Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Questionable Trek vol. 4

Probably the most interesting character on Star Trek TNG, and certainly a fan favorite, was Lt. Cmdr. Data. He's got it all: creepy pale skin, girlfriend troubles, a no-good brother in a biker gang (The Ex Borgs), and the complete memories of over 4,000 colonists. He even met Mark Twain. But it could'a been better. . .

Question from Andrew: "Scott, give me five criticisms of Data."

Scott: Some of these might sound nitpicky, not to mention much of this is the fault of the writers and not actor Brent Spiner.

1. For starters, he's an android who is capable of performing sixty trillion operations per second... yet he can't use contractions? What was the purpose of this particular quirk? (I think it came in handy in one episode... and that was it. Besides, the show was rather inconsistent with this anyway.)

2. There were times when the crew would become affected by some Virus of the Week and, for some reason, Data would be affected, too, even though he's an android and you'd think he'd be immune to such things.

3. Data was always trying to understand the human capacity for humor... except these scenes were often more cheesy and/or cloying than anything else. And they weren't very funny.

4. In retrospect, there was a major flaw inherent to the character: Data endeavors to become more human and in the first TNG film, he's given an emotion chip. So what do they do? In the next film, he is able to switch it off (which defeats the purpose). In the next film, we find out he can actually remove it when it suits him. In the final TNG film, he doesn't exhibit any emotions at all - the creators had hit a wall with the character and the character (and audience) suffered for it.

5. I'm not entirely sure I buy his, uh, one-night stand with security chief Tasha Yar. We never really learned how that worked but it was the 80s - there were certain things you just couldn't do on TV back then! [smile]

Andrew’s Response:

Excellent criticisms, Scott. I would suggest the big problem with Data is inconsistency. His abilities seem to come and go as needed for the storyline. Also, he supposedly lacks emotion and yet they didn’t really stick to that. Instead, he only seemed to lack “obvious” emotions, i.e. emotions which were the focus of the episode. When the writers didn’t call attention to the emotions, he largely acted like just a regular human only stiffer.

On your point three, for me, the problem was that these scenes lacked a genuine willingness to explore humanity good and bad. Instead, they explored the cliff’s notes version of humanity and used these storylines more as a way to turn him into a narrator than a researcher. The few times they did set him free to research, I thought were some of his strongest moments.

Scott's Reply:

Fair criticism, though the problems you point out are simply part and parcel of writing a weekly TV series. I've honestly never thought about the emotion/"stiffer" element and I can't disagree. On your second point, I also agree about their willingness to explore both the good and bad sides of humanity, though I doubt Data would actively seek out "bad influences" - I can imagine a Very Special Episode where Picard finds out Data's joined a gang, which is something I would expect in Short Circuit!

81 comments:

Tennessee Jed said...

To me, his biggest flaw was that he had to be the sequel to Mr. Spock. That was a fairly impossible act to follow don't you think?

Tennessee Jed said...

About the contraction thing, it reminds me of writer David Gerrold's thoughts on "hardening of the arteries" as it relates to series television. Something is written into a script to solve a specific solution, and the writer thinks he has done something mildly amusing and harmless. But in a series, once you put something in, it has to stay in if you wish to avoid the "inconsistent" label. Gerrold's example was the transporter which was designed as a quick way to get stars into the action. Problem was, it could get them out of trouble equally well which left future writers with having to use the same excuses (transporter malfunctions etc.) They can work one or two times but eventually become formulaic and cliche.

Since I was not a regular viwer of NG, I don't recall this particular flaw, but it sounds as if when they tried to be consistent and keep it in future episodes, it became boring, maybe even annoying.

ScottDS said...

Jed -

Great insights. I have no problem with the Spock comparison - every Trek show needs the "outsider" character who learns about humanity and I thought Data filled that role wonderfully (ditto Odo, Dr. Phlox, and, to a slightly lesser extent, Neelix).

Re: the contraction thing, it wasn't that consistent at the beginning and Data uses contractions a few times just in one scene in the pilot episode. I think Data mentions in another episode that he actually can use contractions but chooses to speak in a more formal manner. More info here.

And that's what I meant about TV writing in my reply - writers need to think about these things but the exigencies of TV production usually prevent such continuity.

AndrewPrice said...

Jed, That was very much the problem with Data. They created him with such amazing superpowers in the first couple episodes that they needed to abandon them immediately or the show would fail.

