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The Trek Nation - The Schizoid Man

The Schizoid Man

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at November 9, 2007 - 10:52 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Schizoid Man' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: The Enterprise receives a cryptic message from the brilliant Ira Graves and rushes to his aid, but when the crew spots a nearby passenger transport in trouble, Picard sends down an away team and takes off to help the much larger population of the ship. The away team, led by Data and Dr. Selar, learns that the distress call was sent by Graves' assistant Kareen Brianon against his wishes. Selar determines that Graves is dying and nothing can be done for him. Data spends time with the scientist who once worked with his creator, Dr. Soong, which Graves says practically makes him Data's grandfather. In the course of conversation, Data learns that Graves has developed the ability to transfer human intellect into computer circuits and Graves learns that Data has an "off" switch. Shortly afterward, Data announces Graves' death and at the Enterprise's return, the away team beams up with the body. While Picard works on funeral arrangements, Data begins to behave emotionally, seeming resentful of Picard and envious of every man who tries to talk to Brianon. When Troi runs psychological tests, she discovers that two personalities are fighting for control of Data. Just as Picard concludes that Graves must have transferred his consciousness into the android, Data confesses to Brianon that he is Graves and insists that she will be his eternal love. Brianon rejects him, causing Graves to lash out, hurting several people with Data's superior strength. Appalled at himself, Graves transfers his consciousness into the ship's computer and leaves Data in control of his own body once again.


Analysis: This is the second of three significant Data episodes from early in The Next Generation's second season, and while it is neither as entertaining as Elementary, Dear Data nor as brilliantly scripted as The Measure of a Man, it remains a solid story in the exploration of Data's humanity. There are obvious parallels with the original series episode "Return To Tomorrow," in which the disembodied consciousness of another genius is temporarily placed in Spock's body, only to refuse to leave. That episode had a much more engaging love story with Diana Muldaur in the role of the brilliant Thalassa; Kareen Brianon in "The Schizoid Man" is more a plot device than a character, and a pale copy of Picard's beloved Jenice, who was hardly a feminist role model given her obsession with a different older, eccentric, brilliant scientist.

At least Brianon knows that Ira Graves is scary, not only in his theft of Data, but in his determination to make her into his fantasy lover, eventually with an android body as eternal as his own. She isn't very bright - despite having known Graves for most of her life, it takes her just as long to figure out what he's done to Data as the Enterprise crew - but she stands up for herself and, in retaking her own life, gives Picard the pretext to reclaim Data's. Graves' chauvinism is excruciating - women would have slapped him in the 20th century for his line about how women aren't people, but Troi plants a smile on her face and defers to the brilliant man just like his admiring blonde. This is notable in particular because we're not supposed to think that Graves is such a bad guy, certainly not on par with, say, Q or Nagilum or Lore...the fact that he dismisses women as potential equals and breaks the hand of a would-be lover in a jealous snit is apparently supposed to fall under the category of "eccentric," not "revolting throwback."

Structurally, "The Schizoid Man" seems a bit schizoid itself. Since it starts with Pulaski's medical log, we're given expectations that the episode will somehow center on her, but she's completely sidelined in the end. Given that Pulaski's doubts about Data's humanity have been a theme thus far this season, it seems completely illogical to have set up the storyline in such a way, then left her out of the final discussion about whether Data is man or machine. Give Muldaur something to do this generation! She's sent off with the ship to rescue patients we never see, so she and Picard don't look stupid for leaving Data alone with an eccentric dying man, and by the time they're back, Graves has taken over. We can tell immediately, because Brent Spiner allows him a tiny smile of triumph.

Spiner's in a bit of a difficult position every time he has to play Data under the influence or play Lore or Soong; he gets to play emotion, but because we're so used to seeing Data's limited range, the extreme subtlety of gestures and cues, it doesn't make sense for him to play things up too much when he does get to break out of that mold or it looks, well, phony. It seems screamingly obvious that Graves has taken over Data and the rest of the crew seem ridiculously slow in picking up the clues. Worf might not be so adept at reading such changes, but LaForge, who is Data's friend and left to try to explain why a Riker-style beard doesn't work on an android, would surely see that his friend has undergone a drastic change. And what's with Troi? Whereas most weeks she interrupts perfectly good scientific conversations with an aside about people's emotional states, here she seems uncertain about stating the obvious until asked: that Data is feeling jealousy and rage and frustration and lust and all sorts of other things completely outside his programming.

It really is left to Spiner to carry the weight of creating the transformation, and while I'm grateful that it's mostly showing rather than telling, it's impossible to avoid comparisons with the only other time we've seen so much emotion from Data, when he met Lore. Graves-as-Data isn't so deliberately nasty, but he has similar arrogance, and for a while he seems just as willing to knock the little people out of his way ("the little people" meaning everyone from Picard on down). The stereotype of the eccentric genius is already a bit tired on this series, and how much more interesting if the debate about who has a greater right to Data's body - the artificial android personality or the human genius - if the human had not already been defined as a chauvinistic megalomaniac with no regard for anyone else's feelings. What if the scientist had had developed some crucial piece of knowledge that he felt he needed a body to impart to the rest of humanity? What if he had been more Sargon and less Henoch?

There's plenty of entertainment in "The Schizoid Man," but how much more so if it had covered some new territory instead of rehashing a lot of ideas we've seen before. It's a guilty pleasure, because there's something kind of fun in listening to Data mimic Picard, condescend to him and mock him behind his back; we're supposed to be rooting for Picard, not giggling at his comeuppance. Patrick Stewart does a terrific job when Picard confronts Graves in Data's body, but it's not entirely convincing that a man with such an ego, who has spent his last many years looking for a way to cheat death, would give up Data's body so easily. Perhaps if Brianon was a more impressive personality and convinced him herself of the logic, not just her disinterest in him as a romantic partner, or perhaps if Data himself emerged to fight for his own rights, the rapid denouement would be easier to believe.


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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for TrekToday. An archive of her reviews can be found at The Little Review.