Star Trek: The Next Generation – Thine Own Self [7.16]

Suffering from amnesia after being Injured in an accident, Data wanders into a pre-warp village and inadvertently exposes the local population to radioactive rocks.  He races to find the cause of the people’s sickness before lives are lost, but at the same time comes under suspicion for causing the problems himself.  In the end, he is able to discover a cure for the people and to pour it into the village’s water supply, but not before he is “killed” by an angry mob.  Later, he is recovered and re-activated by the Enterprise.  Meanwhile, Troi takes and eventually passes her test to become a Bridge officer, earning a promotion to Commander.

Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore.. Story by Christopher Hatton. Directed by Winrich Kolbe.

Previous Episode: Lower Decks • Next Episode: Masks

Thine Own Self is a quite a good episode of Next Generation, especially by the overall declining standards of the seventh season.  It’s a solid “Data story” in the sense that it takes the character and puts him a position that we don’t normally see him in, and shows us how he responds.  It doesn’t rely on some new revelation about the character’s backstory, or take us over ground we’ve covered before, which makes it a big step up from the last “Data story” (ie Inheritance).  The episode does a nice job developing Data’s relationships with the various members of the village – the friendly magistrate, the bad-science lady, the angry blacksmith, and especially the young girl.  Data, in his childlike innocence, has often played well against children from a story point of view, and we see that again here in his interaction with Gia.  It feels like a real and meaningful relationship without it being overdone or becoming too sentimental.

At the same time, Thine Own Self is not a perfect episode or a powerhouse episode, and that is partly of issues related to the subplot.  It’s not that’s it’s a bad subplot necessarily – Troi feeling determined to pass her commander’s test certainly pushes the character in a new direction.  And it actually gives both Marina Sirtis and Jonathan Frakes some nice material to play off of.  I’d have tweaked it a bit if I were writing it though – instead of making Troi someone who got excited about and “missed” the experience of being in command, I’d have made her recognize that she was massively out of her depth in the circumstances, and was frustrated with herself for her limitations.

But as acceptable as the subplot is, it sticks out because it is so utterly unrelated to the main story, with no references at all between the two of them save the ending.  It really feels like it could just be part of any other episode (and actually was, if I recall properly, originally conceived of as part of another episode).  Next Generation has always had the potential of falling into a bit of a “Meanwhile, back in the subplot” kind of a trap, but this is probably the worst offender.  It has the unfortunate side effect of making the whole series feel a bit aimless.

But the focus of the story is on Brent Spiner’s Data, and this may be the last good episode to star Data if I remember properly (unless Masks turns out to defy all of my memory’s expectations) so it’s something to enjoy while we’ve got it.

Guest Cast:
• Ronnie Claire Edwards, who plays Talur, played Corabeth Walton on The Waltons.

• Kimberly Cullum plays Gia.  She played both a mother and a daughter (at different ages) in two out of three parts of a three part Quantum Leap episode.

Shout Out to the Past:
• There is an extensive reference to the incidents of the episode Disaster during the Troi subplot.

• Troi references, with irritation, the “no-win” situation, bringing back to mind Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the Kobayashi Maru test.

Setting Up the Future:
• Not sure.  Do we ever actually see Deanna command the bridge after this?

• Some nice character moments at the start, with Beverly commanding the ship and especially Riker playing the trombone:  “You know, this is a much better way of communicating for you.”

• The scene where Talur diagnoses Data is funny:

Talur:  No headaches, palpitations, sluggishness, indigestion?
Data:  No.  But I cannot have indigestion since I have not eaten.
Talur:  Ah, malnutrition.

• I think having Worf present during Troi’s test scene is sort of funny.  Surely, it would normally be Data or another engineer, right?  It certainly would have been Data if it weren’t for the fact that Data was already the star of the main plot.  Although, if Data were present, then that might diminish the impact of the test because maybe he could survive the radiation that was supposedly going to kill Geordi.

• My wife asks why amnesiac Data can remember every bit of scientific knowledge except what radiation is.

• As I said before, I enjoy the interaction between Riker and Troi during her testing process.  I like how annoyed they get with each other.  “What kind of test is this?” asks Troi with frustration, to which Riker replies, “It’s the kind of test that you’ll have to take again if you want to be a Bridge Officer!”

• I like it when “Jayden” unknowingly states his real name.  “It’s a trick,” says Talur.  “No, it’s empirical data,” he replies.

• I’m not really sure why Data would have blinking lights inside his head.

• The ending with the angry mob and the “creature” befriending the young girl has a bit of a Frankenstein vibe going on, although far less tragic, of course.

• Data takes an awfully long time to get going with pouring that antidote in to the well, with taking his cloak off, moving around slowly, and and so on.

• Picard is almost not in this episode!

• I enjoy some of the dialogue at the end of the episode.  “After that, I have no memory until this moment,” says Data.  Then he adds, after looking at his clothes, “It appears I had an interesting time.”  And Troi of course cheekily saying, “That’s right.  Which means from now on you can call me ‘sir’.”  Although that’s a bit ridiculous, of course, as Data would continue to outrank Troi in just about every practical situation on the ship.

Dialogue High Point
Maybe the best bit is Talur’s evaluation of what Data is:

I’m sure my grandmother would have called our friend here a demon or spirit or some kind of monster.  But current scientific methodology allows us to dismiss such ridiculous superstitions and concentrate on scientific reality…You are an “Ice Man”.

Previous Episode: Lower Decks • Next Episode: Masks

2 thoughts on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Thine Own Self [7.16]

  1. I found it an enjoyable episode. I guess a little disjointed, but still good. I liked Troi taking the test. If nothing else, it gave plenty of time to see Troi in her uniform. She looked damn good in that uniform.

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