Star Trek: The Next Generation

"The Most Toys"

3 stars

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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93 comments on this review

Fri, Apr 1, 2011, 11:40pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Dec 1, 2012, 12:37am (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, May 30, 2013, 1:30pm (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
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").
Tue, Nov 26, 2013, 10:26pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Dec 4, 2013, 4:15am (UTC -5)
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.
Mon, Dec 30, 2013, 11:23am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
@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.
Mon, Dec 30, 2013, 11:52am (UTC -5)
@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.
Sat, Mar 15, 2014, 11:22pm (UTC -5)
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!
Fri, Apr 11, 2014, 1:42am (UTC -5)
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 (UTC -5)
Great acting by the guy who played Kivas Fajo.
Sun, Nov 2, 2014, 3:34pm (UTC -5)
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.
Sat, Jan 10, 2015, 9:34am (UTC -5)
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 :)
Sat, Jan 10, 2015, 11:26am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Jan 20, 2015, 10:26am (UTC -5)

"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 (UTC -5)

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 (UTC -5)
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.
Thu, Mar 26, 2015, 10:10pm (UTC -5)
I'm pretty sure Lore would have had that display room in smoking ruins inside about 10 seconds.
Wed, Jun 10, 2015, 8:20pm (UTC -5)
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.

Riker's Beard
Fri, Jul 24, 2015, 3:02pm (UTC -5)
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?
Fri, Jul 24, 2015, 6:32pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Jul 24, 2015, 9:57pm (UTC -5)
Now I can't help thinking that "The Wrath of Fajo" would've been a better premise for a movie than, say, "Insurrection."
Diamond Dave
Sun, Sep 6, 2015, 7:16am (UTC -5)
A superb episode, and probably only the slightly unconvincing scenes on the Enterprise regarding the reaction to Data's death stops this short of 4 stars.

You did wonder whether this would descend into parody with the initially over the top protrayal of Fajo, but the gradual revelation of Fajo as a truly amoral psychopath is masterfully handled. Has there been a more repellent villain so far in TNG? His manipulation of Data is also pitch perfect - he overcomes Data's passive resistance by teasing out the logical way to force him to comply.

But my word the ending tops all that has gone before. My reading - Data's programming does not prevent him from killing, and given the circumstances that Fajo has killed, has threatened to kill again, and cannot be affected by other means, the logical choice is to kill him. It's clear he did take the shot, so why he then does not say so is left up to the audience. The concluding "I am just an android" leaves it hanging - has Data changed? What is going on behind that blank visage? Wonderful stuff - 3.5 stars.
Wed, Sep 30, 2015, 9:28am (UTC -5)
Lies by omission are still lies. Data made a conscious choice not to disclose the entirety of the situation concerning the firing of the disruptor. Data is the Vulcan stand in for TNG, and his use of logic to dance around "the truth" is also very Vulcan. This reminded me of that episode on "Enterprise" when T'Pol was on that freighter ship, and a bunch of the ship's kids were playing hide and seek. Some of the kids run and hide right by her. Another child comes asking T'Pol if she's seen "Nadine," and rather than snitch, T'Pol tells the child that she didn't know which child was Nadine. Technically, T'Pol did not lie, and she made a point to emphasize that, but she knew what that child was really asking (have you seen the other kids), and she likely deduced that one of the children hiding in her midst was named Nadine. It seems as if with Vulcans and Data, all telling "the truth" requires is disclosing the least amount of information possible to accurately answer a question.
Tue, Nov 3, 2015, 9:58pm (UTC -5)
Can Data be provoked into old-fashioned, man-to-man, frontier justice homicide? This episode poses that question by way of an extreme situation (even for Star Trek), and it implicitly telegraphs a "yes" to that question. Imagine a situation where a computer says "according to my calculations, you must die!" and that is pretty much what this episode does to poor Data. I'm not sure I entirely buy his momentary flip to the dark side, but Fajo's provocation is very, VERY precise to bring Data to the brink, and it's VERY deliberate and VERY arrogant on his part. He wants Data to 99.9999999 percent want to kill him (because he's a sadist) and knows (almost) exactly how to do it. He overdid it by .00000000001 percent.
Sat, Dec 12, 2015, 9:03am (UTC -5)
@Luke: "The only problem "The Most Toys" has is the complete lack of any mention about Lore."

Lore was dead. Datalore establishes this pretty clearly. It wasn't until later that the writers decided he was only *mostly* dead.
Mon, Dec 14, 2015, 11:18am (UTC -5)
For what it's worth, I HATED Fajo in this episode. Not like a villain you 'love to hate' aka Dukat or Weyoun, just a straight up douchebag doing terrible things to Data.

I guess that's a testament to the actor.
Fri, Jan 8, 2016, 8:42pm (UTC -5)
First of all, super excited to join you trekkies, I am a recent enlistment :)

I'm just surprised, there's a lot of great insight here, but nobody seems to mention the allusion to Riker's bluffing Data during their poker sessions. Geordi does mention this as he's cleaning out Data's desk, revealing that, until that point, Data had always fallen victim to Riker's bluffs.

Isn't this totally relevant to that ending? Riker doesn't quite ask a question, although he clearly is confronting Data on the topic. And Data seems to sidestep it as many of you astutely observed, by stating "Perhaps something occurred during transport, commander." Data gives a perfect poker face as only Data can, and Riker is left wondering.
William B
Fri, Jan 8, 2016, 9:11pm (UTC -5)
@Paul, that is a great point I hadn't thought of! It's great to continue to find nuggets like this....
Tue, Jun 14, 2016, 1:05am (UTC -5)
@Lore comments: Lore is dead. He is floating out in space and assumed by all to be dead.
Rob E.
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 10:04am (UTC -5)
Just half-watched/half-listened to THE MOST TOYS on TV after 25 years.

Listen to Saul Rubinek - his phrasing, his inflections of speech. Watch his gestures.

It's Shatner.

Saul Rubinek is channelling William Shatner in his performance.

Peter G.
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 10:22am (UTC -5)
@ Rob E.

"Saul Rubinek is channelling William Shatner in his performance."

Watch Rubinek do other work; he's the same there. He seems to do the same 'character' in whatever he's in. So if he's channelling Shatner it's a career choice rather than an homage :)
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 11:13am (UTC -5)
@Rob E. and Peter G.

Though I'd have to watch this again to see if I could make the connection, I was just going to say this is how Rubinek acts.

Look no further than "Fraiser" (Another Paramount production), where he plays the recurring character of Donnie Douglas. He's doing the same 'I'm obnoxiously bossy and quirky in a fun way' type of character.
Mon, Oct 3, 2016, 4:54am (UTC -5)
One thing I found puzzling about this episode was the fact that Fajo had his entire collection aboard a relatively small and weak vessel. Surely a collection that valuable would be stored on some planet somewhere, with only a few valuable pieces kept aboard to show off? It would be incredibly risky - would any insurers be willing to cover such a collection?

Secondly, I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned that originally, a different actor was chosen for the role of Fajo. On the Blu-ray, we see alternate footage of a dwarf with a strong British accent, playing the role of the toy collector, who I feel doesn't do nearly as good a job as the Jewish guy.
Mon, Oct 3, 2016, 6:37am (UTC -5)

Yes, the original actor for Fajo was David Rappaport, but he attempted suicide during the filming and they recast the part. Unfortunately, he was successful a few months later.

