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Recap / Star Trek The Next Generation S 7 E 15 Thine Own Self

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Troi finally completes her Character Development. Elsewhere, Data has an Amnesia Episode.
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Original air date: February 14, 1994

It’s the middle of the night, and Doctor Crusher has the bridge since Data is off on a mission to retrieve some radioactive material accidentally lost on a primitive planet called Barkon IV. Troi arrives and asks Crusher why she went to the trouble of earning the rank of commander when she didn’t need it to become Chief Medical Officer. Crusher explains that she did it to expand her horizons a little. The tactical officer butts in to announce that Data hasn’t replied to their messages, but Crusher isn’t concerned, attributing it to radioactive interference.

On Barkon IV, things are going worse for Data than Crusher had anticipated. Heavily damaged, he stumbles into the nearest settlement and encounters a man named Garvin. He explains to Garvin that he doesn’t remember who he is or what happened to him before he came to the village. Garvin noticed the case he's carrying, which is marked "Radioactive," but neither of them know what it is or what the label means. Oblivious to the danger, and thinking there might be clues inside, Garvin opens the case and examines the hazardous chunks of metal inside.

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Back on the Enterprise, Troi confides in Riker that she's thinking of taking the bridge officer's exam. After the events of "Disaster," in which Troi found herself in command of the ship, she's been yearning to do it again. Riker warns her that he won’t go easy on her, but she’s not scared, and they agree to begin the exam the next day.

A local doctor gives Data a physical and declares him an "Ice Man" from the mountain region of the planet, and Garvin’s daughter Gia gives him the name "Jaden." Garvin has Data's metal fragments appraised by a local blacksmith, and Data decides to sell half of them. Just then, an anvil collapses on a man’s leg, and Data lifts it up, not realizing that no one else would be able to do that. The crowd is amazed, but the doctor dismisses it as an Ice Man thing. At home, Gia mentions that her mom is dead and says she was told that her mom is in "a beautiful place, where everything’s peaceful and everyone loves each other, and no one ever gets sick." Data gazes out into space and agrees that such a place exists.

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We then return to Troi, who’s in the middle of failing one of her tests, letting her simulated Enterprise get blown to smithereens by an antimatter containment breach. She's aced every other aspect of the exam but can't seem to pass this last one. Riker reassures her that this is the hardest section of the exam, but he isn’t allowed to offer her any advice for her next attempt.

Garvin and Gia, along with a few others, grow ill from what the audience knows is radiation poisoning, but no one in the town can understand it. The village doctor confidently prescribes some herbal remedies, but Data has increasingly noticed that the locals don't seem to know much about science, so he decides to do his own investigations. He builds a microscope and uses it to determine that the illness isn’t an infection. He soon pieces together that the cause is the metal from the case.

While Troi is studying for yet another go-around, Riker arrives and tells her that he’s canceling the test, saying that she’s taken it three times and seems no closer to passing. Troi insists that she'll take it as many times as it takes, but Riker doesn’t think that her determination will be enough. She asks him if the test is really a Secret Test of Character or an Unwinnable Training Simulation, but Riker assures her that there is a solution. He says he he can’t allow her to serve as a bridge officer if she isn’t qualified because his first duty is to the ship. But these parting words give Troi a "Eureka!" Moment. She runs the test one last time and orders Geordi to repair the breach manually, even though doing so will expose him to fatal radiation. Riker walks in, having followed her to the holodeck, and congratulates her on passing the exam. She says that she hesitated to make the hard choice, and that maybe she really isn’t cut out for being a Commander, but Riker says that considering all the alternatives first is what any good officer would do.

Data has worked out a solution to the radiation sickness, but time is running out, with Gia now growing ill as well. He instructs the doctor to collect all of the metal fragments from the village. Angry villagers, who have blame Data for the illness, arrive and attack Data, tearing off the skin on one side of his face and revealing the circuitry underneath. Data goes into hiding while the villagers form an angry mob to go search for him. When they’re gone, Data reappears to finish his cure. He decides to secretly pour it into the town well, but he's spotted again. Data manages to pour the cure into the well just before he's Impaled with Extreme Prejudice, deactivating him.

Crusher and Riker beam down to the planet and find all the villagers healthy, but Data is apparently dead. They get the general gist of the story from Gia and then beam Data’s body and the probe fragments up to the Enterprise. Of course, Crusher gets Data fixed up in no time. His memory is restored, but he has no memory of his interlude in the village. He quickly fills in the gaps in the plot by explaining that a power surge disrupted his memory while he was downloading the probe’s logs. Troi closes out the episode by announcing that she doesn’t have time for any of this because she gets to take the bridge for a while.

