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A Matter of Time (episode)

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"A Matter of Time"
TNG, Episode 5x09
Production number: 40275-209
First aired: 18 November 1991
108th of 176 produced in TNG
108th of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
215th of 728 released in all
Penthara IV frozen
Written By
Rick Berman

Directed By
Paul Lynch
45349.1 (2368)
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A time traveler claiming to be from the 26th century arrives to witness an attempt to save a doomed planet.



"Captain's Log: Stardate 45349.1. The Enterprise is on its way to Penthara IV where a Type C asteroid has struck an unpopulated continent. The resulting dust cloud could very well create a phenomenon not unlike the nuclear winters of 21st century Earth. Commander La Forge has begun work on a plan that would counteract the devastation."

The USS Enterprise is trying to fix extreme weather problems resulting from an asteroid collision on the planet Penthara IV, a colony with a population of some twenty million persons. On their way to Penthara IV, Worf notices a space-time distortion, followed by the appearance of a small vessel. Captain Picard tries to hail the ship, to which the occupant replies that Picard should move over. Picard takes a stand saying that the Enterprise will not go anywhere until it explains itself. As soon as Picard physically "moves over," a man named Berlinghoff Rasmussen appears aboard the Enterprise claiming to be a historian from the future (specifically, the 26th century), specializing in 24th century interstellar issues.

Act One

Rasmussen tries to convince the crew that he is actually from the future. In order to prove it, the crew tries asking him questions that only a man from the future would know the answers to. Doctor Crusher wants to know if they cured the Telurian plague by Rasmussen's time, but Picard says they shouldn't ask questions like that. After the meeting is over, Deanna Troi says Rasmussen is holding something back, but it's not something that has to do with his wanting to keep information from his century from the crew of the Enterprise.

Rasmussen tries to study Data while he escorts him to his newly assigned quarters. Data tries to ask about whether or not he lives to see the 26th century, but Rasmussen avoids his questions and tells him that it would be better if Data kept those questions to himself. Data complies, apologizes, and leaves Rasmussen alone.

Act Two

"Captain's Log: Stardate 45350.3. We have arrived at Penthara IV and can see for ourselves the atmospheric devastation caused by the asteroids impact."

The Enterprise arrives at Penthara IV. Meanwhile, in Ten-Forward, Riker, Worf, and Crusher are talking about Rasmussen's presence. His presence on board is quite disruptive since he refuses to reveal anything about the future, but he nevertheless drops many hints that something important is about to happen. Rasmussen arrives in Ten-Forward and Dr. Crusher invites him to the table. He asks them to each take a questionnaire. Then they talk about how they view the world and what they each think the most important inventions/advancements in the past 200 years were. Beverly says the way surgery was changed, Riker says warp coils - people limited to one world were no longer, and Worf says phasers. Rasmussen says that it's typical that they would provide such different answers since Beverly is a doctor, Riker is an officer in Starfleet, and Worf is from a warrior background. Later, Rasmussen visits Geordi La Forge and Data in Engineering. La Forge conjectures that Rasmussen is there to witness the mission at Penthara IV. La Forge figures out the parameters of how much CO2 to inject into the air at Penthara IV and transports to the surface. When La Forge leaves, Rasmussen pockets a PADD left on the table. Then he goes to the bridge to witness the event.

Act Three

Troi and Crusher are in Sick Bay discussing if Rasmussen is really just after historical facts or more. Rasmussen comes into Sick Bay and Troi tries to excuse herself but he manages to talk about how she doesn't trust him, but she does finally leave. Rasmussen makes a pass at Beverly by telling her she has been the only person to make him think about not returning to where he is from. Beverly deters him by saying she could very well be his great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother.

Meanwhile, the initial attempt to release carbon dioxide from inside the planet into the atmosphere was briefly successful, but unanticipated volcanic activity released more particulates into the atmosphere, making the problem worse.

Rasmussen goes to Data's quarters and finds him listening to 4 pieces of music loudly and Rasmussen is confused as to how he can listen to all that simultaneously. Data replies that he is capable of distinguishing over 150 simultaneous compositions from each other. Then Geordi sends a transmission to Data from the surface of the planet, and while they are discussing if Data made any errors, Rasmussen pockets a tricorder from Data's room. Data then notifies Picard in his ready room that they have already done everything they can, and if they try again and err, they would completely burn off the planet's atmosphere.

Act Four

"Captain's Log, supplemental. While Doctor Moseley takes La Forges plan to the leaders of the colony I find myself weighing the potential consequences of a more philosophical issue."
"Captain's Log: Stardate 45351.9. Doctor Moseley has met with the colony leaders who all agree they are willing to take the risk."

On the planet, Doctor Moseley and Geordi are trying to work out new parameters to stop the planet from freezing over or burning up the atmosphere. Rasmussen is called by Picard into his ready room because he faces a dilemma of how to help the Pentharians. The Enterprise can initiate a chain reaction in the atmosphere that should fix the problem, but if calculations are ever so slightly off, life on the planet will be wiped out. Picard forcefully asks for Rasmussen's help: can he tell what happened to Penthara IV? While Picard concedes that there might be some sort of Temporal Prime Directive in the future that precludes Rasmussen from aiding him, he argues that this is a situation where the directive could be violated. Picard also theorizes that since Rasmussen's past is Picard's own future, choosing to try is the right thing to do. Rasmussen refuses to help, but Picard nevertheless chooses the correct course of action.

