Data suffers amnesia in a primitive society while Troi applies for a promotion.
Dr. Beverly Crusher is in charge of the night shift on the USS Enterprise-D. Counselor Deanna Troi arrives on the ship after having attended a class reunion at a starbase. A conversation ensues between Crusher and Troi in which the main subject is Crusher's past decision to apply for the rank of Commander, a rank which she does not need for the post of Chief Medical Officer.
Lieutenant Commander Data is commonly in charge of the night shift, but he is out on an away mission. A deep space probe containing radioactive material has crashed on a planet, Barkon IV, hosting a preindustrial civilization. Due to Data's android nature, he is the one best suited for the mission. He is hailed by the Enterprise's bridge, but no response is received by them. The bridge's staff is not overly concerned, as the radioactive nature of the fragments Data is supposed to collect on the planet are expected to disturb any received and sent messages.
Crusher says that Data can wait for a few days before being picked up by the Enterprise as the ship has to deliver medical supplies to a colony.
Data is seen walking into a village on the planet he is on. His appearance suggests that he has been through some rough experiences; his hair is touseled and his uniform is dirty and ripped in places. He is also carrying a box reading "Radioactive". As he enters the village, he encounters two Barkonians, a middle-aged man and his young daughter. The child, Gia, is told by her father to go ahead but she hides behind a wooden wheel. Her father, Garvin, speaks to Data, who at first is only able to emit non-vocal sounds and later only repeat what Garvin has said. Data soon recovers enough to state that he has no idea who he is. All he knows is that he walked to the village from the mountains outside it.
Garvin and his daughter take care of Data because of his amnesia. Because they do not know his name, they call him Jayden, after initially having suggested that his name might be "Radioactive" since it was written on the case. Talur, a scientist and doctor, takes a look at Data and proclaims that he is not ill despite the amnesia, and that his pale appearance is because he is an Iceman, a humanoid native to the mountains outside the village. Data is dressed in Garvin's old clothes and taken to the village's blacksmith. The blacksmith shows interest in the metal fragments Data had collected and offers to buy half of them. There is also an incident at the blacksmith's and a heavy object falls on a man's leg. The villagers cannot lift it, but Data does with ease. Later, Talur says that Data's strength is something he shares with all Icemen, that they have to use their strength to fight off the wild beasts that roam the mountains.
Data gets along well with Garvin and Gia and one day he follows Gia to Talur's school. Talur teaches the Barkonian children about the elements; sky, fire, rock and water. She says that wood is combustible as it contains fire and, when exposed to a flame, the fire within the element comes to life. When the fire is put out, air is released as smoke.
Data is not convinced that this philosophy is correct. He voices his opinion, that he knows fire is not an element, and that wood is composed of many different chemical compounds of which none is fire. Talur shakes Data's words off, telling the children that his amnesia make them unable to trust him.
On the Enterprise, Troi asks Commander Riker if she is allowed to take the Bridge Officer's Test. Riker wonders why, and is told that she has considered it off and on for over two years, but was motivated by her class reunion. She is allowed to take the test and does so at the holodeck.
Geordi La Forge and Worf are the senior officers in the simulation, where the insulation of the antimatter chambers is breaking down. Troi has to make fast decisions, but fails. Riker tells her that all parts of the test went well for her, except for that last and most important part of it, resulting in Troi failing the whole test.
