In which Data goes crazy, Riker shaves the beard, and the Federation prepares to Trail of Tears some indigenous peoples.
This movie opens on a buch of idyllic children in an idyllic agrarian village with few, if any, trappings of modern technology. Even the agriculture appears to be done with stone aqueducts. The blacksmith, which there is one of, is working on a very polished looking forge. We pan back, and it looks like Starfleet is working with some guys whose music is in a minor key from within a duck blind. They all go an alert when some weaponsfire is heard, as an android has gone out of control.
The android, Data of course, and some of the people following him are wearing stealth suits that render them invisible to the villagers. Data appears to be overloading and malfunctioning, and fending off his pursuit before ripping off his headpiece and appearing as a floating head in the village. This triggers ‘secondary Protocols, which appear to be revealing himself and the duck blind to the village. There’s your Insurrection, I guess.
Cut to the Enterprise E, All cleaned up after its encounter with the Borg. Troi preps briefs Picard on their latest diplomatic mission, because the main bulk of the Starfleet Diplomatic Corps is busy handing the Dominion situation. Picard laments not being an explorer anymore, which is something of a familiar lament for captains during their movie runs.
Worf is around too, although he gets cut off before explaining why because Geordi has news about Data. Picard’s late to the party, though, so that’ll have to wait. He’s busy getting a ceremonial wig. Geordi’s had to rush down tot he party in person, and we get the name drops. The Son’a were helping Starfleet observe the Ba’ku village, and an admiral Dougherty explains that Data is holding the Starfleet personnel hostage. Picard wants to go, but this planet is in the Briar Patch, which is full of anomalies and which the Enterprise is not outfitted to handle. Since Picard can’t get in trouble for literally anything, he’s going to stop by on the way to a completely opposite direction.
As Dougherty, aboard the Son’a ship, heads back towards the planet, he gets lectured at by a Son’a getting his skin pasted slowly back onto his face and stapled into place. He’s also lamenting the Federation procedures that are artificially lengthening the time it’s taking to get things done. If we hadn’t already been tipped off by the minor key and the gross face thing, the dialogue sounds a bit familiar as well. The Admiral seems to be just taking it, and all together they hope to reap some sort of benefits to the entire Federation. At this point, they’re attacked by Data in a Federation survey ship.
The Enterpriseis about to enter the Briar Patch, so they’ve download all the data they need but will be unable to call for backup. Worf’s rigged up a remote control for Data. Meanwhile, Troi and Riker are studying up on the Son’a, who are a conquering species that have subjugated at least two species recently. They also produce Ketracel White, which is a classified in the database as a narcotic. They’re armed with weapons that are outlawed by the Khitomer Accords. They are, in short, bad dudes, which Dougherty has involved himself with for… unknown reasons so far.
Worf is late for duty, and Picard takes a moment to remind us all why he’s the best captain, before affairs of state loom. The Son’a want Data destroyed, but Picard manages to extract a promise that he gets to try to take Data nonlethally at least oce, and be the one to take him out if need be. He and Worf head out in a shuttlecraft, and note that the planet’s rings are producing a high quantity of weird radiation that they need to steer clear of. It’s not log before Data appears out of nowhere to fire on them. He doesn’t seem to respond to Picard’s hails, and chases them down into the atmosphere. They try to lose him in entry, but he’s too good. Picard has one more strategy – singing Gilbert and Sullivan at him to try to trigger some backup programming. Worf is forced to join in.
While Data’s busy singing, Worf has to prepare docking clamps from somewhere other than the main console. The jolt snaps Data out of it, and he tries to pilot them into crash and only barely misses the ground. Once they’re stabilized, Worf is able to remotely disable Data for debugging, and the standard away compliment beams down to the village where children are playing multi-hackey-sack.
The villagers have been taking good care of the Starfleet officers and Son’a. Not quite the hostage situation we were initially apprised of. Although apparently Data told the Ba’ku that there was hostility to watch out for here. As Picard talks down to the Ba’ku about what might’ve gone wrong with Data, one of them comes out of left field with detailed and specific technical jargon. They are technologically advanced, but choose not to use it for every little thing. It’s reminiscent of the Luddite colony, but without the zealotry or hotboxing. Picard ought to udnerstand that – his family used to make actual wine before they all died. Once, the Ba’ku used to be explorers, but they like it here on this planet so they stopped.
