**** (4 stars out of 5)
Scoping out Alpha Onias III near the Romulan Neutral Zone, Birthday Boy Riker gets a lungful of gas, and not from delicious can of whipped cream.
When he wakes up, he's the Captain and it's 16 years later. Dr. Crusher tells him his memory has been knocked out by Altairian encephalitis, an exotic illness that also makes a perfect excuse for forgetting your anniversary, gentlemen.
Grey in the hair, Klingon girl in the corridor, Ferengi guy at the helm, Geordi's VISOR replaced by cloned eye implants. Data looks smashing in First Officer red. Admiral Picard and Commander Deanna Troi even arrive on a Romulan warbird! There's every indication dogs and cats are now living together.
Four years back, Riker saved a Romulan ship and started a detente. They are escorting Ambassador Tomalak to the peace talks.
And then there's Jean-Luc Riker. Surprise Son! Hey, is EVERYONE going to have a kid this year? Are they trying to destroy the ratings? I hear the season where the leads reproduce is always the last season. Riker Junior's mom was Min, the Ship's Counselor.
Pretty good future overall, only the computer's a little slower. People even have the new iPADD. It's a fraction of an inch shorter and has nine fewer functions.
Riker puts on the best possible face despite having no love for Tomalak. He can't believe they're taking him to the key to all their Neutral Zone defences, Outpost 23! Picard tells him it's not strategically important in this day and age. It's just a Neutral Zone adjacent asteroid with a convenient Chuck E. Cheese.
Riker starts to bond with his boy, and then it's home movie time. Mrs. William T. Riker has a familiar face...
When he sees who she was, Riker goes on a rant: Geordi's not so incompetent, Worf can't explain his scar, Data's clock speed is only 2 MHz. Riker tells Picard to shut his old goatee: 'cause it's all a lie!
The future goes away: it's only Tomalak on a Romulan holodeck with mental scanners that made a boo-boo: Minuet was only real in Riker's fantasy life.
Will is tossed in a cell with Ethan, whose image was used as the holographic Boy Riker. Ethan quickly leads their jailbreak to a hidey-hole in an abandoned storeroom. And he's about to lead them to the easily accessible escape shuttle if they can only evade Ambassador Tomalak...
Yup, slip of the tongue. Boy should have said Captain Tomalak. This is an illusion, too. But there is an underlying truth here: a deeply lonely kid running a never-ending RPG. His people were killed in an invasion and his mother left him in this holocave fantasy when she died.
He's actually rather grey and bug-like. On the cute side of freaky-damn-deaky. "My name is Barash."
Riker smiles. "To me, you'll always be Jean-Luc."
"Future Imperfect" is very good. Barash is quite clearly what they used to call a latch-key kid, raised by his TV. Impossible for me not to identify with him.
Just one thing: what happened to this kid? Orphanarium? Dumped on the Rozhenkos? Maybe Barash and Jeremy Aster got an apartment and a spin-off together. 'Starbase: ORPHAN': the gloomiest Star Trek of all! Six seasons and a movie!