At the end of "A Matter of Time," purported historian Berlinghoff Rasmussen is held on the Enterprise after it's been determined that he lied to the crew and attempted to steal technology from the ship.

I can understand Picard being annoyed with Rasmussen for interfering (sort of) with the mission, and certainly being peeved by the attempted theft of various pieces of technology. However, is satisfying his anger as important as allowing the timeline to potentially be violated? The timeline could change as a result of Rasmussen failing to report back to his time period. Perhaps Picard, Riker, Kes, or one of Dr. Crusher's plants would never be born as a result. (Probably very unlikely, but possible.)

  • I don't see how this can be anything but an opinion-based discussion question. Feb 22, 2018 at 18:30
  • You could probably make an informed decision, as some have. Basically, everything is an opinion question unless it's directly answered in canon, but obviously many questions posed on this website aren't. For example, I see in front of me that someone has asked why Captain Picard drinks tea. I think it's safe to say that this isn't directly answered anywhere in canon. Feb 22, 2018 at 18:37
  • Was X justified? invites a moral judgment on the part of the answerer. It is explicitly asking for an opinion. Feb 22, 2018 at 18:43
  • I'm sorry, sir. I will confine myself to the brig for the remainder of the day. Feb 22, 2018 at 19:06
  • I knew one of those plants was missing after that episode!
    – RDFozz
    Feb 22, 2018 at 20:03

4 Answers 4


The timeline might just as easily be changed because Picard failed to hold Rasmussen. Either way, he's making a choice; without knowledge of the "prior" state of affairs, so to speak, there's no particular reason to think one choice is any more risky than the other.

(Actually, on second thoughts, Picard's decision is definitely the safer one: let Starfleet do the research and decide whether to send Rasmussen back or not, and if so whether or not to wipe his memories. Rasmussen being a few months or a few years older or younger than he should have been is a much more minor change than allowing him to take the wrong knowledge from the future back with him would be.)

But I don't think it's an issue. Picard is in his own time, so his actions should already be a natural part of the timeline leading from the Rasmussen's encounter with the anonymous time traveler from the 26th century. It would be a different matter (as in Future's End) had Picard been taken back to Rasmussen's time, but actions taken in his own time should be safe; or, at least, as safe as anything Timey-Wimey can possibly be.

There might or might not have been a new timeline created when the 26th century time traveler had the misfortune to encounter Rasmussen, but even if there was, TNG was always set in the new one, so from Picard's point of view it is a moot point.

  • 2
    Not to mention that Rasmussen really annoyed Picard..
    – Valorum
    Feb 20, 2018 at 7:19
  • Everything changes the timeline in some way. But the fact that Rasmussen didn't belong in the 24th century makes holding him the more dubious. Feb 21, 2018 at 18:56
  • Ah, but he does belong; that's part of their past. What harm could it do to the 24th century timeline? Even if he escaped custody and, say, went on a killing spree, that would only affect their future, not their past. The only risk is that they might need to send him back so that he can accomplish something important in his own time - and for that, it doesn't matter how long he spends in the 24th century, they can still send him back to the exact moment he left, if that's what is needed. The timeline isn't so very fragile that him being a few months or a few years older will break it. Feb 21, 2018 at 19:08
  • 1
    @HamSandwich - The issue isn't "does he belong in the 24th century" - as noted, that was determined when he sent himself forward in time - an action in the past in the current timeline. The question is, "Does he need to be returned to his original time?" If he had done something crucial to the timeline after his time jaunt, then keeping him in the 24th century would be a problem.
    – RDFozz
    Feb 22, 2018 at 20:02

Since it's the past, the answer should be pretty simple...

Picard: "Data, who invented the phaser?"

Data: "A Mr. Berlinghoff Rasmussen. A scientist of some dubious renowned in the 22nd century. After a string of failing inventions, he was able to create the first working phaser. When asked how he went from patenting a series of flavored eating utensils to designing a phaser he was always quoted as saying, 'It just came to him.'"

Picard: "You're free to go."


Picard: "Data, who invented the phaser?"

Data: "The phaser was invented in the 23rd century by a team of scientists as a replacement to laser weapons to allow greater control in both precision and force and ..."

Picard: "Take him to the brig."

  • Is there a John Luck Pickard here? Are you trying to be like Q? Feb 22, 2018 at 17:36
  • 1
    I'm a little confused with the down votes. It's not like Star Trek doesn't know about screwing with time lines. In Voyage Home Scotty teaches someone about transparent aluminum, which according to Memory Alpha, Dr. Nichols, of the San Francisco-based Plexicorp, acquired the formula for transparent aluminum in 1986 from a mysterious engineer from Edinburgh, known as "Professor Scott." So if Scotty can change the timeline and be recorded in the future, if Rasmussen was supposed to go back in time to invent the phaser he just stole, it should be in the archives.
    – MivaScott
    Feb 22, 2018 at 20:48

Without getting too far into the weeds of time travel and determinism...if you accept that anyone has a meaningful choice when it comes to making decisions about time travel, and accept the Federation policy of "Keep the timeline we have intact" the default position has to be "stop liars from messing with the timeline". Presumably Picard and his crew did their best to research, discovered that they were living in a timeline in which Rasmussen did not invent those things, and acted to prevent him from changing the timeline.


The Temporal Prime directive would suggest Picard was right for holding Rasmussen when they suspected that he was stealing technology. If there going to be an serious changes to the timeline, I would like to think that temporal agents from the future would have stepped in stop any serious changes from occurring.

WARNING: Time travel may cause the Kelvin timeline to emerge.

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