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Timescape (episode)

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Series:TNG
Season:6
Original Airdate:1993-06-14
Production Number:251
Year:2369
Stardate:46944.2
Story by:Brannon Braga
Directed by:Adam Nimoy
Cmdr. Riker is treated after being attacked by Spot

Aboard a runabout, Picard, Data, Geordi, and Deanna encounter time distortions; they also discover the Enterprise, frozen in time, seconds away from destruction.

Summary

Teaser

Commander Riker is sitting on one of the beds in sickbay with two deep cuts on his forehead. While Dr Crusher is scanning the cuts with a tricorder she says that it serves him right for playing Parrises squares like he was twenty-one and that next time he injures himself, she may not be able to treat him. Riker tells her that he wasn't playing Parrises squares so Beverly guesses that he was injured in one of Worf's calisthenics programs but again she is wrong and Riker tells her that it was in fact Spot who injured him - Riker promised to feed Data's cat while he was away (even though will hates cats) and was attacked as he was going to feed Spot. Riker suggests that Beverly feed Spot and the doctor says that she'd be happy to. Riker is called to the bridge by Lt Worf on the intercom and as Riker leaves sickbay for the bridge, he tosses Beverly a hand phaser joking that she'd need it to feed Spot.

As Riker enters the bridge, Worf informs him that they have picked up a distress call on the long range sensors from a Romulan ship, claiming that they have suffered a total engine failure, power levels are falling and life support systems are failing. The distress call is possibly a trap but Federation policy is to give the benefit of the doubt in these situations and because the Enterprise won't rendezvous with Captain Picard's runabout for another thirteen hours, Riker orders a course to meet with the Romulan ship but have the shields raised and go to red alert as a precaution.

Captain's Log, Stardate 46944.2. Commander Data, Mister La Forge, Counselor Troi and I are en route to the Enterprise, after attending a three-day conference on the psychological effects of long-term deep space assignments.
Captain Picard, Lt Cmdrs Data and La Forge and Counselor Troi are onboard a runabout heading back to rendezvous with the Enterprise. Data turns helm control of the runabout over to the computer and joins Picard, Geordi and Deanna who are sitting at a table finishing their lunch, discussing their thoughts about the conference. Deanna talks about a Ktarian scientist, Dr Mizan, who wanted her to join him in "empirical research" on inter-species reproduction. Other than her encounter with Dr Mizan, Deanna was bored at the conference as there was little opportunity for those
File:Timescape - Picard, Data and Geordi Freeze.jpg
attending one of the seminars to give their views as the only the lecturer gave his views. Picard's experiences were no better - he attended the physiognomy workshop where the lecturer, Dr. Vassbinder, spent an hour giving a dissertation on the ionization effect of warp nacelles until he realised that the topic was supposed to be psychology but nobody could tell him as he never gave the opportunity. Geordi on the other hand enjoyed his time at the warp energy symposium where he was able to touch a plasma field but halfway through speaking, he, Data and Picard freeze for no apparent reason. The pause is almost like a photograph and Deanna is surprised by the sudden stop in her friends' movements but a matter of seconds later, they resume and Geordi continues speaking about the plasma field as if nothing happened. Geordi notices that Deanna is somewhat shaken by something but when he asks her if something is wrong, she is not sure.

Act One

While Geordi scans Picard and the Counselor with a tricorder, Deanna recalls what happened, saying that Picard, Data and Geordi stopped for a few seconds then carried on but she can't explain it. Geordi's tricoder scans turn up inconclusive saying that if something did happen to them, no residual traces were left and Data's memory showed no pause at the time when he froze. Furthermore, Data's internal chronometer and computer are perfectly synchronised so there appears to be no kind of temporal discrepancy but Geordi suggests running a ship-wide diagnostic to see if there was anything that they missed. Data agrees and goes with Geordi to the runabout cockpit. Picard asks Deanna to describe exactly when they appeared to freeze and she does so and says that she was probably just tired but in the blink of an eye, she is surrounded by all three officers. Deanna jumps in surprise and asks what happened while Geordi is scanning her. Data explains that she appeared to be motionless for just over three minutes - much like she had described the three previously. Geordi then finds something unusual on the tricorder - the scans were taken twenty-three minutes apart but according to her rate of cellular decay, she has only aged twenty minutes. Picard asks what could account for the discrepancy but Geordi does not know and says that it was as if time stopped for three minutes for the Counselor. The Captain is unwilling to take any risks and orders Data to contact the Enterprise, telling Riker to come to the rendezvous point as soon as possible and to scan the region for temporal anomalies. Geordi leaves to check the sensor logs and Data reports that the Enterprise is not answering the hail and because the flagship is beyond sensor range, Picard orders an increase in speed to reach the rendezvous co-ordinates more quickly.

