Star Trek: The Next Generation: Thine Own Self   Rewatch 
November 8, 2021 8:18 AM - Season 7, Episode 16 - Subscribe

Data suffers amnesia in a primitive society while Troi applies for a promotion.

Rock, fire, sky, and water are the basic elements of the universe. They can be found in every object, every person, every animal, everything. Even Memory Alpha.

Story and production
  • The story pitch for this episode came from Christopher Hatton, who had previously provided the spec script that "Gambit, Part I" was based upon. Hatton pitched his story as "Data as Frankenstein", a concept that Jeri Taylor described as "irresistible". Teleplay writer Ronald D. Moore joked, "He wanders into the medieval village, is befriended by the little girl, and villagers come out and chase him with torches!" (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion; Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Budget requirements necessitated a ship-board B-story to fill out the show. Moore decided to avoid a predictable "We've lost Data and we got to find him!" plot in favor of the story of Troi's promotion, which had been originally conceived for "Liaisons". He explained, "I thought that was a neat idea and was a good move for the character. The whole notion was something I wanted to do ever since I read Jeri Taylor's novelization of Unification, where there is a line about Troi reflecting on her experiences in the episode "Disaster", where she got command temporarily. Jeri had a line in there about tasting blood and wanting to again, and that stuck with me. I thought that was an interesting direction to take Troi." (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion; Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Riker's use of imzadi here was added at Jonathan Frakes' request. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (? ed., p. ?))
  • In discussing her considering becoming a commander with Riker, Troi references the events depicted in TNG: "Disaster", wherein she found herself the highest-ranking officer on the bridge after a quantum filament hit the ship and disabled all communication and transportation on the ship, and clearly found the task of taking command overwhelming.
  • Worf and Geordi La Forge only appear in this episode as holograms.
  • This episode marks the last time that Will Riker plays a trombone on the series. This trombone is obviously a new one, since Riker gave his trombone as a gift to his transporter clone Thomas in TNG: "Second Chances".
  • This episode is the fourth time in the series that Riker participates in an undercover mission on an alien world, although unlike in "Who Watches The Watchers", "First Contact" and "Frame of Mind", things do not turn out terribly for him.
  • This episode features the final appearance of Counselor Troi's maroon jumpsuit first featured in the second season episode TNG: "The Child".
  • This is the first time the left side of Data's face is destroyed. It would happen again in Star Trek: First Contact and Star Trek: Insurrection.
  • On Troi's promotion, Taylor remarked, "I thought it was really strong, although we have taken some criticism from people who said, 'How could you promote her over Data and Geordi?' But it would not have been a very interesting story to see Geordi or Data getting their rank. The obstacles she had to overcome were formidable and where you get interesting drama is out of conflict" (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Moore admitted having mixed feelings on the episode. "As a writer, I never figured out what it was about. I didn't know what I was trying to say with the episode. It was probably the most difficult writing experience I had on the show because I was very frustrated. It was a bad time in the season. I was tired and I was not having fun, and I think it showed in the writing…What I enjoyed writing was Data as Mr. Wizard on the planet of people who aren't very smart. That was kind of funny. I got a kick out of Data being the guy in the back of the class raising his hand, inventing quantum mechanics with stone knives and bear skins." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Brannon Braga commented, "It was great to see an episode as fundamental as Data being forced to confront his inner nature. The cool factor was also very high. Seeing Data impaled by a metal rod was just great. I enjoyed the episode. A couple of the performances of the townsfolk were a little groggy for my taste, but Data as Frankenstein – what a neat idea. I thought, all in all, it was a very nice job. In fact, I thought it was probably one of the best ones of this season." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
  • Director Winrich Kolbe observed, "It was interesting because I had done "Pen Pals", a show that didn't quite find the right direction. Data seems to have a predilection for little girls, not in a bad way. Here we wind up again with a little girl. There seems to be something about Data that gives writers the idea for the relationship. He has a vulnerability or an innocence, especially at the beginning. It's Brent at his best. I liked the episode. We got some good actors and it was almost like a period piece. It was like going back to the Renaissance." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages)
Poster's Log:

The actor playing the blacksmith Skoran, Michael G. Hagerty, was probably best known at the time for his recurring appearances as Mr. Treeger, the building superintendent, on "Friends". He'd also appeared previously as a Klingon captain who drinks with Kurn in "Redemption II".

The glibness with which Talur, the healer, immediately has answers to every question Data's presence illicits is amazing to watch, as is the moment she discovers how far in over her head she is with the radioactive metal.

