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Who Watches The Watchers (episode)

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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
"Who Watches The Watchers"
TNG, Episode 3x04
Production number: 40273-152
First aired: 16 October 1989
51st of 176 produced in TNG
51st of 176 released in TNG
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 176 released in TNG Remastered  
158th of 728 released in all
Nuria sees Mintaka III
Written By
Richard Manning & Hans Beimler

Directed By
Robert Wiemer
43173.5 (2366)
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The Enterprise must undo the damage when a primitive civilization discovers a Federation observation team and concludes that the Starfleet personnel are gods.


"Captain's log, Stardate 43173.5. We are en route to Mintaka III where a three-man Federation anthropological field team has been studying the inhabitants. Our mission is to resupply the outpost and repair their malfunctioning reactor."

The observation post is studying Mintakans, proto-Vulcan humanoids at the Bronze Age level, from behind a holographic wall. When contacted en route, they inform the USS Enterprise-D they only have 3 hours of battery backup remaining. However, during the status report, there is a large explosion, resulting in power failure, injuries, and the transmission failing.

Liko touches electrically charged wall

A shocking discovery at the observation post

When the Enterprise arrives, and the away team begins repairs, flashing lights from behind the failed holographic wall draw the attention of two Mintakans, Liko and Oji. Before the holographic generator can be repaired, Liko manages to get a glimpse of the inside. When noticed, he accidentally touches one of the electrically charged walls, and falls off. Dr. Crusher, acting upon instinct, goes down and gets him beamed to sickbay. Oji is amazed when she sees them disappear into thin air. Only now is the holographic generator repaired successfully.

Dr. Crusher, after standing up to her decision to violate the Prime Directive in this manner (Liko had already seen inside), performs a short-term memory wipe. When Dr. Barron awakens in the next bed, he is informed of the situation: one of the scientists, Dr. Palmer, is still down there. Liko sees Picard explaining this, and giving several orders before Dr. Crusher re-sedates him.

Liko sees Picard

"Perhaps the beliefs of our ancestors are true."

When Liko is beamed down to the planet, he does in fact remember everything. He explains to Oji about his experience, convinced that the beings of legend saved him, and knew the name of one: the Picard.

"First officer's log, stardate 43174.2. Counselor Troi and I are beaming down to Mintaka III to locate Dr. Palmer and to determine the extent of the cultural contamination. Dr. Crusher has temporarily altered our features and skin color. She's also implanted subcutaneous communicators so that any transmissions we receive will be inaudible to the Mintakans."

Riker and Troi beam down to Mintaka III, and once they arrive in the town, they hear that Liko's story is continuing around. Nuria is one of the major skeptics. Riker and Troi attempt to convince them it was a dream, but to no avail. Then Dr. Palmer is brought in, and Liko is convinced it will please the Picard.

Riker and Troi as Mintakans

"You've had a very interesting dream."

When Riker reports this, Dr. Barron is adamant that Palmer should be beamed aboard, since the cultural damage has been done. Picard will look for an opportunity, but refuses to do it immediately or drastically.

The town concludes that Palmer should be kept safe to please the Picard, and he will be bound in case he was hiding from the Picard. Troi attempts to distract many members by claiming that "another servant of the Picard" is headed for a faraway cave, while Riker binds the guards and escapes with Palmer. He manages to beam back to the ship before he can be caught.

Troi, however, is captured. Liko suggests they harm Troi to hold off the Picard's anger. Nuria refuses to until they have a better chance to find her.

Nuria is brought aboard the enterprise

"You must not kneel to me."

Meanwhile, on the ship, Dr. Barron suggests that Picard "show them a sign". He refuses, citing again the Prime Directive, and all of the damage he would do, over Barron's objections that the Prime Directive has already been violated and the damage has already been done. Instead, he believes that he can convince Nuria that "the Picard" is not magical, simply very advanced.

When Nuria is alone, they transport her aboard. Immediately, she bows in reverence, but Picard tells her to get up, and tries to talk her out of it. When it does not work, he shows her the ship, the view of her world, and continues to explain to her the fact he is only natural, using technology which evolved over many centuries, comparing it to some of the technological advances of her era, such as building huts, weaving cloth, or shooting a bow and arrow. She appears to understand, but then asks Picard to return her people to life who are long dead.

Since there seems to be nothing else he can do to convince her, Picard brings her into sickbay when Dr. Mary Warren is dying. Nuria watches her die, and then finally understands: she couldn't be saved; his power does have limits.

Nuria brings Picard to Liko

"The Overseer has come!"

Meanwhile, on the planet, a storm frightens Liko, one out of season and quite intense. Believing the Picard has sent it, and without Nuria to question his actions, he prepares to sacrifice Troi, feeling he has no choice. Troi attempts to dissuade him by casting doubt as to whether the Picard actually wants him to sacrifice her, and Liko prays to the Picard for guidance. Just in time, Picard returns with Nuria, who attempts to persuade Liko that Picard is mortal. Liko, however, will not believe it. He begs for Picard to restore his dead wife, but Picard again tries to explain this is impossible.

In a desperate attempt to demonstrate Picard's supreme nature Liko aims his bow and threatens to shoot him. Nuria attempts to stand in between Liko and Picard, but Picard pushes her out of the way, encouraging him to indeed shoot if that is the only way he will be convinced that he is truly mortal. Liko shoots, the arrow injuring Picard seriously and for all to witness. Only now does Liko believe in Picard's mortality.

Paki with Mintakan tapestry

"You have taught us there is nothing beyond our reach."