For example, he could move with lightening speed, he could out think anything, he was ultra-strong, and he was impervious to almost anything.

Thus, there was no situation he shouldn't have been able to overcome. Well, that would be a real problem for future episodes, so they basically ignored those powers unless they did an episode where they were useful. Then they suddenly re-appeared.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, He may say he can do it but won't, but he also says several times that he can't do it.

One of the things I do find laughable about the pilot (Farpoint) is how Data acts like he's fresh out of the box. He literally acts like the Enterprise will be the first time he's ever seen humans. Yet, he's clearly been through Starfleet Academy and had some other assignments.

I think the way they wrote him initially showed that they really didn't give him much thought, they just saw him as a cool idea and ran with him... and then had to sort him out later.

ScottDS said...

Andrew - I totally agree. The series bible indicated that Data was constructed by aliens but obviously they didn't go ahead with this. But yeah, you'd think he'd be used to humanity and our quirks after a few years of Starfleet Academy not to mention service aboard other ships.

DUQ said...

Scott and Andrew, that always bothered me too. They have these scenes early on where Data seems amazed at the things the humans do, but he must have seen all of that before he got to the Enterprise.

I agree with Scott about Data v. Spock. I know he's a Spock-knockoff, but he felt sufficiently different that it never bothered me. I think because he and Spock are kind of the opposites, with Spock trying to be less human and Data trying to be more human.

T-Rav said...

Wait, how can an android have a girlfriend and a brother? Am I missing something here?

tryanmax said...

Even if the writers didn't always know what to do with Data, I think they recognized the difficulty of writing a truly emotionless character when creating him. Thus, his attempts to become more human provide leeway for exhibiting emotion that can be brushed off as mimicry. Spock being half-human allowed for the same but with the opposite goal in mind, as DUQ pointed out.

As to Data's one-night-stand, if he is indeed "fully functional" then props to Tasha for having the brass to find it out.

tryanmax said...

T-Rav, he had a daughter, too.

ScottDS said...

T-Rav -

The man who created Data also created other Data-type androids, hence he has brothers. We meet one on the series named Lore, your stereotypical "evil twin," and in the last TNG film, we meet a prototype named B9, though I didn't think this was executed very well.

As for a girlfriend, you got me! One episode ("In Theory") tells the story of a female officer who develops a crush on Data but realizes it could never work.

AndrewPrice said...

T-Rav, Long story. LOL! He has a brother in the sense that two Chryslers are brothers.

The girlfriend this... uh.... yeah.

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. I HATE this new commenting system.

William Riker said...

Data has a daughter! I she fully functional?

tryanmax said...

Andrew, I totally agree. From a designer's perspective, if they're going to put in all this white space, they could at least broaden the comment column.

AndrewPrice said...

DUQ et al., The Spock connection never bothered me either.

I was bothered more by the fact that all the later Vulcans didn't act like Vulcans. They would say "logical" but then acted shifty like Romulans.

ScottDS said...

tryanmax -

Where his emotions are concerned, I find myself agreeing with Andrew. Most of the time, he simply did his job and no display of emotions was necessary. Only when they overtly explored his emotions did they stay on the "surface" so to speak.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

Deanna Troi should have been the sequel to Spock. Her intense emotions -- her empathy -- were the polar opposite to Spock's uber-stoicism. They could have used her more (and in skimpier outfits -- come on!) in a Spock role to explore some of the same issues (from a different POV) they did with Spock.

They definitely couldn't have a Troi/Yar hook up on 1980s TV.

Data's problem was always a technology issue. Battlestar Galactica 2.0 did it better by fast forwarding all the detail work and giving us Cylons that had become human-like. They also started out (in the season of Caprica) by having a human avatar be the basis for Cylon capacities to learn, feel, etc.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, I have a hard time reading the preview as well, so it's hard to see if my links worked, etc. Ugh.

And there's no reason for this at all.

They're trying to change the internals to look like this too and it's very confusing what they are doing.

Floyd R Turbo said...

The main flaw in my Troi/Spock thesis is that she just wasn't as smart as Spock.

Data as more of a C-3PO would've been better as a straight man for Riker

Kir'Shara 6:14 said...

"Logical, logical," they say, when there is no logic.

