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Plot by Tim Lynch (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Story: Rick Berman and Michael Piller
Screenplay: Michael Piller
Director: Jonathan Frakes
We begin on a peaceful, agrarian world. The planet's inhabitants, the Ba'ku, lead a quiet, peaceful existence, full of chores, games, and play, unaware that they are being observed from an archaeological ``duck blind'' maintained jointly by the Federation and a race known as the Son'a. The team observes the Ba'ku, and all is well - until the peace is broken by abrupt phaser fire coming from nowhere. Holographically concealed team members run amongst the Ba'ku, trying to locate the problem; eventually, they find that the problem is an erratically behaving Lieutenant Commander Data. The head of the Starfleet team orders Data to stand down, but he ignores her, rejecting attempts to bring him in by force. Eventually, he strips out of his holographic concealment, takes a weapon from one of his now-unconscious pursuers, and fires at the duck blind's holographic projectors. The blind is exposed for all the Ba'ku to see...
Light-years away aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, Picard grouses while being fitted for his dress uniform. Tired of diplomatic responsibilities (``putting out brush fires'' while the big guns conduct Dominion negotiations), he muses to his crew, "Does anyone remember when we used to be explorers?. After being pleasantly surprised by Worf's unexpected arrival and unpleasantly surprised by the unexpectedly short stature of his diplomatic guests, Picard gets a request from Admiral Dougherty for Data's schematics. Picard hears of Data's apparent malfunction, but no more. Dougherty is uncomfortable with the idea of the Enterprise joining in, citing ``environmental concerns'' in the Ba'ku region of space. ``Just get me Data's schematics'', the admiral suggests, ``I'll keep you informed...'' Picard thinks for a moment, then orders Geordi to set course for Dougherty's position while en route to their next scheduled mission (which is, of course, in the opposite direction).
On the Son'a flagship, Dougherty consults with Ru'afo, the Son'a leader. The Son'a, a sterile, dying people, continually rejuvenate themselves with genetic and cosmetic treatments, a process Dougherty finds distasteful. Ru'afo is amused by Dougherty's self-restraint in turning down Son'a pleasures, while also annoyed at the way in which ``Federation procedures'' have placed his mission in jeopardy. Dougherty starts to explain the Federation position anew, when suddenly the ship is rocked by phaser fire. The Son'a search, and find the culprit. a Federation scout ship piloted by Commander Data.
As the Enterprise enters the Ba'ku region of space (one known as the ``Briar Patch''), Picard orders Riker and Troi to study the situation there, particularly the Son'a. Meanwhile, Worf displays a tricorder Geordi has modified which, while only functional at short ranges, should be sufficient to shut Data down.
Over the next two days, Riker and Troi conduct their research, learning that the Son'a are essentially petty thugs and criminals. They wonder about this, but also seem surprisingly flirtatious for people who are now longtime friends rather than lovers.
On the second day, Worf is rudely awakened by a page from Picard. ``I don't know how they do it on Deep Space Nine'', he notes dryly, ``but on the Enterprise, we still report to duty on time''. Worf, crestfallen, hastily apologizes and rushes to duty.
As Picard waits for Worf, he finds himself hailed by Dougherty aboard the Son'a ship. Dougherty is none too pleased to see Picard, but fills him in on Data's recent attacks, noting as well that the Ba'ku now hold both Starfleet and Son'a personnel hostage. Picard earnestly requests that the Son'a refrain from sending their assault teams for 24 hours. ``If our first attempt to capture Data fails'', he vows, ``I will terminate him. I should be the one to do it. I'm his captain, and his friend''. Grudgingly, Dougherty agrees, on the condition that the Enterprise then leave the area at once. Picard and Worf immediately leave in a shuttle.
On board the shuttle, they eventually lure Data out of hiding, then find themselves being fired upon. An attempt to beam him off proves unsuccessful - then Picard, realizing that one of Data's last acts before leaving the Enterprise was rehearsing for an upcoming Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, to Data over subspace. He succeeds in distracting Data (with Worf's help) long enough to sidle up right below Data's ship, then attaches docking clamps. Data attempts to shake them off by heading directly for the planet's surface, but they manage to hold on. Worf blows the hatch, and deactivates Data just as the android is lunging at him. Their mission is complete.