As I recall, Saul Rubinek had little desire to act on television at that time, but came in as a favor to someone with TNG. I thought Saul did a fantastic job, making Fajo so perfectly unlikable, and on a short schedule as well.

Oh, heh, both actors were born Jewish. :)

Take care... RT
Mon, Oct 3, 2016, 11:32pm (UTC -5)
One problem I had with David Rappaport was his strong regional British dialect which didn't at all fit in with the "All American" Star Trek universe where nobody seems to speak with a foreign accent (except the captain of course, but he has a much more mild and educated accent).

By the way, there was absolutely no need for Data to shoot Fajo at the end. He could have incapacitated him in any number of ways, and then tied him up, allowing him to escape.
Tue, Oct 4, 2016, 8:23am (UTC -5)
@David - The disturbing implications of the finale is that Data, who is incapable of emotion, decided that logically Fajo should die. I always though Data firing was his answer to "Go ahead. Fire. If only you could feel rage over Varria's death. If only you could feel the need for revenge, then maybe you could fire. But you're just an android. You can't feel anything, can you? It's just another interesting intellectual puzzle for you. Another of life's curiosities."

We all know Data can't feel... but we do know Data can feel things in a way that is different than feelings :

DATA: As I experience certain sensory input patterns, my mental pathways become accustomed to them. The inputs eventually are anticipated, and even missed when absent.
ISHARA: Like my sister.
DATA: Yes, like your sister.

This episode is meant to not totally comment one way or another as to what Varria's death made Data "feel".

DATA: You have lost everything you value.
FAJO: It must give you great pleasure.
DATA: No, sir, it does not. I do not feel pleasure. I am only an android.

He parrots back Fajo's " You can't feel anything, can you?" But just because it's not pleasure he's experiencing doesn't mean he can't experience something? When Fajo said "It's just another interesting intellectual puzzle for you. Another of life's curiosities." I wonder if Data actually solved that little intellectual puzzle and the solution to the puzzle was that Fajo should die.
Peter G.
Tue, Oct 4, 2016, 9:26am (UTC -5)
What Robert said, but to me the simple conclusion comes when Data simply says "I cannot allow this to continue" (paraphrase). If Fajo hadn't committed murder I'm not sure Data would have done it. But when weighing his ethical subroutine I think Data, for perhaps the first time, came to the conclusion that preemptive murder is justified if a greater number of deaths would occur otherwise. Data knew there would be no justice for Fajo otherwise. I also wonder whether Data had 'become accustomed' to the input of the woman who helped him. There seemed to be a hint of something personal in Data's decision.
Tue, Oct 4, 2016, 10:25am (UTC -5)
@Peter G. - Much more to the point than mine but "I also wonder whether Data had 'become accustomed' to the input of the woman who helped him. There seemed to be a hint of something personal in Data's decision. " is what I was trying to get at, yes. That was, I think, the unanswered question the episode was meant to leave you with. And I don't think there's a "right" answer.
Mon, Feb 13, 2017, 11:43pm (UTC -5)
I admire the episode but I could only love the first eighty percent of it. Fajo's villainy and petulance, and Data's implacable explanations of why he is not enjoying captivity and what he plans to do about it, are fun and brilliant. However, the final scenes drive me crazy.

I am unable to figure out Data's motivation for firing the disruptor, dodging Riker's implied question, visiting Fajo in the brig, and saying at the episode's close, "I am only an android." Usually when a character is left open to interpretation, I can come to my own conclusions. With Data, I just can't. There are no clues to why he does what he does. Maybe that's the genius of the episode - but for me it's just maddening and unsatisfying.

Partly I'm maddened because it's obvious what emotions Data *should* be feeling and isn't. His use of the disruptor should be accompanied by vengefulness and rage. His visit to the jailed Fajo should include gloating. His closing words, "I am only an android," should be either an ironic and triumphant mockery of Fajo's earlier taunts, or an expression of wistful Pinocchio-like sorrow. But he presents only a poker face no matter how emotional his situation.

My irritation with the episode's closing scenes offers a glimpse, maybe, of the difficulties people must have in being around Data. This goes largely unexamined on TNG. What did Lal feel when she realized as she lay dying that the father she loved felt absolutely nothing for her? What did Data's girlfriend feel in 'In Theory' when she wanted/hoped for affection and love from a man who remained aloof? Both "The Offspring" and "In Theory" skirt those questions because they present Data as the central character of interest, the one with whom we are called to sympathize. (In 'The Offspring' Lal cries because she loves her father and is dying - not because she's heartbroken that he doesn't love her back. And in 'In Theory', we see though Data's eyes, and whatever pain or sadness the girlfriend feels at Data's aloofness is two steps removed from our experience as audience.)

What TNG shows us throughout its run is the affection the crew has for Data: ("For a man with no emotions, he sure did inspire them in others.") But in real life... wouldn't it be alienating and even infuriating to see a person remain coolly emotionless no matter the circumstance?
Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 12:50am (UTC -5)
@ tara,

By chance I watched this one the other day and have it fresh in my mind. I'll try to provide an explanation for the ending of it, although it's speculative.

Since we know Data has no feelings, and since he has unbreakable ethical subroutines, we must conclude that his firing of the disruptor was both logical and 'ethical'. This must be the case unless he was damaged, which there's no reason to believe he was. Since we can assume his action was ethical, we now have two questions: 1) In what way can cold-blooded murder be ethical? 2) Why did Data lie to Commander Riker? The answers to these questions solve the ending, and as you'll see make the episode far more interesting than it would appear at first glance.

To answer how murder can be ethical - which sounds like a contradiction - note exactly what Fajo said to Data right before he pulled the trigger:

"You won't hurt me. Fundamental respect for all living beings. That's what you said. I'm a living being, therefore you can't harm me [... ] You will return to your chair and you will sit there. You will entertain me and you will entertain my guests, and if you don't I'll simply kill someone else. Him, perhaps. Doesn't matter; their blood will be on your hands too, just like poor Varria's. Your only alternative, Data, is to fire. Murder me. That's all you have to do, go ahead. Fire. If only you could feel rage over Varria's death, if only you could feel a need for revenge, then maybe you could fire. But you're...just an android. You can't feel anything, can you. It's just another interesting intellectual puzzle for you; another of life's....curiosities."

So you see Fajo himself foolishly spells out for Data exactly why he *can* murder him. Data feels nothing, and if Data declines to be entertaining he will be causing murders to occur. And if he complies he will be condoning slavery. But since data can feel nothing like revenge if he therefore came to the conclusion to do murder it would have to be as a result of solving the intellectual puzzle; Data's only tool. That line was the key: that the ethics would have to be solved as an intellectual puzzle. The puzzle here is simply how to interpret Data's ethical subroutines such as murder is ok. The answer is simply to create a scenario in which by declining to do one murder more murders than that occur as a result. That conclusion would lead Data to a startling conclusion (you can see the confusion on his face), which is that it's ethically permissible to kill in cold blood if even worse harm would be done otherwise. However the problem with this conclusion is that while it satisfied Data's personal programming it doesn't satisfy Starfleet rules, and so Data would have to tell them about it and resign his commission. And yet he lies, knowing that it be bad for him to admit to having just realized his ethical program totally allows him to commit murder. That alone would have made his shipmates nervous, and maybe even not trust him any more. But worse than that, when he lied about it he likewise did an ends justify the means calculation as he's not supposed to lie either, ethically. What's really interesting here is that Data's ethical subroutine was just used in what appears to be a brand new way for him, and no one on the ship knows about it. He can do murder now, under the right conditions, and it would satisfy his programming.

