is.

    This makes this an interesting episode to follow up on “The Best of Both Worlds,” I think. In “TBOBW,” Riker had to face and overcome his fears of being in the big chair. On a fundamental level, I don’t think Riker is afraid of command itself post-“TBOBW,” and I’m not even sure he was afraid of command per se before then. Rather, I think what Riker really wants is what Picard, Troi, and the rest of the crew offer him: approval and from a man/father-figure he admires (Picard), love, compassion and comfort from a woman he loves (Troi), and friendship and security from a group of friends he likes and cares about (Worf, Data, Geordi, Beverly, Wesley). What is holding Riker on the Enterprise is not fear of what the Big Chair will entail, but a desire not to lose the sense of family that he has on the ship which is the first functional family he’s ever had. That’s why the scenario given to him that can attract Riker has to be one in which his family remains mostly intact, but with Riker having displaced Picard in the father role, even swapped with him (since his kid is Jean-Luc, after all). From this point on, Riker’s aspirations are not so much to have his own command, but to have command of the Enterprise specifically. But even then, he really also doesn’t want to lose Picard as the first functional mentor/father figure he’s had, who is not negligent/absentee (ala Kyle Riker) or a criminal (ala Pressman), and he can’t decide what kind of role he wants to slot Troi into. It’s still a tiny bit fake, like Barash’s version on the Enterprise: Picard really can’t be a substitute father, and Troi can’t be a substitute matronly mother and a potential wife/lover at once. That said, I think his time on the Enterprise is actually really healthy for him. In “BOBW,” Deanna asked him what it is, exactly, that he wants. I think that Riker gradually comes to realize that he doesn’t actually want command for the sake of command or casual sex for the sake of casual sex, but sort of longs for meaning in his work and emotional intimacy in his relationships, even as he has some trouble figuring out how to apply that. On some level, the Will Riker from “Encounter at Farpoint” (and especially the young Riker we hear described in “The Pegasus”) was ambitious less because he was passionate about Starfleet and Federation values, though I think he was/is, and more because he needed to win and succeed to prove himself and win approval and love. I think that the one at the series’ end has a somewhat clearer picture of what he wants, though it’s still a work in progress. It’s not quite a full arc, because I don’t think the series delves deep enough into what it is that Riker does want even as it does puncture some of Riker’s illusions, sort of. (That’s part of why I think of “Frame of Mind” as not just a great episode but a great Riker episode in particular, because I think the effort of shattering illusions and breaking from external authority, like the staff of a maybe-fake mental hospital, is something that’s hard for Riker, who kind of bounces between loving and hating authority/father figures rather than being able to keep his wits around them.)

    "Future Imperfect" is a fluff episode, but an enjoyable piece of fluff. I don't quite know what else to say except that it was a pleasant little diversion.

    As for Barash's "actual" appearance at the end of the episode - I kind of liked it. At least he actually looks alien. His species isn't identical in appearance to humans or identical to humans except with something glued to the forehead. Yeah, it looks corny, but so what?

    What really stands out for me in this episode, however, is the use of Minute as Riker's imaginary wife. I'm literally stunned that Season Four made so many attempts to work in references and concepts from the first two seasons. I did not notice that until this re-watch. We've had the Borg, Lore, the Traveler, Yar's backstory, K'Ehleyr and now Minute make reappearances. For the most part, they've all been good as well. I'm going to give "Future Imperfect" a +1 bonus to my score for using a Season One character so well.


    "Hi dad" his son casually says, looking up from his trombone, after Riker had been lying in sick bay in a coma for ten days.

    And I thought my aging PC was slow... Funny how Riker thinks it's normal for a ship's supercomputer with critical tasks to fail at reliably processing voice commands and (quickly) pulling up some text and video files because part of it is offline. Not so much a plothole as lazy/convenient Trek writing, as the ship's computer is performing like an Intel 8086 in several episodes.

