Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode 31 (The Schizoid Man)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

When the Starfleet learns that Ira Graves is dying, they send the Enterprise to check on him. Graves is supposed to be the leading expert in cybernetics. It’s felt that he could make a major breakthrough within the next few years. However, his disease is serious. Shortly before arriving at what is simply called Graves’s World, the Enterprise receives a distress call. Dr. Selar, Worf, Troi and Data beam down.

Dr. Selar discovers that Graves has, at best, a week to live. Graves is arrogant and seems to have no use for people unless they’re attractive women. The only one he seems to want to spend time with is Data. Since Graves knew Data’s father, Dr. Noonian Soong, Data is more than happy to spend time with Graves. Graves mentions that he wants to put his intellect into the computer. They get to talking about what it is to be human and how Data can never die when Data mentions that he has an off switch. The little light bulb goes off in Graves’s head.

The Enterprise has come back and wants to beam up the away team. Just then, Data rejoins the rest of the landing party. He announces that Ira Graves is dead. The audience knows that Graves has somehow transferred himself into Data, but it takes a while for the crew to pick up on signs that become increasingly obvious. At first, it seems that Data is mimicking Graves’s mannerisms, but he becomes more defiant, even talking back to Captain Picard. In the end, Graves has to realize that he can’t handle Data’s power. He puts all of his intellect into the Enterprise computer, leaving Data as he was before. Data has no memory of what happened.

There are several things I want to know about this episode. First, it’s assumed that Graves was able to turn off Data, and then turn him back on again. As Picard pointed out, Data’s arrival on the planet was a coincidence. This means that Graves probably wasn’t prepared for him. I have to assume that Data, with his superhuman strength, could overpower a dying old man. How, then, was Graves able to reach Data’s off switch, which is on his back. All Data had to do was put his back to a wall and not move. Furthermore, once Graves was in Data’s body, how did he turn himself back on?

It was also never really discussed how Graves was able to transfer his intellect or his soul from one place to another or what happened to Graves once he ‘left’ Data. The show never really got too deep into the metaphysical aspect of the events. It was more on one person’s attempt to cheat death.

Also, after it is all over, everyone is asking if Data has any memory of the events, which he doesn’t. Riker asks if Data remembers wrestling with a targ. (It’s a large pig-like creature that Klingons keep as pets.) I’d like to know when this happened. I’d also like to know where they even got one. There’s only one Klingon on the ship and I’m pretty sure that he doesn’t have a targ. I can only assume that this is supposed to be some sort of in-joke.

The biggest problem that I had wasn’t a mistake. Why was it that Data had no memory? Graves commented that Data had no understanding of humanity. He’d never experience what humans experience. It’s a shame that Graves couldn’t have left at least something for Data. As it is, Data gained nothing from the experience.

Brent Spiner did a great job in this episode as Data. This was one of a few episodes that gave him a chance to break out of the rigid mannerisms that usually define Data. The scene in the beginning with Data trying on a beard is also very funny. Unfortunately, we never see Data experiment with facial hair again.

I’d give this episode three stars. There are a few good points, but too many bad points. In the end, they cancel each other out. The story was handled very minimally. The writers didn’t really explore the finer points, like what it is that makes Data different. This is why Data’s lack of memory bothers me so much. If he had at least some of Graves’s memories, he’d at least have a point of reference. I’d recommend watching it if it comes on TV, but I don’t think it’s worth the price to buy or rent it.

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