Warp Speed to Nonsense

Warp Speed to Nonsense

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

ST:TNG Season Five, Episode Nine "A Matter of Time"

ST: TNG Season Five, Episode Nine "A Matter of Time"
Production Order: 9
Air Order: 9
Stardate: 45349.1
Original Air Date: November 18, 1991

Picard's Log 45349.1: "We're going to Penthara IV, where this big-ass asteroid hit a continent. There was nobody near the crash site, but the dust and crap it kicked up into the atmosphere has created a nuclear winter that's really similar to the ones Earth had in the 21st century."

You motherfuckers, if you narrow that down to "the last few months of 2020," I'm gonna lose my shit. Keep your damn predictions to yourself, Star Trek.

Riker goes to Engineering, where La Forge and Data have been working on the problem.
"They're kind of fucked," La Forge tells him. "Hopefully, we can help them become less fucked."
Picard calls Riker back to the bridge: Worf says they passed a weird little time distortion, close enough that it's probably not a coincidence.
La Forge says he can spare the hour or so it will take the E to check out the distortion.

It's a shuttle-thing. When they try scanning for life-forms, it's found that their scans won't penetrate the hull.
Worf sends a hail, and then, in confusion, tells Picard that he needs to scooch over.
"Yeah, I'm not moving my ship," frowns Picard.
"Not the ship," corrects Worf. "You specifically."
"Huh?" asks Picard. 
He moves toward Worf instinctively, and a guy beams directly into the spot where he had been standing.
"Sorry!" says this new guy cheerfully. "You were standing where I needed to be!"

He introduces himself as Dr Berlinghoff Rasmussen, a time traveling historian from 26th century Earth.
"I've traveled back 300 years to find you!"

Dramatic music! Opening credits break!

When we return, Rasmussen and Picard are in the ready room, and Rasmussen is wandering around, looking at Picard's stuff with nosy interest.
"This is weird," says Picard. "Seriously, wtf are you?"
"I specialize in 22nd through 24th century, early interstellar travel," says Rasmussen. He points to the open book Picard has on display near the door and remarks that future historians assume that the book is open on his desk rather than the stand.
"Y'all are really interested in the crap I keep in my ready room?" asks Picard, who seems unimpressed.
Rasmussen tries to butter him up by remarking on Picard's modesty, but Picard isn't having it.
"Why are you here to see me, though? There are a lot of other cool people out there in the galaxy, both in Starfleet and out."
"I can't give you more details," says Rasmussen. "Could change the future."
But he hints that something awesome might be coming soon to the Enterprise, and he's here to see it happen. He can only get info from them, they can't ask him about the future. Then he measures out the size of the ready room by walking and tracking his paces.
"Ha! I was right! Seven meters!"
The ready room is bigger than the time-travel pod he came in, which Worf said was five?

Everyone meets up in the Obs Lounge.
"How come you picked today, this ship?" asks La Forge.
"You'll see." Rasmussen is practically dancing in his chair. He's giving off a distinct Willy Wonka vibe. "Worf, do you always sit on that side of the table?"
"I guess? Why?"
"Not important!" sings Rasmussen. Is he going to go home and build a diorama?
"When did historians start using time travel to study?" asks Riker.
"Can't tell you that!" Rasmussen grins. "We all know the dangers of time travel."
"Can... you tell me if they've figured out how to cure the Talurian plague by the 26th century?" asks Crusher. 
Picard makes a gesture at her, and she protests that it can't hurt to ask something like that, but he's adamant: butterflies and shit.
"Okay, homework!" says Rasmussen. "I'm gonna give you all surveys to fill out, and get them back to me ASAP. If there's a question of security breaches, check with the captain to see if it's okay to answer. Also, thank you for "curbing your curiosity"!"
Sassy La Forge Moment: "If I hand my assignment in on time, can I get a glimpse into next week's poker game?"
Rasmussen exits with Data, who has been assigned to show the professor to his quarters.
Riker wants to know why Rasmussen thinks he "picked the right day."
Picard shrugs. "You know as much as I do."
They all look at Troi.
"He isn't telling us everything."
"Of course not," says Crusher. "He can't."
Riker muses on the idea that Rasmussen might be an imposter - they've certainly seen enough of those.
All they have are facts that can't point in one direction or another. Rasmussen is human, there was a temporal distortion, and his ship is definitely beyond their technology.
Worf makes a subtle noise: he isn't quite comfortable.
"Yeah, I agree," says Picard. "We don't know this dude. Put his time pod thing in the shuttle bay with a guard. This is gonna be weird, but I've looked at his credentials, and everything checks out."
... how? You read his future CV, from the future, at a time when his credentials don't exist?
Picard seems cautious, but at the same time, excited. A little too willing to trust? I dunno. He tells them to do the questionnaires.