Data's final comment before firing was "I cannot permit this to continue." Note that he says "cannot", rather than "should not." This already gives away that his ehtical programming works in categorical imperatives. The conclusions his intellect drew *necessitated* him murdering Fajo, there was no other option. No kidding that he'd hide from his crew that his ethical systems are not quite as restrictive as they previously thought.

An interesting ending, indeed.
Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 8:08am (UTC -5)
I'll just add one final thought about the ending. Data's actions are reminiscent of an Asimov story, where rules designed to reign in robots end up giving the robots justification to do things humans would never have anticipated. This episode gives us a version of Asimov's 1st law of robotics (harm no humans, and do not allow harm to come to humans), and the inevitable result of such a law is that if harming one human prevents harm to many humans then the law might just be interpreted by a robot as requiring murder. It's kind of a spooky scenario, and one I think Data wouldn't have thought of himself had Fajo not literally spelled it out for him and forced him into that situation.

The other thing I forgot to do was to explain the "I'm only an android" line at the end. Since Data can't be saying it to "rub it in Fajo's face", since that would require emotions, I think it was Data saying to him that, being an android, it was that very nature which should have led to Fajo's death. If a human had held the disruptor there's some chance Fajo might have been killed or not, depending on various factors in the human's experience. But with Data there was a 100% chance he would pull the trigger there, given the variables outlined. The very fact Fajo thought protected him doomed him, which is a piece of irony suggesting that Fajo's own pride destroyed him. I think the message also reminds Fajo that he should rightly be dead at this point, since only a deus ex machina took Data away before Fajo was killed.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 9:02am (UTC -5)
@Tara/Peter G.

If you read one of the interviews with Shari Goodhartz, one the writers for this episode, it's stated they actually wanted to make it ambiguous as to whether Data fired or not. So Data's explanation of "something must've happened during transport" can be read as the truth.

@Peter G.

It's interesting you'd bring up Asimov as that was exactly what I was thinking. Actually, this scenario does play out in Asimov's novels, such that finally a ZEROth Law was created: A robot may not harm humanity, or through inaction allow humanity to come to harm. It seems that in this episode too, Data created his own Zeroth law, and decided that through inaction *humanity* would come to harm. I would read those moments of him hesitating and appearing to compute to be, like you said, coming up with this solution for this particular puzzle.
Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 9:15am (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

"If you read one of the interviews with Shari Goodhartz, one the writers for this episode, it's stated they actually wanted to make it ambiguous as to whether Data fired or not."

That's an interesting piece of trivia, but if that was their intention then they failed. The script and editing both make it 100% clear Data fired. There is both a sound effect as well as the transporter system reporting an energy discharge. I think "wanted to make it" might be read as meaning 'originally had the idea, but decided to make it unambiguous in the end.'
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 9:32am (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

We don't know if he was actually going to shoot to kill Fajo though. Data could've fired a warning shot to let Fajo know he was serious, or he could've shot his foot or his hand just to incapacitate him.
Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 9:46am (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

That would be plausible, except for Data's phrasing of "I CANNOT allow this to continue." Given that Data's speech is precise, I don't think the line could be interpreted as being rhetorical. Since Fajo's own argument that led Data to this conclusion spoke repeatedly of Data having to kill Fajo as the only way to make it stop, it seems like the intention of the scene is to show Data realizing that he was right. I can't really see it interpreted any other way that makes storytelling sense, even though you're right that it's within the realm of possibility that Data was aiming wide. But nothing in the visuals or text suggests that at all, and since the first time viewing it when it aired until watching it again last week it was always clear to me that Data was going to kill him.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 9:48am (UTC -5)
Though I do agree with Tara that it's confusing that Data would lie to Riker. If it was justified self-defense or defense of others, you'd think Data would just say that. I believe one of the commenters above nailed it with the out-of-universe explanation that there just wasn't time in the show for that type of conversation.
Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 10:02am (UTC -5)
That makes sense. To be honest the scene where he lies to Riker strikes me as possibly having the intention to create a bit of a sinister vibe for Data, which is less of a logic point and more of a point of showing that Data may not be entirely the innocent cherub he's sometimes made out to be. Especially leading into the final scene with Fajo, I think they were hinting that Data had taken a shift towards being a bit darker.
Jason R.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 10:42am (UTC -5)
The wounding theory doesn't make much sense given the nature of the weapon - we clearly see it consume and vaporize the entire body, regardless of the point of impact. We must also reject the idea that Data didn't fire - it is unambiguous in the episode that he did.

I was also thinking of the zeroith law from Asimov when Peter commented on this. Yet the problem isn't the decision to kill but the decision to lie about it after the fact.

The lie is gratuitous, or serves a selfish purpose antithetical to Data's ethical nature. I simply don't see an easy way to reconcile this with who and what Data is.
Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 10:52am (UTC -5)
Now that we're on the subject of Asimov, I'm thinking of a particular robot story where Dr. Calvin was brought in to locate a 'malfunctioning' robot, who was in effect trying to avoid being caught. The story highlighted the fact that a robot could develop the ability to lie under the right circumstances and if it served some purpose that conformed to more fundamental laws. Maybe that's what happened here: Data decided that if he told the truth he'd be kicked out of Starfleet, in which case people he could save in the future would die due to his absence. To save them he'd have to lie in order to be able to keep serving. This is hardly even hypothetical, as Data had single-handedly saved the Enterprise many times over by this point.
Jason R.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 12:03pm (UTC -5)
Would Data have been kicked out of Starfleet? Was shooting Fajo even a murder? Data had no way of knowing the Enterprise had just cone. He was alone on Fajo's ship, a prisoner. I think it was self defence - justified to escape from captivity.
Peter G.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 12:39pm (UTC -5)
I suppose it's ambiguous, but at the time when he shot, Data was in no direct danger of harm, and could theoretically have attempted non-lethal means of subduing Fajo. Instead it appeared that Data chose that the only way to ensure Fajo never harmed others again was to kill him. The "this" in question when Data said "I cannot allow this to continue" seems to me to mean not only Data being held prisoner, but in fact Fajo's criminal exploits in general. Shooting the disruptor reads to me less as a means to escape, and more as an execution. And yes, I think Starfleet would court martial someone who decides to summarily execute someone.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 7:44pm (UTC -5)
Because Starfleet is stupid and would prefer this evil man to carry on abusing hundreds of lifeforms for his own titillation. I'm glad that the writers decided to show that the machine weighed up the good and the bad and made a decision not based on emotion.

I believe that is the true meaning of the scene that is lost on most people.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 8:17pm (UTC -5)
I'm not sure I can agree on the "Data trying to avoid getting kicked out of Starfleet" scenario.

Was Data's action - absent emotion - justifiable? I would say yes. Peter, you say that Data is not in any direct harm, and that is true. However, he was still kidnapped and is being held against his will. Even though Data doesn't have the emotion, that is still a major affront to himself, and aggravated kidnapping like this is one of the most heinous acts someone can do to an individual, right up there with murder and rape. I think most justice systems allow use of deadly force to protect oneself from such kidnapping. So let's look at Data's options at this point:

1) Passive resistance was no longer working, as Fajo demonstrated his willingness to murder others to get Data to do what he wanted. Data's sense of ethics is too strong to allow others to die simply because of Data's resistance. So that option is out for him.

