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?
Like this site? Support it by buying Jammer a coffee.