Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Tin Man"


Air date: 4/23/1990
Written by Dennis Putman Bailey & David Bischoff
Directed by Robert Scheerer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Starfleet has observed a mysterious space object — believed to be a "living starship" and dubbed "Tin Man" — orbiting a star that's about to go nova, and sends the Enterprise to investigate and make contact with it. But the mission is a race: The Enterprise must reach and contact Tin Man before the Romulans do. Starfleet assigns a mission specialist to the Enterprise, Tam Elbrun (Harry Groener), a man with extraordinary telepathic skills, even for a Betazoid.

"Tin Man" exemplifies the balanced TNG episode. It's good, not great. It puts emphasis, in nearly equal measure, on its central character crisis (Tam's), the seeking out of Strange New Life (Tin Man), and a showdown with a familiar foe (the Romulans). Tam is an intriguing, flawed individual with unique problems — a loner who tries to push everybody away, and is borderline unstable. Troi knows him from the past (he was a patient) and his psychological torment is understandable; he hears every thought of every person on the ship, constantly. Put yourself in his shoes and you'd probably be hard-pressed to consider sanity as a likely outcome. Tam is in contact with Tin Man, which has even more powerful abilities for telepathy. Tin Man is in the TNG spirit of ancient, wondrous, and powerful forms of previously unknown life. Starfleet is curious of such things.

On the other hand, the Romulans would dissect Tin Man given the chance. After the terrific "Defector," in which the Romulans were both smart and ruthless, it's kind of a shame to see the Romulans reduced to such bland thuggery. I guess someone's gotta do it. When Tin Man destroys a Romulan ship while protecting itself, a second ship announces its right to claim vengeance on Tin Man. I don't understand what makes them think they could possibly be successful, but given that intention, I couldn't figure out why the Romulans then just sit there while Tam and Data beam over to make direct contact with Tin Man. Why don't the Romulans attempt to board Tin Man?

The episode's solutions are tidy in the sense that the story has a certain number of pieces (two, really) and they are destined to fit together. Tin Man once had a crew, but the crew died. It has since roamed the galaxy alone and now wants to die, hence it being parked in orbit of a star about to explode. Tam and Tin Man provide each other a symbiosis that was meant to be. Tin Man will no longer be alone, and Tam will have just one voice to contend with rather than hundreds. The episode is the first to be scored by Jay Chattaway, who in season four would eventually replace Ron Jones and go on to write music for Trek for the next 15 years.

Previous episode: Captain's Holiday
Next episode: Hollow Pursuits

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12 comments on this review

Tim - Thu, May 3, 2012 - 3:27pm (USA Central)
I agree with most reviews on here, but I found this episode far more dull than the previous two, I just didn't really care about what happened, for an episode on emotions, it was emotionless for me. Great site!
Mike Caracappa - Sun, Oct 7, 2012 - 2:42pm (USA Central)
Ok episode. It was interesting for me though to see a young Harry Groener as Tam, who Buffy fans know as the evil, but so gosh darn nice, Mayor of Sunnydale!
dipads - Mon, Jul 22, 2013 - 6:20pm (USA Central)
Given his telepathic prowess which I would consider it more of a handicap than a god-given talent. Imagine being able to read so many minds all at once. I would not wish this on my worst enemy. I found it way farfetched and unbelievable that it made my viewing dull and boring.
Moonie - Wed, Oct 23, 2013 - 8:40am (USA Central)
This is one of those episodes that just stay with you. Much like with TOS' The Devil in the dark, the script/dialogue may not be perfect, the acting (especially in the supporting roles) a bit clumsy, and the delivery subtle as a sledge-hammer (due to the one hour format) - but the message in it, the actual story, is strong.

SkepticalMI - Tue, Feb 4, 2014 - 7:01pm (USA Central)
This is one of those non-descript episodes that never come to mind when trying to recall TNG episodes. It's quickly forgotten once watched, and only a vague recall of what happened is possible when reminded of it. So I came into it with almost completely fresh eyes.

