Star Trek: The Next Generation – Data’s Day [4.11]

Data narrates the events of his day in a letter to Commander Maddox.  It includes preparations for Chief O’Brien’s wedding, and the arrival of a Vulcan ambassador who is on a mysterious mission involving the Romulans.  The ambassador is apparently killed in a transporter accident, but Data is able to figure out that she was secretly beamed away at the last moment.  Picard and the crew discover that she was actually a Romulan spy returning to her home.

Teleplay by Harold D. Apter and Ronald D. Moore. Story by Harold Apter. Directed by Robert Wiemer.

Previous Episode: The LossNext Episode: The Wounded

This is a first for the Star Trek franchise, though not a last, which is a “day in the life” story.  Data is a great choice for this treatment, as not only is he awake for the full day (apparently one of the reasons for his choice) but also it gives us a further chance to get into his point of view and gain some insight into how he actually sees the world.  Even the idea of him narrating a log, which in Star Trek is usually a bit of a storytelling conceit (since log’s occasionally betray information the character should not know, or are made in times when it’s hard to imagine the character really making them), works well as a literal device here.  One can completely imagine that Data is actually composing this log entry onto some internal hard drive as he is walking around and living his day.  Can you imagine what Data’s twitter account would look like?

The story also represents a whole bunch of other firsts.  For example, it’s the first time a regular or recurring character got married (at least, permanently).  Thus it is also the first appearance of Rosalind Chao as Keiko Ishikawa O’Brien.  She comes across as a bit of a nutcase here, with her last second “cold feet”, but she is a welcome addition to the cast, and it’s about time that the franchise would recognize there is no reason you can’t tell lots of stories with married characters (ie, not everyone needs to be primed for romantic “love interest of the week” stories).  Too bad, in a way, that O’Brien will soon be leaving for Deep Space Nine, a series that overall was willing to take a lot more risks with its characters.

The episode is also the first appearance of Data’s cat, who is unnamed here but is generally assumed to be Spot.  Although this doesn’t really make sense since the cat known as Spot that we will see later looks completely different.  So it’s more likely this is an earlier attempt at having a pet.  Who knows what went wrong – maybe Data accidentally killed it.  In any case, I think it’s a fun addition to the character, and makes a lot of sense considering his ongoing quest to discover his own humanity.  This theme is of course what the episode is ultimately about – Data’s relative successes and failures at achieving a level of true identification with his human crew mates.

One of the most interesting relationships that’s explored in the episode is between Data and Worf.  Their similar situations and backgrounds are noted for the first time, and we also see clearly their contrasting goals and attitudes.  Data is trying to be more human, whereas Worf is always attempting to establish his own non-human identity.  It’s a move which recognizes the characters’ strengths and positions them well for the future.

The “action plot” of the episode keep the Romulan arc of the story in the front of the viewer’s minds.  The “limited exposure” to what’s really going on that we get by telling everything strictly from Data’s perspective make it more mysterious and intriguing.  The resolution is not completely surprising but still well done.  The only flaw in it is that it’s sort of unthinkable that a high-ranking Vulcan ambassador could actually be a Romulan spy.  Not just a defector, but a spy.  Vulcans live a long time, and they’re sort of telepathic, and super brainy.  She must have been undercover for like a century or something to rise to that position.

On a minor note, this episode is also the first appearance of a Bolian barber on board the Enterprise.  Like Spot, the character goes unnamed and is portrayed by a different actor than appears in later stories.  In the script, he was called V’Sal – I guess it’s up the viewer to decide whether or not he’s supposed to be the same guy as Mot (or Mott) who shows up later.

So overall, a significant and enjoyable installment, anchored by a good performance (as usual) from Brent Spiner.

Shout Out to the Past:
• Data’s letter is written to Commander Bruce Maddox, the officer who wanted to dismantle him in The Measure of a Man.

• There is a brief reference to Worf’s human parents.

• There is a reference to Andorians.

• And there is reference to Sherlock Holmes, and the famous, “When you’ve eliminated the impossible…” axiom.  It’s almost like they can’t refer to Sherlock Holmes without making that quote.

Guest Cast
• Rosalind Chao plays Keiko Ishikawa O’Brien for the first time.  She’ll go on to play the role a bunch more times in Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.  She has many other movie and TV roles – including a regular part on AfterMASH.  For more on that, see here.

• Alan Scarfe, who plays Admiral Mendak, has made guest and regular appearances in an astounding number genre series, including Seven Days, MacGyver, Star Trek Voyager, Quantum Leap, The Ray Bradbury Theater, SeaQuest DSV, Viper, Highlander, The Outer Limits, Stargate: Atlantis, and Babylon 5.

• According to IMDB, Jane Sibbett has an uncredited role as a holographic dance partner.  She appeared as a regular in Herman’s Head, Santa Barbara, and more, including about 15 episodes of Friends.

•  There is a lot of funny dialog in the story.  It starts off with, “I have good news.  Keiko has made a decision designed to increase her happiness.  She has cancelled the wedding.”

• And is followed by, “Next time, maybe I should deliver the good news.”

• Also, “I know you want to look beautiful, but I’m just a barber, not a miracle worker.”

• And “My hair does not require trimming you lunkhead.”

• And later, “Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you,” from Riker.

• Also, there is Picard’s “A boy. At the same time we were facing destruction, this small miracle was taking place. Welcome aboard.”

• And a good contender for the best dialog is the closing lines:  “If being human is not simply a matter of being born flesh and blood, if it is instead a way of thinking, acting and feeling, then I am hopeful that one day I will discover my own humanity…Until then Commander Maddox, I will continue learning, changing, growing, and trying to become more than what I am.”  These words sort of sum up Data at his best.

• Worf’s reaction to human weddings is funny.  “An honour, perhaps. But human bonding rituals often involve a great deal of talking and dancing and crying.”

• Well done Gates McFadden!  Apparently, she choreographed the dance routine and did all her own dancing.  It’s a fun addition to the character.

• Interesting touch with Data nervously tapping.

• Why is that Romulan ship traveling home so slowly?  If it was me, I’d be zooming out of there at maximum warp.

• Mendak appears on the viewscreen with a very obvious amount of space to his right, clearly ready for someone else to dramatically to walk on.

Crazy Talk: Captain Riker (Huh?)
This episode could have made the transition to an alternate Riker / Shelby Enterprise with hardly any adjustments.

Dialogue High Point
And in an episode with many good bits of speech, perhaps my favorite is this bit of Data’s narration:

There are still many human emotions I do not comprehend; anger, hatred, revenge, but I am not mystified by the desire to be loved or the need for friendship. These are things I do understand.

Previous Episode: The LossNext Episode: The Wounded

One thought on “Star Trek: The Next Generation – Data’s Day [4.11]

  1. This was a great episode. The story was really good, and Data’s narration was enjoyable. Also, kitty! Kitty kitty kitty! Kitty! I like kitty.

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