Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Data's Day"

***

Air date: 1/7/1991
Teleplay by Harold Apter and Ronald D. Moore
Story by Harold Apter
Directed by Robert Wiemer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

In what proves to be a nice little device, "Data's Day" employs the conceit of Data writing a letter to Bruce Maddox (the guy who put Data's rights on trial in "The Measure of a Man") in order to supply us a first-person narration and a "day in the life" approach to observing everyone's favorite android. Data does not sleep, so the episode appropriately begins not with him waking up, but with him running the bridge's night shift just before everyone else clocks in.

The story's approach is structurally refreshing — and because it involves Data's bafflement over human emotions, it has an amusing whimsy. Sure, we've seen most of this before, but this time we get to experience more of it from Data's point of view. The story thrusts him into the middle of the upcoming wedding of Keiko and Miles O'Brien, and when Keiko has cold feet, she unwisely uses Data as the conduit for communicating this information to Miles. Unaware of the emotional fallout of a wedding being called off, Data delivers the message to Miles as if it's good news. Not a hilarious joke, but a whimsically effective one. Data's bafflement is offset by those, like Geordi, who take human nature for granted; Geordi assures Data that the wedding, inevitably, will go forward.

Worth the price of admission is a scene where Crusher teaches Data how to tap dance, which reveals the disparity between his technical abilities and his social understanding. He can match step for step the most complicated tap-dancing moves, but is at a loss as to where to look and when to smile while slow-dancing.

Amid the lighter elements is a mysterious plot involving Vulcan Ambassador T'Pel (Sierra Pecheur) and a rendezvous with a Romulan warbird onto which she is to beam for negotiations. When T'Pel is apparently killed in a transporter accident, it's Data's natural ability for logic that is able to discover that she was not, and that she's actually a Romulan spy returning home with information. (The ensuing standoff, for once, ends with the Enterprise retreating with empty hands.) While this more meaty plot seems at odds with the story's lighter tone, in the context of Data's observations and narration, it works. "Data's Day" is not groundbreaking, but it is pleasant.

Previous episode: The Loss
Next episode: The Wounded

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26 comments on this review

Chris
Fri, Mar 7, 2008, 2:32pm (UTC -5)
The end of "Data's Day" was another example of why I loved the Romulan arc. The showdowns were incredible, and in this case the Enterprise actually retreated due to being outnumbered.

It was a constant chess game between the two sides, with each trading the advantage (in "The Defector", there was the fantastic showdown, with Tomalak's chilling description of how we would display the Enterprise's broken hull in the Romulan Senate, only for him to be surrounded on all sides by Klingon Birds of Prey).

The episode also contained a classic line from Data:
"My hair does not require trimming, you lunkhead"
Jay
Fri, Jun 15, 2012, 6:26pm (UTC -5)
A nice change of pace episode, but it was quite a stretch that when Data asked Beverly to teach him to dance, that she would assume tap dancing of all things (especially since she is well aware that the O'Brien wedding is impending). Clearly it was wrriten as an excuse for Gates and Brent to show off.
Wiliam
Wed, Aug 29, 2012, 11:13pm (UTC -5)
I love Data's Day and the theme of learning, growing, exploring.

