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July 17 2024


An archive of Star Trek News

Data's Day

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 16, 2009 - 11:05 PM GMT

See Also: 'Data's Day' Episode Guide

Plot Summary: Data records a letter to cyberneticist Bruce Maddox describing a typical day. The android had been looking forward to the wedding of his friends Keiko Ishikawa and Miles O'Brien, but the bride calls off the wedding, saying marriage won't make her happy. Data's android logic cannot fathom the emotions of the couple, particularly when LaForge tells him that the wedding will probably take place anyway. Data asks for Worf's help selecting a gift and recruits Dr. Crusher - a onetime tap champion - to teach him to dance. Meanwhile, the Enterprise is escorting Vulcan ambassador T'Pel to the Neutral Zone to negotiate a volatile treaty with the Romulans. The ambassador asks Data to share information about the ship's tactics and defensive information, but withdraws the request when he says he must inform the captain of her inquiry, claiming she only wished to test his security protocols. T'Pel orders the Enterprise to rendezvous with a Romulan warbird, but during an attempt to transport her over, the signal fails and T'Pel is presumed dead. Because Data has been studying Sherlock Holmes, he approaches the investigation as a detective and helps Crusher determine that T'Pel's DNA left on the transporter pad was replicated. Picard challenges the Romulans, believing they have kidnapped T'Pel and tried to trick the Federation into believing she died in an accident, but T'Pel appears to reveal an even larger ruse: she is in fact a Romulan spy, Subcommander Selok, and the "accident" was a ploy to get her home. Data apologizes to Keiko for trying to persuade her to go ahead with the wedding, but she assures him that he was right, she does want to marry O'Brien, and she wants Data to walk her down the aisle. As Picard performs the ceremony, Data realizes that although much of human behavior mystifies him, he understands the desire to be loved.

Analysis: "Data's Day" doesn't have a particularly strong storyline, but it's refreshing to "see" an episode from a first person point-of-view and fun to get glimpses into aspects of shipboard life that we know must exist yet rarely see - things like shopping, trips to the barber, playing with pets, dressing up for special occasions. It's particularly enjoyable that the absent focus of Data's observations is Commander Bruce Maddox, the scientist who once wanted to have Data classified as an object so Maddox could dissect him, who is now apparently interested in an android's subjective view of human life. There's plenty of humor watching the disconnect between Data's analytical approach to life and the emotions of those around him - having heard O'Brien say that he wants Keiko to be happy, Data breaks the news that she's decided to call off the wedding with the expectation that O'Brien will put Keiko's happiness above his own, and is surprised when O'Brien then storms off in a rage. Soon Data has Keiko angry at him as well, for he rationally explains that since she seems no happier once the wedding has been called off, he believes she must reconsider. Maybe these distractions are the reason Data and everyone else fails to notice that T'Pel is not a Vulcan but a Romulan, something I suspected as a viewer the first time I saw the episode at the moment the Neutral Zone was mentioned. Vulcans and Romulans may be more closely related biologically than other humanoids, but they're distinguishable by genetic scans as well as a marked absence of emotional control; Data may not be able to recognize the subtleties, but Crusher could have discovered the one, and Troi the other; maybe Crusher has no reason to be hanging out with the ambassador, but how come Troi isn't on the bridge when the Enterprise first approaches the Romulan warship, precisely the sort of moment when she usually announces, "Captain, she's hiding something!"?

I for one never thought before about how much more Data can pack into a day on account of the fact that he doesn't sleep. He's in command during the ship's equivalent of the night watch, then switches into science officer mode when the main bridge crew arrives. It's entertaining to hear his reflections on the crewmembers we see him interact with all the time, but not in contexts where for instance I'd expect Data to notice how well Riker does with the ladies or how much Data and Worf (!) have in common. One wonders whether he is making himself notice these things specifically for his report to Maddox or whether the observations are always recorded in some low-level subroutine and he simply doesn't bring them to the forefront. Data could conceivably be doing many other things at the same time as the ones we observe, of course; presumably, while he's ordering cat food, he could also be calculating a new matter-antimatter ratio and, oh, studying the linguistic patterns of a Vulcan ambassador whose behavior isn't making much sense by android, human or Vulcan standards. Perhaps, in his efforts to be human, Data deliberately limits how many calculations his positronic brain attempts to make. In some ways "Data's Day" raises more questions than it answers, but that's part of what makes it intriguing. The fact that he regards his extraordinary abilities with a sort of childlike wonder and reluctance makes Data himself engaging; Riker had him pegged perfectly when he called him Pinocchio.

No matter how thin the Romulan spy storyline, there's no way to resist the delights of LaForge at the barber unable to "see" the haircut that he's convinced doesn't flatter him, or Worf trying to pick out a candy dish for Miles and Keiko, or Crusher teaching Data to tap dance (first with embarrassment that he's discovered her past as a dancer, then with frustration that he can imitate her most complicated footwork, and finally with the concern of realizing that Data needed to learn to dance at a wedding, not for performance or exercise). For all his intellectual programming and ability to absorb new knowledge, Data can't master the fine points of human behavior; he can mimic Worf's use of the replicators for a gift and Crusher's fancy footwork, but he doesn't know how to choose a present that reflects his personality, nor how to make eye contact and smile while performing a waltz. His reasoning for why Keiko should not, and then should, marry Miles is comical in its simplicity. Worf's lament that human bonding rituals involve a great deal of talking, crying, and dancing definitely strikes a chord. When Data laments that he wishes he had a gut feeling about whether T'Pel is being duplicitous, he is incapable of realizing that articulating that wish at that moment is a gut feeling; he knows enough to be suspicious, yet doesn't trust himself to articulate his concerns to another officer.

There is nice continuity, both in details ("I could be chasing an untamed ornithoid") and in terms of Data's interests in Sherlock Holmes, plus the ongoing Romulan duplicity without being willing to commit to all-out war. And although I can't be an all-out fan of Miles and Keiko's wedding given how many weak storylines are in store for them as a couple on Deep Space Nine, the ceremony itself is lovely, with Keiko in traditional Japanese clothing and everyone else in Starfleet dress uniforms, Picard talking about how since days of sailing ships, captains have had happy privilege of joining couples in marriage. We get to see a baby born on the ship as well before Data heads off to take the late shift once more. Whether it's profound or a cliche will be in the eye of the beholder, but it's always nice to get a human episode, particularly about the android.

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Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.

Michelle Erica Green is a former news writer for the Trek Nation. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.

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