Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Thine Own Self"


Air date: 2/14/1994
Teleplay by Ronald D. Moore
Story by Christopher Hatton
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

Data, suffering from memory loss because of a power surge, walks into a village on a pre-industrial world whose inhabitants find him perplexing. He doesn't know who he is or where he came from, or even that he is an android. He's befriended by a local man whose daughter names him "Jayden" so arbitrarily that I decided to look up the meaning of the name on Wikipedia, which mostly informs me that Jayden became a popular name in America starting around 1994. Coincidence? The Wikipedia entry even mentions this episode, though I'm as likely to chalk that up to Wikipedia writers being disproportionately composed of Trek nerds as any other reason.

If I'm spinning my wheels talking about Data's temporary name, it's because I have little to say about "Thine Own Self," which is inoffensive but relentlessly nondescript. Here's the tale of an android who doesn't know who he is but has Data's unshakable power of reasoning and finds himself among people with far inferior knowledge. (Data is especially skeptical of the local teacher's science class, and for good reason.) These people find his complexion and eyes strange. They think he is an "ice man." They are freaked out when he demonstrates astounding feats of strength. Naturally, this society (that we see) is made up of one isolated village in keeping with the reliable Trek cliche. By this point in TNG's run, it seems as if we've seen every possible permutation of the isolated alien village/society.

There are some stakes, albeit slight ones. It turns out Data has been unwittingly carrying radioactive metal and has poisoned the entire town. (Apparently, he doesn't know what the word "radioactive" means, which is written on the metal case he's carrying, yet knows what all other words mean.) When two villagers looking for justice for this cursed illness come after him with, literally, torches and pitchforks — ripping off the side of his face and revealing an array of circuits — they think he's a monster. So Data must cure the town before the suspicious townspeople kill him. If this sounds more exciting than the episode actually is, well, yeah. I'm not saying Trek has to be new and exciting every time, and I will always love TNG, but this is one of many stories that betrays the signs of a season (and series) running out of gas.

The out-of-left-field B-story involves Troi deciding to take the commander's test (inspired by Crusher's shifts commanding the night watch) in order to stretch her ambitions beyond her job as ship's counselor. While the intentions here are okay, this is completely forced and unrealistic, and Troi frankly comes across as immature and unprofessional when she all but throws a tantrum when Riker won't tell her why she keeps failing the crisis simulation exam. (She eventually realizes her failure is because she won't order someone to their death.)

At this point in the series, this feels like the writers — without at all earning it — trying to reinvent a character whose role has for some time felt unimportant compared to the rest of the main characters. The conceit that Troi can earn a commander's rank after studying for a few days and taking some tests only cheapens the whole idea — to say nothing about her openly admitted uncertainty as to whether she could actually order someone to die for real. Early in the episode, Troi cites her disastrous command in "Disaster" as when she first realized she liked the idea of being in command. I would've flunked her on that alone.

Previous episode: Lower Decks
Next episode: Masks

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66 comments on this review

Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 12:49am (UTC -5)
This episode deserves a 3-star rating. While I recognize the validity of Jammer's specific criticisms, I'd like to suggest that "Thine Own Self" is best considered as an all-too-rare demonstration and defense of the scientific method. It effectively advoctes for reason and sequentialism in the face of supernatural hysteria. It invites us to enlist on the side, as sides there so clearly are today even more than when it first aired in 1994, of rationality and evidence-based opinion.

Oh and the actress who plays the village teacher/healer is cool.
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 8:15am (UTC -5)
Jammer, I totally agree here. The series clearly was running out of gas at this point and this episode is a snoozer. The creators relied on Data masturbation and the horrible season 7 choice to elevate the status of Troi.

Oh, and Troi being a commander who OUTRANKS DATA for the next eight years? Just ridiculous.
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 1:06pm (UTC -5)
I disagree. I enjoyed this episode, 3 stars. I enjoyed the parts where data starts to employ early scientific methods to show that x-rays exist, the use of microscope, and eventually a cure for the village.
Wed, Dec 5, 2012, 1:13pm (UTC -5)
The lady who played the teacher was also well cast. When she first called data an "Iceman" and her prescription to eat a lot of "meat, butter, and cheese" made me laugh. Also she didn't reject any of Data's findings and was curious as to what he was doing.

The 'b' story was just filler, I agree with that

Thu, Dec 6, 2012, 2:40am (UTC -5)
I've always enjoyed this one...the Troi bits are kind of lame, but I'm able to ignore the big lapses of logic in both stories and just enjoy it as is, i.e. a big goofy "Oops Data Forgets" story.

I also dig it as the only episode where Picard only shows up at the very end for one line...he was busy at the time, I gather.
Thu, Dec 6, 2012, 8:25am (UTC -5)
The Troi storyline would probably have played better had it spanned the entire season, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I agree with SFKeepay, this was not a stellar outing by any means, but still a worthwhile effort.
Fri, Dec 7, 2012, 12:34am (UTC -5)
Nic: "The Troi storyline would probably have played better had it spanned the entire season..."

Boy, you said a mouthful! Imagine if, before each season of TNG, the writers had developed arcs for the characters, which would've been addressed whenever they needed a b-plot or filler. Strangely, Worf was the only one who got any: his discommendation, his relationship with his son, and (around these episodes) his fling with Troi. Wesley's coming of age counts too. Other character arcs never lasted longer than one episode -- which is why Troi's sudden growth here is shocking by comparison.
Fri, Dec 7, 2012, 2:50pm (UTC -5)
Haha...Jammer already caught the silliest thing about this episode...that Data seems to have retained his entire vocabulary (including "empirical evidence" and "reasoning by anallogy" (and the ability to read and write it) except for (unconveniently) "radioactive".
Sat, Dec 8, 2012, 9:02pm (UTC -5)
This one is my guilty pleasure and I have it saved on my DVR. So much to like here, including a stellar supporting cast who play their parts beautifully. I am only saddened at the end when Data seems to have no memory of his adventure.

Didn't anyone else like Riker talking through his trombone? I always laugh.
Paul M.
Sun, Dec 9, 2012, 6:05am (UTC -5)
Ah yes, the Troi-earns-a-promotion episode.

Imagine what it must be like to work in an organisation like Starfleet.

Exhibit A: Lt Commander Data, some 26 years of exemplary service. Close to eternity in the same rank.

