Jammer's Review

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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12 comments on this review

Chris - Fri, Mar 7, 2008 - 2:32pm (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
Data's grin during the final dancing scene alone gives this episode an extra star xD
Moonie - Mon, Nov 11, 2013 - 6:06am (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
"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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
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 (USA Central)
Data's comment about the glass swan not reminding him of Worf had me laughing out loud.

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