Star Trek: The Next Generation

“A Matter of Time”

2.5 stars.

Air date: 11/18/1991
Written by Rick Berman
Directed by Paul Lynch

Review Text

A cheerful man named Professor Berlinghoff Rasmussen (Matt Frewer, of Max Headroom fame at the time) appears before the Enterprise in a small shuttlecraft and claims he is a historian from the 26th century ... and that he has traveled back to the 24th century to witness history — specifically today — as it unfolds. Meanwhile, the Enterprise rushes to help a planet in terrible danger from atmospheric dust caused from an asteroid impact. A nuclear winter may be imminent. They must figure out a way to save the planet and its population of millions from the environmental catastrophe.

"A Matter of Time" is a story that stares the notion of a time paradox in the face and hopes it blinks. The crew wants to know why Rasmussen has picked this day, of all days, to learn about the Enterprise and the 24th century. Rasmussen cites what is essentially the Temporal Prime Directive in explaining why he cannot drop any hints about what will happen or how the crew is involved in it. Could it possibly be tied to the planet facing the imminent catastrophe and the decisions Picard will have to make that could save or doom millions?

There's a scene midway through this episode between Picard and Rasmussen that is clearly meant as the centerpiece of the show, where Picard asks Rasmussen for help, and they argue over the ethics of Picard gaining access to information from the future if it means maybe saving millions of lives. It's one of those earnest Trekkian dialogue pieces that seems to be really striving to get somewhere thoughtful and interesting ... but it doesn't quite find its way to a point. Through all of Picard's pontificating and Rasmussen's evasions, they're ultimately just talking in circles and nothing is gained. Eventually I was waiting for crazed Doc Brown to show up, shouting, "It's your kids, Marty! Something's gotta be done about your kids!"

And if there's a bigger problem with "A Matter of Time," it's Rasmussen himself. It becomes difficult to stand the guy after a while, particularly once we know he's up to something fishy (we see him stealing components from various places on the ship). He's the sort of guy who finds an obnoxious and condescending way to make an allegedly wondrous 24th century historic moment all about ... himself. He claims to be a history buff, but he seems more like an overbearing kid trying to shoplift in a candy store while telling you how awesome you are. I tend to think a real observer from the 26th century wouldn't divulge the truth of his origins to those he's observing, and you'd think Picard would be more skeptical given that logical loophole. How does the saying go? You can't study something without inadvertently affecting its outcome. That goes double for time travel. Hell, just talking to Picard could cause the entire future to be erased (like it was/is/will be in Star Trek XI).

I guess we're supposed to find Rasmussen annoying, so we can enjoy the twist and his undoing; it turns out he's actually a con man from the 22nd century, who stole the time shuttle from a guy who was really from the 26th century and came to the 24th century to steal gadgets he could travel back in time to "invent." The scene where the crew confronts him over his thefts is kind of fun. (Data, making a matter-of-fact threat: "I suspect your hand will activate the panel that opens the door whether or not you are conscious.") But I must protest: If you cause a guy from the 22nd century to become trapped in the 24th century, haven't you just changed the past? Or was it always that way???

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129 comments on this post

    You can tell this part was originally written for Robin Williams. Frewer is a good actor, but he just doesn't have enough bazinga to carry the full hour.

    Just a little nitpick, but I think it's been well established by now that the future wasn't erased in XI.

    Rather the timelines branched off so that you have two separate universes. This is one of the common theories to explain how time travel might be possible without creating a paradox.

    This has nothing to do with the problems of this episode of course. I agree with everything you say. Just thought I'd correct the above misconception.

    I always thought this episode was under-rated. This is actually my favourite episode of season 5. I think it is much more clever than people give credit.

    First, I here alot of critiscm from the paradox pushers that be being so annoying and loud he was altering the past. I think one thing that never gets mentioned is the obvious fact that if the Enterprise and the Planet are utterly Annihilated!! Right! There is no future to change if no one that meets him is dead. That kept running through my head for the first 40 minutes of this ep when i first watched it. It never gets credit for that.

    Second, and following from the first, so what if he steal trinkets? It's not like he was sabotaging engineering. I would be a real historian would find his actions quite realistic, particularily, with the knowledge the Enterprise was in her final hours. I mean seriously, if any of us could Marty McFly back to the last supper of Jesus, we wouldn't try to take a plate or a fork he ate with????

    Lastly, I think there is an obsession with robin williams. Look, he is an annoying baffoon. I am so glad he didn't end up being here. If he was here you wouldn't be able to get "Mork on the Enterprise" out of your head the whole episode. Frewer does a fine job of dorky future/past scientist.

    If I Marty McFly-ed back to the Last Supper, I think it'd be his cup I'd have my eye on... ;-)

    Ick. This episode is emblematic of how TNG really had little left to say by this point. This episode is slow, empty and pointless. Picard's speech has none of the staying power of his season 1 speeches, which (though couched in bright, dated and often poorly executed episodes) meant something profound and worthwhile. Stewart as always gives an excellent delivery, but the content is just one big "?"

    1 star.


    Really, season one? I agree this episode goes nowhere. But, really? Season one??? The season that featured such unforgettable writing as Tasha's D.A.R.E. Speech? Ok...


    EAFP: "The same old story is the one we're meeting now-- self-righteous life-forms who are eager not to learn, but to prosecute to judge anything they don't understand or can't tolerate."

    Justice : Data: "Would you choose one life over one-thousand, sir?" Picard : "I refuse to let arithmetic decide questions like that."

    My personal favourite however is "Shut up Wesley!"

    @Elliott: with respect, none of those are "speeches". They are one-liners. Exclamations. He had some good speeches, but few if any in the first season.

    I liked this episode; with respect, I note the paradox in your reviews that if you like an episode you will forgive the conceits that you will pick on if you didn't like an episode. In that vein, I say that the whole temporal analysis may be a plot hole or a paradox or unlikely, but I accept that conceit given the plot. Besides, remember that this guy is not, in fact, from the 26th century. He’s just pretending. It doesn’t mean he will get everything right. He (I imagine) picked a random day to come to the 24th century.

    I think 2.5-3 stars is a fair rating for this one. As you say, ultimately there is no true moral debate here that goes anywhere, mainly because the Doc doesn’t actually have the answers. The episode becomes more about him than about the ‘nail biting’ problem the Enterprise faces. Probably because we all know that the planet won’t end up destroyed. That’s just not TNG. Because Picard must go without the Doc’s advice, there’s no moral issue because things work out anyway. Had the planet been destroyed or Picard chosen some negative path BECAUSE of the Doc’s refusal to help, there would be consequences, but ultimately it’s all for naught.

    Obviously his remaining in the Picard era did change the future, since the events in TOS episode Assignment: Earth never happened.

    Boy does this episode suck. The whole conversation with Picard about breaking the time line is totally out of character and the professor is really annoying, this and the wedding episode are the worst of season 5.

    It's too bad there wasn't a retroactive call-back to this episode in Star Trek: Enterprise what with Rasmussen being from the 22nd century. (They could work "The Pegasus" in, but not this episode?)

    Thankfully, ST:ENT stuck with the continuity from this episode in the sense that they didn't have surgical fields and phasers as mentioned by Worf and Crusher. Also in "The Outcast" it was mentioned that the Federation was founded in 2161. which they also kept for Enterprise.

    Every program has its filler episodes. This is just one of STTNG's. That is except for the fact that Picard ignored the Prime Directive again. Imo he should have ignored it in the episode in which the Crystalline Entity was destroyed. Ignoring it here reeked of unwarranted desperation. His reasoning about taking advantage of all the resources available, rang hollow, especially after Beverly was discouraged about asking if there was ever a cure found for a certain disease.

    Man, early season five kind of sucks -- "Darmok" is a classic and one of the series' best for me, and "Ensign Ro," "Redemption II" and "Unification I" and parts of "II" are quite good (to various degrees). But a lot of this does feel pretty meandering and lukewarm. Fortunately, the second half of the season, while actually much more variable -- "Cost of Living" and "Imaginary Friend" are worse than anything in the first half, I think -- also has so many more highs. I feel like I'm just waiting idly for whenever the sea change is, probably around "Conundrum."

    Ultimately, what brings the central philosophical Picard/Rasmussen discussion about temporal ethics down is that we know it's moot anyway -- or at least do on a repeat viewings. Rasmussen is not making an actual argument, or is not supposed to; the conviction in the scene only comes from Picard, and so the whole thing is mostly Picard yelling at himself. There could have been an opportunity to connect in his new knowledge of what happened in "Yesterday's Enterprise" (from Guinan/Sela) and its potential impact -- he actually *did* create an evil maniacal dictator with his choices, at least in the way Guinan framed it in "Redemption II."

    Anyway, this is a "comedy" episode so it should get a bit of a wide berth in terms of plausibility; still, the crew looks pretty foolish to go along with Rasmussen as quickly as they do. Rasmussen at least has some personality, but it's repetitive and grates after a fairly short period of time. The episode reminds me a little of Captain's Holiday, wherein the Vorgons claimed to be good time travelers but were actually evil time travelers; it works a little better here in that Rasmussen's coming from the past actually has set-up within the episode (the mystery makes sense in retrospect), so there's that. It's still a fairly weak show -- probably 2 stars or something like that.

