(written from a Production point of view)
Junior officers speculate on the reasons for recent unusual actions taken by the command crew near the Cardassian border.
Counselor Troi and Commander Riker are discussing crew evaluations in Ten Forward, trying to decide who would be the best to fill a supervisory position. Riker laments that this is a recurring theme as they did crew evaluations three months ago. He decides that everyone on the ship will get promoted and calls it a night, addressing Troi as "commander", which Troi acknowledges, addressing him as "captain" and ordering two coffees.
Across the table, Ensign Sam Lavelle, who is watching them with his friends Ensigns Sito Jaxa, Taurik, and Nurse Alyssa Ogawa, complains that their careers are literally being decided across the room. Ogawa tells him not to worry, and Sito tells him to just enjoy themselves. Lavelle decides to think about promotion out loud, much to the annoyance of Taurik. Ogawa and Sito explain to the Vulcan ensign that it's a strategy that the Bajorans use. He then finally jokes that by being promoted to lieutenant, he would have his own crew quarters, whereupon Taurik says that he can request a new room assignment if he is not happy with sharing quarters with him, on the off chance he isn't promoted. This draws laughter from the table.
The conversation between Troi and Riker changes to the ops night duty officer. While Lavelle is an obvious choice, he's also considering Sito as well. Ben, a waiter, serves the coffees to Riker and Troi, at the same time teasing Troi about dessert, whereupon Troi assures him that she doesn't want dessert and that he should not tempt her. Ben walks over to the junior officers and after much badgering, he tells them that Lavelle and Sito are up for the same position.
The crew performs a battle drill, with Lavelle and Sito on the bridge at conn and tactical, respectively, and with Taurik assisting Lieutenant Commander La Forge in engineering. Lieutenant Worf is supervising the drill. After Lavelle successfully performs a maneuver, something goes wrong at tactical, which catches Worf's attention. While the target was destroyed, Riker expresses disappointment with the Alpha Shift's response time, and wants drill evaluation reports from each department, with La Forge assigning Taurik to that task. Sito explains to the commander that when they changed course she had to re-lock phasers before firing. Riker offers sage advice by revealing that one should allow the locking relay to float before the actual order is given. It's not a trick that's taught at the Academy, but it works. When he orders Lavelle to resume course and speed, he snaps at him for acknowledging with twice the "aye." Captain Picard enters the bridge from his ready room and orders a change of course to the Argaya system, near Cardassian space at maximum warp, as he's received new orders from Starfleet, and their rendezvous with the USS Clement will not take place as scheduled.
When the senior officers are in the observation lounge discussing the new orders, Sito is asked to fill in at ops. This indicates to Lavelle that his chances for promotion to the position are slim, but Sito tries to assure him by suggesting Riker might feel she needs more practice than he. In engineering, Taurik enthusiastically shares some new ideas in warp field configuration with a somewhat annoyed La Forge, who is intrigued but still slightly irritated by the Vulcan's forthright nature. In sickbay, Doctor Crusher tells Nurse Ogawa that she is promoting her to lieutenant. Ogawa shares her fears about her relationship with Lieutenant Powell, but Crusher thinks she's overreacting.
Later in Ten Forward, Sito is surprised and encouraged to find out from Lieutenant Worf that he recommended her for the ops position. Meanwhile, Lavelle laments the fact that, apparently, Riker does not like him. Ben, who is friends with Riker, tells him that Riker likes poker and jazz and that he is Canadian. Lavelle tries to strike up a conversation with the first officer about this while Riker sits at the bar. Unfortunately, Riker is actually from Alaska and an embarrassed Lavelle jokingly states that they both get a lot of snow before making a haste departure.
With some adjustments from La Forge and Taurik, the pod's occupant is beamed to sickbay. Due to the sensitive nature of this person's identity, Crusher orders Ogawa to leave. Ogawa finds Sito standing outside with orders not to allow anyone other than senior officers to enter. Captain Picard then arrives, and after doing a double-take when he sees who is standing guard, enters.
After seeing the mysterious visitor, Picard has Sito join him in his ready room and tells her that he doesn't believe she is ready for the Ops position, reminding her of her record with the disgraced Nova Squadron while at Starfleet Academy and how she participated in an attempt at a forbidden stunt which resulted in the death of a fellow cadet as well as the cover-up which impeded the ensuing investigation. He asks what that says about the kind of person she is. Sito tells him that she now understands how she was wrong to try and cover up the truth, and since then her record has been spotless. She also details how difficult her time at he Academy had been afterwards, as she didn't have any friends and none of the other cadets were willing to fly with her again. Picard isn't the least bit interested that she didn't enjoy the Academy, and sternly tells Sito that she should have been expelled as far as he's concerned and he doesn't know how she ended up on his ship, before curtly dismissing her. Severely chastened, Sito leaves without another word.
