Future Imperfect

You think Wesley Crusher is amazing? Will Riker gets married, has a kid, becomes captain of the Enterprise, and makes peace with the Romulans – all in one afternoon! It all seems too good to be true. Mostly because it is. Who is behind it? And how does Riker get out of it? Find out when we put Future Imperfect in the Mission Log.

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  • “Barash/Ethan/Jean-Luc” – Chris Demetral

  • Spencer K

    I will be thrilled when this theme of family and faux-family episodes finally ends. It’s becoming trite and maudlin.

    Let’s see, we’ve got so far:
    – Picard’s brother and his family
    – Worf’s parents
    – Wesley’s dad
    – Data’s brother and father
    – Wesley has to save his mom
    – Tasha’s Sister
    – Worf’s son

    And now… tada! Riker’s fake family!

    • 100% agree. The finales lean on family a bit as well. Ugh

  • Spencer K

    Also, aside from Reunion, I really feel like the quality of this season is either on par or below that of season 2. I forgot how bad some of these episodes are.

  • CmdrR

    OK, a few thingies:

    1) Where is Wesley? Shouldn’t Bev mention him when the subject of tough parenting comes up?

    2) Even in a brain-boink fantasy, shuttles blow up a lot!

    3) Everyone in the galaxy knows the details of the Enterprise. I think it’s Sergey Rozhenko’s fault for leaving “all the specs and diagrams of the Galaxy class starships” on his coffee table where anyone can see. (Actually the worst example of this is TOS’ “Mark of Gideon.”
    4) Did Carolyn McCormick just show up for an afternoon to shoot that home movie? I love that they dug deep into continuity, but kinda wish they’d given her just a little more to do.
    5) This is one of MANY TNG eps in which the whole thing hinges on aliens who are not revealed until the very end. This one works, imho, but others will just be lousy. “Hey! It was wacky aliens all along!” waaa-waaa-waaaaaaaa. cue up I Love Lucy Theme.
    Nice podcast, though!

  • Wildride

    “Geordi, I’ve got an idea for you: Cloned eyes.”
    “Hey, yeah, that’s great, dude. And the neural pathways? Are we just hooking them up to the things on the side of my head?”
    “I’ll get back to you on that.”

  • Wildride

    “I’ll always remember you as Jean-Luc.”
    “Remember who as Jean-Luc?”
    “Yeah, I have no idea who you’re talking about.”

  • Wildride

    “Hey, machine, stop breaking my wrist every time you can’t think of what to do.”
    “Uh, you’re Barash: Jean-Luc a simulation, as is his wrist.”
    “Good point.”

    The neural scanners act like a kind of GPS: Every time he goes off script, it has to recalculate his route. In this case, the route to how to get Riker and Barash to play together.

  • Lou Dalmaso

    In the fine tradition of recycled plots, this was better handled on the Six Million Dollar Man

    • was that an episode w androids w removable faces?

  • Lou Dalmaso

    it did have some good hair work on Stewart’s beard, tho

  • Earl Green

    Great show! I always enjoyed Future Imperfect, but at the same time it’s the tip of the iceberg of the overt, last-minute reset-button thing that I grew very annoyed with further down the road in TNG (and later in Voyager). I always look forward to you guys tackling some of the episodes that I *didn’t* like so much, because chances are you’ll find something I missed.

    Really appreciated the whole interactive fiction/NPC element you found here; I’m always fascinated by the many, many takes on holodeck “game theory” that cropped up over the course of 24th century Trek. Going by the TNG Writers’ Bible, it seemed like the jumping-off point for the holodeck was the old text adventure games (i.e. Zork, Planetfall, and Riker’s fave, Leather Goddesses of Phobos), but different holodeck episodes handle game theory differently – sometimes it’s an open sandbox, sometimes it’s very rigid, keep-your-hands-inside-the-rails-at-all-times – more like the old laserdisc arcade games of the ’80s where there were pre-recorded courses of action from which it was impossible to deviate. Reminds me of the note in the TNG writers’ tech manual about the tricorder’s sometimes seemingly near-infinite abilities: its limits in a given episode are governed by dramatic necessity!

    One very weird thing I distinctly remember from the original satellite promo feed was that Riker pronounced charade as “sha-ROD” in the promos, but in the finished episode prounounced it “sha-RAID”. (The promos accompanied the previous week’s show on the satellite feed in two forms, one with whatever background music Paramount preferred, and one with no announcer or music, nothing but the show dialogue and sound effects, for local stations to dress up how they wanted if they preferred their own announcer or standard music bed. I’m guessing they had Frakes re-loop that line of dialogue before sending the episode itself up a week after the trailers.)