    The last thirty seconds kind of unraveled the whole thing. Something abducts Riker, demonstrates he technological and physiological know-how to immerse him in a complex double simulation, and shows the ability to probe some pretty deep memories. Then he does the third reveal to be this alien, and Riker takes it completely at face value...and BEAMS HIM ON BOARD THE ENTERPRISE!?!? What a complete lapse of judgment!

    This was a fun episode that hadn't seen since it first aired. But my god, that alien child is so cheesy. Did they bring back whoever did the sfx for season two for this episode?

    Also, I guess this ends the interesting streak of family-centric episodes.

    I always liked this one. Plus Riker told Picard to shut up!
    That's got to account for something.

    The most GLARING plot hole (in my opinion) was Worf still being just a helmsman after 16 years.

    Yes, someone else mentioned that many of the officers should have gone on to other things by now, but Worf's position was by far the most ridiculous, unbelievable part of this story.

    Really? SIXTEEN years of additional Starfleet duty and Worf is still just a helmsman? And Riker doesn't even have one single reaction to it except to pat his chair when he sees him for the first time? That should made him very suspicious right away.

    That was extremely lazy by the writers, as was the fact that they must have blew all their money on the futuristic Sick Bay set - so much so that they left the Enterprise bridge virtually unchanged with no advancements whatsoever.

    I get that it's all supposed to be a fantasy created for him - but if Riker's mind gave him a futuristic Sick Bay, why not the rest of the ship including his quarters?

    Was it really so hard to believe that Data could finally use the word "Can't" after sixteen years? (this was an idiotic idea from the start of the series - Data can use complex words in a poem about his cat, but is unable to use contractions??)

    Also, the fact that the boy called the Romulan "Ambassador Tomalak" was extremely trivial, and shouldn't have been the event that smashed the house of cards. For all Riker knew, Tomalak had the boy call him that all along in case they needed to use him later. Again, just trivial.

    I also liked how Riker saw Minuet perfectly a couple times in the video and had no reaction to it - but then the final time, he finally reacts to it..... And why the hell would it pick Minuet instead of Diana? Diana was actually real and IN HIS LIFE every single day. You would think she would have been much more prominent in his mind than a holodeck fantasy from years past....

    You'd think they'd send an away team down at the end to take advantage of the advanced alien technology the boy used the whole time. But don't get me started on new technology suddenly being Voyager returning home with transphasic torpedoes and armor hull plating, yet it's no where to be seen in Star Trek Nemesis. Lazy ass writers.....

    All in all it's still a fun episode to watch. However, when you watch these things over and over again, you can't help but notice all of the errors and inconsistencies.

    Lastly, this must have been a fun episode for Geordi. Levar Burton often said in interviews that it was a pain in the ass trying to walk around with the visor on, which he could barely see through. At least he got a break for a couple scenes.

    nteresting episode, but given part of it was 16yo in the future, the enterprise should have given a much larger retrofit.

    If I look at this timeline :

    NX-01 2151 till 2161 (DECOMMISIONED in 2161)
    NCC-1701 2245-2270
    NCC-1701 RETROFIT 2270-2285 (DESTROYED in 2285
    1701-A 2285-2293 (DECOMMISIONED in 2293)
    1701-B 2295-?? (unknown)
    1701-C ???-2344 (DESTROYED in 2344)
    1701-D 2363-2370
    1701-D RETTRROFIT 2370-2371 (DESTROYED in 2271)
    1701-E 2372-2376
    1701-E RETROFIT 2376-??? (decommisioned somewhere after 2379)
    1701-E (DECOMMISIONED, yet RECOMMITED AND RETROFITTED by admiral riker) 2395
    1701-F 2409-??? (star tre online)
    1701-J (around somewhere between 2500 and 2599)

    I derrive that the average ship has a lifespan of around 25 years, with at least 1 retrofit applied during it's lifetime.
    a retrofit may add 10-15 years of life into a ship, but no ship serves longer than 40 years.

    (given that it takes about 15 years to build a "king of the fleet"n ship (based upon how long they were building the enterprise-D)
    and some years of research likely will happen to design it, and to retrofit it, this means they pretty much just spit out a new model every 25 years, replacing the old model.

