This week, Jean-Luc Picard has come unstuck in time, and he’ll have to learn how to control the quantum leaps if he hopes to clean up a puddle of anti-time he spilled. But when he smells an omnipotent rat, everyone’s favorite trickster shows up right on Q to deliver humanity’s progress report. Did Mr. Mot accidentally save the universe? Did Miles and Keiko have the worst meet cute ever? And just what the heck did Picard do to that poodle? All this and more in All Good Things…, the book that wants its own piece of the Light.
All Good Things…
Author: Michael Jan Friedman
Published: June 1994 (hardcover)
Timeline: Seven years after “Encounter at Farpoint” (S1E1+2)
Prerequisites: Passing references to tons of episodes, but the big one obviously is “Encounter at Farpoint”
Less than a month ago, Star Trek celebrated the 25th anniversary of what is still, even to this day, its strongest series finale. “All Good Things…” is a lovely book end, a well-earned victory lap, and a beautiful celebration of all the memorable elements and characters and performances that contributed to making Star Trek: The Next Generation arguably the most widely beloved piece of the franchise. A novelization of such a grand episode has a lot to live up to. And who better to rise to the occasion than the person who most recently wrote a novel that outdid its source material?
Yes, Michael Jan Friedman is on hand to cover TV-to-book duty once more. As before, he nails down the basics: Picard stumbles out of his quarters and rambles to a besotted Worf and Deanna that he feels as though he’s jumping back and forth through time. A brain scan reveals a parietal lobe defect that could be a hallucination-causing condition called Irumodic syndrome, and the sensors don’t place him off the ship for any length of time. But to Picard, the leaps are all too real; he’s bouncing back and forth between the present, 25 years into the future, and the first moments after assuming command of the Enterprise, just before heading to Farpoint Station.
In the present, Admiral Nakamura informs Picard of a spatial anomaly near Devron in the Romulan Neutral Zone. Suspected that it’s connected to his temporal leaps, Picard moves to maneuver himself toward it in all three timelines, calling on friends and colleagues past and present to cash in years of trust and good will to follow his hunch. Soon he begins to suspect Q’s involvement as well, prompting the merry trickster god to appear and pass down his grand declaration: the Continuum’s trial of humanity has concluded, and humanity is to be not merely destroyed, but erased entirely from existence—and it’s apparently going to be all Picard’s fault somehow. With a little gentle nudging from Q, Picard sets about learning the secrets of the anomaly before he can be dragged away from it and humanity un-exists.
In truth, All Good Things… the book is not that much different from “All Good Things…” the episode, but what few major differences there are in the former add nicely to the richness of the latter. Many more minor characters, from sporadically recurring ones like Lwaxana Troi to one-offers like Robin Lefler, get one last extra appearance. Some of those even help fill in some gaps with regard to character motivation; for example, a one-sided conversation with the Bolian barber Mr. Mot gives Picard some inspiration on how to move forward, and Admiral Riker’s brief encounter with an old subordinate in the future timeline adds some appreciated context and inner monologue between refusing to help Picard and then later showing up out of nowhere to bail him out.
One thing I think could have been handled a bit better is the time jumps. They’re marked by wide section breaks that lack the immediacy of the episode’s smash cuts. I don’t think the narrative is so complex that it would have lost the reader to have time jumps occur without warning from one paragraph to the next. I tried mentally adjusting it this way myself and thought it produced an interesting effect. Any disorientation would have been minor enough to actually feel kind of neat; it’s a low-risk, high-reward gambit that could have paid off handsomely.
But that’s a minor complaint about a book that once again adds enough value to its parent episode to be worth checking out, showing that Relics was no fluke. All things considered, I’m prepared to call “All Good Things…” my favorite season finale of the series1 (yes, even over “Best of Both Worlds”),2 because it so perfectly distilled everything that made the show great into ninety tight minutes. But the book runs an even longer victory lap, reminding us in addition of all the other characters that maybe didn’t make the most appearances, but still left an indelible mark on the canon. It’s important to honor them too, Friedman seems to be saying. They’re all pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle, and whether it was Captain Picard or Data’s cat Spot, you’d notice if one was missing, and it wouldn’t feel right.
MVP & LVP
- I mean, MVP has to be Picard, right? He pulled it together in three different timelines to save humanity from never existing, one in which his mind was turning to mush. Does it get much more badass than that? Plus, I can’t think of him saying “I should have done this a long time ago” without choking up, although that moment is a little more tossed off in the book, lacking the emotional heft. An extra shout-out to Tasha Yar; I often wonder what the series would have been like if Denise Crosby had stayed on for the full run. She gets a cool moment near the end where, fed up with Picard’s evasiveness, she threatens to relieve him of command and carry out Starfleet’s order to leave the RNZ, and the only thing that bails him out is appealing to Deanna to confirm that he isn’t malicious or crazy. Holding his feet to the fire like that, I just can’t help but wonder what might have been.
- My pick for LVP is Data’s maid Jessel. I’m about 90 percent sure Data hired her ironically.
