Series: The Next Generation
Air Date: April 23, 1990
Written by: Dennis Putman Bailey and David Bischoff
Directed by: Robert Scheerer
All Tam Elbrun wants to do is make first contact with a living starship on behalf of the Federation. But the Romulans and an exploding star get in the way.
While on a routine mission, the Enterprise picks up a transmission from Captain DeSoto saying that they've got more important things to do than routine missions. DeSoto informs Picard that Tam Elbrun is on his way over and he'll explain the mission details because they're afraid Romulans might be listening in. Tam is a Betazoid and he's a very gifted telepath even by Betazoid standards. While most Betazoids come into their powers in puberty, he was born with it and has heard the thoughts of billions since he was a child. His specialty is in making first contact with alien species, and his mission on the Enterprise is to do so with a being they've nicknamed "Tin Man."
Tin man is a starship-sized living being in orbit around a star that's about to explode unless they can communicate with it in time to get it safely within Federation borders. It's not any old first contact mission, it's a rescue mission. While they're on their way, Riker expresses doubts about Tam because he was involved in some disaster where 47 people died. Troi says that Tam was one of her patients when she was studying at the Betazed School of Psychology. Tam does act a little eccentric, but it's mostly just because the thoughts of every frakking thing in the ship are bombarding his brain.
|What? No, I didn't say anything.|
When they get to the place where the exploding star is, Tam regretfully forgets to inform them that Romulans have claimed the territory and that they'll be wanting to make first contact first. Which is why Worf is on the look out for an echo on the sensors that could be Romulan. When they arrive at the star itself and have Tin Man in their view, Tam immediately comes up to the bridge to see. This creature has been calling out to him for months and now he can actually reach back to him. He can read Tin Man's mind and communicate with him. And then SUDDENLY ROMULANS.
|YOU ARE NOT PREPARED|
When Tam and Data get on board Tin Man, Tam is bombarded with Tin Man's thoughts at first, but then it holds back and Tam is, for the first time, offered serenity and companionship all at once. Meanwhile, another Romulan ship shows up to take vengeance for the first Romulan ship that was destroyed. The Enterprise tries to hold it back as much as possible, but the first burst from Tin Man was enough to take the Enterprise too far down. The Romulans advance and the star is about to explode, but Tin Man bursts with energy again and safely knocks the Enterprise and the Romulans out of the way. From a safe distance they watch the star explode. Which is unfortunate, because Data was on that Tin Man near that star...
|Get used to watching Data die.|
This was a very moving character piece; a departure from ordinary Trek where we learn more aspects about the crew. Instead we explore the mind of a different individual who only has one purpose: to find purpose. It's great to see when he does and one feels a bit of attachment to Tin Man, as well. All that being said, I'm not sure if this is an episode to put on an essentials list. As I said, it focuses on a character who's not a part of the main cast and an object who never shows up again. It's cool as a single piece, but I think you can skip it if you just want to run through Star Trek.