Le Règne de la peur
Q ou non ?
Les Petites Canailles
Pour une poignée de Data
Vie et mort d'un Exocomp
Un navire dans une bouteille
Le Vrai Visage de l'ennemi
Droit ancestral [1/2]
Droit ancestral [2/2]
Vingt-huit minutes pour vivre
The discovery of Data's head, old, dusty and dead, among the ruins of some 19th-century artifacts in San Francisco has led the crew on a wild-goose chase through time. In the 24th century, they have found a race on the planet Devidia II who can travel through time and assume human form on Earth. Meanwhile, Data has become trapped in 19th century San Francisco with a 19th century Guinan and a very curious Samuel Clemens.
Hoping to save Data's life, Picard, Riker, Beverly, Troi and Geordi transport to 19th-century San Francisco to find him. In a local morgue, Riker and Beverly realize that the aliens from Devidia II, disguised as humans, are slowly killing off the population by stealing their neural energy and sending it to the 24th century to feed their own people. Meanwhile, Samuel Clemens is following Data and Guinan, believing that they have somehow come from the future with a plan to destroy Earth.
At a local infirmary, the Away Team, in 19th-century garb, discover the two aliens from Devidia II, who have disguised themselves as a doctor and a nurse in order to steal neural energy from cholera patients. Beverly is able to snatch the "doctor's" cane, which is actually the device he uses to manipulate time. After a fracas, the entire group runs out just as Data arrives in a horse-drawn carriage to whisk them away to safety.
The group concludes that the cavern where Data's head was found somehow acts as a focusing device that enables the aliens to travel back and forth through time. Together with Guinan, they go back to the cavern, followed by Clemens, who has learned of their plan. After Clemens enters, the aliens themselves arrive, snatching back the cane and activating the process that allows them to time-travel. A sonic boom throws Guinan against a wall and separates Data's head from his body, which disappears into a hole of white light. The alien nurse is wounded, but the alien doctor dives into the hole, followed by Riker, Geordi, Troi, Beverly and Clemens. Picard stays behind with the injured Guinan, trapped in the 19th century.
The rest of the group, including Clemens and Data's body, lands on Devidia II in the 24th century, and safely transports back to the Enterprise. Troi tries to convince Clemens that mankind's future is assured, while Geordi works to successfully attach Data's 19th century head to his body. The crew is ready to destroy the alien habitat on Devidia II, but must rescue Picard from the cavern before they lose the ability to move through time. The author transports down and alerts Picard, who bids the 19th-century Guinan farewell and escapes just as the Enterprise's photon torpedoes destroy the alien planet.
When the U.S.S. Enterprise encounters another starship, the U.S.S. Yosemite, trapped in a plasma streamer, a young engineer named Reginald Barclay comes up with a plan to reach the vessel. The crew adopts his plan, but Barclay balks when he realizes that the crew wants him to join them as part of the Away Team. Deathly afraid of the transporting process, he backs out at the last minute, leaving the rest of the Away Team to transport to the fire-marred Yosemite. There, they find that one dead body is the only sign of humanity, and they also notice several fragments of a broken sample container. Later, emboldened by a session with Troi, Barclay is able to rejoin the Away Team just in time to transport back. Each member returns to the Enterprise without incident except Barclay, who encounters a sinister-looking creature while in molecular form.
Back on board the Enterprise, Barclay is genuinely shaken by what he has seen. Geordi has O'Brien run a full diagnostic on the transporter, but the tests show nothing unusual. Barclay is able to relax, but becomes even more unnerved when his arm begins to radiate light in the precise spot where the creature touched him. Meanwhile, in Sickbay, Beverly performs an autopsy on the Yosemite crew member and is shocked as each of the dead man's systems briefly and separately come to life, one after the other.
Beverly's examination reveals that the crew member was killed when his body was invaded with high-energy plasma. Geordi, Data and Barclay realize that the plasma was brought inside the ship in the sample container that was fragmented, and that the plasma somehow exploded. The three try to determine why the explosion occurred, but Barclay is unable to concentrate, still shaken by what he saw on his arm. Geordi reports Barclay's condition to Troi, who immediately relieves him of his official duties. Late that night, Barclay returns to his room to sleep, but is unable to do so when his arm begins glowing again — this time all the way up to his shoulder. Sure that something must be hidden in the transporter, he summons O'Brien to help him find it.
O'Brien transports Barclay to the Yosemite and back, and Barclay encounters the creature during the trip. Sure of what he has seen, he wakes the senior staff to tell them, and while Picard is skeptical at first, he authorizes an in-depth investigation. Beverly examines Barclay and finds that he has been exposed to the same plasma that killed the Yosemite crew member.
Data and Geordi discover that the plasma particles are actually life forms, and that some of those life forms are inside Barclay. Thus Barclay must confront his greatest fear - of being dematerialized and permanently lost in molecular limbo. During the transport, however, Barclay encounters the creature again. Instead of panicking, he takes its hand and brings it back to the ship with him. When they arrive, everyone is shocked to see that it is a human being — one of the crew members from the Yosemite. The crew rescues the two other crewmen trapped in molecular limbo, and Barclay, having beaten his fear, emerges as a hero.
The U.S.S. Enterprise is called to aid the Dorian, a Federation ship that has come under fire while transporting a Lumerian ambassador to mediate a dispute in the Rekag-Seronia system. Picard agrees to transport Ambassador Ves Alkar aboard the Enterprise to insure Alkar safe passage. Alkar transports aboard along with his aged mother, Sev Maylor, who takes an instant dislike to Troi. After Alkar asks Troi to use her empathetic powers to help him in the negotiations between the Seronians and the Rekags, Maylor insults Troi, sure that she is attracted to her son. Upset, Troi shares her negative feelings about the old woman with Riker. Both are surprised a few minutes later when they are summoned to Alkar's quarters to find that Maylor is dead. Since she is an empath, Alkar requests she perform the customary Lumerian funeral meditation with him, a process that leaves her feeling a bit strange.
The Enterprise welcomes Alkar's two delegates, Jarth and Liva, who are disturbed by the worsening fighting between the warring factions. Alkar, however, remains calm, and even insists on going to the negotiation site without the protection of an Away Team. Later Troi joins the group, Data and Riker in Ten-Forward and shocks her crew members with her appearance and behavior. She appears to be aging rapidly and dressing more provocatively. In addition, she viciously attacks both Jarth and Liva, prompting a stunned Riker to escort her to her quarters. Once there, he is even more stunned when Troi throws herself at him.
The next day, Alkar arrives at Troi's quarters and upsets her by announcing that he is transporting to the negotiation site without her. She follows him to the transporter platform, begging him to take her with him. Picard is shocked by the change in her appearance — she is now a white-haired, disheveled old woman. Unwilling to let Alkar leave, she rushes toward him with a knife, stabbing Picard in the arm when he steps in to stop her. Security rushes both Picard and Troi to Sickbay, where Nurse Ogawa notices a correlation between Troi's condition and that of Maylor right before she died. Unable to reach Alkar, Picard instructs Beverly to perform an autopsy on the dead woman without her son's approval. Beverly soon finds that Maylor was not really Alkar's mother, but an unnaturally aged 30-year-old woman. Alarmed, Picard transports to the negotiation site and confronts Alkar, who reveals that he caused both Maylor and Troi to age so rapidly. He used these women — channeling his dark thoughts into them in order to keep his own mind unhindered by unwanted emotions and remain the perfect negotiator. Picard insists that Alkar free Troi, but he refuses, and instead returns to the negotiating table.
To save Troi and outsmart Alkar, Beverly and Picard suspend Troi in a deathlike state to sever Alkar's tie with her and force him to turn to someone else. Alkar immediately beams back aboard the Enterprise with Liva. After viewing Troi's "dead" body, he prepares to perform the funeral ritual with Liva, hoping to turn her into his new psychic dumping ground. But at the minute the transformation is about to take place, Picard transports Liva, leaving Alkar alone with his terrible thoughts. The psychic burden kills him just as Beverly revives a shaken Troi.
The U.S.S. Enterprise crew is surprised to encounter the U.S.S. Jenolen, which crashed 75 years ago, on the surface of a tremendous gravitational force known as a Dyson Sphere. However, they are even more surprised to discover a survivor hidden in the ship's transporter. The legendary Captain Montgomery Scott has survived for three quarters of a century by keeping himself suspended in molecular limbo in the ship's transporter system. The crew beams the exhausted veteran back to the Enterprise, where, being the Chief Engineer of the first U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701, he is dazzled by the ship's display of 24th-century technology.
Too restless to remain confined to quarters as Dr. Crusher recommended, Scotty tracks Geordi down in Engineering and offers his services. Instead, he ends up exasperating Geordi with his "war stories" of adventures aboard the old Enterprise. Finally, Geordi tells Scotty he is in the way, and the depressed veteran returns to his quarters. He is soon visited by Troi, who hopes to help him through the ordeal of finding himself 75 years in the future. But when he realizes Troi is a psychologist, he assumes her visit was mandated by Geordi and storms off to the Ten-Forward to drown his sorrows.
