Feb 26 2013 4:45pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Thine Own Self”

Star Trek: The Next Generation rewatch Thine Own Self“Thine Own Self”
Written by Christopher Hatton and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 7, Episode 16
Production episode 40276-268
Original air date: February 14, 1994
Stardate: 47611.2

Captain’s Log: Troi returns from a class reunion. Given the late hour, she expects to report in to Data, who’s usually in charge of the night shift, but he’s on a mission. Crusher, who’s in command of gamma shift in his absence, explains that a probe crashed on Barkon IV, and Data’s been sent to retrieve it before the radioactive material in the casing contaminates that world’s biosphere. It crashed in an uninhabited part of the planet, so he should be okay. Meanwhile, the Enterprise is rendezvousing with the Lexington to pick up medical supplies they need to deliver.

Crusher is keeping Data updated via subspace, though there’s no response—which is expected, given the radiation, but Crusher figured she’d give it a shot.

However, Data’s lack of response is more fundamental than that, as we cut to Barkon where a bedraggled Data with a ripped uniform—and no combadge—stumbles into town, encountering the town magistrate, Garvin, and his daughter Gia. Data cannot speak properly at first, but the more Garvin talks, the more Data is able to speak as well—though he cannot recall what his name is. His only memory is walking to the town from the mountains, which are very far away. He remembers nothing prior to that.

He’s holding a case labeled “radioactive.” Garvin looks at it. Data can read the markings on the side, but doesn’t know what the word “radioactive” means—he thinks it might be his name. Garvin opens the case and removes a piece of debris.

Star Trek: The Next Generation rewatch Thine Own Self

On the Enterprise, Troi is seriously considering taking the bridge officer’s exam, which would promote her to full commander and enable her to be in command of the bridge—as Crusher was earlier in the episode, and as Troi herself was due to exigent circumstances in “Disaster.” She’s been thinking about it on and off since that episode, and the class reunion crystallized it. She goes to Riker to discuss it, and he gives his full support.

On Barkon, Garvin takes Data to a physician named Talur, who theorizes that he’s an “iceman,” a person from the snowy regions of the mountains (where no one has ever been, but there are stories). She diagnoses him with malnutrition and tells him to eat some meat, butter, and cheese and she’ll check back tomorrow.

Gia gives him the name Jayden until he gets his memory back, and Garvin gives him new clothes. They take the metal fragments from the container to the blacksmith, Skoran, who is impressed with the quality of them. He offers to buy them, and Data agrees to sell half the lot (he keeps the others in case they can provide a clue to his identity). When an anvil falls on another smith’s foot, Data hefts it easily, stunning everyone, except Talur, who assumes that icemen all have great strength to help them fight off the creatures that roam the mountains. Garvin, however, is feeling ill.

Troi is taking one of the tests for bridge officer: an emergency in engineering on the holodeck. She fails it, as the Enterprise blows up. Riker can’t tell her what she did wrong, and the next time she takes that part of the test (she’s passed all the other parts with flying colors) it’ll be harder.

Star Trek: The Next Generation rewatch Thine Own Self

Data sits in on one of Talur’s classes, where she’s teaching the children that everything in the world has four elements: rock, fire, sky, and water. Data tries to explain how this is not good science, but Talur brushes him off. Data and Gia then meet with Garvin, who is arguing with Skoran over the price of the fragments—but they’re cut short by Garvin collapsing. To the viewer, it’s obviously radiation poisoning—lesions, hair falling out, fatigue, fever—but Talur has never seen anything like it. After Talur leaves, Data decides to perform his own investigation into Garvin’s illness—but as he and Gia go out to purchase supplies, they learn that others are sick like Garvin. Skoran blames “Jayden,” since nobody was sick until he arrived.

Star Trek: The Next Generation rewatch Thine Own Self

He creates a microscope using a series of magnifying glasses, and is able to examine skin samples from both Garvin and Gia—who is also showing signs of illness. Data is trying to find a cause for those two, as well as Skoran, to be ill. One thing that they’ve all experienced is meeting “Jayden,” but Talur has spent plenty of time in his presence and shown no signs of illness. Data also notices that Gia is wearing a pendant that Skoran made from one of the metal fragments Data sold to him.

Troi is poring over the engineering specs of the Enterprise when Riker tells her he’s canceling the rest of the test. She’s taken the engineering part of the test three times and failed. Riker says his first duty is to the ship, and he can’t let an unqualified person run the bridge.

