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Recap / Star Trek The Next Generation S 7 E 16 Masks

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Data develops multiple personalities, the Enterprise-D develops a weird matter-transference problem, and the writers develop a reliance on some hella strong cold meds.
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Original air date: February 21, 1994

Troi is helping a classroom express their feelings through sculpture. Data is sitting in and not quite understanding the assignment. Troi prompts him to sculpt the subject of "music," but Data just sculpts a treble clef. On the bridge, the ship's officers investigate a passing rogue comet that has never been see before. Later, Troi notices that a strange sculpture has appeared in her quarters. When she leaves, a sunburst symbol materializes on it.

Back in class, Data sculpts a mask, saying he was suddenly inspired to create it. Troi notices that it has the same sunburst symbol as the one on her mysterious sculpture. A student interrupts them to point out that his terminal is malfunctioning. More strange symbols are floating around the screen. La Forge notes that the symbols are all over the ship's computer, having been uploaded into it from an outside source. Data notes that he can translate the symbols, including a central sunburst symbol meaning "death." Suspecting the comet to be a central factor, Picard has it melted to find out what's inside and discovers an ancient technological device.

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Data suspects that the device is a repository of information and believes he may be in contact of it. He suggests they perform a diagnostic of his brain. Meanwhile, more mysterious objects are popping up around the ship. Picard studies them, deducing them to be ceremonial in nature. He notes the same same sunburst symbol appearing prominently as well as a smaller curved symbol that never seems far behind. In Engineering, Data has his brain scanned, which triggers some sort of reaction. He announces that he feels as if he's "losing his mind." Suddenly, his personality completely changes, and he develops a sunburst symbol on his forehead. Smiling impishly, he announces, "Masaka is waking!"

The crew has Data confined to quarters and discusses what's going on. The ship is slowly changing more and more, its materials being used to transform it into some kind of ancient city. Troi says that Data has the android equivalent of multiple personalities, and Picard believes that he is the key to understanding what's going on and stopping it. Picard visits Data's quarters and speaks to several personalities. Data reiterates that Masaka is coming, and the only one who can put her to sleep is Korgano, but he no longer "chases" her.

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It's clear that the alien device will destroy the ship if the transformations are left unchecked, so Picard reluctantly orders it destroyed, but the torpedo La Forge tries to rig has its circuitry replaced by snakes. With no other option, Picard visits Data and urges him for an audience with Masaka. Through the aid of several personalities, Data shows him the sign to bring about her temple. Picard has it put into the computer, creating the temple out of an entire deck of the ship. In examining the temple, Picard notices a small curved symbol always on the outskirts and deduces it to be Korgano's symbol.

All of Data's personalities have been eliminated by Masaka, and he suddenly awakens in the personality of the queen. He dons the clay mask he created earlier, knocks out his guards, and marches to the temple but refuses to speak to any of the ship's officers. La Forge locates Korgano's symbol in the ship's computer. Not knowing what it will do, they activate it, and it produces a mask. Picard dons the mask and speaks with Masaka in the guise of Korgano. Improvising with his archaeological knowledge, Picard urges Masaka to relinquish her ascendant position to him so that she can soon resume the role of the hunter and seize ascendancy from Korgano once again, continuing their eternal cycle. Masaka is convinced and passes out. All of the changes wrought by the mysterious device spontaneously reverse. Data has no memory of what happened and asks if he's been dreaming again.

La Forge fixes the ship's computers, and the crew contact Starfleet to send out a team of archaeologists to study the device. Data shows Picard the clay mask he created, which did not disappear with the rest of the artifacts. He's since painted it. He tells the captain that there were perhaps thousands of people inside him while under the device's sway. Picard tells Data that even if he never becomes fully human, he's experienced something no human could ever rival: being an entire civilization.

