Buck is assisting a staff member with passengers boarding a space transport at the Omega Space Terminal. As they work, a young woman wearing a purple hood and mask (Devon Ericson) approaches the boarding point, looking around fearfully. She ducks into a niche to hide as several men in similar hooded and masked attire come onto the scene, armed with weapons, in pursuit of her. She makes a final rush for the boarding point, only to be caught by one of her pursuers. As the man grapples with her, he inadvertently pulls off her mask, causing him to pause, giving the woman the opening to shove him away from her and rush to the transport. She fearfully begs Buck to help her. When he sees her assailant rushing in pursuit, he ushers her aboard the transport, and kicks her pursuer to the ground, closing the transport ship hatch behind him. The other pursuers catch up but cannot open the hatch. Buck straps the woman in to her seat and urges Hawk to prepare to launch the transport.
As the transport leaves the terminal, Buck turns to the woman to see if she is okay. He recognized the masked pursuers as Dorian security agents, as he has heard that the Dorian people are mutants who keep themselves disguised. He asks the woman why they were pursuing her. She looks down at the floor and begs Buck not to ask her any questions. She does, however, express interest in where the shuttle is going. Buck tells her that he and the crew of the Searcher have been picking up survivors of a volcanic eruption on the planet Lavernus, evacuating them to a new colony on a planet called Ceenus. The woman promptly pleads that she be allowed to join these refugees, and Buck is happy to agree, much to her gratitude.
The evacuees are brought aboard the Searcher and placed in a passenger seating cabin, where they are greeted by Wilma and some introduce themselves to one another: a heavily pregnant woman named Darel and her husband Joham, a freighter pilot named Saurus (Denny Miller), and a gambler named Chronos with a talent for minor slight-of-hand tricks. Buck brings the mysterious young woman aboard and she sits by herself, away from everyone else, fidgeting and looking away when Wilma and Buck both watch her.
The passengers are allowed to walk among certain areas of the ship during the flight to the Ceenus colony. The mysterious purple-clad woman finds her way to a lounge where she very tentatively approaches a porthole and looks at her reflection with a mixture of uncertainty and deep anxiety, touching her face as if not knowing what to make of herself. Buck finds his way to her and observes her for a brief few seconds before introducing himself to her by name. She tells Buck her name is Aleefa, shaking hands a bit nervously. He asks her if she's willing to speak about whatever is troubling her, including why the Dorian security agents were chasing her. He feels that talking might help her solve her difficulties, but she counters by saying it could also make them worse, before walking away.
Aleefa passes by Wilma on her way out of the lounge, and her behavior concerns Wilma enough to ask Buck if he's learned anything. The two have no time to speak, however, as the ship suddenly lurches and stops, and all personnel are called to their stations. Hawk, examining some of the bridge's console readings, informs Admiral Asimov that the ship's forward velocity has come to a halt, even though the engines have not shut down. Buck and Wilma arrive on the bridge. The vid screen is activated, revealing a large warship holding the Searcher in a tractor beam. Hawk notes the ship was cloaked, as its approach was not detected. Asimov orders the Searcher's defense shields raised, but the Searcher is an exploration vessel with minimal self-defense capabilities, no match for the larger warship holding it in the tractor beam.
The vid screen view switches to the bridge of the warship, where the commanding officers identifies himself as Koldar, leader of the Dorian people (Walker Edmiston). Koldar announces that the Searcher's defense shields have been disabled, and he will not let the Searcher go until its crew hands over a Dorian fugitive who has taken refuge aboard the ship. This Dorian woman, Asteria, stands convicted of murder and Kaldor will not allow her to escape justice as per the Dorian penal codes. The evacuees, seeing the transmission from Koldar in the passenger cabin's vid screens, are shocked at the announcements. Saurus notes that the Dorians are mutants and always wear masks. But all of the evacuees are human. Still, they are all in horror that the ship is being held captive until Asteria is handed over to Koldar.