Exhibit B: Counselor Troi, perhaps 12 years of service as a PSYCHOLOGIST. Outranks Exhibit A and is above him in chain of command.

In what kind of serious and professional semi-military organisation, except in some medieval or early modern setting, is this even remotely possible?

How come Trek never went the opposite route? Why didn't, let's see, Worf, one day decide he wanted to be a doctor? He would get a crash course over a couple of days, pass a test and voila, dr Worf, chief of medical staff.

Why the hell is Academy even needed if every doctor and psychologist in the galaxy can ride their own personal Death Star?

Excuse my nerdy rant, I had to get that off my chest.
John the younger
Mon, Dec 10, 2012, 2:20am (UTC -5)
I was waiting for this review just to bag the parts concerning Troi's... I can't even say it... promotion.

But I'll just tip my hat to the rest of you who have already said it well (esp Paul M).

The only good thing about it is that it contrasts so sharply with the A-story, emphasising Data's overall superiority as a character and actor.
Fri, Dec 28, 2012, 8:32am (UTC -5)
I actually really enjoyed this episode during TNG's original run and still do today. I felt it was a decent lesson about using empirical evidence over blind theory (at a time when many of my friends still believed in Santa Claus and the boogeyman -- I was 7 years old when this first aired). Data was one of my favorite characters at the time so I always enjoyed watching him, and this episode featured him heavily of course.

As for Troi and her story, yes it's goofy to jam it into a single episode -- or more correctly a fraction of an episode. Realistically, if they did it at all, it should have been spread throughout the season or several seasons, something like Nog's Starfleet career in DS9. Pretty ridiculous that one of the least qualified crewmembers could earn a promotion to commander in a single episode. I always thought Deanna shouldn't have been a Starfleet officer at all, especially since she didn't wear a uniform for much of the series. Oh well...
Tue, Feb 26, 2013, 5:58pm (UTC -5)
I think others have touched on this point, but I appreciated that there were some characters on the planet who were genuinely open to consider Data's findings and the possibility that their beliefs were wrong. Unfortunately that is balanced against the pitchfork wielding townspeople that make up everyone else. We too often see (esp. in Voyager) the stubborn villain character who won't listen to reason for no good reason other than the script requires it.
Wed, Feb 27, 2013, 11:35pm (UTC -5)
It's fun seeing goofy Mr. Treeger from "Friends" (Michael Hagerty) as the pitchfork-wielding bad guy. Could he *be* any more stupid?
Mon, Mar 4, 2013, 3:35pm (UTC -5)
@TH--I don't want to get into a big religious debate (well, maybe I do) but your characterization of "the stubborn villain character who won't listen to reason for no good reason other than the script requires it" reminds me of many people who follow religions. If their script (holy book) requires a certain behavior or belief, then they are closed to reason.

Ignorance, willful or no, is a denial of reason. One reason I like the village teacher so much is that she is the epitome of skeptical thinking. She has her ideas that she teaches but is perfectly open to changing her ideas if new evidence is presented that contradicts her views.

True zealots don't do that--they cling to their Bible or Quran or whatever and reinterpret verses to suit their own prejudices. The Bible says it is a sin to have gay sex in the chapter right before it says you can't plant your fields to the edge--but how many Christian farmers think the first should be interpreted literally and the second metaphorically? (Leviticus 18:22 & 19:9)

Although the remedy is education, I believe, are there some people who are simply addicted to their dogma and incapable of giving up their dearly-held beliefs?
Sun, Jun 9, 2013, 2:40am (UTC -5)

I don't think this episode was touching on religion. I think this is more xenophobia. They didn't go trying to kill Data because of religion. They did so because he was an unknown outsider who showed up at the same time as the problem. Contrast this with Who Watches The Watchers where Liko's insistance on harming Troi was based on religious belief (I actually DON'T consider Liko to be a to be a "stubborn billain who won't listen to reason for no good reason" for that reason.
Thu, Jun 20, 2013, 12:26am (UTC -5)
In the previous episode, Lower Decks, Troi and Riker joke about giving each other promotions. Seems like the writers thought it sounded like a good idea and went through with it (for one of the characters, the wrong one).
William B
Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 3:47pm (UTC -5)
As other commenters have stated above, this episode is best viewed as a quiet parable about the defense of the scientific method and rationality over irrational fear. Very Trekkian. Which, well -- I appreciate all the values that the main plot has, and I think that the episode does relatively well in establishing the gradual respect between the schoolteacher and Data, and the way Data is a saviour for Gia. And yet, emotionally, there is just something missing. There's a lot of smugness to dropping Data, who is a supergenius by 24th century standards, into a pre-industrial village and to have him solve all problems with science. The only real thing that tempers it is that Data is just so unfailingly polite about everything, so that it's hard to get annoyed with him.

The moment where Gia talks about her mother having gone to a place where there is no sickness and everyone is always nice to each other, etc., and she asks "Jayden" if he believes such a place, and Data looks out to the stars and says he does, kind of touches on the problems with the episode, but also possibly what it might "really" be about. Somehow, the 24th century is equated to heaven, because that's just how awesome the 24th century is. That is a little bit annoying, but this story also suggests, somehow, that a better future awaits the people of this planet, too. The schoolteacher pointed out that there has already been some progress, moving away from describing Data in purely religious terms and into (pseudo)scientific ones. Maybe the episode is best understood as having Data come back to this village as a refugee from the planet's "future" (which presumably is going to be like 24th century humanity) who brings with him both the enlightened scientific and ethical philosophy of "the future" and the dangers that it represents. The villagers are poisoned by the radiation he brings with him, since they are unprepared for it. Eventually "Jayden" has to sacrifice himself in order to undo the damage that his presence has done, but his impact on the people of the village, in scientific reasoning (the schoolteacher) and in friendship and heroism (Gia) is still felt. Data remains unaware of this experience because in some respects the Jayden story does not really tie into Data's story, because it is separate from the future -- "Jayden" really does die when he risks his life to save the villagers from the dangers he has brought with him, and that death has to mean something, and does, since Jayden ended up being something like a ghost, sweeping in and out of the village and in and out of existence for a very short time.

