TNG: S7E16: “Thine Own Self”

In which Data stumbles home drunk from a party and can’t remember where he’s been all night, while Troi desperately crams for Finals. 

Crusher is currently acting as bridge officer, and presiding over Troi’s return from a class reunion. Troi was just going to report in on the bridge and check in on Data, but since he was sent to retreive radioactive materials, Crusher has the bridge. The probe carrying the radioactive material crashed a whole 7km away from the nearest inhabited settlement on whatever planet it landed on, which lets me honest isn’t actually that far to go check out a falling star if you’re a pre-industrial civilization.

We also see that Crusher enjoys standing a shift watch, because it’s fun to be in charge of a starship. Troi asks her about the priveleges of rank, and why Beverly decided to go for promotion to command, given that her medical career makes it more-or-less irrelevant. Something is troubling Troi about this. Who knows, maybe just having come back from her reunion she feels like her career as official bunny-suit-wearer of the Starfleet flagship isn’t quite good enough.

"Do you think we shall be visited by space aliens today, papa?"

“Do you think we shall be visited by space aliens today, papa?”

We are now taken to the planet Data is presumably on. They have discovered sleeves but not pants, but are in all other ways your typical late-medieval fantasy reskin. One tends to wonder if all cultures discover technology more or less in the same order. One would presume not, since Earth appears to be lacking in many of the minerals and elements that allow for the creation of more exotic (read: made up) particles. Maybe this world is too. Father and daughter are, however, interrupted from the minutia of daily life when a disheveled Data with his commbadge missing stumbles down some stairs, clearly badly damaged.

It’s a painful few minutes as Data relearns how to talk, but seems to have lost his memory. To his credit, the magistrate, Garvin, doesn’t run screaming from the unknown, but is focused on helping Data out as best as he can. Data also, it should be noted, has a briefcase with a radioactivity warning on it. The fact that he doesn’t have a memory prior to walking to the village and doesn’t know how dangerous it is is likely to be a problem. He can read the word ‘radioactive’ but doesn’t know what it means. Garvin opens the briefcase and picks up the contents, so Garvin’s going to lose that hand, if he’s lucky.

Troi, meanwhile, walks into Riker’s quarters where he’s practicing Jazz, and he decides to only speak to her in Trombone. She’s considering taking the Bridge Officer test, back since the Quantum Filament incident in which she had to take charge of the Bridge. Riker supports her, but he’ll also have to judge her. I’d make a point about a potential conflict of interest but in this particular case we have in fact seen Riker as being fairly capable of setting aside conflicts of interest, and we can make the assumption that, selection criteria being what they are, Starfleet may have actually managed to create a system where there is a self-sustaining competency cycle.

Behold the face of spurious induction.

Behold the face of spurious induction.

Data is being examined b the town physiker, who notes his lack of any smell to his breath, clammy skin, good teeth, and odd heartbeat. It’s also nice that this planet seems to be out of its local equivalent of the dark ages – the physiker may just be tooting her own horn a bit, but she’s very adamant that Data’s weird skin and eyes do not, in fact, make him a demon, they just make him ‘a kind of person we don’t know what it is yet.’ Would that humanity had done so well. She seems perfectly fine with the fact that Data is obviously an Ice-man.

Garvin and his daughter decide that Dat should be named Jayden, and they go to the town blacksmith to see if he can tell them anything about the radioactive metal he brought. The metal is of good enough quality to turn into jewelry, and he buys half the metal. At that moment, his anvil falls on his apprentice, and Data lifts it with ease, to the shock of everyone present. Again, fortunately, nobody wants to burn him at the stake.

Later that night, Garvin starts to show the early signs of radiation sickness, since he keeps opening the box and playing with the debris. It’s going to be pretty tragic when he dies, since his wife is already dead. ‘Heaven’ doesn’t seem to exist as a codified concept in this culture, but Data/Jayden does believe in ‘a beautiful place where everyone loves each other and nobody gets sick.’ And for extra hilarity, that place is even conceptualized as existing in the sky somewhere (it’s the Enterprise, guys!).

"Just because you raise a valid point doesn't mean you shouldn't shut the hell up, blogger-guy."

“Just because you raise a valid point doesn’t mean you shouldn’t shut the hell up, blogger-guy.”

Aboard the Enterprise, Troi is in Engineering as the ship has undergone some sort of catastrophe. An antimatter pod has failed and blown up the Enterprise. Troi fails the engineering qualification simulation. She’s passed everything else, but it seems odd that she’d expect to be told what to study to prepare for life-or-death crisies. Like, has she been on a different ship for the past six and a half years?