    Given the year this episode takes place (2366) this places capitain riker in 2382, by than she is quite old, nearing the end of her lifespan.
    For most enterprises a small refit would happen around 10-15 years after release, and after 25Y they would either recieve a LARGE retrofit or more likely be mothballed or destroyed.
    So while it is not unbelievable the enterprise-D would be still around, it should have recieved a retrofit, and it did not feel like it had recieved one properly.

    Also as others pointed out, careers are not static, having to many of the same people still on board, and many ranks frozen or hardly progressed in 16 years, thats really unlikely.
    If I derrive how long it takes to advance through the ranks

    Ensign -> junior luitenant 4-6 years
    junior luitenant -> luitenant 5-7 years
    luitenant -> luitenant commander 6-8 years
    luitenant commander -> commander 7-9 years..
    (it seems the rank of commander is a dead end, while a captain can serve as first officer, generally there are only as many caprains as ships, so only the most talented commanders get promoted)
    and thats where the problem lies, it's the flagship, it's commanders are likely the best in the fleet, so should all by now have a ship of their own.
    In general one can be of commander rank for 10-15 years before offered a command of your own, advancing in that rank seems to be more about what position you hold
    (2d in command is higher rank than tactical or enginering it seems and gives a better chance at advancing, and more seasoned commanders get these "higher postings")

    So data, worf, geordi, all should have ships of their own now, while beverly should most likely give lectures at the acedamy or lead some medical facility/science station.
    while a new crew should fill their position now, it's possible wesley would still be on board and given his experience and fast promotions would be a luitenant commander.
    but very few known faces other than than should be seen.

    Some Federation ships have very long lives since we still see Miranda and Excelsior Classes in DS9. Reminds me of the B-52 bomber.

    As you watch the episode you wonder how the reset is going to be applied. The initial idea of some retrovirus wiping out 16 years of memories is a tough one to figure out how the reset is coming.

    There are some interesting changes in the future Enterprise, but no big deal. I was wondering what the purpose of the slow computer was - but that turned out to be a nice clue.

    Then one thinks it's the Romulans who have an elaborate brain scan -- I thought this was too much for them to come up with but went with it. And then it turns out its an alien kid...Pretty disappointing ending for me as well as Riker's line about how the kid will always be Jean-Luc. Riker shouldn't have too much sympathy for this alien kid, even if it is a kid.

    Too much of a stretch for me for Riker to essentially be stranded on some kid's giant holodeck where the kid can pull off so much with his mind and transforming scenery and people etc. etc. But it was pretty cool when Riker finally figures it out after recognizing Minuet and then tells Picard and others to shut up.

    "Future Imperfect" gets a high 2 stars rating - the ending really messes up some decent stuff with Riker's shock at trying to regain 16 years of memories. I think this went on too long with different aspects of his life/career and trying to re-discover them -- should have gotten to the point sooner. There had to be a reset somehow and that's usually a letdown - it is here, bigtime for me.

    A relatively good episode ruined by a terrible ending. What were the writers thinking? It's almost as if they backed themselves into a corner and wriggled their out of it by coming up with a 'this will do' ending. I think I would have preferred a Romulan plot.


    I like the Romulan plot being a red herring, though. The ending may seem a little hokey, but this is really a piece about Riker appreciating his life and all the things he's accomplished, and hasn't accomplished, on his birthday. It's kind of a precursor to "All Good Things" because we get a glimpse of just a possible future, one that isn't certain. But it's also a future where Riker can't be completely happy, perhaps because it's too perfect (though perfection itself turns out to be its undoing).

    In the end, I think Riker was grateful for the experience, and at least appreciated that an alien life form wanted to make a friend by giving Riker a role as his father.

    "sir I can explain."
    "no you can't! don't even try!"

    I think that Riker biting Data's head off is what I'll always remember from this episode.

    I actually "enjoy the act of watching this episode" quite a bit, problems be damned. In fact, I don't care for people who compulsively bring up "plotholes" to take down an otherwise entertaining episode.