At Barkon IV, Garvin begins to feel weak and ill, and later becomes sick. Talur says that Garvin should take a fast walk in the crisp air, but it has no effect, and he starts to show signs of radiation sickness. Talur does not know how to handle Garvin's symptoms, involving hair loss and third degree burns all over his body. She gives Gia some herbs, and hopes that they will help Garvin to recover. Data is not satisfied with the treatment Talur suggested, so he starts to investigate Garvin's illness more closely. He constructs the equipment he needs, including a 500x magnifying glass and a Geiger counter. He studies cell samples from both Garvin and Gia, who also has started to show symptoms of radiation sickness. Talur comes with suggestions, that maybe Data is the one to have brought the sickness to the village, but it is only after Data has examined a pendant of Gia's more closely that he comes up with the cause for the villagers' sudden illness. The pendant was made by the blacksmith, who bought the radioactive metal from Data, and a large piece of the metal is the pendant itself. This also explains why the blacksmith has fallen ill as well. Data places the metal before the indicator of radioactivity, and discovers that the metal is the cause of the sickness. The indicator consists of a wooden frame and a linen cloth. The cloth has been treated with a liquid Data took from a lamp in Garvin's house. When exposed to a candle, the cloth illuminates, and when the metal is present, the cloth is illuminated by green dots scattered over the surface. This tells Data that the metal emits invisible particles, which however can be blocked by the radioactive-labeled box he brought to the village. He tells Talur to collect all of the metal fragments in the box, while he tries to find a cure.
The village's blacksmith enters the house later, together with another villager. They attack Data and tear off a piece of skin from his head, exposing his internal circuits and flashing lights. The two villagers become scared and ask him what he is, but Data cannot answer the question due to his amnesia. The villagers retreat, scared, and Data is left in a confused state.
On board the Enterprise, Troi is studying the ship's technical specifications when Riker enters her quarters. He tells her that she has failed the Bridge Officer's Test three times, and that she cannot do it again. She protests and says that she will take it as many times as she has to in order to pass it. Riker tells her that she shall not; that she does not possess the qualities expected from an officer on the bridge. He also says that no matter how much he likes her, his first duty is toward the ship. His last words before his exit make Troi think, and she rushes to the holodeck.
After having entered the holodeck, Troi starts the test's simulation again. She is in engineering, and the antimatter is about to leak out of its container. She asks La Forge if he can repair the damaged parts. The Worf hologram says that La Forge never will survive the operation, but Troi, well aware of this, orders the holographic La Forge to repair the damage anyway. As an anguished Troi watches him enter the turbolift, Riker, having known she would not give up so easily, enters and congratulates her on passing the test. She immediately deduces that the point of the test was to see if she could order someone to their death, which Riker confirms. Having known this was part of being in command, but having still hesitated when the time came, Troi admits that he may have been right about her being ill-suited for the job - to which Riker counters that she passed with flying colors; she had tried every possible solution she could think of, and when nothing else worked, she made the painful but necessary decision required to save the ship.
At Barkon IV, Data has come up with a cure to the radiation sickness. He gives it to Gia, telling her that it worked on her father's cellular samples and that her father is recovering. Data says that he has to give it to the entire village, but that they never will trust him due to his exposed android nature. Gia offers to help, but is told that she will not be trusted either. As the village's well is the only water source, Data decides to pour the cure into it. At night, Data exits Garvin's house and reaches the well. As he is about to pour the cure into the water, the villagers appear. They say that it was Data who made them sick, that he brought the plague to their village. Data pours the cure into the water, but is then stabbed in the back by the blacksmith with a long pole. The blacksmith is shocked with electricity and Data collapses onto the ground, the pole going through his torso.
Gia stands before a tombstone with Barkonian letters. Cosmetically altered to appear Barkonian and dressed up in Shakespearean clothes, Crusher and Riker approach her, asking her if she has seen a friend of theirs, pale with yellow eyes. Gia nods and speaks about Jayden in past tense. Crusher wonders why, and is told that Data is dead, and that the tombstone is his. Gia says that she did not know his name, so they called him Jayden, and wonders what his real name was. Gia also says that Data was killed because he was different and the villagers were scared of him, despite his efforts to cure the villagers of the sickness the metal fragments caused. Riker wonders where the fragments are and is told that they are buried in the woods. After Gia has left, Riker suggests that Data can be beamed up from his resting place directly onto the ship, together with the metal fragments.
In the Enterprise's sickbay, Data is repaired and put on-line again. Picard asks him if he remembers what happened, and Data says that he was recovering the information from the probe when he was shocked by it. He suggests that it overloaded his positronic net and that, as a result, he has no memory from that moment on. He says, though, that his clothes suggest that he had been through quite an adventure. Troi also tells Data that she will be his superior officer from that moment forward, as she was promoted during Data's absence.