Meanwhile, Data is taking Rasmussen to his quarters, but the professor is creeping on him. So fucking rude. Don't care if he's different. Stop doing that shit. He fucking touches Data's ear while going on about how it's like encountering a Model T or a Gutenberg bible. Maybe Data isn't uncomfortable being casually examined, but I'm uncomfortable for him. Personal space, motherfucker.

The lift stops, and Data gets out a little ahead of Rasmussen. I know it's because he knows the way and Raz doesn't, but I'd run from this guy, so that's how I'm reading it.
While they walk down the corridor, Data points out that he is more akin to Ford's Model A automobile, as he is not the first Soong-model android. Then he lets Rasmussen into his quarters. 
Rasmussen does not seem impressed by the accommodations. He looks at things, checks stuff out, but without the same enthusiasm as before. And he starts treating Data like a personal servant.
"Problem?" asks Data.
"It's fine for now. I'll make up a list of things I need."
Raz wanders into the bathroom area, where he knows how to access the sink, and washes his hands.
"Hey..." says Data tentatively. "I'm guessing you know if I'm... still alive in the 26th century?"
Rasmussen says nothing. He turns and holds out his hands to Data, who then figures out that he is asking for a towel. He just... stares ahead while Data gets one from a drawer, and drops it over Raz's outstretched hands.
He walks away without answering Data's question. 
On his way out, Data pauses and says, "You seem to know a lot about the Enterprise, and Captain Picard, so I have to assume you know -"
"Don't you think you should stop assuming things, given the situation?" asks Rasmussen, drying his hands.
"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir," says Data quietly. He leaves.
Rasmussen looks around his quarters, and smiles to himself.
I could write an entire fucking book about that scene alone.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log 45350.3: "We made it to Penthara IV, and holy shit, are they ever screwed."

Picard and La Forge are downstairs in a Pentharan lab, talking to the their lead scientist, Hal Moseley. The plan is to drill into the earth, release gasses that will warm everything, and stop the nuclear winter.
Moseley is surprised, and notes that they previously were trying everything they could to avoid creating greenhouse gasses, and now here they are, creating them on purpose.
I know that feel. I typically believe in "touch everything, never use hand sanitizer" when building a good immune system.
La Forge confirms that if they heat the planet enough, it will give Penthara enough time to repair the damage itself.

Riker, Crusher, and Worf are having a drink at a table in Ten Forward when Rasmussen comes in. Riker calls their attention to his presence, and Worf replies "I hate questionnaires."
But Crusher, who seems just as excited about this historian as Picard, calls him over to join them. Riker and Worf exchange dark looks, and Worf glares at Rasmussen when he sits between him and Crusher. Raz hands out the questionnaire USB sticks.
"Complete these by tomorrow!" he says cheerfully.
"Tomorrow?" asks Worf. He looks like Raz has just announced a pop quiz on something that wasn't in the syllabus.
Riker seems just as pleased, but pastes a fake-ass smile on his face and replies, "yes, sir!"
Remember forever ago, when I suggested that Jonathan Frakes had customer service experience, because he hauls out those skills at the drop of a hat? I'm suggesting that again.
Rasmussen says that everyone seems so calm, and Riker point-blank asks him if something big is going to be happening soon.
"Oh, I can't tell you that," says Rasmussen. "Just that when history records things, it doesn't record what little things people were doing a week before an event, or a day, or even an hour."
That's... only partly true? People can tell you what they were doing when JFK was shot, when the Twin Towers fell, and what was for dinner the night before the Titanic sank. People have a morbid curiosity for that kind of thing.
"Just do your thing and pretend I'm not here," he says.
If only, asshole.

"How come there are no other records of historians visiting other events?" demands Riker.
"We're super careful," says Rasmussen. He is very bouncy. "Another historian and I recently visited a 22nd century vessel."
So... you were careful then, but are throwing this shit out the window now?
Crusher is immediately pulled in. "Oh, they didn't have quarantine fields then! Did you see masks and gloves?"
Rasmussen then waxes rhapsodic about what kinds of things people want to know about the past, based on their own interests. Crusher asks about medical stuff. When Riker talks about important progress made by humans, he cites the warp engine, because he's an explorer. And clearly Worf, who is primitive af, has said "phasers."
Worf does not appreciate being analyzed this way. If that questionnaire is on a Scantron, he's drawing a dick.
But Rasmussen seems cagey, and checks some kind of ring watch, looking around the room.

