Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Max Hedroom Robs The Future: "A Matter Of Time" Is Only Fun.

The Good: Amusing, Decent character work
The Bad: No superlative acting, Often comes across as silly
The Basics: In an ultimately pointless episode, "A Matter of Time" puts a futuristic scholar aboard the Enterprise during a crisis.

In the fifth season of Star Trek The Next Generation, taking his lead from Whoopi Goldberg, Robin Williams requested a role on the series. When the time came for Williams to appear, however, he was involved with The Fisher King and as a result, the episode had to be retooled. Matthew Frewer, who played Max Hedroom in the 80s, appeared in his stead.

While the Enterprise works to save a planet in distress, a stranger named Berlinghoff Rasmussen appears. He's a student of history and has come from the future to observe the Enterprise. Captain Picard, struggling to save the planet nearby, finds himself in quite the moral dilemma; he has a resource he has never had and a dangerous situation that Rasmussen might be able to help him solve. But Rasmussen has his own plans, from interviewing the crew to hitting on Dr. Crusher to collecting artifacts, Rasmussen has his hands full. Add to that, he does not seem inclined to aid Picard and he has a secret of his own . . .

Matthew Frewer does a fine job as Berlinghoff Rasmussen and the character he plays is interesting. The problem is, it does not seem to be any stretch of his acting abilities. In fact, no one in this episode gives any sort of extraordinary performance. Frewer plays Rasmussen well enough to keep us interested, but the episode focuses on him far too much to make us suspect he is anything other than a thief.

While the episode focuses as well on Dr. Crusher, this is largely an ensemble piece. Dr. Crusher and Picard have the largest parts and they have interesting places here. Dr. Crusher does a good job exploring her romantic side and Rasmussen does have a charm to him that allows us to buy into that. Picard plays out his conflict, the dilemma of how to deal with the planetary problem well. It is an interesting problem and his ultimate solution is very realistic and makes sense for the type of man that he is.

More than anything, it seems "A Matter of Time" attempts to be funny. It is amusing at points. Berlinghoff Rasmussen has great facial expressions and body language and his interactions with the usually straightlaced crew come across as enjoyable at worst. The intertwining between the dangerous situation on the planet and the awkward presence of Rasmussen on the ship creates an uncertain mood and it leaves the viewer wondering just how they are supposed to react in several points. As a result, large portions of the episode come across as either silly or overly serious.

People who are not fond of Star Trek The Next Generation are unlikely to be sold on the series based on this episode. Instead, it is likely to leave them confused, though everything is ultimately explained. In the end, it's just not a terribly intelligent episode and those who watch it are more likely to wonder how Rasmussen got away with what he did for as long as he does. There's not much to this episode of sophistication. Then again, they do use the opportunity to poke fun at New Jersey . . .

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Fifth Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the fifth season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode and movie reviews, please click here to visit my index page!

© 2011, 2007, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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