In the shuttlebay, Taurik and La Forge are intentionally damaging the Type 6 shuttlecraft Curie with a phaser rifle. Taurik is puzzled but La Forge offers no credible explanation as to why they are doing this. Taurik, remarking on his pattern of phaser fire, says that it would be consistent if the shuttle were under attack and had engaged evasive maneuvers. La Forge tells him it is an "amazing coincidence." Ogawa is asked by Crusher to assist her with emergency surgery on the visitor and is ordered not to reveal the patient's identity to anyone else. Ogawa is shocked to find the patient is in fact a Cardassian.
Later, the junior officers are playing poker and speculating on who was in the escape pod. Ogawa is quiet about what she knows. They encourage Sito, after hearing of her encounter with the captain. Lavelle still laments Riker's seeming dislike for him, but Sito tells him that it doesn't matter if Riker likes him as long as he respects him which he must do. Lavelle feels better, and decides to stop trying so hard. Taurik is also concerned that his suggestions have put off La Forge. Meanwhile, Ben, who is also at the poker table, cleans out his preoccupied Starfleet friends until one by one they decide to turn in.
The senior officers are also playing poker. Crusher notes that she saw Lieutenant Powell with another woman in Ten Forward. Troi tells her Powell should inform Ogawa, saying that it may hurt her initially but will be better for her in the long run. Also, Worf and Riker debate who to promote, Sito or Lavelle. Riker thinks Sito is too inexperienced, but Worf gives her his full confidence. Riker agrees to keep her in consideration, especially as he thinks Lavelle too eager to please. Troi points out that he and Lavelle are very much alike, and reminds him how during his time on the USS Potemkin, he took up poker so he could join in the officers game. Riker decides not to be so hard on the young officer in the future. As the games break up, La Forge invites Taurik to engineering to try out his engine improvements. Moments later, Ben comes by, hoping to press his luck by engaging the remaining senior officers in a few more hands.
After his next Mok'bara class, Worf singles out Sito and tells her she must pass a gik'tal challenge to move into his advanced class. He has her put on a blindfold and spar with him. But after being knocked down several times, she removes the blindfold and refuses to continue with the test. He praises her for standing up to the unfair treatment and hopes she will do so when it happens again. The gik'tal was, of course, invented by Worf, in order to test (and encourage) Sito's ability to stand up for herself when she is being unfairly attacked.
Sito takes Worf's advice and confronts Picard about his comments on her academy days. She asks him to judge her on her performance on the Enterprise, not her past mistakes. Picard is pleased. In actuality, he was the one who requested that Sito be assigned to the Enterprise as he wanted her to have a proper chance to redeem herself. In fact, he had only been testing her mettle for an important and dangerous assignment.
In sickbay, Ogawa announces her engagement to Lieutenant Powell to a relieved Doctor Crusher.
Sito joins Picard, Riker, and Worf in the observation lounge. With them is Joret Dal, a Cardassian military officer and a Federation operative. He was the occupant of the escape pod. Now Starfleet must get him safely back to Cardassian space. His return would be easier if he had a prisoner, allowing him to pose as a bounty hunter. As a Bajoran, Sito is a perfect candidate but Picard, knowing the extreme danger of the assignment, cannot bring himself to order her to do it. Sito volunteers, fully aware of how the Cardassians treat their prisoners. After she leaves, Dal expresses his regret that she is so young. The Enterprise officers share this regret.
The shuttle Curie, that La Forge and Taurik damaged with phasers, will carry the two to Cardassian space, where, after passing through the border patrols, Dal will return Sito to the Federation in an escape pod. Sito says goodbye to Worf as she boards, with fake bruises provided by Crusher.
Sito wonders why Dal does what he does for Starfleet and he tells her that he is sick of the pointless fighting his people engage in, brought about by ambitious guls trying to make a name for themselves in combat. He believes what he does is worth it if it will bring peace to Cardassia. Sito is surprised to hear such a sentiment from a Cardassian. Their sensors alert them that a Cardassian border patrol has spotted them.
