Star Trek: The Next Generation
"The Most Toys"
Air date: 5/7/1990
Written by Shari Goodhartz
Directed by Tim Bond
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
In a hasty negotiation reached with a merchant, the Enterprise acquires a rare chemical substance needed to treat a contaminated water supply on a nearby colony. Data is transporting the substance via shuttlecraft when his shuttle suddenly explodes, resulting in his apparent death to the Enterprise crew. In reality, he has been kidnapped by the crew of the merchant ship. The merchant, Fajo (Saul Rubinek), is the owner of an impressive collection of some of the galaxy's rarest items (most of them stolen), and he intends Data to become the crown jewel of that collection. Fajo even has a chair that he expects Data to sit in when he shows Data off to his peers.
This is a simple plot, no doubt about it. What makes it come alive is the characters' dialog and behavior. Fajo initially seems like a character that hints at a comic performance, but as the episode continues and reveals the depths of Fajo's immorality, you realize there's nothing comic about the character or the way Saul Rubinek plays him. This is a man with a boundless ego, used to getting what he wants, and with no scruples whatsoever. He wants Data to obey, and when Data does not, it quietly becomes a war of wills with escalating consequences.
What I find most enjoyable about this episode is how Data's war is a war of manners. Data is just so damned polite, even when confronted by a smug egomaniac like Fajo. Data's response to being kidnapped is to ask straightforward, sincere questions. When Fajo makes the terms of Data's custody clear, Data's response is to explain in straightforward, honest terms why Fajo's plan is immoral and why he won't cooperate. Because he's incapable of anger, Data's resistance is usually passive, calm, and logical. (Imagine Riker or Worf in this situation and you see the uniqueness of Data's approach.) In a way, Data's rock-solid logic and unflappable temperament almost makes it more maddening for Fajo. Fajo can't anger Data, but that makes it no easier for Fajo to control him. It becomes a stalemate. The episode's wild card is Varria (Jane Daly), a woman who has been gradually Stockholm syndromed into Fajo's clutches (she helped kidnap Data), but clearly does not like where she is. Data represents a possible new opportunity for her escape.
The final act, in which Fajo kills Varria for betraying him, is a somewhat shocking turn of events. Data's response poses one of those intriguing questions that the story asks the audience to decide for themselves: Did Data intend to shoot and kill Fajo before he was beamed out? I believe he did, simply because the logic of the situation would permit him to take deadly action, and, in Data's words, he "cannot allow this to continue." But then why would Data lie about having pulled the trigger?
Previous episode: Hollow Pursuits
Next episode: Sarek
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132 comments on this post
Fri, Apr 1, 2011, 11:40pm (UTC -5)
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)
Thu, May 30, 2013, 1:30pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jun 13, 2013, 6:58am (UTC -5)
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)
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)
Mon, Dec 30, 2013, 11:23am (UTC -5)
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??
Mon, Dec 30, 2013, 11:29am (UTC -5)
Mon, Dec 30, 2013, 11:52am (UTC -5)
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)
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)
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.
Wed, Sep 3, 2014, 2:57pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Nov 2, 2014, 3:34pm (UTC -5)
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)
Sat, Jan 10, 2015, 11:26am (UTC -5)
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.
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).
Tue, Mar 24, 2015, 7:02am (UTC -5)
Thu, Mar 26, 2015, 10:10pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 10, 2015, 8:20pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Jul 24, 2015, 3:02pm (UTC -5)
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)
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)
Sun, Sep 6, 2015, 7:16am (UTC -5)
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)
Tue, Nov 3, 2015, 9:58pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Dec 12, 2015, 9:03am (UTC -5)
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)
I guess that's a testament to the actor.
Fri, Jan 8, 2016, 8:42pm (UTC -5)
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.
Fri, Jan 8, 2016, 9:11pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Jun 14, 2016, 1:05am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 10:04am (UTC -5)
Listen to Saul Rubinek - his phrasing, his inflections of speech. Watch his gestures.
