I have to admit that I was a little disappointed by this episode. Not with the actual story, but the decision to cram it into 45 mins. Why didnt they decide to build up across 2 or 3 episodes!? The story is first rate and could easily have taken up several episodes across one or two seasons. First and foremost, the story is a mystery. Perhaps the biggest that could have been conceived given the setting. Everything that typfies ST and ST:TNG is there; The Big Question - of existance and who we are. Conflict between the major races in the Alpha Quadrant inc. the Klingons, Romulans and Cardassians. A Race against time - flights at max. warp across the galaxy to discover clues to solve the puzzle. Even the beginning is full of some great details, filling in more of Picards pre-Starfleet days as student of Archelogy under Prof. Galen, played by Lloyd Norman.
While the screenplay and dialogue are well written, each scene contributes to the feeling that each element of the story is being rushed. A lot of the plot elements feel brushed over, so that they are only touched upon. Almost as if there isnt enough time to fit all of the plot elements in.
However, that said the overall the episode does work v. well. From the initial act where the intrigue is set up well, to the middle act where the clues are discovered and deciphered. The ending falls a little flat though, but is saved by the unexpected communication by the Romulan commander.
Still its one of the best episodes of this season, with one of the best potential stories across the the entire show. At least in my opion. Definitely one to enjoy.