We go down to Engineering, where La Forge is busy figuring out how many holes he'll have to punch in Penthara IV to get the results they need.
Jae sighting!

La Forge and Data talk briefly about possible earthquakes at the drill sites, but La Forge says that Moseley has reported no earthquakes in the last 100 years.
Wait... are they fracking? 
Rasmussen shows up to hand out assignments, telling La Forge and Data that their questionnaires shouldn't take more than a few hours. La Forge is kind of annoyed. He's trying to save a planet and millions of people, and this guy wants to know what he had for breakfast. He sets the USB aside and asks Data to go over some 23,000 computations to find any anomalies.
Rasmussen sits in a chair next to la Forge, and maybe it's the blocking, but he's sitting really close to La Forge. Too much energy, too little personal space.
"Is that as fast as he can go?" Raz asks La Forge, while watching Data blow through computations.
"Not fast enough?" grumbles La Forge. He does not have customer service skills.
"Not a lot known about Data's efficiency, or its part in this event," says Rasmussen.
Yes, he calls Data IT.
Data completes the computations, and tells La Forge that everything looks good: 209 anomalies, but within parameters.
"You're here to witness this mission," La Forge guesses.
"Oh, I can't say," Rasmussen insists again. He checks his ring watch. "You should just ignore me, get on with your mission."
Data tells Rasmussen he will fill out his questionnaire ASAP, and moves to the pool table.
"Data... at Penthara IV!" says Rasmussen, as though he's an announcer on a radio drama.
La Forge attempts to shake Rasmussen, but Raz is all up in his face, asking about his VISOR.
"How do you like it? I have a picture in my office of you wearing that VISOR."
"It helps me see, I like it fine," snaps La Forge.
Then Rasmussen starts naming off famous people who were also blind, and La Forge mutters about how Rasmussen told them to ignore him and go about their jobs.
La Forge then calls Picard to tell him that they have everything in place, and he's ready to go back down and get stuff ready with Moseley. He leaves, probably glad to get away from the time-traveling historian.
While Data is busy, Rasmussen slips a padd off the pool table and into his pocket. "Who says these events are less exciting when you know the outcome?"
Data looks up. "Nobody says that."

The next set of scenes is a mish-mash about the bridge, Data in Engineering, and La Forge and Moseley on the surface, all cooperating to drill the bore holes on the surface at the right place, and to the right depth. They drill the holes.
The lift at the back of the bridge opens, and here comes Interfering McGee. He cheerfully asks what he missed, and sits in Riker's chair.
Everyone is currently communicating about surface temperatures, and nothing is happening so far.
Slowly, the temperature-taking stations start seeing a rise in temp, and Moseley thanks everyone heartily for giving them time to fix the problem. Picard accepts his thanks, and tells Moseley that they'll stay in orbit for a while to make sure that things are progressing smoothly.
Rasmussen quotes back Moseley's last sentence about being given time. "We knew how you did it, but to see it in action was awesome."
Picard is no longer excited to have this guy on board.

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Troi is down in sick bay, talking to Crusher while the latter uses a tool to patch up a bleeding crewmember.
Troi tells Crusher that she can't put her finger on it, but she thinks Rasmussen is playing some kind of shell game with them: he wants more than to just witness history.
Annnd, speak of the devil.
Rasmussen comes in, loud and obnoxious. He wants to talk about the questionnaire Crusher turned in. Troi tries to excuse herself, but he insists on her staying.
"Can I see the neural stimulator you were talking about?" he asks Crusher.
She leaves to get it, and now Troi is stuck with Rasmussen. She starts to walk away, and he follows her around the sick bay, telling people on the biobeds that they're "a credit to the uniform," and that "you'll be telling your grandkids that you were at Penthara IV."
World's loudest fly on the wall.
"You don't trust me," he says to Troi. "They all said to me "Picard's empath won't trust you.""
Presumably, he's talking about his friends. Or maybe other people from the future that also hate him.
"Picard's empath?" she echoes. 
She doesn't get a name, even though everyone else does. She's just a tool. Like Data.
"You should trust me, though. We're very alike, in that we're not like the others. I have knowledge of the future, and that's like you knowing everyone's emotions." When this doesn't win her over, he tosses out, "Some of my best friends are empaths."
I roll my eyes hard. He has black friends.
He goes on about how they're colleagues, and they could learn from each other, blah blah blah, and she finally tells him that she doesn't trust him, end of story. Crusher comes back, and Troi takes off.

