The Enterprise receives a distress call from a group of Federation scientists observing the developing Mintakan civilization from an outpost hidden by holograms. An explosion injures everyone on the team and makes the observation window visible to the valley below. While LaForge struggles to repair the power systems and Crusher tends to the injured, a father and daughter spot the window and climb up to observe. Shocked by the sight of one of the injured anthropologists being beamed away, the man, Liko, slips and is gravely injured. Because she blames Starfleet's error for Liko's accident, Crusher has him beamed to the ship and saves his life, but she is unable to modify his memories. After Liko hears Picard telling expedition leader Barron that they will find his missing assistant, Palmer, Liko returns to the Mintakans and tells them about the godlike Caretaker who brought him back from the dead. Riker and Troi beam down in search of Palmer and learn that the Mintakans have begun to worship "the Picard." When the Mintakans find Palmer, Troi diverts them in a search for other Caretakers so that Riker can beam the injured man up to the ship. Once Riker and Palmer have vanished, Liko fears that the Picard will punish his people for allowing them to escape and suggests executing Troi in penance. Hoping to persuade the Mintakans that he is not a god, Picard has the leader Nuria beamed aboard the Enterprise and shows her that he cannot save the most injured member of the scientific team. Nuria returns with Picard to the planet, but they are unable to persuade Liko that Picard is not a god until Picard insists on taking the arrow intended to sacrifice Troi. When Liko sees that Picard bleeds, he apologizes for his error and Troi is freed. After Crusher treats Picard's wound, he returns to the planet to tell the Mintakans that they must progress on their own toward the technological abilities they have witnessed by the Starfleet officers.
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