The USS Enterprise-D has discovered the wreckage of the Odin, a freighter that disappeared seven years earlier. It was disabled by a collision with an asteroid, and there are no life signs on board, but three escape pods are missing, suggesting that there may be survivors. The Enterprise travels to Angel I, the nearest class M planet, to begin their search. Riker is concerned that any survivors from the impact with the asteroid may not have made it to Angel I as it would have taken 5 months for the escape pods to reach the planet – a distance that the Enterprise managed to cover in 2 days at Warp One.
Angel I is a female-dominated society, ruled by six elected mistresses and a leader known simply as “the elected one”. Troi remarks that this is not unlike her own planet, and Worf says that he appreciates “strong women”
Picard offers Troi the opportunity to make initial contact with the planet, as it is a female-dominated society. The Enterprise hails the planet, and Troi speaks with the elected one, Mistress Beata. Although initially wary, she agrees to let an away team beam down to visit the planet.
On Angel One, the females are as aggressively dominant as the male gender was on Earth hundreds of years ago. The females here display many of the characteristics that males on Earth had: stronger, physically larger. And the opposite equally applies to the males.
The away team beam down to the planet, where they meet with Beata and ask about any survivors that might be on the planet. Still suspicious, she asks why they are only coming now, and Troi explains that the Enterprise‘s discovery of the freighter was unexpected. Their only purpose in coming is to simply find any survivors and bring them home. Another member of the council, Ariel, expresses her misgivings, and Beata refuses to tell them if there are survivors. Instead Beata’s male servant, Trent, takes them to another room. Troi reckons that Beata’s refusal to tell them about the survivors confirms that there are in fact survivors.
Back on the Enterprise, Picard tells Worf in the turbolift that they have to prepare for a trip to the Neutral Zone when the away team returns, as Romulan battle cruisers have been detected near one of the Federation’s border posts. As they pass the holodeck, they are hit by a snowball thrown by Wesley. Picard scolds him.
Data is investigating some perfume when Trent returns to bring them back to the council chambers. Beata tells them that, although the decision was not unanimous, they have decided to tell them about the survivors. She says there were four of them, and their leader is a man named Ramsey. However, they are now fugitives in hiding: some time after arriving on Angel I, they started to abuse the hospitality they received and began to cause trouble. She warns Troi that they are dangerous.
Meanwhile, Dr. Crusher tells Picard that Wes and his friend are sick with a respiratory ailment. She is, however, working on a vaccine. Picard reminds her that they are on an important Starfleet mission, they can’t afford to have the crew going down with an infection.
On the planet, Data suggests that they can locate the survivors by searching for platinum, an element not found on Angel I, but which would have been brought by the survivors. Riker asks Mistress Beata to allow Data access to their library. Beata – rather loftily – says that the library is far too sophisticated for a man to comprehend.
Data points out that he an android, although anatomically male…
Beata finds the notion of a “male” android amusing, but she permits access to the library, suggesting that they might be able to teach the native males a thing or too.
Picard asks La Forge to begin the search. Riker is brought an outfit worn by the men of the planet, as he wants to wear it when he meets Beata, to impress her by wearing indigenous apparel. Troi and Yar find his appearance wearing the outfit hilarious, however. Riker wonders whether their objections to him wearing the outfit might have something to do with Beata being a woman, and an attractive one at that?
Dr. Crusher examines Captain Picard, pronounces him unfit for command as he appears to be displaying symptoms of the virus, and orders him to bed.
On the bridge, Worf tells Geordi that he may have to sneeze. “A Klingon sneeze?” asks Geordi? “Only kind I know.”
Picard enters the bridge and tells La Forge he has command of the ship. La Forge sits in the captain’s chair, and Worf tells him the platinum has been located on the planet.
Riker appears in front of Troi and Yar wearing the new outfit. They try – unsuccessfully – not to laugh at his appearance, although Yar thinks it looks quite sexy. Riker remarks that it’s quite comfortable as he leaves the room.
Riker meets with Beata and tells her the Enterprise has found the location of the survivors. Ariel is still suspicious and tells Riker this, then she storms out.
Riker waits with Beata, asking for her approval to begin the search. She agrees, but says that they don’t need him to initiate the search… no, he can stay with her and give her the gesture of goodwill that he promised her.
Riker tells Yar to begin the search whilst he stays behind to maintain “diplomatic relations” . Yar, Data, and Troi beam to the location of the platinum, a cave mouth, where they meet a man who says he’s been expecting them.
