It is hard to find where you belong as you grow up. Some find belonging with family, others friends, others still it is in the military, regardless, this is a journey everyone takes and some still never find that certain place. This is the story we find in Tin Man, originally airing on April 23,1990.
Stardate 43779.3 Tin Man
The Enterprise is met by the USS Hood to transfer a passenger and take part in a special mission of first contact. They must get to a unique being before the Romulans do but the specialist that they are assigned has a history of instability.
After welcoming Tam Elbrun on board the Enterprise they find the Betazed ambassador to be…unique. He has no issues reading people’s minds and sees no problem in doing so. This unnerves the crew but they adapt. He reveals that they are heading to a sun that is soon to go nova to investigate a new life form known as ‘tin-man’. Starfleet believes it is a space-borne entity that has never been seen before. The problem is, the Romulans are also in route and plan to capture the being for themselves.
Troi talks with Tam about his insecurities. He explains that, without his ability to filter thoughts, he hates being around people but this is something he could not pass up on. Troi soon realizes that Tam has been in contact with the being known as Tin Man and this is what has drawn him to this mission. Tin Man may indeed be the last of its species.
As the Enterprise nears the star and Tin Man, the Romulan ship appears and fires at the Enterprise as it passes. Tam reads the mind of Romulan Commander and discovers that their mission is to make first contact no matter the cost. A second ship is on the way.
After meeting with Data about Tin Man, The Romulans move in to kill the alien being. With the Enterprise too far away to assist, Tam contacts Tin Man (referring to him as Gomtuu) to defend itself and it destroys the Romulan ship damaging the Enterprise in the process. This reveals that he has been in contact with the being and knows more about it than he has let on.
He tells Picard that it is ancient and quite possibly the last of its kind. It once had a crew aboard but, due to an accident, it lost all of its crew members. Gomtuu wants to die and is aware that the star it is orbiting will go nova soon and kill it along with the explosion. Tam begs Picard to allow him to go aboard the alien being and Picard is concerned that this is a bad idea.
With the threat of the second Romulan ship appearing, Data convinces Picard to allow him to act as an intermediary between Tam and the alien. Due to the situation, Picard agrees and allows them to beam aboard the alien. As soon as they arrive, Gomtuu communes with Tam and, after they begin to talk, he works out a dialogue with the being. He discovers that the ship and crew worked as one and, when they died, Gomtuu lost its purpose. Tam informs Data that he is staying on board the ship. He has found his home and Gomtuu has found it’s crew. Just as the sun begins to go nova, Gomtuu sends out a wave that throws both the Enterprise and the Romulans away from the star. As the star explodes, Data is beamed back aboard the Enterprise. Tam and Gomtuu are gone.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
This is truly a clever episode. In what appears to be a tale concerning a first contact situation, the story is really about belonging and finding your place in the universe. This is primarily shown through the character of Tam Elbrun but in time you see that the story is also about Data and his place in the universe as well.
Although the rest of the crew get their moment in this one, at its core this is a Data episode. When Gomtuu and Tam begin to contact one another they both find in each other a sense of belonging. It isn’t until Data witness this exchange that he realizes that he too desires to be in a place where he belongs. He also realizes that he belongs there on the Enterprise and the crew are indeed his family. This is a clear step in Data’s journey to humanity.
This episode is an instant classic and I am a little saddened that there was no further exploration of Gomtuu and it’s species.
As a kid this was one of my very favorite episodes. I identified with Tam, Gomtuu and Data in that I was a bit of an outcast as well. Being a non-sports nerd and a geek in the late 80’s/ early 90’s was pretty much a death sentence in school. You were just plain weird and you were bound to get bullied at some point. To see a story on my favorite television series at the time that actually covered the concept of belonging, was amazing to me.
This is still a top 10 episode for me to this day.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
We learn that Betazoids are not born with telepathic powers but that is something that emerges over time. Tam was born with the powers turned on and he has had to learn to cope with this over his lifetime.
Tam is said to be responsible for a tragedy called the Ghorusda Disaster. Due to a cultural misunderstanding, 47 crewmen, including the Captain, were killed. Tam admits that he was too enmeshed in the Ghorusdans and neglected to warn the Captain forcefully as he could have. RIker had two friend he went to the academy with that died in the incident and holds a grudge toward Tam.
We never hear from Tam or Gomtuu again, which is really a shame.
I have to wonder if Gomtuu was not the inspiration for Moya on the tv series Farscape. To be honest, they even kind of resemble each other a little…
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Late To The Game 10/12/2019 (Originally Published 6/4/2018)
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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