2) Non lethal attempts at force never worked; Data already tried that. Fajo had that personal forcefield thingy. Data already tried it, it didn't work. And Data did not have a weapon that could nonlethally penetrate that forcefield. All he had was the banned disruptor.

That leaves ONLY lethal force as a workable method of escape. Before, Data was willing to be patient, since he figured he could find a way out non-lethally. His lack of emotion allowed him to be patient. It was only when Fajo upped the ante by killing Whatsherface that the rules of the game changed. Data was trying multiple nonlethal methods of escape before. Now, though, Fajo showed a willingness to murder others to control Data, and clearly showed Data that he would murder others if he tried anything else. Data's patience is eliminated now, as there are really only 3 possible futures: 1) Data PERMANENTLY submits to Fajo to prevent any more death, 2) Data continues to try methods of escape, most likely causing multiple innocent (or mostly innocent) lives to be snuffed out because of him, 3) kill Fajo. His line makes perfect sense in this context. The possible futures were all very bleak. And since Data, as a person, cannot deny his own personhood (which is what submitting to Fajo would be), he chose to use lethal force to escape.

If I was on the jury, I'd say he's not guilty of murder. This is clearly a case of self defense to me.

Which is why the lying to Riker bit always bugged me. If the writer wanted it to be ambiguous, the episode was shot as Data pretty clearly trying to kill Fajo. So yes, it does come off as a lie. And actually, it seems the writer wasn't necessarily on board with that line either! From Memory-Alpha: "I asked Brent Spiner whether he thought Data purposefully pulled the trigger or not, and he was adamant that Data did fire the weapon, which was my intent as well, but the powers-that-be wanted that kept ambiguous, so it was. If I had a chance to do it over, with all the experience I have behind me now, I would argue passionately for Data's actions and their consequences to have been clearer, and hopefully more provocative." Sounds like it was probably Gene that forced that line in there. So frankly, I'd rather just pretend it doesn't exist. It just doesn't seem to fit.
Peter G.
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 2:06am (UTC -5)
I mostly agree that "trying to avoid getting kicked out of Starfleet" is a little thin, even though I do think it's plausible. Mostly I think the effect of the scene in the transporter room is to be ominous and cast Data in a threatening light. I think the idea is more to show he isn't as innocent as we think, since his programming can make deadly determinations just as easily as friendly ones. It's quite Asimovian in that sense.

DLPB, I wasn't arguing that Data did the wrong thing, or even that he episode suggested he did. But his ethical subroutines may well have noted that although it was his *most* ethical action possible that it was still, on the whole, unethical on an absolute scale. Our conclusion may well be that he did the right thing, but Data's standards are somewhat different and he may have concluded that he was cornered into doing a bad thing, and that his integrity was compromised as a result.

Skeptical, the only thing to bear in mind about a jury is that the standards in the 24th century might not be what our modern common sense tells us. Killing an alien life form to save yourself may well be a more shady proposition than the simple 'self-defense' argument is for us now. And also, even if we fully grant that Data had no choice but to use lethal force, he could have literally walked up to Fajo and snapped his neck with no possibility for Fajo to prevent it or defend himself. But instead Data used a torturous weapon. I expect the reason for that wasn't to torture him, but rather to guarantee that he actually died, compared to a physical injury such as crushing his head which perhaps he could somehow survive. But even so, a Federation jury might well condemn the use of forbidden weapons under any circumstances whatsoever.

But yeah, I'd still be content to conclude that Data's lie is a sign that his ethical programming has just branched out into a new territory and that he's not quite the same android he was before; especially not after his final ominous like to Fajo. The 'sinister' element introduced here is, of course, dropped in any subsequent episodes, but I think feel like it's a cool bit to watch.
Jason R.
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 8:34am (UTC -5)
Peter you forget Fajo had the forcefield so physically attacking him was not an option. He was alone on Fajo's ship, surrounded by Fajo's men. He had one clear chance to neutralize his kidnapper and every reason to believe doing so would end his captivity.

I agree that in the context of Data's ethical programming, this was probably more an execution, than self defence. But keep in mind Data has a different set of priorities and a more altruistic frame if reference. Data, by his nature, would be inclined to self sacrifice rather than kill, but that is not necessarily a legal requirement.

To put this in perspective, if Data was just some person (say a 20 year old woman) and had a chance to kill her kidnapper and escape, even if her life was in no immediate danger, I have little doubt the killing would be legally justified. Kidnapping and forcible confinement is an extreme attack on someone that frankly would justify almost any degree of violence.

Now I will agree that Data is an Android and a Starfleet officer, not some random person, so the context is a little different. But even so, if Data has an opportunity to end his captivity through deadly force, is he required to refrain, knowing that he might never get another chance?

And Fajo did just commit a brutal murder - and vowed to commit more if Data attempted to escape again. Legally speaking, I wonder if you could even stretch these facts into some form of "necessity" defence - not that you'd need to - as noted, killing to escape indefinite captivity must be legal!
William B
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 9:43am (UTC -5)
Jason, I agree with you If Starfleet truly treated Data like another sentient being. However there are pieces of evidence that go against that, such as The Offspring. Moreover, I think that besides 'rights' in the broadcast sense, Data is an intense security risk if he can't be trusted. I think this is part of why the writers, the other characters and Data himself often treat him as a cherub, as Peter put it. If killing people is an option for Data, that suddenly makes him a lot scarier, even if he was justified in this particular case.

Further, I suspect that personal, emotional components would factor into seeing killing Fajo as justified. But Data doesn't appeal to those, which is itself kind of frightening. Data could in principle just wait out Fajo's death without experiencing inner torment in the way a humanoid would, even though Data would still suffer in a harder to understand Data-ish way. I'm not advocating that Data was wrong, just that I think it's reasonable to think Starfleet would have concerns about Data's action, and I think Data recognizes that his friends (personally) and Starfleet (professionally) might not approve and to play it close to the chest.
Peter G.
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 10:01am (UTC -5)
Thanks, William, that is the sort of thing I was hinting at but you said it clearly. Considering what we've seen Data capable of doing, such as in "Brothers" for instance, he is not only a security risk but actually a clear and present danger at all times *unless* he can be trusted in so unimpeachable a manner that there is no cause whatsoever for doubt. No other person on the Enterprise would be able to take over the ship without opposition, fly it himself, and lock everyone else out in the meantime. If there was even a shred of a doubt about Data being completely 'tamed' I can't imagine they'd be able to tolerate that kind of threat potential from a single crew member. But instead we see in the series how many times the safety of the entire ship is left in Data's hands in certain circumstances; so much so that their trust in him appears to be unshakeable and complete. Knowing that his programming now allowed for preemptive killing "for a good cause" might cause them to re-assess how much latitude to give him in the future, and that's not even getting into the mundane fact of his enormous physical strength.

I grant that it would still have been in character for Data to have pulled the trigger and then put himself on report for it (he's taken himself off-duty before for doubting himself), but in context of his 'mental' process after shooting Fajo I think they were trying to show that his general moral guidelines had just undergone a significant shift, of which lying was a glaring sign.
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 10:19am (UTC -5)
@William B

You're making a huge assumption that Data's never needed to kill before as part of his Starfleet career. In fact, I don't think Starfleet would allow Data to serve if he couldn't use deadly force when necessary. If that were so, he couldn't follow orders like a normal officer and he'd be a total liability in a combat situation. The fact is, we *do* see Data kill dozens of Borg and never get questioned about it (Star Trek: First Contact).