Still clutching a liquor bottle, Scotty visits the holodeck, where he has the computer simulate the Bridge of his old Enterprise. Unfortunately, it just isn't the same without the rest of his mates. He is about to sink into a nostalgic reverie when Picard suddenly appears in the holodeck doorway. Understanding his visitor's sense of displacement, Picard joins Scotty for a drink and a memory, and Scotty confesses to feeling old and useless. Picard feels sympathy for his guest, and later asks Geordi to accompany the old captain to survey the Jenolen in order to make him feel useful again. Geordi immediately understands, and the two transport to the Jenolen. Moments later, the Enterprise is suddenly caught by the Dyson Sphere's gravitational force and is pulled toward a star inside the sphere.
Luckily, Riker manages to maneuver the Enterprise out if its deadly spiral. However, moments later the ship is rocked by a solar flare that is raging from the star. Meanwhile, on the deck of the Jenolen, Geordi and Scotty are able to reenergize the Jenolen, only to realize that they have lost contact with the Enterprise. By following its ion trail, they realize that the ship is making the same mistake that the Jenolen did 75 years before by opening a channel in the sphere that will ultimately pull them to the sphere's center.
In order to facilitate the Enterprise's escape, Scotty suggests that the Jenolen remain a good distance from the sphere and move in at the precise moment to jam open the hatch. Though skeptical, Geordi agrees to go ahead with Scotty's plan and they are able to contact the Enterprise to tell them. The plan appears to work, until Geordi and Scotty realize that they must destroy the Jenolen to clear a big enough path for the Enterprise. They instruct Picard to fire on the smaller ship, and are able to transport to safety aboard the Enterprise just as the Jenolen explodes. Later, as a farewell gift, the crew thanks Scotty by presenting him with one of their shuttlecraft so that he can continue his adventures in the 24th century.
Geordi comes up with an idea to help the crew map an extremely dense globular cluster more efficiently. With Riker's permission, he channels the ship's warp energy into the main deflector grid, and the idea appears to work beautifully. After a few minutes, however, the plan appears to go terribly wrong when sensors indicate an explosion has occurred in a Cargo Bay. But when they rush to the bay to investigate, Data and Geordi are shocked to see that nothing is wrong. It seems as if there was no explosion, just a mishap with the sensors caused by Geordi's modification.
Meanwhile, several crew members begin to experience strange symptoms. Riker struggles with overwhelming exhaustion, although Dr. Crusher can find nothing wrong with him. Worf and Geordi experience sharp pains and anxiety. Even Data experiences an odd sensation when he appears to have dozed off for an hour and a half. Geordi realizes that everyone who is affected has had contact with the Cargo Bay. He orders an investigation of the premises, and soon discovers that a strange, subspace force exists in the room.
Data and Geordi inform Picard that Geordi's experiment has attracted an alien particle stream that cannot ordinarily exist in this universe. Later, they join Worf and Riker to talk about the strange sensations they have been experiencing with Troi. When they realize that all of their symptoms arose when they came in contact with a smooth, cold surface, Troi takes them to the holodeck to try to recreate the thing they fear. With some coaching, they replicate a sinister, operating-room-like environment that is lodged in all of their memories.
Data informs Picard that an intense level of tetryons exists on the starship. Even more disturbing, however, is Data's discovery that his survey indicates that he was physically absent from the ship for a period of about 90 minutes. Picard immediately asks the computer to account for all crew members, and he learns that two are missing, with no report as to where they have gone. The mystery intensifies when Beverly examines Riker and discovers that his arm has been severed and surgically reattached. Geordi and Data return to the Cargo Bay, where the tetryon levels are causing a spatial rupture. But before they can investigate further, Picard and the crew learn that one of the missing crewmembers has returned to the ship. They rush to his quarters, where the pain-crazed man dies in front of them. Realizing he may be next, Riker volunteers to wear a homing device to help the crew learn where the victims are being taken.
Later, Riker finds himself in an alien lab similar to the place recreated in the Holodeck. The other missing crewmember, Ensign Rager, is there undergoing some sort of medical experiment, obviously heavily sedated. At the same time, shadowy, alien figures remove his homing device and attempt to sedate him, but Riker only pretends to be unconscious. Meanwhile, the crew uses the homing device to determine Riker's whereabouts. The aliens create a rupture in that environment, which the Enterprise crew attempts to close. As the aliens try to counteract what the Enterprise is doing, Riker manages to grab Rager and run through the rupture the Enterprise has created. The two escape back to their ship, but with the unsettling realization that this mysterious force may strike again.
While working to save the planet Tagra IV from environmental collapse due to pollution, the crew welcomes Amanda, a young honor student chosen from hundreds of applicants to serve aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. The crew is immediately taken with the young woman's boundless enthusiasm. However, Amanda also has a secret she keeps hidden from her new teammates. She possesses extraordinary mental powers, including the ability to make objects appear simply by visualizing them. She manages to keep this power under wraps until she witnesses a potentially devastating explosion in Engineering. With the destruction of the ship imminent, Amanda summons her powers and stops the explosion while the shocked crew looks on.
When the senior staff meets to discuss this turn of events, a surprise visitor arrives to clarify things for them. Q appears out of nowhere in the middle of the meeting with the announcement that Amanda is a Q. He tells the crew that he created the explosion to test the young woman's powers, and, now that he is convinced, he has come to bring her back to the Q Continuum and save her from life as a lowly human. Picard, however, feels that Amanda should make her own decision, and Q reluctantly agrees. Once the two part, Picard secretly orders an investigation into the death of Amanda's natural parents, who were killed in an accident when she was an infant. Despite their agreement, he doesn't trust Q.
Q visits Amanda in her quarters, hoping to tempt her by showing her the range of her limitless powers. Amanda is only interested in seeing her real parents. With Q's help, she visualizes the couple, and they materialize in front of her. The feeling is intoxicating, and suddenly, Amanda is beginning to like being a Q. Confused, she shares her feelings with Beverly, who is unable to offer any real advice. However, when she uses her powers to complete an experiment she was performing for the doctor, Beverly is displeased and chastises Q. In response, he briefly turns Dr. Crusher into a yapping dog.
Amanda can't help being amused by the trick, and begins to test her powers further by playing a game of teleportation hide and seek with her new mentor. Amanda teleports Riker, whom she has a crush on, into her romantic fantasy, but she is disappointed by the artificiality of the result. Meanwhile, Data discovers that the tornado that killed Amanda's parents was very unusual. Picard confronts Q with the information, and he admits that the couple were executed by the Q Continuum — and that he has come to the Enterprise to decide whether Amanda will be executed as well.
Picard and the crew decide to fill Amanda in on this disturbing information. Furious, the young woman summons Q and demands to know what right he has to eliminate others. Picard deftly reminds Q of his supposed moral superiority, but Q lightly replies that he has decided not to kill Amanda anyway. Instead, he offers her a choice. She can either accompany him to the Q Continuum, or continue to live as a human — if she will promise not to use her Q powers. Amanda immediately decides to stay aboard the Enterprise with her new friends. At that moment, however, the group is alerted to an emergency — the planet Tagra IV is in immediate danger of destruction. Realizing that thousands of people will die, Amanda summons her powers and saves the planet, turning it from a polluted no-man's land back to a lush, green world. The event forces her to live up to the fact that she is a Q, and she sadly leaves the ship to start her new life.
En route back from vacation, Picard, Ensign Ro, Keiko and Guinan run into danger aboard their shuttlecraft. O'Brien manages to transport the group onto the U.S.S. Enterprise, but a molecular mishap brings them back as12-year-old children. Beverly examines the group and finds that while their bodies have changed, their minds remain intact. However, when young Picard attempts to resume his command and lead his crew as though nothing has happened, his staff has trouble taking him seriously. Because of this, Beverly gently convinces him to temporarily relinquish command to Riker.
Later, Geordi tells Beverly that the transformed crewmembers were affected by a molecular reversion field, and that the transporter can be used to reverse the effects and bring the group back to normal. But before they can begin the process, the ship is attacked without warning by two Klingon warships.
The crew attempts to retaliate, but the enemy ships manage to take out the Enterprise's power systems. Suddenly, Worf picks up transporter signatures in three cargo bays. As the crew prepares to defend the ship against the invaders, two Ferengi materialize on the Bridge. Their leader, Lurin, arrives and informs Riker and the others that he has declared the Enterprise to be a loss and is beginning salvage operations according to Ferengi law. If the crew refuses to comply, they will be executed.
Young Guinan points out to young Picard and the transformed crew members their unusual appearance gives them a chance to put plans into motion without the Ferengis' knowledge. Using the computer in the schoolroom, they obtain a diagram of the ship's inner workings and use it to sneak around and collect phasers and other small weapons. Guinan and Ro crawl through a Jefferies Tube to wait to try out their plan near Main Engineering. The only problem remaining is the need to obtain access to the Bridge.
