The Enterprise is on route to Mintaka III to re-supply and repair an anthropological team observing the bronze-age, proto-Vulcan natives. The anthropological team is hidden by a holographic "duck blind" before the Enterprise is able to reach them the outpost's reactor explodes exposing the duck blind. Picard orders the ship to warp nine.
Upon beaming down to the outpost the away team (Riker, Data, LaForge, Crusher, and Martinez, a medic) find the outpost in bad shape. Two natives, the village's appointed record keeper, Oji, and her father, Liko, on the way to check their sundial, notice the sparks in the observation window from the distance. The away team revives the anthropologists and start repairs as the natives climb the rocks to investigate. They see the observation window and Liko looks inside seeing Martinez and one of the anthropologists beamed to sickbay. Startled by Data noticing him, Liko touches the electrified window sill and falls, Oji watches from hiding as Crusher and her father are beamed up. Geordi repairs the reactor and Oji sneaks back down the mountain after seeing the observation window disappear. In sickbay Picard confronts Crusher over breaking the prime directive. Picard believes she should have left him to die, and recommends wiping Liko's short term memory while Crusher is unsure if it will work due to Mintakins' lower lizome levels.
While the medical staff are distracted, Liko wakes up and sees Picard giving orders about looking for the last anthropologist, Palmer. Liko looks up in awe and whispers "Picard" in a reverent tone. Crusher sedates him and Picard makes wiping his memory an order. Liko wakes up after being beamed back down to Mintaka III and is found by Oji. Liko describes how he died and went to heaven where his wounds were "miraculously" healed. Liko says that the only explanation is that he saw the gods the Mintakins used to believe in despite his daughter's arguments that they are only stories.
In a meeting on the Enterprise, the senior crew discuss how to search for Palmer in the area near the duck blind that is filled with caves that block the sensors. They go with Riker's idea to surgically alter him and Troi to look like Mintakins.
Riker and Troi beam down to look for Palmer and determine how much cultural contamination has been done. Riker and Troi banter about Mintakin dating rituals, and walk into town and see Liko describing how he has seen The Overseer, or as he calls him "The Picard". The villagers respond with skepticism, and Troi and Riker try to support the villagers. Just as Riker's reasoning is taking hold in even Liko, more villagers come in with Palmer, who Liko recognizes by description. The villagers decide to keep Palmer captive in order to please The Picard. Troi distracts the villagers by saying she saw another stranger while Riker rescues Palmer. Oji, on her way to record the sundial measurements, spots Riker making off with Palmer and calls out the alarm. Riker runs from the following hunters and beams the two up to sickbay un-seen. Troi, surrounded by the villagers, tries to reason that they were letting Palmer free because they don't believe in The Picard. Liko suggests they punish Troi to prevent The Picard's wrath and Nuria, the village leader, agrees to if they can't get Palmer back.
The head anthropologist suggests that Picard go down as a god and minimize damage by giving the Mintakins religious guidelines. Picard rejects this and hopes to appeal to Nuria's rationality by explaining the logic behind his 'magic'. Beaming Nuria aboard, Picard introduces himself and Nuria bows.
Picard insists she stand and look at him, saying he does not deserve worship. Pickard and Nuria go on a tour of the Enterprise, with Picard constantly explaining how all she sees is not his powers. Picard describes the ideas technological and scientific advancement to Nuria by using examples of huts, bows, and cloth comparing to the Mintakin's cave dwelling ancestors (which Nuria knew of). Nuria accepts the logic of this easily and no longer fears Picard. On Mintaka III an out of season but not unheard of storm causes Liko to believe The Picard is angry with them and, when he can't find Nuria, decides to punish Troi with death.
On the Enterprise Nuria backslides by asking Picard to bring some villagers back to life, wondering if they offended him when he refuses. Picard brings Nuria to sickbay where she sees one of the anthropologists die of her injuries, and discovers that Picard is not all powerful or immortal.
Nuria realizes that though humans are a remarkable people they are not superior beings. Picard brings Nuria back to the planet in time to save Troi from Liko. Liko begs Picard to bring back his wife and Picard tries to explain his mortality. Liko, refusing to believe, tries to prove Picard's immortality by shooting him, only believing when he sees Picard's blood.
After a stint in sickbay Picard returns to the planet and explains the anthropologist's mission. Liko shows his true understanding when he explains to the villagers why they were observing from hiding. Picard says goodbye leaving the Mintakins with restored hope for their own advancement, believing that they too may one day reach the stars. Nuria gives Picard a piece of embroidery that Picard displays on his chair in his ready-room.