It's routine maintenance time for the Enterprise
: they've pulled into the Remmler Array in orbit around the planet Arkaria for a baryon sweep. Prolonged periods of warp speed travel can cause exotic particles to build up in a starship's hull, and a full radiation sweep is necessary now and then to get rid of these particles. Since the radiation necessary is lethal to living beings, the Enterprise
needs to be vacant for the duration.
So everyone is busy getting ready to go, and everyone
needs something from Captain Picard. Doctor Crusher needs containment space aboard the station to preserve some of her organic samples. La Forge needs some additional shielding around the computer core to protect the ship's memory. Data torments Picard with his latest attempt to emulate Human behavior by making Small Talk. And no one
wants to go to Commander Hutchinson's reception at the Arkaria Base, since the man's reputation for boring-ness
precedes him. Picard manages to solve almost
everyone's problems; only Worf gets to bow out of the reception...because he asked first. All that done, Picard - as the Captain, he's the last to leave the ship - permits himself one loving gaze around the empty bridge, before the maintenance crew setting up the computer shielding barge in and get to work.
Down on Arkaria, Hutchinson's reception proves to be just as dull as everyone feared, as the senior staff of the Enterprise
vigorously engage in a game of "Hutch Ball," passing the Commander off to each other in a desperate attempt to get away from his incessant chatting. The only real bright spot to be found is Data, who, taking Picard's advice, has been observing Hutchinson for pointers on how to make his Small Talk seem more normal and natural, and starts imitating his mannerisms. Even Picard finds he can't take much more of this, and when Hutchinson mentions Arkaria's scenic horseriding trails, he sees his opportunity to escape. After all, he loves horseback riding
. All he needs to do is slip back to the Enterprise
for his saddle. He should have plenty of time before the automated system shutdown
Once back aboard the Enterprise
, having fetched his saddle (he really does have one; who knew?) and changed into something more riding-appropriate, Picard prepares to beam back down...when he notices something. There's an open panel in the corridor, and some of the wires have been cut. Picard has little chance to puzzle over this, as a maintenance crew member comes around the corner and assures him that it's nothing to worry about. Although he's suspicious, Picard tries to walk away...but the crewman attacks him instead. Picard manages to disable the man (with a Vulcan Neck Pinch!), and makes a break for it. He narrowly avoids an encounter with some other "maintenance crew members" having a suspicious conversation, and gets to the Transporter just in time...for the system shutdown to kick in.Well, Dammit.
Meanwhile, back on Arkaria, Data has cornered the Arkarian station administrator Orton and is Small-Talking him to within an inch of his life. Riker, on the other hand, is holding the Hutch Ball. Seeing Orton's distress, he steers Hutchinson over to Data, and the two of them go off together. Wow, problem solved.
On the Enterprise
, Picard drags his attacker (whose name is later established to be Devore) to Sickbay, wakes him up, and demands some answers. He doesn't get them, so Picard just tranquilizes him instead...and then he hears voices. Devore is wearing a communicator. A woman named Kelsey is asking him to report in, and when he doesn't respond, she sends someone named Kiros to go check on him. Picard takes the communicator with him and attempts to figure out what's going on. He doesn't get far, unfortunately, before he runs into Kiros: an Arkarian woman with a laser pistol, who takes him into custody.
On Arkaria, the crew watch with fascination as Hutch and Data appear to be trapped in some sort of loop: they've being talking for a very long time about nothing at all,
and show no signs of stopping any time soon. And Geordi notices some very strange heat signatures coming from under the buffet table. Orton comes up to him and immediately tries to pull him away, which in turn draws Riker over to them to ask if anything's wrong. And then all hell breaks loose: the heat Geordi was detecting was from some hidden disruptor rifles, which Orton and a colleague immediately pull and fire. Hutchinson is killed, La Forge is badly wounded, and everyone else is taken hostage.
Meanwhile, Picard is taken to Main Engineering and introduced to Kelsey, the leader of a small gang of thugs who are doing...something to the warp core. Picard identifies himself as Mott, the ship's barber, and he's put under guard until they can figure out what to do with him. On Akaria, Crusher has gotten La Forge stabilized and the rest of the crew are assessing the situation. Troi notes that Orton is extremely nervous; Geordi detecting the hidden weapons screwed up whatever his plan originally was, and now he's working without a net. There might be a way that they can take advantage of this situation...if they're very careful.
By now, Picard has figured out what Kelsey's crew is up to: they're harvesting trilithium resin from the warp core. Trilithium resin being a highly volatile (and easily weaponizable) substance, they're moving very slowly and carefully. So much so, that they're not really paying attention to their prisoner. Using the laser welder he lifted from Devore, Picard causes an engine overheat to make the ship's emergency coolant systems kick in. In the chaos that follows, Picard destroys the portable field generator that they were using to keep themselves safe from the baryon sweep, then he makes a break for it. One of Kelsey's men, Satler, follows him, but Picard leads him smack into the approaching radiation, then heads to Worf's quarters to get his hands on some weapons.
Thanks to the communicator he took from Devore, Picard learns of Kelsey's plans. Since the field diverter is now useless, and the sweep is coming, they have to move. She orders Neil, her tech guy, to improvise a stabilizer for the trilithium container so it can be safely transported, and then they'll head to Ten Forward, the last place the sweep will touch. Picard breaks into the conversation, warning Kelsey that the trilithium is much too unstable to move with some jury-rigged device, and advises her to cut her losses and just leave. Kelsey's not about to back down...and since Picard accidentally left his combadge behind, she knows he's not just a barber. She sends Kiros and Pommet to find Picard, and lights a fire under Neil to get that stabilizer done.