Data and Geordi are piloting the runabout when Data reads that there is an engine failure and the ship violently jolts and veers to the right. The starboard warp nacelle has just stopped and Data restores attitude control and the runabout is brought to all stop. Geordi is surprised to report that the starboard antimatter pod has been completely drained but there is no leak and all of the other engine systems are fully operational. Data then believes that he has an explanation for the sudden depletion of fuel - the plasma conversion sensor says that the starboard engine has been in operation for forty-seven days - far longer than the crew had been away for the conference, something that should have been impossible. Geordi checks the sensor while Picard goes into the crew cabin to check the fuel consumption logs.

File:Timescape - Picard Hand.jpg

While working in the cabin, the Captain notices something unusual, the fruit on the table (which was fresh minutes ago) is rotten and he innocently reaches with his right hand to touch it but he yells in agony and pulls his hand away. The three other officers run in to the cabin reacting to the Captain's yell. Picard sits in a chair holding his hand which is shaking and the fingernails on his right hand have grown as if they had been growing for several weeks. Troi scans his hand with a tricorder and says that the metabolism in his hand has increased by nearly fifty times and the pain in his hand soon subsides. Data looks at the fruit and performs a scan of the room with his tricorder. The android reports that there is a temporal disturbance, roughly spherical in shape, that intersects with the table. Time within this disturbance passes fifty times more quickly than normal and the disturbance reaches out to seventeen metres in space - covering the starboard nacelle, explaining why the runabout's supply of antimatter was drained. A final look at the fruit shows that it has completely disintegrated into dust.

Picard orders Geordi to try and pilot the runabout away from the disturbance. He and Data manage to do so but they are soon stopped by another disturbance that has appeared directly behind them. Geordi reads his console and calls the Captain in. The sensors show that the runabout is surrounded by dozens of disturbances of different sizes where time appears to be passing at different rates - almost as if the space-time continuum had been shattered into fragments. The fragmentation effect increases along the course of the rendezvous co-ordinates with the Enterprise. There is a somewhat ominous pause before Picard asks if they can navigate around the fragments - they can but only at half impulse power and a course is set to the rendezvous co-ordinates.

The runabout arrives at the rendezvous co-ordinates but there is no sign of the Enterprise but Geordi reads a faint, possibly metallic, signature. However power levels from the signature are negligible. The runabout makes its way to the signature but the fragmentation effect increases and the runabout slows further to compensate. They look though the front window and the moment turns to shock - the Enterprise and a Romulan warbird are in the midst of a battle but the disruptor fire from the warbird is frozen in mid-blast.

Act Two

File:Runabout (Enterprise-D)1.jpg

Both the Enterprise and the Romulan warbird have been caught in another one of the temporal fragments and all of the fragments converge at this particular point in space so it is likely that this is the centre of the disturbances. Picard orders a scan for life signs but Data finds that sensors cannot penetrate the subspace field and he is unable to scan inside of either vessel. The Enterprise has taken some damage to its saucer section from disruptor fire but the Romulan warbird appears to have suffered no damage, suggesting that it decloaked and opened fire before the Enterprise could respond. There is also a second energy beam, coming from the Enterprise's navigational deflector. It is impossible to tell what the beam is for from a mere visual inspection but it is aimed at the engineering section of the warbird. The crew of the runabout cannot work out what has happened between the two ships from their current location and Picard suggests transporting over to the Enterprise but Data advises against it as each time that they were exposed to one of the temporal fragments, they were integrated into its time frame - if they were to beam over to the Enterprise, they would become frozen in time and unable to work out the situation.

Picard thinks to himself and asks Geordi if using a subspace isolation field similar to one used on Devidia II would protect them from the effects of the temporal fragments (TNG: "Time's Arrow, Part I"). Geordi replies in the positive but they would need a sensitive phase discriminator to modulate such a forcefield. Data points out that the subspace emitters in the emergency transporter armbands could be modified to produce the desired effect as they contain a type-seven phase discriminator - a sensitive enough discriminator. However for the crew to be able to interact with the environment onboard the Enterprise the field would have to be restricted to an almost skin-tight fit. Geordi and Data begin their modifications to the armbands and Geordi also channels communications through the subspace relays in them so they can remain in continuous communication. Picard, Data and Deanna wear armbands while Geordi remains on the runabout where he'll monitor them. As he activates the field, Deanna falls (and Data promptly catches her) feeling dizzy due to the small pocket of time being placed around them. Geordi beams the three directly to the bridge.