I don't feel like we learn anything about Data here, so that some of the emotional beats of the story don't seem to matter. When Data's face is scratched off and he finds that he is not an iceman and may well be a monster, it is important to the story that Jayden, Data's amnesiac villager-identity, *chooses* to believe that he is still a good person, capable of saving lives, and willing to die to do so. But somehow there wasn't really any doubt that Data would do that, is there? The crisis relies at least a bit on Jayden wondering if he's really a monster, and the story sort of plays that, but *we* know so clearly that Data/Jayden is not a monster, and Jayden responds to it by just continuing to be Data without skipping a beat, that it's hard to feel any deep pain at the story. This episode feels very thin, and the main story is one that might have worked if it were a 20-minute story rather than a 40-minute one.

The Troi subplot ultimately bothers me for the reasons others have discussed. It should not be that easy to become a full commander, and Troi talks about all this like it's a whim she just had the other day. It would certainly be one thing if she tried to earn her command over a long period of time, but the idea that the only real difficulty Troi would have is in Making the Hard Call feels particularly silly since that is pretty similar to the Kobayashi Maru test for *cadets*. I did like Riker's trombone talk though.

Overall, 2 stars is fair.
William B
Thu, Oct 24, 2013, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
Thinking some more: I think the problem is that Data is so Data-like throughout that there is no tension, because there is almost never any ambiguity about the choices Data makes. Of course Data will be awesome with science. And of course Data will risk everything to save the village, even when he's being threatened with death. Something like "The Ensigns of Command," which also deals with Data/random villagers and I'd say has generally poorer characterization of the villagers, is still a better episode for me because it requires Data to be put out of his element/comfort zone, and whether Data will succeed in getting through to the villagers depends on more than Data's ethics or scientific strength. The only real question is whether Jayden would view himself as a monster and what that would mean, and this is mostly still resolved in a fairly standard way (i.e. Data seems a little weirded out by it, but keeps doing what he's going to do). The episode is mostly about how Data is better than pre-industrial villagers, and given that I think it's a tribute to Spiner's performance that I don't get a strong impression that Data/Jayden ever interprets the story that way.
William B
Sat, Oct 26, 2013, 3:44am (UTC -5)
OK, having given the episode some more thought I think I have a bit of a better idea what works about it.

Barkon IV is introduced as a planet with a preindustrial civilization. The community Data enters, however, is taking baby steps into something like modernity and perhaps even a scientific revolution. Talur, who is an early scientist and rationalist, says of Data, “I'm sure my grandmother would have called our friend here a demon or spirit or some kind of monster. But current scientific methodology allows us to dismiss such ridiculous superstitions and concentrate on scientific reality.” The implication that only two generations ago Data would not be viewed through a “scientific” lens suggests that there is a relatively rapid change in scientific and technological thinking. Talur leans toward the future in this kind of thinking; Skoran the blacksmith leans toward the past. Gia represents the future of the civilization, of course.

So Data enters a village which is poised on the beginnings of a scientific breakthrough, perhaps a Renaissance. And he represents the scientific and technological world encroaching on the village. No one realizes that this is what Data is or represents, including Data himself, because his nature as a technological being is hidden, as is his memory. But on a fundamental level this is what Data brings. What Data brings is a kind of systematic rational thinking which the Barkonians have not yet reached, although Talur is somewhat approaching it and Gia’s generation will be even closer. What Data also brings are radioactive materials: a substance associated with the risks and benefits of technological advancement. Radiation poisoning from radioactive materials which have been purified through technological, non-natural means (a line of dialogue from Skoran emphasizes that it’d be impossible for the Barkonians to refine the metals to that level of purity) is a risk of the modern age, not of the preindustrial age. I don’t think that Data is “just” a symbol of modernity. He is still Data, a character, after all, and the episode is also explicitly related to Data’s sense of self and identity. I think, though, that the townspeople viewing Data as a monster is related to the question of whether scientific progress is inherently destructive.

People are afraid of Data because he is unknown, and that is what he is seen as at first. What no one quite realizes, and only becomes clear to Data himself late in the narrative (and never entirely, because “Jayden” never recovers Data’s memories nor does Data ever reintegrate “Jayden’s”), is that he is not a general unknown, but specifically the unknown represented by a rational, scientific future. As Data points out, however, they are not wrong to believe that there is a causal relationship between his arrival and the sickness which spreads throughout the town; the Progress, even the benign progress, as represented by Data comes upon the village too quickly to deal with all the dangers that are associated with technological advancement. That the radiation sickness spreads because people are attracted to the shiny new products emphasizes the risk of being seduced by the surface benefits of technological development into ignoring its dangers. But Data, by using his rational scientific mind, eventually identifies the radioactive materials as the problem, finds a cure, and gives these to the village. His willingness to “die” to save the village is somewhat a sacrifice for the fact that he brought the sickness with him.

Frankenstein (in both book and film versions) was a story which warned against the dangers of heedless scientific progress, and so Data-as-Frankenstein’s-monster references the villagers’ fear of progress. The story even has the radiation nearly kill members of the village and so suggests that there is real validity to warnings about progressing too fast scientifically/technologically. However, it’s Trek and it’s Data, and Data’s rejection of the mantle of monster, and insistence on saving the village at all costs, is a way of showing the best of scientific and technological progress. Data is from the Star Trekkian enlightened future, and this enlightenment remains with him even without his memory, even placed in an unfamiliar environment. Trek is just a tad too positive on the future of technology for my tastes, but I value its emphasis on the value of scientific truth a lot. Things will get better, even though they may seem bad in the interim, if we continue believing in scientific truth rather than superstition.

This is why this exchange happens:
DATA: Where is your mother?
GIA: She died about a year ago. Father says she went to a beautiful place where everything is peaceful and everyone loves each other, and no one ever gets sick. Do you think there's really a place like that?
(Data gazes out at the moon and stars)
DATA: Yes. I do.

Data knows on some deep level that the enlightened future is better, that it is a place of peace and love. “No one ever gets sick” is a bit much, but certainly people don’t get sick from run-of-the-mill radiation poisoning on the Enterprise. Data is a refugee from this future sent to reassure Gia to value Talur over Skoran, to look to the future rather than the past for her answers, even though it may hurt her in the interim.