However, after Riker leaves, Troi has an epiphany, and goes to the holodeck. She orders La Forge to repair the ODN conduit that’s the source of the problem—but it’s a suicide mission. And that’s what she has to do to pass the test: order someone to their death.

Star Trek: The Next Generation rewatch Thine Own Self

Data is able to determine, using lamp oil spread over a canvas, that the metal fragments he brought with him are emanating invisible particles. Talur is skeptical, but agrees to gather all the metal fragments in the village. The container he brought them in seems to block the particles.

Skoran and someone else arrive, pissed as hell. They think it’s all Data’s fault, and he agrees that it sort of is, but when they attack, he deflects Skoran with ease—but his friend hits Data with a pickaxe, ripping the flesh covering off the left side of his face and exposing the circuitry underneath.

Confused, Data leaves the village, and Skoran leads a posse to go after him. But Data comes back to Garvin’s house, and presents himself to Gia, now wearing a hood to cover the left side of his face. He lets her see his exposed circuitry, and he rushes to continue his search for a cure before Skoran and his posse come back.

Data knows that no one will trust a cure that comes from him, so after he administers the medicine he concocts to Garvin and Gia personally, he dumps the rest of it into the well water, just as Skoran and the others arrive. Skoran impales Data with a huge metal rod, which deactivates him (and electrocutes Skoran, though he survives it).

Star Trek: The Next Generation rewatch Thine Own Self

Days later, everyone is cured, “Jayden” has been buried in the town square, and the fragments buried in the forest. In Barkonian disguise, Riker and Crusher arrive in town and question Gia about their friend with gold eyes and odd skin who may have wandered into town. Gia tells them what happened, and says that he was her friend, too. Crusher scans, and finds his body. Riker has him and the fragments beamed to the Enterprise.

When Crusher activates Data in sickbay, his last memory is of a power surge when downloading the probe computer’s telemetry. He remembers nothing of the events of the episode, and is also surprised to see that Troi’s been promoted. She goes off to command the bridge for this watch, but not before getting Data to call her “sir.”

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Among the many things Troi learns in her studies is that the secondary plasma vent has a triple-redundant bypass, which means the primary access junction is routed through the port transducer matrix. Cha cha cha.

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Prompted by the events of “Disaster,” catalyzed by seeing people at her class reunion who were more successful than her, and no doubt figuring that if Crusher can do it, why not her, Troi decides to take the bridge officer’s exam that will allow her to be in command of the bridge. (Crusher having taken this test was assumed after she was put in charge of the ship in “Descent.”)

Star Trek: The Next Generation rewatch Thine Own Self

If I Only Had a Brain...: The power surge initially wipes Data’s memories and voice, though the latter comes back as he hears Garvin speak. (And presumably he has some manner of translation matrix that enables him to understand what Garvin’s saying, since we know it’s not English based on the Barkonians not recognizing the word “radioactive.”) At first, he is tentative and unsure of himself, but as time goes on, he becomes more and more like the Data we’ve come to know and love, first when he corrects Talur’s science in the classroom, and then when he dives into full research mode to try to cure the radiation sickness.

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: When Troi first comes to Riker’s quarters, he’s playing his trombone, and continues to “talk” to her using the instrument, leading her to poke fun at him by saying he communicates better this way. He refers to her as imzadi during the conversation, and several times in the episode remarks on how much he cares about her, despite having to be a hardass when administering the test.

Star Trek: The Next Generation rewatch Thine Own Self

I Believe I Said That: “Did you come here for something in particular, or just general Riker-bashing?”

Riker accusing Troi of channeling Tor.com’s Ryan Britt, after she made fun of his rather adorable attempt to communicate via trombone.

Welcome Aboard: Michael G. Hagerty returns as Skoran, having played Captain Larg in “Redemption II”; he’ll also play a bartender in the Star Trek Klingon game. Michael Rothaar is kind of blah as Garvin, while Ronnie Claire Edwards—probably best known as Corabeth on The Waltons—does quite well as Talur. Kimberley Cullum was nominated for Young Artist Award for her role as Gia, one of eight nominations she received (she won twice, once for a three-episode arc of Quantum Leap, the other for a role on Home Improvement).

Trivial Matters: Christopher Hatton—whose spec script was the basis of the “Gambittwo-parter—pitched this story as “Data as Frankenstein.” You even get him befriending a little girl and being chased by the angry villagers.

Ronald D. Moore was inspired to do the B-plot of Troi taking the bridge officer test by Jeri Taylor’s novelization of Unification, which has a sequence in Troi’s POV where she’s musing on the events of “Disaster,” and how, having tasted blood, she wants to do it again. Moore gives a similar line to Troi when she’s talking to Riker about it.