Saul Rubinek is channelling William Shatner in his performance.
Tue, Jul 26, 2016, 10:22am (UTC -5)
"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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
Tue, Oct 4, 2016, 9:26am (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 4, 2016, 10:25am (UTC -5)
Mon, Feb 13, 2017, 11:43pm (UTC -5)
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?
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 12:50am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 8:08am (UTC -5)
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)
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.
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.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 9:15am (UTC -5)
"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)
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.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 9:46am (UTC -5)
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)
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 10:02am (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 10:42am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 10:52am (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 12:03pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 12:39pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 7:44pm (UTC -5)
I believe that is the true meaning of the scene that is lost on most people.
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 8:17pm (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 2:06am (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 8:34am (UTC -5)
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!
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 9:43am (UTC -5)
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.
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 10:01am (UTC -5)
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)
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.
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 10:24am (UTC -5)
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)
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)
Tue, Feb 21, 2017, 2:51am (UTC -5)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 2:17am (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 2:39am (UTC -5)
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)
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.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 12:25pm (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 12:38pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 1:20pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 2:10pm (UTC -5)
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.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 2:30pm (UTC -5)
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 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.
Tue, Mar 13, 2018, 3:43pm (UTC -5)
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)
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.
Fri, May 11, 2018, 1:50pm (UTC -5)
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)
Data delights in gloating and then mockingly says, "I do not feel pleasure. I am only an android." Riiiight Data. (wink wink)
Sat, Jul 14, 2018, 8:04am (UTC -5)
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)
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.
Mon, Dec 31, 2018, 10:08pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 12:29am (UTC -5)
- 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.
Thu, Jan 3, 2019, 12:55am (UTC -5)
"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)
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?
Tue, Oct 22, 2019, 6:51pm (UTC -5)
Another one who brings Trump into a totally unrelated subject. Dear god, get over your Trump Derangement Syndrome and accept that most States disagree with you, darling.
Tue, Oct 22, 2019, 9:29pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Oct 23, 2019, 4:10am (UTC -5)
I'm not a fan of Mr. Trump, but people who shoehorn politics into unrelated discussions are annoying AF. It's borderline trolling, in my view.
It's a pity, though, that after ten months of obscurity, her comment is suddenly put in the spotlight. I was perfectly happy not knowing it existed until today...
Sun, Oct 27, 2019, 3:46pm (UTC -5)
"The Most Toys" title is obviously a reference to the well known Malcolm Forbes quote about whoever dies with the most toys, wins.
And the title gives away the theme, IMO - value and values. Data is a valuable object. But we see he's also a valuable friend, co-worker, officer, even loved one.
Varria tells us exactly what Data's made of at the beginning and she shows us at the end. Geordi says Data's more than just a "walking pile of circuitry and memory cells," and it certainly seems as if he is.
Picard says Data "has been lost," and in a way, they do lose Data. He comes back a different Data. He's no longer the naive Data who falls for every Riker poker bluff.
He loses his innocence. It's a coming of age story, for an android.
The little interlude between Troi and Worf, and Worf's instant reaction: "Data," when the shuttle blows up, is meant to provide yet another view of the complexity of sentient beings, what they value, and how they value. Worf, as Deanna mentions, is a Klingon, he does things the Klingon way. But it does not mean he doesn't have feelings or make independent decisions. There's only so far your inherent "programming" can take you.
Data fires at Fajo, then (essentially) lies to Riker (deliberately leaves Riker with a false impression). Then he feels the need to see Fajo in his captivity and let him know that he's lost all his toys.
Data weighs the pluses and minuses of firing and fires - the feeling for me, when he says he cannot "let this continue," is that he's found a way around his programming, and the same with his lie - it's not strictly a lie, after all.
