After the crew's memories are mysteriously erased, the computer records indicate that the Federation is at war with the Lysians, and that the Enterprise has been ordered to attack their command center.
As the crew is going through a typical day (Data fixing Deanna Troi a drink in Ten Forward to settle a bet over a chess game, Dr. Crusher tending to a crewmember injured cliff-diving on the holodeck, and Commander Riker arguing with Ensign Ro about her changing ship's procedure without his knowledge), the USS Enterprise-D is approached by a small vessel of unknown configuration. After the vessel scans the Enterprise, a wave of energy passes throughout the ship, and the entire crew suffers from memory loss. They have forgotten their identities, but have retained the appropriate skills for running the ship.
The man we know as Riker suggests to an equally anonymous Captain Picard that he is their leader, since he has four pips on his collar, more than anyone else present. Worf suggests otherwise, and presumes he is the leader because he is the most decorated person on board due to his baldric. With computer access limited, Riker and Ro travel throughout the ship and confirm that the memory loss is not limited to the bridge; rather than their normal hostility, the two have an almost playful relationship, with Ro commenting that Riker doesn't look like someone who needs a holodeck to have fun. When Riker returns to his quarters, he finds Ro waiting for him, and the two of them begin a physical relationship.
After La Forge successfully accesses the ship's computer, he is able to get a list with photos of the Enterprise's bridge officers. The list confirms that Picard is indeed the commanding officer of the Enterprise. To Worf's dismay, the list has him near the bottom, second to last. Interestingly, the computer's list has one new addition to the ship's regular command crew. Commander Keiran MacDuff is the ship's first officer, and Commander Riker has been bumped down to second officer.
Data and La Forge are able to get more information out of the computer, and they brief the senior officers about their current mission: The Enterprise has been tasked to destroy the Lysian command center as part of a coordinated attack on their mortal enemy, with whom they've been at war for years. The information also suggests that the Lysians have a weapon which could cause memory loss. Troi wants to open communications with headquarters to confirm their mission, but the Enterprise's orders include radio silence at all times. Picard orders MacDuff to set a course towards the Lysian command center.
Efforts to repair the memory loss have been limited, as La Forge cannot gain access to more detailed personnel files or medical records that might allow Dr. Crusher to safely attempt to restore memories; MacDuff volunteered despite the risks, but Crusher stops her efforts when he apparently began having seizures, missing MacDuff's slight smile as she walked away. Meanwhile, Troi has a strong feeling that the war is wrong but can't pin down a reason, and MacDuff suggests it is just due to the general nature of war. Troi also inexplicably feels that Riker is very "familiar"; the two realize they had some connection when he finds a book she gave him as a gift "with love", producing a rather awkward moment when Ro arrives and sees them nearly kissing before kissing Riker herself once Troi leaves.
As the Enterprise crosses into Lysian space, it easily destroys a Lysian destroyer. Picard wonders if the Federation is truly at war with such a technologically inferior enemy. He feels a moral dilemma, comparing his situation to being given a gun and told to kill someone but still wanting to know why; MacDuff counters that it would be wrong to allow the war to continue and claim millions of lives just because Picard is experiencing moral qualms. MacDuff has a private conversation with Worf, his fellow warrior, and warns him there might be a situation where a split-second decision may need to be made, even if Picard has not yet given the orders to do so.
The Enterprise proceeds towards the Lysian Central Command, where it is intercepted by Lysian sentry vessels. These vessels are easily destroyed, and the Enterprise proceeds to the command center. Commander Data informs Picard that the Lysian command center is virtually defenseless with over 15,000 lives aboard. One photon torpedo could destroy the entire structure. Troi again insists the situation is wrong, and Riker poses the question: How could the Federation's mortal enemy be over 100 years behind in weapons technology? MacDuff insists that Picard destroy the station, but Picard refuses to fire on defenseless people; MacDuff declares that something is wrong with Picard and attempts to assume command, giving Worf an order to fire. When Worf refuses, MacDuff knocks him away with surprising force and tries to fire himself. Riker shoots him with his phaser. The shot knocks him back and reveals a shocking fact; he is not human. Worf and Riker then combine their phaser shots to knock MacDuff to the floor and subdue him.
