While on a survey mission, an away team led by Riker finds a dying humanoid in a damaged escape pod. Crusher connects his nervous system to LaForge's to stabilize him for transport to the ship, where the patient proves to have remarkable powers of recuperation. However, the patient she dubs "John Doe" has no memory of who he is, nor of how his ship - which appears to have been in a battle - ended up on the planet. During the month in which he recuperates, LaForge experiences a newfound sense of confidence and well-being. Meanwhile, Data and the bridge crew are able to trace the path of the escape pod, but John believes that he was escaping his home planet and does not wish to return. He has panic attacks accompanied by surges of radiation in his body. When O'Brien comes into sickbay with an injured shoulder, John is able to heal it with a touch and a surge of the same radiation. But his cells are mutating, and a Zalkonian ship intercepts the Enterprise to tell them that the stranger is a dangerous prisoner who has been sentenced to death. John cannot remember whether this is the case, but he fears that he is a danger to the crew and tries to escape. He accidentally breaks Worf's neck in the process, but is able to heal the Klingon, too, with just a touch. When Picard refuses to turn the stranger over to the Zalkonians, the entire crew is rendered immobile. John goes to the bridge, from which he heals the crew, then announces that he remembers why he fled: his species is on the verge of an evolutionary development beyond the need for their current bodies, and his advanced development was perceived as a threat to the leaders. Before the eyes of the Enterprise officers and the Zalkonian leader, John transforms into an energy being and departs into space to tell his people of their coming evolution.
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