Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Peak Performance"

***

Air date: 7/10/1989
Written by David Kemper
Directed by Robert Scheerer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

As a result of the Borg threat (a nice little nod to continuity, that), Starfleet orders Picard and Riker to go head-to-head in a simulated battle as part of a new program to develop tactical skills among Starfleet crews, which Picard notes "is not a military organization." Along to observe is brilliant war strategist Kolrami (Roy Brocksmith), from a race of strategy masterminds that no one has dared challenge for centuries. In an observant detail of one sizing up someone else, Worf says the lack of any direct challenge essentially invalidates the reputation. (The theme of the show is sizing up people and situations.) Riker takes command of the derelict USS Hathaway to oversee a crew of 40, hand-picked from the Enterprise. He and his crew must improvise a way to compete in a battle where they are outmanned, outgunned, and, well, out-everythinged.

I enjoy stories about tactics and cunning, and this is a good one from TNG. One tactic involves Wesley playing the innocence routine "to shut down a science project" in order to steal some antimatter from the Enterprise. Another involves Worf creating an illusion that looks like something real (a Romulan Warbird) in an environment that's supposed to be all simulated.

There's also a subplot where Pulaski sets up a match of Strategema between Data and the arrogant Kolrami (Pulaski hopes to deflate Kolrami's ego), and Data ends up losing. This sends Data on an over-analytical search through his systems to find the "problem." The scene where Picard sets him straight is classic Picard — thoughtful, firm, reassuring.

The show's plot twist is that a real Ferengi ship shows up in the middle of the simulation and opens fire on the Enterprise, leading to a real test of improvised tactics. Armin Shimerman makes another appearance here as yet another Ferengi. (Another cameo I found amusing was by Glenn Morshower — the always reliable Aaron Pierce on 24 — as Ensign Burke.) Honestly, I could've done without the Ferengi altogether. The episode cunningly distracts us: By having the Ferengi interrupt the war games between Picard and Riker, the story doesn't have to offer up a resolution in which one of them actually wins. I for one am curious: Who would've won this battle simulation, and what would that have meant?

Perhaps the only satisfactory outcome would've been a draw. The story saves that for the Strategema rematch between Data and Kolrami. The payoff has Data saying, "I busted him up," which goes down (or at least should) as a classic Data line.

Previous episode: The Emissary
Next episode: Shades of Gray

Season Index

51 comments on this review

Dan Nugent - Tue, Jun 3, 2008 - 3:35am (USA Central)
I love Peak Performance, I actually rate it a proper TNG classic. Kolrami is a fantastic character and his mannerisms and interactions with the crew are brilliant. Picard, Data and Riker all shine. Hell even Wesley's sneakiness earns a smile.

William - Wed, Aug 29, 2012 - 7:27pm (USA Central)
This is one of those next-level very good episodes. Not GREAT, but very good.

It doesn't have the epic sweep of Best of Both Worlds; the punch of Measure of a Man. BUT it's just a damn fun episode and well-executed.
xaaos - Thu, Nov 22, 2012 - 8:00am (USA Central)
This episode should have been this season's last one. Nice and solid episode. I liked when the Ferengi showed up and starting firing, because I have the idea that Picard believed it was another of Worf's tricks and looked like... having fun.

Data's line ("I busted him up") and his shipmates cheering gave me a big smile. Go Data!
Jay - Mon, Dec 17, 2012 - 9:57am (USA Central)
I liked how Picard's command changed literally mid-sentence from simulation mode to real mode as the first Ferengi torpedo hit...
William B - Tue, Apr 2, 2013 - 7:55pm (USA Central)
I remember Roger Ebert saying that a certain film was "a must-see three star film," and I feel that way about this episode (though it's not a film) -- it is a delight from start to finish, though lightweight and (ultimately) perhaps dramatically unsatisfying, in that the Picard/Riker war never gets answered, as Jammer states. However, I think that serendipity helps this episode. Coming at the very end of season two and namechecking the Borg, this episode ends up foreshadowing the much larger-scale "Riker vs. Picard" showdown that features as a part of "The Best of Both Worlds," in which Riker is again overpowered and facing Picard, and somehow has to succeed against a superior foe. I think that episode is a continuation of and answer to this one, and this episode helps to set up BOBW in ways I don't think were intended at the time.

Overall, though, this episode works for me so well because it's a chance to relax and spend time with the Enterprise crew without any grand threats (until the very end). In principle, that was true of "Manhunt" as well, but in this episode the characters have goals and seek to achieve them. The dramatic core of the Data subplot works quite well, and the fact that Data was roped into the Strategema game by Pulaski is a very nice cap to the Pulaski/Data arc over the season. Pulaski now sees him as an *admirable* machine, and that's why she wants to see him beat Kolrami, but once she realizes the damage to Data's self-confidence she genuinely regrets using Data as a tool to knock down Kolrami's ego and is genuinely concerned about him. Pulaski has fully seen Data as a person by "The Measure of a Man," but it's nice to see her warmth toward Data here; it's amusing to see *Picard* calling *Pulaski* (in addition to Troi) of imbuing Data with emotions he does not have. The solution proposed by the episode is a classic.

Anyway, this episode hits just the right notes, and allows us to spend time with all the senior staff, so it works very well as the last episode to the 2nd season and a capstone on the amount of work the season did on progressing the characters forward. 3 stars, *just shy* of 3.5.

(...what do you mean, this isn't the season finale? I have no idea what you are talking about.)
Rikko - Sat, Apr 27, 2013 - 8:05am (USA Central)
Very, very good episode. One of my favorites of Season 2. Without "The Measure of a Man" and "Q Who" this would have been the very best of S2. And I have to agree with you all, guys: Even Wesley was cool, the overall quality was good, Data was fantastic and somehow Peak Performance prepared the ground for Season 3's finale.

