Thine Own Self (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 7, Episode 16) Data gets amnesia at a RenFest; Troi preps for promotion to commander

Rewatching ST:TNG

In the captain’s chair on a night watch, Dr. Crusher tells Troi why she likes being in command. Troi then tells Riker she’d like to take the bridge command test, too.

Data has been collecting radioactive metal from a remote site on an inhabited planet, but something has clearly gone wrong, because he walks, disheveled and confused, into a Renaissance-style town square, where Garvin and his daughter Gia just happen to be having an expositional conversation about his status as the village magistrate.

Data has no memory of who he is, or where he came from. He can read the word “radioactive” on the box he carried into the village, but he can’t say what it means.

Talur, the village smart person, is convinced that he is an “Iceman” from the nearby mountains, and scoffs that a few generations ago he’d had have been considered a demon.

After he agrees to sell some of his metal bits to the local blacksmith, an anvil falls on an apprentice’s leg; Data lifts it effortlessly, and wonders why everyone is looking at him in shock.

Data starts to bond with little Gia, who, despite her father’s high status in the village, apparently has only one RenFest dress, which she wears on an outing with her father, while serving dinner at home, while at school, and while in bed dying of radiation sickness.

The 20 or so extras are enough to populate the town square, but they make a thin mob. Only the father, daughter, doctor, and blacksmith have any lines, which I assume is a budget-saving measure. There’s no subplot featuring a soot-faced apprentice with an awkward crush on the magistrate’s daughter, or a trusted servant who betrays the family. If this were a musical, it would lack the ensemble number where the villagers sing about how much they love the status quo, so it’s kind of forced when the angry blacksmith turns them all against Data.

Operating on his intuitive knowledge of the scientific method, Data invents a microscope and a radiation detector and some unspecified way to treat the illness. Although he still does not know what “radioactive” means, while describing his investigation he casually uses terms like “membrane integrity” and “communicable disease,” because TV.  Will he discover a cure and save the kind man, his adorable daughter, and the whole village before the mob comes after him with pitchforks?

Although the opening and closing scenes focus on Troi’s quest for promotion, she’s never in any danger, so the stakes are small. After she fails a challenging part of the test, Riker won’t tell her what she did wrong; at least, not directly. She listens attentively, connects the dots, and her storyline resolves happily. It all reads like an afterthought, in which we are told she’s been thinking about this promotion for years, but just last week (s7e15 “Lower Decks“) the whole episode was about promotions and she never once mentioned her own ambitions; in fact she and Riker joked about promoting each other. This storyline seems engineered to respond to fan criticism when the non-technical Troi struggled to make command decisions (s5e5 “Disaster“). As the series starts to wrap itself up, this looks like a hasty attempt to “develop” the emo mini-skirted eye candy liberal arts version of Troi we met when the series began.