    But... let's be real, this is the exception.

    The idea that Riker would buy having a kid and getting promoted to Captain all on the very same ship is on its face hilarious.

    Secondly, the Romulan alliance is so completely unnecessary. It's only purpose seems to be to make Riker lose his mind.

    Thirdly, this idiotic alien, apparently needs to play a human boy that badly, that the illusion he creates is to fast-forward time to play that role? Of all the things?

    Think of what power this moronic little turd has. The simplest mind-rape would be to create the exact same Enterprise and play one of Riker's colleagues, like Data. Still tons of fun.

    Or if you wish, insist on playing the boy, but mind-rape Riker all the way to Risa, so that he isn't constantly running into colleagues and comparing his environs. He would eventually buy this "amnesia" diagnosis over time, a la Inner Light.

    Last but not least, how in the world did the alien come up with the idea that Minuet had to be dead? You literally pulled a character from Riker's memory - everyone else alive and well - and then killed her? Your own mom? Think about it. That is some serious cray-cray.

    So this is a Riker-centric, more likable version of what happens to Troi in "Violations," and the theme of the episode really turns into "damn, my son needs therapy." I wouldn't be surprised if the writers were aware of this, personally I think they had a little bit of a knack on incorporating contemporary social issues into the show.

    i agree with many of the plot holes, but my first reaction was, why didn't the alien just contact the Enterprise and have itself beamed up. If it was lonely, the Enterprise would have provided all the stimulation and companionship the alien would ever need. Why would the alien, obviously very sophisticated and intelligent, be satisfied with a life with only Riker?

    This has always been one of my favourite episodes! There's something touching at the end with the little insect boy. I always pictured as a kid the enemies that wiped out his race as being spider people! (But I'm a weird one)

    Anyway, it was neat seeing the cast as a bit older


    Phaedon wrote: "I don't care for people who compulsively bring up 'plotholes' to take down an otherwise entertaining episode"

    He then proceeds to compulsively bring up the episode's potholes in an attempt to take it down.

    This episode really shifts abruptly from greatness to silliness. I'd have preferred the Romulan story-line to have held true, with the second half told from the Romulan perspective, and devoted to watching the Romulans scrambling behind the scenes to keep up with Riker's attempts to outpace and outsmart their hologram.

    I enjoyed the last POW section of this episode much more than the rest. Wish they would have scaled back the fake program section and allowed more time for the POW part

    It was obvious from the beginning of him waking up that it wasn't real. But the expectation is that the Romulans are up to it. I was sitting waiting for the expected reveal that it's a holodeck. The fact it's an alien boy doing it all was a twist though.

    Can anyone remember the place they live/work in such tiny minute detail? Maybe the subconscious mind does, and a "neural probe" could pull out those details.

    That Spandex on his son, seems very 'revealing' Homer Simpson says about Bart being born, "It's a boy! And what a boy!!" (Doctor's reply: Mr. Simpson, that's the umbilical cord.")



    Just want to establish that, as a gay man, your perverted sexual commentary gives us all a bad rap.

    You make a LOT of disgusting comments about underaged boys.

    I hope your consistently repellent remarks are the result of trolling for attention (and not rooted in some deep-seeded nasty pathology).

    Either way, seek help.

    Yeah, that's pretty weird, JerJer. I never once noticed the supposed revealing spandex, nor do I wish to go back and investigate. I sure as hell noticed in both Transfigurations and Legacy, but not here.

    As to the episode, I've never been so bummed out by a Trek episode. It goes from a solid 9/10 episode to a highly conflicted 6 in no time flat. Everything before the twist was brilliant, especially Riker's rant on the bridge right before the somewhat disappointing reveal. Then when Inception started happening, I was fully checked out. Bleugh.

    Hello Gentle Sentients!

    Well, not saying I agree one way or the other, but I noticed. Perhaps it is the HD, which made quite a few things more obvious over the series.

    Now, I wouldn't have mentioned it myself, but I do recall thinking "what were they thinking with that outfit?".