The episode title comes from a line in Hamlet that Data actually quoted to Riker in “Hide and Q”: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”

Sir Patrick Stewart only appears in the final scene, and only has one line of dialogue—this was to accommodate his one-person show of A Christmas Carol, which he performed in London in December 1993 while this episode was being filmed.

Troi asks Riker if the engineering test is a no-win scenario, a reference to the Kobayashi Maru test first seen in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.

Make it So: “It appears I had an interesting time.” I had absolutely no recollection of this episode when I sat down to rewatch it beyond a vague memory of Troi getting promoted without any details sticking. And ultimately, having just watched it again, it’s because it just isn’t that memorable.

The high concept of Data doing the 1931 Frankenstein (I emphasize this because all the resemblances are to the movie, not at all to the Mary Shelley novel) is a strong one, but the episode never seems to get past it. We’ve been down this road before with Data in “Time’s Arrow,” but that episode had some humor value (the poker game, e.g.) plus Data was investigating something that the viewer was also learning about as the episode progressed. Here, we know it’s the probe fragments that are causing the illnesses, and we don’t have anything else to hang our interest on beyond Brent Spiner’s usual fine performance. His relationship with Garvin and Gia doesn’t really have any life to it (he had more of a rapport with Sarjenka in “Pen Pals” with considerably less shared screentime), and Skoran is too much of a straw villain to be taken seriously as a threat. The only thing I really liked about the sequences on Barkon were the scenes with Talur, beautifully played by Ronnie Claire Edwards, who provides a perfect balance of post-Enlightenment progressiveness with pre-Industrial Revolution ignorance. I certainly did not like that Data has no memory of the events of the episode, which seems horribly unfair to Gia and Talur and Garvin.

Troi’s promotion has the same problem: it’s a good notion, and a logical progression from the events of “Disaster,” but the execution falls somewhat flat, especially since Troi’s big catharsis is to send a hologram to his nonexistent death. It’s a much easier decision to make when you know it has no consequences. (This is a case where something like Wes’s psych test in “Coming of Age,” where he thinks he’s really leaving someone to die, would be far more effective.) Also it just seems weird that Troi now outranks La Forge and Data—though, of course, I’m sure that Picard would put either of them in charge of the ship ahead of Troi or Crusher....

Still, I can’t really call this a bad episode, especially one that showcases Spiner’s considerable talents, but I can’t call it good, either. Hence the mid-range rating.


Warp factor rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido has two new books out, neither of which are actually SF/F: the novel Leverage: The Zoo Job, based on the TV series about criminals who help people, and the baseball book In the Dugout: Yankees 2013, which he co-edited with Cecilia M. Tan, all about New York’s American League baseball team.

1. RobinM
My strongest memory this episode is Ronnie Clare Edwards because Data and Talur have the strongest interaction. Also I looked at it an went hey that's Corabeth from the Waltons. I also enjoyed the science discussions and Data creating a microscope for research very Holmesian. I disliked the part where Data's memory is erased at the end because it makes what happened more meaningless. Troi taking the test was interesting mostly because I didn't know that's how it was done.
2. Lsana
"Troi’s big catharsis is to send a hologram to his nonexistent death."

Yes, but the same could be said of the Kobayashi Maru. The point of that test is for the cadets to "face death," but it's pretty clearly done on a holodeck equivalent, and the cadets know that none of it is real. However, it does force them to think about the fact that at some point in their careers they might be in a no-win situation and have to face death for real. Similarly, Troi's test reminded her that part of the duty of being in command was to order people to their deaths, and she had to ask herself whether or not she could do that in a real situation before she could accept the promotion.
Andy Thompson
3. Andy_T
True - Troi was reminded of "part of the duty of being in command was to order people to their deaths" - but I find it hard to believe that a Ship's Counselor wasn't already well aware of this. That is, after all, the kind of thing that people go to counselling for...
4. Gilbetron
You nailed it, Keith. This episode is damned not for being bad, but for being forgettable. I think I enjoyed the Troi subplot a lot more than you did, though. It's a highlight of the season for me... which makes it a shame that its various scenes are lost in a sea of mediocrity here.
5. Lsana

True, but there's a difference between knowing that somehting happens and accepting that it could happen to you. And based on Troi's reaction when she realized what the test was really about, I don't think she HAD considered the fact that being in command would mean she might have to order a friend to his death until that moment.
Michael Burstein
6. mabfan
I'm surprised so many people find this episode so unmemorable. This is one of my favorites. I've always loved the way that Talur is clearly trying to do science properly, in the only way she knows how, but she's hampered by a simple lack of, well, data about the world. Maybe it's because I worked as a science teacher for many years, but I always enjoyed seeing Talur try to hypothesize and teach her class.

