The Good: Character development, Science fiction idea
The Bad: Overuse of science fiction plot, Acting
The Basics: A disappointing episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, "We'll Always Have Paris" uses the pretense of a romantic partner resurfacing to make a space anomaly episode.
I tend not to pay attention to fan lists of the best of any series. In the case of Star Trek The Next Generation, every few years, they do a survey and determine what people think are the top ten episodes of Star Trek The Next Generation. Usually, the people who publish the list give the top twenty-five episodes and the bottom ten as well. "We'll Always Have Paris" is an episode that never makes the top twenty-five and occasionally does make it to the bottom ten. Usually, it doesn't make the bottom ten by the order that no one remembers the episode exists, much less actively dislike it.
"We'll Always Have Paris" finds the Enterprise responding to a distress call from a remote planet where Professor Manheim is doing temporal experiments. The distress call comes shortly after the enterprise has experienced a moment of repeated time, where the crew experiences a moment of time replaying itself while they observe. Picard and company arrive, rescue the seriously ailing Professor Manheim and Picard learns two important things. The first is that Manheim's experiments are fracturing the fabric of time and space. The second and - I wish it had been more relevant - more important fact is that Manheim's wife is Jenice, a woman from Picard's past. The romantic involvement between Picard and Jenice ended when Picard did not show up for a meeting in Paris at a cafe he was supposed to make. The episode goes from this beginning to an almost exclusive attempt to rectify the temporal problem.
All right, to be fair to this episode, it does deal with Picard and Jenice in an intelligent, mature way. They both moved on from their childhoods and while this chance meeting sparks some genuine emotions and issues, the two deal with the issue like adults. That Picard left Jenice is somewhat mind-boggling, but as I said, they both moved on. The episode allows them a chance to experience some real closure with both Picard standing up and acknowledging his cowardice of his youth and Jenice getting validated by his apology.
Unfortunately, the episode spends less time on the emotional discourse between Picard and Jenice and instead focuses almost exclusively on the technical problem of the time ripples and the need to repair the fabric of space and time. The science fiction plot serves the episode less well than the romantic plot, especially considering the title of the episode refers to the romantic aspect.
This episode is very technical heavy and the science of it, while interesting - especially visually - is very distracting. It seems overbearing how much detail and attention is placed on the technical minutiae of the problem as opposed to the emotional impact of the past love coming back into Picard's life with complications.
In short, the real fault of the episode is not in what it presents, but how it presents it. A whole episode could - and should - be spent on the conflict between Picard and a former lover. In fact, it seems someone realized this later in the series by having Picard encounter another woman he could not have. While the circumstances are not the same as in "We'll Always Have Paris," "The Perfect Mate" in the fifth season better accomplishes an exploration of the human spirit.
As it is, what's missing from "We'll Always Have Paris" is spirit. This episode gets so bogged down in technical jargon and hammy overacting to get around the jargon that it loses all touch with real human emotion or have any sense of purpose beyond filling another hour of television.
There's a reason this episode doesn't chart. Time-space anomalies are done better ("Cause And Effect") and romance in Star Trek The Next Generation is done better ("The Perfect Mate").
[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete First Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the debut season by clicking here!
For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my index page for an organized listing.
© 2010, 2008, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.