Buck and Hawk confide to Asimov that they realize that Aleefa is in fact Asteria, the fugitive Kaldor is seeking. Buck admits he made a judgment call to let her on board the evacuation shuttle when he saw her pursued by what he knew to be Dorian agents. Hawk supported Buck's decision because the Dorians are a harsh people and the girl's fate was likely to be a terrible one. Aleefa wore no mask when Buck first spotted her, but that doesn't prove she isn't Dorian-- although the Dorians are mutants, they could still appear very much human.
Asimov responds directly to Koldar, warning him that his actions against a peaceful exploration vessel is a violation of interstellar laws and treaties, and tantamount to piracy. Koldar responds that pursuit of his people's justice against one of its one, particularly one sentenced to execution for deliberately murdering another Dorian citizen, does not qualify as piracy. Buck then tells Kaldor that unlike the Dorians, Earth people and its colonies use a court system and due process of law to handle such issues, but Koldar quickly says he is not interested in such "legal niceties." The Dorian people and their home world of Cygneus are not part of the treaty and he will only honor the governing of his own people by his world's own system of justice.
Koldar then announces he foresaw the Searcher's stance toward his demands, and is properly prepared to change it. He signals to one of his crew, who activates a beam that begins to raise the internal temperatures throughout the Searcher... using it as torture. Koldar states that the beam he is using has increased the temperature of Searcher to scale 7.5, despite the ship's cooling systems... but his ship can also invert the beam, and demonstrates this, causing the temperature of the Searcher to grow uncomfortably cold. Koldar informs the searcher that the beam will be regularly inverted, alternately heating and chilling the Searcher's temperature until Asteria is handed over to him, and he will communicate with them no further.
As transmission ends, Koldar's son Demeter (William Kirby Cullen) appeals to him to consider that Asteria's being on board Searcher means she is effectively going into voluntary banishment from the Dorian people, and perhaps this is punishment enough. Koldar however is unmoved-- the murder victim is his own eldest won, Demeter's brother and the heir to the Dorian throne. Voluntary exile from the Dorian race is hardly punishment enough in the face of the crime's gravity, Koldar tells his son in no uncertain terms. Demeter looks down and says nothing.
The Lavernus evacuees are the most outraged at their treatment at the hands of the Dorians, as they have done nothing to incite them. Sentiment starts to grow against the Dorian fugitive, Asteria, that Koldar insists is aboard the Searcher. One of the passengers, named Rand, quickly announces to his fellow refugees that although Asteria must appear human as she is wearing no mask, she must be among them and they must attempt to pick her out from among them. Aleefa looks frightened as she huddles against her seat, shivering.
As Rand rants, demanding that every woman among the evacuees give an account of herself, the passenger cabin vid screen allows them all to see the Dorian warship. Saurus, as a freighter pilot, knows for certain from its design that it is Dorian.
The beam is inverted again to heat the Searcher. Buck and Wilma go into the passenger cabin to try and calm the evacuees. Buck insists that Koldar's actions violate every law governing interstellar travel and navigation. But Rand is unmoved, because in the here and now, Koldar is alternately chilling and heating the Searcher's interior as torture to the passengers and crew, because one of the Dorian's people, convicted of murder, is a refugee on the Searcher. He is adamant that the Dorians are entitled to run their people as they see fit and exact justice as per their own laws. Many of the other evacuees quickly start to voice agreement that what the Dorians do with their criminals is none of anyone else's business, least of all the Searcher's crew and the Lavernus refugees themselves. Buck's voice becomes a little stern as he says that nobody is going to be handed over to armed aliens that have violated every interplanetary law.
Aboard the bridge, however, Crichton's response to Dr. Goodfellow's request that he analyze the effects of the temperature change is quite grim. The temperature has reached scale plus 9, and in less than eight hours, all humanoids on board the Searcher will go into involuntary metabolic stasis and die if the temperature is maintained. Asimov notes that the next inversion might freeze Searcher solid.