This is the smile you smile at someone who won't leave you 
the fuck alone. This smile doesn't reach the eyes.

Crusher gives him the neural stimulator, and asks if there's anything else he wants to see. He follows her down the hall to her office, and starts telling her that he finds her interesting, and he gets right up in her space, the way he did with Data. She shrinks two inches and leans away from him while keeping the convo light, but he's invading her space.

He blocks her from going into her office and tells her that no one else has ever given him thoughts of "not going home."
She does this thing that all women know how to do to get away from a creeper without inviting him to continue antagonizing her: she dips out of his space, does a smile-laugh, gives him a no that doesn't contain the word no.
This guy keeps swinging back and forth between "annoying" and "predator." Incel from the future.
She also reminds him that they have no idea if they're related, and she could be his great-great-great-great grandmother.

He takes the stimulator and they exchange another smile before he leaves.

Up on the bridge, Riker complains to Picard that Rasmussen's questionnaire only asked him about previous iterations of the Enterprise, and that he wanted to know if they "had a grasp of the fundamentals."
Data starts to talk about how his questionnaire focused on Dr Soong, but then an alarm goes off.
"Hella earthquakes downstairs," reports Worf.
Riker jumps up to check out Science. "Gnarly volcanoes going off, too!"
They're able to call La Forge, who says that he and Moseley are okay, but the earthquakes were really big, like 8.5 on the Richter scale.
More volcanoes. More earthquakes.
"The volcanic ash is a major problem," says La Forge. "It's making the first problem worse. The dust from the asteroid hitting knocked out 80% of the sunlight, causing that nuclear winter. The ash would take it down to zero. That'll happen in a few days."
"The Co2 we drilled for wouldn't help us at that point," says Moseley.
Riker calls Picard over to Science. He overlays two maps: one where they drilled, and the other is a map of the volcanic eruptions. It matches exactly.
"Fuck me, we've collapsed the mantle," says Picard.
"We have some ideas, but we have to work them out," La Forge tells Picard.

Rasmussen goes to Data's quarters, and instead of ringing the bell like any courteous person, he just fucking walks in.
P E R S O N A L  S P A C E
He gets blasted with four musical compositions in the face, and I'm not sad, because he deserves that shit.
Data is sitting at his work station, doing his bit for this mission, while listening to - and analyzing - the different compositions. Rasmussen asks him to "thin it out," so Data eliminates each one until there's only one left, then turns it way down.
"I can do like 150 at once," Data explains, "but when I'm analyzing them for aesthetics, I try to do ten or less."
Rasmussen gets on his case for only doing four, but Data explains that the work he's doing for La Forge right now is very important.
"So, hey," says Rasmussen, "not a lot of Soong's work made it to my century. Can I get some schematics?"
"When I'm done here."
"Cool. I leave at 9:00 tomorrow morning, so I'll need it before then."
La Forge calls Data's tiny laptop. "Did you run the numbers?"
"Yeah, no errors," says Data. "But the wiggle room is like, nothing."
Data tells La Forge that he will give the news to Picard.
In the meantime, Rasmussen has taken this time to pocket a tricorder while Data's attention was on La Forge and, you know, saving millions of lives.

Data goes to the ready room. "So here's the plan: we could use the phasers on the Enterprise to charge up the dust particles in the air - like lighting a spark in a gas-filled room. We could then position the ship to deflect that energy back into space, rendering it harmless, and clearing the atmosphere."
"Downside?" asks Picard.
"If we get the numbers wrong on the phasers by like, the tiniest amount, it will burn off the atmosphere of the planet."

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's log, supplemental: "I told La Forge to talk to Dr Moseley about the plan, and Moseley is going to his own people, to see what they want to do. In the meantime, I'm struggling with ethics."