Even with Data comfortably in hand (or rather, in stasis), however, Picard shows no interest in leaving. He moves to the Ba'ku village to rescue the hostages, only to find everything completely peaceful. Children are at play, adults are involved in animated conversations, and the "hostages" are feeling fine and particularly well-treated. Picard meets briefly with two prominent Ba'ku citizens, Sojef and Anij, and is shocked to find that they understand technology very well. they've simply refused to make it a part of their daily lives. They have warp capability, Anij acknowledges, ``but where can warp drive take us, except away from here?'' Chagrined over his intrusion, Picard arranges for the ``hostages'' to depart, then takes his leave.
Picard briefs Dougherty on the situation, establishing that the cultural interference caused by Data's actions was minimal. Dougherty commends his actions (surprising, given his repeated urgings that they leave at once), then orders the Enterprise out within the next twelve hours, saying that he and his people have to stay for a little while to clean up ``a few loose ends''. Picard mulls over this...
... while Troi finds herself receiving an unexpected visitor. Riker. He playfully notes that he needs some counseling, but makes it quite clear that lying down on the couch is only the beginning of his interest. They flirt, then kiss - and then Troi pushes Riker away with a sudden ``Yuck!'' ``Yuck. I kiss you and you say ``yuck?''!'' Apparently, his beard carries no allure for her.
An oddly distracted Geordi finishes repairing Data, then fills Picard in. he had memory engrams damaged by weapons fire, which caused his ethical subroutines to override everything else. Apparently, all he could do was tell right from wrong - which begs the question of why he fired on the duck blind and told the Ba'ku that the team was their enemy. What's more, Geordi is quite certain that Data was damaged by a Son'a weapon, despite their claim that they didn't fire until they were attacked. Something's not adding up; they wake Data, explain to him the situation, and ask him what he last remembers from the mission.
Following his recollections, they proceed anew to the planet's surface, where Sojef leads them to his son Artim. Artim leads them to the lake where he was playing at the time the battle began; en route, he seems very wary of Data, who is disheartened by the boy's fears. He realizes that as an artificial life-form, he is the absolute personification of what Artim's entire culture has rejected.
While Picard and his team proceed, Riker shares a bubble bath with Troi, who shaves off his beard. In the middle of this, however, Dougherty calls to ask (with no small amount of annoyance) why the Enterprise hasn't left orbit yet. Riker demurs, then wonders afterwards why Dougherty is so concerned. Dougherty, meanwhile, is having more and more trouble restraining Ru'afo, who wants to ensure that the Federation allows them to complete their mission.
Data scans the lake area and finds odd neutrino emissions from below the lake surface. He proceeds to enter the lake and submerge himself to locate the emissions' source. Artim watches, shocked. ``Can he breathe underwater?'' ``Data doesn't breathe'', replies Picard with some amusement''. ``Won't he rust?''
Data emerges with the answer. he releases the nearby dam's floodgates and lowers the lake, revealing a cloaked Federation ship. When he and Picard take a raft out to investigate, Anij insists upon coming along. Together, they find that the ship is little more than a gigantic holodeck, currently projecting an exact replica of the Ba'ku village. They realize that Data may well have been damaged to keep this ship's existence secret, and that the ship's only purpose can be to deceive the Ba'ku while relocating them off this world entirely. After repelling a brief attack, Picard and Data beam back to the Enterprise, where Picard angrily asks Worf (sporting a surprisingly large pimple) to debrief the Son'a hostages a second time. As the usual activity aboard the ship resumes, Data is surprised to see Riker clean-shaven. (``Smooth as an android's bottom, eh, Data?''. Picard calls Dr. Crusher and finds that the former hostages are in fact in better health than ever. He returns to his quarters, calls up some music (a mambo, of all things), then begins to unfasten his uniform - only to find that his collar is now loose once again, as if his neck had lost many of its previous wrinkles. He looks at himself once more ...
... and knocks on Anij's door. ``How old are you?''
