|Star Trek: The Next Generation episode|
|Episode no.||Season 3
Episode 15 (episode 63)
|Directed by||David Carson|
|Featured music||Dennis McCarthy|
|Cinematography by||Marvin Rush|
|Original air date||February 19, 1990|
"Yesterday's Enterprise" is the 63rd episode of the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was the 15th episode of the third season. The episode first aired in syndication the week of February 19, 1990. In the plot, the crew of the USS Enterprise-D must decide whether to send the time-travelling Enterprise-C back through a temporal rift to its certain destruction in order to prevent their own disastrous timeline from ever occurring.
The plot for "Yesterday's Enterprise" came from the uniting of two story ideas; one which featured the crew of the time-travelling Enterprise-C, and another episode which featured the return of Denise Crosby, whose character had been killed in the show's first season. Trent Christopher Ganino and Eric A. Stillwell rewrote the story to more prominently feature the character of Guinan, and the script was completed by a team of five writers.
Filming of the episode lasted a week; some planned elements, including death scenes for many of the characters, were either too time-intensive or costly to film. In syndication, "Yesterday's Enterprise" outperformed most of the third season's episodes with a 13.1 ranking, the third-highest number for the series at the time. The episode is cited as a favorite by members of the cast and by reviewers.
The Starship Enterprise-D encounters a rift in space-time while on a routine mission. As they monitor the anomaly, the heavily damaged USS Enterprise-C, a ship believed destroyed more than two decades earlier, emerges. Instantly, the Enterprise-D undergoes a sudden and radical change: it is now a warship and the Federation is at war with the Klingons. Neither Worf nor Counselor Troi are seen or referred to, and Tasha Yar runs the tactical station. None of the crew notice the change, but Guinan senses that reality has changed, and has a meeting with Captain Picard. She says, for example, 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 should return to the past. Picard, who knows that this would be a suicide mission, refuses to give such an order 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 warbirds. While the 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. Riker argues that their deaths would be meaningless, but Data suggests that it would be considered an honorable 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, but 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 has become close to Castillo, but is unnerved by tense interactions with Guinan. Guinan reveals to Yar that she knows that Yar dies a meaningless death in the alternate timeline, and the two never should have met. Yar requests a transfer to the Enterprise-C based on Guinan's advice, to which Picard agrees. 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 tactical himself. With the Enterprise-D on the brink of destruction, the Enterprise-C traverses the anomaly.
At the beginning of Star Trek: The Next Generation's third season, Michael Piller became the series' head writer. Among the changes he implemented was to open the submission process for stories to non-professional writers, or those not represented by agents; though the studio resisted the effort, The Next Generation became the first show in Hollywood to allow such writers to submit their scripts. The studio was inundated with scripts—more than 5,000 would arrive in a single year.
Among the scripts submitted by freelance or aspiring writers was one by Trent Christopher Ganino. Ganino completed a third draft of his speculative script in April 1989 and submitted it to the office of pre-production associate Eric A. Stillwell. Ganino's script, titled "Yesterday's Enterprise", ran 106 pages, far longer than the usual 65-page submission guideline, but a special allowance was made since the script was double-spaced. The story involved the Enterprise-D's response to a crisis in the Golecian sector and the discovery of the Enterprise-C, which had been destroyed 18 years before. The crew of the Enterprise-C is in awe of the newer ship's technology, but Picard is confronted with revealing to their guests their ultimate fate. An Enterprise-C ensign accidentally discovers the fate of his vessel and panics; Worf and Riker must capture him after he attempts to escape. When Golecian warships attack, Picard defends the Enterprise-C using the same maneuver that caused the vessel's destruction in the past. The ensign is hypnotized and returned to his ship, which returns to the past and its certain destruction.
Due to the backlog of scripts, processing all the drafts could take anywhere from weeks to a year. Ganino's script was "logged" on May 2 and first read later that month by Richard Manning, a co-producer on the writing staff. Manning commented that the draft was "not horrible, not particularly original, but good in spots, lousy in others"; while not the review Ganino had hoped for, it was enough to keep the script in circulation.