    I remember Lincoln Enterprises very quickly made the rank-on-either-side-of-the-Starfleet-delta pins available after this episode; totally got one of those. (Found it just recently, in fact.)

    • Lou Dalmaso

      I remember that Sha-ROD line as well. but we were also watching from satellite wild feeds

    • I remember the CHARADE difference too!!

  • Lou Dalmaso

    Dudes, the broken wrist is fake! and the doctor is fake and the ship is fake
    Barash as Jean Luc is FAKING!
    i’m really surprised you don’t see that…
    Barash is working with the program to keep Riker around and every time Riker asks for something that deviates from what Barash/computer is expecting, there is either a computer glitch or a interruption from Jean-Luc (the lesser)

  • Durakken

    Ok first…
    If the Neuro scanners are reding everyone’s mind and trying to make them happy there are some things that you guys are missing…

    1. Everything you see is a reflection of what would make Riker happy. Surprisingly that is not married to Troi without that back info that the writers aren’t pushing that relationship…. and Troi is more professional. He has a kid. He’s the captain with pretty much nothing else changed, but Picard is happy… and he’s apparently a very similar politician as Picard. He views La Forge has having eyes and Worf having… scars lol

    2. The Peresis Squares thing… there is no reason to think that Jean Luc was actually hurt. He knows what is going on and as such the computers can just tell him to act like his wrist hurt, but let’s ignore that for a second and assume he was really injured… Jean Luc doesn’t knows what Peresis squares is so there is no way he could be playing it and if it’s as dangerous as we are lead to believe it’s like you throw the nerd into the game without tell them the rules or what’s going on and they get ran over. And also consider that it could be that Riker wanted his child to get hurt, which is kinda messed up.

    3. Jean Luc has no idea about anything that is going on around him. He’s not from the federation as far as we know so the character acts wrong for that situation OR he is so non-plused by all the tech and how it works it makes one wonder how high tech the surroundings really is.

    Moving past that though… I can’t believe you guys didn’t pick up on the very obvious and interesting episode that is similar to… The Cage. Sure, some of the surface level details are different, but it is all the same concept, but with 1 difference and that they went in the direction they did is interesting because they didn’t have to. The focus has been changed from sexual and intellectual fulfilment to parental and emotional fulfilment. They could easily have just had Minuette(or some similar female cahracter) in place of Jean Luc. They could have had Jean Luc be a good friend. And then realizing this along with the above it raises the question is this the result of Riker’s longing, Jean Luc’s longing, or the computer deciding that the best way to fullfill the desires of both in the most perfect way is through child and parent of the same sex, rather than any other relationship that may have been possible which we don’t really know could or couldn’t have been possible. We’re told that Jean Luc’s just wants a companion of some sort, not so much a parent figure where as Riker’s desire isn’t really clear.

    Further, supposing the program were to continue and the desires were to change how would the program react. Again, for all we know Jean Luc is hermaphroditic or non-sexual or female. Let’s say Jean Luc is female and as Jean Luc desires to mate. They’ve already shown that falsity of the world is unable to make that type of connection so would the program shift to make Jean Luc die or disappear and then put a new hologram around Jean Luc to be appealing to Riker as a sexual interest? Would it simply redo the scenario, knocking Riker out and acting like that was just a fever dream for however many years he’s locked away?


    Another thing comes to mind… If they had the ability to grab people like they grabbed Riker why not just leave or grab more people? Or did they plan to do that and Riker was just a first experimental case?

  • CmdrR

    Hey guys, tell your boss congrats on the new gig!!!
    Special podcast! Special podcast!

    ‘Star Trek’ TV Series Beams Up Rod Roddenberry, Trevor Roth as Exec Producers — Variety

    • No problem – done and done.
      And we may very well be discussing some stuff for the podcast 🙂

      • Cygnus-X1

        Looking forward to that.

  • Len Hobbel

    Wesley crushing is NOT amazing …good lord he was the biggest sissy on the Enterprise. He still is well a sissy i get it now he was playing himself in Enterprise he wasnt acting. I never liked the sissy boy and I still do not like him.
    I would gladly climb into a UFC Octagon with him. Lets see if Worf Or Riker or Beverly taught him how to stand up.

