The USS Enterprise-D has been assigned to investigate a loss of contact with the SS Tsiolkovsky, which was observing the final days of a dying red supergiant star. Opening communications, the Enterprise bridge crew hear a woman speaking in a seductive voice. In confusion, Data requests for the woman to repeat her message, in which she states that a huge ‘blowout’ is about to occur. Many other crew on the Tsiolkovsky begin laughing before a large explosive sound is heard. Data reports that the crew had just opened an emergency hatch. This prompts Riker to stand up and head to the turbolift, followed by Data, La Forge and Yar, to beam over to the Tsiolkovsky. As they leave, Worf reports to Picard that there are no life signs on board the ship.
On the Tsiolkovsky, the ship is on red alert as the away team spreads out to investigate. The corridors are quiet, but are littered with discarded items and food. The walls are also covered with phaser burn marks. Data states that the mess in the corridor indicates a “wild party”. They approach a distorted screen which Riker makes out as the bridge. Data successfuly repairs the screen, and they realize the bridge is empty and open to space; the emergency hatch was indeed blown.
Yar contacts Riker from Engineering, stating that ten people present there are frozen. Someone had modified the environmental controls, venting all heat into space. In the crew quarters, La Forge witnesses many nude or barely clothed bodies, all frozen. He enters the bathroom and opens the shower to find a fully-clothed woman frozen, who falls in his arms. Riker contacts the Enterprise to submit his report : all 80 people, are dead.
In Doctor Crusher‘s office, the doctor and Deanna Troi are analyzing the tricorder readings from the away team to ascertain what happened to the Tsiolkovsky‘s crew. Picard enters to request a report, but Crusher and Troi are unable to give any theories as to what happened. Picard asks if it could have been madness, hysteria, or delusion to which Troi responds it could have been any or all. Picard then requests that the away team be returned to the Enterprise after undergoing full decontamination.
Later in sickbay, Dr. Crusher is giving medical scans to all members of the away team. Scanning Data, she notes how perfect his overall condition is, stating that she would write him up in a Starfleet Medical textbook. Data responds to her praise by stating that he already is in many bio-mechanic texts. With that said, Data leaves the main biobed and Geordi La Forge takes his place. After a few moments, she checks the scan results for La Forge. All of his systems are normal, except Crusher notes that he’s perspiring. He raises his voice saying that the room is too hot; the perspiration is visible on his face.
Those in the room are surprised by La Forge’s response, with even Riker noting that it didn’t sound like him. La Forge smiles and says that Dr. Crusher threw her voice. He means this as a joke, but nobody is amused. With this response, Crusher decides to perform some more tests on La Forge. She contacts Picard to notify him that she is confining La Forge to sickbay until further notice, as she couldn’t determine what the problem was, if any.
On the bridge, Riker tells Data that he has a vague memory of reading something about a person fully clothed in a shower, relating to La Forge’s discovery on the Tsiolkovsky. Data agrees to help Riker and commences an extensive library computer inquiry that would take several hours.
Back in sickbay, Crusher continues her tests on La Forge, who is still lying on the main bio-bed. While she goes in her office, La Forge sits up in his bed, removes his combadge and quietly leaves sickbay unnoticed. Not long after, Crusher returns and notices La Forge is missing. She snatches his combadge and runs out the door calling out for him, but there is nobody present in the corridor. She sends a message to the bridge to notify Yar of La Forge’s escape. She sends her teams on a ship-wide search for La Forge.
In Dr. Crusher’s quarters, Wesley is showing La Forge a miniature tractor beam emitter he created. He demonstrates its abilities by lifting a small chair, stating that the emitter uses technologies similar to those of the Enterprise‘s emitters with his own ideas included. Despite La Forge’s compliment, Wesley is disappointed that Picard still won’t let him on the bridge, even with his superior knowledge of ship’s systems. He brings out a cube-shaped object that emulates Picard’s voice from words he has used over the intercom. La Forge compliments Wesley again, who notices something wrong in Gerodi’s voice. La Forge notes that he has a burning feeling, then comments that the room is hot. He exits Crusher’s quarters, leaving Wesley confused.
Geordi finds refuge in the observation lounge. He is discovered by Tasha Yar, who tells him that Medical is worried about him. Staring out the room’s windows, La Forge yearns for help. Ignoring him, Yar calls for security. La Forge asks for help yet again – help to see with his eyes again. Yar tells him that they’ll talk about it later and leads him to sickbay.
In sickbay, Picard and Yar are discussing the current circumstances. She mentions to Picard that La Forge was quite upset and wanted normal vision. Picard acknowledges her and proceeds to sickbay while Yar leaves. Right before she reaches the exit, she wipes her hand on her head; she knows she doesn’t feel right but continues to leave.