    Regards... RT

    Sat, Oct 1, 2016, 4:38pm (UTC -6)
    The most GLARING plot hole (in my opinion) was Worf still being just a helmsman after 16 years.

    Yes, someone else mentioned that many of the officers should have gone on to other things by now, but Worf's position was by far the most ridiculous, unbelievable part of this story.

    Really? SIXTEEN years of additional Starfleet duty and Worf is still just a helmsman? And Riker doesn't even have one single reaction to it except to pat his chair when he sees him for the first time? That should made him very suspicious right away.

    He *wasn't* a helmsman. He was sitting at OPS, NOT Conn. In TNG, both Helm and Navigation (which were separate stations in TOS) are combined into Conn, which is the front station on the Starboard side. The station on the Port side is Ops. Worf was at Ops, meaning he had Data's former job. He was the Operations officer and the ship's second officer. This is corroborated by a look at the rank bars on his combadge. Two gold + one silver = Lieutenant Commander. (The fourth bar was black, which means "nothing". The Ferengi Ensign had one gold bar and 3 black ones for that reason. The total number of bars has to be four, so the black ones are the ones that make up the balance after you take into account the ones that are actually signifying a rank).

    Of course, it's still ridiculous that Worf's had only one promotion in 16 years and that he (and any of the rest of them) are still on the Enterprise. Galaxy-class starships, if well-maintained, are projected to have a 100+ year lifetime, but they certainly wouldn't have the same crew after a decade.

    The thing about Worf in this scene that is *actually* very suspicious is not what you (Smith) said, but was the way Worf was slumped in his chair, unspeaking, like a beaten, downtrodden version of himself. It was very eerie, very un-Klingon, and very unlike the Worf we knew. Any part of me, as a viewer, that had been buying into this scenario immediately stopped buying into it as soon as I saw him. I'm not sure if it was a conscious choice on the part of the director, or if Dorn just didn't quite fit in that chair. But if it was the former, then they were very unsubtly signalling to the audience "something is amiss here."

    "My name is Barash"

    A polished but still filler episode. I was not able to write this right after I saw the episode so this comment is sparse and unsatisfying to me to say the least. How can the boy be so powerful but not powerful enough to leave? why not just be honest with the away team?

    7/10 for the mystery

    The alien reveal, for all of the minute it's on screen, takes too much guff. Especially in a series full of goofiness like this.

    This felt a little tighter in the writing department. Intrigue and twists that don't insult your intelligence.

    Well, kinda silly (that ending line made me laugh, though), but passable.

    Many things don't bear closer inspection, but it's a fun outing: We get to see older Bev and Jean Luc, no-visor Geordi, etc.

    I suppose we're meant to learn a bit about Riker here, but I just couldn't pay that kind of attention to this ep.


    I quite like this one. Wouldn't have been a bad idea even on the basis of the first plot twist, but the second twist is very clever (albeit the details don't bear thinking about too much).

    Once again the away team beams down with the same thin clothing they wear in Forward Ten, and they only find out that the levels of toxicity in the atmosphere are acceptable after they get there.

    There's a really interesting scene in this one where Deanna asks Riker what he wished for - he hesitates and she whacks him on the arm, and after he replies the ensuing laughter is so natural that I suspect it's a blooper that they decided to keep in. I don't think the whack on the arm was scripted, I think she was irritated because he seemed to have forgotten a line! But it works really nicely. Frakes might even have ad-libbed that line.

    The ageing makeup works quite well. Subtle.

    Anyway - not one that bears close scrutiny but enjoyable.

    Guess I’m alone in liking the transformation of Jean-Lic to Barush.

    I was touched by handsome little Jean-Luc’s tragic story of losing his mother and growing up alone in a false paradise. I wanted to hug the kid - until he turned out to be a big-eyed freak, at which point I shrank back in horror and wanted nothing to do with him. I truly expected Riker to flinch and stammer amd rescind his offer. But clearly he’s a better person than I am.