    You know, one thing always bothered me about this episode (and so many other Trek eps) is how they just leave these threads so unresolved.
    What I mean is this- So they've sent the timeship back in time and stranded Rasmussen.
    Except that, according to dialogue in the ep, they don't have the ability to break into the ship. The ship will only open up with Rasmussen's handprint. The ship's location is also only known to Rasmussen; being sent back to that location would most likely make it seem like a big immovable rock to the people of that century.
    So all he has to do is just find his way back to New Jersey and get back in the timeship and he's back in business. And chances are, at some point he'll have access to a replicator and so be able to remake all things the Enterprise crew indignantly took back from him.

    @Daniel Davis

    If he can just get to a replicator and make all that stuff again, it really begs the question why he didn't simply do that in the first place. That's the biggest problem with this episode for me. If the guy was only interested in acquiring technological trinkets so he could take them back to the 22nd century and 'invent' them, why did he try to pull an elaborate scam on the elite crew of a highly secure starfleet ship, when he could just go to Earth and pick up that stuff for free and nobody would even care?

    I like this episode a lot and thought Rasmussen was hilarious in an annoying-kind-of-way. I think Robin Williams would have overacted it too much, though it'd be cool to see him on TNG. Lines like "La Forge remained below..." and "Buck up, crewman. You'll be telling your grandchildren you were at Penthara IV", and the way he says he's from New Jersey, always get a laugh out of me. That he's making this fairly routine Star Trek mission out to be some universe-changing epic cracks me up too.

    It's not one of my favorite episodes, but it's one I bring up a lot if me and friends are watching random Trek episodes on a drinking night and want something light and funny.

    Comsidering its the importance of the concept for Star Trek, it's really annoying how the meaning of the Prime Directive is constantly changed from episode to episode to whatever the plot demands. Here, it is referenced regarding the Enterprise' changing the planet's environment.

    So what does the PD actually forbid Starfleet from doing? Interfering in the cultural development of pre-Warp civilizations? Interfering in the internal affairs of any civilization? Interfering in the natural development of other planets? They really should settle on one definition.

    Also, Matt Frewer does a fairly good job at making Rasmussen one of the most annoying Star Trek characters - he easily tops every Ferengi. I am so glad that they didn't get Robin Williams for the part, because then I probably could not have sat through the whole episode.

    Since this is essentially a comedy episode (though the humor here is more likely to make you grind your teeth than laugh), you have to expect the idiot ball to be passed around the bridge. Still, I was surprised how incompetent everybody acted. It has been well established in episodes such as "The Neutral Zone" and "Half a Life" that on the Enterprise, basically everyone can just stroll onto the bridge. But here, Picard even orders his senior officers to give their valuable time and possibly sensitive information to some guy whose whole story hinges on the fact that he owns a ship which is made from materials unknown to Federation scientists. I would really like to know what kind of "credentials" he had with him and which, according to Picard, were "in order". Probably a hand-written note on a greasy napkin, saying: "The bearer of this document is a history professor from the 26th century. Please give him every information he requires." If Picard would have had any sense, he would have ordered a security team to watch Rasmussen at all times, restricted his access to sensitive areas and asked Starfleet Command for orders on what to do with him. I also highly doubt Dr. Crusher's judgment considering how easily she is wood by this sleezeball (again: Pulaski would never have been so easily impressed!), and why the hell did Worf not punch him in the face when he insulted him in front of his fellow officers? The biggest idiot though is Rasmussen himself: Everything he got from the Enterprise, he could easily have acquired on Earth without any risk of being exposed. Need a tricorder? Just steal one from a doctor's practice. Want information about the advancements of starship technology during the 22nd to 24th century? You'll probably find this in any public library on Earth.

    There still was one loose plot thread which I found interesting: Rasmussen knew quite a lot about the Enterprise's senior officers, which seemed to validate his claim about being from the future at first. That he couldn't know these things coming from the 22nd century is never brought up again after his fraud has been exposed. I suppose that this is not his first trip to another time, so he probably has been to some point in the future. But unless he gained access to old Starfleet personell files on one of those trips, I think it could be assumed that the Enterprise-D and her current crew are indeed covered detail in history books sometime in the future. Strange that a history buff like Picard didn't notice that. But on the other hand, he wanted to destroy the 21st century ship in "The Neutral Zone" and didn't have the slightest interest in what its revived passengers had to say about life in their era, so his historical interest seems to be very specialized - if it's not British military history or obscure alien archeology, it is not worhth of the Captain's attention.

    CPUFP: "Everything he got from the Enterprise, he could easily have acquired on Earth without any risk of being exposed."

    Whoops! That is indeed a plot hole, though of the "then there'd be no story" variety, which is usually excusable. Plus the fact that nobody noticed the problem for more than 20 years...


    "Plus the fact that nobody noticed the problem for more than 20 years..."

    Credit where credit is due: Psteve already pointed this out in his comment on this very site. I only added the bit about the uselessness of the questionnaires: All the information he would have gotten from them should be publicly available anywhere within the Federation, especially on Earth. As it were, the questionnaires only served to annoy the hell out of the senior officers - which seemed to be a major goal of Rasmussen anyway.

    Oh, and let me nitpick one more thing while we're at it: I understand that Picard sends his first officer, chief of security, chief of engineering, chief of medical and head of science on dangerous away missions, because otherwise there'd be no story. But do these people really need to spend hours on a questionnaire about technical and scientific advancements of the past 200 years? Don't they have somebody with a lower rank and less important tasks on their hand to do this for them? Couldn't they just tell the main computer to answer Rasmussen's questions, and let him have a nice conversation with Majel Barrett?

    The more I think about this episode, the less sense it makes. And unlike other plot hole ridden episodes such as "Identity Crisis", this one really doesn't have much to redeem itself.

    This episode is still keeping my mind occupied, so it cannot have been all bad.

    Some more thoughts:

    1) What would Rasmussen have done if Worf hadn't noticed the "temporal distortion" (whatever that may be) and Picard hadn't decided to turn the ship around to look at Rasmussen's shuttle? After all, they were in a hurry to get to their rescue mission. He seemed pretty determined to get to the Enterprise specifically (he had done research on its senior officers), so why didn't he follow the ship or materialize closer to it?

    2) Rasmussen had only a basic grasp of how the time machine worked. He said how long it took him to figure the device out, and he wasn't able to change the auto-timer setting. My theory is that "that poor fellow", the original historian from the future, had already planned his trips to various points in time and had programmed the machine accordingly. He indeed wanted to visit the Enterprise on this specific day, and leave after having witnessed their rescue mission on Penthara IV. Maybe he had done the research on the Enterprise and its crew and left his findings in the time shuttle's computer, which is why Rasmussen knew about these things.

    This theory has the merit of explaining why Rasmussen ends up on the Enterprise, and not on Earth or anywhere else. I guess if the real historian would have come, he would probably have been smarter than to tell everyone that he is from the future. Maybe he would have pretended to be an alien from the gamma quadrant or something like that, so that the strange construction of his ship wouldn't have tipped everybody off.

    Another merit of this theory: After Rasmussen is exposed as a con man, the whole proto-"temporal prime directive" dialog in Picard's ready room seems pointless, since Rasmussen had no knowledge about the future to share in the first place. But if Rasmussen had read the historian's notes about the Penthara IV mission and the Enterprise's role in it, then he would have known the outcome of the mission. This would mean that the dialogue in Picard's ready room is not as pointless as it seemed after Rasmussen had been exposed as a con man. It would mean that he did in fact have knowledge about the future which he didn't want to give Picard, and that maybe he really was sincerely worried about influencing history.

    I'll stick with this theory, because it makes the episode a little more bearable. :)

    3) In spite of how irritated I was by Frewer, his performance in the last scene was actually quite good. Rasmussen seemed genuinely desparate when he saw the time shuttle disappearing and he realized that he would now be trapped in this point in time, 200 years after his old life and with all his friends and family long dead.

    But don't be sad, Rasmussen. You're on the Enterprise now - I can guarantee you that in a few months, they will encounter a "temporal vortex" or some other space-time-plot-device which can bring you back home (or you just wait until the next time they meet Q, it usually happens once a year).

    4) This episode could have been vastly improved if it had built on Picard's established interest in history. The reveal could have happened after the first half, and then Picard would have turned the tables: Suddenly Rasmussen would have found himself as the object of historical study, while Picard could act as researcher and question Rasmussen for information about life in the 22nd century. Think about it: If you had an interest in history, wouldn't you be psyched to get the chance to actually talk to a person from a bygone era? Well, as "The Neutral Zone" told us, Picard couldn't care less about oral history (Why should I listen to these stupid past people with their outdated belief systems? It's not like I'm on a mission of understanding and communicating with different cultures...), but maybe Data could fill that role. Maybe get some guest star to play the Federation's chief expert on 22nd century history, who comes around to interview Rasmussen. Imagine: Instead of a cringe comedy about covering up the plans of a time-travelling con man, we could have had an exploration of the experiences and ideas of a person from the past, how they relate to people from the 24th century and how they could understand one another. Wouldn't that be much more in the spirit of Star Trek?

    5) If I remember correctly, Rasmussen claims to be an expert on 22nd to 24th interstellar history, which nobody on the bridge finds strange. This is probably just a case of artistic license, but how exactly does the study of history work in the Star Trek universe? How can you cover such a gigantic field of research? The same goes for Picard's archeology studies from other episodes, which seem to cover the ancient cultures of at least ten different planets all over the galaxy. I guess that by the 24th century the study of history has become so complicated that instead of the meticulous analysis of tiny details which is expected from today's historians, they have resorted to "broad strokes" historiography in the style of the 19th century.