Meanwhile, Ganino and Stillwell had struck up a friendship and began to develop ideas for other episodes. Gene Roddenberry had distributed a memo that suggested that though it would be unlikely to feature Leonard Nimoy as Spock on the series due to financial considerations, he suggested a reasonable alternative would be to feature Mark Lenard, who played Spock's father, Sarek. Stillwell also met Denise Crosby, who had played Tasha Yar in the show's first season, at a 1989 fan convention in San Jose. Over dinner, Crosby admitted she missed being part of the show and suggested that Stillwell could write a script to bring back her character, who had been killed off in the episode "Skin of Evil". Ganino and Stillwell began to work on script ideas that would involve both Yar and Sarek.
Executive story editor Melinda Snodgrass read Ganino's spec script for "Yesterday's Enterprise" in June and attached a post-it note that declared the story was an "interesting idea". A "coverage" of the script, which outlined the plot and provided creative feedback, was written in August. The coverage's analysis called the script a "good effort by an unrepresented writer", and considered the script's weak characterization and plot issues correctable. The main issue was whether the producers wanted to do a show with time travel.
Ganino and Stillwell were particular fans of two episodes from the original Star Trek series, "Mirror, Mirror" and "The City on the Edge of Forever", and wanted to combine elements from them for a Next Generation episode. The foundation of their episode involved a team of Vulcans investigating the Guardian of Forever. In the past, the founder of modern Vulcan logic, Surak, is killed, causing massive changes to the timeline. The Romulans and Vulcans joined forces to attack the Federation; Worf is no longer a crewmember on the Enterprise and Tasha Yar remains alive. Sarek and the Vulcans on the surface are the only people not affected by the timeline change, and in the end Sarek returns to the past to take Surak's place and restore the timeline. Satisfied with the story, the writers decided to pitch the idea to Piller.
Piller read "Yesterday's Enterprise" and suggested to producer Rick Berman that the story, not the script, be bought from Ganino. In a meeting, Piller told Ganino that he wanted to make changes to the story, which included the addition of Tasha Yar. Fearing that what they considered a better story was to be lost if the changes to "Yesterday's Enterprise" were undertaken, Stillwell talked to Piller and pitched their Guardian of Forever story. While intrigued by elements, Piller felt the use of the Guardian was a "gimmick" and wanted The Next Generation to stand on its own. Instead, Piller suggested that they merge the two stories, with Stillwell and Ganino sharing writing credit. Piller suggested that the Enterprise crew immediately undergo changes due to the presence of the older Enterprise, and that Guinan be integral to the realization that something was wrong. Ganino and Stillwell were given two weeks to complete their new story.
Ganino and Stillwell managed to complete their new combined story in about a week; the two writers spent hours each day at Stillwell's apartment working over every detail. They were under pressure to write a story Piller would find acceptable, as they wanted to have the opportunity to write the teleplay. The story treatment was turned in on October 10. Piller immediately decided to purchase the story, and distributed the treatment to the writing staff while he discussed changes. Piller felt Data's romantic feelings for Tasha Yar were over-the-top, and that an alien probe that served as a central part of the story felt like a cheat in terms of resolving Picard's dilemma. The writer wanted Ganino and Stillwell to beef up Guinan's role and find another character arc for Tasha Yar. A revised treatment was submitted on October 29, which incorporated Piller's changes, but the writers learned that they would not be involved in development of the teleplay; each was paid the Writers Guild minimum of $2400.
Meanwhile, production of the episode was moved up from January 1990 to December 1989, as this was the only time both Crosby and Whoopi Goldberg would be available for filming. The task of writing and polishing the new treatment in half the time fell upon writer Ronald D. Moore, who submitted his first draft on November 9. Moore's script made the alternate universe militaristic, with the Federation at war with the Klingons, and the alien probe was removed. Some characters, such as Troi, appeared only briefly at the beginning of the episode in order to offer more screen time to the guest characters. The beat sheet for the episode, which detailed characters and scenes, was distributed on November 27.