    In an instant, I came face to face with how unfit I am to live in the 24th century. That made the whole episode worthwhile.

    I liked this one a lot, though it’s certainly far from perfect.

    Why would the alien create a story with such intrigue with the Romulans and such? Why not have Riker wake up on some small simple colony in a hospital? Though, to be fair, the boy said his scanners gave Riker what Riker wanted, so looks like the kid didn’t have full control of the fantasy.

    I agree with the above that a very subdued Worf crunched over ops is one of the biggest tells that this isn’t real.

    As for so many of the crew still being on the Enterprise 15 years later— that does seem extreme, but most of these people are there for at least 7 years. It may be quite different than the modern navies, but it is a starship ostensibly meant for deep space exploration. It has families and kids, and for many onboard, it likely goes nowhere near their planetary homes for ages. Plus, there would be a sizable number of people that were born and raised in space.

    I do agree the hostage Riker part should have gotten more time. Which is kind of odd considering IIRC they added the conversation between Riker and the kid in the turbo lift because the episode was running short.

    The 50s Borash was quite a jolt and damaged the episode a bit. Sure, he COULD look like that, but it’s still comical and makes me suspect they rummaged through the prop room because they didn’t want to invent a new alien for a one minute clip.

    ““Hi dad" his son casually says, looking up from his trombone, after Riker had been lying in sick bay in a coma for ten days.”

    True, but this odd behavior possibly qualifies as a hint that the kid is an alien playing human and hasn’t interacted with anyone real in a long time. It definitely gives you a “well, that was weird” feeling.

    This was very good during about 32 minutes, then it was ok during 8 minutes and then it was poor for a short time before ending silly.

    It is a pity becaues it started well. They seemd to have painted themseves into a corner than they smashed a hole in the wall to get out. In the recent "remember me" they was at the end of a corridore when they decided to make the hole in the wall. But still let Beverly leave it with dignity.

    13 years later in Enterprise season 3 "Twilight" they repeat this story beautifully and manages to get a reasonable, even beautiful, door in the corner where they gracefully leave.

    I do still give them credit for the first 32 minutes. Well done.

    I enjoy these silly little mystery episodes and I didn't mind how it unraveled. I actually really, really didn't like the idea that the Romulans were behind it because had that been the reality it should have precipitated war or an escalation that I don't think ever happens (I've never made it past the first few episodes of DS9)

    More like “Riker Imperfect”. Dude wakes up to find out he has a son, and the second scene with him is spent berating the kid for playing in the holodeck? Well at least they maintained continuity: once an ass, always an ass.

    I don't remember ever seeing this, so it was a fun little joyride while it lasted. It did get very silly very quickly at the very end, but what I thought was interesting -- and what the writers did very well -- was placing the viewer in Riker's position for the first half hour. Those 16 years were as "missing" for me as they were for Riker. Instead of the episode being from the POV of the members of the crew who were part of "our" continuity (like "our" crew in Yesterday's enterprise), we were in Riker's POV and we could share in his amnesia. That was cool. Obviously you expected that there would be a twist, but for about the first half hour it was still possible that Riker actually HAD ended up in the future and the episode would turn into him trying to find his way back.

    The main red herring for me was the scene where Riker takes Picard into the ready room. Riker leaves Data on the bridge with Tomalok, and the camera stays on Data and Tomalok even after Riker and Picard enter the ready room. That gave the impression that the "future Enterprise" was an objective reality of some sort, and not a figment of Riker's imagination or a recreation made specifically for Riker. Nice touch.

    I do like episodes where Riker is (1) disoriented and (2) loses his temper, and those both happened here. The bridge scene is totally epic. The trombone playing is also cool. Somehow reminded me of Clinton on Arsenio.

    I don't know why everyone's freaking out about Worf (and Crusher/Geordi) still being on the Enterprise. Remember that the Enterprise is the flagship so there are very few better commissions out there --- where would Worf had gone? Riker was surprised that Troi was OFF the Enterprise (hey, no Counselor Troi jokes!), which only happened on Ambassador Picard's request, so it seemed the default was to stay on the flagship. I mean, how long did the TOS crew all serve on that ship in-universe?