And I liked Hagerty as well, and Troi's realization of what it means to be in command, and the poignancy of Data forgetting the events that happened on the planet. I guess I just have better taste than the rest of you. :-)

-- Michael A. Burstein
7. buzzcut
Troi did say: "I knew that was part of being in command, and I thought I'd prepared for it - but when the moment came, I hesitated...
Christopher Bennett
8. ChristopherLBennett
I think this is a nice little episode -- not great, but harmless and mildly enjoyable. In the wake of "Homeward," it's kind of refreshing to get a story about contact with a pre-warp culture in which the Prime Directive is pretty much a non-issue and you can just show a lead character interacting openly with and affecting the culture rather than desperately trying to keep secrets from it. Sometimes I get so sick of Prime Directive stories and like seeing first-contact stories where the PD isn't a factor.
9. Eric T Reynolds
Michael, I agree totally. Whatever its flaws, I think those are made up by other, less tangible things. Like the music. I love the background score, which does an amazing job of helping set the feeling of the place (music is so underrated in its importance in TV and movies). And Ronnie Claire Edwards's performance, not to mention Spiner's, and Talur's interactions with the others, particularly Data. (And there's some good humor in there between Talur and Data.)
10. Sypher
I remember this episode only because it was mentioned in an earlier review. My main problem isn't that the episode is forgetable, it's that I can't buy the character of Troi getting this promotion. I think the idea of the test and preparing is handled much better in DS9 when Nog is attempting to prep for academy entrance exams and doesn't encounter the scenario he prepped for. Also, I know the evolution for the counselor had been referenced previously, there's nothing about her, most due to the writers handling of her for seven years, that indicated she was even mildly compitent to hold that position.
Jenny Thrash
11. Sihaya
@10 - I disagree. I think that, from the moment that Troi challenged K'Ehleyr, she quit being a simple emotional disco ball. She's progressed in a gradual manner, almost under the radar, but her reasoning and, more importantly, management skills have become more and more evident through the years. On the other hand La Forge is a fine engineer, but his interpersonal skills have been shown to be somewhat less-than, and they could well get in the way of his ability to command an entire ship on a long term basis.
12. Ashcom
My big problem with this episode is in the idea that Data is able to develop a single-dose cure for radiation sickness (something that does not exist in our current time) using primative instrumentation and only compounds available in a pre-industrial civilisation. And yet in the same episode, the "sending LaForge to his death" test reminds us that large doses of radiation are still lethal and uncurable, even in the 24th century.

Having said this, and here I disagree with your assessment of Garvin, I thought the scene where Data arrives in the village was beautifully played by all concerned and, if for nothing else, that scene makes the episode memorable. I also agree that "Corabeth" did a stirling job of portraying the conflict between deep seated ideas and new discoveries, and created a character that was both believable and likeable.
Jenny Thrash
13. Sihaya
Oh, and my take on Troi's simulation is this: Sure, she knew that she was talking to holograms. As an empath, she was more innately aware of the false nature of the simulation than anyone. But she'd known each of the people in the simulation for so long, and she'd served them in such a different capacity, that she simply took it for granted that she wouldn't send them to their death. She hadn't rejected the possibility because she hadn't even thought to consider it. And so the test was effective and instructive.
14. RichF
My reaction to the B-plot of this episode is that if the test is something Troi had so much trouble grasping (at first), how might it have been for Dr. Crusher, who has presumably passed the test sometime before the episode began? She has sworn an oath to do no harm, yet in order to earn the promotion she has to pass the test by ordering someone to their death. Yes, it could probably be rationalized by saying: (1) She's not actually ordering a real person to their death; she's ordering a hologram to their "death". (2) By doing so she may be theoretically doing harm, but it's the price to pay to avoid doing far greater harm. Still, it nags me that a doctor can reasonably be shown to take this test, pass it, and mean it. I suppose that would be necessary if a doctor is to command a medical ship as she does (the Pasteur) in the possible future laid out in All Good Things.
15. Sean O'Hara
Actually, what this episode reminds me of most is The Ensigns of Command, what with Data trying to save a village while out of contact with the Enterprise, and the person in charge discounting what he says. But The Ensigns of Command worked better than this because the obstructionist mayor wasn't unsympathetic, he just didn't understand the degree of danger, whereas here it's just Ignorant Superstitious Peasant Guy being ignorant and superstitious for the sake of the plot.
Christopher Bennett
17. ChristopherLBennett
@14: Doctors often have to make decisions that involve choosing to let someone die -- triage in an emergency situation, choosing whether to save a pregnant mother or her baby, choosing to honor a do-not-resuscitate order, deciding which terminal patient will get an organ transplant and which won't, etc. "Do no harm" is a nice ideal, but in reality it sometimes comes down to minimizing harm rather than averting it altogether. Choosing to sacrifice one crewmember to save a thousand is the same kind of decision, and it's something that a surgeon's experience would definitely prepare her for.
Mike Kelmachter
18. MikeKelm
I have no issues with the Data on the planet with the pre-warp civilization. I agree with CLB that there its nice to see the most advanced "person" of the Enterprise interact with the untechnogically without any sort of pretense.