To accomplish this, young Picard throws a tantrum and forces a Ferengi to take him to Riker in the Observation Lounge, pretending that Riker is his father. During their conversation, the young captain subtly communicates to Riker to grant him systems access through the school computer. Unfortunately, the Ferengi are also demanding access to the computer, and threaten to kill all the children on board if Riker falls to comply. The children manage to capture all of them with the "weapons" they have stolen, and when the action subsides, Beverly and O'Brien use the transporter to restore the group to their adult states.
A rare period of downtime gives the U.S.S. Enterprise staff a chance to pursue recreational interests. Geordi conducts an experiment with Data, attaching the android to the Enterprise computer to see if he can be used as a backup. Meanwhile, Worf, Alexander and Troi transport to 19-century South Dakota, where they engage in a fantasy involving a murderous outlaw named Eli Hollander.
On the Enterprise, the crew's pursuits are interrupted by tiny malfunctions in the system. When lines from Data's poetry replace the script in a play that Beverly is rehearsing, Geordi realizes that these malfunctions could be a result of his experiment with Data. At the same time, in South Dakota, Alexander is kidnapped by two of Eli's henchmen. Frightened, he tries to stop the Holodeck program, but his command is ignored. Instead, he is taken to meet Eli's father, Frank — a man who looks exactly like Data.
Worf soon goes in search of his son, and meets Frank in the saloon. He assumes Frank is simply Data playing the game, but when his violent behavior makes him suspicious, Worf orders the computer to stop. As in Alexander's case, nothing happens, and Worf realizes that something is terribly wrong. He runs out of the saloon, sustaining a gunshot wound to the arm in the process, and explains to Troi that the computer is malfunctioning and that Alexander has been taken. Before they can make a move, they encounter Eli Hollander, who is now also a dead ringer for Data.
Troi reminds Worf that since the scenario is a holodeck program, there are built-in safeguards. While they cannot end the program on command, it will terminate on its own if they reach the end of the story. With no other choice, Worf makes a deal with Frank to trade Eli for his son, hoping that will help bring about the program's end. But while spending time with Frank and Eli, Troi makes a horrifying discovery. The two men not only look like Data, they also have Data's android abilities. Should a shoot-out occur between Worf and Frank, Worf will almost certainly lose. At the same time, the senior staff meets in the Observation Lounge and is surprised to notice that Data is speaking with a Western drawl.
Geordi realizes that parts of Data's memory have been crossed with the computer's recreational database. While Geordi tries to correct the problem, Worf prepares for his showdown with Frank. Frank arrives and releases Alexander as promised, but then he and Eli shoot Worf. But Worf foils them, activating a force field around his body that deflects the bullets. The two android outlaws are outwitted, and Worf orders them to leave town. However, the program does not end until Annie the saloon owner, who now also has Data's face, gives Worf a big, embarrassing kiss.
Geordi is assigned to survey the station core of a new mining development with Dr. Farallon, the scientist who is developing the technology. When a dangerous problem suddenly occurs in the power grid, Farallon chooses the moment to introduce Geordi to an exocomp, a device she constructed that quickly restores the power grid to its normal state. Later, Farallon explains the intricacies of the exocomp to Data, pointing out that the device not only replicates tools, but can also solve a myriad of problems. This convinces Picard to allow Farallon to use the exocomp to repair the mining system, with Data assisting her. The device initially performs its tasks without error, but suddenly becomes unresponsive to commands just before an explosion occurs in the plasma conduit
Back on the Enterprise, Farallon explains that the exocomp has malfunctioned and is unusable. She and Geordi choose to continue their work with two other exocomps, while Data, who is intrigued by his fellow machine, takes the faulty item back to his quarters. He is surprised when, a short time later, the exocomp repairs itself. Just as Geordi and Farallon are about to leave, he rushes in and tells them they must stop — because the exocomps are alive.
During a meeting with the staff, Data explains that the exocomp shut itself down just before the explosion in the plasma conduit, indicating that the machines are capable of self-protection. The staff tests Data's hypothesis by putting a device in simulated danger, and Data appears to be proven wrong when the exocomp completes its task. But Data remains unconvinced, and after repeating the experiment several times, discovers that the exocomp knew the test was only a simulation and acted accordingly.
Picard, Geordi and Farallon return to work at the station core, but soon learn they've lost internal confinement and are risking exposure to dangerous radiation. Farallon and several workers are able to transport back to the Enterprise, but Geordi and Picard are left behind. With no other solution, Riker asks Farallon to transport the exocomps to the station to save the men. She agrees, but Data refuses to allow her to do so and locks out the transporter controls.
Claiming he can't justify sacrificing one life to save another, Data holds firm. Riker is able to convince him to compromise by allowing the exocomps to "choose" whether or not to risk their lives. To everyone's surprise, the exocomps come up with their own plan that saves Picard and Geordi and only sacrifices one of the three machines. The crew is left to ponder what they have witnessed, while Data is pleased that he could act as an advocate for these forgotten "living" things.
As tensions between the Federation and the Cardassians grow, Picard is ordered to leave the U.S.S. Enterprise to lead a top-secret mission. Beverly and Worf are also "reassigned" and begin rigorous training sessions with Picard, although only the captain knows the nature of their upcoming task. Among the crew, speculations about whether Picard will return arise when a now commanding officer, Captain Jellico, is assigned to take over instead of Riker. Jellico adds to everyone's anxiety by quickly implementing several major procedural changes that disrupt their daily lives.
Jellico is especially hard on Riker and Geordi, which naturally creates a great deal of tension. Troi uses her position as counselor to plead for a period of readjustment, but Jellico disregards her input, coldly insisting the situation with the Cardassians demands immediate action. Later, in a conversation with Picard, Jellico says he feels war with the Cardassians is unavoidable, and that he doubts Picard will ever return to the Enterprise. The ship is now his, and he plans to run it his way.
When Picard, Beverly and Worf finally embark on their mission, Picard is able to relay the enormous gravity of their situation. The Cardassians are rumored to be developing metagenic weapons — genetically engineered viruses that destroy all living things in their path — on an abandoned planet called Celtris III. Picard and his team have been ordered to locate these weapons and destroy them at any cost.
Back on the Enterprise, Jellico meets with Gul Lemec, a Cardassian leader, ostensibly in hopes of averting war. However, Jellico does everything he can to enrage Lemec, making him wait for over an hour and acting unreasonable once the meeting begins. He engages Riker and Troi in this "good cop, bad cop" game, hoping to intimidate the Cardassians into abandoning their plans. But Jellico's own plan appears to backfire when Gul Lemec reveals that he has information regarding the secret Federation mission.
On Celtris III, Picard, Worf and Beverly survive a difficult trek over the rocky, barren planet and finally arrive at their destination — a sealed cavern. They devise a plan to break the seal and it goes off without a hitch. However, once inside, they find nothing there. Realizing the cavern is a trap, they run to make their escape just as several armed Cardassians attack them. Beverly and Worf escape, but Picard is kidnapped and returned to Cardassian leader Gul Madred, who informs him that he must answer all questions asked of him or he will die.
In an attempt to obtain information from their hostage, the Cardassians inject Picard with a serum that forces him to answer all questions truthfully. He soon reveals the exact nature of the Federation's mission to destroy metagenic weapons on Celtris III. However, his Cardassian captor, Gul Lemec, reveals that the situation on Celtris III was simply a trap, invented to lure him into Cardassian space. The Cardassians have captured them in order to learn strategy the Federation will use in case of a Cardassian attack. When Picard indicates that he knows nothing of such a strategy, Gul Madred begins to torture him in violation of the law.
Back on the Enterprise, Gul Lemec informs Captain Jellico, Riker and Troi that Picard is being held hostage. Jellico prepares to rendezvous with Worf and Beverly, but refuses Riker's request to attempt a rescue mission for Picard, stating that his former captain is probably already dead. Later, Gul Lemec tells Riker and Jellico that if Jellico admits Picard's mission was authorized by the Federation, his life can be spared. When Jellico refuses, Riker loses his temper, and is promptly relieved of his post.
Surprisingly, Jellico chooses Data as Riker's replacement and with Geordi's help, they deduce that the Cardassians faked the metagenic weapon situation to lure Picard. As the discussion continues, they also realize that Picard is probably being tortured to reveal information he doesn't even have, and that their actions could indicate that the Cardassians are planning an attack.
Jellico directs the Enterprise to Minos Korva, where he believes they can intercept the Cardassians and launch a first strike. The rest of the senior staff warns him that he is flirting with disaster by initiating a Cardassian battle in their territory, pointing out that they have no proof the Cardassians are preparing for war and that thousands of innocent lives may be lost. Still, Jellico holds firm. At the same time, a starving, exhausted Picard manages to hold firm against Gul Madred, winning some small victories in their battle of wills.
Jellico prepares to begin his mission and travel into Cardassian space in a shuttlecraft. However, when Geordi informs him that Riker is the best pilot on the ship, the captain swallows his pride and asks Riker to lead the excursion. Riker agrees, and he and Geordi are successful in their effort to lay mines throughout the sector per Jellico's instructions. Before long, a furious Lemec contacts Jellico, who agrees not to detonate the mines If the Cardassians withdraw and Picard is returned. Lemec agrees and a weak disoriented Picard soon arrives on the Enterprise relieving Jellico before his overjoyed crew.