    1) It should have been obvious from the start that Rasmussen had come from the past and not from the future. His clothes had pockets! :)

    I don't like this episode 1-1/2 stars. I didn't know, until I read the comments, that Robin Williams was the first choice to play the professor. While on the surface it seemed like it might be a disaster, Robin Williams had very good range, look at one hour photo and some other serious roles where he played criminals or other types of marginalized people.
    I don't blame Matt Frewer for this episode, just bad writing plain and simple (also great range love him in the Knick). At no point does it feel true. The one shining spot is the confrontation with Data in the time probe.

    "If you cause a guy from the 22nd century to become trapped in the 24th century, haven't you just changed the past?"

    I could honestly not say anything else about this dud of an episode. But, of course, I will.

    Oh my God! For a franchise full of characters that literally freak out if a single blade of grass is put out of place during a time-travel adventure, that ending was HORRIBLE! It's especially grating when mere moments before the time pod disappears, Picard stands there and smugly condemns Rasmussen for attempting to change the past. Then he goes ahead and does so himself! Because, you know, it's okay when the good guys do it. But hey, at least all of our "heroes" got to stand around and act like arrogant, smug douchebags.

    Add to that the fact that Rasmussen is so freaking annoying (was this actually "supposed" to be funny?) that it hurts. Was the whole point of making him this obnoxious so that the audience would cheer at his comeuppance at the end and just forget about how Picard and company massively altered the timeline for no reason at all? I'm not criticizing Matt Frewer here because it's a problem with the character and the writing, not the acting. I doubt that Robin Williams would have been able to do any better.

    The only half-way decent part of "A Matter of Time" is the B-plot involving the crisis on the asteroid impacted planet. But even that is just ho-hum. It's greatest strength is that it isn't annoying as fuck like the A-plot and doesn't insult my intelligence at its conclusion.

    There is at least an attempt at a good scene in the confrontation between Picard and Rasmussen over the ethics of keeping silent while millions might die. But it's torpedoed by the fact that Picard, who says "how can you be comfortable watching people die?," is guilty of doing that exact thing! He was willing to let Sarjenka's people die until Data essentially forced his hand back in "Pen Pals." And, a little over two years from now, he'll literally stand on the bridge and watch while not only millions of people but AN ENTIRE CIVILIZATION dies in "Homeward." I agree completely with the sentiment. How can a moral person honestly stand by and watch others die? But coming from Picard's mouth, it really rings hollow. But then, maybe this is just my problems with the Prime Directive surfacing again.


    Daniel Davis: "So all he has to do is just find his way back to New Jersey and get back in the timeship and he's back in business. And chances are, at some point he'll have access to a replicator and so be able to remake all things the Enterprise crew indignantly took back from him."

    Actually, unless I blinked and missed it, I don't think they *did* take the objects back (other than the phaser). After Rassmusen and Data exit the pod, Data does say to Picard, "I believe you will find all of the missing items in the vessel, sir." However, no one is shown entering the vessel. It is possible that someone (perhaps Worf) went inside and emerged offscreen, but when the camera cuts back to the whole group as the pod disappears, the objects are nowhere in sight. I don't see anywhere an entire tray full of stolen items could have been stashed, especially in a century without pockets. :p

    So if I'm correct, Rassmusen did successfully steal the technology (albeit deactivated technology). He just has to get back to New Jersey to retrieve it.

    If I remember correctly there is a quick shot of Worf carrying the rest of the items out of the time pod.

    Rasmussen is indeed a highly annoying character, and the crew's willingness to go along with him seems mildly misplaced from the start. That's not to say there aren't some good scenes - Picard arguing the philosophical position is clearly intended to be the big set piece and pretty much achieves it. There are some nice beats too - Crusher's avoidance of Rasmussen's advances, and Data's interest in his own future among them. The twist of Rasmussen's true origin is also nicely handled.

    But overall it doesn't seem to go anywhere, and as with almost any time travel episode the more you think about it the less it seems to make sense. Quite what they would have made of a 26th century time pod in 22nd century New Jersey we do not know, but one would have thought it would have made a bit of a stir when it turned up...

    And I couldn't help thinking that "Data on Penthara IV" sounded like something out of Darmok... 2 stars.

    Really, no fans of this episode?

    I like this episode because presents an interesting dilemma for the crew: if they could find out anything about the future, what would they ask, and would it be right to do so?

    Obviously Rasmussen doesn't have a whole-hearted argument as to why he can't discuss the future, but he does put up a pretty good show, playing on the overly-big hearts of the Enterprise crew. I do wonder what sort of "credentials" he passed to Picard to convince Picard to give him free reign about the ship, but considering the amount of temporal anomalies the crew faces weekly, this sort of traveler wouldn't be completely out of the question.

    As for Picard's speech, I think it works. Sometimes we're faced with very difficult choices, and during those times people make are willing to try incredible things to get the right answer. The speech also succeeds in putting Rasmussen in a corner as his lies start to become transparent. It seems obvious that Picard doubted Rasmussen before talking to him, but the discussion made him realize the futility in second-guessing his own instincts.

    4 Jammer stars from me.

    I actually enjoyed the episode. I think Williams would have done just as well, but Frewer is very capable. Yes, Rasmussen should have been watched. I can't argue that. However, this stuff about him getting stuff from Earth is not relevant. the essence of Rasmussen was laziness. He stole the guy's ship and probably killed him. He used the ship to create "inventions" rather than working on them himself. Why would he go to Earth when he could do a shop-all in one place? However, the guy had to be bright because he had to look up the info before going to the future and figure out how to deal with the people. Ultimately, his laziness was his undoing, but I thought it was a good episode and, like someone said, it was very satisfying to see him get his comeuppance at the end.

    Can I ask where the Robin Williams meme comes from? Is it just the first commenter's suggestion to such? I don't see it, not in the least.

    I have always liked Frewer, although was not a Max Headroom fan although it was geared at my demographic. He was good enough for Monty Python, that's a hell of an endorsement. Take a look at Frewer's IMDb page, he's no slouch.

    I do agree that it felt like Doc Brown. Having just rewatched BTTF last night, I think both could have been interchangeable at that time, but now all I see is Uncle Fester in Christopher Lloyd.


    From Memory Alpha:

    "The character of Berlingoff Rasmussen was originally written for Star Trek fan Robin Williams, who opted out in order to play Peter Pan in the movie Hook. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)"

    I agree though, Frewer did a fine job, and had I never read these comments I would never have thought he wasn't the perfect Rasmussen.

    Considering he was from the 22nd Century, I'm surprised the writers of Enterprise didn't make a prequel out of this episode.

    "If you cause a guy from the 22nd century to become trapped in the 24th century, haven't you just changed the past?" Nah, traveling to the future is simple enough with 22nd-century technology—cryonic sleep (Space Seed, The Neutral Zone) will get you there, or time dilation by traveling at high impulse. It's traveling back to the *past* that causes problems.

    (Aside: I would love to see a Star Trek-like series that respected the laws of physics: you can travel at warp-like speeds, but when you get there, hundreds of years have passed. All sorts of interesting implications.)

    "If you cause a guy from the 22nd century to become trapped in the 24th century, haven't you just changed the past?"

    No, the past was already changed (or the timelines branched) by the original time traveler's contact with Rasmussen. I reckon Picard & co.'s act minimized the interference.

    in the beginning he says went back in time 300 years from 26 centenary. so that would be 25 centenary then? don't know why didn't say something till the end where say welcome to 24th centenary.


    He says "the late 26th century" and "nearly 300 years". This episode occurs in 2368 amd Rasmussen claims to be from 2599? So, sure, it was only around 230 years and his statement was a bit of a stretch, but then just about everything Rasmussen says is a bit of a stretch. I'm pretty sure the audience is supposed to catch on quickly that Rasmussen is a flim-flam man, but the drama is how the Enterprise crew handles him. Riker, for example, is skeptical from the very start, but Crusher is more willing to hear the man out.

    Rasmussen just isn't a believable character. As any fule kno, if you want to enrich yourself by stealing from the future, you need to find a bookshop that sells the Grays Sports Almanac.

    I think the most important question is... where is the toilet on that guy's tiny ship?!

    I always liked this episode but on rewatch it really annoyed me how the crew humors the professor who is so obviously a flim flam artist. I mean even if he were genuine, what gives him the right to waltz around the bridge like he owns the place? The guy was insufferable and it was impossible to believe the crew would be so accomodating.

    Picard's speech was laughable given that he strenuously argued to allow entire civilizations die (on more than one occasion) rather than violate the prime directive, but now suddenly he is going to the wall for this one little colony? Pffff.

    And by the way, another con artist impervious to Troi's empathic powers? Was his mind too "focused" for her to read? And where was Guinan? Naturally the one person who would have seen through this guy instantly was nowhere to be seen!

    @Jason R.

    Fair points all around, I think I give those things a pass because the actors mostly play this one for comedy (Geordi's line about poker got a chuckle out of me).

    Though you're off on one thing; Troi knew Rasmussen was hiding something big and she was very cold to him the whole episode. It was Crusher's defense of him that made Picard pass over Troi's objections.

    Chrome all Troi knew about him (that she stated) was that she didn't trust him. Well Duh. She doesn't trust the obvious flim flam man? Well I'll at least give her credit - that was greater insight than she had for Ardra, the woman claiming to be *the devil* in Devil's Due.