I do have issues with the "Command Test." Command is something that you can't learn from a book, it's something that needs to be learned by experience. It's the reason that in service academies and Officer Training Schools the cadets are given authority over smaller groups of cadets- to practice authority. As they are comissioned and rise through the ranks, they are given command over increasingly large groups (a damage control team, a shift, a division). Worf goes from Assistant Security Division Commander to Security Division Commander to Tactical Operations Officer/Commander of the Defiant (with it's 40 person crew) back to Enterprise as Security/Tactical again to (in the novels) First Officer of the Enterprise. Troi never had that sort of background- she's a counselor who becomes a staff officer to Picard to Chief Counselor. How big can the counseling staff of the Enterprise be- 3 or 4? I understand that she has the rank of Lt. Commander, but how does this qualify her to actually be in a command situation? Also, the test is referred to as t he "Bridge Officers Test", which suggests to me that she is capable of manning a station on the bridge, not that she can command it.
19. Sean O'Hara
@17: Too bad nobody told Dr. Zimmerman about triage; would've saved us from at least one excruciating episode of Voyager.
Christopher Bennett
20. ChristopherLBennett
@19: You say "excruciating," I say "brilliant." I love "Latent Image."
21. Lsana

Funny you should mention Dr. Crusher here, because I too was wondering whether she could have passed this test. My issue isn't the fact that she's a doctor but the fact that this is precisely what she COULDN'T do when she was in command in "Descent": she put the thousands of lives on the Enterprise at risk because she couldn't bear the thought of abandoning the relatively small number of people still on the planet. Given that, I wonder how she managed here, when she had to actually order someone to die rather than merely not rescuing him. Was it because she had learned from her previous experience? Because of the fact that it was only one life rather than several dozen? Because it was just a hologram? I don't know.
22. Llama
@18 Exactly. I really quite like the Data plot of the episode, but Troi's is about fourteen different flavours of prepostorous. She's a shrink, it makes no sense for her to be an Officer of the Line; for her to ever be in the bridge chain of command at all is ridiculous, never mind that with this episode she supposedly outranks Data (who is third in command of the ship, we recall) and given that there's no apparent difference between service officers and the actual military types...

She shouldn't have been in command in Disaster, either. Someone who is in any position to know what the hell they're deciding and how to command would outrank the freaking ship's counselor. They shouldn't be the same chain of command.
I found this one "mildly" entertaining. I loved the stuff on the planet, but the Troi plot is ABSURD to the extreme. Keith, I am surprised you didn't mention the absolute non-sense that a counselor would in any way be allowed to take a command test. I can't think of a single military now or anywhere in human history, where a doctor or counselor was legally able to earn command stripes over officers that have presumable been training for this for years. Sorry guys, but this is just Sirtis and McFadden trying to get more screentime (rightly) in a completely stupid way.

As for the A-plot I agree with C.Bennet, I also enjoy a primitive civ episode where the PD isn't a plot point. That being said, Data almost accidentally exterminating an entire city might be a good reason FOR the prime directive!
Christopher Bennett
24. ChristopherLBennett
I don't understand the hostility to the idea of a counselor also happening to be a qualified Starfleet officer. After all, Starfleet isn't the same kind of military we have today. It's primarily a scientific and diplomatic body. So science specialists such as doctors or psychologists wouldn't be some peripheral group marginalized from the main line of fighters; if anything, it would be the other way around, with the scientists, explorers, and diplomats being the core of the service and the fighters being more marginalized, called on only when needed.

