The USS Enterprise-D encounters a ship of strange aliens. These aliens, called Pakleds, request the Enterprise's help to fix their broken ship. Judging from the way the aliens discuss the problem, the crew thinks they are so ignorant, it's strange they were able to build and fly the ship in the first place. The Enterprise agrees to send Lieutenant Geordi La Forge over to fix the problem.
Meanwhile, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is due for a medical operation: his artificial heart is starting to break down and he needs a replacement. Picard refuses to have Doctor Katherine Pulaski do it because he is concerned about his âimageâ with the crew, so she convinces him to go to a starbase for the operation. He announces that he will be joining Ensign Wesley Crusher, who is on his way to that base for Starfleet tests, in a voyage via shuttlecraft. During the trip, the relationship between the two grows, Picard shares a bit of his past, and directs Crusher to some classic books (William James).
In the Pakled ship, La Forge finds out that the Pakleds are technologically unsophisticated but well-armed and not entirely helpless. Their modus operandi is to exaggerate their distress and helplessness to lure in "Samaritans" whose advanced technology and knowledge can then be taken by force in a surprise attack or kidnapping. They also do this by having seemingly poor language skills and saying things like "We look for things" and "We are smart, we are strong!". The Pakleds use this ruse to take La Forge hostage, hoping to have him make them more weapons.
Meanwhile, Picard's operation is going wrong and he is about to die. The doctors call for Dr. Pulaski to save the day.
On the Enterprise, Commander William Riker and Lieutenant Worf covertly establish a plot with La Forge to amaze the Pakleds into thinking they are no match for the Enterprise. The plot, featuring a spectacular light show of hydrogen gas passed through a forcefield, works and the Pakleds release La Forge. The ship hurries to the starbase so that Pulaski can save Picard's life.