The Enterprise-D encounters the missing research vessel Vico, which was severely damaged while exploring a Space Thing. Various plot contrivances prevents all our favorite treknology from working the way they usually do, because life form sensors would take away the surprise of finding a young survivor; transporters would take away Data’s need to free by him by impressively lifting a beam; and computer records would easily fact-check the boy’s story about a boarding party with “purple helmets and phaser rifles.” This week, Troi’s empathic powers can’t detect whether the boy is lying because “his emotional trauma level is too high.”
Because the boy has idolized and started to imitate the emotionless Data, Picard orders Data to make the boy “the best android he can possibly be,” in the hopes that once the boy works through his trauma, he’ll be able to share whatever information he’s repressing.
The Enterprise-D slowly explores the “black cluster,” which gives us a lot of downtime for Timothy to not pay attention during storytime (featuring a completely different teacher from last week’s episode), to paint with Data, and to try out Data’s slicked-back hairstyle.
Surprisingly during all their bonding, Data makes no reference to his own “daughter.” Actor Brent Spiner does a good job helping us empathize with a character who, the dialogue tells us, is incapable of feeling emotion. We’re meant to notice that Data seems to be enjoying his role as Timothy’s caregiver, and with some help from Troi we feel for Data when Timothy starts becoming a little boy again.
The script earns a face palm for nerfing so much core treknology (life form scanners, transporters, and computer logs) to set up the plotline about Timothy’s suppressed guilt. He makes up a story because he thinks he bumped a control panel that destroyed the ship. The script earns another facepalm when Picard swiftly dismisses the boy’s fears by introducing a new bit of treknology — safety precautions that 100% absolutely prevent any unauthorized person from accidentally touching any button, ever; precautions which couldn’t ever possibly be nerfed, except by the script of any of the dozens of episodes in which unauthorized persons use control panels all over the ship.
I’m mildly curious whether any of these kid extras or their space-kid costumes were also in last week’s New Ground, which also featured scenes set in the classroom. (But not curious enough to call up these episodes again.)