But even if we accept the idea that Starfleet would frown on Data killing in any situation, it still seems off that Data wouldn't tell Riker, at least in private. The two are friends, after all. After putting up with Fajo's deception, I'm sure Riker and Picard would quickly and easily defend Data's actions here.
Peter G.
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 10:24am (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

I think it's in this episode, but it could be in another one as I've watched a few of them lately - someone asks Data point blank if he's ever killed before and he says no. I think it might be Fajo who asked him. I assume the implication was about killing with his own hands, as he's obviously contributed to killing by manning ops during ship-to-ship battles.
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 10:43am (UTC -5)
@Peter G.

You're right, after reading the script, I see it's this episode where Data says he's never killed before. Though in that same conversation he tells Fajo that he's perfectly capable of doing it. Data even starts to describe the difference between self-defense and murder.

Perhaps the writers wanted us to struggle with the question of when it's justified to kill. But I still question why they wouldn't allow Data to defend his decision to Riker later. I suppose the interview quoted above shows that it was indeed too much of a hot-button issue to push on a Data's character. His lie to Riker gives him a clean way of avoiding controversy.
Thu, Feb 16, 2017, 10:43pm (UTC -5)
This is one of my favorite TNG episodes. Although, I always thought it would have been a bit more interesting if they waited to reveal Data hadn't been blown up until much later in the episode. Perhaps after Geordi and Wesley listen to the shuttle audio transmissions.
Tue, Feb 21, 2017, 2:51am (UTC -5)
"Which is why the lying to Riker bit always bugged me. If the writer wanted it to be ambiguous, the episode was shot as Data pretty clearly trying to kill Fajo. So yes, it does come off as a lie. And actually, it seems the writer wasn't necessarily on board with that line either! From Memory-Alpha: "I asked Brent Spiner whether he thought Data purposefully pulled the trigger or not, and he was adamant that Data did fire the weapon, which was my intent as well, but the powers-that-be wanted that kept ambiguous, so it was. If I had a chance to do it over, with all the experience I have behind me now, I would argue passionately for Data's actions and their consequences to have been clearer, and hopefully more provocative." Sounds like it was probably Gene that forced that line in there. So frankly, I'd rather just pretend it doesn't exist. It just doesn't seem to fit."

In other words, it's a bit of bad writing caused by too many cooks in the kitchen. The writer wanted one thing, the execs wanted something else, so the final few minutes just plain old don't make sense. It's a pity, as the episode is otherwise outstanding.
Sun, Mar 19, 2017, 10:09pm (UTC -5)
I love this episode, it's kind of a lesser companion piece to The Measure of a Man in some ways.

Ethics is not an exact science, and some situations, particularly extreme ones, have no clear ethical solutions. This episode is deliberately putting Data in just such a situation as a kind of thought experiment. In situations such as this, lacking a clear solution, Data would have be be able to improvise the best solution he could under the circumstances. It appears that Data arrived at the not illogical conclusion that Fajo had to die, in a Spock-as-Dirty-Harry kind of way. On the other hand, perhaps his positronic brain was "overloaded" and Data was experiencing something akin to temporary insanity as he tried to resolve all the ethical paradoxes.
Thu, Mar 23, 2017, 12:46am (UTC -5)
A really interesting episode with a truly despicable villain. The gradual revelations of the depths of the villain's depravity work well. It's chilling and a little heart-breaking seeing what even Data can be driven to do with enough mistreatment.

I have to wonder at all the comments explaining Data doesn't have emotions and then using words like "confusion" and "patience" to describe his actions during the episode. I think it's clear that while Data doesn't have "emotions" as such, he does have feelings after a fashion - he's clearly stated this several times, as him "being used to people" and even "missing" them as well as "being accustomed to their presence" and even sort of looking forward to being with them. He is not completely emotionless like, say, the ship's computer. Data is sentient and naturally has some degree of feeling as a result, even if he's designed specifically to not have emotions in the way most humanoids in the series do (given how cuckoo for cocoa puffs Lore turned out, this is an infinitely good thing), he is not strictly devoid of all feeling either (because a character like that would be boring and you couldn't do much with it).

Data's lie of omission at the end was very interesting. It can be seen as self-preservation or doing it for the greater good but either way it's showing us he's capable of deception. He's more of a potential danger to the Enterprise than even the holodecks, and has proven to be so on several occasions. The Enterprise is just lucky he likes them, or they'd be royally screwed.

And as for people saying Vulcans don't lie, what are you talking about? They lie all the time! How many times do they claim to be emotionless shells only to be proven wrong later? Sure, they mostly believe their own lies, but they're nonetheless still lying. They'll even lie when the truth is obvious. (How many times in TOS did McCoy or someone else point out something emotional Spock did only for Spock to flat-out deny it? Same with Sarek.)
Tue, May 9, 2017, 1:33am (UTC -5)
1 ) Wouldn't it seem that Starfleet would conduct a full official inquiry into a fatal accident involving a high ranking member of the Enterprise? They just sort of left the scene, did no research, and were SHOCKED when Jeordi, ....I dunno, - actually wanted to ask some questions about what happened?

2 ) No one on the Enterprise looked up Fajo's record BEFORE doing business with him? .... or even right after the accident? The Enterprise's computer knew who he was! AND the computer already knew that he had a massive amount of stolen stuff. Shouldn't there have ALREADY been a warrant out for his arrest?
Tue, May 9, 2017, 4:53pm (UTC -5)
The episode begins with Picard summing up the situation, that because of a sudden crisis, the Enterprise is procuring “unstable” material. Under these circumstances, had Picard known of the trader’s reputation, he possibly would have been willing to overlook it in order to quickly get the needed supplies.

Once the “accident” happened, before their very eyes, it’s seems believable that the crew would have been in shock. Even if they knew the trader was a “collector,” to them Data was a crewmate, not a unique collectable. They attempted to investigate, but as the other ship pointed out, the Enterprise was far more likely to have superior sensors. With the shuttle in such small pieces, there didn’t seem to be much to investigate, and they were on the clock to use the newly acquired material to resolve a crisis.

Like other commenters, I find it easier to accept that Data was firing the weapon to kill Fajo, than to accept his comment to Riker: “Perhaps something happened during transport, Commander.” This is so out of character for Data. His answers are usually completely truthful, long-winded and so comprehensive as to be absolutely unambiguous. Here his words seem human in nuance, displaying an ability to tell the truth while not being completely honest. But Data also identifies the specific disruptor, and Fajo has said that it is illegal for use on anyone. So in a sense, Data’s honesty remains intact: He makes Riker aware of a picture bigger than just any weapon being discharged during transport.

In the last scene, Data tells Fajo: “I do not feel pleasure. I am only an android.” But Fajo is a twisted, contemptible individual. And perhaps a human having this conversation with Fajo would also not feel pleasure, just a relief that Fajo would likely be spending the rest of his days in a penal institution. So maybe this is just another indication that Data is more human than his positronic brain allows him to realize.
Tue, Jul 4, 2017, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
A real battle between the immoral Fajo and Data's Gandhi-like passive resistance. Through Fajo's sadistic, deceitful, greedy nature we get to further appreciate Data's peaceful nature.

Seems surprising that Fajo has gotten away with so much theft and has a somewhat loyal staff. But he has no qualms about killing them...

As Data is one of the most lovable, and perhaps my favorite character on TNG, it's kind of like in "The Measure of a Man" when Data's sentience is questioned - only here he's being treated as a possession.

