In the sixteenth episode of the seventh season ofÂ The Next Generation, Data breaks the prime directive and then does SCIENCE in order to fix it. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watchÂ Star Trek.Â
We’ve had a lot of Prime Directive stories over the years of this show, but this one is goddamn clever. ItÂ doesÂ utilize numerous tropes we’ve seen repeatedly over the course ofÂ The Next Generation. Memory loss; civilizations that resemble early human development; mistrust of outsiders; precocious children that Picard isÂ notÂ busy despising. Yet I couldn’t help but be quietly entertained by this. Even stripped of his basic memory, Data couldn’t help butÂ beÂ Data, which is a really neat commentary on his identity. It’s a very human idea, is it not?
Thus, the central conflict here â€“ Data accidentally exposes an entire village to RADIATION POISONING â€“ centers on Data piecing together the cause of the mysterious sickness spreading to his new friends. I do love an episode that keeps me guessing until the end, so bravo on that, Ronald D. Moore. But that’s not the only thing here that I found compelling. Over the course of “Thine Own Self,” DataÂ isÂ true to himself, though he does so by sticking rigorously to the scientific method WHILE in a setting that makes things both challenging andâ€¦ anachronistic? I don’t know how to put that, but it seems the best way to describe the events of this episode. The people of Barkon IV live in a world that resembles pre-Industrial Europe, and thus, the science that Data wouldÂ normallyÂ use is not exactly easily accessible.
Enter Talur, who is EASILY one of my favorite side characters in this whole show’s run. She’s a healer and a budding scientist, and I adore that despite Data having more “knowledge” of the science that makes the universe run, she’s still a competent, knowledgable woman who the villagers innately trust. She’s not a fool; she just operates under the best information that she has. Like Data, she strives to understand the world through observation of the evidence and deduction. Yes, she’s leagues behind Data, but that’s all relative to the civilization on Barkon IV. In the end, that relativity is very important, and it’s what allows theÂ EnterpriseÂ crew to finally get Data back after the experience.
That’s because at heart, Data is still the same person here. He’s curious about the world around him; he’s openly friendly, which allows him to get close to both Gia and Garvin so quickly; and he’s determined to find a solution to any problem that’s given to him. Even though his memory is largely wiped, and even though he has no concept of the Prime Directive, he actually works selflessly to repair the problem he caused so that the community can return to normal. He does this at great risk to himself, especially since HE’S KILLED BY THE CITIZENS AND BURIED DOWN A WELL, DESPITE CURING THEM.
Look I just have a lot of feelings about Data helping people. And making friends. And I HAD TO WATCH HIM GET SPEARED AND IT WAS NOT PLEASANT. But he still saved all these people! Even when they knocked half his face off and stabbed him and dumped him in a wellÂ I seriously can’t get over this.
Thankfully, this is not all that “Thine Own Self” has to offer us. And while the two plots are largely unconnected, I adored the fact that the subplot in this episode was all about Deanna Troi becoming a bridge officer. WHY DID IT TAKE THIS SHOW SO LONG TO ADVANCE HER STORYLINE LIKE THIS? I love this with every ounce of my heart. Of course, if you watch the video for this episode, you’ll see that I initially got really mad that the script handed me this wonderful bit of potential, only to rip it away from me when Riker cancelled Deanna’s test without consulting her. I WAS READY TO WRITE THE ANGRIEST REVIEW IMAGINABLE, Y’ALL. It just seemed so cruel to me that Riker wouldn’t even let Deanna give the test another try. How long had she been studying? A day? Two? Maybe a week atÂ best? And suddenly, he’s telling her that she’s unfit for command and that she’s wasting her time testing over and over again and I WANTED TO SMACK HIM INTO SPACE.
I should have realized that heÂ neverÂ would have treated Deanna that way. IT’S ALL A TEST! Well, technically, that’s not the truth; he was just nudging her in the right direction in order to help her figure out why she kept failing the command simulation. The solution?Â Killing Geordi. That’s a pleasant thought. Why is this episode obsessed with killing off people I love? All is forgiven in the end, though, because DEANNA TROI IS NOWÂ COMMANDER DEANNA TROI. All is right with the world, my friends, and the show better use her as a Commander before it ends. THEY BETTER.
The video for “Thine Own Self” can be downloadedÂ here for $0.99.
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