"You know, this is a much better way of communicating for you. It's far less confusing than the way you normally speak."
- - Troi, to Riker when he uses his trombone to talk
"Congratulations, you just destroyed the Enterprise."
- - Riker, to Troi after a failed Bridge Officer's Test
- - Garvin, trying to find a name for Data
"Where is your mother?"
"She died about a year ago. Father said she went to a beautiful place, where everything is peaceful and everyone loves each other and no one ever gets sick. Do you think there's really a place like that?"
"Yes. I do."
- - Data and Gia, discussing her mother's death
"Tell me one thing - is there a solution? Or is this simply a test of my ability to handle a no-win situation?"
"There is a solution..."
"Then give me time to find it!"
"I can't - as much as I care about you, my first duty is to the ship. I can not let any bridge officer serve who's not qualified - I'm sorry."
- - Troi and Riker, after he cuts off her attempts to pass the Bridge Officer's Test
"My first duty is...to the ship... the ship!"
- - Troi, realizing that Riker had hidden the solution in his previous comments
"Congratulations, you passed."
"That's what this was all about, wasn't it - to see if I'd order someone to their death?"
"I knew that was part of being in command, and I thought I'd prepared for it - but when the moment came, I hesitated...Maybe you were right, maybe I'm not cut out for this..."
"You did exactly what you had to do. You considered all your options, you tried every alternative, and then you made the hard choice."
- - Riker and Troi, after she passes the test
"I was attempting to download the sensor logs from the probe's on-board computer. There was a power surge...I believe the surge overloaded my positronic matrix. After that, I have no memory until this moment...(seeing himself still in Barkonian clothing)...but it appears, I had an interesting time."
- - Data, after returning to the Enterprise
"Well... if you'll excuse me, um... I have the Bridge this watch."
"Counselor, have you been promoted in my absence?"
"That's right. Which means from now on you can call me "sir.""
- - Troi and Data, the final dialogue of this episode
Story and production
- The story pitch for this episode came from Christopher Hatton, who had previously provided the spec script that "Gambit, Part I" was based upon. Hatton pitched his story as "Data as Frankenstein", a concept that Jeri Taylor described as "irresistible". Teleplay writer Ronald D. Moore joked, "He wanders into the medieval village, is befriended by the little girl, and villagers come out and chase him with torches!" (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion; Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Budget requirements necessitated a ship-board B-story to fill out the show. Moore decided to avoid a predictable "We've lost Data and we got to find him!" plot in favor of the story of Troi's promotion, which had been originally conceived for "Liaisons". He explained, "I thought that was a neat idea and was a good move for the character. The whole notion was something I wanted to do ever since I read Jeri Taylor's novelization of "Unification", where there is a line about Troi reflecting on her experiences in the episode "Disaster", where she got command temporarily. Jeri had a line in there about tasting blood and wanting to again, and that stuck with me. I thought that was an interesting direction to take Troi." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion; Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- The title is taken from William Shakespeare's play Hamlet: "This above all: to thine own self be true", which Data quoted to Commander Riker in TNG: "Hide and Q".
- Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard) only appears in the final scene and has only one line of dialogue ("What's the last thing you remember?"). This was as a result of Patrick Stewart having taken time off to appear in his one-man version of A Christmas Carol in London while the episode was filmed. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion) Aside from the animated episode "The Slaver Weapon", in which Captain Kirk does not appear at all, this is probably the briefest appearance by a series lead, the only other candidates being "The Wire" and "Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places".
- Riker's use of Imzadi here was added at Jonathan Frakes' request. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- In this episode Deanna Troi is promoted from lieutenant commander to commander.
- In discussing her considering becoming a commander with Riker, Troi references the events depicted in TNG: "Disaster", wherein she found herself the highest-ranking officer on the bridge after a quantum filament hit the ship and disabled all communication and transportation on the ship, and clearly found the task of taking command overwhelming.