On the Enterprise, Lavelle is worried about his friend Sito's absence. He realizes Taurik and Ogawa know something, and is upset when they won't speak of it. Taurik reminds him that they are Starfleet officers, and Ogawa says that she isn't allowed to talk about it. Lavelle then drops it.
Later, on duty on the bridge, Lavelle has just finished a long-range scan, and does not find any escape pod. Riker tells them to narrow the scan field. Lavelle says that it would help if he knew what kind of life signs to look for. He is told to scan for a Bajoran life sign. Lavelle wanted to know if he was looking for his friend. Riker senses his distress. Only after launching a probe do they detect something: debris just inside Cardassian space consistent with that of a Starfleet escape pod.
Picard makes a note in his log that they have intercepted a Cardassian communication indicating that a Bajoran prisoner was killed in her pod while trying to escape. He then makes a ship wide announcement where he confirms Sito has been lost in the line of duty, describing her as an outstanding Starfleet officer who showed great courage, as well as strength of character and noting that he knows that her death will be deeply felt by everyone who knew her (with Picard himself saddened by her loss). Sito's friends are seen reacting to the news with shock and upset.
Afterward, Ogawa and Taurik are sitting with Lavelle in Ten Forward, where Lavelle is regarding the rank pin for the promotion he has just received to lieutenant junior grade. He feels guilty about the promotion, wondering if he received it because Sito was killed. Ogawa and Taurik tell him that the best way to honor her memory is to excel in his new position. Ogawa attaches the pin to Lavelle's collar.
At the same time, Worf is also in Ten Forward remembering Sito. Ben sees him sitting alone, and encourages him to join the other group. Worf doesn't think it is appropriate as he was her commanding officer while the others were her friends. Ben tells Worf that Sito considered him a friend, and Worf decides to join the junior officers as they remember her.
"It's a time honored strategy, Taurik."
"The vedeks of the Janalan Order maintain a round-the-clock chant for the benefit of the Bajoran people."
"Considering the history of your planet, that doesn't exactly validate what he's doing."
- - Ogawa, on Lavelle repeating his hopes for a promotion over and over, while Sito and a skeptical Taurik weigh in
"You sure about dessert?"
"Yes, don't tempt me."
- - Ben and Troi, in Ten Forward
"Resume previous course and speed."
"One "aye" is sufficient acknowledgment, Ensign."
- - Riker, being tough on Lavelle
"How would you like to be a spider under that table?"
"A spider under the table."
"Is that like a fly on the wall?"
"I guess so."
- - Sito and Lavelle, speculating on what the senior staff of the Enterprise are discussing in the observation lounge
"What could they be talking about?"
"Have you ever considered learning to lipread?"
- - Sam Lavelle and Taurik
- - Worf, to Sito Jaxa
"I'm Bajoran. No one knows better than I do what Cardassians do to their prisoners."
- - Sito Jaxa
"All my life I've served in the military. Once, it was an institution dedicated to the security of Cardassia. Now it's little more than a platform for ambitious guls hoping to make their reputations in battle. I'm sick of war… my people need peace."
- - Joret Dal, explaining to Sito Jaxa why he was doing what he was doing, when they were in the shuttle
"Why? Did you crash the ship into something?"
- - Ben, to Sam Lavelle in Ten Forward after Sam stated Riker didn't like him
"He likes poker, jazz… he's Canadian."
"Yeah? My grandfather was from Canada."
- - Ben and Sam Lavelle, on Commander Riker
"Sir… I'm a little puzzled. Why are we intentionally damaging the shuttlecraft?"
- - Taurik, to Geordi La Forge
"My grandfather was Canadian, you know."
"Aren't you one, too?"
"No. Canadian, sir. Canadian."
"No, I grew up in Alaska."
"Oh. Well… they both… get a lot of snow."
"It was good talking to you, sir."
- - Sam Lavelle and William Riker
- - Sito Jaxa, to Worf
"Do you think Worf is chewing her out?"
"No, he always looks like that."
- - Sam Lavelle and Ben
"Sir, is there really such a thing as a gik'tal challenge?"
"No, there is not. But perhaps next time you are judged unfairly, it will not take so many bruises for you to protest."
- - Sito Jaxa and Worf
"It's not your place to punish me for what I did at the Academy. I've worked hard here. My record is exemplary. If you're going to judge me, judge me for what I am now."