Picard is staring out the window in the ready room when Rasmussen comes in. Picard has asked him to come.
"You can probably guess why you're here," says Picard. "If I don't do anything, tens of thousands of people will die. If I do one thing, I could save everyone. But if the numbers aren't exact, I could kill every living thing on the surface of the planet."
"That's sure a pickle to be in." 
Rasmussen doesn't say everything in a cheerful tone, but it's always very light-hearted. As though he's an NPC in a role-playing game: nothing affects him. Everyone around him is treating this situation with the solemnity it deserves, and he's just watching a show. The thing is, I've seen both NPCs and viewers of shows be more invested in the outcome that this guy is.
"I could ask for your help," suggests Picard, and before Rasmussen has time to object, Picard breaks in and tells him that he isn't looking for the outcome, as he knows Rasmussen can't give it to him. "But I would be remiss if I didn't ask for the outcome."
"Yeah, well, not gonna tell you," says Rasmussen. "I'm okay knowing the outcome and not giving it to you."
"How can you be?" asks Picard. "How can you be okay knowing millions of people could die, and just watching it?" 
He doesn't have a dog in this fight, that's why. Everyone in this century lived and died before he was born. In his mind, they are already dead, and so is Picard and his crew. 
"Let's put it like this," says Rasmussen, "and say I tell you that no one died. You'd assume what you did was correct, and try it again. But what if I told you everyone died, and you went in a different direction. Then, what if one of those people grew up -"
Picard interrupts him, because he knows where this is going: it's that tired, old "what if you just saved Hitler?" philosophical question. "This is not a class in temporal logic!"

"If I give you info about this event, it could change my history, and that of the entire galaxy," says Rasmussen. He seems to relish the idea that he has information that others do not.
"I have two choices," Picard says. "And I either pick the choice that leads to your history, or I pick the other that changes the future. You know about the Prime Directive, which talks about interfering in the development of alien worlds -"
Rasmussen looks uncertain.
" - and I have sworn to uphold it. I've broken it, several times, in instances where I felt it was the correct course of action. It's possible that you follow a temporal version, and in that case, would there not be instances where you might do the same?"
They go back and forth, and the long and short of it is, Rasmussen isn't budging, and Picard finally gives up. 
Riker calls to say they're pretty much within the window they need if they're going to do the thing.

They go out onto the bridge.
"So you made a choice?" asks Rasmussen.
"No," said Picard. "I just realized that, without your input, I have the same choices as before. And I can play it safe, or I can take a risk. I'm a risk-taker. So we're gonna do the thing. Program the firing sequence."

Dramatic music! Commercial break!

Picard's Log 45351.9: "Moseley talked to the colony's leaders, who gave us the go-ahead."

Everyone begins prepping, setting up phasers, and keying in calculations. Picard tells La Forge that it's time to come back upstairs, but La Forge tells Picard that he'd rather stay, that they'll need help on the surface to get everything tweaked, right up until the last second.
"They have computers that can do the thing," Data confirms, "but La Forge being there to do it himself would be more helpful."
Picard agrees.
"La Forge remained below," quotes Rasmussen.
Dude, STFU. No one asked for your running commentary. Sit down and watch, or leave the bridge.
They finish the last of the prep, then fire the phasers, and finally, the deflector dish.
The atmosphere erupts into fireballs.

After a moment, warp-coil-blue clouds cover the surface, and envelop the Enterprise. The crew rides it out, then turns the ship, and directs the cloud-vapor stuff off into space. The planet atmosphere clears. Rasmussen is on the edge of his seat as though, you know, he doesn't know how this is going to pan out.

Picard calls La Forge. He and Moseley confirm that everything looks good, and Moseley thanks Picard again.
"We're gonna hang out in orbit for a while to keep an eye on those volcanoes," says Picard, "but they'll probably cool down on their own."
As soon as the viewscreen is off, Rasmussen pops out of Troi's chair and announces that it's time for him to go. He talks too much, patronizingly points out that Picard did the thing without any help, and remarks that Riker is taller in person. Then he leaves the bridge, and Picard and Riker share a look before Picard turns to Worf.