It's worth noting, also, that Troi is not simply a psychologist. From the start of the series, she has also been a key diplomatic advisor. Her job is to assess the behavior of aliens in contact situations, to advise the captain on how to manage contact and diplomacy, to provide expertise on alien customs and practices (such as coaching Picard in the Jaradan greeting back in "The Big Goodbye" in the first season, or helping Data work out Tamarian language and culture in "Darmok"), and so forth. She's as much a diplomat, a xenologist, and a cultural anthropologist as she is a therapist. In my Trek novels for Pocket Books, I've codified that side of her responsibilities with the title "contact specialist," which I treat as a specialty she holds alongside her counseling specialty (much as Spock was both first officer and science officer, Worf and Tuvok were both security chief and tactical officer, etc.).

And given that Starfleet is primarily a scientific and diplomatic service, not a combat service, it shouldn't really be that unbelievable that a scientific and diplomatic specialist like Troi would be eligible for a command position. It's a mistake to judge Starfleet by the same standards as a modern military, because the two have different priorities and purposes.
25. MDS
Thanks Christopher, good comments.

While not an exact parallel to your post, i can think of one real life example which echoes your points. Personnel on Canadian naval warships (and I would assume, other modern navies as well) whose primary function may not be combat oriented (e.g. Cook, Dentist, etc) do have a battle station assignment or function during General Quarters (the equivalent of Trek's Red Alert). If anything, I always thought it odd that a staff officer like Troi didn't have a more functional role during battle conditions.
Christopher Bennett
26. ChristopherLBennett
@25: Theoretically, Troi's role in combat would've been to advise the captain on anything she sensed about the other side's motives and goals. I'm reminded of Jules on the TV series Flashpoint -- her main role on the team is as a profiler, responsible for assessing the psychology of a dangerous felon, figuring out what they want and how to reason with them if possible, or talking them down herself. And that show did a very good job of showing how getting into the bad guys' heads like that could be invaluable to stopping them and saving lives. Unfortunately, TNG didn't generally do nearly as good a job at showing the value of Deanna's specialties.

As I see it, Deanna had to be an incredibly capable, versatile, gifted officer in order to fulfill the wide range of responsibilities she was asserted to hold on the crew. But the show rarely explored that in a way that did it justice. Which is why I've tried to do so in the books and stories I've written involving her.
Christopher Hatton
27. Xopher
I don't have a lot to say about this episode. However, I would like to say that while I am Christopher Hatton I am not that Christopher Hatton.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
28. Lisamarie
Not much to say either, but I do enjoy a Data episode, and I also enjoyed the interactions between him and Talur, with Talur basically being as good a scientist as she can be given the information she has, and willing to consider other things, as opposed to the stereotypical medeival stupid close minded peasant.
adam miller
29. adamjmil

Regarding Troi outranking Data, it really is absurd. Data is put in command of the bridge all the time. So he must have taken this test and passed it, years ago. Yet he is still a Lt. Commander. Troi takes the test and all of a sudden she becomes a full Commander. Huh? Was that automatic? Did Picard make a judgement call to promote her?
@c. Bennet,

No one is saying Troi is not capable of Command. What we are saying is the way showed on screen is absurd to the highest degree. There is absolutely no reason she should be promoted above data, worf, or Geordi as seen. I will make my point again, that on a ship of over 1000 people there are likely people that have been on the command course for years, and it is offensive that troi gets such a slammin job because she took 1 test.

And whether it is a military or "peaceful armada", I still find it highly unlikely that anyone in the medical, phsychological, or engineering fields would really end up in command all that often. Just like today, and likely more-so, these are fields that take years of specialized study to attain, and to just take a command test on a whim.... I am not buyin.
Chin Bawambi
31. bawambi
I really liked the planet interaction with Data even down to the straw villian character. Not only just because of Data but mainly because by this time I was really really tired of the PD arguments which were lousy logic and ethics arguments at best. I really never liked any of the academy or officer testing structure within this show. Almost none of it passed the smell test. BTW, I have known naval medical officers and in order for them to reach commander status they not only have to be able to do their own specialist duties extremely well they have to spend years in charge of smaller groups before they are allowed to be technically in charge in a combat situation. It isn't that Deanna wouldn't be qualified its that all the other bridge officers have been shown in some way in direct command of their subordinates I can't ever recall a junior counselor or diplomat or empath that she ever interacts with. That's why this B plotline bores me even more than the Wesley Academy episodes.
Joseph Newton
32. crzydroid
@30: With Troi and Crusher being full Commanders, while they outrank Data in terms of actual rank, I don't think that necessarily means they always have authoritative command over them in every area of operation. Maybe they do if not otherwise specified. For example, Data is still 3rd in line to command the ship, no matter the ranks of the other officers on board. Remember the episode where Wesley, as acting ensign, was put in command of a team of officers that outranked him? It seems to me that the structure on the Enterprise is that appointed mission commanders have precedence over rank.

