Star Trek The Next Generation: Thine Own Self

We didn't know his real name, so we called him Jayden.

Data is stranded on an alien world where the Iceman sort of cometh, and Troi sets herself new challenges in an episode that ultimately doesn't challenge either character.

There were some things I liked about this episode. Overall, however, it felt unsatisfying, especially knowing these characters for the past several years, what they've done, and what they're capable of.

Let's start with Troi. In a scene which Alison Bechdal would be proud of, Troi walks in on Beverly commanding the Enterprise, all other senior officers being away or otherwise occupied. Apparently you can apply and earn the rank of Commander as a medical or counseling professional. The Ship's Counselor is fascinated by the process, and decides to explore the notion of command for herself by taking the Bridge Officer's test.

What was excellent about this storyline is how it was embedded in previous storylines. This doesn't always happen on TNG, but Troi explicitly refers to the events of the episode "Disaster," in which she was left in command on the Bridge but didn't have the training she needed. Where I felt the episode faltered was in how the test was carried out and how the implications were handled. Troi's faced with a Kobayashi Maru-style situation in which the ship is doomed. She fails several times, and Riker is appropriately challenging and useless for this style of test in proverbial Good Guru fashion. Troi eventually 'just figures it out,' applies a solution, and passes – by figuring out she needed to order Geordi to his death in order to save the ship.

I'm not completely satisfied for two reasons. First, as ship's counselor, Troi ought to have heard something about the dynamic requirements of this test by now –surely she'd have had to counsel others who'd taken the test! Secondly, it felt like a lost opportunity. As counselor, Troi has to put individual needs to the foremost, and as a commander, she has to put the ship and community first. It felt like there should have been a moment where Troi realized she needed to act like a commander instead of a counselor. In the bigger picture, it seems like Picard should've told Troi to start studying right after the events of "Disaster."

Meanwhile, Data has been damaged badly in medieval Italy Barkonia. I believe Barkonia should win an award for most ridiculous name ever, but this precludes nobody will invent Meownia, and I suspect that's coming later this season. (Spot, wherefore art thou?) With his memory gone Kaput, Data can't even explain what "radioactive" means to the Isolated Villagers he stumbles upon, or why he's carrying a bunch of rocks in a box labeled with the word. He earns the name of Ice Man, which is better than Radioactive Man, and manages to let the people take his shiny rocks. This part makes me pause a little bit. Ice Man seems more, you know, caveman era than Italian Renaissance era. Radiation poisoning begins to spread from the shiny rocks, threatening the locals, who blame Data and begin whipping out the pitchforks. Data somehow manages to synthesize a cure and save the local people, while remaining uncertain and slow enough to give them ample time to spear him through the chest.

Apart from the weird chest-spearing scene (I mean, Data coulda been done and gone before all those locals showed up) the notion of Data visiting an alien world in danger and befriending a young girl all by itself seems done and redone. Data himself is saved in a way which leaves him with no memory of the incident, only a bemusing note that he now needs to call Troi, Sir.

Yes, sir.

Bits and Pieces

I don't actually think much of Crusher's command skills. I would have called Geordi and asked him if the problems communicating with Data were typical of the interference he mentioned.

One thing I did like about this episode was how Data's personality seemed to be growing back after the damage.

I'm assuming Data beamed in to Barkonia instead of taking a shuttlecraft.

I loved the character of Talur. She went off-type; while she was a spiritual mystic and I expected her to denounce Data, she was also as it turned out Data's greatest ally and defender among the locals.

Quotables

Talur: Rock, fire, sky, and water are the basic elements of the universe. They can be found in every object, every person, every animal, everything. The rock in this wood can be felt by its weight and by its hardness. If we expose the wood to flame, we can encourage the fire within the wood to show itself. We can also see smoke, which is a part of the sky. The water in wood is difficult to see. Sometimes the elements are buried deep within the objects, but the four elements are always there. Yes, Jayden?
Data/Jayden: I do not believe that is correct.
Talur: Oh?
Data/Jayden: I believe you are reasoning by analogy, classifying objects and phenomena according to superficial observation rather than empirical evidence. Wood, for example, does not contain fire simply because it is combustible, nor does it contain rock simply because it is heavy. Wood, like any complex organic form, is composed of thousands of different chemical compounds, none of which is fire.

Overall

A meh episode. Two out of five shiny radioactive stones.

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