“Timescape” – My Personal Connection with Trek
By season six, Star Trek: The Next Generation had firmly established itself as the standard for science fiction on television. Nothing else was coming close, in my opinion, to its popularity. Every other show, especially those in syndication (which seemed to be the only way to get good sci-fi), was chasing the cloud of dust it was leaving for the rest of the competition to aim for.
Having established itself firmly as the more-than-capable “new kids on the block,” in seasons 3-5, TNG was thriving in syndication and was poised to take the reigns in the film industry as the now-iconic original crew was showing its age. After a final seventh season, TNG would ultimately take those reigns and make its own mark on the film franchise.
I was ecstatic at the notion of a series of films from this crew, but that’s getting ahead of myself! There was still season six and seven to work through and the TNG staff of writers gave us some fantastic stories to enjoy.
One of those stories comes from season six, episode twenty-five: “Timescape”. It aired originally on 14 June 1993 and was written by Brannon Braga and directed by Adam Nimoy. At the start of the episode, we find Picard, Troi, Data, and La Forge traveling by runabout back to the Enterprise from a conference.
The scene opens up with a light and witty conversation about said conference. During this conversation, Troi notices that the other three officers suddenly freeze in place. Thus ensues a tale of the four trying to figure out what is causing these disruptions in time, as they all begin to notice strange things happening.
As they approach a non-responsive Enterprise, they are shocked to see that the ship seems to have been in some kind of conflict with a Romulan ship. Both ships are frozen in place. They board the Enterprise, and the real investigation begins. Naturally, they are confused as to why there are Romulans on board the Enterprise and make some minor assumptions that help to create intrigue and suspense. However, they come to discover that the Enterprise and her crew were actually helping the Romulans, and they were working together on the solution.
That’s the story in a very small nutshell, but it gets the point across. Oh, and there’s a couple cute scenes where Riker is very timid and even a little afraid of Data’s cat, Spot!
What’s special to me about this episode is actually connected to the start of my college career. I was attending a small college in Canton, Ohio, called Malone College (now it’s a university) and I was attending a freshman level class called “Exploring the History of Art and Music”. I loved history, and I loved art and music, so what more exciting class could there be for someone like me? The answer: about any other class I ever took!
The material was fantastic, but the professor was an old-school, slow-talking, monotone-speaking fellow who was very hard to listen to. It was good that I was such a fan of art and music, or this class would have been nothing more than a chance to take a good hour-long nap, twice a week.
That all changed for me, however, when he randomly asked the class one day if anyone had ever heard the name “Brannon Braga”! I knew instantly who he was asking about!
The professor described teaching, some years ago, at a McKinley Highschool here in the Canton area. There was an incredibly bright and talented student who wrote papers that were far above anything he’d ever seen a high school student produce. He said they were amazing papers and, typically, brilliant.The student wanted to write and produce for film and television. This professor encouraged him, but also encouraged him to expand his interests and goals, as the chances of actually selling a script to Hollywood is about as likely as the chance of the average athlete making it all the way to the professional level.
Brannon Braga, however, had achieved his dream and was currently writing and producing for the most popular sci-fi show on television. He would soon go on to write for that show’s film adaptations.
I was also in another class, called “The Process of Research”, and was working on a paper revolving around exploring the many ways Star Trek had dealt with the issue of racism. I needed an interview as part of my research and had been struggling to find someone other than my dad who would have some knowledge and insight into this part of Star Trek’s legacy of storytelling.
Now, right here in front of me, was someone who actually knew someone else connected with the show I loved so dearly! I sought out an interview and he obliged immediately, as he was excited to talk Trek with a student who sat in the back and had been relatively quiet and unengaged until now.
For the next hour, I saw a different and wonderful side to this professor as he described Braga, and his connection with Trek. The professor also revealed that, thanks to Braga, his name had been used in an episode of TNG called “Timescape”! I couldn’t believe it! Besides being pretty stoked to learn that Star Trek had such a fantastic connection to Canton, Ohio, I was thrilled to be talking to someone who had influenced one of its most prolific and talented writers!
Back to “Timescape”. You may recall the conversation on the runabout at the beginning of the episode where Picard is describing and doing an impersonation of Professor Vassbinder? His impersonation is spot on!
And Trek would proceed to refer to Vassbinder, firstly in The Next Generation‘s seventh season episode “Journey’s End” (written by Ronald D. Moore) and secondly in the Voyager episode “Year of Hell” (written by Brannon Braga and Joe Menosky).
I’ve never met Brannon Braga, but I felt like I did on the day I interviewed Professor Vassbinder. At that time, I also felt closer than ever to Star Trek.