Star Trek: The Next Generation (1994): S07E17 – Masks


Introduction

“Masks” is the seventeenth episode of the seventh season of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: The Next Generation, the 169th episode overall.

Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet crew of the Federation starship Enterprise-D. In this episode, an alien archive, like an alien Library of Alexandria, initially appearing as a rogue comet because of accumulated matter, transforms the Enterprise as well as adapting Lieutenant Commander Data for a re-enactment of its culture’s mythology, including the creation of two masks which are stylistically “a kind of cross between Venetian and Mayan.”

The episode relates to the concept of a mask, in that something is hidden but is revealed.

Outline

A classroom of children on the Enterprise-D including Data are making clay sculptures under the supervision of Deanna Troi when a mysterious-looking rogue comet is discovered that is determined to have been en route from a distant star system for eighty-seven million years.

The crew initiates a sensor scan of it, triggering a flash of light onboard and a distortion within the comet’s inner core. Sensors are reconfigured for a low intensity sweep which will last thirty-nine hours.

Eighteen hours later, Data creates a clay mask with a compass symbol identical to that seen on an artifact found in Troi’s quarters and on Eric Burton’s computer terminal, raising suspicions. It is discovered that the comet has been using the Enterprise scans as a carrier wave to send information back to the ship; this has caused icons (alien-looking ideographic symbols like Mayan glyphs) which Data is somehow able to read to appear on the ship’s computer and the creation of artifacts throughout the ship by the replicator systems.

The crew use a phaser beam to remove the outer shell of the comet nucleus and find that an “incredible, huge, Mayan-esque, geometric piece of technology” was at the inner core of the former comet nucleus. Data believes that the object is an informational archive and is confined to his quarters when he starts to exhibit what is described as the equivalent of multiple personalities, rotating between assuming the personalities of Ihat, a sacrificial victim, a frightened boy, and an elder, each of which has an identifying ceremonial neckplate.

Though initially they continue to scan the Archive hoping to determine how to reverse or stop the changes, bit by bit, the ship is being transformed, so the crew decide to attempt to destroy the Archive, but are impeded by the changes.

The Archive activates a tractor beam, overriding ship control systems. While Geordi searches for the Archive’s transformation programme, Captain Picard determines that they need to understand the meanings of the artefacts, and talks to the various personalities that Data exhibits to learn more.

Through Ihat, one of Data’s personalities, Picard learns that a queen called Masaka is waking, and that the only one that can talk to her is one called Korgano, a masculine figure. Ihat states that Masaka will only appear once Masaka’s temple (the Queen’s temple) has been built.

The elder, another of the personalities exhibited by Data who is believed to be Masaka’s father, provides Picard with the full version of the temple symbol, an icon that is used to create that temple. Inside the temple, they find the Masaka sun image paired with a horn symbol, which Picard guesses may be Korgano’s moon symbol.

Data puts on the mask he had created from clay with Masaka’s sun symbol on it and escapes from his quarters, arriving at Masaka’s temple where she sits down upon the throne. Masaka refuses to communicate with Picard.

Desperate, Picard has Geordi input Korgano’s moon symbol into the Archive’s transformation programme, which produces a silver mask with Korgano’s moon symbol on its forehead. Picard decides to wear the Korgano mask in order to pose as Korgano and confront the Masaka personality.

Picard convinces the Masaka personality to sleep so that she and Korgano can continue their “hunt” another day. With the Masaka personality asleep, all the changes aboard the Enterprise are reverted, and Data finds himself back to normal. Geordi manages to disable the archive’s transformation program. Picard comments that Data has, briefly, contained personalities encompassing the inhabitants of an entire civilisation, and as such he has had an experience that “transcends the human condition.”

Star Trek TV Series

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Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Robert Wiemer.
  • Writer(s): Joe Menosky.
  • Release Date: 21 February 1994.
  • Running Time: 45 minutes.
  • Country: US.
  • Language: English.

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