"Captain's log, supplemental. Dr. Crusher has repaired my injury with her usual skill. Mr. La Forge will supervise the dismantling of the observation post after I make one last visit to Mintaka III."

He shows them the observation post, and explains their presence, their desire for research, and the Prime Directives. After accepting a tapestry, exchanging good will, he departs the planet.

Log EntriesEdit

Memorable QuotesEdit

"Mintakan emotions are quite interesting. Like the Vulcans, they have highly ordered minds. A very sensible people. For example, Mintakan women precede their mates. It's a signal to other women."
"'This man's taken, get your own'?"
"Not precisely. More like 'if you want his services, I'm the one you have to negotiate with.'"
"What kind of services?"
"All kinds."
"They are a sensible race."

- Troi and Riker discussing Mintakan society

"I believe I have seen the Overseer. He is called 'The Picard.'"

- Liko

"Well doctor, your next task is clear."

- Liko awakens on the Enterprise and is sedated by Crusher after which Picard orders her to remove his memories

"The Mintakans are beginning to believe in a God and the one they've chosen... is you."

- Riker, to Picard

"Dr. Barron, I cannot, I will not impose a set of commandments on these people!"

- Picard, at Barron's suggestion that he pose as God to the Mintakans

"Do not kneel before me."
"You do not wish it?"
"I do not deserve it."

- Picard and Nuria

"Look at me... feel the warmth of my hand, the rhythm of my pulse. I'm not a supreme being. I'm flesh and blood, like you."
"Not like me."
"Like you. Different in appearance, yes, but we are both living beings. We are born, we grow, we live... and we die. In all the ways that matter, we are alike."

- Picard and Nuria, just after Nuria is beamed aboard the Enterprise

"Perhaps one day, my people will travel above the skies..."
"Of that, I have absolutely no doubt."

- Nuria and Picard, in the Enterprise observation lounge

"Horrifying... Dr. Barron, your report describes how rational these people are. Millennia ago, they abandoned their belief in the supernatural. Now you are asking me to sabotage that achievement, to send them back into the dark ages of superstition and ignorance and fear? No!"

- Picard

"Are you sure this is what he wants? That's the problem with believing in a supreme being: trying to determine what he wants."

- Troi

"If you believe that I am a supreme being, then you cannot hurt me. If, however, I am telling the truth, that I am mortal, you will kill me. If, however, my death is the only evidence you will believe, then shoot!"

- Picard

"I wish you good journeys, Picard. Remember my people."

- Nuria and Picard

Background information Edit

Production Edit

WWTW production

Filming at Vasquez Rocks

Reception Edit

  • Ira Steven Behr commented that he thought "Who Watches The Watchers" was "a good hour of television. I thought it was a pretty good show, but it was in and out, as ST:TNG was prone to do, because it was about boldly going forth. If the writers had had five seasons to work with that thread, who knows how many twists and turns Jean-Luc could have gone through. That opportunity just wasn't there". ("Faith in the 24th Century", Star Trek Monthly, issue 39)
  • A mission report for this episode by John Sayers was published in The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine Vol. 10, pp. 49-53.

Cast and characters Edit

Continuity Edit

  • The episode refers to events that happened in "Pen Pals", specifically Dr. Pulaski's memory wipe on Sarjenka.
  • This episode also marks the final reference to Dr. Pulaski on the show. She is henceforth never mentioned (by name) on the series again, although she is alluded to by Professor Moriarty in "Ship in a Bottle". Moreover, she does get a brief mention in the closing episode of Star Trek: Voyager, "Endgame", where she receives a page from Starfleet Medical. Interestingly enough, one of the early victims in this episode happens to share the last name "Pulaski."
  • Beverly Crusher debuts her longer lab coat which she would continue to use for the remainder of the series and Star Trek Generations.
  • The Mintakan tapestry that is given to Picard by Nuria and the villagers was seen on Captain Picard's chair in his ready room in many subsequent episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation and in all of the "Next Generation" films except Star Trek Nemesis.
  • The planet shown in the episode is the same optical as would later be used for the planet of Betazed.
  • This episode is referenced by Mitena Haro in TNG: "Allegiance".
  • The concept of observing another civilization from a holographic duck blind is revisited - with equally unsatisfactory results - in Star Trek: Insurrection. However, the duck blind in this episode failed due to mechanical failure, while the one in Star Trek: Insurrection was sabotaged by Data.
  • First UK airdate: 30th October 1991

Video and DVD releases Edit

Links and references Edit

Starring Edit

Also starring Edit

Guest stars Edit

Co-stars Edit

Uncredited co-stars Edit

Stunt doubles Edit

Stand-ins Edit

References Edit

13th century; anthropology; Bow and arrow; Bronze Age; duck blind; Federation; fusion reactor; gigawatt; holy war; hornbuck; inquisition; Karst topography; lysosome; Mintaka III; Mintakans; Mintakan tapestry; norep; observation team; Overseer; phaser bank; Prime Directive; memory wipe; Proto-Vulcan humanoid; Pulaski, Katherine; record keeper; subcutaneous communicator; subspace relay station; sundial; thallium; tricordrazine; Vulcans; Vulcan (planet); zenith

Previous episode:
"The Survivors"
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Season 3
Next episode:
"The Bonding"

de:Der Gott der Mintakaner es:Who Watches the Watchers? fr:Who Watches the Watchers? ja:TNG:守護神伝説 nl:Who Watches the Watchers? pl:Who Watches the Watchers?

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