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, On the emotion thing, I think the real challenge for a writer would be to write the emotionless character and I commend them for starting that way with Data. But I don't think they were ultimately up to the task because they began cheating a lot throughout the series.

When I ever get around to science fiction, I would definitely love to give an emotionless character a try.

Floyd R. Turbo said...

"Emotionless" character...

I don't think it would work Andrew -- not as a lead. Where would be the development or the conflict?

Hal-9000 is the prototype and remorseless killer only goes so far.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, I like the way you think! LOL!

I get the feeling the writers didn't know what to do with Troi actually. Her character seemed to change a lot at first too and she eventually became somewhat of an after-thought and faded into the background.

In fact, what's interesting to me is that I always thought the series was about Picard, but watching in syndication, it became pretty obvious that the focus of the show was really Data and not Picard. That's an interesting change from the original series and really does explain why the two shows diverged so much.

In other words, Kirk was about the decisions he faced, moral and philosophical. But TNG was about Data's journey to discover his humanity.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, Not as a lead, but as a secondary character. It would be a challenge to make sure the character responds purely without emotion and could be pretty interesting.

OR you could do a story about such a character who is presented with a problem which logic can't solve and then see how he works around the lack of emotion. That could be a really interesting story if you can find a way to make it work.

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Re: Troi, I've mentioned this before but on the DVD commentary for Generations, both writers admitted no one really knew how to write for Troi, no one was ever 100% sure what her telepathic powers were, and they just ran out of things for her to do. I believe Ron Moore compares her, at times, to a "cruise ship social director."

And the idea of having a counselor on the bridge was labeled by one writer as "dated" (a very 80s thing).

FLoyd R. Turbo said...

@Andrew... Emotionless... call the character HAL (or better yet-- McMurphy) he could be a post-op botched lobotomy or somesuch...

Sorry - don't mean to hijack...

Floyd R. Turbo said...

@Scott... then they should have turned her into a liberated 24th century woman

By that I mean of course -- a sexpot.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, It does have a very dated feel because the "counselor phase" was a 1980s fad.

On her being a cruise ship director, she does feel that way at times. She really has no specific function except to tell Picard what he already knows and to show people to their rooms.

And in truth, I'm not sure the character could have worked because she was an anti-drama device. In other words, all of her functions involve reducing or eliminating the drama and that's bad for the script.

AndrewPrice said...

Floyd, McMurphy! LOL! He should be a robot called a "McMurphy Unit." :)

No problem with the hijack, it's relevant.

rlaWTX said...

I have to admit that I always liked Data. Riker was inconsistent, Troi was squishy, Picard was inconsistent too - and bossy. Geordi had a banana clip on his face (another super-power that only worked when necessary). So, I liked Dr. Crusher, Warf, Data, and Tasha. And, while trying to not think about it too deeply, I kinda liked the Data-Tasha possibility. All of your criticisms are valid; he was just more interesting even with these issues than most of the rest.

Didn't Data's daughter start as a son and she chose to be female?

(I have not seen most of the TNG movies - or the last couple of seasons of TNG, was in college and busy with other things...)

AndrewPrice said...

rlaWTX, Ultimately, Data was the most interesting character. They did the most with him and they clearly thought he was the heart of the show so they wrote for him.

And despite the issues we mention above, I do like the character a good deal and he worked well.

Data's daughter started out as a sexless robot before they had it choose a body shape. But I do think they called it his "son" at first. How he built this thing without anyone noticing is the real question.

Anonymous said...

If you get the chance, check out the "original" Mr. Data – a made-for-tv 1970's movie by Gene Roddenberry called "The Questor Tapes". I don't think it's available commercially but I'm sure it can be found in bootleg circles. I believe this to the genesis of NG's Data character.

AndrewPrice said...

Anon, Thanks! I'm not familiar with that one. I'll have to look for it. :)

ScyFyterry said...

The first time through, I had the same thought Andrew did, which was that the show was about Picard just as the original series was about Kirk. But upon rewatching, it hit me as well that the show is really about Data as he's the focus of most episodes and is prominently involved even when he's not the focus. I don't know if the writers just liked him better or what, but that seems to be how it worked out.

And Andrew is right, that really highlights the differenence between the two shows. TOS is very political in nature whereas TNG is very soap-opera in nature, and the difference is the result of the different focuses.

ScyFyterry said...