Saul Rubinek does a good job portraying Fajo - a strange character with weird mannerisms but cold and remorseless when going about his business.

Cleverly written with Data getting beamed back right at the time he fires on Fajo - we don't get to see Data take a life but clearly he would have. The ending when Data "lies" to Riker is well done I think. Data has absorbed some of Fajo's deceitful behavior and decides he must kill Fajo. Well handled with the tables turned between Data and Fajo in the end.

Thought "The Most Toys" was a clever episode, definitely worth 3 stars - an episode that surely evokes some emotions toward Data and anger/hatred toward Fajo.
Wed, Sep 27, 2017, 3:50am (UTC -5)
In 'The Offspring', Lal developed feelings despite having the same circuitry as Data. At the end of that episode Data incorporated Lal's circuitry patterning (or something) back into himself.

One interpretation of this episode is that Data does have feelings, albeit at a very low ('unconscious') level. There is evidence for this, some of which is reviewed in this episode (e.g. the hologram of Tasha), even before the incorporation of Lal. So the decision to vaporise Fajo with extreme prejudice now rather than wait out the situation was lubricated by a subliminal desire for revenge. The decision to not tell Riker the truth was lubricated by a tiny sense of shame. And the decision to inform Fajo of the dispersal of his collection was likewise lubricated by low-level satisfaction at flinging back the 'only an android' insult in his face.
Mon, Nov 13, 2017, 2:39pm (UTC -5)
3 stars. Another solid TNG outing

Kivas was such a loathsome vile creature from his humiliating Data, taunting him, threatening his own crewman etc. so by the end of the hour we could all understand Data pulling the trigger.

Loved Data’s acts of civil disobedience like refusing to put on a show for Kivas’ friend.

I also enjoyed the idea of a 24th century collector—loved the baseball card with bubble gum—. Very good episode idea and data being the ultimate object to possess was cool idea too
Wed, Nov 22, 2017, 5:27pm (UTC -5)
When I saw the name of this episode appear as I booted up Netflix I thought-oh no-I remembered this one with appropriate dread.
I hated it at the time and with good reason,
it is another implausible hour of silliness.
Come on guys-Saul Rubinek's pantomime villain would barely hack it for a 1980's remake Twilight Zone episode.
The deranged giggling and mincing about in that idiotic costume do not aid the suspension of disbelief.
I agree with Jammer on one point-there is no plot.
Mon, Feb 26, 2018, 4:46pm (UTC -5)
@borusa I could not disagree more--Saul Rubinek's performance as Kivas Fajo is magnificent. For example, when Fajo tries to curry Data's sympathy by attributing his behavior to a "desperate youth, wasted, wasted on the streets of Zimballia" a tear actually wells up and rolls down his cheek. Then, in a flash, Fajo drops the pretense, seeing that Data is unmoved by the story. It's simply one of the best portrayals of a high-functioning sociopath that I've seen on Star Trek, or anywhere else.
Peter G.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 2:17am (UTC -5)
Just watched this one again, and I agree with JP that this is a terrific portrayal of a sociopathic personality. The moment-to-moment shifts in Fajo between pretending to care about various things and then going dead in the eyes is really well done and surely something Rubinek added on his own as a piece of detailing.

I noticed something for the first time in the writing that is really quite remarkable as well. Near the start of the episode Fajo points out the contradiction in terms of a military pacifist, and then goes on to ask Data how he can reconcile the fact of being a party to murder, to which Data replies that he wouldn't condone murder. No doubt Data means that of all those killed as a result of his duties, to quote Arnie from True Lies, "but they were all bad." The facile nature of this explanation would come back to haunt Data when, later on, Fajo puts him in a scenario where failure to kill a person in cold blood would result in misery and death for others, and Data chooses the lesser of evils. In effect, he creates a living argument that refutes Data's claims in the earlier scene, proving that Data would indeed be a party to murder under certain circumstances. The episode doesn't dwell on this point, but it does bring to bear a strong point about the complex nature of going about on a well-armed starship on a mission of "peace". Kirk wouldn't have had any difficulty justifying the need for strength even while serving peace, but the fact remains that killing is required in order to carry out Starfleet duties. I'm reminded of the old argument between Spock and Sarek in Journey to Babel, where the Vulcan position on the matter is that choosing to serve in Starfleet is a more violent approach to learning than a Vulcan should indulge in, where the standard Vulcan approach would be to serve on Vulcan science ships that aren't armed to the teeth. It's relevant here because it does touch upon the careful line Starfleet has to walk to be powerful and yet not be *about* power. This is in a way similar to the situation Data is in here, where he has great capability to harm others but knows that he must avoid that if at all possible.

Anyhow, it's the first time I noticed that the resolution of the episode ties in directly to Fajo and Data's first conversation. That's really tight writing.
Peter G.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 2:39am (UTC -5)
Something else I just realized, in line with Data's lie to Riker about the disruptor having been discharged. That moment was already eerie and bespoke the possibility that Data has learned more than one negative behavior from this experience. But the final scene with Fajo, where Data tells him that he doesn't 'enjoy' having won, because he's only and android, and feels nothing. This moment always came across as gloating in some way even though I could never put my finger on it. It seems at the very least like Data putting him in his place, even though on the face of it claiming to take no pleasure in your adversary's defeat seems charitable. And then it hit me - Fajo's claim to excellence lay in his intelligence and lack of morality; he almost delighted in having no conscience. He knew he was better than others because they had weak feelings and he had none, and I can see how such a person could see themselves as being innately superior to others just on those grounds alone. Well then take another look at this last scene where Data rubs his face in the fact that Fajo actually *does* care about something, even though it's his greed and sadism that he cares about. But Data actually has NO feelings at all, and is being entirely truthful about that when he says this is because he's "only" an android. Data's point here is that he is dominantly better than Fajo at feelings nothing; that Fajo's sense of superiority leads inexorably to the conclusion that Data is inherently superior to him in his ability to make decisions without any feeling whatsoever. Fajo isn't even as good at Data at the one thing that made Fajo feel entitled to say he was better than anyone else. So when Data says this, it isn't a charitable admission at all, it's a direct way of communicating that Fajo is inferior even at being a sociopath to an android with no emotions. In short, Fajo has been beaten in every conceivable category and not only has no possessions left but also no ego to stand on any more.

Perhaps we should count this last scene as the final of three breaches of ethics by data, the first a murder, the second a lie, and now - to humiliate a beaten Fajo. This last is perhaps the eeriest of them all as it seemed to serve no purpose other than the make Fajo suffer. Very interesting writing decision, especially since the reset button would certainly prevent any recursion of Data's unusual progress in developing vices. But it's a really neat way of showing us that having no feelings doesn't mean it's impossible for Data to behave in a way we'd call cruel. It's not quite in character with how we normally think of Data and I tend to treat this one like a true one-off, but still the ending really is disturbing.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 11:15am (UTC -5)
Killing someone in the line of duty isn't really murder though and I think that's an important distinction this episode makes. War isn't just bloodthirsty murderers out to get each other; there's rules to warfare and certain times when it's condoned to kill an enemy combatant.

