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July 13 2024


An archive of Star Trek News

We'll Always Have Paris

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at September 14, 2007 - 7:59 PM GMT

See Also: 'We'll Always Have Paris' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: En route to a planet where the crew plans shore leave, the Enterprise receives a distress call from Dr. Paul Manheim, a genius who has been conducting temporal experiments that seem to be having far-reaching effects, causing "hiccups" in time that cause people to relive certain moments in a loop. The ship rescues Paul and his wife Jenice, whom Troi notes causes Picard to experience very strong emotions. In a holographic reconstruction, Picard admits to a waiter that he was in love with Jenice but abandoned her to pursue his career. Once the mentally and physically disturbed scientist wakes, he explains that he was conducting experiments in extra-dimensional time, but Data realizes that these experiments have created a rift between the ship's dimension and others. Not only will Manheim die if the rift cannot be repaired, but the fabric of the galaxy may come apart. Data, who is unaffected by an emotional human sense of time distortion, beams down to try to seal the rift with antimatter but encounters himself in triplicate and must figure out which is the correct Data in the correct time stream to repair the damage. Meanwhile, Picard struggles with regrets over Jenice and both Beverly Crusher and Paul Manheim try to feign indifference. Once the rift is repaired, Paul Manheim is cured and Picard invites Jenice to the holodeck to relive the day in Paris when he failed to meet her years before so that both will be free from regret.

Analysis: "We'll Always Have Paris" is another first-season episode that plays better than I had remembered, though I think this is because I've come to appreciate Picard over the past twenty years, not because the script makes more sense or the characterizations have become stronger. It's a bit of a feminist nightmare, really, with Jenice and Beverly both spending all their time fretting over powerful men while Troi blathers about the importance of confronting repressed emotions and looks traumatized over the possibility that her own sweetie Riker may have been lost in a transporter accident to Manheim's dangerous lab. I'm trying very hard not to call Paul "Manheim" and his wife "Jenice" but there's no question which Manheim is considered the truly important one - like Victor Laszlo in Casablanca, the film on which this episode is very loosely based, there is never any doubt that the woman and the wanderer will both sacrifice their happiness to the great man's important work, while the woman who loves the wanderer will grit her teeth and understand that the bigger cause is more important than her own happiness.

All that said, there are ideas about time introduced in this episode that carry through the entire series, right to the finale where a trebled Picard will have a similar dilemma to that of the three Datas...and by that time he and Crusher will have been married and divorced, so the emotional issues will have matured from the young-love soppiness. We've been shown the stoic Picard so many times in the first season that when Troi announces that he has a tendency to repress his emotions, we roll our eyes -- poor Deanna, saddled yet again with the role of stating the obvious while having no useful advice to give, so that she sounds not like a competent professional but a meddling shrew. In fact Picard seems to be acting sensibly for a starship captain who could lose any crewmember at any moment - he almost loses Riker, Worf and Data in a single moment - and if I prefer Kirk's more open, heart-on-sleeve style, I don't think I'd argue that it's necessarily better than Picard's more traditional stiff-upper-lip formality, just more appealing to me as a viewer. Similarly, while I think Picard could have dated Crusher much earlier than the question ultimately surfaced (and she was the one who said no in the end), I fully understand all the reasons he wouldn't want such involvement with a senior crewmember, particularly one for the death of whose husband he holds himself partially responsible.

But wait, I was talking about Manheim's time conundrums! Well, trying to, because I get rather bogged down in the technobabble in "We'll Always Have Paris" and if this were the only episode ever to address the question of the shattering effect across dimensions of tampering with the timeline, I'd probably have found it hopelessly muddled. But watching in retrospect, after not only "All Good Things..." but "Parallels" and "Yesterday's Enterprise" and "Time Squared," there's more consistency to how time travel works than there was on the original series. What's not clear is why Manheim's body is breaking down, and why healing the rift stops the process, but Crusher isn't really in this episode to practice medicine, she's here to be jealous of Jenice and thus firm up the idea that the blonde was the great love of Picard's life. The real time-related issue, the one with which we're supposed to identify, is how memory works and how subjective is the human sense of years passing. Crusher tells Troi that she can't compete with a ghost, and when Troi points out that Jenice is no ghost but a living woman on their ship, Crusher says, "But it's the ghost he sees." Data - who believes at first that Picard has chosen him for the dangerous away mission because, as an android, he is more expendable than a human - later understands that he isn't subject to subjective feelings that makes time fly when one is having fun and time move at a crawl when one is bored.

And then there's the holodeck, when any moment can be frozen in time and recreated. Or can it? Though it was Picard who fled the first time he and Jenice were supposed to meet there, it's she who nearly runs away later, after she had made her decision to stay with her genius husband and help him with his experiments in any way she can, even though by his admission, she could have left him and he wouldn't have noticed for weeks. Paul and Jean-Luc both seem to keep Jenice in a time capsule where she's eternally lovely, uncomplaining, wronged...and maybe she is a ghost, because except for her initial panic that her husband may be dying, she is content to play this role, to be the fantasy of Picard's memory and the object of her husband's idealized love. How much more interesting if she had been a brilliant scientist herself, his equal or better! If only Picard had fled not to the stars for his own sake but from the hazards and demands of her work! Jenice's prime agency in the episode is to continue to choose the present over the past, to remain loyal to her husband and leave Picard with might-have-beens, and while it works thematically with a story about reliving moments, there's a rather frustrating sense that all these characters deserved better.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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