Only two things bothered me: At first sight Kolrami was a bit too alien for my tastes, but I got used to him fast. At this point in the series, I was still worried about weird alien designs, as it usually meant bad episodes.

And the other thing is a bit bigger: The Ferengi. I don't think they needed to be there. It's a shame TNG came out way before the "Slice of life" genre was popular. Some episodes, like this one and (much later) Data's Day, are better off without a big evil lurking around or your classic Urgent Conflict Of The Hour(tm).

Still, this was a neat TNG moment and a Season 2 highlight. I bet everyone wanted this one to be the last of S2 because...
SkepticalMI - Fri, Oct 4, 2013 - 10:22pm (USA Central)
A few minor quibbles:

- Data's little pout went on too long. Hey Data, Riker did worse than you. So why does Picard listen to him? I don't mind that it happened, but it's a bit of a stretch that it would take 3 people to knock some sense into him.

- Why didn't Picard at least demand to the Ferengi to beam over the Hathaway's personnel and then let the Ferengi have the ship? Sure, it may not be completely honorable, and maybe the Ferengi wouldn't have accepted it, but it's at least another option.

But really, that's hardly a reason to ignore this episode. I don't think there is a problem that the Picard/Riker war was never resolved. I thought that they made it pretty clear through the episode that the Enterprise would win. Riker had two aces up his sleeve; we saw the first one which only created some damage. The second was an escape route. Yes, maybe he'd have found something else to come up with, but really, technological superiority is a big deal. It sounded like the war game was mostly about how long Riker would last, not whether he would win. So who cares that the game didn't end?

Instead, we got a good story and a good character piece. Finally, after two years of hearing that Riker is a great and wonderful leader, we get to see it. All it took was one skeptical alien, and one cool chess match. He had good moments with Geordi and Worf, and getting to see him scheme was great. This is really one of the best uses of Riker, and complements what we will see with Best of Both Worlds. Meanwhile, we see Pulaski promoting and vigorously defending Data, a lovely change from the beginning of the season. We see Wesley use his guile. We see Geordi having fun. And heck, it was a fun episode too. What's not to like?

It occurs to me that the Borg really should have caught on that something was up with Riker's plan to kidnap Locutus. After all, they had access to Picard's knowledge of Data's analysis of Riker. Of course, knowing the Borg, they would dismiss any personality aspect as irrelevent. Presumably, this was not on the writer's minds. But hey, it works anyway.

And as one more random aside, this is probably the most sinister that the Ferengi ever were. I guess they could have possibly been a serious species, if they weren't neutered so quickly. It seemed pretty odd actually seeing them as a legitimate threat.
Jack - Sat, Nov 16, 2013 - 1:15pm (USA Central)
Star Trek was all over the map on whether Starfleet is or isn't a military organization. TNG more often claimed it wasn't (which with the military ranks and hierarchy and, well, everything else about it, made that claim absurd on its face (see BOBW, Redemption, Unification, Ensign Ro, The Pegasus, Chain of Command, etc, etc, etc), as it is when Picard again spews it here) while DS9 (obviously for its later storylines) had to assert that it very much was.

Matt - Fri, Feb 14, 2014 - 9:52pm (USA Central)
While this episode was a lot of fun, I do have trouble with the resolution. Worf's sensor/holographic trick works fine on the Enterprise, but how would he have been able to fool the Ferengi?
Tom - Sat, Mar 29, 2014 - 10:44pm (USA Central)
I agree that this is a very solid episode.
Andrew - Fri, Sep 5, 2014 - 6:02am (USA Central)
An enjoyable episode, but I seriously bemoan the fact that a series whose appeal is suppose to be to nerds requires such passes on logic. Here's my picks for this episode:

(1) Data loses to Kolrami at space chess (first of all) and then everyone is like, "Data, sometimes you just lose." Data is supposed to have computational speeds and memory of unfathomable limits. At a game of defined outcomes, with reaction speed as an additional emphasis, Data should objectively be able to handily beat anyone. The idea that he should just accept that he lost is absurd. It's a step from saying, "Data, don't worry if a person can calculate the first 10,000 digits of pi faster than you. Every dog has it's day." Then to compound that with the "big win" being that he had to adopt a strategy of drawing b/c he was worse at pursuing a winning strategy...smh.

(2) War games played where functionality is completely, irreversibly lost to affected areas. No failsafe, really? What if it affected life support systems? Or there was a medical emergency and you needed to use the transporter? Ooops, you just died playing a wargame?

(3) Warf comes up with "guile," which is 100% responsible for the strategic advantage and Riker gets all the credit...compounded with the fact that Warf's security codes maneuver works on a Farengi ship? Warf clearly needs a promotion and a crack at space chess.

(4) Why the hell even bother with the "let's take a chance on an untested 2s warp system to distract the Farengi for a few minutes and will probably kill us all" if immediately after that you just pull a "Warf the magician" act and everything is all better. End of episode = Shoehorned plot device.

(5) The above are all just basic internal consistency issues. How about actually treating the premise seriously for a second. The Enterprise, the most sophisticated ship in the fleet, goes up again a barely moving space dino whose secret weapon is a one-off sensor ploy and 2s warp. Here's a couple strategic options for the Enterprise, you tell me which makes sense: (1) Pull feints and maneuvers trying to figure out what the guy on his broke down bicycle is going to do. (2) Shoot them immediately, relying on the novel realization that going blow to blow, your arsenal would easily overcome their shields but not vice versa.

I don't know how this qualifies as "very good" or "classic." I still enjoyed it because even under the clunkiness, the premise and character can at least be interesting. But dang.

Also, kudos to TNG for making Kolrami look fat and shrew-faced. We don't want those bright Trek fans to misunderstand what he represents. Outward appearance MUST BE synonymous with one's personality and inner qualities.
Robert - Fri, Sep 5, 2014 - 9:20am (USA Central)
@Andrew -

To point 1, as you acknowledge, there are defined outcomes. Our brains are just bio computers. I could be taught to play tic-tac-toe as well as Data. Why should Data feel bad if I beat him at tic-tac-toe sometimes. As Picard says... it's possible to lose without making mistakes.

I don't think Data played to a draw BECAUSE he knew he'd lose otherwise. I think he played to a draw because it was the only way a loss could be avoided 100% of the time. If both him and Kolrami were perfect and the game offers no advantage to whomever "starts" (if such a player exists) Data should be expected to win 50% of the time. But Data didn't WANT a 50/50 shot. Since he doesn't get tired I assume the plan was to draw indefinitely until Kolrami passed out. Now THAT is thinking outside the box.

Andrew - Wed, Sep 10, 2014 - 5:40am (USA Central)
Robert,

You're attempt to use the analogy of the brain as a biocomputer in this context is very improper. Yes, the brain can be looked at in the framework of a computer, but you're using this to drawn on the connotations of a machine computer (i.e. computational speed and precision) that do not actually apply. A simple scientific calculator will accurately compute the value of 7^22 in less than a second. Will a human brain? Hell no. That would take a LONG time. What's more, if you ask me to do this computation, there's a good chance I would make a mistake, even after having taking math classes for about 25 years. A calculator won't.

The level of complexity of space chess is in fact much greater than this simple example. The ability to compute all possible combination of outcomes in a game such as space chess would be the perfect showcase of Data's advantages compared to humanoids. There would objectively be no competition. Unless Kolrami was far, far, far far far far far far smarter than every second of the episode implied.

Also, your bit about tic-tac-toe. Imagine tic-tac-toe was determined not only by your moves but your speed. Data would win hands down, even if you had to go sequentially because even if it took you 1/10th of a second to respond to a move, it would take Data far less than a milliseoond. Alternatively, imagine that moves in tic tac-tac-toe didn't have to be sequential: a computer could fill in every space before you even entered in one.

Finally, your contention that Data planned to beat Kolrami by continuously drawing until Kolrama passed out and thereby lost is (besides being an absurd scenario for Data) explicitly wrong. Data was surprised when Kolrami stopped playing and he said he did not win "No sir, it's a stalemate!" Data did not either plan to win or see himself as having won, he pursued (and obtained) a draw. Yet still everybody is like "Yay, this walking super computer is able to tie this meatbag. It's amazing, you really showed him."

Your points don't serve you well...and honestly, making pseudo-intellectual claims about humans as bio-robots is just lame dude. Much like many early Star Trek episodes, the only way it seems smart is if you don't think about it at all.
Robert - Wed, Sep 10, 2014 - 8:41am (USA Central)
I see what you're saying, but space chess is played on a computer that is not Data. I assure you that if Data played the original Super Mario Bros he might be able to beat the best speedrun in the world, but not by much. The game still has an input speed. If it takes me 1/10th of a second to respond to a move and the game input only takes 15 moves per second... well... Data would likely beat me, but he wouldn't crush me in the sense of "a computer could fill in every space before you even entered in one."

Alternatively, go play a Wii. I assure you that if you move the wand as fast as Data moves the wand the input you'd be sending to the system would be gibberish. Those things they had on their fingers might not work if Data moved at the speed of Data.

"Finally, your contention that Data planned to beat Kolrami by continuously drawing until Kolrama passed out and thereby lost is (besides being an absurd scenario for Data) explicitly wrong."

I don't mean literally passed out. I just mean that Kolrami would, eventually, get tired. The game doesn't seem to end, so Data's goal of playing to a draw seemed to be short termed. Unless he literally expected to play until Kolrami grew old and died I suspect the eventual plan was that Kolrami would get tired and slip up. The fact that he was surprised that Kolrami quit so "early" in the game (from Data's perspective) does NOT rule out such an end game. And the fact that you claim Data's long term plan was playing to a draw, when there is no evidence that this game CAN end in a draw is silly.

"Your points don't serve you well...and honestly, making pseudo-intellectual claims about humans as bio-robots is just lame dude. Much like many early Star Trek episodes, the only way it seems smart is if you don't think about it at all. "

Except humans ARE bio-robots and our brains do have computational speeds and such. I SPECIFICALLY used tic-tac-toe because YOU brought up games of defined outcomes. My point was that I personally could be taught to memorize every possible move in tic-tac-toe. SOME people can be taught chess. Maybe Kolrami's people have memories and recall speeds that far exceed my computational power. MAYBE Kolrami's people can perform calculations at the speed of the game's input! Refuting my point by calling it lame and then offering no counterpoint doesn't particularly serve you well here.... All I'm trying to point out here is that in a game of defined outcomes biological brains may be capable of memorizing all possible outcomes. There are people that start spouting out pi from very high digits in a ridiculously small amount of time and there are chess savants that can think more moves ahead than I could possibly imagine. There comes a point between input speeds and game limitations where thinking more moves ahead may not serve you.... particularly if you've memorize all the outcomes....

My point is just that you are arguing that this scene doesn't make sense when you have no idea how this game works, how it's input functions, how many moves ahead Kolrami can think and how many total possibilities his "bio computer" can be programmed for.
Robert - Wed, Sep 10, 2014 - 8:44am (USA Central)
Even memory alpha agrees with me.

h t t p ://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Strategema

"Data, after his first loss, did find a means to defeat Kolrami on his second try. To do so, Data took the unorthodox strategy of deliberately playing for a stalemate with the focus of blocking Kolrami's moves for an indefinite length of time. The game in question broke the record for duration and only ended when Kolrami forfeited the game in frustration, thereby conceding to Data the win. At the time of Kolrami's forfeit, Data and Kolrami had over 33,000 moves each."

You can't play this game to a draw, such a state does not exist. He was trying to stretch out the game indefinitely. To suggest that he doesn't know what that would do to a biological life form eventually is just preposterous.
Dave in NC - Wed, Sep 10, 2014 - 9:36am (USA Central)
@ Robert

In Andrew's defense, this is the same Data that, a year before, couldn't figure out how to solve a Chinese finger puzzle.
Robert - Wed, Sep 10, 2014 - 9:40am (USA Central)
@Dave - I'm not sure that having that episode make Data preposterously stupid automatically means that this episode is doing the same thing :)

That WAS bad though.
Robert - Wed, Sep 10, 2014 - 9:40am (USA Central)
Based on what we know about Data, he should have been able to rip that stupid thing in half....
Dave in NC - Wed, Sep 10, 2014 - 11:17am (USA Central)
"Based on what we know about Data, he should have been able to rip that stupid thing in half...."

@ Robert

Lol!

Andrew - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 1:35am (USA Central)
Robert,

You're saying a stalemate isn't possible, simply as an assertion. You even say that my contention that it was considered a draw is "silly." Frankly, that's a bit baffling and I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt that maybe you haven't watched this ep recently. I'm telling you what Data explicitly said, "It's a stalemate." He said this twice with no one else saying anything to the contrary. Consequently, it would sure as hell seem it was a stalemate.

But beyond that, again, saying we our brains are biocomputers is disingenuous, because it's implying we behave in the same way in terms of computational systems and precision. We don't--not in the way that you're using this analogy. We do not behave with the straightforward mathematical algorithms, we make errors, and put simply we cannot mentally calculate the enormity of permutations in a game as simple as chess (compared to space chess). Or see my earlier example, of the relatively extremely simply example of calculating 7^22. A computer could do that in far less than a second, with a human it would be an exhaustive effort to compute this value in his head manually, it would be nearly impossible and take a long time.

You're saying some people can memorize or compute an impressive amount. Compared to me or you, agreed. Compared to a computer of the sophistication of Data, not even close. Just read a little bit about chess-playing computers and tablebases to see this. Currently, the best computer programs are given restricted number of tablebases (about 5-6 moves deep) in only the opening and the endgame and still the best grandmasters in the world cannot beat them in an even match (in fact, they are given advantages at the outset and still routinely lose). Data could calculate every permutation 50 levels deep. That is simply so far beyond human capabilities it's not funny. And as I said, TNG could certainly create a character of that level of intelligence, but as every second of the episode showed, Kolrami was not that character.

Finally, you make the point that there are limits to how fast data could be entered in to the system and say Data just can't move that fast. The issue is not the speed of input, first of all, it's reaction time and calculation time (and really, sheer feasibility), which I haven't made clear to you by now, then I give up. But even so, Data's super-physical attributes would suggest he probably could move his hands faster. Also, as space chess is in many ways a race, the device used would presumably be able to accept inputs at speeds at least slightly greater than the speed at which any of its user base can enter them, otherwise you'd have to really question it's suitability to the game. Certainly, there is no evidence that either player was restricted by it's ability to read inputs at the speed they could enter them.
Robert - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 9:36am (USA Central)
"You're saying a stalemate isn't possible, simply as an assertion. You even say that my contention that it was considered a draw is "silly." Frankly, that's a bit baffling and I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt that maybe you haven't watched this ep recently. I'm telling you what Data explicitly said, "It's a stalemate." He said this twice with no one else saying anything to the contrary. Consequently, it would sure as hell seem it was a stalemate."

Here is the actual script
"KOLRAMI: Bah! (throws off the controls)
DATA: Why have you suspended the game?
KOLRAMI: Because this is not a rematch. You have made a mockery of me.
(Kolrami exits in high dudgeon)
RIKER: Data, you beat him!
DATA: No, sir. It is a stalemate. "

Data was calling the game a stalemate because he had brought the game to a stall (blocking every advancement opportunity for Kolrami). But the game did not end, Kolrami quit. It was obvious. I didn't say a stalemate wasn't possible, I said a DRAW wasn't possible. This was, per the episodes description, the longest game ever of Strategema. If the longest game ever could have gone on even longer (Data seems surprised when he ends the game) it is obvious that a draw is not a state that is programmed into the game.

Moreover, you originally said that my interpretation of Data's plan was explicitly wrong. I ask you again to explain. If there is no draw condition in the game (which, if you can't see that as obvious I guess we'll just have to stop discussing it... the idea that the game will stalemate out in 50k moves when 32k didn't do it is still silly) and Kolrami quitting was something Data did not expect.... there is only one possible alternative. He was attempting to wear the man down. Or play until the heat death of the universe. Whichever you like.

"You're saying some people can memorize or compute an impressive amount. Compared to me or you, agreed. Compared to a computer of the sophistication of Data, not even close."

Agreed of course. But without knowing how many possible moves Strategema has I cannot, with 100% certainty say that Kolrami cannot memorize all of the moves. If I can memorize every permutation of tic-tac-toe who is to say that some biological organism doesn't have the memory capacity to memorize Strategema. We don't even know how to play Strategema!

"And as I said, TNG could certainly create a character of that level of intelligence, but as every second of the episode showed, Kolrami was not that character."

I agree Kolrami isn't that brilliant in the context of an episode... but brilliance and memorization capacity are not the same thing.

"The issue is not the speed of input, first of all, it's reaction time and calculation time."

I do agree here. My point about input maximum capacity is that we have seen episodes where Data moves so fast the screen blurs and then you said "imagine that moves in tic tac-tac-toe didn't have to be sequential: a computer could fill in every space before you even entered in one". I was just pointing out that it's unlikely the input would be able to handle Data clearing the board at "blur speed" before Kolrami could even get a move off. The little finger inputs would just be confused.

As to some of your other points...
1) Data should know the exact max speed of input of a Strategema system and increase/decrease his hand speed to give him a maximum number of per second inputs. This would give him an advantage over Kolrami. Unless of course the maximum number of moves is something a human could do. I don't know for sure.

2) Yes, Data should be able to react faster than Kolrami. Even if Kolrami has every permutation measured, Data should still probably have a cognitive advantage.

But is that to say that Data could NEVER lose? What if there was a 10% chance of Data losing. That still makes him 10x better than Kolrami. Kolrami against a Kolrami duplicate would likely win 50% of the time. Maybe Kolrami vs Data would only win 10% of the time. And maybe that's how Data lost. And perhaps Data was trying his new strategy because there was no other way to ensure 100% that he would not lose.

I'm not saying that there aren't holes here, I just don't know that, with knowing nothing about the game or the mental capabilities of Kolrami's people that I can say with 100% certainty that Data should not have been able to lose. You say that "we make errors", speaking of us as humanoids here (I assume, else Kolrami would be exempt). Well, why is it implausible that, in their first game, Kolrami made no errors.

THAT was the whole point of the story, that neither one of them made any mistakes and Data lost.
Elliott - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 10:23am (USA Central)
"THAT was the whole point of the story, that neither one of them made any mistakes and Data lost."

Well, partially, yes, but I think the real point of the story was to teach Data a lesson about humanity. I'm sure if Droopy Dog and Data played a dozen games, Data would have won at least once, but that wouldn't have made an impact on him or been interesting to watch. What Data did (as Robert pointed out, a employing a strategy which would guarantee that Data could never *lose*, though he couldn't technically *win*) was manage to frustrate Droopy into quitting, thus knocking him of his smug highhorse. This notion of cutting him down emotionally is a very human trait--vindictiveness, resentment, pleasure at the misery of one's enemies--and that's what Data learns here, and that's the point of the story.
Robert - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 10:52am (USA Central)
@Elliott - I do think that's half of it, but the lesson that I most took from this when I was little is that sometimes through no fault of your own you lose. The point of all of his diagnostics and whatnot was that he was the human equivalent of replaying the event in your head over and over again.... (if this had been TOS and Kolrami had been Kirk Data would likely have exploded)

But it is important to learn that sometimes you just lose, even if you make no mistakes. Accepting a loss is a valuable lesson. So I do think that Data learned the value of competition (the entire episode was framed around competition of one sort or another), but I also think he learned how to lose. Which is also interesting. And human.
Andy's Friend - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 11:33am (USA Central)
@Dave, Elliott, and Robert: I'm with Robert on this one, gentlemen. While Elliott has a point, I think that Data already knew that: that's why he did it. The important lesson, as Robert points out and I quote, is "to learn that sometimes you just lose, even if you make no mistakes." It is indeed a very valuable lesson ― not as much for Data, but for the 10-year-old kid watching the series.

Regardless of all that, I'd like to present Dave & Robert with... the Jammer Nerd Award of the Week, for Outstanding Nerdiness Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.

The award is given, in your case, for 1) the Supreme Analysis of a game no one knows the rules of, and 2) the Superior Profiling of an Alien of the Week™ which no one knows anything about, or will ever see again, for that matter.

Yours is quite simply outstanding work, gentlemen! Thank you for being a radiant deflector array for us all to follow! It's people like you that make Star Trek fandom what it is. We, the lesser nerds, salute you! ;)
Robert - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 1:00pm (USA Central)
How many internets do I get for that award? :)
Dave in NC - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 1:29pm (USA Central)
I wear my nerd crown proudly. :)
Andrew - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 2:03pm (USA Central)
Obviously, TNG is interested in imparting lessons on the characters (and audience) as a primary focus. My point is breaks simple parts of it's own framework to that.

Robert, I can't believe the stalemate/draw argument has gone this far. If you are familiar at all with what a stalemate is (if not, just google it, google handily provides you with this definition), then you know a stalemate IS a draw. There's no distinction. All your handwaving doesn't change that. Data did not win, he drew the match.

To your other points, we do indeed not know the full rules of space chess. But by just looking at the movements, it's clear the number of permutations (especially when it goes to a vast number of levels) is intended to be even greater than that of chess. That's the idea: take super speed chess and make it even more complex.

And to your point that memory and speed are not synonymous: that is of course true, but it's not a feat of sheer memorization, it's also calculation and adjustment at a staggering rate. In order for Kolrami to accmomplish a draw, his computational speed and memory would have to be comparable with Data, which would imply a level of functional intelligence far^far greater than what he has shown.

Also, about input speeds. The input speeds do not need to be as fast as Data can enter them, they only need to be slightly faster than Kolrami can. If the input speeds can not match basic humanoid hand movements speeds, again I contend that the device is not suitable to the game (and logically therefore, would not be the device they choose to use).

So again, yes, it wants to say that you can lose without making a mistake. But that does not fit the scenario they've devised whatsoever. Data SHOULD win.

Also, it's ridiculous to say that because Data might make errors he should pursue a draw versus Kolrami. Because Data uses precise algorithms to calculate the permutations, it would take a system malfunction (which is what Data was worried about) to make any mistake. Even in this context, however, there is no gain to pursuing a draw versus a win. It would imply he is fundamentally unable to calculate the permutations correctly. Moreover Data, after the final game, says that this was not the case. He just couldn't best Kolrami, only pursue a tie (the principal absurdity).
Robert - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 2:23pm (USA Central)
"Also, it's ridiculous to say that because Data might make errors he should pursue a draw versus Kolrami."

I never said that. I said he was playing to block Kolrami INSTEAD of playing to win because if he played to win he could lose WITHOUT making mistakes.

As to the tie... Mr. Data, would you please enlighten us on the meaning of stalemate.

DATA : Gladly sir. A stalemate, as defined by Google's dictionary is "a situation in which further action or progress by opposing or competing parties seems impossible". Synonyms being deadlock, impasse, standoff...

Thank you Mr. Data, that's enough. And the definition of draw?

DATA : A game that ends with the score even, a tie. Since Strategema is not space chess, my mention of the word stalemate implied deadlock, not a game ending tie. Strategema is not chess and a game ending tie is not a possibility in Strategema. Strategema will go on forever. Space chess is what you play on the 3D chess board. Strategema is about lighting up cubes. Space connect 4, if you will. Andrew's original premise is flawed.

Thank you Mr. Data.

I will agree with you that it's likely that the input can accept input faster than Kolrami can give it, in which case Data would be at a significant advantage. That said, we cannot say this with absolute certainty. To quote my recent award "The award is given, in your case, for 1) the Supreme Analysis of a game no one knows the rules of, and 2) the Superior Profiling of an Alien of the Week™ which no one knows anything about, or will ever see again, for that matter."

DATA : You busted him up sir.
Andrew - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 2:33pm (USA Central)
Seriously, seriously. Consult any number of definitions on stalemate (or basic knowledge):

stale·mate (Oxford English Dictionary): a position counting as a draw, in which a player is not in check but cannot move except into check.

stalemate (Merriam webster):

: a contest, dispute, competition, etc., in which neither side can gain an advantage or win

: a situation in chess in which a player cannot successfully move any of the pieces and neither player can win

stalemate (ˈsteɪlˌmeɪt - Collins)
n
1. (Chess & Draughts) a chess position in which any of a player's possible moves would place his king in check: in this position the game ends in a draw
2. a situation in which two opposing forces find that further action is impossible or futile; deadlock


Data correctly did not consider that he won the game because he forced a stalemate. Where stems the perplexing celebration that their relative "victory" was by forcing a draw when Data, barring malfunction, should wipe the floor.

And yes, we can certainly not say anything with certainty about portrayals in TNG. But for a game whose focus is on speed to have a input speed ceiling below what people are capable of (in a world defined with a relative void of technological limits to it's machinery or economic restraints on their implementation) would be it's very own TNG fail. But again, this is ancillary to the fact that Kolrami could not compute the permutations himself at anything near the limit at which he could move.

Data should win. I really can't see how there's this need for this much explanation over what should be a fairly obvious fact.
Robert - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 2:52pm (USA Central)
"stale·mate (Oxford English Dictionary): a position counting as a draw, in which a player is not in check but cannot move except into check."

Dear lord, that's a chess definition. You can keep saying space chess as much as you want, it's not chess. The definition being used in the episode is deadlock, no matter how stubborn you want to be!

"a contest, dispute, competition, etc., in which neither side can gain an advantage or win"

Yes, this is what was happening. Data was playing to a condition where neither of them could win. There still was no indication in the episode that the game could actually END like that (without Kolrami quitting). Of course that'd require you to discuss the actual episode and Strategema instead of chess! Facts - We see 3 games of Strategema. One ends in a slaughter, one is a good game, and the other goes on longer than any Strategema game EVER, and only ends when one person quits. There is not 1 iota of evidence to support your conjecture that this game can END naturally in a tie, which must mean that Data had an eventual plan to win after Kolrami passed out from exhaustion. In order to prove your point you'd need to give 1 shred of evidence that any of the rules we are aware of claim that this is not true. But you can't. Because there is none.

"But for a game whose focus is on speed to have a input speed ceiling below what people are capable of (in a world defined with a relative void of technological limits to it's machinery or economic restraints on their implementation) would be it's very own TNG fail."

The focus is on being strategic quickly. That's not the same as a race. It may be that 5 moves a second is BLAZINGLY fast for this game (imagine making 5 moves a second in chess) and that Kolrami is capable of that. Data would obviously be capable of 30x that... but only if the input accepts such. Again, without knowing anything about the game, all you can do is guess. Since the episode supports that Data can make no mistakes and still lose I have to assume that there is something inherent to the game that makes Data going 1000 moves a second impossible.

"Data should win."

I never actually disagreed with you on that. I've just said that given the variables we don't know for certain that Data should win 100% of the time. And I stand by that!

Robert - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 2:54pm (USA Central)
I think we've tripled the number of comments on the Peak Performance board....
Elliott - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 3:40pm (USA Central)
Given that

a) as has been repeatedly pointed out, we don't know a damn thing about how Strategema works, and

b) the reason it's in this story is to serve as a mirror to the A-plot with RIker,

I think it's fair to assume that the game involves an element of improvisation and non-linear thinking (like Riker's plan did), elements for which no amount of computational speed could compensate. If the story had tried to explain what these elements were, it would become very tedious and probably not make any sense (like when they try to explain how the holodeck works).

Given that chess was meant to be as much an allegorical instruction tool about (feudal) politics as it was a game of militaristic strategy, I think there is probably an element of nuance in Strategema for which Data's brain (programmed as it was by a human being) cannot account, at least not at this stage of his development. Devising his ultimate strategy of stalemate (or draw, or whatever we want to call it), was in fact a step in his evolving the capacity for such improvisation. Is it a perfect analogy? Hell no, but I think we can accept what they were going for here without getting our panties in a twist over how a fictional game works. Troi beating Data at chess, on the other hand, is fucking ridiculous.

@Andrew :

"Data correctly did not consider that he won the game because he forced a stalemate. Where stems the perplexing celebration that their relative 'victory' was by forcing a draw when Data, barring malfunction, should wipe the floor. "

The victory was in deflating Droopy's ego, thus showing that he was wrong in his assumption that he could *beat* Data. True, Data winning because of his technological wizardry would have accomplished the same thing, but it wouldn't have required Data to think outside the box, thus adding definition to his character.
Andrew - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 3:43pm (USA Central)
The general context you accept states that a stalemate is characterized by when "Neither side can gain an advantage or win." Data claims specifically that he did not win, but that it was a stalemate. A state in which neither side can win, which means effectively a draw (or surely you would accept by its very definition a "lack of a win"), even in a broader cultural context. The deadlocked nature of stalemate implies no fruitful moves, i.e. no purpose to continued conflict.

The parallels to chess are intentional, as here where neither side has become capable of winning. The game is considered to end at this point, when there are no fruitful moves remaining. The statements from both Kolrami and Data indicate this recognition that the game ended as a stalemate (Kolrami says it's no longer a game, Data disagrees with Riker when he says he won, clarifing that it was a stalemate). Each recognize that ending a game isn't tantamount to losing if there is no other way for either side to resolve the game. Consequently, Kolrami did not lose and Data avowedly did not win, rather it's implied that he pulled off an upset by achieving a draw.

Again, see all points above as to why this should not be considered an upset and it's ridiculous that Data can't win. Yes, 100% of the time, barring his malfunctioning or Kolrami being unimaginably brighter than portrayed. The advantages identified are decisive and categorical.

Finally, again: possible that Strategema could not accept input speeds any faster than Kolrami can both react and calculate the best move, but utterly ridiculous that this would be the case. It would be baffling as to why they would use such equipment for this purpose when they have a lack of any technological or financial constraint.


Also, there's definitely been far too much discussion about this. If I can't convince you of what I'm saying, then one or both of us has got problems.
Robert - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 4:00pm (USA Central)
"Troi beating Data at chess, on the other hand, is fucking ridiculous."

LOL
Robert - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 4:03pm (USA Central)
I do agree with most of what you're saying... but Data was surprised when Kolrami quit. Therefore quitting was not the expected action. This is the point we disagree on it seems (you seem to think Data expected to play to a point in which they could agree they had stalemated... but if that was the case... why the surprise?)

I do agree that it is does not seem that I will be able to convince you that Strategema does not tie in a stalemate.
Andrew - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 4:05pm (USA Central)
ESPECIALLY since all the characters agreed that it did.
Robert - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 4:06pm (USA Central)
@Elliott - I like your interpretation of Data's arc here and how it parallels Riker quite a bit. I also agree that they left the details of the game vague because it's east to fankwank a game that Data could lose at... whereas when we take one we know he shouldn't (like chess) it's just appalling. Apparently in addition to outranking the ship's second officer Troi is also a chess grandmaster capable of destroying a sentient computer :P
Robert - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 4:08pm (USA Central)
"ESPECIALLY since all the characters agreed that it did. "

They agreed that the game ended in a stalemate because it was deadlocked at the moment of one of the players quitting. That does NOT mean that the game ever would have stopped on it's own and declared stalemate. I actually am starting to think you understand what I'm saying and are just trolling me... but I'm not sure. Elliott? Anybody? Thoughts?
Andrew - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 4:43pm (USA Central)
There's no such thing as "ending on it's own" in this scenario, that's why a stalemate is called. When a game reaches the point where neither play can defeat the other, it is considered a stalemate and the game is over (and a draw, again see definition of stalemate: neither side wins). In such scenarios, stalemate does not preclude being able to move additional pieces, rather it is precisely because you could ENDLESSLY move pieces with no resolution. This is the exact scenario in Peak Performance.

But even if you don't how understand HOW a stalemate is reached, simply understanding the meaning of stalemate and the fact that the characters acknowledge the game ended in stalemate is sufficient (and by Data, not a win "No sir," he says") to see that the game ended in a draw and not a win by Data.

Please beef up your vocabulary.
Peremensoe - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 5:27pm (USA Central)
There are plenty of games (including chess) in which a draw is a *formal condition*, requiring the expiration of time, a given state on the playing field, or a defined series of moves. This is not the same as one player simply quitting. There is no evidence that Strategema can have such a formal no-win ending--and you'd think that this longest game ever would have found such a condition along the way if there was one! That said, the fact that one player quits does not necessarily mean that no win was *ever possible* from the state the game was left in. In this context, it just means that Kolrami has had enough. When he leaves, he seems at least as frustrated by Data personally as by the game. I think the most accurate way to describe what happened is that Data confounded Kolrami's *cultural expectations* of what a Strategema contest should be. Nobody else has ever had the inclination, the playing ability, *and* the patience to do what Data did.

I think Robert is correct about the speed factor. There must be something inherent in the game that makes absolute speed useless after a certain point. For example, maybe certain of each player's moves have to correspond to certain of the opponent's--but the opportunity to make any move at all can close (according to other factors of the game state) if you're not quick. In such an arrangement it would be to each player's advantage to play as fast as he could, but the game as a whole still couldn't go faster than its slower side.
Peremensoe - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 5:40pm (USA Central)
I must add, it's pointless to say Data SHOULD always win a game that we know so little about. We don't even know whether it is a game of perfect information or not. Nobody argues that Data really ought to be winning every hand of poker, right?
Dave in NC - Thu, Sep 11, 2014 - 5:47pm (USA Central)
Why is this even up for debate? :)

Data may have played with a different strategy the second time around, but at the end of the game it was Pig Face who clearly forfeited when he took off his gloves and stormed off.

It's no different than when Kasparov played Deep Blue.
Andrew - Fri, Sep 12, 2014 - 12:12am (USA Central)
Dave, I agree. I have no idea how this is up for debate. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this, but Data tells us whether he won or not:

Riker: "Data, you beat him."
Data: "No sir, it is a stalemate."
Andrew - Fri, Sep 12, 2014 - 12:17am (USA Central)
Also, I'm officially done with this thread. If the above is not clear-cut enough for you, then I retract all the statements I made about TNG insulting the intelligence of its viewership.
Peremensoe - Fri, Sep 12, 2014 - 7:18am (USA Central)
Andrew, I don't think Dave is agreeing with you. If Kolrami has "forfeited," he *has* lost. That's what abandoning the field usually means in Earth games, though we don't really know the cultural context that Kolrami sees. He may consider the whole game a non-event, given Data's "mockery"--IOW, there could be different perspectives on which side has refused to engage.

Yes, Data calls it a "stalemate," because that was the condition of the game at the time; neither player had met, or was approaching, the formal condition for winning (whatever that might be). This is just Data being modest and precise as always.
Robert - Fri, Sep 12, 2014 - 9:22am (USA Central)
"Yes, Data calls it a "stalemate," because that was the condition of the game at the time; neither player had met, or was approaching, the formal condition for winning (whatever that might be). This is just Data being modest and precise as always. "

@Peremensoe - Agreed. Andrew is hung up on definition of stalemate in chess... where a game is a draw due to both people deciding the game cannot continue. I just don't see that to be the case here. Data could continue forever in theory, Kolrami cannot. I have to assume (in absence of anything else) that it was the plan. In this case Data meant stalemate as a synonym for deadlock. The state of the game when Kolrami quit. As you said, he was being modest and precise.

I'm happy (if there is anything left to say... which I doubt) to continue to talk to anybody else about this episode, but I'm done talking to Andrew at the very least.

In his universe words have only one clear cut definition "Please beef up your vocabulary" and Data could only have possibly meant one thing by stalemate (even though they hardly agreed to quit due to deadlock, I keep pointing to Data being surprised that Kolrami quit and Andrew keeps ignoring that).

And then when you don't agree with the particular definition he has selected for a word to mean he becomes belligerent, angry and insulting.

"I retract all the statements I made about TNG insulting the intelligence of its viewership"

"If I can't convince you of what I'm saying, then one or both of us has got problems."

This is usually a friendly board, so at this point, having said this next thing as my last comment towards Andrew I will refrain from posting to his comments.

It's totally cool if Strategema in your head is a game that Data can't lose and if everyone in the 24th century understands stalemate to mean tie, but it's also totally cool if I think stalemate meant the game wasn't going anywhere (deadlock), that Data was being modest and precise (good wording) when he said he didn't win (because he did not actually end the game in a victory... yeT), and that there could be reasons why Data could "make no mistakes and still lose" a game that we know nothing about. We are not, as Elliott pointed out, in Troi vs Data at chess levels of WTF here. It's fine if you just can't believe that the loss was possible or that Data had a plan for victory (which I believe he did), but there is certainly room for another interpretation of events. Chill out.
Andy's Friend - Sun, Sep 14, 2014 - 4:56pm (USA Central)
@Andrew: you are utterly wrong, yet presume to lecture others. Allow me, just that you may appreciate the irony of your mistake, to quote in extenso your comment of 11 September 2014, ‏‎23:43:05:

“There's no such thing as "ending on it's own" in this scenario, that's why a stalemate is called. When a game reaches the point where neither play can defeat the other, it is considered a stalemate and the game is over (and a draw, again see definition of stalemate: neither side wins). In such scenarios, stalemate does not preclude being able to move additional pieces, rather it is precisely because you could ENDLESSLY move pieces with no resolution. This is the exact scenario in Peak Performance.

But even if you don't how understand HOW a stalemate is reached, simply understanding the meaning of stalemate and the fact that the characters acknowledge the game ended in stalemate is sufficient (and by Data, not a win "No sir," he says") to see that the game ended in a draw and not a win by Data.

Please beef up your vocabulary.”

Well, why don’t we beef up our vocabulary, then, and find out what a stalemate actually is?

“STALEMATE is a situation in the game of chess where the player whose turn it is to move is not in check but has no legal move. The rules of chess provide that when stalemate occurs, the game ends as a DRAW.“

And what exactly is a draw then in chess?

“In chess, a DRAW is the result of a game ending in a TIE. Usually, in tournaments a draw is worth a half point to each player, while a win is worth one point to the victor and none to the loser.
For the most part, a draw occurs when it appears that neither side will win. Draws are codified by various rules of chess including STALEMATE (when the player to move has no legal move and is not in check), THREEFOLD REPETITION (when the same position occurs three times with the same player to move), and the FIFTY-MOVE rule (when the last fifty successive moves made by both players contain no capture or pawn move). A draw also occurs when neither player has sufficient material to checkmate the opponent or when no sequence of legal moves can lead to checkmate.”

What was it again you wrote, Andrew?

”[...] stalemate does not preclude being able to move additional pieces, rather it is precisely because you could ENDLESSLY move pieces with no resolution. This is the exact scenario in Peak Performance.”

Yes, this is the exact scenario in Peak Performance: they could endlessly move pieces with no resolution.

And no, as we have just seen, that is NOT a stalemate by any chess definition. In a stalemate, one of the sides has no legal move. Robert was thus right about Data's use of the word "stalemate", and you, Andrew, were wrong.

So to quote you again, "But even if you don't how understand HOW a stalemate is reached, simply understanding the meaning of stalemate" should now have settled the matter.

Need I remind you of your last sentence in the comment I quoted?
Elliott - Sun, Sep 14, 2014 - 5:54pm (USA Central)
@Andy's Friend :

I think you meant to end with "And you, sir, can suck on that."
Dave in NC - Sun, Sep 14, 2014 - 8:29pm (USA Central)
I, for one, appreciate the chess refresher.

Queen to Rook 4.
Robert - Mon, Sep 15, 2014 - 8:43am (USA Central)
@Andy's Friend

Well done sir, and rather ironic given your name!
William - Tue, Sep 30, 2014 - 9:29pm (USA Central)
Oh Dear Lord!

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