    As always, her empathic abilities were utterly useless at divining anything but the most obvious points. Outside of, say, Skin of Evil and maybe one or two episodes, did Troi's empathic powers accomplish the slightest thing in 7 seasons?

    Can you imagine if the writers had actually talen Troi's abilities seriously?

    @Jason R.

    Of course the writers very often use Troi to underline an obvious story point like "He seems very sure of himself" or other nonsense. But, there are the occasional gems like "A Matter of Perspective", "Face of the Enemy", "Samaritan Snare", "Where Silence Has Lease", "The Price" and heck even "The Best of Both Worlds" to some extent.

    I'm no writer, but I think it might be difficult to write about the difficulties of meeting an unknown person if you already have a character who can immediately tell you what the deal is with the unknown. I'm sure that's why Troi is only *half-Betazoid* to begin with. Just look at how crazy the episodes get when Luxanna starts narrating every little thought people have.

    It might be a fun experiment to see just which episodes Troi is helpful in, and then count how many of those episodes Troi's advice was straight up ignored by the senior staff. I'm wagering she's right up there with Worf in the latter regard.

    It was bad enough already, but when her powers would have come in useful but interfered with the story the writers wanted to tell, she was either not on the bridge, or some sort of issue stopped her telepathy. So they just cheated whenever necessary. Blatantly. They really shouldn't have bothered adding her character at all.

    And you're right on Worf. His advice was always ignored, and often stupidly. "Captain, going into this nebula is extremely dangerous for little gain. " "We are explorer's Mr Worf. Shut it."

    Another fun Troi game is to count up how many episodes she's enjoyable as a character. "Hollow Pursuits" is the only one that comes to mind.

    And then subtract a half-point for every episode in which her only contributions are stupid-obvious: "I feel pain!" "I sense dishonesty," "Commander Riker's memories are now erotic" , etc.

    Subtract a full point for every episode in which she stars as an annoying emoto-chick: this includes at least three boyfriend-centered episodes and the "I lost my powers, woe is me" episode and the Ferengi kidnapping episode. And didn't she also get violated by the mind-rapist alien?

    Minus ten points for teaching us how to massage, tongue, and caress a bowl of chocolate ice cream in "The Game".

    What's hilarious is that the only times Troi is bearable is when she's possessed by an alien or forced to pretend she is one. If she had any insight into her own wasted life (and if she had the requisite courage), she should have moved to Romulus permanently as a Tal Shiar mole. It would have helped her grow as a person.

    It occurred to me that having a full telepath like Lwaxana on board would have been equally useless. Her entire power set consisted of knowing who wanted to have sex with her and how - that was the full extent of her telepathic ability. Don't get me wrong - uncovering Picard's hidden lust was at least as impressive a feat as anything Tam did in Tin Man. Just slightly limited in its overall practical application to shipboard operations.

    As an aside it is of interest to me what Rodenberry's original intention might have been for the Troi character. I know part of her reason for being there was prurient given her outfit in season 1. Yet there is no doubt she was placed to the Captain's right and from her centrality in many of the earlier stories you get a sense that she was intended to play a very central role and wasn't just put there for sex appeal. Yes her contributions are inane, yet the gravitas accorded her, particularly in season one, suggests that something far more substantive was intended. So it begs the question: what happened? Was it just a failure in the writing? Could no one imagine a use for an empath on a starship? Was this just another example like the Ferengi of the writing and acting just falling on its face?

    Jason, now you've got me trying to re-imagine a Troi that's empathic but interesting.

    All I can come up with is someone like the male guest star in "The Price" - a hard-edged character who enjoys her powers and doesn't pussyfoot about their importance. Empathic skills make her a good counselor for troubled crew members - but when the Enterprise goes up against outsiders in games of brinksmanship or diplomacy, she is devious and brilliant and Picard relies on her.

    She might have been fun as a slightly manipulative character. Not evil, exactly, but not above using her natural-born assets - all of them - to get what she wants.

    The mistake was in making her one hundred percent saccharine and an unrelenting collection of sweetly feminine stereotypes: not just easy on the eyes, but all about the feeeelings and otherwise a blank slate with no interests but chocolate and love affairs. (Her only tempering trait is the childish petulance she shows with her mother... another sadly trite 'quirk' that does nothing for the character and speaks poorly of the writers.)

    Tara we can only imagine what might have been had they written better stories for her. A little less mewling psychobabble and more hard edged psi cop might have done wonders. The irony as you alluded to was that Sirtis actually had it in her to play that kind of role! We saw hints of it when Troi was possessed by aliens (on two occasions I think) and played a Romulan agent. She was even goid as the voice of the Demona character in the Gargoyles tv show, a morally ambiguous sometimes vilainous character (as the name implies). Sirtis can't be blamed for this.

    My personal view is this somehow comes back to Rodenberry. I cannot remember where I read this, but I recall someone suggesting that he had a fetish for psychotherapy and this may explain the prominence of Troi's character and why she was featured so prominently in earlier episodes. Yet I can imagine his utopian vision of the future short-circuiting any impulse to explore the darker aspects of her powers. This basically forced the writing to wallow in sacharrine mediocrity and neutralizing her as a meaningful character. If you are not going to use her empathic powers for anything dark (which covers almost any use against even aliens, let alone the crew) what else is left but "I feeeeeel PAAAIN!". It may also be why Lwaxana was always played as a joke - any serious examination of her telepathic powers would force us to confront questions of personal privacy, violation and other things at odds with Rodenberry's idealized, sterile view of the Federation and its people.

    Jason R.
    Tue, Feb 21, 2017, 5:53pm
    Picard's speech was laughable given that he strenuously argued to allow entire civilizations die (on more than one occasion) rather than violate the prime directive, but now suddenly he is going to the wall for this one little colony?

    Totally agree

    This episode fails on so many levels. 1 star

    To be fair, Picard has also ignored the Prime Directive on more than one occasion (See "Justice", "Pen Pals", "The High Ground", "First Contact") because he had to or he thought it was the right thing to do. Indeed, he gets chewed out in "The Drumhead" for doing it so often. So, it's not like he's being hypocritical in his speech to Rasmussen here.

    This episode has a great premise: a historian from the future visits the Enterprise on the eve of a pivotal moment and on the eve of its captain making a pivotal decision which might result in million's dying. The historian knows the outcome of this decision, but refuses to help the captain. This is all excellent. Throw in a great philosophical rant by Picard, cool scenes in which Data listens to 4 classical songs simultaneously, and "Matter of Time" looks set to be a classic Trek episode.

    Unfortunately the episode gets too clever for its own good, and totally collapses in its final act. Picard makes the right decision, technobabble is used to goofily save a planet's atmosphere, and the historian is revealed to be a conman and theif from the past.

    This episode would have been saved by the historian being a genuine historian and Picard's decision perhaps being a monumental failure. Then Picard berates the historian for his complicity in these deaths. It's a frustrating episode, because you see glimpses of greatness here and there.

    I agree there's a lot of flaws in the episode, but I still enjoy it. Nevertheless, I do think it was incredibly irresponsible of the crew to just let the time ship go back to Jersey all by itself. Data knew it was about to leave and could have stayed with it to figure out how to use it and bring it back. As it is, I picture it reappearing in Rasmussen's garage and quickly becoming a curiosity that gets snatched by the authorities. In 200 years someone could've figured out how to get into the thing. Aside from that, wouldn't someone like Captain Braxton from Voyager come looking for it after its first captain failed to return? Maybe they were a bit more relaxed about their time travel in the 26th century.

    The only thing I got from this was the question, which woman would I hit on, Beverly, or Troi?

    He made his play for Beverly, and got shot down. At least the Texan druggie, one of three the Enterprise found in stasis, got to pat her on the butt. She was much obliged.

    This episode reminded me of an older Bill or Ted, of the Excellent Adventure fame, who instead of going into the past to collect historical figures, went in the future to collect futuristic artifacts. He got busted by the royal ugly dude, Picard.

    Got to ask how a now unmanned 26th century pod full of 24th gadgets crashing in 22nd century New Jersey will influence the future. Oh well, the episode was decent.

    @ Peter Swinkels:

    I don't think they'd be able to open the door, would they? It's been a while but I don't think the pod had a normal door.

    @Del_Deuio and Peter Swinkels

    They need Rasmussen's handprint to enter the time pod. If the Enterprise D couldn't enter it without him, you'd think it would be even more difficult for people of the 22nd century.

    re: "Picard's speech has none of the staying power of his season 1 speeches, which (though couched in bright, dated and often poorly executed episodes) meant something profound and worthwhile"

    Well, Picard is desperation, and he's wrong; kind of. If Rasmussen literally were from the future, his argument would have made more sense than Picard's: that from his point of view, all of this stuff *already happened* and he wants to see it, not alter it, and that "saving lives" means nothing to him because everyone there died hundreds of years before he was born.

    The episode would have been a lot stronger had he been sent back to his own time rather than trapped out of time, which was a huge case of the punishment being far worse than the crime.

    @ Sarjenka's Little Brother

    Man, you're just so right. Matt Frewer=annoying!!!! Can't tolerate this episode.

    The only thing that (((maybe))) could have saved this is if Matt Frewer had gotten vaporized by a phasor or eaten by an alien at the end.