He discovers that the adult Ba'ku are up to three hundred years old, and haven't aged a day since they set foot on this world. The planet's rings generate ``metaphasic radiation'', which continually regnerates everyone's genetic structure. Picard finally realizes the reason for the Son'a's interest in the planet, warns the Ba'ku that their way of life is in jeopardy, and vows to stop the conspiracy by exposing it. He walks with Anij and talks of living in a single perfect moment rather than planning for the future or reviewing the past. She gently tells him of the trust he engenders, which is unusual for one ``so young''; so bemused, Picard walks on until he meets Geordi - Geordi, who is watching the sunrise with real eyes. The planet has regenerated his optic nerves, and in case it doesn't last after they leave, he wants to see a sunrise the way everyone else sees one.
Later, Picard receives Dougherty and Ru'afo, both angered at Picard's presence and his refusal to release Ru'afo's men. Picard counters by revealing his knowledge of the holo-ship; Dougherty in turn asks Ru'afo to leave. Ru'afo leaves, but not without condemning Federation ``blunders'' and threatening the Enterprise if his men are not returned.
Picard threatens to go to the Federation Council before he lets Dougherty move the Ba'ku, but is in for a rude awakening. Dougherty is acting on the Council's orders. He tells Picard confidently that the Prime Directive doesn't apply, as the Ba'ku are not indigenous to this planet, and that the planet's radiation can be used to help billions of Federation citizens. He realizes the Son'a's shortcomings, but as they possess the technology that the Federation needs to unlock the planet's potential, they are now partners - and they've handled thugs before. Picard appeals to principle, but is rebuffed, told that it's only six hundred people. ``How many people does it take before it becomes wrong. A thousand. Fifty thousand. A million. How many will it take, Admiral?'' Dougherty, incensed, flatly orders Picard to leave the Briar Patch at once, telling him that by the time he files a protest, the deed will already be done.
Picard orders the ship to prepare for departure, then leaves for his quarters. Once there, he calmly and quietly removes his rank insignia. first one pip, then another, then another, then the last.
Gallatin, the Son'a first officer, returns from the Enterprise to meet with Ru'afo. Gallatin feels uncomfortable at what they are about to do, but is told not to forget ``what they did to us'' and that in a few days victory will be theirs.
Aboard the captain's yacht, Picard beams aboard Federation materiel, and is then surprised to see his crew waiting for him. They anticipated his actions, and are ready to descend with him to help the Ba'ku resist. Picard tries to order them away, but Riker rebuts, ``No uniform. No orders''. Picard, realizing he's beaten, orders Riker and Geordi to take the Enterprise out of the Briar Patch, after which they can contact the Council and put a human face on the tragedy they've condoned. As they prepare to leave, he assures his first officer, ``We'll hold out as long as we can''.
Ru'afo, informed of the yacht's descent to the surface, decides not to wait until morning; he orders the Son'a shuttles to take everyone off the surface that night. ``If Picard or any of his people interfere ... eliminate them''.
On the surface, the Ba'ku hastily evacuate their village for the mountains, where ore deposits will make detection and transport virtually impossible. Picard explains some of their plans to Sojef, but then the Son'a shuttles start appearing, firing on the transport inhibitors keeping them from beaming the Ba'ku away.
As Picard and crew try to fight back, enough transport inhibitors are destroyed to open some gaps in their defenses, and many Ba'ku are beamed away, including Sojef. Artim is knocked down and nearly trampled in the ensuing panic, only to be rescued from the melee by Data...
Meanwhile, aboard the Son'a ship, Dougherty refuses to allow a Son'a assault team, insisting instead that he be allowed to talk to Picard. Ru'afo refuses, noting with scorn that the Federation is old. ``In the last twenty-four months, it's been challenged by every major power in the quadrant. the Borg, the Cardassians, the Dominion. They all smell the scent of death on the Federation''. That, he continues, is why the Federation accepted the Son'a plans; they want a new lease on life. "Well, how badly do you want it, Admiral. Because now there are hard choices to be made.. Fortunately, Gallatin comes up with an alternative. isolinear tags would allow those on the surface to be transported. It's a viable plan - but only if the Enterprise is intercepted before it reaches the edge of the Briar Patch. Ru'afo sends ships to intercept it, with Dougherty's blessing...
