Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch: “We’ll Always Have Paris”

“We’ll Always Have Paris”
Written by Deborah Dean Davis and Hannah Louise Shearer
Directed by Robert Becker

Season 1, Episode 24
Original air date: May 2, 1988
Star date: 41697.9

Mission summary

The Enterprise is headed to Sarona VIII for some shore leave, but Picard has gotten a headstart by fencing with a lieutenant. Though he loses the first point he wins the second–twice, as time seems to repeat itself in an eerie deja vu effect. The bridge confirms the temporal anomaly, and they pick up a distress signal from a Paul Manheim, reknowned wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey tinkerer who left Earth fifteen years ago to experiment with multiple dimensions and nonlinear time.

Picard reacts strongly to news of Manheim. Because he’s got a few hours to kill before the ship reaches Manheim, Picard goes to the holodeck to recreate Paris twenty-two years earlier. There he runs into a woman waiting for a man who never shows. She asks Picard why her beau did not come, and Picard tells her it was because of Nazis he was afraid. He then chastises himself for indulging in such fantasies and goes back to the bridge.

The ship finally reaches Vandor IV, a planet in orbit around a binary star system that contains a red giant and a pulsar. Picard, not using his name, hails the source of the distress signal and reaches a woman who says Manheim is having convulsions. They are the only remaining survivors, as the other lab and its staff were totally obliterated. The woman and Manheim are beamed directly to sickbay. Manheim’s condition is confusing: he seems to be dying, but Crusher can’t figure out how or why. The woman is Ilsa Jenice Manheim, his wife, and Picard’s ex from all those years ago. She is surprised to see “Jean-Luc” and Picard has trouble confronting his own emotions about her. She seems pleased that he has “done well” and gotten all he wanted out of his life, but he doesn’t seem so sure. In private, he tells her that he didn’t meet her because he was scared. She said she waited all day for him, and they both admit to having thought a great deal about each other in the intervening years.

On Vandor, Jenice explains, Manheim was making exceptional progress on his experiments, but was getting obsessive and predicted that there would be serious dangers, so he took serious security precautions to try and contain the experiment. He’s too ill to communicate, so Picard, Data, and Riker head to the turbolift. There they experience deja vu again, and see their own doubles about to enter the lift as they are in it. The “Manheim effect,” as Data dubs it, is spreading and becoming more serious. It’s clear that someone’s going to have to shut the experiments down, but attempts to beam to the lab are thwarted by a bounce effect–presumably a security feature and not a bug.

Meanwhile, Dr. Crusher is jealous and bitches to Troi.

In sickbay Manheim comes to and tells Jenice that all of his craziness was worth it, because the resistance must survive he’s “been to the other side.” He says he’s in two places (or times) at once, but he worries that he’s created a giant tear in the great security blanket of the galaxy and so other dimensions are spilling through, causing this rift. He tells Picard how to bypass his security measures and shut the thing down, but it has to be done at precisely the moment of the next time wave. Privately, he tells Picard that should anything happen to him, to please take care of his wife. She has put up with his bullshit for too many years and he wants her to have a good, happy life, no matter what. Picard agrees that Manheim isn’t going to win any husband of the year awards and he’d be more than happy to swap in.

Data, because he’s less susceptible to time weirdness, beams down to give the hole the antimatter emergency sewing kit treatment. At the right moment three Datas appear, and they must figure out which one is the “right” one. This apparently takes no time or difficulty and soon the rip is patched and all is well. Back aboard the Enterprise, Manheim awakens. He’s a little shaken but otherwise fine, and more committed than ever to continuing his experiments. Jenice seems nervous, but Manheim convinces her to do it for all those friends he unintentionally killed at the second lab, and she agrees, because guilt is a strong motivator.

Before she goes, though, she meets Picard on the holodeck, where he has recreated that Parisian day to say a proper goodbye. She thanks him for their time together and they part ways, presumably forever.


I hadn’t noticed it before, but the two main Picard-centric episodes of the season are pale rip-offs of classic films: “The Big Goodbye” (The Maltese Falcon) and now “We’ll Always Have Paris” (Casablanca). Maybe if he had taken that job at Starfleet Academy he could have run the school newsletter and we’d get a little Citizen Kane?