- The set for the Barkon IV village was modified to reappear in TNG: "Journey's End", "Firstborn", "Preemptive Strike" and DS9: "Shadowplay". (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion)
- Worf and Geordi La Forge only appear in this episode as holograms.
- This episode marks the last time that Will Riker plays his trombone on the series.
- This is the first time the left side of Data's face is destroyed. It would happen again in Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection.
- Troi, distraught over her failure to pass the Bridge Officer's Test, asks Riker, "Is there a solution? Or is this simply a test of my ability to handle a no-win situation?" This is a sly nod to the Kobayashi Maru scenario from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. (citation needed • edit)
- It could be argued that the test is in fact a no-win scenario, since the only possible solution is one most people would hardly consider a "win".
- On Troi's promotion, Taylor remarked, "I thought it was really strong, although we have taken some criticism from people who said, 'How could you promote her over Data and Geordi?' But it would not have been a very interesting story to see Geordi or Data getting their rank. The obstacles she had to overcome were formidable and where you get interesting drama is out of conflict" (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Moore admitted having mixed feelings on the episode. "As a writer, I never figured out what it was about. I didn't know what I was trying to say with the episode. It was probably the most difficult writing experience I had on the show because I was very frustrated. It was a bad time in the season. I was tired and I was not having fun, and I think it showed in the writing...What I enjoyed writing was Data as Mr. Wizard on the planet of people who aren't very smart. That was kind of funny. I got a kick out of Data being the guy in the back of the class raising his hand, inventing quantum mechanics with stone knives and bear skins." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Brannon Braga commented, "It was great to see an episode as fundamental as Data being forced to confront his inner nature. The cool factor was also very high. Seeing Data impaled by a metal rod was just great. I enjoyed the episode. A couple of the performances of the townsfolk were a little groggy for my taste, but Data as Frankenstein – what a neat idea. I thought, all in all, it was a very nice job. In fact, I thought it was probably one of the best ones of this season." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- Director Winrich Kolbe observed, "It was interesting because I had done "Pen Pals", a show that didn't quite find the right direction. Data seems to have a predilection for little girls, not in a bad way. Here we wind up again with a little girl. There seems to be something about Data that gives writers the idea for the relationship. He has a vulnerability or an innocence, especially at the beginning. It's Brent at his best. I liked the episode. We got some good actors and it was almost like a period piece. It was like going back to the Renaissance." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Art Direction for a 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
- Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard
- Jonathan Frakes as Commander William T. Riker
- 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/ Jayden
- Ronnie Claire Edwards as Talur
- Michael Rothhaar as Garvin
- Kimberly Cullum as Gia
- Michael G. Hagerty as Skoran
- Andy Kossin as the Barkonian apprentice
- Richard Ortega-Miro as Rainer
Uncredited guest stars
- Michael Braveheart as Martinez
- Unknown actor as
- Unknown actress as
2362; 2368; achromatic objective lens; anvil; antimatter containment unit; arithmetic; authorization code; auxiliary control; Barkon IV; Barkonian; blacksmith; bridge officer; Bridge Officer's Test; bridge operations; broth; butter; cheese; Chief Medical Officer; class reunion; Commander; deep-space probe; demon; diplomatic law; dorak; EM power inverter; empirical data; fever; fire; first contact procedure; forge; headache; herb; ice man; indigestion; jewelery; lever; Lexington, USS; malleability; malnutrition; meat; memory loss; microscope; milling; monster; neodyne relay; neuroelectrical system; night shift; no-win scenario; palpitation; phase inducer; plasma conduit; plasma vent; positronic matrix; positronic net; quantum filament; radiation; radiation poisoning; rank; rock; scientific method; selton; sir; sky; spirit; Starbase 231; subprocessor relay; Taranko colony; technical manual; tempering; town magistrate; transducer matrix; Vellorian Mountains; village elder; warp-plasma shaft; water; winter; wood;
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