At first I thought it was ok. The guest star left a good first impression (an annoying one, but that was the intent), and a lot of the scenes with Riker and LaForge worked pretty well. And the scene with the Hood's captain was nice, giving us a little bit more of what Starfleet is like (showing us a bit of what the non-top of the line ships do). But after thinking about it more, certain events just bugged me too much. It was set up well, but just ended up a letdown.

- The Romulans were portrayed as random brute thugs. I didn't understand why they were so obsessed and why they acted that way. After their brilliant use early on in the season, they just seemed to be generic villains here. I know these words are almost impossible to utter for many, but frankly... this episode would have been better with Ferengi.

- Picard's intransigence didn't make much sense. His orders were to cooperate with Tam; why was he so dead-set on keeping him from beaming over? Yes, I understand the danger to the Enterprise when Tam asked Gomtuu to protect itself. But that was an oversight on Tam's part, not malice or uncaring. Keeping a connection with Gomtuu via Tam would have better protected the Enterprise, as Tam could have requested Gomtuu to be more careful. It makes sense to get Troi's and Data's advice first, but I don't see why he still refused.

- And as Jammer said, once he did decide to let them beam over, why would the Romulans let him?

- Meanwhile, why was Tin Man such a big deal anyway? OK, yeah, he's interesting to a bunch of explorers. But a top secret ultra-high priority? Absolutely must beat out the Romulans to it? Why? Heck, it's not even the first living starship the Federation encountered (no matter how much we might want to forget Encounter at Farpoint).

In fact, this episode reminds me a lot of a season 1 episode. An interesting premise falling flat. Poor Picard utilization. Generic villains. Telling us stuff is important when we don't feel it. The best I can say is that Season 3 has far more polish than the 1st, which probably is enough to give this an extra star or so. Still, a very "meh" episode to me.
Eli - Fri, Feb 28, 2014 - 7:24pm (USA Central)
Great episode. The ending is very touching and the build up is well earned.
Rikko - Sun, Apr 6, 2014 - 1:04pm (USA Central)
@ SkepticalMI: What he said.

I thought the episode has good intentions and a ok execution, but ultimately didn't resonate with me.

The thing is (and this is a personal take) at this point in the series I'm more interested in the problems and general progress of the main cast, instead of random dudes that come and go so easily.
Charles - Wed, May 28, 2014 - 5:06am (USA Central)
I thought the interaction between Tam and Data was well thought-out and played. The visuals of the alien ship's exterior were quite nice, but the interior didn't uphold this standard. All in all a decent episode.
grumpy_otter - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 5:29am (USA Central)
I'm with Tim--I found this utterly dull. Part of the problem is the title -- "Tin Man" seems so flippant a name to give to a new life form, especially one which looks more like poo than tin.

The look of the alien, both inside and out, is uninspired and silly after all the build up.

Tam is also tedious; I felt no empathy for him whatsoever. I don't know if that is the fault of the actor or the writing, but I just didn't much care what happened to him or the alien.
Lutan - Sat, Nov 8, 2014 - 3:34am (USA Central)
I don't know why people have a problem with this episode. I thought tam was a likable and interesting character. The scene in data's quarters is good. You can tell tam enjoys the experience of talking with data. He gets peace in a way that he will later get with the alien. I hope tin man has a supply of food and water for tam though. Ha.
Nonya - Mon, Nov 24, 2014 - 8:48pm (USA Central)
This episode is okay at best. It's just really, really boring, with the sort of plot that the viewer can figure out halfway through. That, and the soundtrack was trying too hard with those flute-ish sounds. The episode wasn't mystical enough for those sounds to work.

All in all, plain fare, but nothing offensive.
$G - Wed, Jan 21, 2015 - 10:16pm (USA Central)
I like this one quite a bit. If there's a flaw in the episode it's the cutting to Geordi's issues trying to get the ship to 100% again. Other than that, the sci-fi premise (an organic spaceship from an extinct race from possibly another galaxy), the guest star, and the Romulan motivations all work for me. I think I like this one more than any of the commenters, and Jammer too. A solid 3 stars for me, *without* some of the reservations some people have. A solid TNG hour, IMO.

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