23. We’ll Always Have Paris

Well, it’s time again. My thoughts on another episode.

Well, it’s time again. My thoughts on another episode.

Oh, sorry about that. I was experiencing the Manheim Effect when I was writing that.

What a nice light episode in which no one died. We need that after Skin of Evil. Anyway, moving on to my thoughts about …

 We’ll Always Have Paris

Just as in Casablanca in which no one says ‘play it again, Sam,’ no one says ‘we’ll always have Paris.’ So it’s just a title to get us thinking about Casablanca, which is good because just as Rick experiences a blast from his past, so too does Picard.

Several actually.

The first is a time loop, an innocuous one as far as time loops go.

The second is an ex-girlfriend.

Twenty two years ago, he was supposed to meet this girlfriend at 

Cafe des Artistes.

Instead of meeting her, he joined Starfleet and shipped out. We know this because Picard tells most of it to a holographic woman. He calls up the exact place he was supposed to meet Jenice Manheim on the holodeck and finds an entirely different woman being stood up by a different man.

This means either 1) the holodeck for some reason knew why Picard wanted to go to this place at this time and was trying to create a situation that would best allow him to confront those emotions Deanna wanted him to confront, or it means…

2) the holodeck has no idea why Picard wants to go there, but this friendly little place is THE Paris establishment people arrange for rendezvous they’ve no intention of keeping. It’s so famous for this that the holodeck would just have, as a part of the ambiance, a woman being stood up.

The Time Loops,

called the Manheim Effect by Data, is the other blast from the past. There are three. 1) the first one is a three second do-over. A quick moment when everything repeats. In this short period, no one seems to have free will. They can only do what they’ve done before.

2) The second one we see Picard, Riker, and Data witness themselves from afar. They watch themselves going up the turbolift. Data has free will because he talks about what he’s experiencing (on both ends of the loop), whereas Picard and Riker are too disoriented.

The second loop shows Data still has free will, and it also shows that they affect each other. That is the present version and future version alter each other’s behavior.

3) The third loop occurs when Data is planetside trying to close the inter-dimensional crack. Geordi keeps talking through the communicator as if nothing was happening to him, so it seems localized to Dr. Manheim’s lab. Three Datas appear, and they talk to each other and cooperate.

The Talk

Data and Picard have a talk about the time problem prior to his beaming down to the lab, and there are three points I’d like to discuss there.

1) First is Data’s explanation about what is happening. That during Manheim Effect event people are giving reprises of previews of a moment in time. Picard describes it as seeing where you were (loop 1), where you are, and where you will be (loop 2).

He says it with such gravitas that I was expecting it to be important, and I thought it must been part of what helped Data know the middle Data was the correct one. I don’t know how that worked. It makes no sense to me, but I suspect something else helped him know.

Maybe his internal clock matched Geordi’s countdown.

2) Second is Data’s reaction to being sent. Picard asks him to go alone to minimize risk, and Data says, “Reasonable. After all I am a machine and dispensable.” Now this strikes me as out of character as Data protects his personhood and is quick to accept new forms of life.

But if we accept he would say that, doesn’t it make Data sound insecure? He doesn’t think, for example, that the captain wants me because I’m tough enough to take it and get the job done. Instead, he thinks the captain wouldn’t mind losing him.

Do you remember after he got the job done and the captain said, beam back immediately, and Data said enthusiastically, With pleasure, sir? If I connect that scene to Data sounding so insecure with the captain, it makes me worry even more for Data.

3) Third is Data’s explanation of why he isn’t disoriented by time loops. It’s because he doesn’t attach emotion to time and therefore doesn’t experience instances when time seems to fly or drag or stop or whatever.

Since he sees time as constant, he doesn’t feel disorientation. This doesn’t make a lot of sense either because under the Manheim Effect Data would experience time not being a constant, which I would expect would be jarring. The rest of the crew should be less affected.

 The Other Talk

Oh sorry, did you think I mean Jenice and Picard before when I said the talk? No. Sorry. Here goes.

The interesting thing about this talk is what it reveals about Picard.

He’s a good liar. When requested, he provides two lies about why he didn’t meet her at the Cafe Des Artistes.

1) I got the days confused. I thought it was Tuesday when it was Wednesday.

2) I went to the Cafe Moulin instead of Cafe Des Artistes.

Those are two good lies and they’re believable because a) he makes himself look bad by saying he made a mistake, but he keeps the mistakes small and forgivable. b) He’s specific, providing details. Details build a better lie.

He’s good. Consider him in comparison to a normal person, a person like Jenice Manheim. Her lie goes like this:

3) It was raining and you couldn’t find a cab.

Terrible lie. It makes you sound bad, and is so implausible that you might as well announce you’re lying.

The other thing this conversation reveals about Picard is a negative side to his wanting to improve himself.

She asks the real reason he didn’t come, and for the second time this episode he starts to explain. The first was to the holographic girl. There he attributed it to both fear and confusion. Fear that he would be rooted, and confusion because he didn’t know what he wanted.

As he explains to the hologram, his mind, which is stumbling ahead, strikes on something else. This other thing is an emotion that’s too difficult for him to confront, so he calls an end to the holodeck session.

When he has the conversation with Jenice, he tells her it was fear.

Fear of seeing you and losing my resolve, staying and losing myself (this matches with what he told holographic lady), and neither choice being right (the confusion).

Then Jenice adds one more, and it turns out that this one is the thought he tried to stop himself from exploring on the holodeck.

Fear that a life with her would’ve somehow made Picard ordinary.

He always dreamed of being better. He pushes himself and his crew to constantly think about how they can improve themselves and live up to their own ideals. That drive was something he felt back then.

The negative side of that is that he judged others based on it, and he felt that she was too ordinary. She wanted ordinary things, that she would have spoiled his dreams. So he cast her off.

He was wrong though. She wanted a life out of the ordinary. She wanted to be a part of greatness, and that’s why she married Manheim. That’s why she’s willing to live far away from others. She wanted an exciting life and Manheim promised her one. Now they’re living the dream.

Picard tells Dr. Manheim he’d underestimated her in the past, and that was how.

 Paris

So Picard learns a lesson. Don’t let your conviction make you judgmental.

The Paris meeting was a moment that reminded Picard where he was, where he is, and where he’s going. A mistake that he can try to correct now as best he can by finally having that goodbye, so that in the future he can behave correctly.

The Paris they’ll always have isn’t time together to be remembered, but the moment when their timelines separated. That mistake in the past made the present what it was, and by remembering it, perhaps it’ll make for a better future.

Morals, messages, and meaning

  1. Don’t let your convictions make you judgemental
  2. Say goodbye
  3. Learn from your past
  4. Use your unique talents – This is why Picard sent Data.
  5. Self-esteem is important

Does it hold up?

Not a terrible episode. Patrick Stewart’s acting is subtle and good.

The lighting was strange. We got to see the steadicam work as Picard walked off the turbolift again.

Plotwise there were lots of problems, and the time stuff is a little sus.

Not a great episode, either I guess.

 

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