The U.S.S. Enterprise is ordered to transport Tam Elbrun, a Federation emissary, to a distant star system. Tam, a Betazoid who specializes in first contact with new life-forms, is assigned to establish mind contact with Tin Man, an alien intelligence resembling an organic spaceship, which is orbiting a star that's about to explode. The crew's mission: to reach Tin Man before two Romulan Warbirds, which are also trying to make contact with it.

En route to the site, Tam shares with his old friend Troi his frustration with his extraordinary telepathic powers, which constantly bombard him with the thoughts of those around him. He also intimates that he has already made preliminary contact with Tin Man.

Upon the crew's arrival at the star system, one of the Romulan Warbirds fires on the U.S.S. Enterprise, then prepares to destroy Tin Man before the crew can make contact. Instead, Tam sends a telepathic warning to Tin Man, which responds by emitting an energy wave that destroys the Warbird, but also causes serious damage to the U.S.S. Enterprise.

With the star's explosion imminent and the second Warbird on the way, Picard asks Tam to coax Tin Man into moving to the safety of Federation space. Tam explains that Tin Man, having lost its crew years earlier, has come to the star to die in the explosion. He then asks to be transported to Tin Man to establish personal contact, but Picard is hesitant, questioning the loyalties that caused Tam to protect Tin Man at the risk of losing the Enterprise.

When the second Romulan vessel arrives to destroy Tin Man, Picard sends Tam and Data to approach the life-form. Upon boarding, Tam has an immediate sense of belonging with the alien and Tin Man shows a mutual rapport with the emissary. Shortly afterwards, Tin Man breaks orbit and sends the U.S.S. Enterprise and the Romulan Warbird hurtling into space and away from the star just before It explodes. Data is then returned to the U.S.S. Enterprise, where he explains that Tam has remained with Tin Man, having finally found on the ship the peace that has eluded him his entire life.