The three officers materialise on the bridge that has taken some damage and three Romulans are present, all armed with disruptors. They spread apart with Data moving to Ops, Deanna moving over to Riker, who appears to have fallen with a Romulan in front of him and Picard walks over to the command region of the bridge. Although none of the consoles function, objects in the time frame can be moved and the console at Ops reads that there is a massive power surge coming from Main engineering. Picard moves to tactical and reads from the console that security teams have been despatched to both Transporter room Three and sickbay. Picard tells Data to go to Main engineering to determine the cause of the power surge and for
File:Timescape - Crusher Death.jpg
Deanna to go to sickbay while he will go to Transporter room Three. Picard orders Geordi to transport the three of them to their respective destinations but he advises against it due to the power drain imposed both by the transporters and the subspace fields. Picard understands and the three go to their destinations through the Jefferies tubes.

Deanna makes her way to sickbay and finds several Romulans, medical and security staff all looking at a central point and when she turns to see the centre of attention, she is horrified to see that Beverly has been hit by a disruptor blast at point blank range - should the time frame return to normal, there is no way that she can survive. Deanna runs out in shock but after she exits the room, a Romulan woman blinks and looks around, somewhat relieved that she was not spotted.

Act Three

Captain Picard walks in to Transporter Room Three and sees three Romulans on the transporter pad, all unarmed. He then walks over to the transporter console, being manned by Mr. Worf and Deanna walks in, still startled by Beverly's imminent death. He tells Deanna that Worf just beamed three Romulans over and another three to sickbay but he is confused as to why Romulans are being beamed aboard in the middle of a battle and why the Romulans are unarmed. Deanna interrupts the Captain and informs him of what she has just seen in sickbay and Data calls Picard asking that he and Deanna come to engineering immediately - it is urgent.

As Picard and Deanna arrive in engineering, Picard asks what the problem is. Data replies saying that he has found the cause of the power surge - a warp core breach is in progress. The core breach is at its flashpoint (a large, motionless cloud has formed from the warp core) but it is also expanding. Picard is confused and thought that time was suspended but Data has determined that time is moving but at an almost immeasurably slow rate and that they failed to realise this because their first conclusion was merely based on the observations of the crew but a warp core breach moves at a substantially faster rate than almost anything else.
File:Timescape - Core Breach Flashpoint.jpg
Data then says that based on the rate of the cloud's expansion that it will destroy the Enterprise in nine hours and seventeen minutes. With concern for his ship, Picard asks what can be done to stop the breach but unfortunately it is no longer a matter of stopping the breach as it has already happened and the fact that it is moving so slowly changes nothing. Picard studies the breach in astonishment while Deanna asks Data what caused the breach. Data does not know but the consoles in engineering show that the Enterprise was performing a power transfer to the Romulan warbird at the moment that time slowed down. Deanna wonders why the Enterprise would be sending power to the Romulans and Data suggests going over to the Romulan ship to find out but Picard starts to laugh and Data and Deanna turn to see what he finds so amusing. The Captain has just drawn a smiley face into the cloud but he stops laughing and falls back in to the wall behind him - something is wrong. Data and Deanna rush over to him and Picard says that he feels dizzy and starts laughing again but as Data reaches for him, Picard pulls away and panics uncontrollably and Deanna calls Geordi to beam them back to the runabout immediately.

Picard (looking exhausted), Data and Deanna are back on the runabout while Geordi checks Picard's armband. He realises that the Captain wasn't completely protected from the effects of the other time frame and Data compares what Picard experienced with nitrogen narcosis. Nothing more can be done to give better protection from the time frame and Geordi suggests limiting the time they spend on each trip and always staying together. The next course of action is to find out why the Enterprise was transferring power over to the Romulan warbird and Picard wants to begin the search in the engine room of the warbird and asks for Deanna's input as she spent some time on a Romulan warbird previously (TNG: "Face of the Enemy") but he feels dizzy again and Deanna suggests that he stay onboard the runabout and have Geordi go instead. Picard reluctantly agrees but allows them to go for no more than ten minutes.

File:ArtificialQuantumSingularity.jpg

When Data, Geordi and Deanna materialise in the Romulan engine room, Deanna points Geordi over to a power utilisation monitor that he'd find of use then she and Data walk over to another monitor where Data finds something peculiar - the crew is not at Battle Stations but rather at Evacuation Alert. Geordi calls them over and tells them that there is an energy feedback in the power transfer beam and that it was probably what overloaded the warp engines of the Enterprise causing the warp core breach. Data considers that the Romulans caused the feedback to destroy the Enterprise but Geordi does not believe so - the console suggests that they were trying to stop the power transfer. Deanna realises that the more they learn, the less that the situation looks like a Romulan attack. Geordi suggests looking at their engine power output but Data says that the engine core is completely inactive - something that should be impossible as the Romulans use an artificial quantum singularity as the power source on D'deridex class vessels; once it has been activated, it cannot be shut down.