    He is the only character from that series I couldnt stand from day one SO whinny .
    Make it So

    • Poor character concept from beginning imo. Genius w amazing gifts… Goes to Starfleet. WoW. Then quits to explore mind universe space concepts. Then ends up back in Starfleet per Nemesis. Schizo writing or lack thereof. No vision.

  • Carlos Perez

    Dang. I wanted to be the first genius to say that the broken wrist was faked. (sad face)

  • Cygnus-X1

    Interesting point Ken made about the grass being greener for both Barash and Riker. Barash has the perfect holodeck fantasy but all he wants is a relationship with a real person; while Riker lives on a ship with over 1,000 real people but looks to a holodeck fantasy girl to satisfy his desire for companionship.

  • Muthsarah

    This is my favorite of the “mind-screw” episodes, mostly because both layers of fiction are well-supported, foreshadowed, and, most importantly, based on character and continuity. Even if Katsulas didn’t like his role in this, it was a great choice to bring Tomalak back, since he ended up being a perfect bridge between each layer of fiction and Riker’s reality. And the misdirect with “Jean-Luc/Ethan/Barash” was both subtle and a great throwback to a Season One TOS-style story of an alien who’s (intentionally or not) testing the good guys and isn’t as insidious as he may seem. You could seriously put Kirk in Riker’s place and do this as a TOS episode (complete with woefully-outdated alien costume and silly final line!). All around, it’s just a great Trek episode. Too bad the “mind-screw” storyline would become so popular that they just kept going back to the well again and again, missing the mark every time.

    Of course, I’m thinking of “Frame of Mind” as the closest comparison, an episode that tried to one-up this one and (to me, anyway) failed because far too much of the layering/revealing was arbitrary and just weird for the sake of weird. You could have replaced Riker with anyone and that episode would have been 100% the same. Also, dream episodes like “Phantasms”, “Eye of the Beholder”, and even “Masks” tried to be surreal and play with the audience’s expectations for reality versus illusion or dreams, but mostly ended up seeming like they were bored with the show’s original premise and just wanted to muck around with the characters and/or spend the last of the show’s money.

    “Future Imperfect” kept it simple, never letting the twists become the point of the episode, and focusing on Riker’s confusion AND on his growing suspicion and ability to see through the illusion, all while providing perfectly reasonable (and continuity-friendly) reasons for how the elaborate fantasy was A) intended to work, B) how we’re supposed to think it was intended to work, C) and how it finally failed.

    It’s not an episode I had really thought TOO much of before, but after this exploration, I feel confident I can put this in my Second Top Ten. It’s the best of its “mind-screws”; and considering the others, that’s a tough thing to be. Also, it’s just really fun to go back and piece together the clues, and indulge in an almost fan-fictiony take on where the characters will end up in their futures.

    • I liked “Frame of Mind” for addressing mental illness, but the other attempts at scary fell short imo. I think “Future Imperfect” should have committed to the faux world and had Minuet “alive” and coaxing Riker into a fatherhood role, but subtle hints would lead him to believe it was a hoax…Justice League “For the Man Who Has Everything” had Superman getting mind screwed into thinking he was happy on Krypton w Lois and a son. It is powerful, made me tear up.

  • Durakken

    Btw… since no one pointed it out… it’s sorta funny that Star Trek missed the mark in weird ways with some things… which is shown in this episode with the “Clone Eyes” and “Visor” and “Cyborg implants” from the movies… We are very close to being able to do them and there it’s weird that this never came up…

    Likewise, because of Geordi being born blind and we now have examples people who have been born blind getting some sight we know that Geordi’s reaction to getting eyes from Q is 100% wrong or more intense than what we generally think… because the way we process images doesn’t develop when you’re blind from birth which results in seeing the picture but having no associations to the shapes and forms.

    • I also thought they shoulda solved this issue by now, but perhaps Geordi has some more serious condition. yeah, the way they turned down “Q”‘s gifts..especially Worf and the sex slave and Riker’s fantasy women in “Deja Q”- now THAT’S science fiction!! hahaha- lol

      • Riker- “I don’t need your fantasy women Q!!”- says the guy who fell in love w a holographic woman….

  • “Minuet”- Carolyn Mccormick

  • brandon

    I just recently started listening to this podcast, and it quickly became my favorite. Which is why when the start of this episode began with ken saying that it was the last episode I was genuinely distraught. I was at work in the morning listening, as soon as I heard this I yelled “NOOOOOoo” at the top of my lungs (it’s outdoor work.) I knew that this was not the final TNG episode, so I was very confused for a good while. But I was relieved as the episode progressed to find that this seemed to be just some inside joke I didn’t understand, and it was not the final episode. I look foreword to listening to the next one. Thanks for all the entertainment!

