Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard has always been a student of archaeology, and in this episode he is contacted by his former mentor Professor Richard Galen. The professor, who Picard said is "like the father who understood me", states that he has come across something in his travels which could be the most profound discovery of their time.
Galen, however, will not tell him about what he has found unless Picard agrees to go with him, which means leaving the Enterprise and his career in Starfleet behind. Picard ultimately refuses, although he is torn about disappointing his former mentor, who in anger remarked that Picard's job was like that of "A Roman centurion .... maintaining a dull and bloated empire". Shortly after angrily leaving the Enterprise, Galen's transport vessel is attacked and boarded.
When the Enterprise arrives, Galen is beamed to Sickbay and has just enough energy before he dies to apologize for his earlier rude remarks, saying "Jean-Luc, I was too harsh" with his dying breath. Picard is fueled by this event and decides to assume Professor Galen's research. An investigation of Galen's ship yields no results other than a series of seemingly random number blocks.
After studying the ambiguous number blocks for hours, the discovery is made that these fragments are compatible DNA strands which have been recovered from different worlds all over the galaxy. The crew eventually believe that they have discovered an embedded genetic pattern that is constant throughout many different species, and it is speculated that this was left by an early race that pre-dates all other known civilizations. This would ultimately explain why so many races are humanoid.
Picard resolves that the answer to the 'puzzle' will be revealed when the remaining DNA samples are obtained, and so the Enterprise travels to a remote, uninhabited planet that Galen had mentioned was his next destination. They encounter Klingon and Cardassian ships that appear to be on the same trail as themselves. These two groups believe, respectively, that the puzzle will yield the design of a formidable weapon and the secret of an unlimited power source.
The Enterprise hosts representatives from the Cardassians and the Klingons, and they all agree to combine the DNA samples that they have found so far, since all three parties have pieces of the puzzle that the others cannot find. Using the shared information, they determine a pattern in how several planets were aligned millions of years ago and extrapolate the position of a final planet.
The Cardassians warp off ahead of the others, firing at both ships to disable them. However, Picard had already learned of the Cardassians' attempt to sabotage the Enterprise's defenses; the ship is fully functional, and he takes the Klingon captain to the last planet.
Upon arrival, they discover that almost all life is extinct, but scans by the Enterprise detect residual lichens located on a fossilized seabed, and they beam down to investigate with their tricorders containing all previously known information. The Cardassians arrive, as well as an undetected Romulan force, creating a standoff. Reasoning that the seabed may not be completely fossilized (and thus still containing some DNA), Picard and Dr. Crusher scan the sea-bed with their tricorder while the other parties argue.
They locate the final DNA fragment, which completes and runs the program. The program reconfigures the tricorder's emitter to project a holographic message. The recorded image of an alien humanoid is projected to the assembled company, and it explains that its race is responsible for the presence of life in the Alpha Quadrant.
When the alien race first explored the Alpha and Beta Quadrants there had been no humanoid-based life other than themselves, and so they seeded various planets with their DNA to create a legacy of their existence after they had gone. The alien ends its message by saying that it hopes that the knowledge of a common origin will help produce peace.
The Cardassians are outraged at this (considering themselves a superior race), as are the Klingons (who hate the Romulans and are disgusted to be related to those "without honor"). Only the Federation representatives seem optimistic. The episode ends with all parties diverging, but the Commander of the Romulan ship contacts Picard and hints that "One day..." [there may be peace].
- Eric Burton's mother • Beverly Crusher • Data • Galathon • Richard Galen • Jae • Geordi La Forge • Mot • Malyn Ocett • Nu'Daq • Jean-Luc Picard • William T. Riker • Tarus • Towles • Deanna Troi • Worf • USS Enterprise-D computer • unnamed USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) personnel (Starfleet conn ensign) • unnamed Progenitors • unnamed Romulans
- Referenced only
- Brannon Braga • Jay Chattaway • Alexander Courage • Rene Echevarria • Jerry Goldsmith • J. Lowry Johnson • The Master of Tarquin Hill • M'Tell • Wendy Neuss • Maurice Picard • Heinrich Schliemann • Ron Surma • Jonathan West
Starships and vehicles
- CDS Bralek (Galor-class warship) • USS Enterprise-D (Galaxy-class explorer) • IKS Maht-H'a (Vor'cha-class attack cruiser) • Trolarak (D'deridex-class warbird) • Professor Galen's shuttle • type-7 shuttlecraft • Yridian destroyer
- Referenced only
- Al-Leyan transport • Vulcan ship
- conference lounge • Indri VIII • Loren III • Picard's quarters • Ruah IV • Ruah system • sickbay • Ten Forward • Vilmor II • Vilmoran system • Volterra Nebula
- Referenced only
- Aaamazzara • Alpha Carinae I • Alpha Cygnus II • Aolian Cluster • arboretum • Atalia VII • Atalia system • Caere • Cardassia • Deep Space 4 • Earth • the galaxy • Gamma Trianguli IV • Indri system • Kurl • Kurlan system • Loren system • Rahm-Izad • Rahm-Izad system • Regulus V • Romulan space • Romulus • Sector 21459 • Sherman's Planet • Sothis III • Taurus I • Therbia • Triacus • Troy • Workshop of the Master of Tarquin Hill • Ya'Seem
Races and cultures
States and organizations
- algorithm • archaeologist • archaeology • B'aht Qul challenge • biological database • biosphere • biscuit • bribe • centurion • cha • Class L • Class M • cloak • commander • cortenide • counselor • deoxyribonucleic acid • diode emitter • disruptor • dream • duranium • Fifth Dynasty • final exam • fossilized • genetic material • goose • impulse • inertial damper • jigsaw puzzle • Kurlan naiskos • Level 3 diagnostic • Level 4 security • lichen • lifeforms • Macchiato • maw'tok • medical tricorder • medkit • micropaleontology • molecular level • month • number one • outer shell • pahk • phaser • planet • plasma reaction • polyalloy • protein link compatability • protostar • province • quadrant • recipe • scholar • seabed • sleep • species • starboard • starship captain • stellar nursery • tash-koh-tah • Third Dynasty • Toh-pah • tractor beam • transporter • tricorder • tricorder emitter diode • wa' • warp • warp nacelle • wej • wild goose chase • year
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Frame of Mind
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Frame of Mind