Ten Forward Toast
This week, we pay our respects to Ensign Chilton, the officer who dies in the line of duty on the Pasteur. Friedman even somewhat unnecessarily rubs it in a little later on.3 She doesn’t even get a fanservice blurb! I didn’t even realize the ensign at helm in the present was Bajoran, and even she got three pages.4 What a shame. Poor Chilton, indeed. Alas, we’ll always remember her for doing right by her family’s proud tradition of automotive technical manuals.
Nuggets & Stray Bits
- Q’s first appearance is much sooner in the book: he sits in on Worf and Deanna’s Black Sea holodeck jaunt.
- Geordi and Data briefly discuss book preferences: Data favors print editions, while Geordi likes to participate in a holodeck version. Even though this is probably just a cute meta-debate about TV episodes versus books, it seems like it ought to be fairly obvious why Geordi prefers holobooks. Come on, Data! Use that positronic brain! (pp. 12–13)
- “Why, there had been times on the trip from France to England when Geordi had completely forgotten that [Picard] had Irumodic syndrome. Well, almost completely. There had been that incident with the poodle.” — I can imagine a lot of different scenarios here, and all of them are hilarious. Also, I wonder if this is a sort of rhyming homage to Calvin & Hobbes‘s Noodle Incident, or if it’s purely coincidental. (p. 41)
- Miles and Keiko have the most ice-cold meet-cute of all time when he bumps into her and accidentally destroys an extremely fragile specimen. She’s frosty enough with him that I have a hard time connecting the dots from an encounter like that to “Yeah. Her. She’s the one,” though I suppose stranger things have happened. Still, as evidence for the “they don’t actually like each other” argument, it is a nice, big, dry log for the fire. (pp. 53–55)
- It’s revealed that Deanna helped design Ten Forward and hopes it will help people wind down and sort out their problems long after she’s retired. She’s not an interior decoration or a mixologist, but I’d say she did pretty all right. (p. 59)
- When one of Tasha’s subordinates shows up late for an informal meeting making excuses, she tells him, “Save it. Honestly, Prieto. It’s guys like you that’ll be the death of me.”
So. Who wants to tell her? Not it! (p. 61)
- “The Traveler tilted his head in a way that made him look a little like Data.” — Again, not sure if this is an intentional reference or an amusing coincidence. In this case, it may be a nod to the fact that Eric Menyuk was at one time on the short list for the role of Data. (p. 81)
- Future Riker has a conversation with Captain Sam Lavelle. Ol’ boy made good! He sure came a long way from getting Alaska and Canada mixed up. (pp. 97–101)
- Pulaski’s chat with Lwaxana is one of the stronger interludes. Pulaski even admits she was wrong about Data! That’s a huge step. (pp. 119–123)
- “Picard sat at the head of the table that dominated the observation lounge and surveyed his officers’ faces. Their expressions ranged from concern to disbelief to resentment … Only Data remained nonplussed.” — Doggone it, Friedman, you made Dictionary Hulk come out! Here’s a PSA for all of you out there that will improve your word knowledge: nonplussed doesn’t (does not) mean “unfazed”. This meaning has passed into common usage despite being 100 percent incorrect, and honestly it’s been happening long enough that it’s probably here to stay. We don’t really control how language evolves, in the end. But for those concerned with such things, nonplussed actually means “baffled”, which makes this passage mean the literal exact opposite of what Friedman intended it to. I consider it a tainted word, so I personally prefer to avoid it altogether. (p. 129)
- Data compares Q’s relationship with Picard to his own with Spot, earning a chilly glare of reproof from his captain. (p. 131)
- There’s a neat bit toward the end in the Farpoint timeline where some aliens called the Terellians show up, having mistaken the effects of the anti-time for healing and demanding to get close enough to receive the blessing of “the Light”. It’s too much to cram into the climax of this book, but as its own story, it could be fascinating indeed.
- Now that we have a full season of Picard under our belts, the paragraphs on page 246 read somewhat differently. It’s all a bit much to reprint here, but it’s pretty wild that Friedman nailed at least two major details that ended up providing the basis for the show’s outset. All in all, for such a highly speculative passage, it’s aged surprisingly well.
- As Q appears in the beginning of the novel, so is he at the end, disguising himself as the jack of hearts in the senior officers’ poker game. He restrains himself from making his presence known to Picard, not wanting him “to take [Q] for granted. Having said good-bye to the man, it was much too early to say hello again” (p. 247). His self-control is admirable, but it would seem Pocket Books didn’t think he needed any such break, because we’ll be seeing Q again very soon … much sooner than you think.
I strongly recommend All Good Things. Michael Jan Friedman once again builds on the foundation of an already great episode, resulting in another novelization that’s just as essential as its source material. If anything, it may even feel like even more of a finale, given that it wrangles an astounding number of obscure characters for delightful cameos that help beef up the smaller-than-usual page count.
There are in all likelihood still a few books to come that were written while the series was still going, but pretty soon we will have both feet fully in post-TNG territory, and I’m excited to see what authors come up with having the full scope of the entire series at their disposal.
NEXT TIME: Geordi and his motley crew Capture the Flag