Future Imperfect is one of my favorite season four episodes that blended an interesting sci-fi plot with nice characterization. I found Riker’s plight as he was faced with the overwhelming reality of having seemingly lost 16 years of his life and then learning on top of that that he is a father was involving. The scenes between Riker and “Jean-Luc” were especially well done.
One of the nice human aspects that came out of this situation was seeing Riker’s concerns of not ending up being the kind of father Kyle was to him in his childhood especially after the loss of his mother. One can easily imagine the greatest fear for someone like Riker would be to fail their own child. It is clear Riker hopes he has been a better father to Jean-Luc than Kyle was to him especially in the wake of his mother’s death.
Troi was good here too. The one Riker and Troi conversation where they reminiscence was nicely done. Marina did a great job at being a nice reassuring presence for Riker amidst all this chaos and confusion.
It is interesting to note the illusion Barash ended up creating was based on scans of Riker’s mind. It is quite interesting insight into Riker and consistent with the way a child deprived of closeness to another person would behave and think. Barash provided a pretty ideal “future” that he believed would make Riker happy. Here he is captain of the Enterprise, the place he has been most comfortable, surrounded by all of his friends. I have heard some people grouse over how realistic it was for most of the crew to have remained on the ship all these years but I think it makes sense in this context. Besides the crew ultimately did stay together for about that long up until Nemesis. I'm willing to look beyond the nitpicks if I'm enjoying myself as I was with this episode.
I also appreciated that Barash’s behavior & reactions were consistent with how a child, desperate for attention and attachment, might think and react. Barash is intent on seeing that Riker focuses on him that he creates the “future” scenario to play on Riker’s loss of his mother by making him a widower and then to remove Troi from the equation by having her no longer assigned to the Enterprise and their relationship ultimately not work out. The final scene where Barash reveals his plight as a child left alone after losing his parents was touching. Barash’s alien was for once truly unique design.
The updates on the crew were fun with Geordi having his sight back, Data in a red uniform as his first officer, Admiral Picard, Tomalak, a Ferengi Starfleet officer, another Klingon officer and a female no less may be that is where Worf got his scar, Riker’s telling “Picard” to shut up were all great things; the birthday teaser in the beginning tied in nicely with the theme of the episode and had some great banter.
I personally thought the idea of using Minuet to clue Riker into the fact something was up was extremely clever and made so much sense given his fondness for her back in 10010001. A great example of using continuity to enhance a subsequent plot. I didn’t even catch onto it earlier when they were talking about “Min”. The plot twists were great especially since everything was pointing to a Romulan plot and something like this was so consistent with their motus operandi but then to spring another level of deception upon us was appreciated.
It would have been too obvious and straightforward had it all been just a Romulan ploy. Besides with only so few minutes left in the story this resolution offered a nice elegant way of getting Riker out of a seemingly inescapable corner while at the same time providing a nice poignant ending with Barash. I liked the idea that it wasn't some elaborate scheme by the Romulans but an effort by a lonely child seeking companionship.
TNG was always successful doing these mystery high concept Twilight Zone sorts of stories.