When Picard arrives at La Forge’s bio-bed, Dr Crusher tells him that none of her equipment can detect an elevated temperature in him, but it is obvious by sight. Picard is worried about the spread of the infection, but Crusher doubts it can be spread as full decontamination procedures were performed. Crusher states that the condition was more likely to be a case of insanity or severe emotional upset. Picard and Crusher both look to Troi for answers. All she can sense is confusion, and possibly intoxication. Crusher denies this as tests showed no drugs or hallucinogens in his body.
Back on the bridge, Data and Riker are continuing their search, but it is proving nearly impossible. The mention of a proverb by Riker prompts him to tell Data to search the historical records of all starships named Enterprise. As Data looks over the relevant medical records, Picard arrives on the bridge. Just as he reaches the station, Data finds the relevant information from the medical database from the old Constitution-class USS Enterprise.
The records state that during a planetary breakup, complex water molecules had acquired carbon from the body creating similar effects of alcohol on the brain, essentially intoxication. By Picard’s orders, this information is downloaded and transmitted to medical. He contacts Crusher and notifies her that the information and a cure is being transmitted to the medical database. Crusher requests confirmation, in which Picard gives an out-of-character ‘Absolutely!’ making Data curious.
Later, Deanna Troi goes to her quarters to find Tasha Yar rummaging through her selection of gowns. She tells Troi that she wants help with clothes and hair style, that she wants to change her image. Troi senses Yar’s confusion and tries to comfort her, but Yar resists, puts the clothes down and heads for the exit, saying that she’ll find what she wants in the ship’s stores. Troi heads for the door but can’t stop her. She notifies Picard that she thinks Yar’s been infected with the mysterious Polywater intoxication. Picard says Yar “has the equivalent of a snootful”, but Data is unfamiliar with the term. Instead of helping Data, Picard replies ‘Forget it!’.
Back in sickbay, Crusher is continuing her work. Wesley calls out for his mother, prompting her to come see him levitating a medical tricorder. Perspiration is also notable on his face. Crusher is too worried for Wesley, however, to compliment him on his work. She tells him to go to their quarters until it is safe. He excessively acknowledges her orders and starts to leave. Just as he leaves, he says that the room is hot and wipes his forehead of sweat. Before she can think about what he said, Picard contacts her, inquiring if a test injection had been created. She replies with a negative.
In one of the Enterprise‘s corridors, Tasha Yar moves in a very seductive way. Around her, everybody is acting unprofessionally, with lots of flirting. A crewman walks past a corner in the corridor in front of Yar. She beckons him closer and gives the officer a huge kiss.
On the bridge, Data continues to upload the information from the Tsiolkovsky to the Enterprise. He notes to Picard that it will take another 41 minutes to complete the upload. Picard asks him why the upload is so slow and Data says the Tsiolkovsky had eight months of information that needed to be transferred. However, Picard looks at the viewscreen, revealing the system’s star. He asks what the danger is from the star if it exploded in the worst-case scenario. Data notes that they could outrun any dangerous events from the star at half-impulse. A view of the star again reveals many surface flares.
In engineering, Picard’s voice orders Chief Engineer Sarah MacDougal to the bridge. She is obviously not happy with the order and reluctantly leaves engineering, leaving her assistant Jim Shimoda in charge. A moment later, Shimoda is ordered by Picard to go to sickbay. He, too, is reluctant, but Wesley arrives inquiring about the order. Shimoda notes that if he left, nobody would be in charge of engineering. Wesley tells him that he could take care of Engineering and contact MacDougal if anything bad was to happen. Shimoda leaves, while Wesley stands in engineering with his arms crossed along with a big grin.
MacDougal arrives on the bridge, but Picard doesn’t know why she’s there. She notes that he called her to the bridge. As far as he knows, he didn’t and he wants her in Engineering in case they need to immediately leave the system. Picard looks in disbelief as he hears his own voice turning over command of the vessel to Acting Captain Wesley Crusher. As Picard repeats the title in disbelief, Wesley’s voice is heard with joy thanking the recording and he gives a short speech mentioning that this marks a brave new day for the Enterprise.
In engineering, Wesley has complete control, cutting off everybody from himself in the main work area with a force field from his tractor beam emitter. He and the officers outside the force field are contaminated with the intoxication, with all focus on Wesley. He continues his speech, mentioning that a dessert course would precede and follow every meal in his command. Everybody outside the force field cheers for “the acting captain.”
Shimoda walks into the force field and is knocked back slightly. Being intoxicated, he asks Wesley how he created the field. Wesley motions towards his tractor beam emitter and notes that he made it into a repulsor beam. He asks if Shimoda wants in, and he joyfully nods, giving an oath of loyalty to Wesley.