Also killing someone in self-defense, while technically murder, is considered a complete defense to murder. At least that's how our laws see it. I think this is the reason Spiner would've preferred that Data speak up for his deeds in the last scene. He was doing the right thing, even if it meant taking someone's life. Sad as it may be to some, there are times when taking someone's life is the morally right thing to do.
Peter G.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 12:25pm (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

I think it depends on the beliefs of the individual. There are people who believe in 'just wars' and then there are some who believe that killing is always wrong in any context. It's hard for some to understand how the latter view is reasonable but some do hold it. I imagine part of the problem Sarek had with Spock's decision was the need for violence while in Starfleet, where a Vulcan pacifist would try to avoid conflict even when it's 'logical' to kill for the benefit of others.
William B
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 12:38pm (UTC -5)
I'll add that within the episode, I think that Data's default assumption is that he should not kill Fajo for the sake of his own freedom. I think that legally, people are entitled to kill their kidnapper in escape if need be, but I think Data's moral system at the start of the episode is a little more restrictive than that, and I think that he wouldn't view his freedom as worth the life of even his kidnapper. I think he still doesn't at the end of the episode, exactly; it's a combination of factors, including Fajo's willingness to continue murdering people if Data defies him at all.
Peter G.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 1:20pm (UTC -5)
Don't forget that by the time Data has made his decision he is, for all intents and purposes, already free. He has the disruptor and can easily force Fajo to let him go or contact the Enterprise. But instead he says "I cannot allow this to continue", which is a cryptic statement but which I've always taken to mean "I can't allow you to go on living and taking lives." In other words this isn't a killing in self defence, or even to free himself, but rather it was an execution of someone essentially guaranteed to continue torturing and harming others. It was to prevent Fajo's *future crimes* that Data decided to kill him, not as a measure of immediate need since at that moment there was no such need. The situation was already under control. I can't see Data's conclusion as anything other than "I cannot allow a person like this to live," which is very, very different from deciding to take violent measures to escape. And that is why it's cold blooded murder rather than a killing in the line of duty. A court could have handled Fajo, in which case a good lawyer might have gotten him off, or he could escape, or who knows what. Maybe from prison he could order people on the outside to kill someone for revenge. Whatever the case, him being alive meant others were in danger, so Data had to eliminate him as the least of all evils. Fajo himself very clearly explained to Data that he'd have to choose between the lesser of evils in the case of Data complying about the costume versus breaking rules of decency, and that same calculus would be Data's determining factor in the end. I think Data clearly knew what he did was wrong, but that not doing it would be more wrong. Fajo basically proved that even Data would do murder if the alternative was worse.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 2:10pm (UTC -5)
@Peter G. and William

I agree that Data's ethical subroutine probably acts as an extra safeguard to prevent him from killing even when he's perfectly justified. In that sense, Favo is completely right, Data shouldn't even be in a military organization like Starfleet if he has that handicap. Likewise, it's really a contradiction of his programming to an extent.

"In other words this isn't a killing in self defence, or even to free himself, but rather it was an execution of someone essentially guaranteed to continue torturing and harming others. It was to prevent Fajo's *future crimes* that Data decided to kill him, not as a measure of immediate need since at that moment there was no such need. The situation was already under control."

I think that's one interpretation you could make that puts Data in a very dark light indeed. But, it's also stated that communications were restricted to the bridge and so Data would probably need to fight his way out to contact the Enterprise. Sure, he could head for the shuttle which was his original plan, but since Fajo was already wise to the plan he could likely put a tractor beam on the shuttle or even destroy it out of frustration of losing to Data. So, I don't think Data was really in control at the end; he just got lucky that the Enterprise was able to find him without bloodshed.
Peter G.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 2:30pm (UTC -5)
@ Chrome,

What danger was Data in at the very end? True, the Enterprise being there was a coincidence. But he had Fajo in front of a disruptor and the escape pod right in front of him. He could have easily forced Fajo to go into the pod with him and relinquish his shield belt. With Fajo in the pod (as a hostage, if you will) I very much doubt anything would happened to him at that point. What would Fajo risk when he was basically being held captive? It's true that perhaps he had other tricks up his sleeve, like security defenses within the pod or something, so I'll agree that Data was not totally 100% free of danger, but the immediate crisis seemed to be over once he was armed and had Fajo right there. At that point it would have been a risk assessment of getting away safely versus killing Fajo first. But even if he kills Fajo there's no guarantee he gets away safely, right? Because Fajo's people might still destroy him afterward as they show up armed. The safest course for Data would be to take Fajo captive to get out of there, but instead Data shoots him so that his behavior won't be allowed to continue.

This gets a bit into the weeds in terms of Data's tactical choices near the end, but assuming the Enterprise didn't show up I don't see how shooting Fajo is definitely the safest way for Data to escape. It seems like it was more of a moral decision that he needed to die rather than an escape plan.

And yes, this does put a very dark light on what Data did. I assume that Data never before had to choose between murder and letting a vicious murderer roam free. Given how fast his processors work, check out the sheer amount of time Data computes the decision before choosing to shoot; it's quite a long time. This is probably the result of Data needing to update his ethical subroutine entirely to encompass lesser-evil as being his new definition of "good" actions. In this scenario, even the pacifist 'no nothing' approach would ensure more harm was done than actually taking violent action. That puts a pacifist in a terrible situation, but Data doesn't experience shame or cowardice and so he'll choose a course and act.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 2:53pm (UTC -5)
"The safest course for Data would be to take Fajo captive to get out of there, but instead Data shoots him so that his behavior won't be allowed to continue."

The thing about this is, the scene is written as if Fajo was not willing to listen to Data even after Data had the disruptor. He considered Data to still be harmless since he was unable to use a weapon of such lethal force. Indeed Fajo was still ordering Data around based on the assumption that Data was still helpless to the confines of his ethical subroutines. And up until a certain point, Fajo was right. Thus, I don't think taking Fajo a prisoner was really an option. Data had to get serious or try to hopelessly reason with an unrelenting captor.

Killing Fajo was a logical step not only because it would prevent Fajo from taking advantage of others, but it would stop him from using whatever sort of tricks he had left to maintain his control over Data. We don't know *for sure* Data would be able to make a clean escape, but we do that his options were limited enough that a good step towards escape meant eliminating the person who was primarily preventing the escape.
Peter G.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
Yes, the trouble with the Varon-T is that there's nothing Data can do with it except kill Fajo, and nothing short of killing him might convince Fajo that Data means it. So there is that. So convincing Fajo to give up the shield might actually be impossible. I still can't help but feel that the 'danger' is over once Data has the disruptor, but I can see how if Fajo won't cooperate that even then Data might not have such a straightforward way to proceed to keep Fajo from going to his computer.

The only definitive thing we can say is that Data chooses to shoot prior to any attempt to see if Fajo will cooperate now that Data is armed. Perhaps the brevity of the episode length would prevent any extended treatment here, and such prosaic attempts might cut the suspense anyhow, so I can see how they would go right to Data making the decision. It still feels like an execution to me, especially in light of Data's subsequent lie about it. Else, why would Data not just submit that he was forced to shoot a dangerous man holding him captive? He must have known that he had done something 'wrong' but that it was still the better option. He probably rightly decided that his friends might not understand.
Wed, Mar 14, 2018, 5:54pm (UTC -5)
What went wrong with Star Trek guest characters? With a few notable exceptions, the aliens of the week in Voyager were bland, passionless and lacked any inspiration in either their motives or dialogue. It seems that Gul Dukat was the last truly great villain in any Trek (the Borg Queen was always superbly written and acted, but the very idea of the Borg being co-ordinated by an individual is moronic - the clear interference of Hollywood who needed another sci-fi "babe" in the mix).