While enjoying a Sherlock Holmes mystery fantasy on the holodeck, Geordi and Data request that Barclay investigate some anomalies in the program. While doing so, Professor Moriarty appears and informs Barclay that the computer system has created him so well in the fantasy that he has come alive! According to Moriarty, Picard has held him hostage in the fantasy for over four years.
Unable to believe that Moriarty really exists, Picard instructs Beverly to examine him. She finds that the impossible has occurred — a fantasy has turned into a living, breathing human being.
Thrilled to be alive, Moriarty begs Picard to bring the love of his life in the fantasy, Countess Regina Barthalomew, to life as well. After conferring with Beverly, Data and Barclay, Picard decides to postpone any action until they discover more about what really happened.
Meanwhile, the U.S.S. Enterprise orbits around two giant, gaseous planets about to collide. Picard attempts to launch probes to the planets, when he is denied authorization access by the computer. Apparently, Moriarty transferred Picard's voice authorization to his own voice, attempting to take control of the starship. Moriarty refuses to relinquish control of the vessel unless Picard agrees to bring the countess to life. His hands tied, Picard agrees to try, otherwise the Enterprise could be caught in the collision between the two stars.
Later, as Picard and Geordi work to reinstate his computer authorization, Data informs them that all of the events of the day have been a simulation. It isn't that Moriarty is real, but that all of them are participating in the fantasy. Data discovered this by noticing that a normally right-handed Geordi was working on the padd with his left hand. Evidently, Picard, Data and Barclay are real, but everyone else is a simulation — a simulation being controlled by Moriarty.
Desperate to break free of the fantasy, Picard meets with the countess and urges her to persuade Moriarty to return navigational control to him. Instead of complying with Picard's request, Moriarty works with Riker to be transported into reality. Once he is transported, though, he refuses to relinquish control over the ship unless Riker gives him a shuttlecraft. Having no other choice, Riker agrees.
As Moriarty and the countess depart on their shuttlecraft, he releases authorization back to Picard, who promptly discontinues the entire simulation. He then lets the rest of the crew know that unbeknownst to Moriarty, his shuttlecraft adventure with the countess is just another simulation. In fact, Picard has both of them encapsulated in a small computerized cube. And in the greater scheme of things, he muses to his staff, who's to say that they aren't caught in someone else's fantasy right now.
The U.S.S. Enterprise arrives at a remote subspace relay station near the Klingon border, and Riker, Geordi, and Beverly encounter a stray dog and evidence of what appears to be the remains of Aquiel Uhnari, a Starfleet lieutenant. The staff attempts to discover precisely what happened by surveying the deserted shuttlecraft docked into the station. While surveying the shuttlecraft's destroyed deckplate, Beverly and Riker suspect that Aquiel and the missing Lieutenant Rocha may have been the victims of a Klingon attack. Then, Geordi comes across a moving, speaking screen image of Aquiel in her quarters, relaying a message to her sister Shianna about her fear of a Klingon named Morag. Geordi continues to watch these personal logs, and learns that Aquiel had a tenuous relationship with Lieutenant Rocha. Riker then joins him in her quarters and is informed by Picard that the Klingon Governor Torak has arrived at the Enterprise.
The senior staff meets with Torak, and much to their surprise, he produces Aquiel — alive! She explains that Rocha attacked her and she escaped into Klingon space via shuttlecraft. Thus, the remains found near the bulkhead were probably Rocha's, but she doesn't remember precisely what happened. To help clarify what really occurred, Picard requests to speak with Commander Morag, a Klingon who supposedly harassed Aquiel. Attracted to this familiar stranger, Geordi befriends Aquiel, and takes her to Ten-Forward. He reveals to her that he surveyed her logs and personal correspondence in an investigation of her quarters. He then asks her about Rocha, and she tells him that she didn't like Rocha but she didn't wish him dead. She realizes, however, that the senior staff of the Enterprise suspects her of murder.
Meanwhile, Beverly continues to examine the cellular residue found on the deckplate, while Riker and Worf come across a phaser in the shuttlecraft set to kill. Given this new development, Riker and Worf question Aquiel, however she still insists that she would not kill him. Geordi sits in on this interrogation, and it is obvious he is sympathetic towards his new friend.
Commander Morag then arrives aboard the Enterprise and meets with the senior staff. He admits that he was present when Rocha was killed, and that he took priority Starfleet messages. Geordi then confronts Aquiel about taking messages from Rocha's log, and she explains that she did so because Rocha was declaring her insubordinate and belligerent to Starfleet. Scared that this new evidence will condemn her as Rocha's killer, she only agrees to stay aboard the Enterprise because Geordi has faith in her. He and Aquiel use an ancient method of her people to bond and share their thoughts.
While Beverly examines the DNA found on the deckplate yet again, the material jumps up and forms a perfect replica of her hand. Due to this, she suspects that the real Rocha may have been killed by this strange coalescent organism, and a replica of him may have attacked Aquiel in search of a new body. Suddenly, Aquiel's dog transforms into a creature right in front of Geordi — the dog is really a coalescent creature. Fortunately, Geordi manages to defend himself against the bizarre being, which apparently coalesced from Rocha to Aquiel to her dog. She and Geordi then bid each other a fond farewell, both of them hoping they'll see each other again in the future.
Troi suddenly awakens from a restless sleep to discover that she has somehow been transformed to look like a Romulan officer. Learning that she has also been transported aboard one of their warbirds, she is told by N'Vek, the vessel's Romulan Sub-Commander, that if she hopes to return to the U.S.S. Enterprise alive, she must pretend to be Major Rakal of the Tal Shiar, the Imperial Intelligence. Her instructions: to instruct the warbird commander to proceed to the Kaleb sector with a mysterious cargo. N'Vek then introduces Troi to Commander Toreth, who tries unsuccessfully to intimidate her. Undaunted, Troi orders a course for the new destination.
Back on the Enterprise, Stefan DeSeve, a Starfleet ensign who defected to the Romulans years ago, is beamed aboard after risking his life to return to Federation space. Commander Riker immediately places him under arrest for treason. DeSeve says it is urgent that he speak with Captain Picard. The ensign tells Picard that Ambassador Spock would like the Enterprise to rendezvous with a Corvallen freighter and take its cargo back to Federation territory. Unbeknownst to Picard, the rendezvous point is in the same sector where Troi has ordered the Romulan warbird.
Meanwhile, N'Vek reveals the contents of the secret cargo to Troi. Inside the containers are a high-ranking member of the Imperial Senate and his aides, being held in stasis. They are defecting to the Federation, and N'Vek is part of the Romulan underground. Major Rakal was killed in order for Troi, a Starfleet officer, to replace her. Troi continues with the impersonation, aware now that she is part of an important mission.
As planned, the warbird meets up with the Corvallen freighter. Troi senses deception from the mercenary captain of the freighter, and N'Vek suddenly destroys it, claiming that Major Rakal (Troi) ordered him to do so. A furious Toreth informs Troi that she is responsible for the deaths. Troi demands that the warbird hold position, engage its cloaking device, and wait.
At the same time, Picard is puzzled because the Enterprise does not encounter the Corvallen freighter. Picard then discovers from DeSeve that the rendezvous message did not, in fact, come from Spock, but from a member of the Romulan underground. Picard orders Data to initiate a search pattern for the missing freighter.
On the warbird, Troi chastises N'Vek for destroying the freighter so hastily. N'Vek, remorseless, instructs Troi to set their course for a Starfleet base on Draken IV. Troi follows his orders and tells Toreth to set the course. Suddenly, the warbird's sensors detect the presence of another vessel — the Enterprise. Anxious to return to her home ship, Troi threatens to eject N'Vek into space if he doesn't allow the Enterprise to track the warbird's course.
Naturally, Picard directs the Enterprise away from the warbird, and Toreth attempts to open fire. Troi orders Toreth not to, and assumes command of the warbird herself. She then communicates with Picard, asking to be beamed aboard the Enterprise. The Enterprise shields are lowered, and Troi orders N'Vek to fire disruptors at the ship. As Picard's officers react to the attack, the three Romulan defectors, still in stasis, materialize on the Bridge.
Realizing that the ineffective disrupter fire was merely a diversion to conceal the transporter beam, Toreth watches while a fellow pilot vaporizes the attacking N'Vek. Toreth attempts to hold on to Troi, but Worf activates his transporter lock on her and replaces her safely aboard the Enterprise. She is relieved to have lived through her mission, but saddened by the loss of N'Vek. Picard comforts Troi by assuring her his death was not in vain.
Gravely injured in a Lenarian attack, Picard slips into a white, seamless limbo while Beverly struggles to save his life. There, he encounters Q, who informs Picard that he is dead and this is the afterlife — and that Q himself is God! Picard refuses to believe that he is dead, let alone that Q is the supreme being. But Q is determined to prove otherwise. He produces the artificial heart that failed Picard and caused his death, which triggers Picard's sense of regret. With Q's urging, he admits that, given the opportunity to live life over, he would do things differently.
