The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Tin Man

When Starfleet discovers what appears to be a living, sentient starship, the race is on the make contact with it before the Romulans do. To that end, the Enterprise is sent to intercept the starship, along with Betazoid mission specialist Tam Elbrun. Elbrun is an unusually strong telepath, and he soon rubs the crew up the wrong way with his dismissive and antisocial manner, but could he be just the person to contact an alien mind?

I didn’t remember this episode particularly well, and I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it that much, but actually, aside from some stupidities to be discussed below, it’s actually pretty good. Tam is that rarest of things – a jerk of a one-off character who is also somewhat sympathetic. He’s abrupt with people, plucking their answers of their minds before they can speak, but at the same time, he is burdened with a terrible ability. Unable to shield his mind from the thoughts of those around him, all he can do is physically isolate himself and try to block out their thoughts. His past as one of Troi’s patients also gives Deanna some good scenes.

Romulans on the starboard bow

  • If Starfleet is so worried about the Romulans intercepting or eavesdropping on their communications, why don’t they use encryption?
  • The USS Hood, which was Riker’s old ship, seems to be turning up a lot lately. Are the Hood and the Enterprise the only two Federation ships out there?
  • Deanna calls Tam a “very unique” person, which is obviously a nonsensical thing to say. A thing is either unique or it isn’t – there aren’t degrees of uniqueness. Yes, in my house we are that pedantic.
  • Data remarks that no natural phemonenon can travel at warp velocity, something that was also said in TOS – despite the fact that we’ve seen energy clouds and the like that do travel at warp.
  • Data has a specially modified computer station in his quarters, which allows him to work more quickly than the usual statons. It still requires a visual interface, though – why not just plug himself directly into the computer?
  • Most Betazoids don’t develop their telepathic powers until puberty. Those few, like Tam, who are telepathic from birth, find it very difficult to grow up and live a normal life, due to the constant presence of others’ thoughts during their formative years.

Summary – Tin Man: Starfleet desperately needs to start using encryption.

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