I think this is a great introductory episode to the world of Trek to a novice, too.
Krog
Tue, Nov 6, 2012, 1:15am (UTC -5)
Along with war, disease, and poverty, I hope by the 24th century we will have also eliminated tap dancing.
PeteTongLaw
Sun, Mar 24, 2013, 10:40am (UTC -5)
It's interesting to compare these kind of simple yet very compelling TNG stories to Voyager episodes. Here we have tiny references to past episodes that only diehard fans would care for and casual viewers would not notice (e.g. Bruce Maddox) - it doesn't necessarily matter to the plot but it's a nice way to reward loyal viewers. Also, it lays the groundwork for Drumhead. TNG was great for allowing arcs to build without doing serialization. You can enjoy each one individually without seeing the others but if you watch them all they weave together quite nicely. Finally, we have the interaction between the main characters and the re-occurring ones (e.g. O'Brien's). TPTB for Voyager seem to think this doesn't work and chose to eliminate references to previous stories even where such omissions were actually to the point of distraction; rarely allowed for story arcs (particularly after Season 2) and for an odd reason had almost no re-occurring characters (again, particularly after Season 2). The lack of re-occurring characters is an issue because it really distracts from the realism of the show when everyone else on the ship is merely an extra who doesn't speak or interact with the 7 main characters. Obviously TNG had its fair share of extras mindlessly manning bridge and engineering consoles, but obviously there were the handful of other TNG crew (Ro, O'Brien, Ogawa, Barclay) who are not central to the plot but through their interaction with the main characters help to make the starship seem like an actual place where people live and work.
Will
Wed, Nov 6, 2013, 11:38am (UTC -5)
Data's grin during the final dancing scene alone gives this episode an extra star xD
Moonie
Mon, Nov 11, 2013, 6:06am (UTC -5)
I liked this episode though the last words in it made me think of Data's death in Nemesis and wish there could have been another way for him to become more "human" than to die for his friends. :-(
Chris
Tue, Dec 24, 2013, 12:19pm (UTC -5)
Four promotions is "an ordinary day"? That would have the entire ship getting promoted around once a year.
Kevin
Sun, Feb 16, 2014, 9:47pm (UTC -5)
"but it was quite a stretch that when Data asked Beverly to teach him to dance, that she would assume tap dancing of all things"

But, they explained that Jay, when she reacts surprised at his request, he informs her that he found she was a champion tap dancer. So naturally she assumed he wanted to learn to tap dance.
SkepticalMI
Thu, Mar 13, 2014, 5:56pm (UTC -5)
One thing that TNG writers loved to do was to try to make Data seem more human than he thinks he is. Basically, he will claim he can't access some part of humanity while everyone around him (and the viewers) believe otherwise. There were two instances of that in this episode, one of which works I think, and one that doesn't.

First, the one that doesn't. Riker orders him to do something or other at the science station regarding the Neutral Zone. Data's comments to Maddux mentions that it's a good thing he's not human, or else he would be distracted by uneasiness. Meanwhile, we see him looking back at Riker while nervously drumming his fingers. Huh? I can see Data unconsciously lying to himself, but that would be consciously lying. Surely he knows that he was not working for X number of seconds while he looked back? So why would he lie to Maddux? Even worse, why would he be drumming his fingers? There's no way that nervous tic would be built in to his programming; he must have added it himself. Which means he knows what he's doing, which means his protestations to the contrary are wrong. It simply is not a realistic interpretation of Data. I don't know if that was the director's idea or Spiner's or the writer's, but it should have been excised. The voiceover with Data actually working would have been fine.

Then later we have Data mentioning to Maddux that he wishes he had a "gut" in order to figure out what the Ambassador was doing by testing him. Now this one does work. There's no magic organ in the gut that gives you a gut feeling; it's our ability to form conclusions based on limited data and our willingness to believe in those conclusions. And those are abilities Data does have, or at least can have. He obviously formed the conclusion, at least hypothetical, that the ambassador had ulterior motives for those questions. And he has the ability to investigate that further. It is his own self-doubt that is stopping him (which we see in Peak Performance and Defector as two other examples). His desire for a gut feeling is understandable, but a typical self-doubting human also wishes they had a gut feling about stuff. So in this instance, he did no have sufficient cause to investigate further, and so he held back. But he still did have a "gut feeling" whether he knew it or not.

As for the story as a whole, it was very wel done. The three plots (Data's letter, the wedding, and the Romulan) were all pulled off well, providing both humor and drama as appropriate. And the format of the story allowed both the humor and the drama to be included without feeling like one cheapens the other. Overall, a very nice change of pace that provides for a very enjoyable hour.
213karaokejoe
Sat, May 24, 2014, 11:44am (UTC -5)
I don't look to TNG for these kinds of moments, but I see that no one is mentioning the overdone cleavage shot while Data is running things by counselor Troi. Sometimes I wonder if sometimes some camera man or director is trying to be funny.