Rasmussen enters the cargo bay a bit later with his bags packed, and finds the senior crew waiting for him.
"We need to look in your time machine," says a stony-faced Picard.
Rasmussen teases him about being curious, but when he realizes that Picard is not fucking around, he checks his ring watch again and says that Picard cannot be serious.
"Stuff is missing," Picard tells him. "It better not be on your ship."
Rasmussen steps forward to get on board, but Worf blocks him. "Let us in, or I'll blow it up."
And the would-be time traveler switches tactics: "My equipment is sensitive, so I'll only allow Data on board."
"Why Data?" asks Riker suspiciously.
"Because if I order Data not to say anything about what he sees in there, minus our things, he won't," says Picard.
Data agrees, and Rasmussen opens the door with his handprint. They go inside, the door closes behind them, and Data immediately recognizes a bunch of missing items.
Rasmussen pulls a phaser on Data and tells him that he did some research, and that he's got the phaser set for the highest stun setting, which is enough to immobilize Data.
But our android friend elects to ignore the threat. "Why do you have these items?"
And now, like any tropey villain, Rasmussen monologues: he's not from the 26th century, but the 22nd. He's an inventor, one that hasn't invented anything worth a damn, and he intends to go back and pop up every now and again, claiming that he invented each of these objects, thus setting himself up for life. And changing time.
"But this time pod is beyond the technology now," points out Data.
"Oh, this ship is legit," Rasmussen admits. "The time traveler I stole it from came back to my time, and told me that it was from the 26th century. These are his clothes, too."
So that story about himself and a time-traveling historian on a 22nd-century ship was probably real. It's just that the historian traveled there alone.
"Anyway, I was going to do the invention thing, but thanks to Picard insisting that you be the one to check out the time pod, I now get to go back to my time with you," says Rasmussen. He checks the ring watch. "The self-timer on the ship means that it will leave in about two minutes. You're gonna wake up in New Jersey."

He pulls the trigger, but the phaser just... clicks.
Sassy Data Moment: "I assume your handprint will open this door, whether you are conscious or not."
A moment later, the door opens, and Rasmussen and Data climb back out, Raz bitching about the broken phaser.
"You were right, he took our stuff," Data tells Picard. "And he's not from the future. He's from the past."
"All that shit about not altering your history, and here you are, altering mine," says a displeased Picard to Rasmussen.
"It was a misunderstanding." says Raz quickly, trying to move around Picard. "I need to get back on the ship."
Worf has stepped onboard and grabbed the items. Picard adds the stolen phaser to the pile. 
"That might have worked if you have taken fewer things," says Picard. "We got suspicious because of that. Our scanners can't penetrate the time pod, but we managed to set them to scan the inside and deactivate those items when the door opened. Worf, could your security people take him to the brig, and call the nearest starbase to say we will be dropping him off?"
Rasmussen tries to scramble around them again, but the door to the time pod closes, and the whole thing disappears.
Oops. Missed your train.

"Welcome to the 24th century, motherfucker," says Picard, as Worf hauls him away.
And the E leaves orbit of Penthara IV.

So, this episode.
I actually started writing this review weeks ago, but found that I was struggling to get through it. I just... didn't want to spend time with it.
The thing about going through each episode and film with a fine-toothed comb is that you pick up on subtleties that the writers and actors always wanted you to notice, but you didn't for whatever reason. You suddenly see tiny motions that the actors make, a word choice, a shifted tone, and Easter eggs sprinkled in the background. The content becomes more layered. And that's exactly what happened here.
This episode was meant to be a lighter note after the heavier palette of "Unification," and in truth, it is. It's a goofy one-off about a con man who convinces the E crew that he's a time-traveling historian, when in fact, he's a failed inventor from the past, here to swipe technology and then pass it off as his own, in his own time, to get rich. It doesn't really have any consequences attached to the outcome. The Federation isn't going to have to go to war with someone else in the quadrant because of his actions, and after he talks to the authorities in Starfleet, Rasmussen will probably be let go to figure out how to live his life in the wrong century.
But when I dumped the purse of this episode out on the table and picked through the contents, I saw something that I hadn't noticed previously: Rasmussen is a predator. He isn't presented as such; the writers clearly just made him a guy who was hiding his true intentions. But somewhere in there, he mixed in things that maybe had not been intended. He creeps on people who are not White Males In Charge. He starts by invading Data's space in the lift - he doesn't see Data as a threat, so it's okay to stand too close, to literally size him up, to touch his ear. I will never watch that scene and not think of some rude white rando just touching a Black person's hair without asking. Thinking he has the right to do so, because this person is not on the same level as he is. 
And Data, who has no emotions, and is still learning about humans, does not object. Rasmussen is just some weirdo. Sometimes humans are weirdos, and they act in anti-social ways. Data shrugs it off and continues the conversation as though this man did not violate his personal bubble. Maybe he's used to humans treating him like an object. Does that make it okay? Fuck no. Rasmussen is still wrong, regardless of how Data does or does not react. Later, he calls Data "it," and treats him like a servant, ignoring Data's earnest questions before deigning to speak to him, if only to lecture him about knowing too much about the future. And when he enters Data's quarters, he does not do him the courtesy of ringing the doorbell first. Everyone on this ship has the good sense and manners to ring the doorbell first, to offer the occupant the opportunity to refuse them entry if they so wish, but not this guy. Data's just a machine, so who cares?