On Scott's first point, I think the contraction thing was mishandled in the show. But I would point out that just because he's a well built computer doesn't mean he doesn't have flaws. If that just wasn't built into his programming, then it wouldn't be something he could do presumably.

I don't know why Sung would have given him a function sex organ though. That seems a little creepy if you think about it. What possible purpose could that serve on an android?

AndrewPrice said...

Terry, It is an interesting discovery isn't it? Because it takes the original series set up, gives you the same pieces, and then uses a different format.

And I think that does account for the difference in the two shows. TNG was very soap-opera-like as it dwelt on issues like "can X get a date" and "how does Y fit in when no one likes them." That's the result of the focus being on the daily lives of the characters. The original show never bothered with any of that. The original show was always a morality tale with Kirk being called upon to solve some moral crisis. He got his advice from each side and then made a decision.

TNG rarely did that, and those episodes tended to be the best. The rest really were about "character development" -- though I put that in quotes because it was all surface stuff, no substance. Thus, you got to learn about what they drink or what hobbies they had, but you never really got to see what their beliefs were or what kind of people they really were because they were never tested.

Instead, they generally waited for the deus ex machina ending as they spend their time "resolving" some demon from their past.

AndrewPrice said...

Terry, That's a good point on the criticism. Just because Data is great in some areas doesn't mean he needs to have all the human skill.


BTW, let me stress that just because we are offering criticism doesn't mean we don't enjoy the show or character. This is all just meant to spark discussion and so take it in that spirit.

tryanmax said...

Why can you just leave Data alo-o-o-one!? ;)

AndrewPrice said...

tryanmax, Data would approve! ;)

ScottDS said...

I guess I should mention Data was always my favorite character on the show simply because of his view of the world - I suppose I wasn't the only kid who could sympathize with his plight at times: why is Person X acting like this? Why is Person Y doing that? Etc.

We also haven't touched on any of his hobbies. He liked to paint, which I felt was always a nice touch, thought it was never what you call "integral" to the plot. On the other hand, his fascination with all things Sherlock Holmes certainly played an important role on more than one occasion. I don't know why (Nick Meyer's influence perhaps) but Shakespeare and Holmes seem to figure prominently in the Trek canon.

Data (and Spock) were also the subject of many torrid fan letters from females. To quote writer Brannon Braga, "It's because they're virgins."

AndrewPrice said...

Whew. That's better. The HTML is fixed!

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, The painting thing always struck me as a problem because it's emotional. But it does add to the character.

I'm not sure I have a favorite character on the show, if truth be told. I have a couple I don't like. But none of them stand out to me as the "that's the person I want to meet" character.

The Holmes stuff did make for interesting episodes.

Loyal Goatherd said...

I think we all might be misssing it. Who says Data was Tasha's boyfriend? Tasha was rather butch you know, who is to say which team Data batted for?

AndrewPrice said...

Good point Loyal Goatherd. LOL!

darski said...

At some point they made the point that Data was not to use contractions because it set him apart from Lore. Lore had been a complete failure and his 'human-ness' was seen to be dangerous so Data was programmed with a governor on his speech.

It is well known that the Trek empire encouraged the actors to expand and take on direction. Did anyone else notice that when they wanted to try out a new director/actor they would star Data in that episode. Brent Spiner could carry them all LoL.

AndrewPrice said...

darski, One thing I've never been sure of in that episode is what is true and what isn't. Lore is telling the story of how things happened before Data was created, but Lore is also a liar and we don't know if he's being truthful or just trying to make Data think he's a lesser model?

But you are correct, that is the story that is presented, that this was an intentional defect to make Data less human.

Kit said...

First off, I watched TNG as a young kid. It is the Trek I grew up on so I have a certain love of it, if only for Nostalgic reasons.

First, Andrew mentioned that TNG often had a Soap Opera-y feel to it but lacked any substance.
The reason for that is Gene Roddenberry, who felt that by the 24th century, humanity would evolve above such petty things as workplace nastiness.

Yep.

But some writers still slipped conflict in regardless.

He also gave us Wesley Crusher, who many Trek fans consider the Jar-Jar of the Trek verse. (Thogh some say he was redeemed by "The First Duty".)

Now, on Data. I think whoever it was that said TNG was, or became, about the growth of Data as a character.
I also think you also saw the growth of a father-son relationship between Picard and Data.