Picard's wish is Q's command. He is suddenly a young ensign of 21 and Q gives him the opportunity to relive and avoid the fight that led to his being stabbed through the heart. If he succeeds, he will return to the present with his real heart intact, and the galaxy's history will remain unchanged. If not, he will die in that present and spend eternity with Q.
Initially, Picard was stabbed when he rigged a gambling table to help his Starfleet friend Corey get revenge against a Nausicaan who cheated him. Since he must avoid that conflict, he attempts to talk Corey out of gambling in the first place. Corey plays anyway, the Nausicaan cheats him and wins, and Corey naturally asks Picard to help him get revenge. But Picard refuses, backed up by a another friend named Marta, and a furious Corey storms off.
Further changing his past behavior, Picard spends the night with Marta. But in the morning, she worries that they have ruined their friendship. When Picard, Marta and Corey get together that night, the tension between the three of them is palpable. Then things get worse. Three Nausicaans appear and taunt the group, hoping to provoke a fight. Picard sees the Nausicaans prepare to draw their weapons and quickly knocks Corey to the floor in order to prevent the fight from occurring. But since Corey and Marta can't understand Picard's actions, they see them as a betrayal and walk away in disgust, announcing to Picard that they are no longer friends. Q congratulates Picard for changing his destiny, and he is thrown back into the present time. However, he has returned to the U.S.S. Enterprise as a lieutenant, junior grade.
According to Q, everything is as it should be — the changes in Picard's present reflect the changes he made in his youth. But Picard is unable to go about his business as a lowly astrophysics officer. Disoriented by the lack of respect he encounters at the hands of his former subordinates, he speaks to Troi and Riker about his chances for advancement, and is crushed to hear that while he is a good, reliable officer, he just doesn't stand out. Desperate, Picard summons Q and begs that he would rather die than live any longer as an average, dreary man. Q obliges and the dreaded fight ensues. However, at the moment he is stabbed through the heart, Picard wakes up in Sickbay in the present time, surrounded by a very relieved Beverly, Worf and Riker. Despite the traumatic ordeal, Picard realizes that he feels grateful toward Q, who gave him a chance to understand why he is the man he is today.
The U.S.S. Enterprise is docked at the space station Deep Space Nine, assisting in repairs to Bajoran technologies damaged during the Cardassian occupation. Worf, having a meal with Geordi at the station, is being observed discreetly by a mysterious alien. After Geordi leaves, Worf is approached by the alien, a Yridian named Jaglom Shrek, who claims that Worf's father, Mogh, did not die at Khitomer 25 years ago, as everyone thought. Shrek tells the disbelieving Worf that Mogh was taken to a remote prison camp by the Romulans after the massacre. For a price, Shrek says, he will reveal the location. Enraged, Worf still refuses to believe him, saying that a Klingon would rather die with honor than live as a prisoner.
Meanwhile, in Engineering, the space station's Dr. Julian Bashir, Data, and Geordi examine a battered cylinder recently found in the Gamma Quadrant. As they are working, Bashir expresses unending fascination with the operation of Data's android body. The final power connections are made to the dilithium chamber, and Geordi attempts to turn on the device. Suddenly, the cylinder releases a tendril of energy that jolts Data to the floor. He then gets up, finding himself in an eerie, surreal version of one of the Enterprise's corridors. Following a metallic banging sound, Data walks into another corridor to see a blacksmith at an anvil. The face is that of a young, fortyish version of Dr. Noonien Soong, Data's creator — his "father" of sorts.
Data seeks Picard's advice about his vision, explaining some of the interpretations he has derived from it, based on other cultures. Picard encourages Data to explore what the image represents to him personally. Data then returns to his quarters and paints a picture of what he saw in the vision.
Meanwhile, Worf arrives in the Carraya Sector. Landing on the planet where the alleged Romulan prison camp is located, he makes the long, arduous trek through the jungle to find his father. During his journey, he finds Ba'el, a beautiful Klingon woman, bathing in a nearby pond. She is shocked to discover him hiding in the bushes. Worf states he is here to rescue them, which confuses her, because she feels this is her home. Before he can respond, they hear someone approaching. Worf backs into the underbrush, asking Ba'el to tell no one about him. Then, a Romulan guard arrives and escorts her away from the pond.
After painting dozens of pictures in an unsuccessful attempt to flesh out his vision, Data decides to recreate the incident that caused his initial shutdown. Geordi and Dr. Bashir reluctantly do so, and this time Data again sees Dr. Soong in blacksmith's garb, forging a bird's wing, which turns into a live bird after being dunked into a bucket of water. This time, Dr. Soong talks to Data, saying that he is proud of the android, that Data is becoming more than a machine, and that a wonderful journey is beginning for him. After this even more unusual "dream," Data resolves to shut down his circuits for a brief period of time each day and attempts to "dream" some more.
Worf follows the Klingon woman and the guard to the Romulan compound, where he sees a group of Klingons, both young and old. He quietly pulls one aside, an elderly-looking Klingon called L'Kor. The Klingon tells Worf that his father, Mogh, is not a prisoner here, but did indeed die in battle at Khitomer. Angered by the sight of comrades in captivity, Worf offers to help free the 73 Klingons in the camp. L'Kor sadly says that Worf should never have come here. Suddenly, three other Klingons see Worf. As two of them grab him and pin him down, L'Kor reveals that no one is leaving the camp, not even Worf. An astonished Worf does not understand ...
Still imprisoned in a Romulan camp inhabited by Klingons, and having learned that his father is truly dead, Worf asks L'Kor and Gi'ral, the Klingons leading the group, how they can live as prisoners — the ultimate disgrace In their culture. They explain that after they were captured during the Khitomer massacre, the Romulans kept them from committing suicide. As a result they voluntarily remained to preserve the honor of their families, who believe they died heroically.
Later, Worf meets with Tokath, the Romulan leader, and is unable to understand why he has provided this peaceful home for his sworn enemies. Worf finds out that, not only are the Romulans living together with the Klingons in harmony, Tokath himself married a Klingon woman. He warns Worf to not test his tolerance.
Seeking escape from the compound Worf is tackled to the ground. He is stunned to see he has been attacked by Toq — a fellow Klingon! Tokath injects the captured Worf with a pellet that will enable guards to track him and puts the young Toq in charge of him. Frustrated, Worf controls his energy by performing an ancient Klingon martial arts exercise, attracting the attention of Toq, Ba'el, and the rest of the younger generation of Klingons. Worf sparks their interest in their heritage, something their parents have kept from them - and gladly assumes the role of teacher, filling them in on the legends and customs he grew up with. As he does, the attraction between him and Ba'el grows stronger, which her mother, Gi'ral, senses and tries to discourage. However, just at the moment he is giving in to the attraction, he sees that she has pointed ears — like a Romulan.
During a hunting trip, Worf is able to teach Toq that the blood of a warrior runs through his veins. Worf's words also begin to affect Ba'el, who, while the entire group is assembled in the meeting hall to dine, asks her father If she is free to leave the planet to travel. Things reach a head when Toq enters the hall, triumphantly carrying an animal he killed in the hunt. He is a warrior inside, he proudly proclaims. He then leads the Klingons in an old hunting song. It appears Worf has won.
Tokath has had enough and faces Worf in a final confrontation. He argues that losing one's heritage is a small price to pay for peace, but Worf disagrees. When Tokath tells the Klingon he must accept life in this peaceful society or die, Worf chooses an honorable death. Ba'el offers to help him escape, but Worf refuses, determined to face his destiny with honor.
When the ritual execution is about to take place, Toq stands between Worf and the line of fire of Tokath's guards, and insists that if Worf dies, he will die as well. One by one, the rest of the Klingons take their place in front of Worf and Toq. When Tokath's own daughter, Ba'el, finally takes her place in the front of the line, Gi'ral has Tokath stop the execution. Worf takes the young Klingons who wish to start life over as true Klingons back on the Enterprise with him. Ba'el, knowing she would not be accepted by other Klingons because of her Romulan blood, stays on the planet with her parents. However, Worf protects the honor of those who remain behind by telling Picard that the young Klingons are a group of crash survivors, and that he found no prison camp during his visit to Romulan space. The captain understands, silently keeping Worf's secret.
The Enterprise, docked at the orbiting Remmler Array, is evacuated in order to undergo a baryon sweep, a procedure that scans the ship with deadly rays in order to eliminate accumulated particles which have collected on the vessel over years of space travel. La Forge informs Picard that because baryon particle levels from the ship are so high, a more powerful sweep than normal may be needed to clear out all the radiation. Toward that end, La Forge ordered extra field diverters for the Bridge and the computer core, to further protect those sensitive areas from the sweep.