    • lol- Welcome to the party, great podcast! They usually start it out w some sort of reference to the current episode. I thought they shoulda thrown a date from the future out there! This podcast is my Wed night/early Thursday am ritual, I make sure I have it downloaded for the next day at work. It really helps! lol-

    • Thank you, @disqus_TQfmcG7ihg:disqus! Yeah, we’re sly sometimes. We figured it Riker could skip 16 years in his career then so could we. You all are on to us though. See you in 2026 for the wrap party!

  • Riker’s service record

  • How did I miss this episode? How did we get here?
    You know, one good bump on the head, and suddenly time slips into the future. Knowing what we know, I found it interesting that even as you guys made all these very nice TOS call outs here, and as Ken discussed Riker’s feelings for a holodeck playboy bunny character (btw- I wouldn’t call it “love” but Rather a crush, cause you know, Doc, crushes can be crushing) somehow the FACT that Troy is his IMZADI and should have been his wife in the future that was all in his head was never once mentioned, given all that we know.
    This is interesting cause these two characters ( Ryker & Troy) are of course based upon Will Decker ( Matt Decker’s son) and Ilia from TMP.
    Now – have you ever considered that Riker knows that he’s no Kirk, and he’ll never accomplish something as important as being an Federation ambassador ( like Spock or his father ) to help bring peace between the Romulan Empire and Starfleet as long as he stays Picard’s #1 on board the Enterprise D? And why does he stay? Because of his relationship & feelings for Troy of course. So I would have to agree with Ken that Riker wants all the things he can’t have. Hence, gray space cake.

    • Well remember, up until this point Riker and Troi have explicitly said that they are “friends” who work together. Oh sure, the word “imzadi” gets kicked around sometimes… and Riker does try to make out with her on Betazed until Lwaxana crashes the party. But remember – totally friends.
      And Riker totally has the hots for his holo-girlfriend.

      • Mr. Champion.
        While I agree that Riker indeed has the “hots” ( aka, a wanting sexual desire, lust, attraction ) for Super Hologirl, I argue that the “hots” are NOT love. And while those two ( Riker & Troi) have remained “just friends” – aka a relationship that no longer contains sex- (not even “friends w/ benefits”) -they once long ago did have a love affair – and Riker Loves her.
        “Why, why, why?” Mr. Champion.
        ( Joining in here on your Matrix call outs) Because “love” is simply a matter of choice John. Riker loves ships named Enterprise and Troi, & it’s his feelings for her that glue / cement him there on the D.
        Why is it that I have a feeling that we will come back to this subject again on some future episode / podcast?

        • Remember, Will, you might be playing the “home game” version of Star Trek where you already have seen them all and know what’s coming. We’ve always tried on Mission Log to go with what we’re given episode to episode. Yes, you are right – Troi and Riker will end up together. So far though, what we have been discussing up to this point, is their somewhat cooled-off relationship where they do pronounce themselves as “friends” and coworkers. (Add to that seeing Riker have various dalliances here and there.) We also know up to this point that Riker had a pretty significant experience in the holodeck – one that was strong enough for the neuroscanners to pick up. We’ve been pretty fascinated with this idea (since even in the episode it plays pretty clearly that it’s something pretty psychologically profound for Riker), and apparently it made sense to come back to that idea for “Future Imperfect.” I was using “the hots” for comedic effect, but clearly Riker has not been able to get Minuet out of his mind. So – yep, the Troi/Riker thing will happen in due time, and we’ll have more to discuss then!

          • We weren’t playing the “home version”? How can I be so stupid? Oh – of course. Please see my Fan’s Personal Log, Supplemental comments that I wrote on “Remember Me” and forward them to Ken ! Thanks. LL&P

  • gizmochimp

    I assumed it was the kid directing the machine. The idea that he just -happens to be playing a dangerous game of parrises squares just when the machine needed to manufacture sympathy for him is too convenient. I think the kid put himself into that position (if it happened at all… highly likely he just formed the medical room around himself — no actual parrises squares simulation required).

    I also thought of “It’s a Good Life” from Twilight Zone, with the kid that can have whatever he wants, at the expense of the people around him.

  • Michael Richmond

    “And then Moriarty shows.” Mind=Blown.