I enjoyed this episode, not because of the cleavage shot. I did find it a little unbelievable that after all this time with humans Data would still think that announcing that the wedding was cancelled would cheer up Chief O'Brien. But I think that a serviceable 2 1/2 stars is warranted. Not ground-breaking, just enjoyable.
Charles
Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 2:44am (UTC -5)
Data's comment about the glass swan not reminding him of Worf had me laughing out loud.
Luke
Sun, Jul 5, 2015, 4:05pm (UTC -5)
Everybody always talks about how the episode "Lower Decks" is one of the best of TNG. I, respectfully, disagree. "Data's Day" is a much better example of such a story. In both stories, we're not given the entire picture of what's going on. However, unlike in the later episode, this one focuses on a character who is much more enjoyable to spend time with and who has already been developed enough to merit an entire episode from his point-of-view.

Add to that some rather enjoyable character development for O'Brien, the introduction of Keiko and Spot, excellent scenes that use the rest of the main cast and their personalities well and the rather shocking twist at the end (which leaves the good guys outclassed by the Romulans) and you have a wonderfully enjoyable episode.

It's not ground-breaking or classic by any means, but definitely a pleasant offering.

8/10
Honkhonk
Thu, Sep 3, 2015, 5:40pm (UTC -5)
This was just what I needed: a fun, light, well-acted episode with surprisingly smart and hilarious details. Nothing too serious or heavy-handed. After watching some earlier TNG I was relieved there was no stiffness and bad acting to be found here.
Diamond Dave
Sun, Sep 13, 2015, 10:53am (UTC -5)
Indeed a refreshing change of pace, a (for the most part) small scale look at a day in the life of the Enterprise through the eyes of Data. It takes an amusing and whimsical look at Data's efforts to understand human behaviour - the rictus grin he employs when told to smile is worth the price of admission alone. It's filled with insights into what is going on every day on the ship that we never really see - such as Riker's joke telling on the bridge.

However, the main sub-plot with the Romulans seems slightly superfluous, and was presumably added to give a lightweight episode some more gravitas. But while this is not entirely convincing, it does lead to a conclusion that Picard cannot resolve, which is rare enough.

With welcome introduction to Keiko (and indeed Spot), this is a little gem. 3 stars.

RandomThoughts
Fri, Nov 13, 2015, 9:28am (UTC -5)
I always liked this episode. Light and fluffy doesn't always correspond to good episodes, you need a decent story to go with it. And this had one. :) Now, some little notes:

Geordi had a nice line in this one: "Next time, maybe I should deliver the good news." Also in this scene, I liked how Brent used his face to convey happiness. He brightened his smile, lifted up his hairline, had an android twinkle in his eyes... He tried to make it look like Data was making them feel at ease, because this was, after all, 'good news'. Little touches by Brent always made Data a favorite of mine.

Yes, the smile while dancing made the episode. But why wouldn't Data have just gone to the holodeck in the first place, and ask for 'dance partner'? Then he'd give the paramaters to the computer (wedding dances, traditional) and go from there. Ah... because we needed Crusher to tell him to smile, so we could have the great shot after she left. :)

Lastly, it was good to show the different shifts on the ship. I'd always figured Picard was first shift, Riker was second, and Data was third. If it's first shift, Picard is in the big chair, Riker is sleeping or relaxing, and Data is doing whatever it is Data does (see Data's Day (Oh, wait, this IS Data's Day)). It is alluded to in other episodes, where they call Picard to the bridge or Riker is in bed, but so many times, they are just cruising along talking about nothing in particular and they are all on the bridge. Nope. Although Data could do multiple shifts, but they want to treat him like everyone else it seems, unless it's an emergency.

Enjoy the day everyone... RT
Lisana
Tue, Mar 15, 2016, 7:59pm (UTC -5)
I love this episode so very much. (Not just because of the hilarious "grin" when Data is dancing) I love it because of the way Data tackles emotional situations. He's so adorably ignorant in the importance of matters, he actually makes us look at cold feet in a positive light. (another example, Yar's death) I would definitely make this a four star-rating, and recommend this to all Data fans.
Chrome
Thu, Apr 14, 2016, 4:04pm (UTC -5)
This is a great continuity nod to "Measure of a Man", and I like how Data kept could his word to Maddox despite the crushing blow that trial may have had.