Because of the lack of time before production needed to start, a team of writers was assigned to write the teleplay. In addition to the story credit to Ganino and Stillwell, Moore, Ira Steven Behr, Hans Beimler and Richard Manning would work on the teleplay with Piller to provide a final polish—a total of seven writers. Some of the staff were convinced that with so many writers, the script would be a disaster. Because the Writers Guild would not allow more than three staff writers to appear in the credits (four after a special waiver was granted), Piller agreed not to feature his name in the credits. A partial first draft was turned in on November 30 so that preproduction for the episode could commence. The altered timeline provided the chance to show the Enterprise crew in a much more dramatic and human light than would be allowable in a normal episode; since the original timeline was to be restored, Behr explained, the writers had the freedom to include more action. "Even though it was an alternate universe, [Moore] and I got all excited because we realized we were going to kill everyone on screen," he said. Michael Okuda and Rick Sternbach submitted technical memos on what kind of anomaly might drag the Enterprise-C through time, and suggested interstellar, super-dense strings as a possibility. The first draft teleplay was completed by December 4, and a preproduction meeting was held the same day; the various departments argued over costs and what items could be cut to reduce the budget. The final draft was finished and turned in on December 8.
The studio decided to spend more than the average on the episode (at that time, Daily Variety estimated a mean cost-per-episode of $1.2 million.) The additional budget gave the production departments added liberties beyond what had been expected in the script. Among the reasons for the increase was that "Yesterday's Enterprise" would air during February sweeps, an important time for the studio to attract solid ratings. As The Next Generation was syndicated directly by the studio, the episode's performance would impact advertising revenue for the future.
The script called for the creation of the Enterprise-C. In the first season, illustrator Andrew Probert, who had designed the Enterprise-D, was interested in a display of the design lineage of the ship from James T. Kirk's Enterprises to The Next Generation's much larger ship (realized as a wall relief in the conference lounge behind the command bridge). Like most others, Probert assumed that the Enterprise-B was an Excelsior-class vessel and reasoned that the C would share design elements with its Excelsior-class predecessor and its Galaxy-class successor, Picard's ship. The artist also produced a small color sketch of his version of Enterprise-C, but left at the end of the season; with his absence, no one knew what the drawing was intended to be.
When Rick Sternbach took over Probert's duties, he believed the sketch was a rejected concept for the Enterprise-D, but the ship's design stayed with him. When he learned about the ship requirement for "Yesterday's Enterprise", he followed a thought process similar to Probert and built off the old sketch. Probert's version had a highly curved engineering hull reminiscent of a sailing ship, but Sternbach was worried a design with so many compound curves would prove difficult to fabricate in the available time, so he made the hull entirely circular. A set of orthographic views was created and sent to Greg Jein, who fabricated the shooting model; the model cost more than $10,000 to produce.
The crew took several steps to differentiate the alternate universe from the original one. A "military log" is substituted for a captain's log, "combat date" rather than stardate, and the absence of a counselor. The expanded budget allowed the bridge to be entirely redressed, something that would normally be infeasible. Steps replaced the bridge's ramps, and the captain's chair was elevated and made more throne-like. Longer, more military-looking tables were substituted for the usual decor in the Ten-Forward lounge. While enlisted crew aboard the darker Enterprise wore variations of the Season 1–2 uniforms, the senior officers wore slightly modified versions of the uniforms added that season. The Enterprise-C officers wore feature film costumes due to the expense and time-consuming nature of creating more than a half-dozen or so new uniforms for the episode. Costume designer Robert Blackman's solution to change their appearance was to remove the turtleneck collars underneath the red tunics, as well as the belts, although the rear belt loop remained.
Filming and casting
Filming began on Monday, December 11, 1989 and lasted for seven days. The episode was directed by David Carson, who had only helmed one other episode before "Yesterday's Enterprise" was shot. Carson felt that his relative lack of experience helped because he had no preconceptions about how things should be done. Since much of the episode took place in the darker alternate universe, Carson wanted to emphasize the effect decades of war had on the crew and the bridge. "Picard really looked tired and worn and like a battle-weary commander, and that's what we wanted the bridge to look like--a battle weary bridge. I had lots of thoughts about making it as strong as possible using a lot of low lights, a lot of dark blues, making it very much more moody," he said. In order to heighten the impact of the physical set changes, Carson took a different approach to how he constructed shots. "It was my intention to make it as much like a submarine as possible and to use low-angle lighting; basically, to do everything the opposite way that the Enterprise was normally shot." The cameras were equipped with longer lenses than usual in order to reduce the depth of the scenes and provide a grittier feel. The use of low angles forced the lighting to be modified in order to prevent the scene from looking "like a hotel lobby", in Carson's words.
