Star Trek 192: Data's Day

192. Data's Day

FORMULA: The Enterprise Incident (reversed) + Balance of Terror + The Outrageous Okona

WHY WE LIKE IT: That dancing scene. Seeing all the little forgotten corners of the ship. The Romulans at full strength. O'Brien and Keiko's wedding. Lots of little touches besides.

WHY WE DON'T: At times, Data makes a leap backwards in his understanding of humanity, but at its worst, it still manages to be sweet.

REVIEW: A massively important episode despite its light-hearted nature, Data's Day purports to show us a day in the life of the android, but winds up showing us a day in the life of the ship. This gives the creators a chance to show us all the mundane stuff you wouldn't normally care about during a normal episode. This is a ship with a barber shop, a "shopping center", an arboretum, a nursery and pets. Between weddings and births, the ship seems very much alive here.

This is also a nice follow-up to The Measure of a Man, using a letter to Maddox to re-address some issues about Data's growth. The idea that he could marry, for example, prefigures In Theory. Some of the interior monologue makes Data out to be more clueless than he's been in a long time as to human behaviour, but when it isn't exactly funny, it's still either brief or sweet. Still, mangling idioms as he does gets a bit heavy at times. But that is a very minor complaint as the episode jumps from scene to scene quickly enough that we can't dwell on these things.

Though ostensibly a Data episode, there's a lot to be said for the rest of the cast here. They all get their moments. Geordi is perhaps less well served (as usual), being called a lunkhead and arguing with the barber. Troi shows some humor in her scene. Picard welcomes a newborn aboard in a very quiet and sweet moment. Riker charms an ensign at tactical. Worf is a hoot as he contemplates buying a crystal swan and gives his views on human weddings. O'Brien seems to take Wesley's place in the cast, as he marries Keiko and shows all the no-nonsense attitude we'll come to appreciate later. Rosalind Chao makes a fine first appearance and I look forward to more from her. (Note also the first appearance of Spot, though it looks very different from other appearances, so it may not be the same cat.)

The cornerstone of these character moments, however, is Beverly's. She's revealed to be the "Dancing Doctor" here, finally giving her an interest beyond Wesley's welfare (not a moment too soon). Her dips into the world of performance arts are a great quirk in this oh-so-technical universe. Beyond what it means to Crusher's character, the scene never fails to ellicit a laugh from me as Data steps on her toes, holds her too tight and grins like a crazy mannequin.

The episode isn't all laughs however, as there is a rather intense Romulan plot in the background. Other comedy episodes have aimed for outright comedy and failed, too often relying on guest characters we care nothing about. Here, the comedy comes from the principals themselves, and is highlighted by more serious events happening in the "story" itself. It helps that the Romulans are well used here, showing just how devious they are by having a deep cover operative on the Federation side for decades (who becomes one of its most respected diplomats). Only seeing things from Data's point of view adds to the mystery, and Selok is entertainingly curt with everyone. At the end, our side has lost and Picard has to hurry back home. The use of Romulans here, in a reversal of The Enterprise Incident's plotline, is well chosen, since at the wedding, Picard pays hommage to Kirk's own words at the start of Balance of Terror, the very first Romulan episode.

LESSON: There's always a story behind the story.

REWATCHABILITY - High: The comedy works for once, and tension isn't sacrificed to make it happen. Totally recommended, and you get a couple of first appearances as a bonus.


Dan said...

Well, consistency was certainly not the creators' strong suit when it came to Data's cat - Spot did, after all, change gender at least twice over the years.

I was thinking of this episode the other night when my fiancee and I went to a dance class, and Data's deadpan "I am now prepared to dance at the wedding" popped unbidden into my brain...

Alain Degrace said...

Data being my favorite character, this episode ranks very high, probably top 5. I enjoyed Geordi's scene more than you it seems and I would have wished to see more of the ship. It makes the ship a great place to visit.

Siskoid said...

Don't mind me, I dislike Geordi at the best of times.


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