On the planet Ba’ku, a small ringed world tucked away into a dangerous expanse of gaseous clouds known as the Briar Patch, a team of Federation and Son’a scientists observe the seemingly simple Ba’ku people from the safety of a cloaked observation post. But Data, who has been assigned to the project, makes a discovery that changes his status from member of the research team to hunted fugitive. Data destroys the cloaking device, revealing the observers to the Ba’ku, and attacking the Son’a command ship. Starfleet Admiral Dougherty, at the urging of the Son’a leader Ru’afo, contacts the Enterprise and demands Data’s schematics. Captain Picard is alarmed by the news of Data’s behavior, and decides to set the Enterprise on a course for Ba’ku to investigate personally. Picard and Worf – visiting during a break in his duties aboard Deep Space Nine – manage to capture Data and bring him back to the Enterprise, but questioning him reveals more surprises. Hidden beneath a lake on Ba’ku, a Starfleet ship with a huge holodeck awaits to take the small populatuion of 600 Ba’ku away from their home, leaving the rings of their world to be mined by the Son’a for their unique restorative properties. The rings have made the Ba’ku nearly immortal, and they will die if removed from their planet. And, to Picard’s disgust, Ru’afo has the cooperation of Admiral Dougherty – and, the admiral claims, the entire Federation Council – in his venture to relocate the Ba’ku by force.
Having befriended the Ba’ku during his visits to the planet, Picard decides that it may be necessary to abandon his Starfleet career to save them. His crew joins him in his fight to preserve the Ba’ku, but Ru’afo has other ideas, and is quickly tiring of the Starfleet procedures that Admiral Dougherty insists upon following. Riker and Geordi take the Enterprise on a course out of the Briar Patch to contact the Federation without the interference of the nearby gases, with Son’a attack ships in hot pursuit with orders to shoot to kill. Meanwhile, Picard and the others try to lead the terrified Ba’ku to a safe haven, avoiding Ru’afo’s attempts to kidnap them via transporter. On the way, a critical discovery is made, revealing the real reason the Son’a are trying to conquer the Ba’ku – and revealing that Dougherty has gotten the Federation involved in a centuries-old struggle to the death…
screenplay by Michael Piller
story by Rick Berman & Michael Piller
directed by Jonathan Frakes
music by Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Patrick Stewart (Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Brent Spiner (Data), LeVar Burton (Geordi), Michael Dorn (Worf), Gates McFadden (Beverly), Marina Sirtis (Troi), F. Murray Abraham (Ru’afo), Donna Murphy (Anij), Anthony Zerbe (Admiral Dougherty), Gregg Henry (Gallatin), Daniel Hugh Kelly (Sojef), Michael Welch (Artim), Lorella Cuccarini (Ensign Perim), Mark Deakins (Tournel), Breon Gorman (Lt. Curtis), Max Grodenchik (Security Officer), Stephanie Niznik (Ops Officer), D. Elliot Woods (Starfleet Officer #1)
LogBook entry by Tracy Hemenover