    It was hard to tolerate Prof. Rasmussen as his schtick quickly became irritating but the ending is a good twist and one that should sit well with the viewer as Rasmussen is exposed for the con job he is. I won't bother considering any timeline violations as obviously there are some but this episode prefers to just make the point that they can occur. So Rasmussen from the 22nd century gets stuck in the 24th century but I guess it doesn't affect anything big picture.

    Clearly the best part of the episode is Picard asking for a hint about the future when having to make a very difficult decision -- can't blame Picard for doing this and Rasmussen is actually convincing here in how he plays it. He doesn't give Picard a hint because he actually doesn't know -- but I don't think Picard's suspicions about his fraudulent nature are yet aroused. Even though nothing is resolved it was good to see Picard in a quandary and Rasmussen spew some BS to keep his act intact.

    We also get to understand Picard is a risk taker -- he admits to disregarding the PD before. Having the right to choose is precious and Picard chooses to try. The technique to attract away all the atmospheric dust via the Enterprise and send it off into space is definitely far-fetched for me -- but the point is the gamble works within the paradigm of Trek.

    What bothers me is how the crew complies with Rasmussen right off the bat. Apparently they did some background checking too and have no issues answering his questionnaire although Troi clearly didn't trust him. At some point the Enterprise crew were lulling Rasmussen into a false sense of security so as to nab him -- who knows when they noticed the thefts.

    The final scene with Data and Rasmussen was good -- liked that the fake prof got put in his place/arrested -- although the time ship from Captain Archer's era is an interesting technology...

    2.5 stars for "A Matter of Time" -- one of those building mystery episodes with a reasonable payoff but a bit irritating for long stretches because of the acting of Matt Frewer (Rasmussen's character). At least I wasn't 100% sure he was shady until he started stealing stuff. Tying Rasmussen's appearance to the issues on the planet made one think the 2 are related somehow which added more tension to the episode. Nice also to see Picard in a good pickle.

    Ah yep-the unbelievably irritating guest star ruining an already dodgy episode.
    Not quite as infuriating as the appallingly dreadful turn given by Saul Rubineck in The Most Toys but well on the way.
    A contemptible pile of reeking pooh and no mistake.

    What a disappointing and insulting reveal. Does there always have to be a villain, or can we just have some intriguing sci-fi? What is this, "Columbo"?!

    Reading through the comments, nobody mentioned the STUPIDITY of the "science" plot. WTF was that at the end, they shoot their phaser, the planet turns all red, then blue, then a beam of dust and crap flies up and engulfs the ship, which they just in turn blast off into space. Just WTF was all thath? And the planet magically returns to perfect. UGH!

    And the time-travel thing...that was just getting stupider and stupider. The guy could figure out the time machine in a few weeks? How? How did he even get into it in the first place, if entry is encoded to only 1 handprint? It should have been encoded to the original guy's hand.

    The actor was annoying, the story was dumb. He seemed to know his way around the ship well; he knew exactly where the sink was and to press a button to open the top...why didn't he just download stuff from the computer? Why not get the tech like a tricorder from anywhere like Earth? Maybe he popped up in front of the Enterprise because it was pre-recorded--he wouldn't know how to do anything himself.

    The episode was fun when I was like 14 years old; now it stinks.

    Wow, a couple minutes of imagination could answer all your nitpicking. I’m glad the writers didn’t waste time trying to explain those questions since there’s never going to be a satisfactory answer to how time travel works anyway.

    One thing that bugs me is when Rasmusen beams over, he immediately offers Picard his hand to shake. I can't believe Worf just stands there and let's this happen. It's the CAPTAIN for god sakes. Just because Rasmusen is polite doesn'

    2 stars

    A very weak episode. A definite lowlight of season 5

    Matt Frewer was annoying
    The planet-in-jeopardy plot was tired
    The episode was too talky
    The mystery of Rasmussen was uninspired and not very interesting
    The pacing just dragged


    This is one of those episodes I actually enjoy (for the most part) as long as I don't start looking too deep into it because some glaring WTF moments show up once I do. I would have really liked to see Robin Williams play Rasmussen, but I enjoy Matt Frewer's acting generally. I think they really should of adjusted the part (or done so more) once he was cast .
    1. I really didn't like his creeper scenes at all. They just don't fit with the rest of the character and his motivations and time constraints. He's there a couple of days to steal things without being caught while pretending to be a historian. I really doubt he'd want create more causes for concern by trying to get some while he's preaching about not affecting things. They could have left it all out it would would have fit much better.
    2. As others like Luke and Jason R. pointed out the "morality" argument between Rasmussen and Picard really makes no sense. Picard has made the same exact argument as Rasmussen on more than one occasion and he has stood on the bridge telling everyone they MUST allow millions of people die. He's saying how he's re-evaluating his convictions but tells Worf's brother saving a civilization is wrong when they are being killed by a natural disaster even though this is a natural disaster. And, the fact no one outright calls him out on it later on in the series is complete BS.
    3. Why the heck did he even bother stealing a lot of that stuff? Geordi's Visor!? Seriously? First of all I'm pretty sure he only has one of them, right? He's the only senior officer not there waiting outside the time pod. So, what? He's currently blindly stumbling around the ship? It's also the thing that is MOST likely to be noticed missing. I mean he has it with him every minute of every day. In fact, how the heck did he even get it in the first place? Break in while Geordi was sleeping and snatch it from the night stand? He certainly can't pick-pocket it off of his head. Worf's d'k tahg (knife)!!!!??? He's supposed to be an inventor isn't he? Not only does the d'k tahg already exist back then, but even if it didn't, what the heck is he supposed to invent? It's a knife for crying out loud not some amazing piece of technology (unless you somehow count the button that releases fake blood or the guard somehow).

    The more this kind of stuff (and the plot holes) add up, the less I enjoy the episode.

    Ah! I forgot the other big thing. The time pod. They catch him and get back all the stolen items, but they just let the 26th century time pod transport back to the 22nd century (to NEW JERSEY no less) with no one controlling it. Someone (22nd century Snookie) will find it and then the government will take it and figure out how it works and completely change the course of human history. It would have been more accurate to have the show end when the pod disappears and then we see the enterprise and all it's crew just blinking out of existence.

    I was always bothered about the loose end of what happens to the time pod at the end of the episode.
    Then I just hand-waved it away by imagining that when it arrived in back in New Jersey in the 22nd century, the people who found it couldn't make sense of it, and eventually the government of that time took possession of it. Then in the 24th century it was sitting in a crate in some Starfleet warehouse known only to a select few.

    The Rasmussen character has the most punchable face in all ST. Which is saying something. I really like the scene in which Punchbag-face tries being cocky and annoying once too often, only to have Picard shout at him with unmistakeable, but well-controlled, anger. I find it troubling that the bridge crew accept Rasmussen so readily, and tell him so much.

    I thought the end wrapped the whole thing up nicely. 2.5 stars.


    As soon as I saw that guy , I groaned. Is it just TNG that I know him from? Doe she always play an annoying character?

    It was good to see the Enterrpise screw up. And would they really risk killing 20 million rather than 2000? the odds of killing everyone must have been very low.

    Actually Nick Poliskey you seem to have an obsession with whining about Robin Williams. This episode was not that great and you pretending that you like it doesn't change that fact.

    Has anybody considered the alternative explanation to why the crew appears to be so boneheaded in regards to giving Ras so much freedom to wander about the ship to take whatever he wanted?

    Initially, Troi senses that he's hiding something. Picard notes that somebody from their future would have many things to hide...but many things does not equal something. So they would already have cause for concern...a tipoff to keep watch on his behavior.

    Then there are things that he unconvincingly tries to act impressed about...such as the placement of objects in the ready room, and the painting of the EntD…"The original!"...Picard's reaction is that there is nothing special about it.

    At the same time, he acts unimpressed by 24th century tech, comparing Data to a Model-T (or A, as Data corrects him). Soon after, scoffing "Is that the fastest he can read?". This doesn't quite mesh with his claim to be a historian...where period artifacts are given careful attention.

    But later, he's surprised that Data can follow nearly a dozen symphonies simultaneously (?).

    Meanwhile, tech devices start disappearing. Often when characters are preoccupied, but Data in particular -would notice- when something is missing after his visits. Especially the tricorder in engineering.
    Heck, he just takes a regenerator in plain view of Crusher...waving it to her on his way out of sickbay.

    Anyway, the plot B plan fails to fix the planet and puts an even worse crisis into action. Picard uncharacteristically begs Ras for the correct solution...and is turned down flat. I happen to believe that Picard is smarter than the average Ferengi, tho. He could have been using this opportunity to see if Ras is going to slip. And he does. Simply by being there, he is already influencing how things are playing out...a fact that Ras is virtually oblivious to.

    It could very well have been that Picard and co. were just giving him lots of rope to hang himself with. It is mentioned that as soon as he opens the door to his pod, everything he'd taken was deactivated by the ship's computer. So he was never going anywhere except to the nearest starbase.

    My god, Rasmussen's voice sounded like a dead ringer for Kermit the Frog to me. I could've closed my eyes and enjoyed the time travelling Muppet Show crossover.

    As it stands, though, bit of a middle-of-the-road shrug episode for me. I was amused by all the talk of questionnaires though.

    The writers must have been inhaling from the plasma conduits when writing this one. Plus that actor is just awful. If you're going to have that lame of a guest character,at least be sure he can carry a full 45 minutes. This guy was slightly entertaining maybe for two minutes of his screen time. The rest were just his cringe inducing smirks and "flirting" with the women. Also made Beverly look more stupid than she usually does when she actually seemed "receptive" to his attempts at charm. 2/10 episode.