Geordi opens the hatch of the engine core for a closer look. He looks inside and believes that he has found the cause of the problem.
File:Timescape - Enterprise Destroyed.jpg
There is a vortex within the singularity with several dark spots inside it. As Data scans the vortex he reveals that it is a focused aperture in the space-time continuum. Its energy signature matches that of the temporal fragments that they encountered previously but it is more than a million times more intense and it is likely to be the origin of the temporal fragmentation. The dark spots within the aperture produce complex bio-electric patterns, possibly a life form but before Data can make further observations the aperture fluctuates. As it fluctuates, the time frame returns to normal and the Romulan officers speak and walk between stations but all of the Romulans but one pay no attention to the Starfleet officers.

Picard watches the action return to normal but he sees the Enterprise explode from the warp core breach but time reverses and the Enterprise comes back together. Back on the Romulan warbird, the Romulan officers' actions are going in reverse then they stop at the exact same point before the aperture fluctuated.

Act Four

Moments later, the three officers are speaking to Captain Picard through the com and Data believes that the emissions from his tricorder caused the activation of the aperture and advises against any further exposure. He adds that the Romulans were trying to eject their engine core. Deanna adds that there was some sort of energy feedback and Geordi believes that they were trying to stop the feedback in anyway they could. Geordi reads one of the engineering consoles to try to determine what was happening on the bridge but he notices something unusual. He soon realises that a Romulan (the same Romulan who noticed them when time briefly returned to normal) is in a space that was empty before but when he asks Data if he was there before, the Romulan attacks Geordi and they both fall back. Data and Deanna run over to Geordi who is now dying from neural shock but there is too little time to send him back to the runabout to treat him and Deanna removes his armband to slow down the neural shock. She asks Data if the Romulan is alive but after scanning him Data says that he is alive but he is not sure that the man is a Romulan.

File:Timescape - Geordi Attacked.jpg

Onboard the runabout, Picard, Data and Deanna are standing around one of the beds in the cabin, on which the "Romulan" alien is lying unconscious. Data's scan of the alien show that his cellular structure does not conform to any known species and that his bio-electric patterns are in a state of temporal flux. He doubts that the alien is native to their time continuum. Picard asks to see Data's readings of the organic matter that he found inside the aperture. Picard and Data look at a bio-spectral analysis of the aperture on the monitor and find that the bio-electric patterns of the organic matter are similar to those of the alien on the bed but they are much less complex and that the cellular structures of the organic matter are in a state of cellular mitosis - it may be an embryo. The alien awakes and Picard asks him who he is. The alien replies saying that he assumed the body of the Romulan in order to survive in this time continuum but he struggles to speak. He adds that he has come to this time continuum to save their young that are trapped inside the artificial "gravity well" and that they are dying - the alien is referring to the Romulan engine core but as he speaks, his body starts to phase and Data scans him finding that his molecular structure is destabilising. Picard asks how the alien's young became trapped inside the singularity. The alien replies that they needed a natural quantum singularity to incubate their young but they mistook the Romulan one, which is artificial, for a natural one. Deanna, Picard and Data soon piece together the puzzle - when the alien young were nested in the singularity, it shut down so the Romulans sent out a distress call and the Enterprise responded, finding the Romulan ship suffering from an apparent engine failure and began a power transfer. However when the power transfer beam made contact with the alien "nest" it disrupted the space-time continuum and threatened the lives of the young, forcing the alien to fire upon the Enterprise to stop the power transfer. The alien reveals that there is another alien like him but before he can give any more information, he disappears completely. Picard, Data and Deanna are now on their own to find the other alien.

Act Five

A few minutes later, Picard is frustrated with the imminent destruction of the Enterprise (just over seven hours away) and asks Data if the entire warp core can be beamed in to space but it would require surrounding the entire core with a subspace isolation field and the runabout cannot generate so large a field. Picard then thinks and mentions when the tricorder emissions caused time to go forward and then backward and asks if the opposite effect can be achieved with time going backward then forward. Deanna catches on to the idea and suggests running time back to a point before the core breach and prevent the power transfer so that when time rolls forward again, the core breach will never happen. Data believes that it is possible to put the theory into practice by re-modulating the delta-band emissions of his tricorder to produce the desired effect. Picard gives the go-ahead, knowing that timing will be critical as there will be little time to prevent the power transfer.