Next up is La Forge. Again, Rasmussen invades his personal space: he stands too close, follows at his heels. He doesn't touch La Forge, but he asks weird, invasive questions about La Forge's VISOR at a time when he is clearly too busy too talk. And let's be honest: La Forge is fully aware that he is disabled, and like other disabled people, he knows that will attract attention from people who are curious. If you approach La Forge when he's not busy and stressed, and ask politely about his VISOR, he may tell you about it. Or he may not. It isn't his job to educate others about how he sees or makes his way in the world. But Rasmussen respects none of that. "That's your VISOR, huh? How do you like it? I have a picture of you in my office wearing that." It's like he glued himself to La Forge's back, and won't shut the fuck up. And La Forge practically leaps at the chance to go back to the surface of Pentara to get the hell away from him.

The predatory behavior is most obvious with Dr Crusher. He traps her in the hallway, won't let her get to her destination. He hits on her, and she's forced to do what every woman on the planet (or off) has been forced to do: smile a smile that never leaves your lips, uncomfortably duck around the guy, give him a rejection that isn't a flat-out no, try to end on a cordial note, and hope the encounter is over. Because if you don't let him down easy, he could hurt you. Follow you home. Stalk you. Kill you. Watch the shadows, never walk alone after dark, keep your keys between your fingers. Never accept a drink from a stranger.
It's just as important who he doesn't creep on. Picard and Riker are white men with high-ranking jobs. He bullshits them, but he maintains a polite distance. Worf is a threat. And Troi, though he tries to sweet-talk her, is also a threat: she knows he's untrustworthy, so he attempts to talk her around to his side. But she isn't buying what he's selling, and that small weapon allows her to walk away, even as he's trying to get into her space to convince her.

So there are our three: a Black disabled man, a woman, and an Other, all of whom he treats as being beneath him. He's walking around the ship, wiping his White Male Privilege on every surface. Are people in the 22nd century still that shitty? Because that's either a learned behavior, or sociopathy. I'm willing to accept either in this case.
Surely, Matt Frewer was directed to get predatory with those characters, right? With the exception of Picard, he has very few encounters in the story with the No Creep Zone of Worf, Troi, and Riker. They specifically selected three characters who, in this 21st century, are exactly the kind of person who would get creeped on, and who might, out of a sense of self-preservation, not report said creeping. It seems too intentional. It must be mentioned in Memory Alpha, right? No. Not a single sentence. Was it a side-note? "Hey, Matt. Be real "pushy" with these characters"? Was it an acting choice on Frewer's part? 
I couldn't be the only one to notice these things, correct? Other people must have noticed, it's so blatant once you give it a good look. I Googled the episode to see if anyone had talked about it at all. Several Reddit forums came up, and surely, something must be there, because what else is Reddit for, than to dissect things into oblivion? Nope. Nothing. The handful of Reddit threads I found brought up other interesting topics having to do with this episode, but not one thing about Rasmussen being a predator. Are we, as a society, still so deliberately obtuse to this problem? It's frustrating to me that I spent so many weeks being thoroughly creeped out by this character that I struggled to write this review, and it isn't acknowledged anywhere. I feel sort of alone in pointing this out, as though someone will step forward and tell me that I'm reading into the situation, that something I saw with my own eyes doesn't actually exist. 
Same as it ever was.

I suppose I should talk about the rest of the episode.
Firstly: Matt Frewer. He was a great choice for this character. It was written specifically for Robin Williams, but when Williams ducked out, the part went to Frewer, a guy who you want to like, but... can't. He's just unsettling enough that, while his antics are funny, he's completely untrustworthy. He perfects street magic for the purpose of stealing your wallet. He's like Boris fucking Johnson, a guy who pretends to not know what he's doing, in order to cover up the fact that... he doesn't know what he's doing. But you don't notice because he's being funny and charming.
As a character, Rasmussen had a pretty good set-up: he found a time-traveling historian, and stole his clothes and time pod. Did he kill him? We have no idea. Certainly, he stranded the real historian in the 22nd century. Next, he most likely learned of the Enterprise-D and her crew from the time pod. Maybe, like the Delorian in Back to The Future, the pod's destination was pre-set, and the information pulled up already, so all Rasmussen had to do was read up on it. But when he arrived in the 26th century, all he had to do was proclaim himself to be from the future, then steadfastly refuse to give out info on that time, lest he mess up the future. It's kind of the perfect cover. Steal things, but feign interest in the event currently taking place. Oh, and give out questionnaires to glean more info.