    Clearly, the authors of some of the more recent comments need to google "Max Headroom".

    Better yet, search YouTube.

    Why does everyone keep asking how Rasmussen got to know so much about the Enterprise-D and her crew if he was from the past not from the future? He knows nothing. He is clearly hustling. He doesn't use anyone's name before it is uttered by another character in his presence. He refers to the Enterprise as 1701-D, because he reads it off the ship's saucer. He knows nothing about the Prime Directive - Picard educates him about it. He never refers to "Doctor", "Commander", "Counsellor / Picard's Empath", or "the Klingon" by name, because no one utters their name in his presence. He refers to "Data", "Noonien Soong", "Geordi" by name after he learns their name from another character. He has no idea the drilling will backfire. Etc. Yes, this is not the best of episodes, but give the poor writers some credit!

    Also, in the ready room scene, towards the end, you can see Rasmussen stop being a hustler for a moment, and become genuinely sad that he can't help this man in his predicament. So even though he has just received debating ammunition about the temporal prime directive, he just says "I can't help you. I'm sorry.", the truth, rather than spinning around what he hears from others and saying it back while projecting authority: which is what he is doing in the rest of the episode.

    'Would a 22nd century person trapped in the 24th century alter the future': well, the future could well have been altered by his lack of presence. The future is changed in some way. It might be subject to debate exactly how, even if the TNG characters remained the same. Still, it is opening a can of worms.

    Fun enough episode. They can't (and shouldn't) all be about serious stuff. I quite liked Rasmussen. The fact he clearly irritated most of the StarTrek regulars was in itself quite entertaining.

    I agree that if he'd been a genuine visitor from the future that might have made Picard's attempt to cheat the Temporal Prime Directive would have been more interesting, but that would have been a completely different story.

    As for the suggestion that not sending him back involved changing the past, that's not thought through. Sending him back, that would have changed things, he'd be going back with knowledge about the future. Keeping him here involved no time paradoxes at all. He'd left the 22nd century, it would get along without him perfectly well. Send him back, you might just as well send any cast member back to that time , it would change the past.

    I like this one a lot, despite the shaky foundations it's built upon. I'm always a sucker for time travel stories. They never withstand careful scrutiny. This one is more troublesome than most. But it's intriguing.

    In the end it's a pretty simple plot and the conclusion is a bit anti-climactic. But I enjoyed the mystery, and Matt Frewer's performance.

    Possibly the biggest problem with this notion of historians from the future turning up at significant events, is that said events would be crowded with them. There'd be a few historians from every decade after time travel was invented at the first Beatles concert, at Caesar's assassination, in Normandy on D Day, etc etc.

    I really enjoyed the philosophical dialogue about ethics between the self-styled Professor and Picard. But the discussion they have could easily influence Picard away from his intended course. Furthermore, all Picard has to do is to announce that he's taking either option, and wait for the Prof's reaction to see what he's "supposed" to do.

    Nice to see the greenhouse effect get a mention, it was very topical at the time as I recall. Back then ozone-friendly products were very fashionable as well, but that doesn't get much of a mention these days.

    Surely Data would notice Rasmussen stealing from under his nose? If he's capable of listening to a dozen orchestral performances at the same time surely he can process what's going on in the corner of his eye.

    Also - this idea that Rasmussen can pretend to "invent" the items he steals from the future is problematic. You couldn't even take a mobile phone from 1997 back to 1977 and "invent" it, the technology within these devices is actually based on a whole raft of different inventions, from the display technology to the memory to the particular microprocessor technology to the battery chemistry. I doubt anyone in the 22nd century could sufficiently analyse a device from a century and more into the future to gain any useful manufacturing insight from it.

    Oh and the manner in which the planet, Penthara IV is threatened, then saved - seems really weak techno-nonsense to me. Imagine the speed of what we see happening on the surface when the Enterprise is somehow used as a sort of space vacuum cleaner. Consider that on Earth, high speed hurricane winds look immobile from real time satellite imagery, due to the scale involved.

    I Googled Matt Frewer after I watched this, to discover that he was Max Headroom! Talented and charismatic performer for sure. I thought getting Rasmussen to try to bang Crusher was a nice touch.

    Anyway - despite the misgivings described above, I really did enjoy it.

    I just watched this episode. I didn’t hate it. But I cannot get past the fact that he seemed to know today was a significant day, unless it was all an act. Why would he time travel to a starship and not just to earth? Anyhow, still don’t hate it, but...


    I think the point is supposed to be that it's not actually any more significant a day than a typical day on the Enterprise. They're always exploring something or rescuing someone or some such. Pentara IV just happened to be the adventure of the day. It's Rasmussen who pretends it's a bigger deal than usual. Basically, "big deal" IS "usual" for the Enterprise.

    I suspect his first forays were to Earth's future, but when he learned about Starfleet, he probably figured that there would be an incredible concentration of technology on the flagship of the fleet.

    Eh. This ep felt like it was marking time until the big reveal of Rasmussen not being what he claimed to be. Everything before that reveal felt like jarringly incongruous filler. Many good points have been made in this now-decade-long comment thread, but I'll just focus on the three biggest problems.

    First, there is no way that a future historian traveling to the past to observe any historical event would ever reveal his/her/its presence to any natives of that time. Given that Federation xenoanthropologists study pre-warp civilizations technologically, under cover, or from holographic/cloaked "duck blinds" to prevent the natives from knowing they're being watched, I'd think Rasmussen materializing right in front of the Enterprise, beaming himself onto the bridge and announcing himself as a historian from the 26th century there to observe them would have set off every red flag in Picard's head. That blew up my sense of disbelieve in the first five minutes.

    Second, I simply cannot believe that a Starfleet captain as straight-laced and by-the-book as Picard was on TNG (he didn't become a bald Jim Kirk until the follow-up movies) would ever have channeled Kathryn Janeway ("What about the temporal prime directive?" "To hell with it!"; or, "I don't care if all of history comes unraveled, I want to know who you are and why you're on my ship!") like he did to Rasmussen. He cannot possibly not know about the Temporal Prime Directive, or the Department of Temporal Investigations. Sure, neither was created yet in Trek cannon until DS9 and Voyager, but if I had still been invested in the story until that scene, Picard's Janeway-esque rant would have completely taken me out of it. It was completely out of character.

    Now of course, Rasmussen didn't care about the Penthara IV colony, and his not actually being from the 26th century gave him the perfect excuse for deflecting all the crew's questions about the future, including Picard's about what to do to save, or possibly destroy, the colony. But the captain's trademark eloquence (though overacted passion) did appear to wear down the con-man's shallow glibness and get to him, at least in the sense that his final reply to Picard - "I'm sorry, Captain, I can't help you" - was, until the final scene when he misses his trip back to 22nd century New Jersey, the only honest thing he said in the entire episode.

    If anybody is interested, this link summarizes a novel in which Rasmussen's fate is detailed through 2383.

    Has anyone commented on the really WEIRD cinematography in this episode? This show doesn't usually use shots that capture the entire human figure head-to-toe... something about this episode's camerawork was really striking.

    I still don't see why the "professor" didn't try copping to nicking the stuff, giving it back, and trying again elsewhere/when. He has a frickin' time machine.

    "Aw, shucks; I'm busted. My whole department are such fans, and I had the chance to bring home a mint-condition 1701-D tricorder! Sure, it was of no *material* value, but I'd have been king of the nerds for a week! Oh, well, here's your stuff back; sorry I'm such a tool. Well, off to the 26th century I'm definitely from!"

    I guess the point was, he was a shortsighted douche canoe, so all he saw was a chance to grab Data, as well, but again: he had as many chances at it as he wanted. HE HAD A TIME MACHINE.

    It might have been a moderately entertaining episode but for two things:

    1. The professor was written as such an irritating character that I flinched every time he began to move his exaggerated jawbone as a prelude to speech…

    2. An absolutely GARGANTUAN plot hole (which I’m sure others here have already commented on, when I come to read them?):
    IF HE IS FROM THE PAST, NOT THE FUTURE, HOW DOES HE KNOW ALL ABOUT THE ENTERPRISE? Even down to the dimensions of the Captain’s ready room? Bwahahahaha. Were the writers asleep?

    So, I’ll give it 2 stars but only for the story it could have been.



    If I remember correctly, the time ship’s computer had information on the Enterprise. It sounded like he read something equivalent to a Wikipedia article before beaming aboard to try and impress the crew with his knowledge. But what he knew was spotty at best.

    Is there a concrete example of him stating an actual fact that he can't possibly have been exposed to? Remember what con man stands for -- "confidence." He acts like he knows things, so people assume that he does.

    @Top Hat

    I have not seen this one in a few months at least, but my recollection is very like Top Hat's, that Rasmussen is just doing what conmen do best: giving people just enough vague input to encourage them to fill in the details. It's like fake psychics who do "cold reading."

    ("I'm seeing an old man, some connection with the Z … Oh, you say your Uncle Donald worked in a zipper factory? Yes, that's what the Z is about. And did Uncle Donald, at the end of his life, have trouble with his heart, something drawn out and painful? You say he got divorced shortly before he was hit by a bus while running a marathon? Yes, the heartbreak of his divorce is what the problem was …")

    For example, I don't think there's any indication that he knew the size of Picard's office before seeing it, such as saying BEFORE entering it that he can't wait to see if it's really X feet wide or Y feet. When he walks into the room, he starts talking about a debate between historians of his time, but he's making that up on the fly.

