Until now, I'm pretty sure I hadn't seen this episode since it originally aired in 1990. As this is one of those middling episodes of TNG that few people seem to care about (myself included), I've had no reason to revisit it until now. So a funny thing happened to me while watching "Transfigurations." For the first 20 minutes, I couldn't remember what it was about or how it ended. Not at all. But as the episode continued, I remembered more and more, until finally I said to myself, "Here comes the part where Worf goes flying over the railing and breaks his neck." Funny how I remembered that. Probably because neck-breaking stunts are cool.
The weird thing was how my experience watching this episode mirrored the central character — an alien (Mark La Mura) who has no memory but recalls bits and pieces as the story moves forward and strange things happen to his body. The alien was found by the Enterprise crew, a hair's width from death after the crash of his escape pod. He does not remember his name or where he's from or why he crashed, so John Doe it is. Crusher cares for him over the course of a month, and his recovery is a miraculous one that can be attributed to his body's phenomenal ability to heal itself. He discovers that he also has the ability to heal others.
The episode seeks the answers to where this guy came from and what's now happening to him. He can't explain himself or his powers. Picard is concerned. Meanwhile, the Enterprise ventures into a territory of space where Doe might be from. Mark La Mura is earnest and projects a nice-guy persona, but the episode's problem is that it moves slowly and has a tendency to repeat itself. The episode amounts to Doe explaining that he can't explain himself, Picard expressing concern, Crusher defending Doe, and then Doe healing somebody. Repeat. I was more intrigued by Geordi's newfound confidence and girlfriend Christy Henshaw (Julie Warner); although I wondered what changed her mind about Geordi between "Booby Trap" and here.
The ending, in which the Enterprise finds Doe's people — who were responsible for attacking him and causing his crash — provides the usual TNG lesson about tolerance versus fear, seeking out new life, etc., etc. Doe (and his people) are on the verge of a wondrous evolution into a different kind of life form. Doe's people fear that possibility, and I can't say I blame them. Of course, I also can't say that killing everyone who has symptoms of this change is particularly bright, either.
I'd forgotten that this is where O'Brien's kayaking hobby and shoulder injury were first documented. For some reason I'd thought that was established much later, on DS9. I'd call this a nice touch of continuity, but since this is the first time, I guess the "continuity" part doesn't come until later.