La’an Noonien-Singh is bemoaning the isolation that her security position and her ‘augmented’ legacy creates during her everyday life. But coming across a stranger, apparently fatally hit by an old bullet, she is informed that incident in the past has altered the time-line and that she’s now on a version of the Enterprise commanded by James T. Kirk and with a neutrality in a Klingon/Romulan war breaking down.
The stranger’s device whisks both La’an and Kirk away from the ship and to the day before the incident in 21st Century Earth took place. Now the duo must work together to reset events as they were supposed to originally happen. Amid the chaos Kirk finds new delight in a world that had been decimated in his time-line and La’an finds it refreshing to have someone who isn’t aware of the weight of her family’s name and history
But it turns out that amid navigating the pragmatic problems of the 21st century, La’an’s own place in proceedings may be no accident and a terrible choice and cost will await…
Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow is one of those episodes that will likely divide viewers, having both a frothy lightness of touch and some deeply emotional pay-offs. There’s a lot to like in it – sharp dialogue, some deep-dive connective-tissue easter-eggs for the faithful and that classic ‘we-must-save-the-past-to-save-the-future’ science-fiction. Yet for better or worse, this third episode in the new run of Strange New Worlds basically takes the entire plot of Picard Season Two and condenses it into a single episode. The idea is epic, the execution… well… streamlined and compact, a well-travelled template with some strong highlights, but still – when bundled together – feeling decently pic’n’mixed rather than stellar.
So far the show has navigated the part-time absence of star Anson Mount pretty well – giving him some nice scenes in each episode that hide the actor’s real-life paternity leave and using it as a creative excuse to highlight other actors in the ensemble. But however well it’s been covered for, it’s unfortunate timing and one hopes that now we’re a quarter of the way into the run we’re going to see more of Pike and a general move towards some genuine ensemble stories rather than the ‘spotlights’, however enjoyable, we’ve had so far. (In addition, three on the trot might have worked better if they had been separated a little over the season).
The jokes and humour have worked well so far and here they continue, especially if you know Trek history… though the best is perhaps the meta-textual moment where Kirk thinks they’ve clearly landed in the middle of New York circa 21st Century and La’an scolds him for not recognising it as Toronto, Canada (so often used as a stand-in for the ‘city that never sleeps’ by the tv industry).
Essentially, Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow‘s only problem is that it’s trying to simultaneously be funny, tragic, clear up Trek continuity and be a deep character study and its running time and brevity mean it can’t successfully tilt in all those directions to the needed degree to make them all effective. Perhaps better as a potential two/multi-parter with more room to breath it could have worked better, but it’s likely you’ll come away delighted by some aspects and frustrated by others…
Paul Wesley’s Kirk may be a sticking point here. Wesley’s version is charismatic enough but initially seems rather stupid, failing to grasp the idea of revolving doors and looking destined to be the prat-faller of proceedings, unaware of the monetary requirements of the era and obsessed with hot-dogs. But as the episode goes forth and he adjusts to being in the presence of someone as resourceful as La’an, we see his charisma and teamwork in action and that, when needed, he can be quite the strategist (even at 2D chess) and the instinctive improviser for which he’ll become renown. He also makes an entirely fair point from his perspective, wondering why La’an’s continuity should supersede his own reality – asking who decides which is more worthy? He makes quite an impression on La’an and though it’s easy to dismiss the inevitable flirtation as just the default iconic Kirkisms in action, the episode does point out how much of a relief it would be for La’an to suddenly not have to deal with the legacy of her own surname and therefore feeling more relaxed with him. (Also, in a fun aside, in this continuity, Kirk wasn’t born in Riverside, Iowa but the USS Iowa and mankind has reached for the solar-system rather than the stars and which seems very satisfactory to Kirk).
Carol Kane gets more to do as the enigmatic, scatterbrained Pelia who feels evermore like a black sheep / ‘candidate for Hoarders’ version of Whoopee Goldberg’s Guinan. (Think of it also as Kane being Nanny McPhee to Goldberg’s Mary Poppins?). I like the idea of a sticky-fingered historian collecting antiquities through questionable means as she lives out her long life and though she’s a delight, here’s hoping she won’t just be included as a convenient comedic sage and punctuation to others’ problems.
For an episode that’s fairly lightweight and derivative through two-thirds of its running-time, the ending is pretty dark. It’s not quite City on the Edge of Forever fatalism nor one for the history books (despite being one for the alt-history buffs), but first Kirk is unexpectedly shot and dies after being far too overconfident (giving La’an something of a Christine Keeler moment of despair) and even when the villain of the piece is thwarted, La’an is put in the pivotal position where she could literally prevent mass-murder by killing its perpetrator before it happens. It’s the whole ‘Would you kill Hitler when he was a baby?‘ scenario played out with a young Khan as the substitute target and truly gives La’an potential pause. She knows the consequences of killing the young Khan on both a personal scale (she won’t carry the emotional baggage of the family legacy) and on a planetary scale (she may save literally millions of lives) though the altered future could yet be worse. Yet she doesn’t really waver in doing the right thing – realising that she has to preserve the correct time-line and really sells the emotional cost that decision will have on her. Though there’s an epilogue with an awkward conversation with the corrected-timeline Kirk, it really accentuates the darker undertow of where we found and then leave La’an. It’s powerful and heartbreaking but there’s a feeling that the enjoyable, frothy episode hasn’t quite earned this fateful denouement. Judged as a La’an episode it’s great and a real calling card for Christina Chong who anchors it all – yet for a story, the structure remains flimsy if eye-catching, hued in classic decorations but still too contrived.
Finally, there’s a couple of lines that seem casually thrown into the mix but are notable for the retrospective connective tissue they imbue. It’s noted by the not-actually-a-conspiracy-nut-but-a genuine-time-travelling-terrorist Sarah (Adelaide Kane) that there have already been plenty of changes to the timeline but somehow events keep getting pushed back into similar shapes – thus resolving the idea that according to TOS, the adult Khan’s rise originally happened in the late 20th Century but has now been edged much later into the 21st (as we’ve caught up and passed the original dates). Is it fan-service, absolutely. Necessary? You decide. However, if we’re going to nitpick – and this is a time-travel episode so we must – there’s also many, many contrivances needed to make any of this work. Not least: does Kirk’s chess-expertise really give the couple enough to rent a top-class hotel room and cross the Canada/US border twice by bribing officials and what happens to Kirk’s body in the 21st Century?
Essentially, Tomorrow, Tomorrow and Tomorrow‘s only problem is that it’s trying to simultaneously be funny, tragic, clear up Trek continuity and be a deep character study and its running time and brevity mean it can’t successfully tilt in all those directions to the needed degree to make them all effective. Perhaps better as a potential two/multi-parter with more room to breath it could have worked better, but it’s likely you’ll come away delighted by some aspects and frustrated by others.
- Production Design / VFX8