    The writers are conning first-time viewers as much as he's conning the Enterprise crew.

    You can tell this was meant for Robin Williams by how Rasmussen's lines are so repetitive and lightly written. Basically "crewman X! Some cutesy remark about X! Ooh, wait, ominousness..."

    Over and over.

    It was written like that because of Williams' great strength in crazy improvisation. He would, in effect, have rewritten all the lines.

    Frewer couldn't do that (like the vast majority of actors) so the character gets tiring very quickly.

    @Top Hat

    “Is there a concrete example of him stating an actual fact that he can't possibly have been exposed to?”

    Well yes, he first mentioned knowing about the Prime Directive which is basically how his con operates. He is aware he can get information without giving it. You’re right that it’s mostly a con though and who can say where he researched what little he actually knows.

    It seems impossible for us to know whether he's conning them about the facts individually, or just conning them about his general purpose (theft). For years when I watched it I just assumed he had first gone to the future, read some stuff about their ship and about this mission to study up, then came aboard using the info to impress them and gain their confidence. He has a time machine, so it would be pretty trivial to travel ahead of time to know how everything went, and then go back in time again to cash in. That's just what happens in Back to the Future. So maybe he's actually got some studied knowledge up his sleeve, and maybe he's really stretching credulity and knows nothing at all and is just making it up as he goes along. In the end it doesn't matter that much. But one thing I'm pretty confident about is that Matt Frewer did not dissect the episode moment by moment and decide for himself whether he was making up a particular fact or whether he really knew it. I think he generally went with an offbeat tone and was riding that through the scenes, without as much attention to minute detail.

    Peter, that is really the only logical conclusion. What is the alternative? That he just mashed the control pad to the time ship and randomly appeared in the 24th century on the bridge of the Federation flagship? Of all the gin joints...

    In Enterprise we see that Daniels, who is basically the counterpart of whoever Max Headroom stole the time ship from, had a data pad with Wikipedia entries on pretty much everything about Federation history. You could put all this data on a single USB key or portable hard drive today, to say nothing of whatever hard drive a 29th century time ship has.

    Max obviously knew something about the Enterprise, probably from the original time ship captain's own mission logs. The Enterprise was probably even a destination on his itinerary before he lost his ship.

    @ Jason R.,

    Yes, although even a really good preparation isn't going to provide as many facts as present themselves even in a simple walk down the corridor. There are just too many details in life, or things people bring up. He can spend weeks memorizing stuff and even then I imagine he'd need to fake some stuff to get through a conversation. So while it does seem reasonable to suppose that some of what he says is a straight-up con job, I think it's hard to believe he would come in totally unprepared.

    Rasmussen does not mention the Prime Directive by name: only Picard does that. He does say, "I've studied a great deal about your century, including the fact that you're all quite aware of the dangers of anyone altering the past, and that's exactly what I'd be doing if I were to divulge information like that." But this is of course him covering for the fact that he really has no information to divulge, and it's a classic con technique to flatter the intelligence of his marks ("you're all quite aware of the dangers..."). I see no reason why Rasmussen can't be just making an educated guess here; after all, the same thing can be said of people today, since we've been exposed to plenty of fictional depictions of time travel gone wrong.

    @Karen. @Top Hat. @Trish

    Yes you’re right, I have been conned too! I don’t intend to rewatch the episode but I’m sure I’d see that Rasmussen was acting like a real con artist.

    One would think a society capable of creating a time-ship would also be capable of (and inclined to) setting it to ignore timed orders if no-one was aboard. There's my teeny tiny plot hole contribution.

    I like CPUFP's plot change suggestions.

    I wish Picard had been more skeptical from the start. as well as the rest of the crew. They're supposed to be scientists and Picard and the crew should have been shown to have been testing Rasumssen more cleverly.

    Case in point: Riker, for once, asks a great question about time traveling historians being seemingly unknown to history. Rasmussen claims there is no record of other time travelling historians because they were careful, But this claim is undone by the manner in which he is NOT being careful, arriving and seeking questionnaires and creating a record or his presence and so on. After the scene were he makes this gaffe in Ten Forward, instead of having the typical "Riker-loses-his-temper" trope, it should have been played calmly and as if they were playing along, and then to be shown later to have doubts based on this very conversation.

    Indeed, what this episode SHOULD have been about is the scientific revelation that time travel may not only be happening more than this event, but that this guy not hiding it raises too many questions about the effects on time and whether real scientists and historians would MORE likely be aware of creating a cascade effect of time travel corrections and possible reversals and interventions by not keeping as low profile as possible. They should have been eager learn what they can about such time travelers BECAUSE Rasmussen is too intrusive and open about time travel and need to figure out more of what it means -even if Rasmussen was benign - and other time travelers who were operating in greater secrecy might not be.

    The multiple fans who scoffed at Picard's suggestions that Rasmussen's credentials were so ludicrous that it bugged me the whole way through, especially since Picard a few sentences later swears he has doubts. He didn't need the benefit of technology to see that it was a ludicrous line to write and was driven by a long history of falsified documents.

    But it gets worse.

    Throughout Trek's history, some of what must have been known and are known to the crew of Enterprise D, they've seen how timelines can change by not thinking. Despite the weak execution of consequences of Tasha's travel-back-in-time storyline, Picard should have known in the alternate timeline that he could not guarantee any consequences from sending her into a different timeline, whether or not she died, even if he did it because the crew might not have made it back to their own time. And even if the Enterprise-C being pushed into the future was seen as an error that needed correcting, it was an enormous lapse in judgment. Why would he not ask whether or not this time traveler - by signaling the day was important - not possibly relevant? If the crew was put on alert that something was going to happen, who knows what assembling them might have affected? What if something else had happened that he distracted them from?

    And this is where the Temporal Prime Directive takes the show downhill, that it either should have been dealt with as having exceptions that had been thought through (as they have not been for the original directive) or at least constantly had some default about how it would work if it were the other way around in different contexts. The comments above are dead on about the Prime Directive, though I argue less about its weak definition than how frequently it is disregarded or not violated.

    Do we even know what the Temporal Prime Directive is, and if not, why has a civilization so aware of the original PD's problems that this discussion did not come up in the command room scene?

    I can't enjoy an episode where my reaction is "Oh come on" every couple of minutes.

    I want to point out that going forward in time, no matter how you do it, ever violates natural laws. So, you can’t construct paradoxes on that premise.

    @Mikael Bergkvist

    As far as we know it violates natural laws, but maybe it doesn't ;). Though it does seem self evident that a paradox cannot exist, by definition.

    I never sweated the details on this one though since it way obviously meant to be a comedy.

    I like this episode alot. Rasmussen is a great character imo, and I mean this as a compliment not an insult, he's like a "budget Jim Carrey". I loved his entire performance and how wonderfully irritating he started to become to the crew and audience is intentional imo and was well done. I really like the scene where he interjects in a stressful moment with the line "La forge remained below" and Picard gives him such a "wtf" look haha. And when he's talking to Picard and Picard is asking for his help and for a brief moment Rasmussen actually visably feels a flash of sincere internal remorse and his tone even completely changes when he says "I'm sorry captain, I really can't tell you. Imo this is a top shelf great episode.


    No, traveling forward in time does not violate natural laws. In fact, I'm doing it right now.

    Unfortunately, my "time machine" has only one speed setting for Future Mode: 60 seconds per minute.

    "No, traveling forward in time does not violate natural laws. In fact, I'm doing it right now.

    Unfortunately, my "time machine" has only one speed setting for Future Mode: 60 seconds per minute."

    Actually, if you get into an airplane or a space craft time will move infintessimily more slowly for you than those on the ground, ergo for all intents and purposes you will have "time travelled" into the future.

    This time dilation effect has been proven by placing atomic clocks on airplanes and comparing them to synchronized clocks on the ground.

    A similar effect will occur in proximity to a large gravity well.

    This was demonstrated to great effect in the movie Interstellar.

    It is a super cool effect that is unquestionably proven yet very few in scifi, including Trek, have ever addressed its implications.

    It is one of the weirdest and coolest things we have observed in nature.

    @ Jason R.,

    I guess the issue with time dilation is it's not really going forward into "the future" because there is no objective "the future" to go into. It just means the measurement of time is relative to different inertial frames, but within each frame appears to be consistent. So jumping forward 'in time' would have to mean having a different measurement of time within the exact same inertial frame, or something like that.

    "@ Jason R.,

    I guess the issue with time dilation is it's not really going forward into "the future" because there is no objective "the future" to go into. It just means the measurement of time is relative to different inertial frames, but within each frame appears to be consistent. So jumping forward 'in time' would have to mean having a different measurement of time within the exact same inertial frame, or something like that."

    I understand the nuance but this is one of the rare cases where the reality of a concept in physics is more like fiction than its theory would imply.

    Which is to say that yes, it isn't like time travel when you describe the theory - yet, the fact is that it would be functionally indistinguishable from getting in a time machine and travelling to the future in reality.

    I mean it would be if someone could get up to a sufficient velocity to achieve significant time dilation. But that's a detail that shouldn't detract from the underlying awesomeness of the fact that actual time travel (in one direction) could actually happen in practical terms.

    This is the kind of stuff, I'd add, the Star Trek used to be about. Things like the Dyson Sphere, supernovas, stellar core fragments, anti proton beams, neutronium, changing the gravitational constant of the universe heh - it used to be that they peppered the shows with such cool concepts taken from real science. Maybe they didn't always get it right, but they tried hard to give serious thought to the science, even if there was a liberal sprinkling of fantasy to go with it.

