Sunday, August 21, 2011

Data Is Lost While Troi Searches For Her Own Relevance In "Thine Own Self"

The Good: Acting, Elements of the b-plot
The Bad: Character, Execution of the a-plot
The Basics: While Data stumbles around without memory, the viewer wonders why the writers couldn't come up with a better Data story.

Somewhere along the road of Star Trek The Next Generation, Data became one of the most popular characters on the show. He quickly eclipsed Riker and rivaled Picard for people's favorite character. This meant that as the series went on, he had more and more episodes and eventually, they had to find things for him to do. Near the middle and end of the seventh season, they were truly stretching for ideas for him. "Thine Own Self" is evidence of that.

"Thine Own Self" finds Data wounded and amnesiac on a primitive planet. The townsfolk of the village he finds himself in are friendly and giving until they begin to get sick and die. Soon, they blame Data for their illness and they discover his android nature. While Data applies simple scientific methodology to his predicament, Troi takes her bridge tests to become a full Commander.

The problem with "Thine Own Self" is that elements of science aren't terribly interesting in a television way. Don't believe me? Have you noticed how none of the networks are breaking the doors down to get the exclusive rights for a reality television show on the human genome project? Or a laboratory where clinical tests for AIDS vaccines are being developed? Much of "Thine Own Self" has Data exploring the causes of the villagers' illness by making rational, slow scientific experiments and it gets pretty boring pretty quick. Moreover, while the viewer can easily believe that Data could lose his identity and become amnesiac, it would not affect his ability to do advanced calculations and come to the solutions quicker than he does in the episode.

Similarly, it feels like the writers forgot Deanna Troi was empathic. Riker attempts to intimidate her and she gets phased by it as opposed to realizing he's trying to provoke her. That said, I think it's a great idea that Troi tries to rise in rank and she has a decent part in the episode. It's refreshing to see Troi, who for five seasons was relegated to T&A get more character and personality.

In fact, if anything, it is Marina Sirtis who saves this episode. In the a-plot, Brent Spiner either isn't playing his best game, but he does a decent job selling the audience on his character's amnesia. The guest actors play off him very well, especially Michael G. Haggerty who plays the blacksmith Skoran.

Sirtis, on the other hand, plays Troi with coolness and grace. She finds the way to change Troi with a confidence that makes her character's choice seem very organic. Sirtis here embodies the strong female character that I believe everyone wanted Captain Janeway on Star Trek Voyager to be. Sirtis uses her body language, eye movement especially, to recreate Troi as a very viable character.

Unfortunately, that's not enough to recommend this episode. It's a close call, but it's very average television. For a better Star Trek The Next Generation amnesia story, there is "Clues" (reviewed here!).

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the final season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek episode reviews, please visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2008, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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