I like the "B" plot here, even with the shades of patronization. Of all of the possible command-level crew, of course the actual empath would be the one to struggle sending crew (friends!) to their possible deaths. I do wonder how that situation might play out outside the holodeck, when she's confronted with an actual LaForge from whom she can feel fear of death.
posted by hanov3r (12 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:

Another episode with a card named after it, this time acting as a counter to 'redshirting' i.e. sending down just one expendable crewmember at a time to use up your opponent's dilemmas to minimal effect. The fact that this appeared in the first expansion set demonstrates that they were monitoring competitive play and had some idea how the game was being played at the time.

Enhanced Premiere included Beverly and Will as a promo card, providing two civilians for your Colony, a bucket of stats, and a kind of rare Medical/Diplomacy combo. Passes Primitive Culture. Pretty good, perhaps especially for non-Federation play, though for my decks I mostly used a Riker we'll see in an upcoming episode instead. Throw in an Away Team with Galen, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, Durango and Sheriff Worf(or Space Trader Worf) and be like, combadges? We don't need no stinkin combadges....
posted by StarkRoads at 9:07 AM on November 8, 2021

TROI: I just can't seem to crack this.
RIKER: Well, maybe you're just not good enough!
TROI: But I've tried every... wait. Will. Is this a Kobayashi Maru?
RIKER: [scoffing] What? No. Of course not.
TROI: That's just what you would say if this was a Kobayashi Maru. Fuck. Fuck! You are! You're completely Kobayashi Maruing me!
[RIKER suddenly fumbles a book he's been concealing under his coat. It falls to the ground with a thump. The title is "1001 Kobayashi Marus for the Busy Commander".]
RIKER: okay maybe it's a Kobayashi Maru

Didn't we just do one of these last episode? At least Worf isn't slamming Troi into a gym mat every time she screws up this time. Still, how are officers still falling for this? This is, like, the only test Starfleet knows. Graduating from academy? Kobayashi Maru. Want to take a bridge shift? Kobayashi Maru. Suitability for a suicide mission? Kobayashi Maru. Weddings? Anniversaries? Kobayashi Maru! They've been doing this for, what, a hundred years now. How do you not see this coming?

MILES: I do.
KEIKO: I do.
[Suddenly the ceiling collapses, buying Miles under a pile of jagged rubble]
[Scene fades; is it is revealed to have been a holodeck simulation. The whole crew is here!]
EVERYBODY: Congratulations!
posted by phooky at 9:23 AM on November 8, 2021 [13 favorites]

This week's two-fer is BSOD (Blue Screen of Data), in which our plucky android has problems in the ol' positronic attic. And, honestly, I liked both of them, but probably this one a bit more. The premise reminded me a little of "The Ensigns of Command"--Data alone on a planet where radiation is involved, and with a local population that's a little quick to go aggro on him--but I think that this one hangs together better. Even if the specifics of his amnesia are particularly plot-convenient, it's more than made up for with some chilling moments, such as when they start casually handling the radioactive metal, or when we realize that Data has been buried.... but isn't exactly dead, at least as we understand it. I also liked this bit of dialogue between Data and Gia:
"Where is your mother?"
"She died about a year ago. Father said she went to a beautiful place, where everything is peaceful and everyone loves each other and no one ever gets sick. Do you think there's really a place like that?"
"Yes. I do."
I wondered if Data was referring to the Enterprise or the Federation in general, subconsciously.

Also liked the B plot a lot. WRT Troi being promoted over Data or La Forge, I think that it's justified because she's been in one of the satellite chairs to the Big Chair since the beginning, I think that that's more than just symbolic. Blueshirts represent!

Also, phooky, that's what I thought too. "The first rule of Kobayashi Maru is that you don't talk about Kobayashi Maru. The second rule of Kobayashi Maru is that you pretend that you don't know about Kobayashi Maru, even though it's the favorite thing of senior officers to talk about when they're super drunk. The third rule of Kobayashi Maru is that, if you haven't Kobayashi Marued before, you will Kobayashi Maru."
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:33 AM on November 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

The premise reminded me a little of "The Ensigns of Command"

I actually confuse the two quite often. And both denouements revolve around water supplies.
posted by hanov3r at 9:51 AM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

When Gia mentions her dead mother, I really thought they were going to have her dad die of the radiation poisoning before saving the rest of the village and I was livid; they seem to love orphan stories. So I was glad to see them not go down that line.

Anyway, I would liked to have a scene after Data's erstwhile death where Talur is leading class again, and has shifted to an empirical approach. Or maybe less optimistically, some version of gnosticism where true knowledge is available only via revelation from prophets, and can be received only by discerning followers of Jaydenism.
posted by skewed at 10:22 AM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Everybody wearing these little pickaxe necklaces, listening to sermons about How Jayden Died For Our Sins. I mean, when future generations excavated the tomb... it was empty.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:35 AM on November 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

The captioning on this episode was driving me nuts, because they kept spelling it "Talar" even when everyone is clearly saying "Talur." I find her both maddening and hilarious, like, you can't keep her down, she just bounces back after every logic or implausibility hit and gives Data a scathing glare. I love her.

