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This is an enjoyable, puzzling solving ‘TNG’ episode for Data’s character. It allows Brent Spiner to play a variety of characters as he gets possessed by a civilization that seems dependent on symbols.
The episode begins with a classroom of children aboard the Enterprise where they’re all making clay sculptures. Data is one of the attendees for this classroom and Deanna Troi is supervising the group.
I found it funny when Deanna tried to make Data create a sculpture out of music by using his imagination. Data of course creates a musical note out of clay in a very fast fashion which is brilliant.
Meanwhile, the Enterprise comes across a mysterious-looking rogue comet. As the Enterprise examines the comet, they discovered it has travelled from a distant star system for 87 million years.
The crew starts scanning the comet, which triggers a flash of light to come from it. The Enterprise sets the sensors on a low intensity sweep, but it starts an unusual array of peculiar things to happen.
When back in the classroom again, Data creates a clay mask with a compass symbol on it. Earlier, Deanna had this strange artefact found in her quarters and she even asks Data if she knows anything.
The mystery intensifies when Rickey D’Shon Collins as Eric Burton, one of the classroom children, discovers his computer terminal is not working. It has strange symbols on it, raising some suspicions.
Apparently the comet has been sending information to the Enterprise to cause icons appear on computer screens. These icons are alien-like and almost look like Mayan glyphs from Earth’s history.
Somehow, Data is able to read the symbols on the computer, including one that represents death. More artefacts get created throughout the ship via uses of the replicator systems which is disturbing.
The Enterprise uses a phaser beam to remove the outer shell of the comet to reveal an ‘incredible huge Mayan-esque geometric piece of technology’. I would’ve called it a flying space temple myself.
Data believes that the structure is an information archive, but how he knows it is unclear. When Geordi does a scan on Data’s positronic brain, Data asks ‘what’s it like for someone to lose his mind’.
This scares Geordi before Data begins to exhibit multiple personalities. These include the personalities of Ihat; a sacrificial victim; a frightened boy and an old man. This gets pretty confusing.
Data has neck-plates for these people. It was fun to see Brent Spiner doing a variety of characters in this episode, jumping from one person to the next. Brent’s talents as an actor come to the fore here.
As the episode progresses, it seems the ship is being transformed bit by bit with artefacts all over the place. The crew tries to destroy the Archive but can’t and a tractor beam soon gets a hold of them.
Picard tries to talk to the various personalities within Data in order to learn more about what’s going on. The scenes with Brent Spiner as different characters and Patrick Stewart as Picard are fun to see.
It’s soon revealed that a queen called Masaka is waking and wants to be in control of things. Picard learns from Ihat and the elderly man how to communicate with Masaka by creating her own temple.
But even when that’s done, only one person can talk to Masaka. That happens to be Korgano, who is a masculine figure. Masaka will only appear on board the Enterprise once her temple has been built.
Through symbols, Masaka’s temple is created. Very soon, Data wears the clay mask he made earlier and becomes Masaka, before sitting her temple. She refuses to talk to Picard and anyone else here.
Not getting anywhere with Masaka, Picard has Geordi use the Korgano moon symbol to help. This creates the silver mask with Korgano’s moon symbol on its forehead. Picard soon knows what to do.
Picard wears the mask to pose as Korgano and confront Masaka in Data’s body. Thankfully, this seems to work and the Enterprise restores to normal. Data is restored to normal too which is a relief.
‘Masks’ is a fun episode in ‘TNG’. It seems to be complex, but after more than one watch, you do appreciate the complexities of the alien culture featuring Masaka, Korgano and other alien symbols.
‘Masks’ (TNG) rating – 8/10
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