This is probably the episode I recall liking most out of the whole season, and it really disappointed me. The Casablanca nods are laid on too thick, the temporal anomaly is more handwavy than usual, and I left with more questions than answers regarding Picard and Jenice’s relationship. I’m all for letting viewers fill in the blanks, but it’s an entire episode of blanks. There’s no context whatsoever for their relationship. She seems much younger–was it a May-December thing? What would staying together have meant sacrificing? It doesn’t seem like she’s made any kind of career for herself, so why couldn’t she just join up with him wherever he was off to? What on earth did they see in each other? It was impossible for me to feel anything–sadness, regret, longing–for these two people when I don’t know anything about them. They both seem to have gotten totally over it and there’s no hint or inkling that either regret their decision or would do it any differently if they could. So what exactly is the point of this little reunion, to make them both suffer a little? A good romance, whether it’s sad or not, should at least give us a glimpse at who this person was that was so in love. I don’t feel I learned anything about Picard or the man he was then, and none of this added to my assessment of the man he is now.

The weakness is Jenice Manheim. She has no career, no interests, no personality. She makes no choices. Her husband, without her input or consent, arranges for her–what, guardianship??–should he die. At the end, when it seems like she really wants to get the hell out of Dodge, Manheim guilts her into staying with the favorite line of abusers everywhere, “It’ll be different this time, I promise.” Despite the fact that Picard stood her up all those years ago, he never once apologizes (I double-checked!) and she, in turn, thanks him for their time together. I can’t root for a doormat, and in my most vivid imagination I don’t see why Picard would be remotely interested in her to begin with. The holodeck scene at the end is so selfish, too, a way to assuage Picard’s guilt and give him closure that she seems to have already achieved long ago. The only thing that has stuck with me is Jenice’s line that staying with her would have made Picard feel ordinary. It’s definitely his greatest fear, as we see in “Tapestry.” But again, we don’t know enough about what, if anything, either of them would have had to sacrifice to be together, so it feels hollow.

As for the time stuff, most of that plot was consumed with the “we need to learn to get past security!” subplot, which reeks of pointless filler to me. I did like the echo effect, and I think a better writer could have united these plots more elegantly (the choice that Picard made then paralleling the time rift there now). Mostly it was a serviceable science fictional idea that deserved better than to be shoehorned into a rehash of Kirk’s long lost love story from “The Deadly Years.” (Go back and watch that one–the dialogue between Kirk and Wallace is so, so much better, tinged with regret and sadness and yet a certainty that, ultimately, it was the right choice.) In contrast, Crusher’s random jealousy is unforgivable and baseless. Since when must she “compete” with anyone? She doesn’t even want the prize! Are we supposed to assume that since they fell in that pit together in “Arsenal of Freedom” she’s become a jealous middle-schooler? For shame, Trek writers. For shame.

I doubt I’ll rewatch this mediocrity in the future, but I do feel the urge to bump Casablanca to the top of my queue.

Torie’s Rating: Warp 3 (on a scale of 1-6)

Thread Alert: I can’t seem to find a screencap of the whole outfit, which balloons into hammer pants from the waist to the knees, then comes back in as tights, has an opening on either side for sideboob potential, and flaps heavily down her back. And is a tie-dye experiment gone wrong. This looks like something I would glue to the back of a fish tank.

Best Line: JENICE: You’ve done well. A great starship in the far reaches of the galaxy. It’s everything you’d hoped.
PICARD: Not exactly. Nothing works just as you hope.

Trivia/Other Notes: Michelle Phillips was one of the mamas from The Mamas and the Papas, of “California Dreamin'” fame.

The writers intended for Picard to get down with Jenice, but this was vetoed by almost everyone on the staff, including Patrick Stewart.

When Data has to figure out which version of him is real, he says, “Me! It’s me!” So much for his inability to use contractions.

The Writers’ Guild strike meant that production was shut down while the ending was filmed. Whether this explains anything, I don’t know.

Previous episode: Season 1, Episode 23 – “Skin of Evil.”

Next episode: Season 1, Episode 25 – “Conspiracy.”

About Torie Atkinson

Torie Atkinson watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books.