    Anyways, every major character has to have at least a few lines every episode -- that's how episodic TV worked back then -- so as the viewer I'm okay with Worf, Crusher, and Georgi still being on the ship because how else are the writers going to fit them all into the episode? Plus the ship can't look that different because of budget constraints. In other words, I'm surprised that those things raised so many suspicions.

    The one weird thing was that Riker referred to his son as "it" at one point. I had to rewind to make sure -- but he really does say, "Deanna, who's ITS mother?" WTF? Other weird thing is Troi and Crusher thinking it was a good idea to perhaps permanently traumatize the boy by having his amnesiac father walk in and not know who the hell he is, just for the chance of memory retrieval. And the kid barely even skipping a beat after having had his dad in a 10-day coma. Shouldn't he have some kind of guardian in his quarters, for heaven's sake? But even there, TNG often does stupid things like that without thinking twice.

    Bottom line, I liked how Riker solved the original mystery, and even the second mystery with the kid, even though the second mystery made the whole thing about outpost . But the less said about Barash, the better. Except its hands were really cool.

    2.5 to 3 stars would be about right.

    Let's redo that last paragraph...

    Bottom line, I liked how Riker solved the original mystery, and even the second mystery with the kid, even though the second mystery made the whole thing about Outpost 23 seem pretty pointless, since what does Barash the alien orphan have to gain by creating a whole subplot involving Romulans gaining access to Outpost 23? Wouldn't Barash have just wanted Riker's return to the future Enterprise to be stress-free so he could focus on quality time with his son? But the less said about Barash, the better. Except its hands were really cool.

    ... that's more like it.

    @ Silly

    So I just realized you wrote what I wrote, but yours was much more pithily and economically worded, and six months earlier. D'oh.

    @Ben D.

    I always heard the line as more of a three-word contraction: "Who's'is mother?"

    That's all if it:
    "Deeana...Who's his mother?"
    "... Min' was beautiful..."

    No way.
    Barash got very lucky there lol.

    She would say "Minuet" or something like "Minuet...we called her Min'". The episode would be over. She's supposed to be talking to someone who lost 16 years.

    Besides that, "Riker, Mrs Williams T" is a far cry from a 24th designation lol.

    And of course, Barash would've made Deeana his dead wife-- I mean come on! Lol

    But overall it's one of my fave episodes.

    How come nobody has noticed that Riker low key subconsciously doesn't respect Worf. Only one virtually lateral promotion to Ops in 16 years. How many years has he been sitting at that child's school desk? That's cold.

    Worf does look odd sitting at the Ops station, and I agree that it seemed a bit jarring. Chalk it up to Barush not knowing any better, or perhaps Worf screwing up and being demoted/held back (he came close in TNG several times, and after DS9's "Change of Heart" was basically told his career wouldn't advance any further). Maybe the battle where he got that scar was a royal cluster?

    An intriguing Outer Limits-style episode, at least for the first two thirds. Beautiful touches, e.g. subtle changes to the Enterprise, convincing ageing of the crew, even the uniforms and communicators were a bit different.

    When Riker’s dead wife was referred to as “Min”, the first note of intended suspicion happened: of course, “Minuet “! Confirmed a bit later. That was when we knew (though in the context of TNG, we had always known) that it was all an illusion.

    The last third was less good I think, apart from the second twist which definitely caught me out the first time I watched this episode. I was left with a question that was never answered: why did the lonely alien boy create the second illusion? There was nothing in it either for him or Riker. The episode needed a better ending to match the quality of the first two thirds.

    Yes, Riker telling “Admiral” Picard to shut up was definitely the high point!

    3 stars is fair, but with a better ending could have been 4.

    There are multiple comments here that ask "Who stays on one ship for 15 years?" that are a riot.

    Uhhhh... this crew does. As in that's exactly what they did!