It’s worth noting that the Troi story, in which she has to learn that it’s necessary to sacrifice officers for the greater good if she’ll be in command, is a counterpoint to the portrayal of the enlightened life in the stars as, basically, Gia’s heaven. Troi tries to learn everything she can about engineering schematics, believing that if she could only learn all the technical knowledge in the world she would be able to find a way around death. She can’t; no one can: death is a part of life, and it should be avoided if possible but must be accepted if it cannot be avoided. Malice and unnecessary suffering born out of ignorance is vastly reduced, but some pain is unavoidable. I think this helps counterbalance the sense that the story may be too uncritical of scientific progress (though I’d prefer a Ron Moore too uncritical of scientific progress over the Ron Moore who advocates ditching all technology).

So, I think my Thine Own Self rating has just been bumped up; though I think the story is still too slow-paced and low-stakes, I think I’ve gotten a handle on what it is that does work about it. And the Troi subplot has, er, problems. I'd probably give it 2.5 stars now.
Thu, Dec 26, 2013, 7:37pm (UTC -5)
Data plunked, again, into a 19th century setting, first our planet, different time, back in Time's Arrow and now here our time, different planet.

What's better, this or Time's Arrow. I'd have to say this, if only because it's refreshingly Twainless.
Sat, Dec 28, 2013, 12:11am (UTC -5)
To be fair, this was more of a 16th century setting, and I've always enjoyed Jerry Hardin's Mark Twain.

All the same, the biggest problem here is the business with Troi. It certainly doesn't square with anything we know of Starfleet let alone present-day organizations that one can merely take a test to get a significant promotion. Of course, part of the issue is that Troi's assumption of temporary command way back in "Disaster" never made a whole lot of sense, particularly when it was plain that she lacked anything more than rudimentary understanding of the ship's technical function.

Otherwise, wouldn't the sorts of decisions she'd be expected to make in a command role usually have been preceded by years of experience at lesser ranks than commander? Presumably Riker's command style did not emerge immediately upon becoming a first officer, but was the result of years of experience in a command-track career. Troi has been a psychologist/therapist for her entire career and there's no indication she ever had prior experience in this kind of decision-making. Just silly plotting in an otherwise interesting (if admittedly unoriginally premised) episode.
Sun, Jan 19, 2014, 4:38am (UTC -5)
I really liked that episode, a solid 3 stars for me. I liked both stories, even though I'm not entirely convinced by Data finding a cure for radiation poisoning so quickly with the few herbs that pass for medicine and chemistry in this village. WE still don't have a cure for radiation poisoning - of course they could have found one by the 24th century... But then again we're led to believe Data doesn't remember anything and re-invents everything.

The few things I don't like in this episode are not exclusive to it, but more a dissatisfaction with ST in general (notably, the ridiculous idea that two societies at a similar scientific/industrial development stage somehow ALSO have automatically similar fashions or social organizations... Especially since it could be reasonable to imagine that humanoid societies would progress to scientific knowledge (which i objective) folowing the same steps. But fashion is entirely arbitrary - there is absolutely NO reason for a commonality of fashions. There was absolutely none ON EARTH! So you can imagine how I feel about having it in the universe...
Wed, Jan 29, 2014, 11:07pm (UTC -5)
Kind of a first contact with a twist. A familiar theme wherein a primitive society is presented with technology they have no hope of understanding, namely Data. Having lost his memory, Data has no qualms about the Prime Directive and proceeds to advance technological and medical science. Since he himself is just learning about himself and his surroundings, he has only primitive materials to work with so the advances are only huge from the villager's perspective.
Nice episode. No excitement but still a fascinating watch.
Thu, Feb 27, 2014, 8:15am (UTC -5)
Not spectacular but solid for an episode. Yes, the village was a little bland and trek cliche. But the radiation subplot was interesting to follow. The best part was the "teacher" and her psuedo-science. Very well casted and acted. There are a lot of people like her...spouting "scientific" sillyness while being generally accepted by the public.
Mon, Jan 5, 2015, 10:17am (UTC -5)
I like Beverly Crusher but she didn't seem to have much interest in or strength in command 4 years or even 1 year prior, let alone 8. I hated that Riker cheated (at least it felt that way), telling the solution almost exactly rather than having Troi discover it on her own.
Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 3:17am (UTC -5)

I don't know, I really liked this episode for the most part... as always, I think Brent Spiner did a great job, and I liked the actors who played Garvin and Gia... and I thought Ronnie Claire Edwards did a great job as well... one of the better episodes in season 7 I thought...
Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 3:08pm (UTC -5)
Wow, I'm surprised Jammer gave this only 2 stars. For me, it's one of the standouts of Season 7 by far.
Tue, May 5, 2015, 1:23pm (UTC -5)
I agree with Del_Duio. Definitely one of the best of S7. I've always liked this episode, but I'd have to admit there are valid points to Troi becoming a commander so easily. However, we have to remember that leaders may not necessarily be smarter than their followers, but should use all the information they have at hand to handle command well. In that vein, it may be plausible for Troi to become a commander.
Wed, Jul 15, 2015, 1:06pm (UTC -5)
I rather liked this episode but it was completely undone by the unneeded and nonsensical B plot. Why on Earth would Troi be promoted to commander and bridge officer over Data or Worf? Like others here have pointed out, there is such a thing as a career track with logical milestones along the way. Command is probably not simply the result of passing a test. It also seems like Troi decides to pursue the goal on a whim. What if the situation were reversed and we were presented with a B plot wherein Riker decided he always liked helping his fellow officers talk things out during poker games, so why should he not become a credentialed ship's counselor? All he would need to do is pass a holodeck test after repeated tries and BOOM, he's a certified counselor. What happens here with Troi is equally ridiculous.

I also found the substance of the bridge officer's technical test to be hard to believe. In every Trek episode I've ever seen, old or new, a captain has never ordered a subordinate to certain death. Extreme danger and likely death, sure, but it's represented that Geordi will unquestionably die from the radiation exposure that he will undergo while he makes the repair. Okay, why not order Data to do it, since he is immune? (It's a holodeck simulation of the characters, so Data could have been included in it.) Or, since not ever starship has an android officer, why not design the ship's power system in such a way that it can be repaired without a person physically entering the conduit? For one thing, given the presumed nature of the forces involved in warp drive, it seems unlikely that Geordi or any other human would even live long enough to effect the repairs. More likely, they'd die the moment they entered. It just seemed like a lame excuse to show that even Troi can be "ruthless" when needed.