The physiker is also a teacher, and is teaching how the four elements of rock, fire, sky, and water are the basic building blocks of all things. Data is sitting in on the session and correcting her, which is not well-received. Also, the girl, Gia, is wearing one of the radioactive fragments as jewelry. And Garvin is starting to show skin lesions and lose his hair. The physiker makes a good start with the words “I don’t know” but immediately starts making things up. Data begins his own investigation, starting with building an advanced laboratory. The sickness has spread throughout the village, but Data is on the case with his homemade 500x microscope, and starting to have access restored to the medical knowledge tables of his internal databases.

Having built the microscope seems to have gotten him some credit for his scientific method, and the physiker, Telur, starts taking him seriously. They discuss the possible source of the illness. Since Telur hasn’t gotten sick yet, it’s not likely to be Data, but he notices that she’s wearing one of the fragments. Progress.

Troi is painstakingly studying engineering diagrams when Riker shows up to say he’s cancelling her further testing. She’s failed it three times so far and is intent on retaking it until she gets it right. Apparently something about her performance in each test tells Riker she’s not cut out to be a bridge officer. Now would be a good time to think about some of the tests Starfleet subjects its people to. Troi even references the Kobyashi Maru, but Riker’s first duty is to the ship, and he can’t let her retake the test hoping to stumble onto a solution, because that’s not an option in a real-world crisis situation. However, that speech gives Troi her House-like epiphany.

Back in the simulation, Troi asks if Geordi could repair the conduit manually and orders him on a suicide mission into a bath of warp plasma, which appears to be the solution. Troi has no successfully shown that she is capable of ordering someone to their death, in a simulation, when all other options have been shown to be ineffective by the repeated destruction of the ship. Sadly, this is the kind of test that really only works if you’re unaware of the gimmick. Riker tries to soften the sting a little, since she did pass and it’s doubtful anyone really likes ordering crew to their deaths (Pressman notwithstanding).

They don't perform this experiment in intro to physics courses anymore because people kept calling in sick afterwards.

They don’t perform this experiment in intro to physics courses anymore because people kept calling in sick afterwards.

Data is taking us through a refresher course in radioactivity. It’s interesting how this is going – he’s remembered things like cellular translucency indices and how to build a microscope, but has no conscious understanding of the meaning of the word ‘radioactive.’ Now, it’s possible that it triggered whatever database that concept is stored in and that’s influencing the experiments he’s choosing to perform (which he knows how to set up perfectly, incidentally) but that brings us so close to ‘Data has intuition’ as to be functionally indistinguishable. I’m pushing the ‘Data is as human as he needs to be’ slider all the way to the right on this one. He’s even discovered that the container blocks the radioactive emanations.

Look, I am not laughing now, crying, crying for you, Christine, who have torn off my mask and who therefore can never leave me again!...Oh, mad Christine, who wanted to see me!”  ― Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera

Look, I am not laughing now, crying, crying for you, Christine, who have torn off my mask and who therefore can never leave me again!…Oh, mad Christine, who wanted to see me!”
― Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera

He sends Telur out with the case to go gather up all the metals, and then gets interrupted and attacked by the blacksmith and accomplice, and has his face ripped open to reveal the endoskeleton. Data goes on the run, the villagers go to find him, but he hasn’t run very far. More ‘hiding’ than ‘on the run’ actually. He shows up in time to stop Gia from opening the stupid box again. He’s wearing a hood now to hide his deformity, but takes it down at her insistence. He manages to slightly reassure her that he means no harm, and works to finish his treatment. A neat trick, since all he has are test tubes of the chemicals he could synthesize from common and abundant stock without the aid of heavy equipment. He’s apparently got a cure for acute radiation sickness that doesn’t involve bone marrow transplants.

Since he’s figured a cure, he needs to administer it to the whole village, but as they don’t trust him, that will be difficult. So he’s going to medicate the well. It makes him look like he’s poisoning it, but hey, what can you do. And everyone catches him. He barely manages to dump the medicine in before the blacksmith stabs him with a tent pole and gets a little electrified. Data is put out of commission.

A day or so later, everyone is all better, and a strange redheaded alien shows up along with a tall bearded guy, looking for their pale-skinned gold-eyed friend. They meet Gia, and she tells them the whole story, but they can beam him out without disturbing anything, repair his mere mecahnical parts, and return him to his last saved system state. He wakes up with no memory of his adventures, and thus cannot be dressed down for his repeated violations of the Prime Directive and introducing a society to scientific concepts decades if not centuries ahead of their current understanding.

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