Kit said...

And Data and Worf were probably the most fascinating characters.

Data, because of all the reasons mentioned above, and Worf because he, like Spock, was a man struggling between two worlds. He was a Klingon raised by humans.


Also on Data. It would've been interesting if we could've seen a dark side to him. The crew is incapacitated by a villain and Data does something to the villain that is quite horrible. One that would've made the audience go "YES!" and "Oooh". Kind of like the ending to the Doctor Who episode "The Family of Blood".
Here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SC0NuBaliLs

Maybe not quite as timey-wimey but just as ruthless.

When the crew learns they are thankful for being saved but shocked at Data's cold ruthlessness. Data, due to his somewhat child-like nature, has difficulty understanding just why they are uncomfortable.

It would've added incredible depth to his character and given his social clumsiness with human customs some darker undertones.

Kit said...

It show that in spite of, or perhaps because of, his childlike nature, he is capable of doing some pretty terrible things.

Kit said...

Scott, on the "torrid fan letters".

Apparently Matthew Gray Grubler, who plays Dr. Spencer Reid on CRIMINAL MINDS, has a similiar problem because of his character.

Kit said...

Also on Data,

Wil Wheaton said that (I think) Jonathan Frakes told him about Brent's performance as an android when they were trying to cast Data's daughter "You don't realize how brilliant and subtle Brent's performance is until you watch a bunch of other actors try to pull it off . . . badly."

Kit said...

"I think we all might be misssing it. Who says Data was Tasha's boyfriend? Tasha was rather butch you know, who is to say which team Data batted for?"

Tash and Data were under the influence of the Psi 1000 virus that causes people to lose their inhibitions.
Tasha dressed scantily, went to Data's room, and seduced him and they made whoopy (apparently).
At the end of the episode she told him "It never happened" but, as seen in the episode "Measure of a Man", Data kept a holographic photo of her.


"The Naked Now", would probably have been forgotten had it not featured Tasha snatching Data's virginity* and Picard trying to keep a flirting Dr. Crusher focused on finding a cure.

It's probably remembered more for the former than the latter though Gates McFadden shows just how incredibly sexy she can be -in uniform.

*It's heavily implied he was a virgin.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit,

I hated Wesley when I first watched the show. A child did not belong on the bridge and the show really bent over backwards to make the character obnoxious. I think Will Wheaton even admitted that later that he thought Wesley was annoying early on.

You're right about the Picard/Data father-son relationship.

I think it would have added a lot to Data if he had a darker side -- especially if it was unpredictable, like gaps in his programming or something. But I think they wanted him to be "perfect".

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I got the impression too that Data was a virgin until that point. I don't recall the specific dialog, but I think he said something to the effect of having never done it before.

That episode always irked me at the time, however, because they made a big deal that this version of Star Trek was going to be "different" (almost insulting the original show) and then they started stealing episodes from the original.

On Frakes' point, it wouldn't surprise me if it's difficult to play. It kind of goes against what actors are taught about needing to learn to project their emotions on screen in a way the audience can understand.

Kit said...

Yeah, Wheaton (WHEATOOON!!!) said he hated how they wrote him.

AndrewPrice said...

He's got a good point. I liked him in later episodes, when he grew up, but in the early ones they make him into a raving goody-goody who ends up saving the ship time and again.

Kit said...

"but in the early ones they make him into a raving goody-goody who ends up saving the ship time and again."

Again, blame Gene. Who based Wesley on how he saw himself.

AndrewPrice said...

Oh, I do. Roddenberry did a lot of harm to the show at the outset and he was lucky they kept it alive long enough to overcome those problems. And I think the only reason it got the chance to keep going was because of the saga of the original Star Trek being canceled.

Kit said...

I agree with you agreeing with me on Data :).

Having Data show some problems would have added suspense to the show. It would've been a lot like River Tam was in FIREFLY. We loved her and the crew (except Jayne) loved her as well but we knew, especially after she shot those three guys and then smiled like it was a game ("No power in the verse can stop me."), knew that she was very much a threat to everyone on the ship.

Having Data show possible problems or some instability aside from making dumb jokes, but the implication that in certain circumstances he could actually be a serious threat to everyone on the ENTERPRISE, would have raised the stakes on the show incredibly and increased conflict between the crew members on how to deal with Data (and facing the possibility of deactivating him, a friend, if it came to that).