The senior officers, with the exception of Worf, who managed to get excused, attend a reception at the Arkaria Base on the planet below, hosted by Commander Hutchinson. However, Picard finds an excuse to leave the gathering, and with only minutes before the baryon sweep begins, he hurries to the Enterprise. But as he prepares to return to the planet, Picard notices that one of the technicians who came aboard is still there, working on a panel in a corridor. Suspicious of Picard's presence, the technician prepares to attack, but the captain gets the upper hand, striking the man and rendering him unconscious. Picard makes a run for the transporter room, but he is too late, the ship's primary power cuts off just as he steps onto the transporter pad.
Picard finds his unconscious assailant and drags him into Sickbay. When the man comes to, Picard commands him to reveal the real purpose of the technicians aboard the Enterprise. The man refuses comment, so Picard hyposprays him and takes his communicator, but is eventually captured by another member of the group, Kiros. Meanwhile, at the reception, the station administrator, Mr. Orton, leads a surprise takeover, firing alien phasers. Geordi is wounded, and Commander Hutchinson is killed. The officers are held hostage. The officers devise a plan to use the wounded Geordi's VISOR to emit a hypersonic pulse, which would render everyone but Data unconscious.
Picard gets away by escaping through a Jefferies tube — but his pursuer, Satler, is killed by the sweep. Picard contacts Kelsey, warning her against moving the volatile trilithium resin to Ten-Forward, where they are planning to go to avoid the sweep as long as possible. Kelsey, undaunted, has her assistant Neil put the substance in a container. Meanwhile, Picard arms himself with a crossbow, then goes to Sickbay, coats the arrow tips with a colored liquid, and finds two powders he can combine in order to create small explosions. He gets one of the thieves, Pomet, with an arrow in the leg, from which the liquid knocks out the alien. But Picard is once again caught by Kiros. Kelsey, now almost at Ten-Forward, murders Neil because she has no more use for him. Meeting Kiros, the two of them take Picard with them to Ten-Forward.
Back at the Arkaria Base, Riker orders their plan into motion, and soon everyone but Data slumps to the floor. Meanwhile, Picard reveals his true identity and offers himself as a hostage in lieu of the trilithium resin, but Kelsey turns down the deal since she intends to sell the substance rather than use it for terrorist purposes. Moving into Ten-Forward, Kiros steps into strips of Picard's two powders, which creates a small explosion that disables her. Picard and Kelsey fight for the trilithium resin. Suddenly, the sweep comes through the wall and Kelsey grabs the container, beaming over to a waiting ship, leaving Picard to face certain doom. Thinking quickly, he speaks into his communicator, urgently telling anyone who hears to deactivate the baryon sweep. With seconds to spare, the glow of the sweep fades. Data, having gained control on the Arkaria Base, has answered his captain's plea. Soon afterward, Kelsey's ship explodes, since Picard managed to steal the pin from the container of trilithium resin during their struggle.
Working on an insomnia-inspired personal assignment in the middle of the night, Picard's curiosity is aroused when he finds many of the ship's computer functions have been taken off-line. He goes to the source of the situation, the Stellar Sciences department, and meets Lieutenant Commander Nella Daren, the section's new department head. Nella and her staff are using the early morning quiet attempting to construct a mathematical map of an emerging star system. Picard is intrigued by this lovely, intelligent woman — and his attraction increases the next evening, when he is overwhelmed by Nella's amazing piano performance during a concert. He expresses his appreciation afterward, and she — impressed by his musical knowledge — suggests they play together sometime. The attraction seems to be mutual.
The next evening, Picard practices on his Ressikan flute, when Nella pays an unexpected visit, bringing along a keyboard. She encourages the reluctant captain into playing a duet, which he begins to enjoy. When they next get together, she leads Picard into a specific Jefferies Tube intersection, where she claims the acoustics are perfect. The two engage in another duet, but their concentration drifts to something other than music — and they share a warm and deep kiss.
After their encounter, Picard suddenly feels unsure about his actions. Later, after setting a course for Bersallis III to study the planet's firestorms, he asks to talk with Troi privately in his Ready Room. There, he speaks frankly about his attraction to Nella and his worries about dating a woman under his command. He is relieved when Troi encourages him. Picard then shares some of his most private thoughts with Nella in his quarters, and they kiss more passionately, taking the relationship to a new level. However, Riker is troubled, and tells Picard he feels uncomfortable with handling Nella's demands for her department because of her relationship with the captain. Picard assures Riker that personal feelings will not be placed above what's best for the ship, and then talks with Nella about their unusual situation. They agree that she should not compromise herself, and must continue to do her job to the best of her ability.
Worf interrupts their conversation with news that the firestorms will hit much earlier than anticipated and endanger the Federation outpost on Bersallis III. Picard orders the U.S.S. Enterprise to aid in the outpost's evacuation, while Nella and La Forge devise a plan to build a protective shield to guard the outpost from the storm. Riker chooses Nella to lead the deployment team, and although Picard is worried about sending her on this dangerous mission, she reminds him that their relationship cannot stand in the way of proper command decisions.
When the Enterprise reaches the planet, Nella and her team transport to the surface with thermal deflectors to construct their shield. Unfortunately, she soon learns that there is a problem. The team members will have to remain on the planet during the storm to keep the deflectors cross-connected by calibrating them manually — a procedure they may not survive. Picard is torn, but when he realizes this is the only way to save the 73 colonists that still remain on the planet, he orders the group to stay, facing the horrible realization that he may have condemned Nella to death. The firestorm hits, and after it passes, Picard beams aboard the survivors. Nella is among the last to transport back, but when her eyes meet Picard's, he senses something different.
Later, Nella forgives him for the decision she knows he had to make, but the two realize that they cannot go on as both lovers as well as commander and subordinate. Nella tells Picard she will apply for a transfer, because for their love to remain, they must now be apart.
Picard is surprised when Professor Richard Galen, his old archaeology professor whom he hasn't seen in 30 years, pays a visit to the U.S.S. Enterprise and asks Picard to accompany him on a mission. The renowned archaeologist has made a discovery so profound, the ultimate findings could reverberate throughout the galaxy, but will only reveal them to Picard if he agrees to join him on a lengthy, possibly year-long expedition. The offer is tempting to Picard, who once intended to make archaeology his life's work, but he chooses duty instead, prompting the professor to angrily leave the starship. Soon afterward, the Enterprise receives a distress call — Galen's ship is under attack by Yridians. After inadvertently destroying the attacking vessel with a phaser hit the crew is able to transport Galen aboard, but not before he takes a disruptor blast in the chest at point-blank range. Picard is at the professor's side when he dies in Sickbay, taking his secret with him to the grave.
Attempting to learn why Galen was attacked, the crew finds 19 strange blocks of numbers stored in his computer's memory. Picard decides the answer might be on Ruah IV, part of an unexplored star system Galen visited just before first contacting the Enterprise — and sets course despite the fact that he is due at a diplomatic conference elsewhere. When the search yields nothing, he opts to continue the investigation on Indri VIII, Galen's next intended destination.
Upon their arrival at Indri VIII, the crew finds every microbe of life on the planet is being destroyed before their eyes, leading Picard to believe that Professor Galen's number blocks may have something to do with organic matter. Picard and Dr. Crusher study the blocks, and learn that they are mathematical representations of DNA fragments, each from a different life form from 19 different worlds scattered across the quadrant. Picard decides to set a course for Loren III, the only planet capable of sustaining life in the area to which the professor was referring. There, they encounter two Cardassian war vessels and a Klingon attack cruiser, each on the trail of the same discovery.
After a tense initial confrontation, Picard is able to get the Cardassian Captain, Gul Ocett, and the Klingon captain, Nu'Daq, to share their respective organic matter samples and agree to solve the puzzle together. They soon learn that they are still missing one DNA fragment, but Picard initiates an elaborate computer search, which soon reveals the location where the missing DNA may be found. However, when the findings are announced, the Cardassian captain dematerializes and her ship fires on both the Enterprise and the Klingon vessel.
Picard sets course for the Vilmoran system, accompanied by the Klingon captain, whose ship was crippled in the attack. Soon after they arrive, the Cardassian captain appears on the planet, as do a group of Romulans, who have been following all along in a cloaked vessel. Gul Ocett threatens to destroy the few samples that still remain on the barren world rather than work with the Romulans, and as the Klingon leader joins the face-off, Picard and Beverly quietly retrieve a partially fossilized sample. Unnoticed, they feed the sample into their tricorder. The mysterious program is activated, and a humanoid hologram recorded billions of years ago appears before them. The hologram tells the surprised group that her race found itself alone in their travels of the galaxy. The genetic puzzle was created in hopes that those races would come together in cooperation and fellowship in order to activate the message. The humanoid tells the group that they all come from this common seed, and implores them to remember this bond. The message fades, leaving Nu'Daq and Gul Ocett unbelieving, and repulsed at the mere thought of having anything in common. The groups return to their vessels.
Riker is put in charge of an undercover mission to Tilonus IV, a planet that has descended into anarchy. Since the trip there will take a few days, Riker is able to retain his starring role in the ship's play while he prepares for the dangerous mission. However, he soon begins experiencing an unusual sensation that people, especially a strange alien lieutenant, are staring at him. Troi tells him this can be attributed to his getting into his character — that of a mental patient trapped in an asylum. However, when he performs the play, Riker is shocked when the set suddenly becomes an actual asylum cell. The audience disappears, leaving Riker in a real mental ward with a real alien doctor.