Memories restored, the crew learn that MacDuff was a Satarran, a race warring against the Lysians, but memory alteration was the extent of their technology; otherwise, they were much like the Lysians. A single photon torpedo, Picard realizes, could have ended their war, and it almost did.
Riker encounters Ro and Deanna Troi in Ten Forward. He claims he is glad to see them both, and starts a somewhat awkward-sounding explanation of what happened between himself and Ro while their memories were erased. Deanna cuts him off, saying that under such circumstances, the general instinct is to do what one has always wanted. As he tries to work through this, Ro tells him not to worry about it: As far as she's concerned, they've shared something they will treasure forever. Sensing Riker's increased confusion, Troi reminds him that he knows where her office is if he wants to talk, leaving Riker with a penetrating look as she departs.
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"It looks like I'm the pilot."
- - Ro Laren
(To Picard) "Looks like you're the leader."
(Picard counts his pips.)
"Perhaps we should not jump to conclusions." (Worf points to his baldric) "I am decorated as well."
- - Riker and Worf, trying to determine the leader after Riker counts his pips
(Data pops up from behind the bar's counter.)
"Can I get you something? A beverage?"
- - Data to Riker, Ro and Troi in Ten Forward
"Contact the operations officer to assist you."
"He's in Ten Forward, waiting tables."
- - Picard and Ro on Data
"For all we know, you and I could be married."
"For all we know, you and I could hate each other."
- - Riker and Ro
"You must've been one hell of a bartender."
- - La Forge, commenting on the speed at which Data moves
"We must attack!!!"
"I do not fire on defenseless people."
- - "MacDuff" and Picard, realizing once and for all what's going on isn't right
"Commander, don't worry about it. As far as I'm concerned, you and I have shared something that we will treasure forever."
- - Ro, to Riker on their brief relationship
- As the crew attempts to learn more about their identities from the computer's databanks, we learn a great deal of biographical data of the Enterprise crew in the form of computer readouts. See personnel file.
- This story grew from one of several amnesia stories first pitched in Season Four. Michael Piller felt that this episode didn't quite do justice to the original pitch, which involved drafting soldiers by rewriting their memories. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion) A similar story plays out in VOY: "Workforce" and VOY: "Workforce, Part II".
- The tune Riker plays on his trombone is "The Nearness of You" by Hoagy Carmichael. He had previously performed this with the holographic jazz band in "11001001".
- The majority of the teleplay was in fact written by Joe Menosky, who went uncredited for his work.
- This episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Special Visual Effects, sharing it in a tie with TNG: "A Matter of Time".
Video and DVD releases
- Original UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 57, 11 January 1993
- UK re-release (three-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 5.5, 7 October 2002
- As part of the TNG Season 5 DVD collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lieutenant Commander Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Doctor Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lieutenant Commander Data
47-C; Alaska; Bajora; battleship; Copernicus City; Crusher, Wesley R.; el-Mitra Exchange; Emerald Wading Pool; France; Gamma Canaris N; hippocampus; horga'hn; Howard, Isabel; Howard, Paul; Keats, John; Kriskov Gambit; La Barre; Luna; Lunar colonies; Lysia; Lysians; Lysian Alliance; Lysian Central Command; Lysian destroyer; Lysian sentry pod; Lysian system; MacDuff, Joseph; MacDuff, Les; Ode to Psyche; optical data network; personnel file; phaser bank; Picard, Maurice; Picard, Yvette; pulse laser; Risa; Ro Gale; Ro Talia; Samarian sunset; Satarrans; Satarran starship; Starbase 301; Sumiko IV; three-dimensional chess; Troi, Ian Andrew "Alex"; trombone
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