The pace with which Data puts the compound in the water is so ridiculously slow. They clearly directed him that way so the villagers would have time to attack him, but it's just like, no, please, skulk in and do take your time setting everything up, make sure to pull your cloak hood down, set everything up just so like you're laying the table...

I was also afraid they would kill the dad off before Data could find the cure. I had forgotten enough of it that I couldn't tell whether this was another orphan storyline. She was such a cutie-pie, she deserved a nice happy life. It's weird that there are two Data's identity getting subsumed episodes back to back.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 11:32 AM on November 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Forgot which one this was based on the title, too; blindly guessing, I figured it was a Data one. I did remember this specific planet and plot, but somehow I was under the impression that this was from somewhere in seasons 4-6. It has that feel, to me if not inherently. That's not meant as a dig: I think both the A- and B-story here are quite solid work, although I've never been able to take seriously the notion that Troi having the stones to order Holo-Geordi to his death qualifies her for the promotion. Mayyyyybe if the test was "Strangle Holo-Geordi to death with your bare hands"; that I could see being actually difficult.

"She died about a year ago. Father said she went to a beautiful place, where everything is peaceful and everyone loves each other and no one ever gets sick. Do you think there's really a place like that?"
"Yes. I do."

I wondered if Data was referring to the Enterprise or the Federation in general, subconsciously.

I had the same thought. Good thing he wasn't subconsciously thinking of Omicron Theta, or he would have followed it up with "...And then a giant space monster made of pointy crystal shows up and consumes all living things in that beautiful place," and boy wouldn't THAT have caused quite the schism in the nascent Jaydenist church.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:40 PM on November 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Now I'm thinking of a Loreist cult that edgy twenty-fourth-century teens pretend that they're into to freak out their parents.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:51 PM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Troi becoming a bridge officer is just not cool. And the same goes for Crusher and her bridge time to keep her qualification. And the same goes for Picard, Riker, and Data too, actually. The problem is that the Enterprise has a whole host of command junior officers, Lavelle for instance, who should be standing watches, in actual command of the ship, so that they can gain experience, and one day become commanders and captains themselves. Geordi filled this role on the show until he got transferred off the bridge. Later, oddly, the writers hint at this in "Disaster", the episode where Troi is forced to take command (over Ro, a command officer but a secondary character), when it's mentioned that the guy at conn would be in command if he wasn't dead.

This isn't a problem unique to Star Trek. And it's not something that bothers me when I watch the show. But when I read Jeri Taylor go off about how they promoted Troi because it made for a better episode, it doesn't sit well with me. That's the kind of thinking that got O'Brien demoted and kept Harry Kim an ensign for seven seasons.
posted by Stuka at 9:37 PM on November 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've always loved the B-plot of this episode and it's been a touchstone for me in thinking about the divided loyalty you have to have once you're a leader in an organization. You have to be willing to ask your reports to do things they don't want to do, or even fire them, to carry out your responsibilities to the organization, and that can be a really jarring mindshift compared to what tools are in your toolbox as an individual contributor.
posted by brainwane at 3:34 AM on November 9, 2021 [2 favorites]

Troi's promotion didn't sit so well with me...

I'm already annoyed that Geordi seems to know everything about quantum mechanics and maintaining a startship and a holodeck and repairing a cutting edge one-of-a-kind super-intelligent android. A few weeks ago he whipped out the answer about how to fix the core of a planet because of course he also understands everything about geology.

Then Dr Crusher gets to captain the ship, because it's not enough that she's a GP and a virologist and a surgeon and expert on alien physiology and when Geordi turns into a giant invisible psychedelic frog she can turn him back into a human and he has his memories (and blindness) and everything back better than new. Those are really really hard jobs, and if she feels a little overwhelmed, she can blow off some steam by playing captain for awhile?

(It appears to me that she also has to manage the department, and even though Dr Selar has been name-checked several times recently, I don't see her doing shit.)

Likewise, I think Troi must have a really hard job. Like when Geordi was traumatized by being brainwashed by Romulans, she got him fixed up no problem! And then when he got into trouble for sexual misconduct, she fixed him up no problem! And the 2nd time he got into trouble for sexual problem! And it really worked this time, because a cute ensign was flirting all over him and he's just like "No way, man. I've learned my lesson, with Counselor Troi's help." That was a really really hard job!

So we know that 100 years ago people were specializing in their work in ways that were scarcely imaginable to earlier generations, and now we're in a world where specialization has exploded way past that. Where will we be in another 300 years? I figure that Troi must have gone to interstellar-therapist school, and Riker when to interstellar ship piloting school, but with a week of studying up and taking some tests, she can jump onto his career track?

I don't know, man. I just don't know.
posted by polecat at 3:18 PM on February 1, 2022

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