“Tin Man” is the 20th episode of the third season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the 68th episode overall. It was originally released on 23 April 1990, in broadcast syndication.
It was written by Dennis Putman Bailey and David Bischoff with uncredited work by Lisa Putman White. It was based on Bailey and Bichoff’s 1976 short story, and subsequent 1979 novel, Tin Woodman. Both the short story/novel and the episode are named for the Tin Woodman from L. Frank Baum’s Oz books.
Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, telepath Tam Elbrun (Harry Groener) joins the crew to investigate a bio ship detected near a star about to go supernova. As the crew investigates, the Romulans threaten the Enterprise and the creature, Gomtuu, and Elbrun boards it with Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner). As the star is about to explode, Gomtuu sends Data back to the Enterprise and the two ships out of the system. Gomtuu and Elbrun leave together as the star goes supernova.
The spec script (speculative screenplay) was chosen as the crew believed it could go into production quickly. After purchasing it, the production of this episode began a week later. Groener guest starred as Elbrun, the first male Betazoid seen on the show. Michael Cavanaugh appeared as Captain Robert DeSoto, a character that was mentioned in “Encounter at Farpoint” and later in the franchise. The design of Gomtuu was based on an element from The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, while the chair creation special effect was made using reverse motion. “Tin Man” received Nielsen ratings of 10.2 percent. Critical reception has been mixed; while it has been listed in the top 70 of the best episodes of the franchise, other reviewers have called the plot predicable and trite.
The Enterprise brings aboard the Betazoid Federation emissary Tam Elbrun (Harry Groener), and takes him to a distant star system. Elbrun, whom Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis) previously knew when he was a mental patient, has a history of mental instability due to his overpoweringly strong telepathic capabilities, but his unique skills are used for first contact situations with alien life. On this particular mission, Elbrun’s abilities are needed to try to coax a giant sentient spaceship, code named “Tin Man,” away from a star that is about to go supernova. It also comes to light that the star is in a Romulan-claimed area of space, and that this is a race to claim the ship. Elbrun finds it impossible to filter out the thoughts of the Enterprise crew, but finds solace in meeting Lt. Commander Data (Brent Spiner), by whom Elbrun is initially puzzled, finding what he calls ‘absence of mind’; he finds relief in developing a friendship with Data, who, being an artificial lifeform, has no organic mind to be read.
When they arrive, the Enterprise is attacked and disabled by a Romulan Warbird that has overly stressed its engines to catch up to them. The Romulans race ahead to try and communicate with Tin Man. When Elbrun gleans from the Romulans telepathically that they intend to destroy Tin Man if they can’t claim it, he sends it a telepathic warning to Tin Man. Tin Man suddenly comes to life and emits an energy wave that destroys the Warbird and further damages the Enterprise. Elbrun, now in communication with Tin Man, reveals that it calls itself Gomtuu. The creature is millennia-old and formerly had a crew, but they were lost in a radiation accident. Due to a combination of remorse, loneliness, and a lack of purpose, Gomtuu wishes to die in the supernova. Elbrun requests to be beamed aboard the creature, but Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is cautious of this action. When a second warbird arrives, Picard lets Elbrun transport to Gomtuu along with Data to help procure the ship. Elbrun is initially overwhelmed by Gomtuu, but eventually comes to identify himself with the ship.
With the supernova imminent, the elated Elbrun informs Data he will stay with Gomtuu, believing it is where he truly belongs. Moments before the start of the supernova, Gomtuu creates another energy wave that sends the Enterprise and the Warbird spinning out of the star system in separate directions before they are caught in the nova blast. As the Enterprise regains control, they find Data aboard the bridge, who reports what happened aboard Gomtuu. When Data discusses the events with Troi, Data comes to realise that like Elbrun with Gomtuu, the Enterprise is where he belongs.
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Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Robert Scheerer.
- Writer(s): Dennis Putman Bailey and David Bischoff.
- Release Date: 23 April 1990.
- Running Time: 45 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.