The therapist, Dr. Syrus, tells Riker that the play is a delusion, and that he is in a Tilonus mental hospital. Later, an attendant named Mavek escorts Riker to the Common Area, where he sees a doctor who looks just like the alien who was haunting him on the U.S.S. Enterprise. Mavek tells Riker he was brought to the hospital because he committed murder. A panicked Riker tries to attack Mavek, but is subdued and injected with an alien syringe. Riker suddenly sits bolt upright in bed on the Enterprise, relieved that it was all a dream.
Riker and Beverly attribute the dream to nervousness about the play, which is set for that evening. During the performance, Riker is distracted by flashes of his nightmare, and shocks the audience when he angrily confronts Lieutenant Suna, the alien he saw in his nightmare and aboard the Enterprise. Beverly takes Riker to Sickbay and examines him, but can find nothing wrong. Riker then tries to walk back to his quarters, but hallucinates that he's walking in the asylum. When he finally reaches his quarters and closes the door, it locks, and he is in the cell again.
Convinced that he is losing his mind, Riker tells Dr. Syrus that he is ready to cooperate. The doctor subjects Riker to Reflection Therapy, observing Riker use images of Picard, Troi, and Worf to represent different parts of his own psyche. He then sees an image of the alien lieutenant, who according to Dr. Syrus is actually the hospital administrator. The images of the Enterprise officers try to convince Riker that he is still on the starship, but Riker dismisses them, telling them they are not real. Later, Beverly joins Riker in the Common Area, tells him this is all a part of his mission on Tilonus IV, and that the crew is attempting to get him out. Riker, however, refuses to acknowledge her. Then, that night, Data and Worf break into Riker's cell in an effort to free him, but Riker breaks away and runs to the guards, refusing to trust that the Enterprise officers are anything more than delusions.
Worf and Data are able to defeat the guards and transport Riker back to the Enterprise against his will. But while Picard informs Riker that he was abducted during his undercover mission, Riker reacts to a minor head wound Beverly can't seem to stop from bleeding. Struggling to regain his grip on reality, he volleys between delusions of the ship, the play and the alien asylum, until he finally wakes up in a lab, with a probe connected to his head and the alien doctors surrounding him — the leader being the mysterious alien he had been encountering over and over again. Seeing that he is dressed in the undercover costume he was given for his mission to Tilonus IV, he realizes that this Is reality and hurriedly locates his communicator. Before the aliens can stop him, Riker calls for an emergency transport and is beamed safely back to the Enterprise, where he learns the truth: he was abducted during his mission and used his last memory of the Enterprise — the play — to defend himself against experiments the aliens performed on his brain.
Guinan visits Beverly in her quarters, only to find her packing her belongings. She has been relieved of her duties, and has been summoned back to Earth to face a formal inquiry — and the beginning of the end of her Starfleet career ...
Beverly invited a group of experts aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise to hear Doctor Reyga, a Ferengi scientist, explain how he had invented a metaphasic shield designed to protect a shuttle and its occupants from the destructive forces of a star's corona. To that end, one of the Enterprise shuttles was outfitted with the shield, so that Reyga himself could fly it into the corona of the star Vaytan. The Klingon expert, Kurak, preferred that someone more objective fly the shuttle. The Takaran scientist, Jo'Bril, volunteered, to which Kurak and the other two experts present, a Vulcan named Dr. T'Pan and her human husband, Dr. Christopher, agreed.
As Dr. Reyga flew the shuttle into the star's corona, Data detected an increased level of baryon particles in the shuttle cabin. In trouble, Jo'Bril managed to alter the shuttle's course back out of the corona before slumping unconscious. He was beamed directly to Sickbay, but Beverly was too late to save his life.
Beverly and Nurse Ogawa were baffled after examining Jo'Bril's body — they couldn't determine the cause of death. Later, she talked with Geordi, Reyga, and Data, who were examining the shuttle. Geordi determined that minor hull damage confirmed baryon particles did get through, but that wasn't necessarily the cause of death. Geordi suggested that there must have been something in the corona that Reyga never anticipated. The implication made the Ferengi angry. Unfortunately, though, Beverly was forced to ban further tests — even if Reyga himself was the pilot. He vowed to prove himself.
When Beverly saw Reyga again, he was dead. The evidence suggested suicide, but she refused to believe that. Picard, however, told her that Reyga's family wouldn't allow an autopsy before they performed Ferengi death rituals. Beverly was certain it was murder, and the most likely suspects were the other three scientists — the ones most likely to gain from his death. The Klingon told Beverly that an argument stemmed from Reyga's accusation of sabotage — which Kurak denied. Then, with no other clues, Beverly went against orders and performed an autopsy. Not surprisingly, the Ferengi government lodged a formal complaint with Starfleet, who forced Picard to relieve her of duty.
Guinan encourages Beverly to find the murderer. Beverly and Data discuss sabotage possibilities, they do an autopsy and find the traces, but it's still not proof. The bridge crew notes that the shuttle equipped with the metaphasic shield has suddenly been launched. Picard is shocked to see it is Beverly, ready to risk it all for the test of a theory.
The bridge officers are shocked to see Beverly has set a course for the star's corona. Despite Picard's protests, she reaches her destination. The shield functions perfectly — Reyga was successful. Suddenly, the Enterprise loses contact with the shuttle. The reason: Jo'Bril is aboard with Beverly, very much alive, and pointing a phaser at her. He has disconnected communications, and tells the shocked doctor that he put himself into a state of physiostasis, a talent unique to his race, which allowed him to fake death. He was hoping to just discredit Reyga and his invention — but now he has more than he bargained for, because he now has the shuttle, which he plans to develop into a weapon. Beverly suddenly makes the shuttle rock violently, and they scramble for the loose phaser. She gets to it first and vaporizes Jo'Bril, then sets course back to the Enterprise. The mystery has been solved, and she has been reinstated.
When Worf fails to report for duty, Riker goes to his quarters to investigate, finding the Klingon entranced in a ceremonial ritual, oblivious to everything and everyone until Riker's interruption. Concerned because of Worf's developing pattern of sub-par performance, Picard visits him in his quarters. Worf explains that his recent experience in the Carraya sector — from which he brought back some Klingon children — has left him empty inside. He has been trying to summon a vision of Kahless — the greatest of Klingon warriors, who united his people many centuries ago, and promised to one day return and lead them again. Picard grants him leave to visit the planet Boreth, where the Followers of Kahless wait for their leader's return. Worf attempts his ritual again in the ceremonial lava caves. This time, however, a sudden swirl of smoke and light reveals Kahless. Kahless is real — and he has returned!
Worf and the other Klingons, stunned and amazed, follow Kahless into the temple. Koroth doubts it is truly the legend returned, but Kahless then tells them the story of how the Klingon bat'leth sword was forged — a secret that was kept only with the High Clerics in order for them to verify Kahless's existence if he ever came back. This is proof enough for all present except Worf, who later scans Kahless with a tricorder, only to see that the being really is a Klingon.
Kahless and Worf talk privately about the new empire that will form, but Worf discovers some flaws in his hero — Kahless doesn't remember the taste of Klingon Warnog, or what existence is like in the Klingon afterlife known as Sto-Vo-Kor. Later, Worf and Gowron argue over the situation, with Gowron refusing to believe this is nothing more than an elaborate ploy by Koroth and his allies to seize power over the empire, but Worf implores him to open his heart and have faith that this is true. Only Worf's intervention stops Gowron from killing the warrior, but the moment has put doubt in the minds of all.
His heart filled with anger, Worf threatens Koroth later, making him reveal the truth. He and Torin used an organic sample of the original Kahless to create a clone, one in which they imprinted "memories" so even the clone would believe. But Koroth says they still need Kahless — in any form — to help bring together an empire that suffers under Gowron's corruption. Much to Koroth's objection, Worf reveals the truth about Kahless to Gowron, but also expresses the sentiment that their people need a moral leader, someone in whom the Klingons want to believe, to put their faith, and around whom they can rally. Worf suggests that the clone Kahless be made Emperor. Gowron would continue to run the High Council, but Kahless would guide the people and help return them to the honorable ways of long ago. Gowron is given no choice but to go along with this plan. A new era begins, but Worf is still feeling empty, until the clone Kahless tells him it doesn't matter whether or not the original returns, as long as they remember the words he left behind and follow his teachings.
The U.S.S. Enterprise returns to the planet Nervala IV to retrieve data left behind by Starfleet researchers when they were forced to evacuate eight years ago. It has taken this long for a transport window to open in the planet's distortion field, finally allowing a brief attempt for people to beam down. Riker led the evacuation operation while a lieutenant on the U.S.S. Potemkin, and returns to oversee the retrieval. However, when he beams down to the surface, he is met with an unexpected surprise — a man who appears to be his identical twin. Both Rikers claim they led the evacuation eight years ago, but while the Enterprise's Riker says he was transported back safely, Lieutenant Riker claims his transport failed, and the planet's distortion field kept him on the surface. Lieutenant Riker beams up to the Enterprise, and Beverly pronounces the two men genetically indistinguishable. Geordi then fills them in on the reason for the unusual situation - a second containment beam was initiated to get Riker transported through the distortion field, but that beam reflected back to the surface, materializing another Riker. From that moment on, two different Will Rikers — both very real — lived two separate lives.