With all this said, the main plot about Data was fine if you allow for the unlikelihood of Data selectively losing his memories (not recognizing the meaning of "radioactive") and you excuse the villagers being so similar to early Renaissance Europe in terms of the level of scientific understanding that it even comes out in their choice of clothing. At least the guest stars did a terrific job, from the village teacher/doctor, to Gia, and even the xenophobic blacksmith character.

I agree with the two star rating. I would even have given it 2.5 or even 3 if the B plot were jettisoned.
William B
Wed, Jul 15, 2015, 3:36pm (UTC -5)
In fairness to the episode, despite that "sir" remark at the episode's end, Data is still the ship's second officer; Troi has a higher rank than Data, just as Beverly did, but Data is higher in the line. I admit that off the top of my head the first time I can recall Data being in command post-"Thine Own Self" Nemesis (!), but still.

Whether or not the command test is plausible (and, yeah, I mostly agree it isn't), I see the rank issue differently. As in real life military, certain professionals in non-line fields automatically start at higher rank -- e.g. fresh-out-of-the-academy Bashir starts out as lieutenant junior grade rather than ensign, whereas Nurse Ogawa is an ensign. Pulaski doesn't seem to be a line officer at all, not even through a special "bridge officer" test that Crusher and Troi did, and she's a full commander. I think it has something to do with extra training; we know that Troi went to the University of Betazed in addition to her time at Starfleet Academy. So Troi's lieutenant commander / later commander is partly representative not just of her status in terms of command but also of her professional designation. Troi without bridge officer status is lt. commander and commands when she is the highest ranking officer present and there are no line officers present ("Disaster"); otherwise she's behind senior staff line officers like Data, Geordi, and Worf regardless of rank. When she gets bumped to commander she has bridge officer status but that doesn't put her above Data in the line anymore than Crusher's commander rank and bridge officer status makes her above Data. I think Data remains second officer; and it's up to the current captain's discretion who to appoint as second in command in case of senior staff absences, i.e. Data appointing Lt. Worf as acting first officer despite his lower rank than Geordi and Beverly in "Gambit."
Sat, Jul 18, 2015, 6:05am (UTC -5)
The only thing I actively disliked was having that annoying fatass survive the electric shock from stabbing Data.
Mon, Aug 10, 2015, 9:19am (UTC -5)
I love this episode 4 stars. I had forgotten this was the episode that Deanna took the officers test, but contrary to other's criticism of it, it isn't terribly unplausible. Medical (green shirts) getting that commander rank doesn't mean they are the same as a Riker or even a Data, it basically means they can do the graveyard shift when nothing much is happening. It is rather like a weekend news reporter, they just need a butt in the seat. Deanna even mentions she's had most of the education she needs, just didn't bother taking the test, so if it seems accelerated it wasn't. It also has good continuity with the Disaster episode, since such an ordeal would probably inspire a bit of learning on ship ops, and if you've learned it why not take the test. Riker gives her a nice hint, but doesn't solve it for her. The fact the lesson was hard won should stick with her better.
As for Data on the planet, the more interesting plot line. Yes, Data not knowing "Radioactive" is a bit of a stretch, but it is a great lesson in the scientific method. With 3 parallel personalities in the young girl, the teacher, and the black smith, representing the curiosity of youth, forward thinking, and backward thinking. The problem of the radioactive material is solved in an elegant way, with nice logical steps that are essentially true.
Mon, Aug 17, 2015, 7:16pm (UTC -5)

"I really liked that episode, a solid 3 stars for me. I liked both stories, even though I'm not entirely convinced by Data finding a cure for radiation poisoning so quickly with the few herbs that pass for medicine and chemistry in this village. WE still don't have a cure for radiation poisoning - of course they could have found one by the 24th century... But then again we're led to believe Data doesn't remember anything and re-invents everything. "

One nitpick I have is that the Barkonians are *not* human and Data presumably knows bubkes about their physiology, yet he conjures up a cure seemingly based on what would work on humans. I'm reminded of that Voyager episode in which the Doctor is kidnapped and finds himself in an alien hospital run by Benny Stulwicz from "L.A. Law" -- he's never seen, let alone treated, any of these alien life forms, yet within minutes of his activation he's prescribing medicine for them.

Also, who builds a village two days' walk from the nearest river?
Sat, Oct 10, 2015, 3:06pm (UTC -5)
The Troi subplot really hammers home how poor episodic television is for real character development. TNG is great in that you can dip in to an episode without needing much understanding of the previous ones, whereas DS9 you really struggle to watch later episodes unless you are already aware of the plot leading in to it. The episodic as opposed to serialised nature I also think hurt Voyager as the one show that really needed tighter serialisation rather than too many stand alone plots with little connection.

I like a suggestion above that said maybe the B plots over a season could have been used for character arcs. Its a shame because the disconnect between episodes really becomes apparent when you watch multiple episodes back to back.

Sun, Oct 11, 2015, 6:00pm (UTC -5)
I agree with you about episodic episodes, but I am puzzled why you think DS9 is so different. I don't think it really is. You can look at Kira in S1 and S7 and she's virtually the same. You wouldn't know the difference. DS9 was no different to TNG except there was a war on-going throughout.
Tue, Oct 13, 2015, 6:27am (UTC -5)
@DLPB - Strongly disagree with regards to Kira. She changes more than almost anyone else in 7 years. Although it's not because DS9 is less episodic, it's because the writers respect her changes.

Data changes quite a lot as well. Kira goes from being a terrorist who is distrustful of the Federation, hates Cardassians, doesn't understand her faith, and can't let others in... to something quite different. Her experiences soften her and leave her with a different kind of edge at the same time. She learns to care about many Cardassians, comes to believe in the Federation, makes peace with the war and so much more. I'm surprised you hit on this character because I feel her arc is one of the most satisfying ones.
Thu, Oct 15, 2015, 7:49pm (UTC -5)
I disagree. As I said, I can still watch the first and last episode and see no difference. In fact, in one episode she learns not to hate ordinary Cardassians and to see things differently, and in all subsequent episodes she's back to the same old. She bleats about the occupation of Bajor the entire run.
Thu, Oct 15, 2015, 7:54pm (UTC -5)
There was some growth with Odo, but not more so than Data (who you just mentioned, and who should have been developed more). The two characters that did change were Kai Winn and Dukat... but both those changes were against the character and based on an absurd subplot of magic fire demons. The changes weren't logical and weren't growth... in fact, one would have to say they were a devolution.
Thu, Oct 15, 2015, 9:42pm (UTC -5)
I thought Winn's ultimate change was good but Dukat's was a devolution.