Back on the surface, Artim talks to Data, wondering what it's like to be a machine, only to be surprised in turn to find that Data often wonders what it's like to be a child. They talk of many things, and Artim eventually tells Data that ``If you want to know what it's like to be a child, you need to learn to play''. As the exodus continues, Picard accepts Worf's advice and gives the Ba'ku a rest break. He and Anij sit and talk of future plans; then, with surprising boldness, he asks why she's never married, warning her that he's always been attracted to older women. She somehow slows time, and they inhabit that perfect moment for as long as they can.
On the Enterprise, the crew detects Son'a pursuit and keeps running. When they refuse to answer Son'a hails, the Son'a fire on them; despite the threat to the ship that full impulse would create, they go to full impulse and run like hell, then hide in a nebula to use the Briar Patch ``the way Br'er Rabbit did''.
Picard and Anij rejoin the rest of the encampment, and see Son'a shuttles descending. This time, the shuttles carry drones - and before Picard realizes what's happening, the drones fire tags into several people, who are then beamed away. Hastily, he orders everyone into a nearby cavern while he and his crew remain behind to battle the drones.
In the nebula, the Enterprise moves towards the border of the Patch, but find that the Son'a have fired a subspace weapon banned by the Second Khitomer Accord for its unpredictability. The weapon creates a subspace tear which threatens to engulf the Enterprise, and they have no choice but to eject their warp core, as it draws the tear like a magnet. The core is jettisoned, then detonated, and the ship is safe - but Riker now goes to his third plan. on the attack. ``We're through running from these bastards''.
He orders Geordi to start collecting metreon gas with the Enterprise's ramscoop, as the hope is to collect enough of the volatile gas to go on the offensive. Once all is ready, he manually steers the Enterprise towards the Son'a ships, then blows out the ramscoop and runs just as they open fire and are destroyed in the subsequent explosion.
Back on the planet, Picard and company lead the Ba'ku through the cavern to newly discovered caves which are deeper in the mountains. As the evacuations continue, Picard and Crusher examine an unconscious So'na officer after a brief fight; Crusher is taken by surprise at the readings she obtains...
Artim, in search of a treasured pet, runs back to the original cavern as the Son'a begin firing on it. As soon as Anij realizes he's missing, she gives chase; upon hearing of that, Picard goes after them both. He arrives just in time to get Artim to safety, but he and Anij are then caught in a cave-in as the mountainside takes a direct hit.
Data, Worf, and the others quickly scan the area and detect two life signs, one very faint. Deciding not to risk further damage by firing into the rubble, they begin moving it manually. Meanwhile, a reasonably sound Picard urges a badly wounded Anij not to let go, to find the strength to extend this one last moment until help arrives. He loses himself in her eyes, then recovers himself to find that the others have come through and that Anij's condition has stabilized.
The group finally reaches the far end of the cavern, Picard carrying Anij all the way - and they see five drones looming in front of them. Picard places Anij down tenderly, prepares to fight - and is abruptly caught in the middle of the battle by a dart. He disappears just in time to see Anij do the same...
On the Son'a ship, Gallatin takes Dougherty to the brig, where he finds Anij and Picard with a host of Ba'ku. Dougherty makes Picard an offer. tell his crew to surrender, and he won't be court-martialed. Picard will have none of it, welcoming a court-martial if that's what it takes to publicize the atrocity taking place here. In that tense moment, Ru'afo enters, swearing upon receiving the news of his ships destroyed or damaged in battle with the Enterprise. Picard quickly turns, accusing Dougherty of sanctioning the attack. ``I wonder which one of us will be facing that court-martial''. Ru'afo, however, is tired of waiting. whether the planet remains inhabited or not, he intends to fire the injector into the planet's rings and begin extracting the radiation, a process which will render the world uninhabitable for generations. Ru'afo turns to leave, only to be stopped by Picard's accusation. that he would kill members of his own race and his own family.
Sojef, having learned this shortly before Dougherty's arrival, turns to face Ru'afo, wondering which one he used to be. Ru'afo scoffs that the names Sojef cites, ``of those children'', mean nothing to him. Those names are a century old; they belong to a group of Ba'ku who tried to take over the colony and were exiled as a result. Anij tries to get through to him, then to Gallatin (originally Gal'na), while Picard tells Dougherty that he's unwittingly brought the Enterprise into a family feud which is now threatening to destroy both sides. Dougherty leaves, dejected, muttering that everything he did, he did for the Federation.