Back on Arkaria, the crew has devised a plan. They can modify Geordi's VISOR to emit a high-frequency audio pulse
, which will knock out everyone in the room except Data. And then they notice that Orton's consulting a nearby communications console: a ship is approaching. Possibly his getaway vehicle. Riker gives Data his orders: once they activate the pulse, take control of the situation and stop that ship.
Meanwhile on the Enterprise
, the Game of Cat and Mouse continues. Neil and Kelsey make their way to Ten Forward, with Picard doing everything he can to slow them down, including cutting the rungs out of a few crucial Jeffrey's Tubes forcing them to take a roundabout route. And Pommet and Kiros continue to hunt Picard. Picard manages to take out Pommet with a knock-out dart, but Kiros gets the drop on him. Once Kiros informs Kelsey of the situation, she orders her to bring Picard to Ten Forward with them...and then, once Neil lets her know what she needs to do to drain the trilithium from the container, she kills him. Poor dope.
On Arkaria, the crew's plan goes off without a hitch. Data disarms the unconscious Orton and takes over the console. On the Enterprise
, Picard is brought before Kelsey, and he tries one last time to negotiate with her. Revealing himself to be Jean-Luc Picard, he offers himself as a hostage in exchange for the explosive. Kelsey's not interested. She's not a terrorist; she's a businesswoman. And weaponized trilithium is a far more valuable commodity - with a lot more potential buyers - than a Starfleet Captain. The three of them walk into Ten Forward...and right into Picard's last booby trap. Kiros is taken out immediately by the explosion, and Picard and Kelsey end up grappling over the trilithium container. Meanwhile, the baryon sweep comes ever closer. Kelsey manages to fight her way free with the container, and beams out to the nearby ship that Orton had been waiting on. Picard is able to contact Arkaria Base Command (which is Data at this point), and gets the baryon sweep shut off before it kills him. Then he realizes that, in the struggle, he managed to get hold of the safety valve for the trilithium container.
Kelsey's ship promptly goes boom.
In the end, all is well: the Enterprise
is safe, the bad guys are defeated...and Worf manages to find Picard's saddle.
Tropes featured in "Starship Mine" Include:
- Advancing Wall of Doom: The baryon sweep takes the form of a wall of green light that slowly but surely travels down the length the Enterprise, killing anyone it hits.
- Artistic License – Physics: All atoms are made of baryons, so a sweep that removed them wouldn't leave much of the Enterprise.
- Bad Boss: Kelsey. She doesn't bother to go back for Devore or Pommet despite the chance that they're still alive. And she kills Neil once she doesn't need him any more. More profit for her, apparently.
- Bond One-Liner: Picard gets in a few good ones in this episode. Notably:
Data: Captain, there is a small ship leaving the scene. Do you know anything about it?
Picard: (looking at the stabilizer in his hand) I know they won't get far.
- Brick Joke: "Captain...you keep a saddle on board?"
- Call Back: Picard's love of horseback riding makes a return...four seasons later.
- Canon Discontinuity: Trilithium makes another appearance in Star Trek: Generations. Only there, the crew act like they've never actually dealt with it before. Here, it's a known byproduct of warp engines, with a well-established set of proper handling procedures.
- Cruel and Unusual Death: Death by exposure to baryon radiation is apparently not a pleasant way to go, judging from Satler's tortured scream, and Picard's almost remorseful expression when he hears it.
- Die Hard On The Enterprise: Pretty much. Right down to Devore's line, "You won't kill me; you're Starfleet." In fact, The Fan Nickname for this is episode is "Die Hard Picard."
- Equal-Opportunity Evil: Kelsey's crew consists of three Humans, three Arkarians, and two random Rubber-Forehead Aliens (plus whoever's driving the getaway ship), all united by their love of money.
- Funny Background Event: Hutchinson's reception has several. Data observing Hutch in action and imitating his facial expressions is just one of them. Also, Riker, clearly finding the whole affair intolerable, can be seen pounding back cocktails at every chance. And Troi's annoyed facial expressions when Picard uses retrieving his saddle from Enterprise as an excuse to escape the reception.
- Good Is Not Nice: Picard is a fair bit less compassionate than usual here, making no efforts to save the thieves from their various deaths in the baryon sweep. And was the pulling out of the safety valve really an accident?
- Improvised Weapon User: That saddle actually does come in handy...
- So does the laser welder. Twice. And the flammable line Picard paints in Ten-Forward.
- I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Picard hears the word "horses" and uses it to escape the reception. Played With somewhat, as Picard really was fetching his saddle and not just BSing something.
- Obfuscating Stupidity: While pretending to be Mott, Picard plays it scared and dumb.
- Only in It for the Money: Kelsey just wants the trilithium to sell it. This disgusts Picard even more than her actually being a terrorist would have:
Picard: Profit. This is all about profit.
Kelsey: I prefer to think of it as commerce.
- Plot Armour: Hutchinson and LaForge both get shot; guess who makes it and who doesn't?
- Retroactive Recognition: Devore, the thug that Picard takes out with a Vulcan Neck Pinch, is played by Tim Russ, who would go on to play Tuvok (a Vulcan!) on Star Trek: Voyager.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Worf pulls this before the reception even begins. Geordi also tries it, but Picard shoots him down.
- Space Is an Ocean: Another parallel is brought up in this episode. The process of cleaning a starship's hull of exotic particles is pretty much the equivalent of dry-docking an oceangoing vessel to scrape the barnacles off.
- We Need a Distraction: Riker takes one for the team to distract Orton while the others work on modifying La Forge's VISOR.
- Would Hit a Girl: Picard...but Kelsey did start it.
- Worf Had The Day Off: No, really, he did this time.
- You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Alas, poor Neil. This is why Scotty never told anyone how long repairs would really take.