The Great Star Trek TNG Rewatch: Thine Own Self

When Data is sent to Barkon IV to retrieve radioactive probe fragments, an accident causes him to lose his memory. Whilst amnesiac Data starts interacting with natives, back on the Enterprise, Troi decides to challenge herself by taking the bridge officer’s exam.

As we all know, Data is a great character, and it’s thanks to him that the A-plot of this episode is so enjoyable. We can gloss over the flagrant violations of the Prime Directive and the character tropes because watching Data interact with the natives is so much fun. It’s slightly unfortunate that it’s a know-it-all woman who gets outshone by Data’s advanced science, but if we chalk that up to brilliant Data versus primitive culture rather than man versus woman, then even that is quite entertaining. From Data’s garbled voice at the start to his saving the village at what appears to be the cost of his own life at the end, this is a fun and memorable ride. And given the sea of mediocrity that’s still to come, we can be thankful for that.

The B-story, on the other hand, is something I like less and less each time I see it. I do appreciate seeing Troi being ambitious and talking with Crusher about something other than men, but the bridge officer’s exam seems ridiculously easy. If it’s that easy to get promoted to commander, why is Data, who is brilliant and logical, still a Lieutenant Commander? His rationality would surely mean he would order holo-Geordi to his death, well aware that it was all a simulation anyway.

Bits and pieces

  • Why does no one care about assessing how much damage Data did to Barkon culture? A few episodes Picard was willing to let a civilisation die rather than interfere in any way, but here everyone just shrugs and moves on.
  • Troi has been considering taking the bridge officer’s exam since she was left in command of the bridge during the events of Disaster.
  • Does ordering a hologram – even a hologram of your friend – to its death really prove that you have what it takes to do the same to a real person? Of course you can’t manufacture such a situation, but that’s why a promotion to such a high rank should be earned through exemplary on the job performance rather than a handful of exams.

Summary – Thine Own Self: Just call Deanna ‘sir’ – or perhaps ‘mistress’.

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