Patience among the Lavernus refugees is wearing thinner and thinner. Rand continues to incite his fellow refugees against Asteria. Arguments arise over how to pick Asteria out from among the other female refugees, and what to do with her if they succeed. Many passengers, though concerned about themselves and the others, find Rand's belligerence as bad as Koldar. Arguing degenerates into Bickering as Rand's accusatory glance and words start to fall over every woman in the refugee passenger cabin. Joham, the husband of the pregnant woman, Darel, appeals to everyone for solidarity. But he cannot counter Rand's response on whether Joham is ready to sacrifice Darel-- or their unborn child-- for a stranger accused of murder.
The beam is inverted again, to cold. Hawk enters the passenger cabin to try and keep their morale up. Unfortunately, Koldar's torture is proving more effective than Hawk or any of the Searcher crew can keep up with. Hawk directs the passengers to where they can find thermal blankets, and while they are distracted, he directly approaches Aleefa, requesting she come with him as she is inadequately sheltered from the cold. Aleefa's resistance quickly melts as she turns to look at Hawk, noting he is not completely human, and backs down from his piercing gaze. Finally she complies with his request and goes with him. Chronos notices and his brow crinkles with thought.
Hawk brings Aleefa, now wrapped in a thermal blanket, to Buck, who confronts her with what he and Hawk have suspected since the Searcher was stopped. Buck noted Aleefa's response to her reflection in the lounge porthole... one akin to someone who had never seen her own face before-- because she's always worn a mask. Aleefa finally breaks down and admits that she is Asteria. She reminds Buck of her people's ways-- masks are never removed in front of any others, Dorian or alien, and no reflective surfaces or mirrors of any kind are permitted on the Dorian world, ever since their people underwent their mutancy. Buck is puzzled because Asteria is very beautiful and attractive. But she responds by repeating an old Earth saying, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Just because she is pretty by human standards does not make her so, especially by Dorian standards. Buck asks what Koldar accuses Asteria of doing. She says that it hardly matters because Koldar's power over the Dorian race is absolute and he always gets his way.
The beam is inverted again and the heat quickly reaches scale plus 10, enough to kill the entire Searcher crew and passengers with a few hours. Buck grabs Asteria and insists she tell him why Koldar wants her-- it's their only way to try to reason with him. Lives are at stake. Asteria finally tells Buck that she is accused of killing Koldar's son, but promptly insists she did not. Asteria and Koldar's son, Chosan, were in love. Two days ago they went to meet among secluded hills. She found him injured and bleeding. He lost his balance and fell from a high escarpment, Asteria not having enough strength to pull him back to safety. But as she started to run for help, she had already been spotted and it appeared to the observers that she pushed him to his death.
Back in the passenger cabin, Chronos believes he has the answer Rand seeks. He pulls a fan made of a shiny metallic substance that he uses as a slight of hand prop, suggesting a game be started. He understands that even without her mask, a Dorian would undoubtedly shy away from her own reflection.
On board the bridge, Buck discusses Asteria's story with Admiral Asimov. He hopes that he might be allowed to board the Dorian ship and speak directly to Koldar, in hopes that he will listen to what Buck has learned. Although Asimov and Dr. Goodfellow see little alternative, they are deeply skeptical. The Dorians are a highly reclusive people, stubborn and proud, near xenophobic in dealing with outsiders of any kind. But Buck wants to try it and even Asimov is unwilling to dissent. Wilma switches on the vidcam and Buck makes his petition to Koldar. Koldar is dismissive and cold in his reception of Buck, until Buck challenges Koldar on whether he is afraid of letting the whole galaxy see that his people are barbarians who kill accused without any kind of trial to prove their guilt. With his pride and reputation on the line, Koldar agrees to let Buck come aboard his ship, stating that nobody will doubt or question Dorian justice afterward.
Buck needs to pass through the Lavernus refugee passenger cabin in order to go through the docking airlock and board the Dorian ship, and he is promptly challenged by Rand. He refuses to respond to Rand's insinuation that Buck knows who the Dorian fugitive is.
