Date: May 12, 2020
Season 6, Episodes 8 and 9
Musical Accompaniment: Ambient Worlds presents: The Elder Scrolls
Interstellar News: The weather is getting colder, but at least I was able to complete five loads of laundry today.
Favorite Quote from “A Fistful of Datas”:
Worf: What is our function here?
Alexander: You’re the Sheriff and I’m the deputy.
Worf: So, we are in law enforcement.
Alexander: Right.Worf grasping the function… quickly.
Worf’s One-Two Punch: “I’m beginning to see the appeal of this program.”
“A Fistful of Datas” begins with the crew having a little extra time on their hands and Picard during his best to play his flute, but constantly getting interrupted. First La Forge and Data want permission to do an experiment (this isn’t going to end well), then Dr. Crusher wants Picard to play a small part in a play (“I’m not much of an actor.”), and finally Worf tries to give himself more work but Picard all but orders him to enjoy his free time. I promise all three of these things are, sort of, important.
Alexander and Worf play a Western holodeck program where Worf is the Sheriff and Alexander is this Deputy. Worf “beats” the program on easy so Alexander bumps it up to level 4 and the program starts again. When Worf is just about to lose, Troi jumps in to help. Outside of the holodeck, La Forge hooks up Data to be the backup computer in case of systems failure when Data experiences a power surge and flips his tricorder like a man with a gun in the Wild West. Meanwhile, glitches on the ship keep happening… like Picard’s music data acting wonky, Crusher’s script being replaced by Data’s poetry, and all of the replicators only making cat food.
Alexander is kidnapped on the way back from the bank and the program won’t freeze because Data is now the bad guy and the bad guy’s father. Worf makes an agreement to exchange the prisoners and fashions himself a force field which comes in handy. Oh suuuure now Worf has super shooting accuracy, where was this in “Rascals“? They fix Data, the computer, and the holodeck and everyone lives happily ever after, even Spot.
This was a FUN and adorable episode. Was it super science fictiony and suspenseful, not really, but it was cute and I needed cute today. Data continues to learn the joys of owning a cat, like when they won’t eat or when they try to “help” when you’re working. Worf is absolutely hopeless but he’s trying so hard and even came around at the end. It was also fun to see Troi being totally immersed in the holodeck and really being a part of the family. I noticed more in this episode how naive and gullible Worf is and how lucky he is to have Troi and the others in his life to explain how others do not always keep their honor in such high regard. This was an absolute amazing acting exercise for Brent Spiner and seeing him, as Data, in drag was spectacular. Would I watch this episode again, yes. Do I think it’s the best ever, no. Am I giving it 7 Datas for absolutely no reason, also yes.
Favorite Quote from “The Quality of Life”:
Riker: Data, those are two of your friends out there. They have saved your life more times than I can remember. I can’t believe you’d be willing to sacrifice them like this.
Data: Commander, please do not think this is an arbitrary decision. I have considered the ramifications of my actions carefully, and I do not believe it is justifiable to sacrifice one life form for another.Riker being, well, Riker and totally not ever really understanding Data.
Data’s Not Really An Android: “What was it that endowed me with life?”
“The Quality of Life” begins with a poker game where Dr. Crusher uses psychology to make La Forge, Worf, and Riker feel a little self-conscious about their beards and is about to win a bet when Picard calls them all to duty. They arrive at a science station for La Forge to evaluate the Tyran particle fountain and he meets Dr. Farallon. She’s all super eager and has an answer for everything but La Forge is skeptical. Something goes wrong and she uses an experiment, her “exocamps”, which work brilliantly. She and they beam aboard the Enterprise in order to review them and the project.
The exocamps are little robots with extraordinary Artificial Intelligence capabilities, and Dr. Farallon also fangirls a bit over Data. One the exocamps acts up before and after an explosion and while everyone else considers it a loss, Data is super curious about it. He theorizes that the exocamps are “alive” so they develop a type of Turing test that the exocamp seemingly fails. As Data runs the test several more times, he realizes the exocamp not only passed the test but “saw right through it” as Dr. Crusher muses. Suddenly there’s a problem on the station while La Forge and Picard are down there and subsequently stuck. Data refuses to let the exocamps be used without a say in the matter, but eventually they agree and ultimately have to sacrifice one of their own in order to save Picard and La Forge.
I did not like how ugly Dr. Farallon turned out to be. She insists that she created the exocamps with the intent for them to be workers but, as I tell my kids all the time, intentions do not always mean much. You can spend 8 hours on an assignment but if you never turn it in, I can’t grade it… even if you intended to turn it in at some point. You may not have meant to do something, but that doesn’t make the unintended consequence any less valid or consequential. I love how Dr. Crusher and Picard are always so interested in new life, they really take the mission to heart. Data also comes a little closer to understanding what “the right thing” is, even when it’s hard and even when someone is yelling at you. I don’t think the episode really did what it meant to, it’s a very “C” version of “The Measure of a Man“, but maybe because the exocamps cannot speak for themselves. I always find it moving when someone who has privilege and agency speaks out for someone or something that does not. I will admit I was sad when the third exocamp sacrificed itself for the good of their fellow devices. The lingering question, though, is who wins the bet?!?! When that is the question that envelopes my thoughts at the end of an episode, you know you did something not quite right. 6 exocamps for this episode.
4 thoughts on “TNG: “A Fistful of Datas” and “The Quality of Life””