Tropes

  • Becoming the Mask: An unusual variation, as Data and Picard assume the personalities associated with their respective masks.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Each of Data's personalities has a different chest plate to visually distinguish it from the others.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: According to Ihat, Masaka is fond of inflicting these on her victims; some she allows to die of thirst, while others she burns alive. (Which makes perfect sense, of course, as she's a sun goddess.)
  • Daylight Horror: Masaka causes this, according to most of the personalities that Data channels.
    Ihat: Masaka is waking.
  • Does Not Know His Own Strength: One of Data's personalities has no idea how strong an android's grip is, as Picard's forearm finds out the painful way.
  • The Dreaded: Masaka.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Masaka seems to be a tyrant, and she eliminates all of the other personalities.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: Masaka chases Korgano, then Korgano chases Masaka, as befits the Sun/Moon cycle.
  • It's a Long Story: After the situation has been resolved.
    Picard: Mr. Data, are you all right?
    Data: I believe so, sir. I am not entirely sure what has happened. Have I been dreaming again, sir?
    Picard: I'm afraid that would take some time to explain.
  • Kneel Before Frodo: Ihat kneels before Deanna, thinking that she's Masaka. He's mildly amused/annoyed when he realizes that she's not.
    Ihat: Captain, that was a cruel joke you played on me. For a moment — a brief moment — I actually thought that woman was Masaka.
  • Large Ham: Data's multiple personalities compete to see who can out-ham the others.
  • Literal Metaphor: After Picard asks Ihat if keeping Masaka asleep is better, Ihat replies with a seeming metaphor of stopping the sun from rising. As it turns out, Masaka was the mythological representation of the sun.
  • Literal-Minded: Data's sculpting. Deanna notes that he has no problem recreating real objects, but abstractions are somewhat beyond him. When she asks him to sculpt music, he gives her a treble clef.
    Deanna: It's a start.
  • Multiple Personality: Data, and how. Picard notes Data showed a dozen personalities — Data responds there were over a thousand personalities that were inside him.
  • Obvious Stunt Double: Data's fingers suddenly get a lot thicker when we see them sculpting the mask.
  • Property of Love: One of Data's personalities declares himself as this to Masaka.
  • Ragnarök Proofing: The probe is so old that over the course of millions of years, it became encrusted with space debris and became a comet.
  • A Rare Sentence: "I'm not going to permit this ship to be turned into an alien city!"
  • Reality Warper: The alien station functions like a gigantic replicator, generating artifacts out of thin air and converting sections of the Enterprise to fit the theme of the story it is trying to tell. It's noted that it's actually using the same technology as the replicators (although it's evidently more advanced, as it can create living organisms, which Federation replicators can't).
  • Riddle for the Ages: The significance of the various scenes and characters the crew members are forced to play is never explained. At the end of the episode, neither the protagonists nor the viewers can tell whether they are metaphors related to the history of the species that created the data archive, religious parables of that species, or something entirely different. To a folklorist, they could easily be all of the above.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    Data: Geordi. What... does it feel like... when a person is losing his mind? (Cue Slasher Smile when becoming Ihat)
  • Scatterbrained Senior: One of Data's personalities is Masaka's father, an old man who knows how to create Masaka's temple but has trouble focusing without Picard to keep him on task.
  • Sinister Sentient Sun: Masaka is the sun goddess as well as the goddess of death.
  • Solar and Lunar: Masaka and Korgano are opposing monarchs of the ancient civilization.
  • Styrofoam Rocks: The artifacts are identified as being stone, but Picard is able to hold up a very large one as easily as if it were make of styrofoam.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: Picard has Data confined to quarters but doesn't even bother to lock his door. When he emerges, he easily overpowers the two guards stationed there.
  • Take Me Instead: Picard offers himself to Masaka to spare Ihat. It doesn't work.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Picard puts on the Korgano mask and talks Masaka into going back to sleep, not through a Patrick Stewart Speech but by invoking their Solar and Lunar dichotomy.
  • Trickster God: Ihat is implied to be one, as Masaka's brother.


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