    I'm also surprised at the "who stays on one ship for 15 years?" comments. This is Riker's fantasy and he probably imagines himself the captain of the Enterprise with its current crew mostly intact. It's unlikely he would imagine himself captaining a ship full of strangers (and probably can't imagine an updated Enterprise after a major overhaul). These are the people he knows and loves thus they would be in the forefront of his mind. If he really did become captain and 16 years had passed then probably most of the current crew would have moved on in various ways (promotion, death, desertion... okay kidding about the desertion part).

    I agree it was very good up until the end, then it was a let-down but also kind of touching if you think about this poor little alien who just felt lonely, rescued at last!

    This was an eminently enjoyable episode for me.

    I figured out quite early on that something was not right about the whole thing, right after they mentioned that the Romulan would be told the location of that fakakta outpost. It still made for a compelling viewing, wondering how it was going to turn out. The ending was indeed kinda naff but nothing that would knock more than at most 1/2 star off the perfect score.

    I just watched part of the Season 1 episode with the binars, which naturally reminded me of this one.

    For I think the first time, I found myself thinking of how Riker tells faux Tomalak that Minuet was a very "special" hologram, and how in a way, he could say this of his faux son Jean Luc. His affection for Barash springs from the relationship he briefly built with a human boy who never "really" existed, but his feelings for him were as real as his feelings for Minuet.

    Then there is Jean Luc/Barash's line about just wanting someone "real."

    The episode is about what is "real," and whether perhaps feelings might be more real than physical existence.

    I think this was also the first time it occurred to me that an alternate view of the rest of the series would be that it is all Riker's next illusion, created by whoever Barash "really REALLY" is.

    @ Trish,

    Given the series finale of ENT, that's not a particularly wild view...

    I must say, my eyebrow fell off when the whatcha call it, the plot twist is revealed. Did I say eyebrow, I meant monocle. Easy to get mixed up, what! And I must say, I would have been on the telephone to those chaps who take on aliens like those, you know, the ones with the big X, XCOM, that's the fellows. Give ol' Johnny Sectoid a bunch of fives for pulling a prank like that.

    It's the oldest trek trope -- from Corbomite Maneuver: behind the scary stuff is an endearing child seeking companionship.

    I agree with the comments about how it was stupid to have all the exact same crew members on the ship looking like they hadn't aged at all, and everyone wanting Riker to stay in command despite losing 16 years of memory, but I found a few either things to be more absurd. First, if this alien had this powerful neuroscanning technology, yeah he wouldn't have made such simple mistakes recreating everything, but moreover, if it was based on the away teams memories alone, how did it determine how everything on the ship was supposed to be? Even Geordi, Data, and Riker combined wouldn't have the entire ship layout and computer functions committed to memory like that. Maybe the kid scanned their database..etc. Then we have the Romulan base which really started to show something was off. The Romulans had already caught the kid when he came out of the hiding spot to find food, yet didn't think to look there a 2nd time? They Then start tugging on the metal grate but don't bother to open it and go in immediately? The Romulan so casually explaining to him how their capture was a simple matter, acting bewildered everytime Riker pointed out what idiots they were? Data doing the speed calculation at warp 1 whnlen responding to Rikers question was also weird. So this species has more advanced neurotechnology than star fleet, yet their top speed is warp 1? The whole Data not being able to use a contraction thing is lunacy. Finally, why didn't the alien kid just contact the ship and tell the truth? It was all unnecessary, such an advanced species wouldn't be kidnapping people just to play holodeck games like that (remember he wasn't really a kid, he just made himself look like that). This foiled the plot btw, the whole premise of his parents leaving him on the planet would only work if he was indeed a kid, but he wasn't. Further, it doesn't make sense that they would leave him like that anyway if they were so advanced. It was interesting but also a painfully slow plot with a kind of nonsensical basis.

    I just want to say THANK YOU to all those who have commented absolutely hilariously! Reading through these after watching this episode has made my evening. "It's gold, Jerry, gold!"

    I’ve always enjoyed this episode.
    To me, the finale of the story is Commander Riker meets Jimeny Cricket

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