Lieutenant Riker is ready to pick up his life where he left off — in the middle of a romance with Troi. But Troi's broken relationship with Commander Riker, who returned only to choose career over love, forced her to move on with her life. Lieutenant Riker is disappointed, but not ready to give up. Later, he agrees to help the crew retrieve the data from the computer system on Nervala IV, but when they can't access the computer core, he and Commander Riker clash over possible options during the mission. Lieutenant Riker feels resentment when the superior-ranking double gives him a direct order.
Back on the Enterprise, Lieutenant Riker romances Troi by leading her on a treasure hunt that brings them together in Ten-Forward. They talk, and Troi admits how disappointed she was when the love affair ended. Meanwhile, tension mounts between Riker and his double when Picard chooses the lieutenant's computer retrieval plan over that of the first officer. Later, with Beverly's encouragement, Troi gives in to her feelings for Lieutenant Riker, seeing his arrival as a second chance at their relationship.
Soon afterward, she talks with Commander Riker, worried that her relationship with his double will upset him. He says he accepts their romance, but warns Troi to be careful. Whatever part of his personality drove them apart since his return from Nervala IV also exists within Lieutenant Riker, and she could end up being hurt again. Troi keeps this in mind when Lieutenant Riker returns with news he's been posted on the starship Gandhi. He asks Troi to accompany him on this exciting appointment, but Troi is unsure she can give up the life she has built without him.
The two Rikers beam down to Nervala IV, entering the dangerous underground caverns to access the computer core directly. The scaffolding they attempt to cross collapses, but despite their differences, Commander Riker saves Lieutenant Riker from plunging to his death. Later, they return to the Enterprise to prepare for their rendezvous with the Gandhi. Lieutenant Riker approaches Troi for her answer, and she gently explains that she won't be coming with him — at least not yet. Commander Riker enters the lieutenant's quarters to see his double off, and gives him a memento of his past — the old trombone on which he first learned to play. Troi and the double reluctantly part, but Commander Riker promises to watch over her.
While Riker and the Enterprise respond to a Romulan ship's distress call, Picard, Troi, Geordi, and Data are traveling in a long-range shuttlecraft known as a Runabout. Suddenly, while in a conversation, everyone except Troi freezes in mid-motion. Seconds later, things return to normal. Baffled, she attempts to describe the experience to the others when she inexplicably becomes frozen in time herself for over three minutes. Then, almost without warning, the starboard nacelle cuts out from lack of fuel, and instruments show it has been in continuous operation for over 47 days. Picard then notices some rotten fruit and his fingernails quickly grow half an inch. Data discovers they are in a temporal disturbance where time is moving approximately 50 times faster than normal. Their vessel is surrounded by dozens of irregular temporal fragments, and inside each, time is going at different rates. They head around the fragments and eventually find the Enterprise, but are shocked to discover it trapped in the center of a huge disturbance, face-to-face with a Romulan Warbird, which is firing a disruptor beam at the Enterprise, whose shields are half-raised. However, the entire scene is like a photograph — everything is frozen in time.
The four officers adapt their emergency transporter armbands to generate skin-tight forcefields which will isolate them from the temporal fragment's effects. Picard, Data, and Troi then beam onto the Enterprise's bridge, where everything and everyone around them is motionless.
Picard enters the transporter room and finds three Romulans were being beamed aboard by Worf. Picard and Troi join Data in Engineering, where he discovers that the source of the power surge is a warp core breach in progress — the beginning of a massive explosion that is, in fact, expanding. Time is not really frozen as they first believed, but moving forward at an infinitesimal rate, and Data estimates that the explosion will consume the Enterprise in just over nine hours. Suddenly, Picard experiences severe emotional changes, laughing uncontrollably, becoming dizzy, then panicking. Geordi immediately transports the three back to the Runabout, where they determine that the captain experienced a form of temporal narcosis. Geordi beams over with Data and Troi to the Warbird's engine room, where they see several Romulans frozen in the middle of an Evacuation Alert, trying to shut down a power transfer originating from the Enterprise. Meanwhile, Picard watches from the Runabout as the Enterprise, now in normal time, explodes from the warp core breach, then moments later, comes back together. Back on the Warbird, the scene goes backward as well, then freezes right where it began. Geordi, Troi, and Data are stunned.
As they look for more clues, the strange Romulan male attacks Geordi, who goes into neural shock, dying, until Troi removes his armband, freezing him in time. The other two return to the Runabout with the being, who appears to be totally alien to their time continuum. The being tells them that he was attempting to rescue a nest of his species' young, which mistakenly was placed by them in the Romulan core, causing the engine failure. When the power transfer from the Enterprise made contact with the nest, the ruptures in time were created. Before Picard learns anything else, the alien fractures in a kaleidoscope effect and vanishes.
Data adjusts his tricorder, causing the aperture to make time reverse itself to a point before the warp core breach occurred, then go forward again. Data is then attacked in Engineering by the Romulan woman, really another alien being, who inadvertently prevents him from stopping the power transfer. He attempts to protect the warp core, which delays the breach long enough for Picard to take control of the Runabout from a console and maneuver it directly into the transfer beam, interrupting It. The vessel explodes, and the Warbird and the alien disappear in a kaleidoscopic effect. Troi is able to rescue Beverly, Geordi is saved, the warp core breach has been prevented, and Picard attempts to explain everything to a confused Riker.
Curious to see how three of history's greatest minds might interact in an unique setting, Data plays poker in the Holodeck with computer-generated recreations of Professor Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, and Sir Isaac Newton. However, just after Hawking wins a hand, the U.S.S. Enterprise goes to Red Alert in response to a distress call from the Ohniaka III outpost.
When the Enterprise arrives, a menacing-looking alien vessel of an unknown design is found in orbit around the planet. Efforts to communicate with it yield nothing, so Riker, Worf and Data transport to the surface, finding only dead bodies in the science station. Then, Data opens a door to encounter ... one of the Borg. Several more of the warrior aliens charge in, attacking the officers, while in space the strange vessel suddenly fires on the Enterprise. However, the Borg on the surface are not performing as the calm, mindless drones encountered in previous battles, but are instead quick, vicious — ready to kill instead of assimilate ... and are behaving like individuals. They focus on Data, surprisingly identify him by name, then quickly rush him. The emotionless android becomes enraged, slams a Borg against the wall, and violently beats him to death. The other Borg abruptly disappear, then the alien vessel moves away and travels into a blinding flash of light, vanishing. Riker and Worf stare at Data, who realizes the impossible — he got angry.
In the Holodeck, Data recreates his fight with the Borg, but cannot recapture the anger. He returns to duty as they go to Red Alert — the Borg are attacking the MS 1 Colony. Curious, Picard wonders why the Enterprise in both cases happened to be the nearest ship to these conflicts. They encounter the same alien vessel, which escapes again into the flash of light — but this time, the Enterprise gets drawn into the strange subspace distortion with it.
Returning to normal space, the alien vessel immediately fires upon the Enterprise. Two Borg materialize onto the Bridge, but Worf quickly kills one attacker and wounds the other. After the fight ends, they realize the Borg ship has once again vanished. Placed in the Brig, the survivor tells Picard he is called Crosis, a name given to him by an entity called the One. Data is left alone with Crosis, who tells the android he is perfect for assimilation. While talking, Crosis surreptitiously touches a control on his artificial arm, and Data's head tilts very subtly in response. Crosis reminds Data about the pleasure he felt killing the Borg on Ohniaka III, and slowly convinces Data that it is worth anything to feel an emotion again — even if it means killing his friend Geordi. Abruptly, a shuttlecraft leaves the Enterprise, emitting a tachyon pulse that causes the subspace distortion to appear. The shuttlecraft and the light then vanish. The passengers: Crosis and Data.
Geordi duplicates the tachyon pulse, and the Enterprise travels through one of the subspace conduits, exiting 65 light-years from where they were. The shuttlecraft's energy trail is traced to an unexplored planet. Riker, Worf, and a heavily-armed away team transport down and find the shuttlecraft, now abandoned.
Picard institutes a massive search for Data, utilizing all available personnel, including himself, and leaves Dr. Crusher in command of the Enterprise. Picard's team, composed of Geordi, Troi and a security guard, search for hours, then discover a large alien building. They enter a huge, empty, foreboding room that seems to be some kind of meeting hall, and realize it could be a trap, but before they can escape, huge groups of Borg run in from everywhere, screaming incessantly and trapping the away team. The security guard tries to fire, but the surrounding Borg kill him on the spot. They close in on Picard, Geordi and Troi, who prepare to face certain death, when a voice commands the Borg to stop. The three officers turn toward the voice and are stunned to see Lore, Data's "brother.