What works well about this show is that it actually handles some big events such as a ship wedding with an officer and a Romulan espionage plot, keeping the whole thing very grounded in Data's observations.

Also, although Data is obviously on stage in this episode, we get to see sides of other main characters we don't usually see such as Crusher and her dancing and even Worf going shopping for wedding gifts. It's also nice to see more of O'Brien, as he'll be a pivotal character in next week's "The Wounded".
Greg
Sat, May 14, 2016, 12:54am (UTC -5)
Nice episode. I have to give it three stars. As a few commentors mentioned the dance scene between Dr. Crusher and Data was worth the price of admission.
And the fact that you were getting a look at humanity through Data's eyes was a nice perspective.
However, judging by all the comments once again I do have a rather unique take on this episode. There is a rather obvious joke here that no one seems to have gotten. At least no one has commented on it. Including Jammer.
Ok, one of the plot devices was an impending wedding between Keiko and O'Brian. And another plot was the fact that the Enterprise unwittingly delivers a Romulan spy to her brothers in arms. And what was the name of the Romulan ship? The Devoras. A word that sounds almost identical to the word divorce. Get the joke now? A wedding is taking place but always looming in the background is the threat of the Devoras. (Divorce.)
Come on guys. Please tell me I'm not the only fan on the planet that got this little joke.
Jeff
Sat, Jul 2, 2016, 12:18pm (UTC -5)
Just a nit-picky comment, but I can't resist. After T'Pel asks Riker and Data to leave the ready room so she can speak with Picard alone Riker sarcastically comments "Charming woman." I've seen this episode a few times, but this was the first time I picked up on the fact that Data mistakenly categorizes Riker's comment as ironic, instead of sarcastic. A "human" error? Perhaps.
Nolan
Sat, Jul 2, 2016, 12:52pm (UTC -5)
@Jeff

Now, I'm no expert, but a quick google search tells me that Irony is saying something but meaning the opposite. Sarcasm is, apparently, when something is said with a similar effect, but also with intention to harm.

Now, since Riker said "Charming woman" whilst out of earshot of T'Pel, I believe his remark IS classified as irony.
Jeff
Mon, Jul 4, 2016, 4:22pm (UTC -5)
@Nolan. Thanks for the clarification. I guess it's my own personal interpretations of the words. I tend to only think of situations as ironic (as the situation applies), but I definitely see where you're coming from.
Nolan
Mon, Jul 4, 2016, 7:11pm (UTC -5)
@Jeff

Yeah, Irony is confusing, there are so many classifications and mis-uses of it that it's meaning is rather muddled.

There's this type of irony, which I guess is verbal irony?

Then there's the irony as used in writing and the like, such as dramatic, tragic and situational irony, where different pieces of information are known to different characters (or the audience) but not each other.

So yes, irony is confusing. As it should be befitting it's literary effects. That it is what it describes however, is NOT ironic, merely coincidence, which is not what Irony is.

Heck, I never paid that much attention in English class, why do I care so much now? :-P
Nolan
Mon, Jul 4, 2016, 7:16pm (UTC -5)
@Jeff

It further occurs to me that you may have already known all that, and yet I must confess by looking it up and typing it out, I actually helped my understanding of irony to be better.
Jor-El
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 11:11am (UTC -5)
@Greg
I noticed it too, but I'm still not sure it was on purpose.

My favorite part of this episode (besides Data's creepy smile) is when Data says there's only a 17% chance Picard will follow protocol and not pursue the Romulan ship, and a moment later he's proven right. There's something thrilling about that moment, and it makes you just love the captain.
Jor-El
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 11:24am (UTC -5)
One last thing: That other customer in the barber's room needs a lot more than a haircut. I hope that's what her species is supposed to look like, if not she's really let herself go!

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