En route back to the bridge, Dougherty finally decides that enough is enough, and he demands that Ru'afo terminate the mission at once. Ru'afo refuses to take orders from the likes of Dougherty, and kills him with a ``flesh-stretching'' machine used by the Son'a. Ru'afo returns to the bridge and orders the collector deployed. When Gallatin hesitates, Ru'afo repeats the order - and privately reminds "Gal'na" of how much they both hated the Ba'ku once upon a time. Gallatin deploys the collector as ordered, then goes aft to take Picard and the other Starfleet prisoners to the rear of the ship, where the radiation will kill them.
As Picard is being escorted, however, he appeals to Gallatin's sense of decency; unlike some of the others and especially Ru'afo, he has one. Gallatin tries to resist, but Picard's continued accusations that bitterness has turned Ru'afo into a madman and Gallatin into a coward eventually strike home. He asks what he can do to help, and Picard suggests that Gallatin let him contact the surface, thinking that if Ru'afo doesn't realize what's happening he can't override it.
Ru'afo watches the radiation collector unfold, solar sails spread wide, then detects a single Federation ship coming towards them to attack. He scoffs, deeming Data no threat - then Data opens fire. As Data continues firing, he contacts Picard (and tells him that Worf is ready for ``simultaneous transport''); Picard tells him to keep firing until Ru'afo feels compelled to adjust their shields.
Data keeps firing until the Son'a shoot back, then heads for the surface. Ru'afo watches the screen, enraptured, with only a sudden bright, seemingly harmless flash causing any distraction. He watches the injector do its work, exactly as predicted by the simulations - and is then startled to hear that radiation levels have not begun to rise. He investigates, and finds that the ship functions are off-line - because they're not on his ship any more, but the holo- ship. Ru'afo howls in rage...
On board the Son'a ship, Picard and Gallatin greet the newly arrived Worf, then orders him to decloak the holoship and place it in a tractor beam. Ru'afo, in the meantime, concentrates on gaining control of one long-range transporter. When one of his men points out that Picard already has control of the ship, he reacts. ``I don't plan on going back to our ship...''
The Enterprise returns to the area and hails Picard; they've succeeded, at least temporarily. Unfortunately, Worf then discovers the bad news. The countdown has recommenced aboard the collector, suggesting that someone is there controlling it manually. The only way to disable the injector is to do it aboard the collector itself. Picard refuses Worf's offer, intending to go himself; after quick advice from Gallatin to avoid igniting the cryogenic exhaust, he beams away.
With two minutes remaining, he arrives at the collector. As he begins climbing towards his goal, Ru'afo sees him and begins firing, but tentatively, so as not to damage the collector itself. With that edge and a well-placed shot, Picard arrives at the injector just as the one- minute margin is reached. With exhaust beginning to vent, he and Ru'afo face off.
Ru'afo threatens him, but Picard is serenely confident. ``Are you really going to risk igniting the fumes?''
Ru'afo doesn't respond.
``All right. Then I will''. This said, Picard fires, ignites the exhaust, and in the billowing smoke distracts Ru'afo long enough to achieve his goal. the injector, in launching, will now destroy itself. With the Enterprise unlikely to make it in time, Picard awaits his fate - but escapes intact just as the collector explodes. As Ru'afo howls in fury one last time, he and his dream die together.
Some time later, the Ba'ku village is returning to normal. animals roam, chores are done, children are playing, and so on. Riker sees Troi for the first time in days, and wonders aloud if his feelings will remain after they leave this world. ``Commander'', volunteers Worf, ``your feelings have not changed since the day I met you. This place just ... let them out for some fresh air''.
Picard and Anij watch as Gallatin, now Gal'na once more, is reunited with his mother. He and Anij share some final words; he wishes he could stay, but the peril facing the Federation cannot let him do so. ``But'', he adds, ``I have 318 days of shore leave coming - and I intend to use them''.
As the Enterprise crew prepares to leave, they call for Data - who appears in the middle of a haystack, busily involved in a game of hide-and-seek. He accepts his fate, and turns to Artim. ``I have to go home now''. Artim agrees, but advises, ``Don't forget to have a little fun every day''. Picard calls the Enterprise. ``Seven to beam up''. They disappear as Anij takes one last look, then we see the Enterprise depart the Briar Patch.
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