Thine Own Self
This episode is interesting for a number of reasons.
Data's half of the story takes place in a less-developed
pre-warp society on a planet, where he violates the
Prime Directive in a quiet way that is very scary in
its carelessness. There are a lot of parallels here with
the season three original series episode
"The Paradise Syndrome"
with a loss of memory pretty much excusing the Starfleet
personnel of all Prime Directive violations. We don't get
quite as interesting an episode here, but it's not bad.
The Prime Directive considerations are actually off the point of
the story though, and don't really receive much acknowledgement.
Data's actual memory fragmentation seems a bit contrived
to support the episode as well. He can remember most of
the English language (or enough of some language for the
universal translator to kick in), yet conveniently forgets his own
name and his past. He can remember most scientific concepts
and terminology, but has conveniently forgotten the word
"radioactive" and its implications. It all feels a bit
too convenient to be natural.
In fact, the much more interesting aspect of this episode
is what happens on board the Enterprise. The previous episode
"Lower Decks", one of the great concept-stretching episodes
of the series, really did a good job of highlighting the idea
of rank on the ship, and gave the spotlight to five minor
characters who mainly struggled for their next promotion.
This is probably the first time we get a close-up of nothing
but a pip lying on a table instead of on the collar of a
Starfleet uniform, while it is reinforced upon us that
THAT is how rank is indicated on the ship.
This episode continues the theme of rank and counting pips.
I spent many, many episodes trying to count the pips on Dr. Crusher's
collar, while her hair usually got in the way of determining
if she had two and a half, or the full three. And as for Troi,
good luck trying to count anything before her mid-season-six
switch to proper uniforms. Well, nicely the two of them get
a very good scene at the beginning of "Thine Own Self" discussing
and comparing their ranks, which launches Troi's quest for the
promotion from 2.5 to 3 pips.
And she makes it! This is big.
Now she has the same rank as Commander Riker, and
apparently Dr. Crusher has also been on equal footing with him
for a long time without really letting it show.
This is bizarre though when you consider that Data is
actually supposed to be next in command after Picard and Riker,
yet he is still making do with only 2.5 pips, indicating
a rank of lieutenant commander. In actual fact, he should have
to get in line behind Crusher and Troi from now on as well.
Of course, why Riker still has only three pips after his
promotion to Captain in "The Best of Both Worlds" beats the
hell out of me. He should be up to 3.5 pips at least,
whatever rank that is. Or let him have the full four,
and let Picard be a commodore, as the star of each
television series deserves. Admiral seems to be six pips,
so does that mean a commodore would have five?
Well, obviously rank is more interesting than the Prime Directive
here, and Data's planetary adventure is suitably upstaged.