    Do you think nuTrek gives a crap about this? We have a season that revolves around a mission to Europa, something that should be a momentous achievement in space exploration to put the Apollo missions to shame - and the whole episode is about how the lead astronaut is really really depressed. Boooooooh.

    @Peter, Jason,

    Just to clarify, "inertial frame" means, specifically, a non-accelerating frame. So if someone gets on a rocket ship and accelerates away and then returns, the rocketeer won't actually be in an inertial frame.

    Relatedly, this is the resolution to Einstein's twin paradox in special relativity, which is part of what Jason is alluding to, which is that you can have situations where the frames are not actually inertial. The twin paradox states that if one twin stays on Earth and the other accelerates away on a rocket ship, and then returns, the rocketing twin will have aged less by the time he meets back up with the twin on Earth. This seems at first to be a problem -- because why would it be this way? From the perspective of the twin who left Earth, wouldn't the one who stayed on Earth have sped away and then sped back, so wouldn't they be the less aged one? What's the difference?

    The resolution to the apparent paradox is that while all inertial frames are "equally valid" in special relativity, inertial by definition means non-accelerating. So the twin on Earth experiences relatively little acceleration, and so has a longer proper time experience, between the event "the twins part company" and the event "the twins reunite" than the twin who zoomed away; the one on Earth is closer to being in an inertial frame, and the one in the rocket ship is constantly accelerating (either away or back) and so is further from an inertial frame. In special relativity, essentially if there are two observers who travel from spacetime event A to spacetime event B, the one who experiences less acceleration (and so is closer to an inertial frame) will have the longest proper time between A and B, and that's what results in this model where the rocketing (more accelerating) twin will age less, and so experience "travelling into the future."

    This is also why time dilation leads to interesting effects if you actually do have two inertial frames, because then essentially if you have two space ships moving relative to each other at constant velocity, they would each naively identify the other's clock as moving more slowly. There are more wrinkles to this. The difference between this and the "rocket ship leaving and returning to Earth" example is again that only one of the two experiences significant acceleration, in this latter scenario.

    This basically does mean that you can "go into the future" in the sense that, provided sufficient acceleration and everything, you can leave Earth, get in a ship, zoom forward, zoom back, and step out, and lots of time will have passed on Earth, and then once you've rejoined the Earth community you will, in effect, be just living on Earth at a much later time than your lifetime would have implied, within the Earth's frame. All above board.

    The other wrinkle is that in general relativity the warping of space-time factors in, so that someone on Earth is not, in fact, in an inertial frame, because first of all "inertial frame" is less well-defined in practice outside of special relativity, and second because someone on Earth is "accelerating" in the sense that they are not in free-fall, but are being propped up by the surface of the Earth, which in general relativity essentially constitutes the same as acceleration. That's why you get things like the Interstellar thing with gravitational time dilation.

    Thanks for the great comment, Willliam B.

    If anyone wants a podcast recommendation for hard sci-fi (including an episode on time dilation at the quantum level), check out Event Horizon by John Michael Godier.

    Yes, yes, I think most SF fans have heard of the theoretical possibility of time travel to the future by means of sufficiently rapid travel. But for us, this does remain "theoretical" in that we do not have the technological means to do it ourselves.

    I am trying not to sigh heavily that people don't seem to "get" what I was saying: The time machine each of us owns, without needing any more advanced technology than human society already possesses, is the simple passage of time, also known as "getting older."

    I find that the older I get, the more I feel a little like Rasmussen, a traveler in a time machine not of my making who has ended up stranded in a future I certainly hoped would be nice to visit, but unable ever again to reach a past I had not fully comprehended was about to slip away forever.

    Sometimes, the most poignant reflections on science fiction have little to do with the technology posited to make it possible to tell the stories.

    @Nick Poliskey (2011)

    "If [Robin Williams] was here you wouldn't be able to get 'Mork on the Enterprise' out of your head the whole episode."

    It could have made sense for a Robin Williams character to be from the twenty-second century, where he might have starred in "Mork and Xindi."

    There are a couple of fatal errors in this script.

    The first is that the time traveler is already affecting the past by interacting with it. It's unfortunate that writers didn't build this awareness into the plot. Given this, it reduces credibility of the researcher because they are directly meddling.

    The second error is that if a researcher returned to the past to witness a catastrophic event that actually occurred, why would they be so glib and superior? The disaster would then occur, they would return to the future, and the Enterprise crew would conclude that future historians have no ethics. This would be recorded and all future interactions with time travels would be greeted with distrust, which in of itself would affect the timeline.

    Not to mention, if a disaster is recorded in history, going back in time to get directly involved with the people connected to the disaster before it happens could contribute to the very disaster occurring in the first place. What time traveler would do that?

    Furthermore, it's acknowledged in the episode that no other time traveling historians have ever been recorded, to the Enterprise crew's knowledge. So clearly something amiss.

    Maybe most of the Enterprise crew wouldn't put two and two together, but someone like Data would.

    So that creates three possibilities:
    1) People from the future and/or this one time traveler have no ethics, so why bother cooperating with him.
    2) The time traveler is a fraud and doesn't actually know the outcome.
    3) The outcome is positive, otherwise why would the researcher get so directly involved and perhaps be the reason for the disaster occurring?

    The first time I saw this episode years ago, I thought all of this, as I was watching it. The story isn't super believable because the Enterprise crew is too easily duped. They don't ask enough questions. They just assume everything is real because of the presence of a time ship with a human on board.

    Notice how nobody from the Enterprise talks to the professor about THEIR past. Hey, what did you think of Zefram Cochrane's first warp flight?

    @ Robert,

    I think the main thrust of the episode is that even in the future people can be taken in by a confidence man. Granted, there was logical room to see through the cracks, but then again isn't there always? And since the writing went for a light touch I think much of what we see is in a spirit of levity rather than watertight logic.

    That said, we could propose a fourth option (and perhaps others), which is that the time historians noted the historically documented event of a rambunctious goof visiting the Enterprise, and realized at some point they needed to send an agent to fill that role in order for history to be maintained. Yes, it's the ugly closed timelike curve again...

    This guy had the chance to live in the 24th century, where wealth no longer mattered and he could live a life of luxury and want for nothing. See things he'd never dreamed of, explore the galaxy, have access to medical care far beyond anything in his century, and yet he wanted to steal a few gadgets and go back to New Jersey? What an idiot.

    @Nick Poliskey No one cares how you feel about Robin Williams, your feelings and opinion is not wantednor needed.

    Also this episode would have been a million times better with Robin Williams, he had great range including being serious.

    It's fascinating when someone decides to reply personally to a post from 11 years ago.

    This was a good reminder to forget what I remember about an episode or what impressions come back when I see the thumbnail, and just watch. "Oh, the dumb Matt Frewer episode," was my first thought -- but Frewer's such a lovable guy and the TNG cast plays off him so well. So many nuances from the performances, as usual.

    It's a real shame Robin Williams wasn't available. His presence alone would have elevated this episode and made it more memorable.

    It's hilarious that Picard simply lets him walk about the ship freely with zero evidence as to who he is and where he comes from.

    Even based on Rasmusson's own words of what time period he came from, Picard should have immediately confined him to quarters and NOT allowed him to interact with the crew.

    Rasmusson would have very little to pay for. All evidence of any wrong-doing disappeared with the ship at the end of the episode.

    Ergo, in a court of law, there was zero evidence that the Professor did anything wrong EXCEPT perhaps having his handprints on some of the items that Worf brought out of the ship. But of course, the items were all returned and he didn't actually do anything harmful to the crew in any way.

    Rassmuson would be let off easy for very trivial misconduct and be allowed to simply go about his business in the 24th century.

    Plot twist and sequel:

    At the end of the episode, the ship that Rasmussen traveled in indeed went back to New Jersey where it was eventually found, confiscated and held for the last two hundred years.

    No one was able to open the ship, so government bodies (and eventually Starfleet) held onto the vessel in private until now.

    They quickly realize that it was the exact same one that was aboard the Enterprise during this episode.

    Starfleet comes and gets Rasmussen, takes him to the ship that's been sitting for 200 years and uses his handprint to finally open it.

    I'm surprised there are no more mentions of Jim Carrey than one commenter. The similarities are so pronounced.
    Can't imagine some other instruction than "try to act like Jim Carrey"

    That character is the sneakiest, most suspicious, slimey, arrogant, pretentious character you can be.
    I'm surprised they didn throw him in the brig after 5 minutes and expecting some clear answers.

    Gotta say his ultimate humiliation at the very end was almost worth suffering all his insufferable behavior.

    Jim Carrey wouldn't be a major star for three years, until Ace Ventura, Pet Detective. At the time he was on In Living Color, which was something of a cult hit, but he was not generally known yet.

    I generally don't like time travel episodes or alternate reality episodes in Sci-Fi.

    I like this episode (although I do acknowledge it has a lot of flaws) because it kinda laughs at the ridiculous consequences of time travel being a real thing.

    Instead of time travel always serving as a plot device to reset terrible events at the end of an episode, this episode asks "If time travel existed, wouldn't you occasionally see it exploited for petty personal gain?" I find that lighter approach more refreshing.

    That being said, there were definitely elements that could have been done better. But it's a memorable episode none the less.

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