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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.
It’s the middle of the night, and Doctor Crusher has the bridge as Counselor Troi returns from a leave of absence, since Data is off on a mission to retrieve some radioactive material accidentally lost on a primitive planet called Barkon IV. Troi 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 answers that she did it to expand her horizons a little. Their conversation is interrupted by the on duty tactical officer, who informs them that Data hasn’t replied to their messages. Crusher isn’t concerned, attributing it to radioactive interference. Unbeknownst to her, though, Data has crashed on Barkon IV and lost his memory.
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Data wanders aimlessly 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 sees him carrying a case, which is marked "Radioactive", but neither of them knows what it is or what the label means. Oblivious to the danger, and thinking there might be clues inside, Garvin opens the case and removes its contents. Back on the Enterprise, Troi walks in on Riker while he’s doing some boning (by which I mean practicing his trombone, of course) and talks with him about the possibility of her taking the Bridge Officers’ Exam, recounting the events of the episode "Disaster" in which she was briefly in command of the ship. To recap, the incident she’s talking about went like this:

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Chief O'Brien: Technically, Troi’s in command now.
Everyone else, including Troi: Oh, Crap!!

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.

Data is given a physical and declared an "Ice Man" from the mountain region of the planet, and Garvin’s daughter Gia gives him the name "Jaden" for no particular reason. Garvin decides to sell the metal fragments from the case to a local metalworker, though Data insists on keeping some in case they provide some sort of clue to his memory. Just then an anvil collapses and lands on a man’s leg, and Data lifts it up, not realizing that no one else would be able to do that. The doctor dismisses it as an Ice Man thing, and everyone pretty much forgets about it. Then Gia casually brings up the fact that her mom is dead (you know, as you do) and says that 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". She asks Data if he thinks there’s really a place like that and he replies by looking up into space and saying, "Yes, I do" in what might be the corniest moment so far this season.

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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. To be fair to Counselor Troi here, expecting someone whose field of study is psychology to turn around and solve a complex engineering catastrophe on the fly seems like asking a bit much, but evidently this is something that officers of all kinds are expected to be able to handle. Riker reassures her that this is the hardest section of the exam, but 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 prescribes fresh air and some unspecified herbs, but Data notices that she’s kind of a dope who doesn’t understand anything about how science actually works, and decides to do a more thorough investigation of the illness. He builds a microscope as if that were a perfectly simple thing to do, 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.

Riker approaches Troi and tells her that he’s cancelling the test, saying that she’s taken it three times and seems no closer to passing. Troi is incensed, and says that she’s willing to take it as many times as it takes, but Riker doesn’t think that her determination will be enough. She asks him if there even is a solution, or if it’s a Secret Test of Character (clearly referencing the famous Kobayashi Maru exam from The Wrath of Khan). Riker answers that there is indeed a solution to this one. She asks him to give her more time to find it, but he tells her that his first duty is to the ship and he can’t allow her to serve as a Bridge Officer if she isn’t qualified. But it so happens that the words "My first duty is to the ship" give Troi just the flash of inspiration she needed. She returns to the holodeck and runs the test one last time. This time she orders Geordi to make a simple repair to the system, 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 somehow works out the entire concept of radioactivity on his own in the span of a few days, and instructs the doctor to collect all of the metal fragments from the village. The metal worker who bought the fragments appears and blames Data for making everyone sick, which Data admits is partially correct, but as he's apparently not in the mood to be agreed with, he and his buddy attack Data with freaking pickaxes, tearing open the side of his face and revealing the circuitry within. A commercial break occurs, during which Data inexplicably manages to disappear 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, since the villagers no longer trust him, but he is seen doing so, and the villagers again use murder as their go-to solution. To be fair, this time he was genuinely doing something shady, so it’s a little less extreme, but still, the metal worker impales Data through the chest without giving him any chance to explain.

Crusher and Riker beam down to the planet only to find that 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, even restoring his memory (though for some reason he now has no recollection of what happened 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:

  • Amnesiac Hero: Losing his memory doesn't make Data any less a hero.
  • An Ice Person: Talur assumes Data is an 'iceman' to explain his skin colour.
  • Bamboo Technology: Data builds a microscope out of an assortment of magnifying glasses, and a radiation detector out of a cloth soaked in lamp oil.
  • 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" when she decides it's time for some Character Development.
  • 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.
  • The Determinator: Troi taking the final test, as Riker predicts.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Justified in that he reasons through all of the scientific information himself through experimentation and superhuman intelligence, leaving local Smart Guy Talur, who was probably quite scientifically knowledgeable for her time, utterly dumbfounded.
  • 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 your best 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 iceman, but because Data unwittingly let Garvin get a radioactive sample.
  • 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 final test.
  • 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.
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