TNG seasons 3 and 4 and maybe 5 were so amazing. Same with Voyager, DS9 and Enterprise. Something about those magic season numbers brings the shows to life.
Sarjenka's Little Brother
Fri, May 11, 2018, 1:50pm (UTC -5)
Something was off with this episode with me, and I can't put my finger on it.

For one thing, Varria says the rewards for being with Fajo are "lavish." And she really emphasize that word. What's so lavish about it.

A Roger Maris baseball card and a creature in a glass cage? That provides only so much entertainment. So while I got the stick part of staying with him, I never got the carrot part.

It also seems like Fajo sure had a lot of things lined up and thought out to pull this off given out little he also seemed to know about Date himself. He's like Heath Ledger's Joker -- he thought REALLY far ahead for each contingency.
Sat, Jun 16, 2018, 8:36am (UTC -5)
If Data had killed Faja, at the worst it would have been justifiable homicide. Too bad the Enterprise didn't come 5 seconds later.
Data delights in gloating and then mockingly says, "I do not feel pleasure. I am only an android." Riiiight Data. (wink wink)
Gul Densho-Ar
Sat, Jul 14, 2018, 8:04am (UTC -5)
This is one of those episodes that leave me puzzled about where the high ratings are coming from.

Fajo's over-the-top cartoon behaviour is something I expect in a SpongeBob episode and don't appreciate in Star Trek. That he turns out to be pretty evil doesn't change anything, I don't understand why that would make everything different.

How Varria quickly reveals to Data that Fajo once severely punished her for disloyalty is just too cheap and convenient for decent story development.

Also, we're back to TOS style costume/effects work. That guy who Fajo shows Data just looks stupid, as does that last-of-its-kind space lizard insect whatever thing.

Then of course Picard and Data acting out of character. Picard is bemusingly insistent on leaving it all behind and not wasting more time investigating the incident, and Data of course attempting to murder an unarmed man (and then lying about it).

Now I'm all for learning a different side to characters if it's well told and to some extent understandable. Here it's just random, implausible, unexplained, and forgotten afterwards in best VOY fashion (like Janeway's attempt to murder a prisoner). Apparently this was the writer's first Star Trek story, maybe that's why she messed with well-established characters.

And finally, reading one sentence of Shakespeare doesn't make your show smart. But to be fair, that's a general issue in Star Trek, and TNG in particular.
Mon, Jul 16, 2018, 1:54pm (UTC -5)
“Then of course Picard and Data acting out of character. Picard is bemusingly insistent on leaving it all behind and not wasting more time investigating the incident, and Data of course attempting to murder an unarmed man (and then lying about it).”

It seems like you’re throwing out details just to prove your point. Picard only left soon after Data’s disappearance because he needed to decontaminate the water supply of the colony Fajo sabotaged. As for Data, he was forced into a situation where he had to kill to stop Fajo. Defending yourself from kidnap is one of the few you times you can legally use lethal force, and self-defense is a far cry from murder.
Lara Spenzak
Mon, Dec 31, 2018, 10:08pm (UTC -5)
When you think about it Fajo is Trump. The writers of this episode almost certainly knew about Trump T the time were trying to send a warning that people like Fajo/Trump are extremely dangerous and must never be in positions of power.
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 12:29am (UTC -5)
I have always liked this episode. That having been said, there are flaws in the execution:

- Data is shown considering rushing the door to the collection room when Varria enters to give him the clothing. He even starts the motion, but then stops himself and thinks better of it. With his reflexes and speed, he should have succeeded in the attempt

- Varria has know the combination to the safe housing the Varon-T disruptor for years. Stealing it and murdering Fajo in his sleep shouldn't have been too difficult for her all this time. You could argue that all this time she has been loyal, and Fajo being willing to shoot her in cold blood just to get Data to sit in a chair was a tipping point, but if so that's a very abrupt turnabout after 14 years. And Fajo must have displayed this kind of indifference towards her before. Even her very first explanation to Data of why people obey him is not "we begrudgingly respect him for his skill in acquisition/determination/leadership and he provides for us." Rather, it's "he rewards good behaviour and has harsh ways to get us to comply." From the very beginning of this episode, she knows she is a slave. I would have expected her to turn on him far sooner.

- An *eternity* passes during the standoff where Fajo has Varria at gunpoint in the Jovis' shuttlebay, and she desperately tries to reach for the fallen weapon. All this time, Data should have wondered why the departure sequence wasn't progressing, and looked outside the shuttlecraft to see what was going on. Instead, he doesn't do so until she gets shot. He ought to have been able to save her easily.

- We know Data's programming isn't as simplistic as if "x", then "y." He has the ability to evaluate things on a case by case basis. In this case he decided that utilitarian ethics applied (the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few), that Fajo needed to be stopped lest he continue to kill and torture his underlings. I think that's why he said "I cannot allow this to continue." He had decided that his use of deadly force in this situation could probably be justified in the face of an inquiry. Therefore, I agree with other commenters that it doesn't make sense that he would lie to Riker about having deliberately discharged his weapon, unless he was having him on, and planned to fess up later.
Peter G.
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 12:55am (UTC -5)
@ 11001001,

"He had decided that his use of deadly force in this situation could probably be justified in the face of an inquiry. Therefore, I agree with other commenters that it doesn't make sense that he would lie to Riker about having deliberately discharged his weapon, unless he was having him on, and planned to fess up later."

I don't think this is such a hard thing to explain: Data's programming thus far had always justified deadly force in terms of self-defense or service to his duty to Starfleet. If so, then an absolute edict such as "it is always wrong to kill in cold blood" could co-exist with having killed in self-defense or in service to his duty. To view himself as a moral person, rather than just an effective one, he might have even *required himself* to accept certain axioms such as the one I just suggested. If this was the first situation ever where he had to create a new pathway to deal with a scenario where killing in cold blood actually appeared to be less wrong than permitting a murderer to torture people endlessly, then he would have to act on that, but at the same time discard his previous notion of his moral rectitude. He would now be an android willing to do what was always "bad" when put in a certain situation. The reason to lie about this could be to avoid having others face the new 'dark Data' so as to prevent them hating him. Or it could be that he knew what he did was strictly speaking against Federation law, even though his programming necessitated it. I actually doubt he could have justified what he did to any board of inquiry, as the Federation had no death penalty for murder.

But consider this: what if he lied simply because he had now understood himself to be "immoral" after what he did? What if the lying was simply a choice he made now that "bad" actions were no longer forbidden? I've always seen the ending as ominous, almost like Pandora's box had been opened. Granted it's a one-off, so it plays more like an Outer Limits episode rather than a new development for Data. But still that's how I take the ending.
Sat, Mar 30, 2019, 5:18pm (UTC -5)

While this one was good for being a Data centric episode and highlighting his problem solving skills (and less so Geordi et al on the Enterprise), the collector premise was a bit silly. I enjoyed it nevertheless.
Sat, Jun 29, 2019, 1:21pm (UTC -5)
I was watching this last night and one thing that leaped out at me was, when they were trying to figure out why someone would want to fake a trilithium disaster. They pulled up Fajo’s bio and everyone in the room lit up slowly as his bio was being read out and the next line was “Bridge, lay in a course Warp 9”.

It this we’re Voyager, Enterprise, The Orville, or even Discovery you just know someone would have said the obvious “This is the guy who’s got Data!”. But TNG was smart enough to understand that the audience knew the answer well before they started looking. It also makes the crew look smarter if they can silently figure things out because the answer just jumps out on the screen. Very good directing here, why wasn’t this 4 stars, Jammer?

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