The great news is that because the Ba’ku are warp-capable (if not warp-enthusiastic) there’s no Prime Directive violation. Dougherty is pleased as punch and arranges to meet up on Picard’s way out, which is a bit suspicious, but oh well.
Meanwhile, Riker and Troi are going at it a bit more vigorously than normal. Riker goes in for the kiss, and Troi’s not a fan of the beard, making her literally the only one. Geordi, meanwhile, has repaired Data and found that the source of the malfunction was a faulty component damaged by Son’a weaponry. The plot thickens, and now Picard has a reason to stick around. His fail-safe system kicked in when his memory was damaged, and that failsafe consists of direction his actions with moral and ethical subroutines. Which is to say – when he attacked the Duck Blind, captured the local crew, and attempted to drive off the Son’a, he was doing so because the utility functions Soon programmed in, and which we can broadly assume have been pretty good up until now, at least in this model, determined that it was the Right Thing To Do once you strip away politics and oaths of duty. The system is also meant to protect Data from being co-opted by… evil, for lack of a more specific word.
Oh, also, apparently Geordi’s eye implants are acting up. I’m sure it’s not part of a larger pattern of hints that will be made apparent shortly.
Once Data is reactivated, he seems fine, except for the missing memories. His last memory is heading up to the hills, so Picard goes to ask the kids to show him where that happened. The Ba’ku are still a little wary of Data, if not because he went nuts then at least because he’s a machine.
Troi is shaving Riker in a dual tub when he gets called up to the bridge. Never a moment’s peace. Plus, Dougherty is pissed that they haven’t left orbit yet. He’s in the Son’a plastic surgery room, watching everyone else get their rejuvination treatments, and the Son’a leader is running out of ability to get regeneration treatments. During this time, Data’s found neutrino emissions coming from the lake he must’ve been looking for before, and walks into the lake to look for the source. The kid finds this fascinating. Underneath, he found the source, and drains the lake through the aqueduct system to reveal it to everyone.
It’s a cloaked… something. Something Federation. The Ba’ku matriarch decides to go check it out with Picard and Data. It does, after all, concern her people. Data is able to open it with his tricorder, and it reveals… the Ba’ku village. A holodeck thereof, anyway, which is not quite complete. Why would someone do that, I wonder? Picard gets it immediately, although the fact that they’re warp-capable kind of puts a wrinkle in how long that deception could’ve lasted.
Then the shooting starts. Anij, the matriarch, leaves the holoship with unexpected rapidity, and it turns out she can’t swim. Inside the holoship, a Son’a was defending it. Also, Data has an emergency floatation device because sure why not. Just as sure-why-not, the holoship was set to accept voice commands from just anybody. To be fair, nobody was expecting visitors until Data showed up,
Once beamed aboard, Picard orders the rescued hostages re-debriefed until someone admits to the holoship, and Worf has Klingon Acne. Riker’s finished being shaved, and Picard has a call from Crusher. The Son’a hostages refused to be examined, so she confined them to quarters. Also, everyone o the ship is in a very bloom of health. Picard has even forgone his classical music for a mambo, but then notices something in his face. More jaw definition, which prompts him to beam down to the planet and ask Anij, in the middle of the night, how old she is.
The Ba’ku are refugees from a system ravaged by high technology and weaponry. They did the luddite thing to survive a looming apocalypse, 309 years ago. And when they got here, all the old folks started physically de-aging once they got here. The radiation from the rings has been regenerating everyone who’s hit puberty. The locals don’t want to defend themselves violently, because of Principle, but Picard has a plan. Make everything public, so that the conspiracy will collapse.
Anij and Picard discuss the whole ‘grass is greener’ phenomenon. Picard is kind of in a unique situation to turn down the temptations of eternal youth and happiness, but he’s also mindful of Earth’s history of relocating people to get at natural resources they lived on. She, in turn, introduces him to the experience of just living in the present, which he hasn’t felt since the first time he saw Earth from space. He spends the next hours on the planet, just soaking it in. And at dawn. he finds Geordi waiting for him with fresh, natural eyes. Working ones, that he can watch a sunrise with.
To be continued