On board the Dorian ship, Buck is greeted by Demeter. Buck says that Asteria denies killing Demeter's brother, and he believes her, but Demeter says, a bit sadly, that he wishes that could be proven. He brings Buck to a room where a viewscreen is activated, to show video footage captured by a routine patrol ship on the day that Chosan died. The footage shows Chosan falling, and a woman stooping forward at the top of the escarpment as he falls, her grip on him breaking. Demeter enlarges the detail of the video capture and the woman, even masked, looks like Asteria in build and clothing. Buck asks to see the footage again.
Morale among the evacuees is breaking. One woman cries not only from her suffering, but fear that everyone on Searcher is going to die helplessly. Chronos takes that moment to put his plan into action, using his slight of hand to entertain the other passengers and try to help their morale. He uses his fan to give a bit of cooling to each of the women, and Asteria shies away from her reflection in the fan, revealing herself to Chronos. Saurus promptly springs to Asteria's defense, but now that her identity is known, all of Rand's wrath focuses on her. And now Chronos is speaking with Rand, appealing to the other passengers that if they do nothing, all of them, including Asteria, definitely perish in the heat-- but if they put Asteria in the airlock so the Dorians can take her into custody, her own death is not at all certain, while everyone else definitely lives.
On board the Dorian ship, Buck remains unconvinced of the video evidence against Asteria. It could also be seen as her trying desperately to prevent Chosan from falling. Questioning Demeter, he finds that Demeter himself is unconvinced of Asteria's guilt but dares not confront his father, who Demeter says is a very difficult man to argue against, especially given his complete control over the Dorian people. Demeter grows defensive as Buck asks about his own relationship with his brother, and says he tried to get Asteria banished instead of unduly punished. Noting the Dorian people's rigid sense of justice, including a life for a life, Buck realizes Demeter is hiding something about Chosan's love affair with Asteria. At that moment, a crew member informs Demeter that Koldar is ready to speak to Buck himself.
Rand calls a vote among the other evacuees, and support in favor of Asteria is rapidly dwindling, Saurus being the only one trying to defend her. Even Darel, frightened for her unborn child, and Joham, frightened for his wife, do not dissent from the vote. Asimov, Wilma and Hawk see the goings-on from the bridge, and Hawk and Wilma rush to the cabin. But the vote is complete, and support for Asteria outside of Saurus has faded away completely. Rand and Chronos knock Saurus on the head to incapacitate him, grab Asteria and force her into the airlock.Rand uses the cabin's comm system to inform the Dorians that Asteria is in the airlock, and they should go to retrieve her. Hawks blasts open the cabin's door, and he and Wilma find Asteria gone and the airlock empty. Wilma lashes out at all the evacuees, saying she doesn't know whether to feel more sorry for Asteria, or all of them.
Buck is brought to the Dorian bridge to stand before Koldar. Buck promotly questions Koldar's sense of justice, having condemned Asteria without hearing a word on her behalf, and held a peaceful exploration vessel hostage, subjecting them to extreme torture in the meanwhile. Koldar says only that under ordinary circumstances, he would see that Buck himself faced swift punishment for his impertinence, but due to 'recent developments,' he will overlook it. He gives a hand signal and two Dorians drag Asteria onto the bridge as she struggles in their grasp. As if to prove he can be fair, Koldar quickly has the beam discontinued and the Searcher returned to its normal temperature-- which the Lavernus evacuees take with great elation and proof that they did the right thing.
Koldar has his debate with Buck broadcast aboard the Searcher so that none of its crew would question his justice. Buck immediately challenges Koldar as unable to pronounce sole judgment over Asteria because his own son, and future ruler of the Dorians, was the victim. On any of Earth's colonies, such justice would be condemned as a sham. Koldar response by asking his crew to all weigh the evidence against Asteria in their own minds, and any finding reason to doubt her guilt to immediately step forward with no fear of any repercussions. Despite his stern glare and insistence that any who doubt his condemnation of Asteria to immediately step forward and state so before him, nobody does so. Koldar then asks Demeter about his own feelings-- surely his own son and Chosan's brother would speak up. But Demeter says only that he would have preferred for Asteria to be banished instead of executed, deferring to his father's wisdom and judgment.
