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While waiting for Capt. Picard’s return from a conference, the Enterprise crew finds an ancient Earth spaceship which contains three people in cryogenic stasis. After reviving the three, and after healing their ailments, which were incurable back in their time, the crew must find out what to do with these out of place persons.
However, when Picard returns, he tells the crew they are to investigate the disappearance of several Federation outposts near the Neutral Zone. This leads to a confrontation with the Romulans, who are also investigating the loss of several Romulan outposts near the Neutral Zone.
*First Officer's Log, Stardate 41986.0. We are awaiting the return of Captain Picard who was summoned to Starbase 718. Meanwhile, our sensors have been monitoring an ancient capsule floating in our vicinity, which appears to be from Earth.
*Captain's Log, supplemental. We have arrived at the edge of the Neutral Zone where we will now have an opportunity to learn firsthand what happened to our distant outposts.
Wil Wheaton (Wesley Crusher) does not appear in this episode.
The general notion of the "cryogenic" subplot -- someone sleeping for a long time period and waking to observe the radical changes that time has brought, has been used any number of times as a recurring theme in science fiction, and occurs in classic stories by H.G. Wells (The Sleeper Awakes
), Edward Bellamy (Looking Backward
) and Robert A. Heinlein (The Door into Summer
). The notion is also central to Washington Irving's classic tale of Rip Van Winkle
and is at the heart of the Buck Rogers
Multiple issues exist with this one sub-plot of this storyline:
1) This derelict craft clearly was not intentionally put on a "ride to nowhere" at even interstellar sub-light speeds, meaning its top speed would be a fraction of that needed to make it anywhere more than a few light years in four hundred years. No clear explanation is offered for how this craft traveled close to the edge of Federation space in such a short time. The presence of such a craft at such a long distance from Earth would be an inriguing mystery in and of itself, hardly engendering Riker's almost complete lack of interest in the craft.
2) Regarding such interest, while Riker himself might have no interest in the craft, it is almost certain that historians would have substantial interest in it, and not only Riker would know this, but Data would certainly point it out more forcefully than he does. Riker would probably capture the craft for return to Starfleet for examination on general principles regardless of the distance=interest issue mentioned in "1" above. Another option would be to use the tractor beam to stabilize it in a predictable orbit, put a beacon on it, and message Starfleet to send an appropriate science crew to investigate it it further if it were deemed a distraction.
3) When Data and Worf first port over to the derelict spacecraft, Data notes that the craft is powered by a Solar Generator. If the craft spent any time at all between the stars, it would certainly have been well away from any stars for long enough for such a system to have failed. Typical modern solar panels only function adequately inside the orbit of Mars, and it is scientifically impossible to develop a panel which would function at more than twice that distance for any high-energy purpose such as even the limited life support of this craft. Any arguments about that claim of "scientific impossibility" would ignore that this craft was not built with 24th century tech but with early 21st century tech.