Picard, visibly struggling under the effects of the virus, calls La Forge from his quarters for a status report. After a rather wholesome Klingon Sneeze from Worf, Geordi tells Picard that there are 82 more cases of the virus and Dr Crusher has converted a holodeck to deal with it. After another tremendous Sneeze, Worf observes that he’s getting sick, so Geordi tells him to report to sickbay. Geordi then receives a report from Engineering regarding the climate controls, and is just about to leave the Bridge when Worf gently reminds him that there are people to do that now. As Worf leaves for sickbay, Geordi thanks him for the advice.
Meanwhile, Yar tells Ramsey how they found him, and tells him they’re bringing him home. He shocks them by telling them he doesn’t want to leave as he and the others are happy. They have wives and in some cases children. How can you rescue someone from a place they call home.
Beata tells Riker that Ramsey and his friends are anarchists and outlaws. She starts flirting with him, and as they start to kiss, Trent walks in with a present that Riker has brought for her. He shows her the Albeni meditation crystal, before they get back to kissing.
Ramsey tells the rest of the away team that at first they thought Angel I was great, but then they saw how the men had no respect and were discriminated against. When they spoke out, they were forced to become fugitives. He refuses to leave, and Data adds that they can’t force him, as he and his crew are not members of Starfleet, nor do they have to obey the Prime Directive.
Crusher tells La Forge there are more sick than beds, and he remarks they’d be seriously undermanned if they were forced to take action against the Romulans.
Yar contacts La Forge, asking to beam the three of them to their previous location, where they will regroup with Riker and return to the ship. He informs them that one-third of the crew is infected and more Romulan vessels are converging in the Neutral Zone. Ramsey won’t tell them how he knew they were coming, but after they beam away, Ariel comes out of the cave and kisses him.
Riker is with Beata when Trent enters and tells her that the away team hasn’t got the survivors. Yar fills in Riker, and then Beata says she is forced to sentence the survivors to death.
Dr. Crusher visits Picard in his quarters to give him some medicine and notices the same odor that Picard smelled at the holodeck. She realizes that this is the way the virus spreads.
Down on the planet, Data tells Riker that seven Romulan battle cruisers are now in the vicinity of the outpost, and the USS Berlin has responded to the distress call. However the presence of the Enterprise is still regarded as a vital show of strength by Starfleet. Yar points out that the mere presence of the Enterprise may be sufficient, but if things turn ugly they may not cope with a third of the crew incapacitated.
Riker suggests they need to leave, but Troi isn’t comfortable leaving when there’s a death sentence in place for the Odin survivors. Riker believe they’re safe, as they’ve managed to evade capture for years.
Suddenly Troi gets a feeling that something is wrong, just before Beata and Trent enter the room… closely followed by Ramsey and his crew, whom she found by having Ariel followed. She tells Riker that the fugitives are to be executed tomorrow. Riker is outraged and asks her for another chance to convince Ramsey, and his followers – including Ariel – to leave with them. She agrees, but Ramsey still won’t go. Riker wants to beam them aboard anyway. Data points out that forcing anyone to leave against their will, would be a violation of several regulations, including the Prime Directive. But Riker would rather face court martial than the guilt of leaving the people to die.
It’s all moot however, as Dr. Crusher won’t allow anyone to come aboard the ship. La Forge has succumbed to the virus, and she can’t find a cure. After confirming that the virus won’t affect him, Riker orders Data to beam up and take the Enterprise to the Neutral Zone before it is too late.
The next day, Trent invites them to come to the execution. Data contacts them and says they still have time before their ship has to leave for the Neutral Zone: 47 minutes to be exact.
Riker agrees to attend the execution, which will be carried out by disintegrating the fugitives.
Riker makes a speech about how Beata is trying to hold back evolution, which can’t be done, and warns her that she’ll just make a martyr out of Ramsey. At the last second, she relents and adjourns to reconsider.
Crusher informs Data that she has devised an inoculant. Data then informs Riker that the Enterprise is ready for the away team to return. Riker instructs Data to maintain a lock on the away team and Ramsey’s group but to stand by for further instructions. Beata then returns and says she’s decided to stay the executions, and she exiles Ramsey and his followers to a remote region. It’s not quite as hospitable as the rest of the planet, but she is confident that if they work hard, they can make a life for themselves… and be free to live as they please.
The away team returns to the Enterprise and is inoculated by Dr. Crusher against the virus. Captain Picard, although hoarse, has returned to the bridge, and the ship heads for the Neutral Zone.