Captain's Log, Supplemental. After placing the modified tricoder on the Romulan ship, we have returned to the Enterprise.

The three officers are all in position - Data is main engineering standing by the pool table, Picard is on the bridge by the aft science station and Deanna is in sickbay with her phaser drawn aimed at the Romulan firing at Beverly. Unknown to Deanna, the "Romulan" woman (the second alien) who was looking around earlier is absent from sickbay. Data has placed his modified tricorder in front of the aperture and activates it via a PADD. There is another flash of light and time moves backwards. The disruptor blast that hit Beverly has now reversed into the disruptor and the cloud from the warp core breach has disappeared and Data reports that the breach has been reversed. He stands poised at the pool table to prevent the power transfer but the second alien walks in (unaffected by the time frame) and attacks Data and both of them fall on to the floor. Meanwhile, time returns to normal and goes forwards and just as Data awakes, an Ensign initiates the power transfer. Data attempts to shut down the transfer but it is too late and he raises a Level-3 containment field around the warp core.

File:Timescape - Runabout Destruction.jpg

The Romulan warbird fires its disruptors at the Enterprise and on the bridge, Riker is knocked over and a Romulan officer helps him back on his feet and he is surprised to see the Captain but there is no time for Picard to explain how he got back and he orders Riker to continue evacuating the Romulan ship and to beam Geordi (who is still in the Romulan engine room) directly to sickbay. In sickbay, Deanna pulls Beverly out of the way as the Romulan fires his disruptor and aims her phaser at him. Beverly explains to Deanna that he wasn't firing at her. The Romulan officer explains that he was shooting at an alien who had taken Romulan form but the doctor got in the way. Picard asks Data for a report and Data reports that he was attacked by the other alien and that he was unable to prevent the power transfer and because he cannot disengage it, a core breach is again imminent. The Enterprise cannot move to stop the power transfer because the feedback from the beam would destroy the ship but Picard quickly gets an idea - he has Riker patch him through to remotely control the navigation of the runabout and he navigates the runabout between the Enterprise and the Romulan ship, interrupting the beam and destroying the runabout in the process. As the runabout explodes, both the second alien and the Romulan warbird disappear. The other results of severing the power transfer are that the warp core breach has been prevented and that the space-time continuum has been restored to normal.

Captain's Log, Stardate 46945.3. We successfully evacuated the crew of the Romulan ship. We're on course to the Neutral Zone to bring them home.

Some time later, Riker arrives at Data's quarters (feeling slightly nervous about Spot) with a PADD telling him that he has worked out new shift rotation schedules and that he wants Data to tell the department heads of the personnel assignments. Data is performing an experiment to try to understand how humans perceive time after hearing how some say that time passes quickly in one instance and slowly in another although he knows that in reality, the passage of time remains fixed. Riker says that the human perception of time differs from person to person and that it varies according to the situation and one's mood. Data has boiled the same water in a kettle more than sixty times and sometimes he watched the kettle intently and at others he ignored it but the water boiled at exactly the same time in each instance and he feels that he is incapable of perceiving time differently from his internal chronometer. However, Riker suggests that Data turn off his internal chronometer and see if his perception of time differs as humans do not have human chronometers. Data thanks Riker for his suggestion and Riker leaves, warning Data of not being late for his night shift in a joking manner.

Background Information

Memorable Quotes

  • "You're going to need this." - Riker to Beverly on taking care of Spot, throwing her a phaser
  • "So Diane... I understand you're an empath. I'm a very... sensitive man myself. I'm doing a thesis on intter-species mating rituals... Would you care to join me in some empirical research?" - Deanna Troi, impersonating Dr. Mizan
  • "Did you help him with his research, Counselor?" - Data to Troi
"Absolutely not!" - Troi
"But I thought it was a topic you were interested in."
  • "He just kept talking in one long incredibly unbroken sentence moving from topic to topic so that no-one had a chance to interrupt, it was really quite hypnotic." - Picard, on Dr. Vassbinder
  • "It's going to take a little time to explain, Number One." - Picard, to Riker

Links and References

Guest Stars

References

47; antimatter; artificial quantum singularity; D'deridex class; dermal regenerator; Devidia II; disruptor; emergency transporter armband; Inter-species reproduction; Klingon calisthenics program; medical tricorder; nitrogen narcosis; Parrises squares; psychology; physiognomy; plasma conversion sensor; runabout; Runabout (Enterprise-D); Spot; subspace; temporal fragment; temporal narcosis; tricorder; Vassbinder; warp core breach; warp nacelles


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