Act Five

Meanwhile, a number of small objects go missing and Picard suspects Rasmussen, who is confronted before he heads back into the future and asked to let Data inspect his time-travel pod for the missing items, Picard reasoning that Data is the only person who can be definitely trusted not to talk about anything he witnessed inside the pod. Once inside, Rasmussen attempts to abduct Data and reveals that he is indeed from 200 years outside the Enterprise's timeframe, but in the opposite direction - he is actually from the 22nd century. He stole the time-travel pod from the original time traveler from the future, and he plans to return to his own time with the high-tech objects he has stolen, now including Data, and "invent" them. However, his attempt is foiled, as the stolen phaser he planned to use to knock out Data has been deactivated remotely via a signal they transmitted into the pod when the door was open. Picard orders Worf to arrest Rasmussen, despite his pleas to be let go. The pod vanishes, stranding him in the future. Worf leads Rasmussen to the brig, with Picard welcoming him to the 24th century and remarking there are "many legitimate historians that would be interested in talking to you."

Memorable Quotes

"They want you to move over, sir."
"Reply that the Enterprise isn't going anywhere, Lieutenant."
"Not the Enterprise... you."

- Worf and Picard

"Everyone dies, Captain! It's just a question of when!"

- Berlinghoff Rasmussen

"To try or not to try. To take a risk or play it safe. Your arguments have reminded me how precious the right to choose is. And because I've never been one to play it safe, I choose to try."

- Jean-Luc Picard

"I assume your handprint will open this door whether you are conscious or not."

- Data, in a subtle threat to subdue Rasmussen after the phaser doesn't work.

"Welcome to the 24th century."

- Jean-Luc Picard

"Yes Professor I know... What if one of those lives I save down there as a child who grows up to be the next Adolf Hitler or Khan Singh? Every first year philosophy student has been asked that question since the earliest wormholes were discovered..."

- Jean-Luc Picard

Background Information

Story and production

  • "A Matter of Time" was filmed between Friday 27 September 1991 and Monday 7 October 1991 on Paramount Stage 8, 9, and 16. Second unit inserts for this episode were filmed on Tuesday 29 October 1991 on Paramount Stage 9.
  • Rick Berman commented, "I am fascinated by all the episodes that have dealt with the implausibility of time travel. I have always had in my head the idea of an episode that had someone who was capable of time travel and professes he is from the future, and we find out he is actually from the past. It's part of that Mark Twain feeling of what Leonardo da Vinci could have done with a calculator or Alexander the Great with a shotgun." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • The character of Berlingoff Rasmussen was originally written for Star Trek fan Robin Williams, who opted out in order to play Peter Pan in the movie Hook. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
  • Regarding the episode's tech subplot Berman recalled, "To sit with the scene guys and research and develop it and to try and come up with with something that would work, you get lost in the technical elements of it. You need other people to come and hit you over the head and pull it back. Sometimes we succeed with that and sometimes we don't." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • The time-pod was a reuse of the shuttle Nenebek exterior set from "Final Mission", later reused as the Toron-class Klingon shuttle in "Gambit, Part II".
  • According to the call sheet of Friday 4 October 1991, a promo for the International Space University was filmed on the bridge set on Paramount Stage 8 at 9:30 a.m.
  • Several costumes and props from this episode were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay, including a scientist costume. [1]
  • First UK airdate: 15 February 1995



  • Michael Piller remarked, "Nobody ever just hands in a script – not me, not even Rick. It was a delightful change of pace and tone from the grimness and darkness of the Spock episode. It was just at the right time. Rick and I and the staff worked long and hard with him on the script and he had a lot of challenges to overcome. That fourth act where Picard and Ramussen have a one scene act is wonderful and I enjoyed that a lot." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Director Paul Lynch stated, "It was more of a comedy than a drama. Matt Frewer was wonderful as a space con man... He got the reputation of being large for his comedy roles, but he was a consumate actor and he found the level of comedy and realism of the character which is what makes him such a good character. He was never schticky." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • In 2012, Paul Lynch stated that he felt "A Matter of Time" was his least favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episode out of the five he had directed. [2]
  • A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 18, pp. 57-60.


  • This episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Special Visual Effects, sharing it in a tie with TNG: "Conundrum".

Video and DVD releases

Links and references


Also starring

Guest stars



Uncredited co-stars

Stand-ins and photo doubles


Adrienne; apple; atmosphere; automobile; auto-phaser interlock; Bach, Johann Sebastian; Beethoven, Ludwig van ; berylite scan; bioscan; Caesar; carbon dioxide; Celsius; colony; Corsica; crystal; d'k tahg; deflector dish; deflector beam; deflector shield; Earth; earthquake; electrostatic energy; empath; USS Enterprise-B; USS Enterprise-C; EPS tap; exothermal inversion; fly; The Globe Illustrated Shakespeare: The Complete Works; greenhouse effect; Gutenberg Bible; historian; Hitler, Adolf; Homer; Jupiter symphony; Klingon; La donna è mobile; lightning rod; Lincoln; Livingston; Milton, John; Model A; Model T; Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus; Monet; museum; New Jersey; New Seattle; nuclear winter; neural stimulator; O'Brien, Miles; PADD; Penthara IV; Pentharan; phaser; phaser drill; philosophy; plasma; plasticized tritanium mesh; poker; predestination paradox; Prime Directive; quarantine field; Redstone missile; Richter scale; Rigoletto; Risa; river; sector; sensor; shield invertor; Singh, Khan; Soong, Noonian; space-time distortion; spring dance; Starbase 214; Starfleet; Suzanne; Symphony Number Nine; Telurian plague; temporal logic; temporal distortion; terawatt; theft; Third Brandenburg Concerto; time-pod; tricorder; turbolift; type C asteroid; Verdi; VISOR; volcano; warp coil; wormhole; Wonder, Stevie

See also

External link

Previous episode:
"Unification II"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 5
Next episode:
"New Ground"

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