Next Generation ran for seven seasons in first-run syndication and, honestly, could have run for at least two or three more had Parmaount and the cast and crew wanted to do that. But with the potential movie market, DS9 up and running and the desire to start a foruth network built on a new Star Trek show, the creators and Paramount decided seven seasons and 176 episodes would be enough for the crew of the NCC-1701D.
So, we knew pretty early that the seventh season of Next Generation would be the last. And while the season itself was, overall, pretty lackluster, there were still a few gems to be found (Lower Decks, Parallels, The Pegasus). But all season, you sort of got this feeling that the cast and crew were saving something special for that final episode of Next Generation. The two-hour series finale would get a lot of media hype and it would probably garner a few extra viewers who were curious to see what the hype was about and how the series would end.
The writing duo of Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga were given the opportunity to write the final episode. Now, say what you will about the later Braga episodes and his merits as a producer, but when he and Moore worked together, their stories were, for the most part, pretty good. Moore had a great respect for the history and legacy of Star Trek, but wasn’t necessarily so bound by it that he was constricted by it. And Braga seems to be good at coming up with technobabble and strange rifts/nebulas, etc. for the crew to investigate and drive that aspect of the story. (Recall also, these two wrote the first two TNG feature films).
I’d have to say that “All Good Things…” is the finest work these two produced as a writing team.
The two-hour story finds Picard moving between three different time periods. He is sent back seven years to the launch of the Enterprise, is existing in the current time line and sent forward into the future so we can see one possible way the crew might end up. The big mystery is why is Picard moving through time so. What’s causing this?
Well, it would have been impossible in the seventh season of Next Generation to NOT know what was behind it before hand. The media widely reported that John DeLancie would be back as Q for the finale of Next Generation. And that could easily have made the first hour or so of “All Good Things…” a waiting game–waiting for Q to show up and the plot to really begin. But the script avoids that, giving us a first hour that, despite knowing who is behind all of this, sets up an intriguing mystery. By the time Q shows up (about 45 or so minutes into the story), we’re less interested in who is behind it as to why these events are unfolding.
And that’s where “All Good Things…” succeeds so well. Turns out humanity is still on trial and has been since Q’s test in “Encounter at Farpoint.” Now this does a lot of good things….for one, it makes up for the almost transparent nature of the test in “Farpoint” but it also casts the last seven years in an interesting new light. And while the trial doesn’t descend into an X-Files like, let’s rehash everything we’ve known until now for an hour, it does put an interetsing new spin on the last seven years we’ve watched unfold. And it also gives a lot of explanation into Q’s interest in Picard and the crew of the Enterprise as a whole.
Of course, there’s the obligatory weird space thing that is disrupting things, but where “All Good Things…” earns extra points is the characters. Moore and Braga bring back Tasha Yar, Colm Meany is allowed to sit on the bridge again and we get a few moments with all our old favorites. Histories are dropped (in the future) that allow the fans to speculate on just where and how the characters end up where they do, but you never feel like the story is halting to give us an information dump of character backstory. Instead, it’s well woven into the story.
And then, of course, there’s the final contest with the best nemesis Next Generation had, Q. John DeLancie was the best thing about the lackluster pilot for Next Generation and the best overall villain Next Generation had. It was a pleasure to watch Patrick Stewart and John DeLancie chew scenery together and their verbal sparring was superb. There’s a reason fans kept demanding Q return again and again…and why the producers kept bringing him back. But the thing is–even the worst Q story had at least one or two memorable lines delivered by DeLancie or some Q moment that made them worth seeing. And, honestly, there weren’t really any out and out BAD Q stories.
So, bringing back Q was a nice idea. And it worked. The show honoroed its legacy with the story and didn’t end the adventures, so much as turn the next page in the story. The final scene with Picard joining the senior staff’s weekly poker game is a nice touch and a truly fitting end to the adventures of the Next Generation on television.
“All Good Things…” is an example of how to have a satisfying ending to a classic television show. A lot of shows could study it and learn a few things when it comes to ending on a high note…