- - Sito Jaxa, to Picard, echoing his own words towards Q from "Encounter at Farpoint"
"To all Starfleet personnel: this is the captain. It is my sad duty to inform you that a member of the crew, Ensign Sito Jaxa has been lost in the line of duty. She was the finest example of a Starfleet officer and a young woman of remarkable courage and strength of character. Her loss will be deeply felt by all who knew her. Picard out."
- - Jean-Luc Picard, to the crew (on intercom)
- Final draft script: 17 November 1993 
- Premiere airdate: 7 February 1994
- First UK airdate: 17 April 1996
Story and script
- The story was partially inspired by the classic television series, Upstairs, Downstairs. Freelancers Ron Wilkerson and Jean Louise Matthias took the unusual step of presenting the premise in the form of detailed character notes. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 282)
- Jeri Taylor commented, "The episode was a wonderful premise from Ron Wilkerson and Jean Matthias, who have given us other wonderful premises and a beautiful script with "Lessons". Unfortunately, we were in a time bind. I had to have a staff member do it, so René took it over and wrote a wildly off-concept show, but that's what made it work. It was: How does the Enterprise look to those little junior officers who don't get to go into the observation lounge and who don't know what's going on? It was just a really fresh, original idea." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 298)
- Ron Wilkerson remarked, "Again, like our "Lessons", what was important was not the mission but the relationships of the people. What it is like to work for Riker, to work for Worf, to wonder what goes on in secret briefings in the observation lounge?" (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 282)
- Ronald D. Moore noted that there was some initial discussion on how far to take the premise. "There was a debate early on about how much it was going to be their show and how much it was going to be our show. Ultimately, Michael said this is their show, which I thought was a good decision – especially since he usually says it has to be about our characters – which is what made the show so good." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 298)
- According to the Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 282), Barclay was briefly considered as one of the characters featured, but was dropped for being "too well-known". Echevarria then added the civilian waiter Ben so as to have a character "who hitches aboard the ship for fun, who's unconcerned about rank, and who passes along stupid rumors!"
- Sam Lavelle was named after Wilkerson's Canadian Labrador Samwell and a close friend of Echevarria. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 283)
- Taurik was originally named "Sorik", but was changed to reflect the new practice of giving Vulcan males names starting with "T", as with Tuvok on Star Trek: Voyager. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 282)
- Nils Diaz was named for the American nuclear engineer of the same name, who is Echevarria's godfather and a propulsion-system researcher. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., pp. 282-283)
- In early drafts of the script, Sito Jaxa's death was somewhat more ambiguous. Taylor explained, "When I mentioned that to Michael, he said, 'Absolutely not, she's dead. She stays dead. That would undermine the whole episode.' So I said 'Fine.' The morning after Michael saw the episode, he came in and said, 'We can't let her stay dead. We've got to bring her back. She was wonderful.' He was really bowled over by the episode." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 298)
- A script written for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine would have centered around the discovery that Sito Jaxa had not died after the events of the episode but had ended up as an inmate in a Cardassian prison. The story itself was never produced but did come to form the basic premise for the episode "Hard Time". (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Companion)
- Piller commented, "We were very impressed and very happy with the reaction we had to Ensign Sito who was lost along the Cardassian border and presumed dead. We have a plan to find her in captivity and to deal with what happens when somebody comes back from a long time in captivity, and the psychological impact of that sort of experience". (The Deep Space Log Book: A Second Season Companion, p. 51)
- Echevarria added, "There was a lot of talk about bringing her back but we never got around to it. This was always meant to be a story of loss, a coming-of-age story for those young people, and the death landed it for them." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 337)
- When Riker comments that he should just promote every crewman on the ship, Riker and Troi jokingly refer to each other as "commander" and "captain" respectively. Troi is promoted to commander in the very next episode, "Thine Own Self".
Cast and characters
- Shannon Fill reprised her role as Sito Jaxa from the fifth season episode "The First Duty". Events from that episode are referenced here by her and Picard when Picard gauges her suitability for the mission.