That said Data was the pinnacle of TNG growth on TNG. You'll have to cite evidence that Kira doesn't soften on Cardassians. Between her bonding with Ghemor and Ziyal, softening on Garak, etc.

She goes on about the Occupation sure, with Dukat. Who she should rightfully see as space Hitler. Her refusal to soften on him is NOT illustrative of a lack of character development.

I'd argue that Sisko, Kira, Quark, Nog, Bashir, and Odo all get development about equal to Data (and ahead of any other TNG character). Leaving out Worf because of his role on both shows.
Thu, Oct 15, 2015, 10:24pm (UTC -5)
Kai Winn's change is completely opposite what her character would have done. She has spent her whole life worshiping the prophets. You don't go from that to worshiping an anti-prophet. It's just really childish writing. It's like a nun suddenly getting disillusioned and worshiping the devil.

The fact she even goes along with it with a mortal enemy to bajor was laughable, at best.
Fri, Oct 16, 2015, 6:25am (UTC -5)
You can feel free to disagree but I honestly felt like the exchange in Rapture would completely destroy a person like Winn.

WINN: Prophet, hear me. I am the Kai of Bajor. I offer myself to you as your humble servant,
KIRA: I await their vessel.
WINN: Speak to me. Tell me what I should do.

The desperation in that scene could have led to the resentment a year later needed to cause her ultimate change. I liked it (even if I'm in the minority). I hated what it did to the fascinating and multifaceted Dukat, but I thought it suited Winn.
Sat, Oct 24, 2015, 8:08pm (UTC -5)
"Thine Own Self" is a serviceable episode, I suppose. The problem is that the choice to promote Troi to full Commander is simply inexcusable. I don't hate Troi as a character. She's easily the weakest link in the cast but that's because she is always so woefully misused, not because there is anything inherently wrong about her (as a character). This is just one more example of the powers that be misusing her. Don't try to reinvent her into something she wasn't designed to be. Instead, actually use her effectively as a counselor. It just shows that they never had any real idea what to do with her (aside from romance plots) and were, even at this late date, still throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what would stick. And, I'm sorry, but the fact that Troi becomes a Commander when Data never once, in the entire run of TNG from "Encounter at Farpoint" to "Star Trek: Nemesis", receives any promotion is just absurd on its face. If any character deserved to be promoted it was Data. In fact, aside from temporary postings, like in "Redemption, Part II" and "Chain of Command, Part II", Data is the only one of the seven core TNG characters to never receive a promotion.

I'm not going to talk about the ridiculous easiness of what it takes to become a full Commander because there are other problems there. For instance, if taking the Bridge Officers Test is all it takes to get promoted to Commander, why are there any Bridge Officers who have lesser ranks?

The best part of the episode is the A-plot with Data in the village. But, even this is, as Jammer says, "relentlessly nondescript." Basically, it's just another story of ignorant townspeople/villagers who refuse to understand the scientifically minded stranger and let their fear and superstitions get the better of them, only to learn the error of their ways in the end. I've seen this exact same story a thousand different times in a thousand different places, especially in the sci-fi genre. Data's story isn't bad but it adds virtually nothing to a rather threadbare idea (aside form having the villagers mistake Data for an iceman instead of as a witch) which has been done much better elsewhere. We don't even get any real character growth or development for Data as a result of these events, since his memory is wiped a second time after he gets stabbed in the back and deactivated.

These two plots really needed to be switched - Troi on the planet and Data pursuing a higher rank. Let's roll with it for a moment - instead of having Data sent to retrieve the radioactive materials have Troi returning from her class reunion asked by Picard to make a pit stop on the way to retrieve them. There's some kind of accident, the shuttle pilot is killed and Troi gets a head injury resulting in memory loss. She then ends up in the village and helps solve the problem of the mysterious illness (instead of just doing it alone like Data does). It would also provide some character development as she wouldn't have to have her memory erased again in the end. Data, on the other hand, decides that it's time to pursue higher career goals. Given how he's been shown to do things like that on a whim (the creation of Lal comes immediately to mind), it would make a lot of sense.

(Speaking of Data's name of Jayden, the Wikipedia article references a possible biblical connection with Nehemiah 3:7 and the person of Jadon the Meronothite. However, I highly doubt that has anything to do with the choice here. Jadon the Meronothite was simply someone who helped rebuild the walls of Jerusalem after the Babylonian Captivity. I don't see how that, in any way, relates to "Thine Own Self." They really did seem to just pick the name at random.)

Thu, Oct 29, 2015, 7:38am (UTC -5)
The name Jayden wasn't supposed to have been picked entirely at random: there's a deleted scene where the little girl says it's from a children's story, the name of a strange man who everyone judged as evil just because he was different but who was really good. I think they should have left at least a condensed version in because it seems so ridiculous that she picks this super American & contemporary name. I can accept the name with the story but it otherwise kind of seems like the actress herself is speaking which really drags you out of it. It also explains why she isn't afraid of him and likes him so much right off the bat

I don't think Troi's promotion over Worf and Data is a surprise either. She struggled but ultimately did well when she was in command. She's made of the right stuff even if she doesn't have the technical knowledge (which she has been learning: there's an episode in this season or 6 where she's very conspicuously testing out something she's not sure if she understands during one of Geordi's presentations or something like that. I think people here commented on how weird it was that she knew about whatever she was talking about, but I thought it was obviously character development based on what happened before).

Worf is too aggressive, his first instinct is to fire on anything that could be dangerous. He's fine at his position because he waits for his orders but that's not who they want GIVING the orders! Troi isn't like that, she's more similar to Picard (Riker is more aggressive than either of them and we can assume Beverly is less aggressive, so that makes them average).

Data seems perfect, but in universe no-one trusts him. We trust him as viewers - we know he doesn't have a bad bone in his body - but most of his colleagues and superiors don't. We have seen him commandeer the ship I think twice. He can perfectly impersonate anyone and he has superhuman strength and intellect. I'd be wary of him if I were on that ship with him. We've also seen that some people don't like to take orders from him simply because he's an android, but it would be unfair for him to be denied a promotion on that basis (especially as we've seen him deal with it effectively).