I am still a little confused about the nature of the bridge officers test though...but here is a suggestion. Data is clearly a bridge officer because he is on that track. Perhaps then, he can get bridge officer duties without obtaining a rank of commander, and becoming a commander for him takes something more. For someone in the sciences like Troi, perhaps becoming a full commander and/or a bridge officer requires the test, which for someone on her track is maybe meant to be hard (even though someone like Riker or Saavik did all that stuff at the academy).
Christopher Bennett
33. ChristopherLBennett
I always took it to be that Troi, over the course of her career, had earned all the qualifications one needed to command the bridge except for passing the final, formal test. Like someone who's earned enough college credits to earn a degree but hasn't yet done her final dissertation.

Although the point that's been made about needing to have authority over others to earn command status is a good one, and hard to refute.
34. CounsellorDeannaTroi#1Fan
I loved this episode and it highlighted why Deanna is my favourite character. I was frequently bullied and picked on while growing up I could relate to Deanna a lot when I was little. She was constantly victimized by aliens, belittled by villains, seemed very unsure of her abilities, and had an overbearing family member (and I could certainly relate to all of these qualities).

But I think "Face of the Enemy" was a pivotal moment for her. She had to act totally unlike herself to solve a literal life-or-death problem and I think it made her realise that she was a lot more resourceful and mentally tougher than she had ever known.

And I think the fact that she is an empathic psychotherapist would be a huge benefit as a commanding officer. She would have the ability to sense the feelings of the people under her command and know very well when they would need reprimand or extra encouragement or persuasion to do their duties, and she would also know when they were not able to do what they were told.
35. Yakko

This isn't the thread to get into it obviously but who knows how long it will be before we get to Season 5 of the "Voyager" rewatch? I have to respectfully disagree with Sean O'hara and wholeheartedly concur with you that "Latent Image" is brilliant. Robert Picardo was usually able to elevate the most mediocre writing on that show (of which there was an abundance) but in this case they gave a gifted actor some excellent material. My pulse still quickens whenever I watch the Doc have his first breakdown in the mess hall.

As for "Thine Own Self" I'm with most of the posters here. Reasonably enjoyed the A-story but found the best part of the B-story to be Riker talking through his trombone. In fact, I think I enjoyed Troi's appearances on "Voyager" more than most of her storylines on "TNG".
37. MDS
@32 & 33: these are the most applicable comments, both in the fictional world of Trek and from what I've seen in real life military service.

It may seem a little silly to apply RL navy practices to what we're seeing in a fictional piece of pop entertainment, but I think it's a legitimate application. The rules of Trek were set by two of its primary creators who both had strong military backgrounds in RL. Rodenberry in the Army Air Corps/Air Force. And an even bigger influence, I would argue, on this part of Trek's creation, would be Matt Jeffries, with his US Navy background (the Wrath of Khan DVD has a great documentary from the early 2000's interviewing Jeffries and Lee Cole about this).

As 30 pointed out, an officer's actual rank doesn't mean they have are higher in the ship's heirarchy. From earlier comments in this thread, this seems to be a constant point of confusion. Yes, it's possible to have a higher rank, but not be higher in the chain of authority.

I think part of the fault here lies with the TNG writers, as it wasn't made clear that Troi's rank doesn't mean she goes above Data in the ship's authority. Even after Troi obtained full Commander status, Data was still the ship's 2nd Officer, or third in command. As pointed out earlier, Troi's line of authority is still primarily in the Medical branch of the service, even though she now had the Bridge Command qualification.

Crusher had been a full Commander from day one of the series and she was bridge qualified, yet her position in line to command the ship remains quite low (most of the crew had to leave the ship before she was got the center seat in "Descent"). Other than taking watch duties of the third shift, neither Crusher nor Troi would take command of the Enterprise again, even with the rank of Commander being higher than Data's Lt. Commander rank.

In many ways, the extreme situation where Troi takes command of the Enterprise back in "Disaster" was an example of this lack of understanding on the part of the writers between rank and position of authority. While Troi was indeed the highest ranking person on the bridge, if the Lt who died in the opening was still alive, that Lt would remain in command, despite the lower rank. When Ro appeared on the bridge, Ro should've taken command. She was a Command officer and was Bridge Qualified, unlike Troi at the time. (Note that Chief O'Brien would not take command as he's not a commissioned officer. That's despite the fact that he was probably the most qualified person at that moment to take command of the Enterprise).