Tropes featured:

  • Amnesia Episode: Data's malfunction causes him to lose his memory. It is restored at the end, but he doesn't remember his time in the village.
  • Amnesiac Hero: Losing his memory doesn't make Data any less a hero.
  • Appetite Equals Health: The aliens wonder if Data is unwell because he has no appetite. Actually, it's because he's an android, but he couldn't inform them because he didn't know so at the same time: a malfunction had caused him to lose his memory.
  • Bamboo Technology: Data builds a microscope out of an assortment of magnifying glasses, and a radiation detector out of a cloth soaked in a fluorescing substance conveniently used in local lampshades (which coïncidence is not, however, lampshaded).
  • Bilingual Dialogue: A variation that's Played for Laughs in one scene, after Troi gets to hear Riker practicing on his trombone.
    Riker: *toot toot*
    Troi: Is that supposed to be a question?
    Riker: *toot*
    Troi: If you're asking if I like what you're playing, then the answer's yes.
    Riker: *High, low, as 'thank you.'*
    Troi: You know, this is a much better way of communicating for you. It's far less confusing than the way you usually speak!
    Riker: *Fast-descending note of annoyance*
  • Call-Back: Troi refers back to the events of "Disaster." She notes how "overwhelmed" she was, as it was one of the few times where a main cast member is shown to be underqualified for a task. In this episode, it's time for some Character Development.
  • Complete-the-Quote Title: To "Thine Own Self" Be True, from Hamlet.
  • The Determinator: Troi taking the final test, as Riker predicts.
  • Dramatic Irony: The audience already knows the solution to both of the mysteries the amnesiac Data is trying to solve: his identity, and the cause of the villagers' mysterious illness.
  • Due to the Dead: Upon realizing what Data was really doing with the water, the villagers gave him a proper burial and a marker.
  • Elements of Nature: The Barkonians' natural philosophy believes there are four elements, like the Greek conception, but slightly different: their four elements are rock, water, sky and fire.
  • Face Death with Dignity: The holographic Geordi promptly goes on his suicide mission without a word when Troi figures out the twist to the test.
  • Foreshadowing: Once you know the answer, the apparent unfairness of Troi's test makes a lot more sense. Command staff aren't supposed to know the answer to complex, esoteric engineering problems; that's what Engineering staff is for, and indeed, the simulated Geordi tells Troi everything she needs to know. The test is in the decisions she makes based on that information.
  • Jerkass: Skoran, the blacksmith. He tries to cheat Garvin out of the price he agreed to pay for the metal Data was carrying and when Data advises him Garvin is correct in their dispute, immediately dismisses him.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Talur is smarter than her fellow villagers, and is a teacher, but makes leaps of logic with little basis and gets defensive when reasonably challenged on her presumptions.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Data forgets his name, identity and what 'radioactive' means, yet seems to retain plenty of other scientific information. He reasons through all of the scientific information himself through experimentation and superhuman intelligence, leaving The Smart Guy Talur, who was probably quite scientifically knowledgeable for her time, utterly dumbfounded.
  • Literary Allusion Title: "To thine own self be true," from Hamlet.
  • Mistaken for Disease: Soon after Data's arrive, villagers begin losing their hair, feeling weak, and developing fevers and burn-like lesions. They assume Data asymptomatically spread a disease to them, but it's actually radiation poisoning from the metal he had in his briefcase.
  • Ordered to Die: To pass the command test, the applicant must demonstrate willingness to order a subordinate to sacrifice their life to save the ship.
  • The Needs of the Many: Troi realizes that's the lesson from the exam, that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one, even if that "one" is a close friend.
  • Rabble Rouser: Skoran, the blacksmith, begins to accuse Data of bringing the sickness with him, which he actually did, and at the end he brings a mob to confront him, ending when he runs Data through with a metal pike. Fortunately Data was able to dump a cure into the village's water supply first.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Skoran was right that Data caused the village to be sick, though not because Data was supposedly an Ice Man, but because Data unwittingly let Garvin get a radioactive sample.
  • Rubber-Forehead Aliens: Luckily for Data, Barkonians look almost identical to humans except for some coloration on their foreheads. This allows Data to pass as a particularly odd-looking Barkonian.
  • Secret Test of Character: After several attempts, Troi manages to pass the last command exam when she realizes it's not a test of her technical knowledge, but whether she is willing to order a fellow crewman to his death should all else fail.
  • Someone Has to Die: The solution to the test. Troi eventually figures it out and succeeds in the final test.
  • Styrofoam Rocks: The supposedly heavy forge wobbles noticeably when Data places in slightly uneven ground, revealing that it's just a light prop.
  • Torches and Pitchforks: Skoran eventually leads a mob to destroy Data.
  • Unwinnable Training Simulation: Troi's command exam is a variation; rather than the literally unwinnable Kobayashi Maru previously seen in Star Trek, it is possible to succeed, but not without ordering one of her crew to their death.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The episode was inspired by the 1987 Goiânia radiation accident in Brazil.
  • What the Hell Are You?: When Data is attacked, part of his face is ripped off, revealing the circuitry.
    Skoran: What... what are you?! [runs away]
    Data: [touching his exposed circuits] I do not know.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Even while sickly and barely able to move, Garvin believes that Data isn't trying to hurt anyone. Of course, he'd done nothing to make him think he was doing them any harm, making it justified.

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