Koldar declares the trial to be completed. His judgment is that of one man, but is supported by all of his people. Asteria is to be executed soon as proper formalities are observed. Buck quickly challenges the 'necessary ritual,' causing Koldar to signal his crew to return Buck to the Searcher. Buck promptly turns to face the crew in a fighting crouch. Koldar promptly has his men stand down and Buck suggests that if Asteria is to be executed, Koldar do it immediately, to prove he has the courage and resolve to not hand Asteria over to an executioner back on the Dorian home world of Cygneus. Meeting Buck's challenge, Koldar says that he will do so. The crew holding Asteria force her to her knees as a third readies a weapon to behead her. Koldar then announces he will spare the rest of the Searcher crew from having to watch, and orders video to be terminated.
Buck's gaze is fixed not on Koldar, not on Asteria, not on the crew member holding the sword to behead her... his gaze is fixed on Demeter. And what he hoped for, finally happens as Koldar signals for Asteria to be executed: Demeter finally springs forward and shouts for a halt. He finally tells Koldar that he has proof that Asteria did not kill Chosan. Chosan's death was accidental. Before the video footage was captured, Demeter himself had gone to the hiding place where Asteria and Chosan met, and quarreled with him. They struggled, and Chosan hit his head. Demeter never thought Asteria would be convicted, much less executed, until the video capture of the scene was brought to Koldar.
Koldar finally shows his more humane side as he orders that Asteria be released. He asks Demeter why he lied to him; why Demeter never came forth with the truth if it was in fact, truth. Demeter finally speaks what was on the mind of all the Dorian crew, indeed all of the Dorian people-- they fear Koldar. They fear him enough that they would not believe Koldar's assurance that they could speak their minds without censure or disfavor. Koldar's rule was too strict, too unbending. Demeter himself was in fear of his father's judgment.
Koldar stands down, now seeking to make amends, to mend relations with his son and his people. He asks why Demeter quarreled with his brother. Demeter reveals that when Chosan went to the hills above the city to meet Asteria, they would remove their masks. Demeter found such violation of Dorian custom, especially among the leader's eldest son, who would one day become ruler, to be unacceptable. The argument between the two brothers finally escalated into a fist fight. After Chosan struck his head, Demeter feels that if he had enough courage to remove Chosan's mask, he would have seen that he had time to summon help. But he was too frightened to do it. Now, with Asteria almost executed for the death that Demeter blames himself for, he cannot bear to continue the custom; his people have become slaves to it. Pulling his mask off, he tells Asteria he will never wear one again, before rushing from the bridge.
Buck is even more puzzled now than before. Everyone on the bridge got a good, solid look at Demeter's face before he ran from the bridge. Demeter's unmasked face was as handsome as Asteria is beautiful-- his masculine comeliness was a match for Asteria's feminine attractiveness. Buck believes that Koldar knows the complete truth behind the Dorian secret-- what caused them to begin wearing masks. He asks Koldar to tell of it.
Koldar finally explains the Dorian secret. After the war, after the mutancy of his people on Cygneus, thousands upon thousands of Dorians committed suicide rather than face their mutancy. The custom of masks and never to look on the face of another Dorian was passed to protect the race from extinction. But he realizes now that Demeter is perhaps right. Perhaps it is time for his people to emerge from hiding. He orders his crew to remove their masks and Show Buck the truth. One crew finally does so... and Buck is shocked as Demeter's face emerges from under the mask. Then another, and another, and another... until finally Koldar himself unmasks to reveal that even he is an identical match for his own son.
The Dorian mutancy resulted in every man's face being a mirror-image match of each others... and every Dorian woman's face to also be a perfect mirror-image match of all other Dorian women. Koldar challenges Buck to imagine living on such a world... it was pure madness.
Buck brings Asteria back onto the Searcher as a free woman to join the evacuees on their new home. Most are relieved to see her alive, but Rand remains unrepentant over his actions. Buck laces into Rand, mentioning that the colony they are being taken to is an unblemished world, and only if they remember the past and look forward to the future can they keep it that way. The episode ends on Buck's stern look as he expresses a hope that the evacuees not repeat the terrible tragedy that occurred in 20th century Earth.