On the bridge, Picard orders Riker and MacDougal to take control of engineering. Worf, at operations, mentions that abnormal behavior is being reported from all decks. Data confirms this, including a limerick developed by an officer from the shuttlebay involving a “woman from Venus.” Picard interrupts Data before he can finish the “adult” limerick by contacting security. The officer who replies is laid back, speaking informally, even acting rude. Picard inquires for Yar’s location. She replies that she’s in her quarters and very busy. Picard tells her to stay there and orders Data to take her to sickbay. As Data leaves, Picard orders all security supervisors to report to the bridge.
Data goes to Yar’s quarters and finds her provocatively dressed. Unsure how to react, Data tells Yar that he needs to take her to Sickbay; however, she has no intention of going with him. Data indicates that Yar needs time to return to uniform, but she notes that she got out of uniform just for him. She tells Data that she was abandoned when she was five years old and learned how to stay alive from rape gangs. It wasn’t until she was 15 that she escaped, but now she wants love and joy. She asks how “functional” Data is; he replies he is fully functional and programmed in many “techniques,” a wide variety of pleasuring. She leads him to her bedroom, where Data gives a programmed smile. The door closes.
In engineering, Riker and MacDougal are working as Picard contacts them for a progress report. Shimoda had removed all the isolinear chips from the command computers, disabling the ship’s engines. In the office, Shimoda is sitting in a great pile of chips, throwing them around with glee. Riker tells Picard about Wesley’s tractor beam force field. Picard asks if there was a way to short out power to the emitter. MacDougal says she can, but it would take some time. Riker and MacDougal begin work on a panel near the office, but a voice calls for “Bill,” Troi’s rare nickname for Riker. She goes towards Riker, obviously intoxicated. She’s feeling a Human side she had never felt before. Riker picks her up and takes her to Sickbay, but all Troi wants is to be alone with him.
Crusher finally concocts the antidote found in the medical database to combat the intoxication. She fills a hypospray and injects La Forge with the antidote. Expecting instant results, she waits, but La Forge asks how the antidote was to help him to see with normal sight, to see a rainbow or a sunset. To her dismay, it didn’t work.
Riker brings Troi over his shoulder into sickbay and puts her down on a bio-bed. He calls Crusher, but gets no response. He rushes into her office where he finds a disconsolate Dr. Crusher. He shakes her slightly, repeating his call. She tells him that the formula didn’t work. She then realizes that Riker touched Troi, thenher. They have both been infected. She tells him that he must be quarantined, but Riker insists on leaving to assist in reactivating the command computers. If he stayed, they could die; if no formula could be made, they would die. The stress on Dr. Crusher is worsening.
On the bridge, Picard is speaking to Wesley on the viewscreen. Despite Wesley’s condition, he speaks formally to Picard as a superior. Picard demands for him to return control of the Enterprise to the bridge, but Wesley simply states that he’ll do whatever it is Picasrd wants from engineering. Picard interrupts Wesly and tells him that starships are controlled by their own captains. Wesley then notes that the captain doesn’t control the vessel by himself, but orders people to do the work. He then asks what the problem is with asking him to perform the work.
Interrupting the conversation, Worf notes that there are unusual readings coming from the star. Picard tells him to stand by, then tells Wesley that he’s been infected by the intoxication that occurred on the Tsiolkovsky. Wesley thinks for a moment, then asks if he’s drunk, because he feels “good.” Picard, in a calm tone, tells him that the intoxication is greater than that of alcohol. Wesley asks Picard what he will do with the Enterprise. He replies that he intends to tow the Tsiolkovsky away with a tractor beam. The instant Picard mentions of towing, Wesley notes that he’s an expert in the matter and proceeds to work, closing the channel. Additionally, without warning, the officer at the Conn leaves the bridge, ignoring Picard. Just as the officer leaves, Worf reports that the star is collapsing.
In engineering, Wesley is attempting to get the tractor beam working to tow the Tsiolkovsky, but all the command chips are still out of their slots, now mixed up due to Shimoda. Meanwhile, Riker and MacDougal think they’ve found the solution. They look back at the office, where the force field is still active.
Thanks to Wesley’s efforts, a tractor beam instantly activates and locks onto the Tsiolkovsky. Picard attempts to contact Wesley with no luck; however, Data has arrived on the bridge but in a weird stagger, since he’s been infected by Yar. Picard is confused as to how Data got infected. Dr. Crusher arrives and asks to talk to Picard in his ready room on an urgent matter, then goes into it anyway.
Entering the ready room, he finds Crusher with a smile on her face; she’s obviously been infected. She giggles, but Picard is not amused. She tries to control herself, speaking in a formal nature but having difficulty controlling her emotions. She can’t help but keep mentioning her extreme attraction to Picard, but all Picard wants is a cure. All of a sudden, he finds himself wiping sweat from his forehead; he’s been infected, too. They exit the ready room; Crusher giggles again and waves to Picard. Picard tries to refrain from giggling and waving. Worf notices this and contacts Riker to notify him that Data and Picard have been infected. Riker leaves MacDougal alone to continue the work in Engineering, as he heads to the bridge.
