I have been a fan of Star Trek for as long as I can remember. I first started watching it in the late 1980s when Star Trek The Next Generation was still going through its maturity phase of Seasons 2 and 3. Star Trek has evolved a long way since then and there are countless moments or episodes that stand out. I have often been asked what my favorite episode is and in truth I can never decide. I therefore often compile lists of my favorite episodes. These lists tend to change from time to time but one episode above all others has always appeared on that list. I am referring to “Yesterday’s Enterprise”.
Season 3 will be remembered by most for its penultimate episode “Best of Both Worlds Part 1” but hidden in among the series was this gem. It has often been remembered simply as the one where Tasha Yar comes back but it’s much more than that. Although 41 minutes occur in an alternate timeline there are several moments that set up important plotlines for later episodes.
So let’s begin.
The episode begins simply enough with Worf sitting alone in Ten Forward when he is approached by Guinan insisting he try a drink. This drink would prove an almost religious experience for Worf for it is the first time he tries Prune Juice; a drink that would later become a trademark of the character as he describes it as “A warrior’s drink“. Worf is called to the bridge as the crew stumble across a temporal anomaly. A ship appears from the anomaly and everything changes. The Enterprise-D takes on a menacing tone, Wesley Crusher is wearing a uniform, the other ship turns out to be the Ambassador-class Enterprise-C and Tasha Yar has replaced Worf entirely.
This scenario seems a little tired now as we have seen it several times since but back then it was new and interesting. Before the opening credits we already have a sense that in this new timeline things are not great even though we know nothing of it yet except for the aforementioned changes. This is such a compliment to the production values of this episode. Having seen the altered credit sequence of the mirror universe episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise I can’t help but wish they had done something similar here too.
So once we have come to terms that we are in a new timeline we start learning a few things. Firstly this new timeline has been created as a result of the Enterprise-C not getting blown up 22 years earlier and Guinan’s sixth sense tells her the ship has to go back although she can’t tell us why which is an almost certain suicide mission. As the episode progresses we learn that the Federation is at war with the Klingons and eventually Picard reveals that they are just months away from surrender. Captain Garrett of the Enterprise-C decides to do the honorable thing and lead her ship back but is killed in a brief battle with the Klingons before she can do so. Then finally under the captaincy of the helmsman, the brash Lt. Castille, and along with this alternate Tasha Yar the Enterprise-C returns to its own time to be destroyed and repair the timeline. Worf is back and everything is right with the universe.
It’s difficult for me to put a finger on what it is about this episode that makes it one of my favorites. I never liked Tasha Yar very much and so seeing her again was not really appealing to me although it really did make me feel like I was watching an episode set in an alternate universe (something similar episodes often failed to achieve). The sad part is though I really liked this Tasha. Denise Crosby gave her a heart and that is probably the biggest tragedy in this episode – we saw what Tasha could have been not the forgettable character she was in Season 1.
I have to get this out of the way – I adore the Ambassador-class Enterprise-C. I am so glad they didn’t just reuse the Excelsior-class model which they had done several times for other starships. It really made this Enterprise feel as unique as the Enterprise-D even though we had no real idea of its history. The bridge is another redress of the battle bridge set but I don’t care. It looked the part and really made me feel like I was on a ship from the end of the so-called movie-era of Starfleet. That being said I don’t understand why the crew were portrayed without the undershirt and belt of the movie-era uniforms. It just made them look half dressed.
Captain Garrett really felt like a proto-Janeway in her few scenes. She felt very real and had that gung-ho attitude that comes with being captain of the Enterprise. Lieutenant Castillo on the other hand, while he had a lot of screen time, has never endeared me as much as Garrett. I do like him but I would have been happier if Garrett had remained alive long enough to command her ship at the end.
Some of the biggest changes of this timeline are perhaps the most subtle and are only really picked up upon after watching the episode several times. Picard and Riker at times feel like they are very distant with one another as though they have a history of conflict. Thats understandable in the high stress environment of a ship at war and again gave what are in-effect ‘new’ characters a lot of depth. Every set aboard the Enterprise-D has a darker tone reflecting the scenario. The repeated PA announcements also make it feel like a US or Royal Navy destroyer in war. One thing I never liked was Picard’s “military log” however. Starfleet had been through wars before the timeline split after Narendra III and kept the “captain’s log” so why change it now?
The climax of the episode is of course not the battle at Narendra III but rather the battle to get the Enterprise-C back to its own time. Patrick Stewart has had some great lines during his time as Picard and I plan to list my favorites in a future post but in this episode he gives one of the best lines he had given at least to that point.
“Let’s make sure history never forgets the name…Enterprise.”
God, everytime I hear that the hairs on the back of my neck go up and to see him as the last man on the burning bridge firing the phasers was such a powerful image that has stayed with me for years. The battle is slow paced compared to the battles of the Dominion War in DS9 giving it a real old-world naval battle feel reminiscent of an Horatio Hornblower novel. We are left with the impression that the Enterprise-D is just moments from destruction when the timeline is restored. Even though it doesn’t happen, of all the moments when we have thought the Enterprise-D was going to go up in flames this was the one time it felt most real.
I can’t leave this review without talking about the consequences of this episode. Even though they are oblivious of these events the Enterprise-D run in to the half-Romulan Sela, alternate Tasha’s daughter. Sela was a very two dimensional enemy at times but she was at least interesting and went some way to absolving Denise Crosby of ditching the show early on. My only regret with Sela is that she did not make an appearance in Star Trek: Nemesis. I would have preferred it to be her rather than Commander Donatra.
So there it is one of my favorite episodes of all time. It had everything; drama, action, tragedy, traditional sci-fi themes. It also had very notable performances by Denise Crosby, Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Stewart. I sometimes wish we could have learned more about the Enterprise-C but when I really think about it the myth this episode created will always be better than anything thats portrayed and I am happy with that.