I also wonder if he would fail the test Troi failed - but whereas she became paralysed and indecisive when faced with the possibility of sending someone to their death, Data would probably want to go himself, which is also admirable but also not what a commanding officer needs to do in an emergency. He is perhaps not aggressive enough in contrast to Worf - remember how much it took for him to try to kill that evil collector man who kidnapped him? (And he seemed ashamed afterwards, as if it was something monstrous to have attempted and not something he should have done days ago!) He's very concerned with being good. Finally, he sometimes doesn't judge people properly which leads to him not judging the situation properly, and that's a problem Troi at least will rarely have
Diamond Dave
Fri, Nov 6, 2015, 2:54pm (UTC -5)
Picking the worst first, the Troi promotion B-story seems misjudged. Not least of which because a) she doesn't seem that competent and b) taking the same test until you get it right seems an odd way of determining said competence. Riker's blunt explanation of that fact sits better than his later turn around.

The Data story elements are much better, but ultimately fail to engage completely. It's fortunate he retains enough of his memory to maintain a rigorous scientific method, despite not being able to remember his own name. But the supporting cast is excellent, particularly Talar. It's also noticeable - and actually quite a relief - that we don't get into the fairly obvious Prime Directive issues here...

Decent enough, but eventually fairly inconsequential. Although we do get an authentic pitchfork wielding mob, so that's something. 2.5 stars.
Thu, Jan 7, 2016, 12:21am (UTC -5)
To the guy who said Kira didn't change from Episode one to the final episode of DS9... have you actually watched the series from beginning to end? If you have then you have to be sayig that just to be the one guy who goes against the grain out of duty. Most Trek characters across all the TV series didn't change much at all. She is one of the ones that changed dramatically, like almost a different person. Anyways, I digress.

I think we all can agree this Troi thing was nonsense. Basically, someone with the rank of Lt. Commander can "ask" to take the Commander test, and then do it over and over until a pass. So, why would Data have never asked to take the test, or LaForge for that matter? Ah, maybe good old Geordi wants to hang out with the warp core, but Data has taken command several times and always wants to better himself.

Yeah, I know from the S6-S7 episode they gave Crusher command, they have had Troi wearing a uniform since Chain of Command, and they wanted to get the women more command time. I like that. However, they should have done Troi's deal over at least a season. Tough in a series that was made so you can watch any episode at anytime without needing to know backstories.

I would have preferred that she have asked for command time and so they gave her one of the bridge shifts when the senior guys are off duty or sleeping. They could have had a B Plot problem for her to encounter and solve and grow her character that way.
Mon, Mar 7, 2016, 8:02pm (UTC -5)
The Renaissance Faire vibe of the planet killed the A story for me.

The B story was killed because, as Jammer puts it, 'in every Trek episode I've ever seen, old or new, a captain has never ordered a subordinate to certain death". In a 'real life' situation Geordi would have been down that conduit the second the solution was established, and Troi's insulting and superfluous "that's an order" line would have had been delivered to empty space.
Tue, May 10, 2016, 4:36pm (UTC -5)
'in every Trek episode I've ever seen, old or new, a captain has never ordered a subordinate to certain death".


That's only because Trek waves a wand, like most shows, to keep its main characters alive. It's something they should not have done so vehemently, and then we'd have maybe seen a story where a crew member had to be ordered to die.
Wed, May 11, 2016, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
I wouldn't say Troi's motivation comes out of the blue. It's reasonable that after her friend Beverly taking command shifts and the events of "Disaster" where she talks down the stubborn Ro Laren that Troi feels ready for command.

The real question is why Troi didn't take the Kobayashi Maru test, or if she did, why Riker's test was still necessary. Also, I'd like to point out that Troi took some big risks with the lives of the crew already in "Disaster". Why Riker would think she couldn't do that again unless she did it to a simulated Geordi is a little funny.
Wed, May 11, 2016, 8:49pm (UTC -5)
Oh, and I like Luke's idea of swapping Data and Troi's roles here. The only thing is, Data is already a proven commander. For Data to move to Second Officer is a little redundant too. I suppose he could've been offered command somewhere like Sisko did, only for him to realize that he did have more to learn of human nature before he became a full-fledged captain.
Thu, May 12, 2016, 1:48pm (UTC -5)
I keep writing about this one, but I suppose I was having a hard time placing it on a scale of 1 - 4.

I think William B nailed the A-plot's use of Gia and her tragic past. Gia's treatment of an outsider and his ideas of science are really what drive this episode. This makes it all the worse that the directors decided to delete the scene where Gia described the origin of the name "Jayden" for Data. It would've been heartwarming, and helped bring Gia's yearning to the forefront among the townspeople.

I've already discussed Troi's story, so I'll just add that it was an amusing sideplot. You could say this episode illustrates how people cannot deny their identities, even when put in confusing situations. This is true for data when he lost the memory of his career, and also true for soft-hearted Troi having difficulty making a necessary, but coldblooded decision.

2.5 stars sounds right.
Sat, Aug 6, 2016, 6:29pm (UTC -5)
I didn't mind Troi studying to be a part time bridge officer, but the writers should have left her a Lt. Commander. I don't see why she needed to be promoted, just have bridge officer added to her job qualifications so to speak. No way should she outrank Data, a far more qualified officer. Just a big bummer really. The writers must have fallen and hit their heads the day they came up with that idea.
Mon, Aug 15, 2016, 3:28pm (UTC -5)
To Paul M. that commented above about Troi being higher in three chain of command than Data. Technically being second officer, Data should retain positional authority over Troi. In the absence of Picard and Riker, Data would be in command.
Paul M.
Tue, Aug 23, 2016, 5:47pm (UTC -5)
Yeah, I have no problem with Troi becoming commander. It's the bridge officer part that drives me up the wall every time I think about it (and with Beverly too). Doctors and psychologists don't just get to pass a single test and become freaking bridge officers, just like you can't pass a test and jump careers in the other direction. It takes 4 years at the Academy and a dozen more of field experience to get there. The notion that a person can achieve the same thing via a silly holodeck test is preposterous.