The reaction in the star is becoming more severe, prompting the red alert klaxon to activate. Seconds later the star implodes into a white dwarf, ejecting a vast number of fragments of its former mass in the process. Worf tells the crew that a portion of the star’s surface is on a collision course just as Riker arrives. Picard attempts to order Worf to move the ship, but he can’t think of the correct words to say. Riker orders Worf to move the ship out of the area. He tries his controls on both conn and ops panels, but there is no response. He jumps over to the helm, but still no response.
Riker contacts Wesley in engineering, but he ignores the call. Meanwhile, MacDougal is continuing her work and finally shorts the power to the force field. She rushes in as Riker calls engineering again to reactivate ship power. She walks over to Shimoda, telling him that they are control chips rather than toys. She contacts the bridge to reply to Riker’s call. Agitated, she tells him that nothing can be done as all the control chips have been removed. Worf estimates fourteen minutes until the stellar mass collides with the ship, but that isn’t enough time to return all the chips into their slots. Wesley, trying to help as much as he can, notes that Data can replace them due to his great speed. Riker orders Data to report to engineering.
As MacDougal attempts to sort the pile of isolinear chips, Data arrives, obviously infected. Wesley and Data exchange greetings, but Riker interrupts them so work can proceed. Wesley compares the task to a game, which intrigues Data and he starts replacing the isolinear chips. To see the progress of the star’s explosion, Wesley switches one of the engineering consoles to the main viewer; visible is a stellar core fragment, racing towards the Enterprise. Riker asks Data if he can finish in time, but Data needs slightly more time than is available. Riker wipes his head, to find he’s sweating. He starts to panic as he’s now succumbing to the infection.
In her office, Crusher is continuing to work on finding a vaccine. Picard skips into her office and Crusher calls him by his first name, which he still considers inappropriate despite being infected. However, Crusher sees it all as a game and tells Picard that he can call her “Chief Medical Officer.” Picard begins to wander off and starts to have fun with the conversation, but quickly shakes his head, trying to concentrate. Crusher stands up, taking the blue hypospray container, but she forgets where she was going. Picard indicates the hypospray, which reminds her that she was going to test it on La Forge.
Meanwhile, in engineering, Data continues to work on resetting the isolinear chips, but Wesley is trying to show off his school project. He shows it to Riker, boasting about his work, but Riker focuses on Data instead. Back on the screen, the core fragment continues to approach the defenseless Enterprise, and it begins to worry Wesley. He looks at his project, and contemplates what it could do if it were much more powerful. MacDougal says it would take weeks to lay out new circuits for the idea to work. Despite his intoxication, Wesley is able to formulate an idea to make his theory reality. He begins work at the console he’s at; however, he is unable to think straight and becomes stuck halfway through
Crusher vaccinates La Forge in sickbay with Picard still present. She is unsure about her new vaccine as it is still based on the old Enterprise‘s remedy. However, after being injected with the modified vaccine, La Forge notes that his head is clearing – the new vaccine has worked. Crusher instantly turns around and injects Picard and herself with the working vaccine. She then hands the hypospray to Picard and both leave to inoculate the crew.
Picard rushes into engineering, where Riker is not confident that they have enough time. While Picard inoculates the officers present, Wesley, still suffering from the intoxication, manages to finish turning the ship’s tractor beam into a repulsor beam. The beam activates and bounces the Enterprise away from the Tsiolkovsky, buying the extra time needed for Data to finish inserting the last of the isolinear chips.
The core fragment impacts the Tsiolkovsky, utterly destroying her. As the crew tensely watches the monitor as the fragment bears down on them, Data finishes the repairs and Riker orders the bridge to engage the warp engines. The Enterprise blasts into warp speed with seconds to spare as the fragment drifts harmlessly out into space.
With his mind now clear, La Forge, who is present on the bridge, wonders what pushed them out of the way. Worf thinks it was Data, but Picard corrects him saying it was both Data and Wesley. Worf, incredulous, asks if the captain had said Wesley’s name. Dr. Crusher, glowing with pride, confirms what Picard had said. Additionally, Riker recommends to Picard that Wesley should receive a fair mention in his log. Picard agrees with the intent to acknowledge his science teacher, as well.
With everything back to normal, the senior staff returns to the bridge to commence normal operations. However, when Yar arrives on the bridge, she turns to Data at the science station and informs him, out of embarrassment, that the actions of that day had never happened. As Data puzzles over her statement, the Enterprise warps off to its next destination as Picard states that he believes his new crew will work out well, if they can avoid temptation.