It seems a bit strange at first that Picard would go along with this so willingly. Is it because his last brush with time travel (Sela) turned out to be true when he questioned it? He's usually such a skeptic, but he hopped right on board, and Crusher jumped onboard with him. Is it possibly because Rasmussen pretends to be an historian, something that Picard relates to? Either way, he was only fooled for so long before becoming suspicious himself. And he probably admitted, if only to himself, that he had hoped that the whole thing were real, because the idea of an historian who studies events via time-travel sounds awesome, and Jules Verne-esque. (It is though, Picard! So cool!)
The cracks in veneer were brought upon not only by the missing items, but Rasmussen's personality. The guy came off like a pushy superfan, and I would imagine that celebrities feel the way the crew of the Enterprise did when interacting with this guy who knew absolutely everything about them, when they knew nothing about him. "I have pictures of you!" "You're taller in person!" "I knew your ready room was seven meters wide!" The guy was superfuckingexcited to be there, and let everyone know it. Would an actual historian, trying to blend in, really fangirl over every little thing like that? Nope. He probably would have docked at a starbase, invented a reason to be onboard, and gotten to know the crew, thus protecting the timeline. Rasmussen was a bit too Saturday morning breakfast cereal to be real.
Despite Reddit not turning up anything on my predator observations, it did turn up some interesting talking points. Among my favorites:
- Was it morally okay for the E crew to strand Rasmussen in the 24th century? He might have had a family back in the 22nd century, and by keeping him in the 24th, where his family had been dead for quite some time, may have been cruel and unusual punishment.
- Did Rasmussen kill the historian? Reddit seems to think he did, though we can't say for sure. If he did, that's pretty shitty, and he definitely deserves to be brought up on charges for it. But he might have just knocked the guy unconscious and stole his clothes and ship, stranding him in the 22nd century. Because we don't know anything about the 26th century, we have no way of knowing if the historian's time-travel system left him a way to communicate through time that he was stuck. Maybe there was a way for him to get back, and maybe there wasn't. (If there wasn't he should have done the next best thing, and marry that cute guy from Hull.)
- Observing things changes the outcome. Hell yes, Science Side of... Reddit! That's a great point!
- Someone mentioned the "plot hole" in letting the time pod disappear with the 24th century tools on board, but I think they failed to see that Worf had grabbed the tray with the tools off the pod before it disappeared. But it does raise a good point: where did the time pod go? Back to 22nd century New Jersey? That seems pretty dicey, guaranteed to change the future at least a little, unless it showed up at the feet of the (non-dead) historian, who got in it and left immediately. Leaving a time pod laying around in New Jersey is not a good idea.
The low-down: others will see this as a fun, goofy one-off, but I can't unsee those predator moments. 

Fun Facts:

- Writer Rick Berman was interested in the idea of a time traveler who says he's from the future, but is actually from the past. He enjoyed writing the script for this episode.
- The character of Rasmussen was actually written for Robin Williams. Williams was a Trek fan, and wanted to do a stint on the show. But when he finished filming Hook, his wife was 8 1/2 months pregnant, and the timing was just too close on the heels of that film.
- Rick Berman and Michael Piller admitted that getting the tech parts of the B-plot were tricky, and that they spent a lot of time going over research with tech experts to get it right.
- The time pod ship is a redress of the Nenebec, the broken-down ship in season four's "Final Mission." The exterior of the time pod will be reused for a different ship later.

- This is the first of five appearances of conn officer Ensign Felton.

- Among the things that Rasmussen tries to steal: a VISOR, a padd, a tricorder, a phaser, isolinear chips, and a d'k tahg. What... wtf was he going to do with a Klingon weapon? Did he just think it was cool?
- This is the first mention of the Enterprise-B.
- Michael Piller thought this lighter-toned episode was a nice palette-cleanser after the heavier Spock arc.
- Though director Paul Lynch thought Matt Frewer was great in this episode, he nevertheless considered "A Matter of Time" to be his least favorite episode of the five he directed.
- This episode won an Emmy for Visual Effects.
- I looked up Jonathan Frakes' IMDB to see if they listed any non-acting jobs he had over the years, and the answer is yes: he was an usher at a live theater, a waiter, and a furniture mover, all of which require customer service skills.

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