Kit said...

I think writeers who were willing to "bend" some of the limitations put in place by Roddenberry helped too.

ScottDS said...

Re: the fan letters, I don't watch Criminal Minds but I'll take your word for it. If only that were the biggest problem in my life! :-)

Interesting thoughts about portraying Data as a threat to the crew. I think the episode Descent explored this, though it's been years since I've seen it and it might've been Lore's doing.

However, this goes back to what Andrew said - Data's been around humanity for years before TNG started so if he was to be portrayed as a threat all of a sudden, it would have to be explained in the episode and, given the nature of television, it would have to be a temporary thing. It couldn't be a permanent character trait of his, otherwise Starfleet would've dismantled him years earlier if he were "unstable."

As for Wesley, I started watching the show when I was 9 so his presence didn't bother me. If I had started as an adult, then I would probably be a member of the "Wesley sucks!" brigade. But Wil Wheaton seems like a cool guy and at conventions, he does hilarious PowerPoint presentations of the early episodes.

Re: flirting Beverly, "The Naked Now" has one of my favorite odd little mannerisms in it. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, I'm glad we agree! LOL!

Good point about River Tam. That was one of those cool moments where you get all kinds of meaning out it, where she was both a totally kick ass person to have on your side, but at the same time a genuine threat to have anywhere near you. What a cool show!

I think it would have been great if Data had a dark side, but sadly, there was no way they would consider that because that wasn't where they were going with the show. I think they liked the idea, which is where Lore came from. But they didn't want to incorporate it into Data.

Commander Max said...

I can say one good thing about Data.

He was designed to operate as a flotation device.

I think the character of Data was a symptom of a flawed show format. IMO it was to many characters trying to get center stage. On top of that they focused the show too much on character. Or a "ship in a bottle" if you like.
STNG never really seemed like a sci-fi show to me. The best example I can thing of(I'm getting away from Data, is that a bad thing?), they introduced the Borg what has to be one of the best villains sci-fi ever came up with.
To quote Q, "The Borg are the ultimate user. They're unlike any threat your Federation has ever faced. They're not interested in political conquest, wealth, or power as you know it. They're simply interested in your ship, its technology. They've identified it as something they can consume."

What did they do with this villain?
They gave us Hugh Borg(oh boy, what's next Klingon plush toys?), the writers of STNG ran as fast as they could from the idea of the Borg. Which was a truly lost opportunity. It does lead back to Data, they created a character that offered some very interesting possibilities. Only they decided to make him a Pinocchio, I only want to be human, so feel sorry for me.

Kit said...

Her is the full clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksR1ZCfpg3A

The dialogue is cheesy and silly but Gates milks the hell out of it and manages to make it quite enjoyable.

Unzipping her uniform a bit doesn't hurt things either. :)

Kit said...

It shows how good she was, given incredibly silly (and, dare I say, "Bad"?) dialogue, she makes it kinda fun to watch.

Kit said...

"Re: the fan letters, I don't watch Criminal Minds but I'll take your word for it. If only that were the biggest problem in my life! :-)"

I'm with ya, man.

If only I could have that problem . . .

Kit said...

Scott,

I watched STAR TREK when I was a kid too and I kinda liked Wesley but when I look back at him he was kinda annoying and I can see where some of the hate came from.

AndrewPrice said...

Max, "he doubles as a flotation device" -- LOL!

I have to say that I agree that STNG never felt a lot like science fiction to me. It obviously had a science fiction setting and it sometimes dealt with science fiction type issues (and a couple episodes were really good science fiction), but by and large almost every episode revolved around questions of inter-personal drama rather than some science fiction issue. In other words, rather than having to solve some paradox, they usually had the answer already at hand -- they just needed to see if X could overcome his fear of Y to get the job done... or could A and B reconcile so they could solve the puzzle together.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the show a lot, but it's not "science fiction" in a genuine sense.

I agree totally about the Borg. That is one of the coolest villains ever and they went and ruined it with Hugh and then also the Queen. They took a killing machine and first turned it into a wuss and then an over-sexed villain. It would have been much more interesting to explore the idea of a relentless, emotionless collective coming to get you.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit and Scott, I was already ancient at the time 18-20 I think. And Wesley drove me nuts.