In real life, I've seen Medical personnel who have even higher ranks than Troi, and are still not in command of a ship.

On the HMCS Provider, a very large, armed, military re-supply ship in the Canadian Navy, the dentist held the rank of Captain. But because she wasn't a MARS officer (the Canadian Navy's maritime command line), she didn't have her surface warfare qualifications and never stood watch on the bridge or CIC, and was certainly never in command.

A couple of interesting notes to the example of the dentist who held the rank of Captain. During General Quarters ("Red Alert" in Trek speak), she had a battle station assignment, which was to serve in the infirmary. Also, contrary to popular belief, it's possible to have two people serve on a naval vessel who hold the rank of Captain. There's certainly no confusing the dentist for the commanding officer of the ship. Everyone in the crew knows that rank doesn't indicate command position.
Joseph Newton
38. crzydroid
@37: At one point during the movie era, both Scotty and Spock held the rank of Captain, but even though Kirk had been demoted back to Captain, he still had command of the vessel and authority over them.
adam miller
39. adamjmil

Good writeup. It's pretty clear at this point that "Disaster" was the abberration. Of course, the plot dictacted that Troi's decision resulted in the desired outcome.
Christopher Bennett
40. ChristopherLBennett
@38: True, it's possible for a ship to have more than one person of captain's rank. But it's hard to believe that Starfleet would allow three captains and four commanders to stay as the Enterprise's command crew, instead of distributing them to other ships where their talents could be useful, and meanwhile allowing junior officers on the Enterprise to rise through the ranks rather than being trapped in career dead ends because the command crew is so unchanging.

Then again, these guys did violate roughly all the regulations, hijacked and lost a starship, and sabotaged another starship. Gratitude for saving the world may have spared them from being drummed out of the service, but that may have been basically PR; after they'd proven themselves such mavericks, Starfleet might not have trusted them to follow the proper chain of command. Maybe they were clumped back together on the E-A because no other ship would have them. Although that attitude couldn't have lasted indefinitely, because Sulu finally managed to get his own ship a few years later.
41. MDS
@ 39 Thanks.
And yes, I agree with you that for plot purposes, tension and conflict, the writers put Troi in command because they wanted the inexperienced (in ship operations) Troi to go up against the hard-nosed, qualified Ro.
Rob Rater
42. Quasarmodo
Ro probably knew she was supposed to be in charge, and just wanted to buck the authority. Troi was panicking too much to sense the deception.
43. JohnC
I liked Talur's cracked explanations of natural phenomena, and I especially liked the fact that her character didn't immediately get all uppity with Data when he poked holes in her conclusions. She straddled the line between skeptical but inquisitive, and that made her seem more real than the typical cardboard character we might otherwise have gotten from less talented scriptwriters. As a father of young daughters, the only thing that seemed "off" to me was how quickly Garvin became completely at ease at unsupervised contact between Gia and this strange man with the weird colored skin and freaky eyeballs..... Lastly, I really wanted Data to respond to his new Iceman moniker by saying "Very well. In return, I shall call you "Maverick"."
44. The Real Scott M
Just to quickly point out, a language could theoretically be spoken identically to English and have a completely different alphabet. After all, an alphabet is simply a respresentaion of the sounds of the language, not truly the language itself.

Anyway, I thought this was a pretty decent episode, if a bit too straightforward and based on amnesia. I'd give it a solid 7.
45. Tom Green
I'm surprised at the number of people who feel Troi/Crusher aren't qualified to be bridge officers because of their doctor/medical backgrounds. Crusher isn't commanding as a DOCTOR, she's commanding as a Starfleet officer. The Hippocratic Oath doesn't apply to her when she's running the ship as far as I'm concerned.

The thing that threw me about Troi was how QUICKLY she became a bridge officer. How long was Data on the planet? How long of a time period could this episode taken place over? I get the impression that she mastered everything in a week or less. I would expect the test to take place over a few weeks or months, not days.
James Pratt
46. JamesP

I will readily admit to having very little knowledge about radioactive materials and their affect on human/humanoid physiology. However, Data had been on the planet long enough to have the accident, lose his memory, travel to the town, develop a rapport with (at least some members of) the community, discover that some people were getting sick from the radioactive materials, conduct research with the local scientist, develop a cure, dispense it to the population/water supply, get attacked and "killed," and have been buried for, according to Keith's review, a few days. I could very easily see the planet-side events of this episode taking place over at least a month.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment