Jammer's Review

Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Most Toys"

***

Air date: 5/7/1990
Written by Shari Goodhartz
Directed by Tim Bond

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

In a hasty negotiation reached with a merchant, the Enterprise acquires a rare chemical substance needed to treat a contaminated water supply on a nearby colony. Data is transporting the substance via shuttlecraft when his shuttle suddenly explodes, resulting in his apparent death to the Enterprise crew. In reality, he has been kidnapped by the crew of the merchant ship. The merchant, Fajo (Saul Rubinek), is the owner of an impressive collection of some of the galaxy's rarest items (most of them stolen), and he intends Data to become the crown jewel of that collection. Fajo even has a chair that he expects Data to sit in when he shows Data off to his peers.

This is a simple plot, no doubt about it. What makes it come alive is the characters' dialog and behavior. Fajo initially seems like a character that hints at a comic performance, but as the episode continues and reveals the depths of Fajo's immorality, you realize there's nothing comic about the character or the way Saul Rubinek plays him. This is a man with a boundless ego, used to getting what he wants, and with no scruples whatsoever. He wants Data to obey, and when Data does not, it quietly becomes a war of wills with escalating consequences.

What I find most enjoyable about this episode is how Data's war is a war of manners. Data is just so damned polite, even when confronted by a smug egomaniac like Fajo. Data's response to being kidnapped is to ask straightforward, sincere questions. When Fajo makes the terms of Data's custody clear, Data's response is to explain in straightforward, honest terms why Fajo's plan is immoral and why he won't cooperate. Because he's incapable of anger, Data's resistance is usually passive, calm, and logical. (Imagine Riker or Worf in this situation and you see the uniqueness of Data's approach.) In a way, Data's rock-solid logic and unflappable temperament almost makes it more maddening for Fajo. Fajo can't anger Data, but that makes it no easier for Fajo to control him. It becomes a stalemate. The episode's wild card is Varria (Jane Daly), a woman who has been gradually Stockholm syndromed into Fajo's clutches (she helped kidnap Data), but clearly does not like where she is. Data represents a possible new opportunity for her escape.

The final act, in which Fajo kills Varria for betraying him, is a somewhat shocking turn of events. Data's response poses one of those intriguing questions that the story asks the audience to decide for themselves: Did Data intend to shoot and kill Fajo before he was beamed out? I believe he did, simply because the logic of the situation would permit him to take deadly action, and, in Data's words, he "cannot allow this to continue." But then why would Data lie about having pulled the trigger?

Previous episode: Hollow Pursuits
Next episode: Sarek

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23 comments on this review

David - Fri, Apr 1, 2011 - 11:40pm (USA Central)
I agree, S3 was the turnaround season for STTNG. One comment about "The Most Toys." I was disappointed that Data lied about discharging the phaser. It would have been more in line with Data's character if upon Riker's comment that the disrupter was in a state of discharge at the moment of transport, Data, after tilting his head like only Data would, look Riker straight in the eyes and said. "Yes, Commander, it was," and then walk away leaving Riker to wonder what kind of hell had Data lived through. But still I loved the final scene as Data leaves a defeated Fajo alone in his cell to suffer a worse yet just fate than he had planned for Data.

Oh, but the most chilling moment of S3 or perhaps all of Star Trek was in "The Survivors," as Kevin Oxbridge looked up with empty, haunted and sullen eyes and said, "I killed them all...all the Husnock, everywhere..." Oooow, my blood runs cold.
Param - Sat, Dec 1, 2012 - 12:37am (USA Central)
I think Data lied because of his proximity to being around a character like Fajo. Clearly the way he manipulated and used people like Varria, and indeed the way she in turn learned (to a lesser degree) to lie and manipulate (like when she tried to escape) suggest that in dealing with a person who makes decisions based upon an absolute disregard for morality, some of it is bound to rub off on you (or in this case Data.) He had to do a dirty thing to deal with a dirty guy. His lie was an evidence of how being around Fajo had fundamentally changed him.
T'Paul - Thu, May 30, 2013 - 1:30pm (USA Central)
I don't know, I have a different interpretation... I think he was having Riker on, just as earlier in the episode the others had mentioned how Riker always teased Data
William B - Thu, Jun 13, 2013 - 6:58am (USA Central)
Re: Data's possible "lie," (and I want to note that Data doesn't actually lie -- he merely says "perhaps something occurred during transport," which is indeed 'possible' but dodges Riker's question rather than answering it) I mostly agree with Param. What I think is wonderful about the episode is that it is carefully designed to create a dilemma which Data's programming cannot resolve, in order to test the limits of what it means for Data to be an android. And in particular, Fajo forces Data to measure Data's own desire for freedom, his respect for the lives of Varria and Fajo's other servants and inclinations to protect them from Fajo, and his inability to kill Fajo himself. In that sense, this episode is not just in conversation with "The Measure of a Man" and other Data-centric episodes, but also things like "The Survivors" about the limits of pacifism and nonviolent resistance.

What Fajo does to Data is to box Data in as an android and an object. In order to escape, all Data has to do is kill Fajo -- which requires him to go against one of the fundamentals of his programming. Data absolutely was about to kill Fajo -- I don't see any other way that the episode could have gone. It is perhaps possible that Data could have been planning on threatening Fajo until Fajo agreed to let him go, but Fajo has made it fairly clear that is not how he operates, and more to the point Data gives Fajo no real space with which to plea for his life. Once Data has made up his mind, too, there is no reason he will change it, because Data would only change his mind on a topic once he's made it up if new information has come in.

Once he has killed Fajo or attempted to kill him, though, Data can never be the same. And while Data wants to be human, he does not want those aspects of humanity (or humanoid-anity, I suppose) which are associated with Fajo -- willingness to kill. I think Data lies to Riker because he is unwilling to let his crew know how close to one of his central tenets Data came to violating, and that this would fundamentally change how they view him and perhaps as a result how he views himself. But it's hard to know, and despite his unlimited processing speed I am not sure Data would know either exactly why.

Data's visit to Fajo continues this ambiguity -- Fajo dominates the conversation. It's Fajo who points out that the tables have turned, and Data non-committally replies, "So it would seem." After Data informs Fajo that he's lost everything he cares about, Fajo accuses Data of feeling pleasure at Fajo's misfortune. Data replies, "No sir, it does not. I do not feel pleasure. I am only an android." And there's the key. From Fajo's perspective, Data's announcing "I am only an android" makes it impossible even for Fajo to be able to accuse Data of gloating, which would at least somewhat give Fajo some sense of moral victory -- aha! Data has moral failings too! -- but Data announces his android-ness, indeed his being an object, at him, reflecting back to Fajo basically the way Fajo treated him. Fajo identified Data as an object, and since he identified Data as an object he cannot rightly expect Data to gain pleasure from his misfortune -- which means that Fajo is in some senses even more alone. In its way, Data announcing that he is only an android, reestablishing himself as an object, is his way of gaining victory over Fajo.

The question then is -- is it really the case that Data is only an android, as he says, or did he come, at least on some level, to gloat? We are reminded that Data continued missing Tasha after her death when the holo-image of her is shown among his possessions. Varria's death had some impact on him, and of course was the trigger that got Data to being willing to kill Fajo. Data went down to be the one to tell Fajo that he has lost everything he values for *some* reason. If not a need for something like revenge, in some minor form, than what? Justice? Closure? Does Data know? (For the record, we get a very nice preview of this episode ending earlier on, when Data's passive resistance to Fajo at one point takes the form of pretending to be an inanimate object.)

At any rate, his encounter with Fajo is important for Data because it shows that he is capable of defying something essential to his programming in a way that does not reflect well on him -- killing is not something Data had wanted to do, and is not an aspect of human(oid)anity he wants to admire. Normally, he longs for those traits. And so Data bounces between being a fully sentient being, who is responsible for his actions and has the rights and responsibilities associated with freedom, and being a purely mechanical android, who is nothing but his programming and who can legitimately be treated as an object. Normally, Data always, when he can, rejects the label of being "only" an android, unless it is as a way of indicating that he is not what he wants to be (i.e., human). But in this episode, he discovers something in his sentient, more human side, which can defy his/its programming, which he does not like, and it becomes important to reestablish that he is only an android, to Fajo, who was the one whose evil, vile actions brought out this side of Data that Data himself does not wish to see. It's very interesting and very complex.

This episode is so rich that I'm tempted to go to 4 stars, but I'll probably settle for 3.5 -- it is a simple plot, and in many ways the entire episode exists only to set up the last few minutes -- where Data decides to kill Fajo, then lies-by-omission about it and goes to gloat-only-not-gloat to Fajo in his cell. But the episode is necessary the way it is -- we need the slow setup to show that Data has exhausted every means to his disposal to resist Fajo before he can convincingly come to the conclusion that the only resolution to the situation is to kill him ("this cannot continue").
SFKeepay - Tue, Nov 26, 2013 - 10:26pm (USA Central)
I've long felt this episode easily fall within the top 20 TNG episodes. The rather sloppy details of Fajo's manufactured "crisis" struck me as implausibe, as anyone so skilled at theft and so ruthless in behavior likely would have marshalled a less transparent ruse. That said, I did enjoy how quickly the crew "put it all together" on hearing that Fajo was a collector of the rare and unique - these are highly intelligent and capable individuals and the episode remembers this and depicts them accordingly. I also valued Geordi's single-minded and grief-fueled urgency to understand what had apparently claimed the life of someone he loved (gasp, yes, obviously Geordi loves Data, who is, after all, his best friend).

Yet, for me, it was Saul Rubinek and Brent Spiner who define the episode. Spiner had by this episode created a fully nuanced Data; the episode fully, and brilliantly exploits this as we walk with the character as he is confronted by circumstances utterly novel to him, and by an opponent we gradually learn to be as vile as they come. Yet even as Spiner (almost) never cheats in the entire episode in his careful portrayal of a mechanical existence, he nevertheless memorably conveys the growing weight Data "feels" as the stakes are driven ever higher.

Certainly, though, none of this would have worked without the singular performance of Rubinek. It would have been so easy, it seems to me, to miss the mark with this character, to make him too much a clown or reveal his actual level of menace too soon. Rubinek allow the blood to drain from us slowly; he takes us for a bit of a ride with his first act. We are met with this unimpressive, fopish man full of enthusiasm and child-like delight at his latest acquisition. Yet like Spiner, Rubinek never cheats, and Fajo, a reprehensible psychopath, is "all there" from the first moment. I would go as far as to say that Rubinek creates what could have been among the greatest Trek villians, if only Fajo's ambitions had reached above the petty. Yet of course this level of unmittigated selfishness is what makes his so familiar, so convincing, and ultimatley, so chilling.
DataLore - Wed, Dec 4, 2013 - 4:15am (USA Central)
One of my favourite episodes, but also one of the scarier ones because of Data's attempted kill-shot; it is clearly stated that the disruptor (disruptor is NOT spelled dis-rup-ter, ffs and btw) was "in the state of discharge", meaning Data 100% definetly, certainly and with out any doubt whatsoever fired the weapon, intent to kill Fajo. What makes it even scarier is that Data seems to have hidden a subroutine for lying or denial, since he is all like "Discharge? Must've been a transporter thing *shrugs*". That sneak! I'd rate it 4/4 Stars, but there are other Ep.'s that would easily deserve negative Stars, and other very good ones deserve 1000/4 stars.
Susan - Mon, Dec 30, 2013 - 11:23am (USA Central)
Data didn't lie about pulling the trigger. Riker didn't say "Did you fire the weapon?" and Data didn't reply "No" it wasn't like that, Data didn't lie!

Riker says "Mr Obrian says the weapon was in a state of discharge" to which Data replies "Perhaps something occurred during transport Commander." and something DID occur during transport, Mr Obrian turned the thing off, so Data was NOT lying. Why doesn't anyone seem to GET that??
William B - Mon, Dec 30, 2013 - 11:29am (USA Central)
@Susan, well, I said "Re: Data's possible "lie," (and I want to note that Data doesn't actually lie -- he merely says "perhaps something occurred during transport," which is indeed 'possible' but dodges Riker's question rather than answering it)" :). I agree that Data doesn't lie, but he certainly doesn't volunteer "oh yeah, I definitely shot at Fajo," which itself is interesting.
Susan - Mon, Dec 30, 2013 - 11:52am (USA Central)
@William, but Riker didn't ask Data anything. It wasn't a question. He stated a fact. He states "Mr Obrian says the weapon was in a state of discharge" with the unspoken question being "why?" or "did you shoot it?", Data replied to the statement, not the unspoken question. If Riker had actually asked the unspoken question Data would have given a forthright answer. So, wow, I guess Riker actually gave Data an 'out' by merely stating the facts before him instead of flat out asking him, I just thought about that.

People are going to be debating this forever, but it kills me when they say Data lied, because his program and his charecter won't allow him to lie. Ok so yes he did 'dodge' the unspoken question, but he answered the statement truthfully.
MidshipmanNorris - Sat, Mar 15, 2014 - 11:22pm (USA Central)
Listen...Data is perfectly capable of lying, and killing. He says straight up to Fajo near the beginning, "I *am* programmed with the ability to use deadly force."

This episode is about how very much any opponent is likely to underestimate Data based on the fact that he is a machine. It's a testament to how well Dr. Soong programmed Data, and how terribly powerful an asset Data is to the Enterprise.

He is capable of being dishonest; he gets caught by Varria trying to open the lock on the disruptor cabinet. Just because he says so many truthful things in the episode does not mean that he is incapable of lying. If Fajo had asked him what the shield resonance frequency of the Enterprise was, Data would be ok with not telling him the real frequency.

The difference between robots and a sentient being is this capability of lying and killing. The negative aspects of humanity are just as much a part of who and what we are as the positive, lapling-loving, truth-telling, just, upright things.

Data shows, at the end of the episode, one step forward in his development; he is not afraid to cause his opponent extreme suffering in the cause of justice. It's stated that the Veron-T disruptor is a "very painful death." This, in particular, is what violates Data's ethical programming, but the fact is, he is able to somehow get around his programming and decide that when life hands you lemons, you vaporize those lemons with a Veron-T disruptor.

Of course, the episode would have been far too creepy and a lot more "second-season-ish" if Data had, in fact, killed Fajo with the disruptor, so I can understand the reasoning behind the way they chose to end. Data stating bald-facedly to Commander Riker that "something occurred during transport" is just the icing on the cake. By this time in the episode, we know that Data is just plain not to be toyed with.

I liked this one a lot. Creepy!
Tom - Fri, Apr 11, 2014 - 1:42am (USA Central)
This was a great episode. I agree with those who rank it among the best, it's one of my favorites so far. Great acting by Data and Fajo.

The whole episode was very dystopian by Star Trek standards. We see the Enterprise being fooled completely, at first anyway, and one of the most "innocent" characters on the show left at the mercy of a maniac. Data's resistance to Fajo was very brave and clever.

The ending reminded me a bit of DS9's in the Pale Moonlight. Data has seen a horrible side of humanity. He's willing to compromise on his absolute ethical principles in order to achieve a greater good. He's not going to let himself and others be abused by Fajo even if that means killing in what is not strictly self-defence.

Data's lie, or his omission of the truth, is a sign of character growth and a hint at the greater complexity of his character. At the beginning of the show, he's shown adhering religiously to protocol. He's not cutting any corners like a human might do. At the end, he's a lot less innocent. He tells a half-lie to avoid an inquiry into his decision to fire upon Fajo. It seems as if he's learned to compromise and lie for convenience. His encounter with human depravity has left him a little less pure.

Jack O - Wed, Sep 3, 2014 - 2:57pm (USA Central)
Great acting by the guy who played Kivas Fajo.
Rikko - Sun, Nov 2, 2014 - 3:34pm (USA Central)
I'm just going to say that Fajo got on my nerves. I couldn't stand what he did to Data.

Which is a sign of a good actor, I guess, since that was the point. He was obnoxious and dangerous.

todayshorse - Sat, Jan 10, 2015 - 9:34am (USA Central)
I rather like this episode. Saw it again last nite, unlike some its re-watchable, Fajo is well acted, like others said he is totally obnoxious and you just want Data to punch him in the face! I do like the bit where Data falls over like an object rather than how we would. Im liking season 3 very much :)
DLPB - Sat, Jan 10, 2015 - 11:26am (USA Central)
The only thing I don't really like here is that Data didn't kill him and the writers kinda chickened out of it. Other than that, this was a nice story and some very good development to Data's character.
CPUFP - Tue, Jan 20, 2015 - 10:26am (USA Central)
DLPB:

"The only thing I don't really like here is that Data didn't kill him and the writers kinda chickened out of it."

Data was obviously ready to kill Fajo. That he didn't do it was not out of his own choice, but only because of external circumstances. It would have been suitable if they had at least addressed this at the end of the episode, maybe by having him talk about it during his conversation with the jailed Fajo.

Also, it doesn't really make sense why he shouldn't be allowed to kill anyone. Is he really bound to Asimov's laws of robotics? It's never been mentioned, and his often shown free will would point to the contrary. And he's considered (and was created by Soong as) a full person and not a servant as Asimov's robots often are. Last but not least, in his position as a Starfleet officer, Data often was on away team missions or in command situations where he could have had to kill sentient beings in order to protect his own existence or those of others. No word about not killing on principle there... So the supposed conflict that this episode creates is really not consistent with the full image we are presented of Data during the series' run.
William B - Tue, Jan 20, 2015 - 1:08pm (USA Central)
@CPUFP:

