Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 168 (Thine Own Self)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

There are a lot of Star Trek episodes that actually do pretty well in conveying a message. Others simply mean well. I think that this is one of the latter kind.

Counselor Troi returns from a class reunion to find Dr. Crusher on the bridge. As chief medical officer, Crusher isn’t required to stand watch on the bridge, but she does want to. Normally, Data would be standing watch that shift, but he’s away on a mission to retrieve some radioactive material. It gets Troi thinking of what it was like when she had been in command a while ago.

Her rank is lieutenant commander. To be promoted to Commander, she’d have to take the bridge officers test. After talking it over with Commander Riker, she decides to go for it. She passes most of the tests; the only exception is the engineering qualification. She can’t seem to figure out how to keep the ship from blowing up. It’s only with a slight nudge from Commander Riker that she’s able to finally pass.

Meanwhile, Data has crashed on the planet that he was supposed to get the material from. The society there is pre-industrial, which means that Data isn’t supposed to have any contact with them. However, he wanders into one of the villages carrying a case containing the radioactive material and no memory of who he is. He can also read the word, radioactive, but has no idea of what it means.

The case is opened and half of the material is distributed around town. Pretty soon, many of the people in the village come down with radiation poisoning. Data is able to create a cure, which he puts in the village’s only water supply right before he is apparently killed. Riker and Crusher go to the planet and find Data buried about two meters below the surface. They beam both Data and the radioactive material back to the Enterprise. They’re able to repair Data, who has no memory of what happened after the crash.

First off, we have Skoran, played by Michael G. Haggerty. He’s the blacksmith who buys Data’s metal. He’s also the one that leads an angry mob of villagers once people start to blame Data. There’s just something about an angry mob that seems too easy. It’s like the writers need a threat to Data, or at least some sort of time limit. (Data has to cure the village before the mob destroys him.) It works in this episode, but I generally don’t like it.

Also, Data seems to have patch memory while on the planet. He seems to know that there’s more to science than what the villagers know about it. He’s able to find a cure using an empirical method. However, he doesn’t know what radioactive means and he doesn’t recognize his own name, even when someone says it in front of him. (Someone says, “I want to examine your data in detail.” It didn’t seem to phase data.)

Also, Data is told that he’s ‘obviously’ an iceman based on his appearance. The village’s doctor/scientist/teacher seems to know quite a bit about science and is able to ‘deduce’ this. The village’s level of scientific understanding seems to be a joke about primitive science and how wrong it was to think that way. Her speech about scientific understanding is similar to a Saturday Night Live skit with Steve Martin where he’s a medieval doctor. (Martin’s character said that in his father’s time, a patient’s illness would have been attributed to demonic possession, but he now knows that it’s probably a small imp or gnome in the lower intestine.) On a similar note, Data’s repetition of the ‘fact’ that he’s an iceman is similar to his saying that he was a Frenchman in time’s arrow.

I’m going to have to say three stars for this episode. It’s too bad that Troi didn’t get a promotion until so late in the series. It would have been interesting to have had the chance to use this in later episodes, but it isn’t to be. It is, however, the second of two back-to-back stories involving a promotion. (We have three promotions over the span of two episodes.) I really don’t think that someone who’s never seen the series before would enjoy the episode as much as someone who’s seen the entire series. (This seems to be common among seventh-season episodes.) At this point, I could recommend buying this episode on VHS to a fan of the show, but I think that most people would be better off considering the seventh-season set of DVD. 


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