Data wanders aimlessly into the nearest settlement and encounters a man named Garvin. He explains to Garvin that he doesnt 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 hes 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 shes talking about went like this:
- Chief O'Brien: Technically, Trois in command now.
Everyone else, including Troi: Oh, Crap!!
Riker warns her that he wont go easy on her, but shes 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 Garvins 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 mans 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 everythings peaceful and everyone loves each other, and no one ever gets sick". She asks Data if he thinks theres 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.
We then return to Troi, whos 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 isnt 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 shes kind of a dope who doesnt understand anything about how science actually works, and decides to do a more thorough investigation of the illness. He builds a microscope that improves on the primitive instruments on the planet, and uses it to determine that the illness isnt an infection. He soon pieces together that the cause is the metal from the case.
Riker approaches Troi and tells her that hes cancelling the test, saying that shes taken it three times and seems no closer to passing. Troi is incensed, and says that shes willing to take it as many times as it takes, but Riker doesnt think that her determination will be enough. She asks him if there even is a solution, or if its a Secret Test of Character (clearly referencing the famous Kobayashi Maru Unwinnable Training Simulation 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 cant allow her to serve as a Bridge Officer if she isnt 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 isnt 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 theyre 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 its 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 Datas 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 probes logs. Troi closes out the episode by announcing that she doesnt have time for any of this because she gets to take the bridge for a while.
- 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 = 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 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?
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.
- 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.
- 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 local Smart Guy Talur, who was probably quite scientifically knowledgeable for her time, utterly dumbfounded.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.