**** (4 stars out of 5)
Captain Robert DeSoto (Riker's former commander on starship Hood) brings a secret mission and controversial First Contact Specialist Tam Elbrun. When Troi studied psychology at the University of Betazed, Tam Elbrun was her patient.
In the Ghorushda Disaster, 47 Starfleeters got killed including two of Riker's Academy chums. Most blame Tam Elbrun for it, since if he's such a good mind-reader he should have prevented it.
Tam has Betazoid eyes and they light up at the sight of Data. Elbrun can't read Data's thoughts and that's rare for him. Tam was born with his ESP instead of developing it normally in adolescence. Most like him can never lead normal lives. He's only stable with a lot of help & self-imposed isolation. Also, he probably listens to 'The Cure' a lot.
"Tin Man" is the code name of an organic starship purposelessly orbiting the dying star Beta Stromgren. The Romulans lay claim to that region and have already sent some ships out to study.
"Study as in dissecting, I'll bet," says La Forge.
Data repeats the baffling statement I once heard from Spock. You remember, the well-known fact that no natural phenomenon can travel at warp speed? Except the Vampire Cloud & the Q & the Farpoint Jellyfish & oh, yeah, TIN MAN!
Tam can't block anyone's thoughts, never could. And hearing thoughts is always frightening to him. That's gotta suck. Back in school, Troi hadn't found a place to fit in, but she has on the Enterprise. She hopes Tam will find where he fits one day...
Data's a little worried that Betazoids can't read his mind. "Perhaps there's nothing there to read."
"Perhaps you're just different," Tam counters. "It's not a sin, you know. Although you may have heard otherwise."
Tam warns Gomtuu (Tin Man) against the Romulans, and it destroys them first. Gomtuu was once one of millions, hasn't seen another of its kind for millennia. It used to have a crew but they died in an accident. It lost interest in living with no crew to care for.
"Is that the purpose of existence?" Data ponders. "To care for someone?"
"It is for me," says Tam.
The empty ship and its new heart save each other.
"Tin Man" was adapted from a 1977 Nebula nominated story called 'Tin Woodsman' and submitted to TNG by writers convinced they could outdo 'Samaritan Snare'. Which they did. No offense.
Sensitive wimp finds a friend, and they gain strength together. I dare the outcasts who went in for drama instead of football not to sniff a little. But the real victor here is actor Harry Groener, who makes me care about a man in love with a space pine-cone.