Two new roles needed to be filled for the production: Garrett and Castillo. The actors selected were both Star Trek fans. Christopher McDonald was picked for Castillo. "What impressed me about [McDonald]," Carson remembers, "was that he wasn't just your romantic leading man; he was actually a very impressive actor." Tricia O'Neil was cast for similar reasons; the actress was not the normal Star Trek commander type. Carson was also pleased to work with Crosby and Goldberg. The main cast enjoyed the opportunity to play their characters differently. The result was an unusual degree of friction between characters. This provoked some concern with the producers; Berman was afraid that the episode was pushing the timeline too far.
Ganino and Stillwell visited the set frequently during filming. Members of the main cast approached Stillwell with questions about the nature of the altered universe and if they were still the same character. Goldberg asked Ganino about changing a piece of dialogue on set; since Ganino was not the author of the teleplay, he deferred to Stillwell, who notified the production office. When Berman found out that Ganino and Stillwell were on set and talking to the actors, he banned them from setting foot on the sets again. Due to time constraints many planned elements were never filmed; Moore had hoped for an extended battle scene in which Data would be electrocuted, and Wesley blown up in an explosion. Production of the episode wrapped on December 19.
Release and reception
"Yesterday's Enterprise" was first broadcast the week of February 19, 1990. Because The Next Generation aired in syndication, "Yesterday's Enterprise" did not air on a specific day or time slot. The episode received a 13.1 rating for the time period from February 19 to March 4 — the third highest rating for the series, and the highest for the entire season. While the season had averaged 9,817,000 households, "Yesterday's Enterprise" was viewed by 12,070,000 households.
The episode has been well-received by reviewers. In a retrospective review, Zack Handlen of The A.V. Club praised the episode for quickly establishing the premise and stakes, as well as turning Tasha Yar's death into one of the episode's "strongest emotional beats [...] Tasha's determination to die with meaning by the end of [the episode] transforms her from a misstep into something more noble and sad." In contrast, Tor Books' Keith DeCandido wrote that while the guest stars were excellent, Tasha Yar's return for a "TV death" is the episode's major flaw: "It is, in short, a scripted death, and you can see the marionette strings," he wrote. Film critic Jordan Hoffman wrote that the episode is "heavy, Philip K. Dick-ian stuff that actually takes some thought to follow and there all victories come at a cost," and that it is a fan favorite episode for good reason. Likewise, Den of Geek reviewer James Hunt praised the episode for finding the human stakes in the story, elevating it above standard science fiction time travel stories.
Critic Marc Bernardin described the episode as Star Trek's "smartest time-travel experiment" and a fan favorite. The Toronto Star listed The Next Generation's time-shifting episodes, including "Yesterday's Enterprise" as one of the twenty best elements of the show. Fans attending the Star Trek 50th Anniversary convention in 2015 voted "Yesterday's Enterprise" the fifth-best episode of the franchise. The episode ranked first in Entertainment Weekly's list of top 10 Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. Screenwriters John Logan and Roberto Orci, writers for the 2002 film Star Trek: Nemesis and the 2009 reboot Star Trek, respectively, cite "Yesterday's Enterprise" as one of their favorite episodes and influences.
Home media release
The first home media release of "Yesterday's Enterprise" was on VHS cassette, appearing on July 11, 1995 in the United States and Canada. "Yesterday's Enterprise" was also included as one of four episodes (along with "The Best of Both Worlds, Parts I and II" and "The Measure of a Man") in a DVD collection entitled "The Best of Star Trek: The Next Generation". The episode was later included on the Star Trek: The Next Generation season three DVD box set, released in the United States on September 3, 2002. The first Blu-ray release was in the United States on April 30, 2013.
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