- René Echevarria recalled that casting a Vulcan was difficult. "There were big shoes to fill. We didn't use many Vulcans on TNG because Leonard Nimoy's Vulcan was so specific and indelible. It's hard to play a Vulcan without looking like you're doing an imitation. But Alex really pulled it off." (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 337)
- Had the series continued, the production staff would have considered making Taurik a recurring character. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion, 2nd ed., p. 282)
- Alexander Enberg later played another Vulcan named Vorik on Star Trek: Voyager. Producer Jeri Taylor, who is also Enberg's mother, suggested that Taurik and Vorik were twin brothers. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 337)
- Jeri Taylor described the episode as "one of the best episodes of the season." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 298)
- After the show aired, rumors emerged that the characters of the episode were being introduced to become characters on Star Trek: Voyager. Taylor remarked, "It was just a rampant rumor that would not die. I am just mystified was to why people thought that three middle-aged people – Rick, Michael and myself – would ever create a series that had nothing but a bunch of young 90210 people on it. It was just absolutely out of the question." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 298)
- Ronald D. Moore remarked, "I thought it was a great episode." (AOL chat, 1997)
- This episode is the inspiration for Star Trek: Lower Decks. Series creator Mike McMahan describes it as his favorite episode of Star Trek, and screened the episode for the writers' room of that series. 
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 84, 25 July 1994
- As part of the TNG Season 7 DVD collection
Links and references
- LeVar Burton as Lt. Cmdr. Geordi La Forge
- Michael Dorn as Lieutenant Worf
- Gates McFadden as Dr. Beverly Crusher
- Marina Sirtis as Counselor Deanna Troi
- Brent Spiner as Lt. Commander Data
- Dan Gauthier as Sam Lavelle
- Shannon Fill as Sito Jaxa
- Alexander Enberg as Taurik
- Bruce Beatty as Ben
- Patti Yasutake as Alyssa Ogawa
- Don Reilly as Joret Dal
- David Keith Anderson as Armstrong
- Lena Banks as operations division ensign
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Carl David Burks as Russell
- Cameron as Kellogg
- Tracee Lee Cocco as Jae
- John Copage as science division officer
- Elliot Durant III as operations division ensign
- Gunnel Eriksson as science division officer
- Holiday Freeman as command division officer
- Keith Gearhart as operations division ensign
- Linda Harcharic as command division ensign
- Gary Hunter as science division officer
- Rad Milo as operations division ensign
- Michael Moorehead as science division ensign
- Ted Parker as Ten Forward waiter
- Joyce Robinson as Gates
- John Tampoya as operations division ensign
- Unknown performers as
- David Keith Anderson – stand-in for LeVar Burton
- Carl David Burks – stand-in for Brent Spiner
- Michael Echols – stand-in for Michael Dorn
- Nora Leonhardt – stand-in for Marina Sirtis
- Lorine Mendell – stand-in for Gates McFadden
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Jonathan Frakes
- Dennis Tracy – stand-in for Patrick Stewart
Alaska; alpha shift; ambassador; Argaya system; Bajor; Bajor sector; Bajoran; beta shift; bioreading blackjack; blindfold; boatswain's whistle bounty hunter; cadet; captor; Canada; Cardassia; Cardassian; Cardassian border; Cardassian escape pod; Cardassian military; Cardassian patrol ship; Carstairs; chant; civilian; Clement, USS; computer simulation; confinement beam; crew evaluation; crew evaluation report; coffee; cover-up; Curie; debris; deflector dish; department; Diaz, Nils; drill evaluation report; duty officer; escape pod; evacuation pod; evasive maneuvers; expulsion; Federation; Fletcher; flight instructor; flight test; flush; fly; frequency spread; gamma shift; gik'tal; gul; helm; hull resiliency; inorganic matter; internal sensors; Janalan order; jazz; junior officer; Klingon; Klingonese; Lavelle's grandfather; lifeform; lifeform identification; life support system; line of duty; lip reading; long range scan; low-intensity burst; lost puppy; marriage; meter; mok'bara; nacelle; navigation grid; night shift; nightmare; observation lounge; operative; phaser; phaser rifle; plasma; poker; Potemkin, USS; Potemkin senior staff; Powell, Andrew; Powell's "friend"; probe; propulsion systems; puppy; queen; Reilly; research proposal; room assignment; scan field; second-in-command; security officer; senior officer; sensor sweep; shackles; shuttlecraft; simulation; simulation sequence; Sito's Academy instructor; snow; soccer ball; space; spider; Spock; Starfleet; Starfleet Academy; subdural hematoma; Tanaline Propulsion Laboratory; Ten Forward; Terrace; three-dimensional chess; traitor; Trakian ale; turbolift; vedek; Vulcan; warp field; warp field integrity
- "Lower Decks" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Lower Decks" at Wikipedia
- "Lower Decks" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Lower Decks" at MissionLogPodcast.com, a Roddenberry Star Trek podcast
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"Thine Own Self"