Star Trek: The Next Generation (1989): S03E04 – Who Watches the Watchers


Introduction

“Who Watches the Watchers” is the fourth episode of the third season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 52nd episode overall, first broadcast on 16 October 1989.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, the Enterprise must undo the damage when a primitive civilisation discovers a Federation observation team and concludes that the Starfleet personnel are gods.

Outline

The Federation starship Enterprise, under the command of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, arrives at the planet Mintaka III to resupply and repair a Federation outpost being used to monitor the Mintakan people, a proto-Vulcan race near a Bronze Age level of cultural development.

As the Enterprise assists the outpost, an accident causes the holographic rockface to disappear, exposing the outpost to Liko, a Mintakan. Liko attempts to approach and is hit with an electrical shock, which causes him to fall off the cliff and sustain critical injuries. When Chief Medical Officer Dr. Crusher rushes to provide aid, she realizes the injuries are too severe to treat there and has him transported to the Enterprise for treatment despite the action violating the Prime Directive.

Liko becomes conscious and witnesses everything occurring in Sick Bay, and focuses on Picard giving instructions. Dr. Crusher is able to heal Liko and attempts to wipe his memory of the incident before returning him to the planet. First Officer Riker suggests that he and Counsellor Troi disguise themselves as Mintakans in order to search for Palmer, a missing member of the anthropological team, and to monitor Liko, to make sure the memory wipe worked.

They discover to their horror that the mind wipe did not take, as Liko recalls an image of “the Picard”, and has convinced other Mintakans that the Picard must be their god.

Troi and Riker subtly try to dispel the myth of the Picard, which gains traction as a hunting party arrives with a delirious Palmer in tow. While Troi provides a diversion, telling the clan that another “like Palmer” is heading for the caves, Riker ties up an elderly man who was left behind to keep an eye on Palmer, and Riker and Palmer run away, and narrowly escape back to the Enterprise.

Unfortunately, Troi is captured and held captive for her hand in the escape, leaving Picard to take steps to rectify the situation without further violation of the Prime Directive. He transports Nuria, the leader of the village where Troi is being held, to the Enterprise and attempts to show her that he and the rest of the crew are mortal, including having her witness the death of a crewman in Sickbay.

Picard returns with Nuria to the surface in the middle of a thunderstorm, which Liko has taken as a sign of the Picard’s anger. Nuria attempts to rationalise with Liko, but Liko demands his own proof of Picard’s mortality and aims an arrow at Picard. Picard insists that if that is the only proof that Liko will accept, then Liko should shoot. Liko does, but his daughter pushes him so that he only wounds Picard.

Nuria shows Liko Picard’s blood from the wound, and Liko and the others come to accept that Picard is not a god. Picard and Troi return to the Enterprise, and after he is treated, Picard returns to the surface one last time, and explains to the Mintakans that they will be removing the outpost and allowing them to develop on their own. Before Picard leaves, Nuria gives Picard a Mintakan tapestry as a gift.

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Robert Weimar.
  • Writer(s): Richard Manning and Hans Beimler.
  • Release Date: 16 October 1989.
  • Running Time: 45 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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