“Yesterday’s Enterprise” is the 63rd episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. It is the 15th episode of the third season, first airing in syndication in the week of 19 February 1990.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, the ship’s crew must decide whether to send the time-travelling Enterprise-C back through a temporal rift to its certain destruction, to prevent damaging changes to their timeline.
The plot for “Yesterday’s Enterprise” was based on the merging of two story ideas – one featured the crew of the time-travelling Enterprise-C and the other the return of Denise Crosby, whose character had been killed in the series’ first season. Trent Christopher Ganino and Eric A. Stillwell rewrote the merged story to feature the character of Guinan more prominently. To complete the episode in time for sweeps, the final script was finished by a team of five writers.
Filming of the episode lasted a week, with some elements of the script ultimately not included due to time constraints. In syndication, “Yesterday’s Enterprise” outperformed most of the third season’s episodes with a 13.1 Nielsen rating, the third-highest number for the series at the time. The episode is cited as a favourite by crew members and reviewers, and is widely regarded as one of the best episodes of the series.
The starship USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) encounters a rift in spacetime while on a routine mission. As they monitor the anomaly, the heavily damaged USS Enterprise-C, a ship believed to have been destroyed more than two decades earlier, emerges. Instantly, the Enterprise-D undergoes a sudden and radical change from its current timeline: it is now a warship, and the United Federation of Planets is at war with the Klingons. Neither Worf nor Counsellor Troi are seen or referred to, and Tasha Yar – who was killed years before – is now running the tactical station. None of the crew notice the change, but Guinan senses that reality has shifted, and has a meeting with Captain Picard to discuss her concerns. She senses that there are supposed to be children on the ship, which of course is completely impractical on a warship. She suggests that the Enterprise-C does not belong in their time and must return to the past. Picard, who knows that this would be a suicide mission, refuses to give such an order based on Guinan’s intuition alone.
Captain Rachel Garrett of the Enterprise-C and her crew learn they have travelled into the future. Garrett explains that they were responding to a distress call from the Klingon outpost on Narendra III, and were attacked by Romulan starships. While his crew works to repair the Enterprise-C and tend to the crew’s injuries, Picard and his command staff discuss whether or not the ship should return to the past. Commander Riker argues that their deaths would be meaningless, but Data suggests that it would be considered an honourable act by the Klingons. Picard discusses the situation with Garrett, who tells him that her crew will serve the Federation in the present. Picard quietly reveals to her that the Federation is on the verge of defeat and the presence of one ship will make no difference, but if the Enterprise-C were to return to the past they might prevent the war from ever starting. Garrett agrees and announces to her crew that they will return through the anomaly; at that moment, the two ships are ambushed by a Klingon Bird of Prey. Garrett is killed, and her helmsman, Richard Castillo, takes command.
During the repair efforts, Yar becomes close to Castillo, but is unnerved by tense interactions with Guinan. Guinan reveals to Yar that she knows Yar dies a meaningless death in the other timeline, and that the two should never have met. Based on her discussion with Guinan, Yar requests a transfer to the Enterprise-C, which is granted by Picard. As the Enterprise-C prepares to return through the anomaly, three Klingon battlecruisers attack. With the anomaly becoming unstable, Picard orders the Enterprise-D to cover the Enterprise-C’s withdrawal. The Enterprise-D suffers major crew losses under the Klingon barrage, including the death of Commander Riker, forcing Picard to man the tactical station himself. With the Enterprise-D on the brink of destruction, the Enterprise-C traverses the anomaly, triggering the return of Enterprise-D’s original timeline. In the restored timeline, Guinan – the only one subtly aware of what has transpired – asks Geordi La Forge to tell her more about Yar.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): David Carson.
- Writer(s): Trent Christopher Ganino and Eric A. Stillwell.
- Release Date: 19 February 1990.
- Running Time: 45 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.