Worf participates in a Western-themed holodeck adventure with his son Alexander and with Counselor Troi. A malfunction during an experiment causes aspects of the ship’s computer and Data’s own internal computer to become confused, causing characters in the holodeck story to look like Data, and putting Worf and the others in genuine danger. Data and Geordi are able to fix the problem, but not are not aware of the danger on the holodeck, so Worf and the others must play out the program to its conclusion.
Teleplay by Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Brannon Braga. Story by Robert Hewitt Wolfe. Directed by Patrick Stewart.
And so, here we have another damaged holodeck episode. Or at least, that’s what I probably thought when I was first watching it. But really, there haven’t been all that many damaged holodeck episodes over the first 5 1/2 years of the show. Conservatively, in fact, there’s just two, although you could probably stretch it to three or four if you wanted. In any case, it turns out to be quite a good episode – funny, with some good character bits, and a chance to watch Brent Spiner ham it up as not only “Western-Data” but also as five different characters in the holodeck program. I don’t how much episodes like this were the result of the producers acknowledging Brent Spiner’s skill, and thus crafting episodes that would take advantage of the actor’s range; or how was Spiner recognizing his own popularity and demanding opportunity to do more on the show as a result.
Either way, it doesn’t matter – we the viewers are the beneficiaries, getting to enjoy one of the most successful comedy episodes the series has had. Coming on the heels of Rascals, another unexpectedly successful comic installment, that making for a pretty good run. Of course, the humor here comes not from just having Brent Spiner play all these characters, but that really we’re seeing Data play all these characters. There is just something inherently funny about seeing our normally charmingly naive and emotion-less android acting out as the ne’er do well outlaw son, or the corrupt old-West patriarch, or of course, the smitten barmaid.
But A Fistful of Datas works not just as a comedy episode – it’s also a decent character story. Thanks to the few ship-board scenes not involving Data & Geordi’s experiment, everyone gets a little moment. But the primary focus is of course on Worf and his relationship with Alexander. Indeed, it’s probably as far as the series ever went with the story of Worf and his son – at least until Deep Space Nine decided to have Alexander basically grow up and have even more serious issues. One can also see the producers are continuing to sew seeds for their eventual Worf-Deanna romance, since their friendship does work well here.
The one weak spot of the episode is that the final fight scene seems pretty poorly directed to me. Worf just stands there waiting for his force field to wear out? That’s pretty much just throwing away his advantage. And “Data-as-the-Bandito” has a shot gun pointed at Worf, but is never seen to fire it. And the really long slow-motion pistol flying toward “Data-as-Frank-Hollander” sort of drains the tension a bit. Aside from that, the direction–by series star Patrick Stewart–is good, and is certainly the most engaging we’ve seen from him on the series.
But even with that weakness, it’s a fun episode. Worf is learning to enjoy himself–to be both a warrior and have a good time–and we are allowed to enjoy that with him.
• John Pyper-Ferguson plays Eli Hollander. He’s got an impressive list of credits in science ficiton television series, including The Adventures of Brico County Jr, War of the Worlds, Bordertown, Walker, Texas Ranger, Viper, Highlander, The X-Files, Millennium, Jeremiah, Battlestar Galactica, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Caprica, and more.
• Jorge Cevera Jr. plays the Bandito. He played Col. Ramirez int he amazingly crazy 1970’s film, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze.
Shout Out to the Past:
Picard is playing that flute that he picked up in Inner Light – that is a very nice nod to continuity.
There is a reference to the last time Geordi had a beard, which as far as we know from watching the show was back in The Outcast.
Beverly is also doing another play, and Riker ends up reading Data’s Ode to Spot which we heard in Schisms.
Setting Up the Future:
It’s nothing obvious or overt, but knowing that a romance between Troi and Worf is coming, it’s easy to see the groundwork being laid here.
• Picard wears a blue uniform!
• Picard amusingly says “I’m not much of an actor” – and is a bit miffed at being asked to play a small part
• Worf gets a few funny lines as he adjusts to the programme. “So, we are in law-enforcement.” Also, “Alexander, we require large amounts of currency.” And the predictable but effective, “I’m beginning to see the appeal of this programme.’
• Funny line from Data about Geordi’s beard: “As is the case with many natural growth processes, it is difficult to envision the end product based on an intermediate stage.”
• Reference to Mr. Barclay.
• We see Data’s cat, Spot.
• Data’s strange Western-speak is pretty funny. “Commander, you just sit tight. We’ll have this all fixed up in time for supper.”
• Eerie realization when Troi sees that “Eli Hollander” is shuffling cards at Data-speed, but of course we’d already caught that when Frank Hollander proved so tough
• Nice closing line: “The town of Deadwood may face danger once again. If they do, they will need a Sheriff…and a deputy.’
• Cute moment with Worf and the mirror at the end, as well as the Westernized theme at the end, with the ship flying off into the sunset
Dialogue High Point
It’s not very important in the story, but in the end it is my favorite. After Geordi tells Data, “You are not just another electronic system,” he responds
Thank you, Geordi. Nor are you just another biological organism.