Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

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’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.


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