And yeah, I'm taking this way too seriously for my health! :)
Wed, Aug 31, 2016, 12:38am (UTC -5)
I enjoyed this episode very much. It works on many levels. Great story-telling and suspense. Great character development. Beautiful performance by Brent Spiner as an amnesiatic Data trying trying to convince people he only wants to help them and not harm them.

And the woman who plays the teacher/healer/scientist...awesome character. My favorite moment is when she says: "I'm sure my grandmother would have called [Data] a demon or spirit or some sort of monster" Then her modern, scientific-thinking leads her to conclude, "You are an Ice Man." Priceless. It's a wonderfully funny moment, yet it doesn't make her look ridiculous. She's is simply making sense of things using whatever frames of reference she has.

Tue, Dec 13, 2016, 12:47pm (UTC -5)
> By this point in TNG's run, it seems as if we've seen every possible permutation of the isolated alien village/society

Hmm, what about the "whole village is holograms" from DS9 "Shadowplay"? Did they have that before DS9?
Tue, Dec 13, 2016, 10:42pm (UTC -5)
Jim, "Shadowplay" aired the week after this episode. Further, if I'm not mistaken, both shows shared that village set repeatedly that year.
Thu, Dec 15, 2016, 12:22am (UTC -5)
I think this episode is pretty great as long as you skip through all the scenes on board the enterprise until data returns at the end.
Thu, Dec 22, 2016, 9:20am (UTC -5)
One of the brighter points of S7, that lady doctor on the planet does a great job and so does Brent (no surprise here).
Tue, Feb 7, 2017, 6:44am (UTC -5)
Jammer - the name "Jayden" wasn't arbitrarily chosen. In the deleted scene, the girl explains that it came from a kid's story. However, the scene is rather boring and I agree with it being deleted - no explanation is really needed for the choice of name.
Mon, Mar 13, 2017, 1:55pm (UTC -5)
I like this episode. I agree the B-plot is not particularly strong, but I disagree with you on it's base premise. I admit, more than a few days' studying ought to be required to pass any such test, but my impression, on first viewing and still on my Nth re-watch, is that the test is basically a certification for support officers who have an *effective* rank of commander but are outside the normal chain of command and followed alternate training paths - which, really, is just medical officers - this certification being required to actually act outside their specialty in more general command roles. The closing scene somewhat undermines that interpretation unfortunately, what with her saying flat out she was promoted, and having the 3rd full pip to go with it... but eh. Honestly, like a lot of 7th season's oddities, I suspect giving her character a promotion and this whole sub-plot for some character development were cast service. They were having friction over salaries at that point, I believe, and pretty much every major cast member has some atypical episode this season that smacks of servicing the talent rather than the show.

Data's bits, though, I quite liked; my only complaint was the amnesia at the end. I just can't see any reason for it, except a reflexive adherence to a "weekly reset" mindset - but then, if that's a goal, why give Troi the rank promotion? It was just senseless. Sure, the premise was a stretch - even by TV Amnesia standards, Data's was distinctly specific, and that he managed to whip up such an effective cure for radiation poisoning from materials at hand in a primitive - and by that point, hostile - village apparently overnight certainly strains credibility. Still, the general plot was solid enough despite that, and the interactions it allowed Data to have were worth the abuse of tv cliches, at least in my opinion.
Wed, Apr 19, 2017, 2:38pm (UTC -5)
I'm sorry, as a scientist, this episode STINKS! Worst TNG episode I ever saw. I mean the Troi part doubly stinks (would you trust someone with such a low technical knowledge being in charge of your spaceship??)

A lot of you on this thread have portrayed the Data-on-the-planet story as being about how his superior reasoning skills could lead him to modern science, without any experiential knowledge (no memory).

That is so unscientific!

Consider the incident at the school. The teacher gives a lesson on the earth-fire-air-water theory of matter, ala the Ancient Greeks. Data then claims her "reasoning is false". That is not true! The theory could be correct, it could be false. The only way to check is by an EXPERIMENT! One cannot arrive at the modern conception of elemental atomic matter by "pure thought alone". Plato and the ancient Greeks were superb logicians. If one could disprove the earth-fire-air-water theory using only pure reasoning, they would have done so!!

The only acceptable thing for Data to do in that school lesson is to frown quizzically and say "An interesting idea. Let us attempt to falsify your theory. Let us burn a piece of wood in a sealed glass jar, and then carefully weigh the constituents before and after. If the smoke was present in the air already before the wood started burning, then the mass of the constituents before and after should be equal. "

Wed, Jun 14, 2017, 1:12am (UTC -5)
Fun episode. Yeah, like all TNG it has holes, but I was entertained and in the end that's the point, isnt it? I'm pleased the writers remembered Data's fake pulse (heartbeat? Whatever, close enough), I recently complained how pointless it was for him to have one since he'd never have to use it to convince aliens he's alive, but I now retract that statement, because that's exactly what he did.

I don't mind Troi getting bridge certification. Ensigns serve on the bridge and take over crucial posts when the main characters leave the room all the time. Really, she should have been from the start, as should all the main characters, since they sat on the bridge.

And yeah, Data contradicting the teacher wasn't the scientific method at work, but him having knowledge of things she didn't. If he would have tested what she was saying and proven it false she would have believed him, but she had no reason to believe an amnesiac spouting off what was probably gibberish to her.
Tue, Jul 25, 2017, 12:13am (UTC -5)
2 stars

If anyone needed evidence that in TNG final season that the writers were just phoning it in one need not look any further than this particular episode

TNG was soooo good in its earlier seasons because there was an urgency and purpose to their writing. Here this episode is as barebones and padded as you can get. You truly feel like the episode is just spinning it's wheels. Nothing really interesting happens. These primitive culture stories *can * work but here nothing of interest happens and the guest cast isn't all that interesting. The plot is very basic with no mystery or some kind of substance. Very mechanical

The subplot with Troi is okay nothing great and doesn't hold much rewatch value--one viewing of it and that's good enough
Tue, Jul 25, 2017, 4:31pm (UTC -5)
Two stars seems right. But did nobody mention that Data is fixed in Sickbay by Crusher? Did she do an engineering exam in the holodeck? Where the hell is Geordi? Why isn't Data fixed in Engineering, it's still a machine, isn't it?
Mon, Aug 7, 2017, 10:26pm (UTC -5)
Doesnt the trek communicator act as a UT? Data shows up without his. Are we assuming this race speaks english?

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