Plot Synopsis: The Enterprise races against the Romulans to make first contact with a powerful entity code-named “Tin Man.”
Plot A and B Analysis: The teaser here is pretty brief. The Enterprise is out charting systems for future colonization when the USS Hood drops by, captained by an old buddy (evidently), Captain DeSoto. He says he’s conveying orders and a passenger, Tam Elbrun, who evidently is responsible for the “Ghorusda Disaster” where dozens of people died, and is a former patient of Troi’s. Lovely. Plot A is about Tam and Tin Man, there is no plot B. It turns out Tam is an uber-telepath whose job is to talk telepathically with Tin Man, a kind of living ship. The problem is the Romulans want it for themselves, and it’s a race to see who gets to it first. This plot-driven episode is a race against the Romulans and against time, as a nearby star is read to go supernova. It’s a little unevenly paced, and relies quite a bit on the mystery of Tin Man (where is succeeds), on empathizing with Tam (where it has limited success) and believing the threat of the Romulans (more limited success).
Favorite Scenes: I enjoy the scene where Tam warns Gomtuu and it lashes out, destroying the Romulan Warbird and almost wrecking the Enterprise in the process. Some of the quieter scenes work as well, such as the ones between Tam and Troi, Tam and Data, and Data and Troi.
Use of Cast/Characters: This is an episode that came close to an ensemble feel. Picard’s role here is to get to Tin Man, forestall the Romulans, and keep Tam in check. Riker’s job at first is to dislike Tam, but he, LaForge and Dr Crusher are both involved intermittently throughout. Troi is actually a significant part of this episode, which is cool, but some of her lines seem like they’re from season one. Still she comes across as professional and helpful. Data is his usual likable self, and takes on his sometime role as escort/babysitter for unusual guest stars. It’s less effective here than it was in Deja Q, but still pretty good. A minor bright spot is seeing a few minutes of Data in command on the Bridge. Wes gets the same shaft he’s been getting for the last two years, barely having a few lines, and Worf doesn’t get much better. Harry Groener’s performance as Tam is…unsubtle. The lines he’s given aren’t the greatest, and he is supposed to be brash and a bit unstable, but he still telegraphs everything he does. The one Romulan we see is as wooden as I think it’s possible for a human actor to be.
Blu Ray Version: Nothing special to report here.
Nitpicks: I’m not a fan of the score here, more than once I winced at the 80’s feel of it. Some of the lines here don’t come across well either. A problem I have is the Romulans just seem like tacked-on villains here, as if the writers said “look we need some adversaries to compete against, that are roughly as tough as the Enterprise. Alright, let’s do the Romulans” and didn’t think much more beyond that.
Overall Impression: This is an episode that doesn’t hold up as well watching it as an adult. I totally loved this episode when I first saw it at the age of 14. Heck I’d have liked to be Tam, getting on the awesome living ship and taking off to explore space. As an adult, however, this feels like a season 2 episode–it had some good ideas, but they just couldn’t bring it together in a really satisfying way. The idea and mystery of Tin Man is still the best thing about this episode. The presence of Tam is fine, and having most of the crew involved in an episode is nice, but having both the Romulans and an impending supernova seems a bit much. Don’t need both for dramatic tension. Once we finally do get on the ship it just looks gloomy and underwhelming–bad set design. It’s a pretty good episode, but it won’t qualify to stand along side TNG’s best. I rate this episode 3 out of 5 stars.
Behind the Scenes/Trivia: The design for the ship was partially based on a peach pit. For the interior one of the designers came up with idea of using spray foam so the interior would have a very organic look, and the growing chair was created by reversing a time-lapse film of a wax chair melting–awesome idea. It paid off, as this episode was nominated for another Emmy for Special Visual Effects. The ambient sounds that Gomtuu made were derived from sounds recorded from the sound effects editor’s stomach through a stethoscope while he was eating pizza!
The script was sent in by a couple of writers based on a novel they had written in the 70’s. They adapted it and sent it in because they’d seen Samaritan Snare and thought it was literally the worst Star Trek episode ever. I personally am convinced that the spate of “living ships” or ships using biological tech in shows like Babylon 5, Farscape, Lexx, not to mention Voyager, that can trace the idea back to this episode.
One last piece of trivia. If you remember from the TNG pilot, and a few other select episodes Picard reported he ended up picking Riker because he stood up to his captain and refused to let him beam down to some dangerous situation? Captain DeSoto, who we see at the beginning of this episode, was that very captain.
Missable/Unmissable? Missable, but I do like the whole idea of Tin Man. The next episode is better.