Speaking of Dr. Crusher, I followed Scott's link and saw that she did the choreography for Labyrinth. I didn't know that. You learn something new every day around here! :)

Here's your link: LINK.

Kit said...

The Borg were cool.

Kind of like the Daleks in DOCTOR WHO.

You can't negotiate with them, only fight them.

And they are damned hard to beat.

AndrewPrice said...

Kit, Very true.

mycrofth4 said...

What bugged me about Data was the way he was unstoppable in every episode where he turned evil (Descent), taking over the ship, etc... but he never was that helpful when working with the good guys. He wasn't even a better shot than anyone else. Just an average crewman with a quirky personality disorder.
And yes, he was still my favorite character on TNG.

AndrewPrice said...

mycroft, Very, very, very good point. His abilities really depended on the needs of the plot rather than any sort of skill set. It would be like having Dirty Harry suddenly not know how to fire a gun if that would end the scene to quickly.

5minutes said...

My biggest problem with Data's character (again, the fault of the writers) is the deus ex machina he provides in far too many episodes. When he isn't afflicted by the virus of the week, he's shut down until just the right moment until someone figures out how to reactivate data, allowing him to find an easy solution and thus saving the crew of the Enterprise.

Even 3 of the movies are dependent upon Data somehow intervening at just the right moment for the villain to die and the Enterprise crew (usually Capt. Picard) to save the day.

It's lazy writing that detracts seriously from the show and the character.

AndrewPrice said...

5minutes, I agree. While I like the Data character and I think he had excellent potential (both realized and not realized), the biggest problem was the way they used him to move the plot. He became an easy way to wrap up every episode without having to make the harder decisions that good writing requires.

Bugs said...

Problems:
1. His name.
2. The cute, fannish approach to his character. From Episode 1, he was "the little wooden boy who wanted to be human" and they never let us forget it. It got extremely cloying after a while.

AndrewPrice said...

Bugs, Very true. They never really treated him like a robot so much as a mascot.

Kit said...

1. For starters, he's an android who is capable of performing sixty trillion operations per second... yet he can't use contractions? What was the purpose of this particular quirk? (I think it came in handy in one episode... and that was it. Besides, the show was rather inconsistent with this anyway.)

2. There were times when the crew would become affected by some Virus of the Week and, for some reason, Data would be affected, too, even though he's an android and you'd think he'd be immune to such things.

3. Data was always trying to understand the human capacity for humor... except these scenes were often more cheesy and/or cloying than anything else. And they weren't very funny.

4. In retrospect, there was a major flaw inherent to the character: Data endeavors to become more human and in the first TNG film, he's given an emotion chip. So what do they do? In the next film, he is able to switch it off (which defeats the purpose). In the next film, we find out he can actually remove it when it suits him. In the final TNG film, he doesn't exhibit any emotions at all - the creators had hit a wall with the character and the character (and audience) suffered for it.

5. I'm not entirely sure I buy his, uh, one-night stand with security chief Tasha Yar. We never really learned how that worked but it was the 80s - there were certain things you just couldn't do on TV back then! [smile]

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As a person who grew up with the show and was a fan of Data let me see if I can answer a few of those issues.

1. The writers felt that having him not use contractions made him sound more like a computer.
Side Note: Actually, in some early episodes he does use contractions. It was not until "Datalore" where, during a scene Brent Spiner refused to continue a scene until Roddenberry made a definite decision on the issue. (Source: Wil Wheaton, HuffPost)

2. Having him affected by the virus that caused everyone to lose their inhibitions allowed him to get wanky with two-piece wearing Tasha Tar.

3. The writers thought they were better at writing awkward comedy than they really were. Though I have to admit, the scene in Generations when he tossed Crusher overboard was quite hilarious.

4. Pretty much. They tried to give him emotions in Generations but botched it so horribly I wanted to smack them (Data's not a coward!!!)

5. How is it hard to buy? Its not like he was a Ken doll.

Kit said...

Sorry, let me say on thing without contractions.

DATA IS NOT A COWARD!!!

Kit said...

The way they should've handled Data.
In one respect similar to Spencer Reid of CRIMINAL MINDS. The geeky young guy who if you mess with the whole team will swoop down and wreak unholy havoc upon you -that is unless Reid doesn't outsmart you first.

With a bit of River Tam. Smart, helpful to the group, and brings out the parental instincts in everyone yet everyone knows he is dangerous.

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