The episode does have Data mention that he can kill in self-defense: "DATA: No, but I am programmed with the ability to use deadly force in the cause of defense." I think the issue is that Data's default position is to choose his own *captivity* over killing his captor. Captivity, not life. If Data plays along with Fajo's games, no one gets hurt -- Data has an option, not a good option but an option, in which people don't get killed. This is even true after Fajo has killed Varria -- killing Fajo would mean Data's freedom, and the freedom of those in Fajo's "employ," but it will not bring Varria back, and the option of Data continuing to be a prisoner is the one in which the most number of lives are saved. If Fajo were in the process of being about to fire on Varria and Data fired then (which he couldn't) then it would be in self-defense. But Fajo is not aiming a disruptor at anyone at that moment. It may seem like splitting hairs given that Fajo was saying he would murder in the future...but I definitely can see why the difference would be hard for Data to process. It's notable that Data didn't have an opportunity to use force on Fajo at the beginning (because of the force field).
45 RPM - Tue, Mar 24, 2015 - 7:02am (USA Central)
I always wondered what would have occurred had Fajo found Lore instead of Data. I believe Lore was floating out in space at this time.
Kahryl - Thu, Mar 26, 2015 - 10:10pm (USA Central)
I'm pretty sure Lore would have had that display room in smoking ruins inside about 10 seconds.
Luke - Wed, Jun 10, 2015 - 8:20pm (USA Central)
This has always been, and continues to be, one of my all-time favorite episodes of TNG. Data goes through more character growth and development in just this one episode then in arguably the entire rest of the series and movies. The fact that he was willing to kill Fajo in order to put an end to his brutality and immorality shows that he is capable of making the leap beyond simple, cold logic. The fact that he is then willing to straight-up lie to Riker's face about what happened shows that he quite possibly feels ashamed of what he was forced to do and doesn't want it known.

Add to this the absolutely outstanding performance by Saul Rubinek and we have a classic episode. Fajo is one the most memorable one-shot guest characters in TNG, and possibly the whole franchise. To think that he was a last minute replacement for the role only makes the performance more delightful and stunning.

The only problem "The Most Toys" has is the complete lack of any mention about Lore. Fajo goes on and on about how his collection is filled with items that are "one of a kind" and how Data is that unique. Except, Data isn't that unique; he isn't a one of a kind. There is another sapient, Soong-type android out there. And given that Lore is possibly still floating in space at this time, you would think it would have been easier for Fajo to capture him instead of going through all the trouble of kidnapping Data.

9/10
Riker's Beard - Fri, Jul 24, 2015 - 3:02pm (USA Central)
This is a great episode - 4/4 for me!

Just a couple of observations. I think it is logical for Data to kill Fajo because he is programmed to protect innocent life. At the time it was still a possibilty that he was 'pressumed dead' so this was his best possible opportunity to take action against the direct threat that Fajo had made regarding his willingness to kill his crew members at any point in the future. Data must know that this would probably have happened in the past and would happen in the future if he is not rescued by The Enterprise. Killing Fajo was the only other logical action to take to protect Fajo's crew. He had witnessed him murder someone that supposedly 'meant' something to him, he was bound to kill others.

Another thing - where was Troi at the beginning?! She wasn't even there until well after the crew had started to come to terms with Datas destruction. If she was on the bridge at the start (as Data actually says she usually is in this very episode!) then she would have sensed the deception in Fago immediately. She's not around even when the other crew members are clearly emotional about losing Data and only appears later to talk to Worf's about his promotion. Was her absence explained at some point and I missed it? If not then just what the hell is the point in her character? I guess the only explaination is the plot only works if she's not there at first but why not throw a line in there somewhere to excuse her absence?
MidshipmanNorris - Fri, Jul 24, 2015 - 6:32pm (USA Central)
The absence of Deanna's telepathy (or what have you) is a conceit many episodes have. It's like the Prime Directive: it's cool on paper but when you get into the nuts and bolts of telling the story in a 45 minute TV episode it just messes up the pacing.

I'm willing to allow the conceits this episode has, including the other one stated about how the Fajo's deception is a little thin and easily dismissed, and the conceit of "Why not Lore instead," too.

The situational potential for good acting is worth it. There's a real menace to the episode, as the layers of sanity and redeeming qualities of Fajo peel away, and Data's perceived weakness in Fajo's eyes (that he is a machine and incapable of emotion) turns out to be not such a weakness as Fajo thought.

The way the exchange between Riker and Data plays out is slyly written. Riker says "Mr. O'Brien said the weapon was in a state of discharge." Data has the perfect mathematician's answer lined up: "Perhaps something occurred during transport, Sir." (Data's not lying: the thing that occurred was that he tried to kill Fajo.)

The final scene between the two, with Fajo in the Enterprise brig, is one of Sci-Fi's defining moments on TV. Gives me goose bumps just thinking about it.
Grumpy - Fri, Jul 24, 2015 - 9:57pm (USA Central)
Now I can't help thinking that "The Wrath of Fajo" would've been a better premise for a movie than, say, "Insurrection."

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