Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Schizoid Man [2.6]

The Enterprise responds to a distress call from the assistant to reclusive scientist Ira Graves, who is dying.  Graves is working on bridging the gap between man and machine, and secretly places his mind in Data’s body.  Data/Graves becomes increasingly erratic, alerting everyone’s suspicions.  In the end, Picard helps convince Graves to give up his control of Data.

Teleplay by Tracy Torme.  Story by Richard Manning and Hans Beimler  . Directed by Les Landau.

Previous Episode: Loud as a WhisperNext Episode: Unnatural Selection

The Schizoid Man is okay little story – not perfect by any means, but overall a step up from the previous few episodes.  Similar to the last couple of episodes, the story is really about a guest character, but in this case the dilemma of Ira Graves possessing “Data” keeps our main cast at the center of the action.

One highlight of the episode is the performance by guest star W. Morgan Sheppard as Dr. Graves.  He creates a memorable, albeit unpleasant, character who has some finely written dialogue that keeps things sparkling.  He is, frankly, more interesting than Data playing the same character, with all of his over-the-top shennanigans.  The story states that Graves’ personality has sublimated Data’s, but perhaps things would have made more sense if the idea was that Graves’ invasion of Data was actually driving both of them crazy. It would have made the title make a bit more sense as well (from something I read, the title comes from an episode of The Prisoner because the idea was for Patrick McGoohan to play Graves).

I’ve read some comments who describe the eulogy given by “Data” for Graves to be the highlight of the episode – laugh out loud funny.  I found it almost unbearable.  All I could think was, why was Graves such an idiot for giving himself away so obviously?  Overall, the biggest weakness of the episode is that it loses any pretense at creating suspense by making it obvious right away what has taken place.  If Data’s odd behavior had been kept at a minimum, than things like his humming the song from Wizard of Oz or the Rigellian ox comment could have been a cool point of revelation.  As it is, there’s no opportunity for anything like that, which make the middle of the story a bit flat.

The climactic showdown between Picard and Graves is a bit better, which some solid direction and great material for both Patrick Stewart and Brent Spiner to work with.  It’s a shame that it’s let down by the resolution, where Graves just decides to surrender off camera, and plant himself in Enterprise computer.

Shout outs to the Past
There are a bunch of past images flashed by during Data’s “psychotronic” test or whatever it was, including Geordi without his Visor, and Tasha Yar.

Reference is made to Data’s recent failed attempts to figure out humor, especially in The Outrageous Okona.

There are some elements of the story that are reminiscent of Too Short a Season – a man who wants to be younger, partly for the love of a woman who liked him as he was.

Setting Up the Future
Lt. Selar never appears on the show again, but is mentioned more than once when they needed to refer to a backup doctor.

Guest Cast
W. Morgan Sheppard, who plays Ira Graves, has appeared in lots of science fiction television, including as the older Canton Everett Delaware in the 2011 season of Doctor Who.

Suzie Plakson appears as Lt. Selar. She will go onto play some important roles in Star Trek, inlcuding as K’Ehleyr in Next Generation and a Female Q in Voyager.

Randy James appears uncredited as a Ten Forward waiter, and went on to appear many times in Next Generation and Deep Space Nine in uncredited roles.

• Riker is mystified at why the people who sent the initial distress call are not answering.  Surely it would occur to them that this could be because the people are in such danger that they aren’t able to get on the radio?

• Data’s beard scene has nothing to do with anything else in the story.  In fact, it feels like it could have been written for a completely different episode.  But it’s hilarious, with some great lines.  “When I stroke the beard thusly, do I not appear more intellectual?”

• “Healthy as a Rigellian ox”?  Surely there must be unhealthy Rigellian Oxen out there?  Or do these things never die?

• I wonder why Dr. Selar was included in this story.  Dr. Pulaski was taken out of the action by an emergency which served the dramatic function of making the Enterprise not available to the away team for a period of time.  But it wasn’t necessary to make it a medical emergency.  I’m not complaining, but I wonder if the intention was to have Selar return again.

• Worf’s reaction about Romulans is another baby step toward giving him stronger characterization

• Graves correctly guesses that Data is Soong’s work.  Of course, later we will see that this could be just because Data looks just like Dr. Soong.

• The last time we referenced Data’s off switch, Data commented that he wouldn’t want people to know about this.  Here, we see why.

• I can’t tell if he’s kidding or not – is Wesley really impressed by Data’s speech?  The speech was ludicrous, it doesn’t do Wesely any favors.

• Everyone seems really comfortable with the idea of Graves being permanently inside their computer at the end.  I know they say his consciousness is gone, but still, this is Star Trek we’re talking about.

Dialogue High Point
There’s a number of good bits.  Picard has a great speech to Data/Graves at the end, culminating in

No being is so important that he can usurp the rights of another!  Now set him free!

But my favorite line comes from the conversation between Graves and Data, where Graves comments on the Tin Woodsman from The Wizard of Oz, saying something which captures exactly how I’ve always viewed the Data character in the first place (even if that’s now what was intended here).

He finds out he’s human after all, always was.  Just worried so much he never realized it.

Previous Episode: Loud as a WhisperNext Episode: Unnatural Selection

One thought on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Schizoid Man [2.6]

  1. Sheppard’s performance was fairly cliched, but it was so delightful that the clicheness is forgiven. The story was definitely too obvious too early. It’s a shame Selar never popped up again in the series, though Peter David made her part of his cast in the New Frontier novels.

    The beard scene is hilarious. Especially Sirtis laughing. I think that was her genuinely laughing. And who can blame her, with that “When I stroke the beard thusly” line.

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