But Star Fleet getting their nose into all this is the last thing he needs. Star Fleet tried to have him dismantled and said he was property, at first. They tried to take Lal. No. Data keeps his disrupter use, I.e., his knowledge that he's more independent (and more dangerous) than people think, to himself.
DATA: "You are a fine debater, sir. It is a pity you have used your verbal gifts for mere hucksterism and the advancement of your own greed. "
Mon, Oct 28, 2019, 3:07pm (UTC -5)
I really like this episode and I agree with your comments about it. A few more things I'd like to add:
Fajo's interest in Data is specifically because Data is an object -- but an extremely valuable object, *because* "it" is so close to a man. This is similar to Maddox. Maddox wasn't evil in the same way Fajo is, but I think in both cases we can understand how deeply the contradictions in how humanoids see Data: he is so valuable specifically because he is *almost* a person, but not quite. He wouldn't be so exceptional if he was a person; and he wouldn't be exceptional if he were much further from being a person. The Enterprise crew for the most part, and *especially* Geordi, actually sees Data as valuable *as* a person (we see Picard also quoting Hamlet, "He was a man, taken for all in all. I shall not look upon his like again."). The way Geordi finds him is because Data would not be sloppy -- which is because Geordi admires that quality in Data, and also because Geordi "knows" that Data doesn't have human flaws like the rest of us.
With Fajo, he definitely sees Data as special *not* because Data is merely an object -- Data embarrasses Fajo by playacting a pure object. He also does not see Data as special because he's a person, because Fajo has no interest in or respect for persons -- as we see the way he treats Varria. He values Data because of his rarity and uniqueness, yes -- he's one of a kind -- but also because Data is on this object/person borderline. And that's also how Fajo seeks to control him: he knows what Data's ethical programming means, and he knows that he can manipulate Data by using Data's valuing life.
Data's ability to break free from Fajo requires him to stop being an object entirely. The question though is whether that renders Data less unique and less valuable, in a way. If Data is just another flawed person, then does that actually make him lesser? Does that make him in a way more like Fajo? More broadly, the answer is no, because Data is not as selfish or sociopathic as Fajo, nor does he value sentient life as little as Fajo does. But he can be as cold and calculating as Fajo, as *emotionally* distant, and the thing that separates him from Fajo -- and Lore for that matter -- is his placing value on humanoid life. The act of deciding to kill Fajo is his discovering that his valuing of humanoid life is not absolute. This isn't a knock on Data. It takes incredible idealism, and naivete, to believe that it's possible to never make a choice to protect one life over another. And indeed we know that Data has killed before, as discussed in this episode, in the line of duty. But he *is* in a situation in which there is a (self-sacrificial) course of action open to Data in which all lives are spared -- he just complies with Fajo forever. What Fajo is counting on is that Data's valuing his life is great enough that Data will continue allowing others to die by Data's inaction, or Data will agree entirely to Fajo's terms. The choice to kill here wears away at one of the things that separates Data from Fajo.
With Fajo in the cage at the end, Data seems to be both lording it over Fajo and also re-establishing the previous version of events: "No, sir, it does not. I do not feel pleasure. I am only an android." Is that the truth or a lie? I don't think Data entirely knows what it means. That said, I believe that Data does not feel pleasure. I think he is attempting to...gloat, almost, to Fajo. But I also don't think he gets satisfaction out of it. There is a tinge of...almost despair to it. Data's statement that he is "only an android" seems to be in part a reaction to what it meant for Data to stop being an android. For most of the series, Data's quest to be more than an android is presented in positive terms -- that he can love, procreate, change. Here the possibility is raised that Data's growth might mean that he'll become worse, more like Fajo. Some part of Data recoils, obfuscates, lies, because he doesn't entirely want to be this kind of human(oid). It's appropriate that Data recoils from being too human and reasserts his android-ness, makes himself back into an object, the moment he becomes sufficiently close to a human(oid) so vile that he realizes that he does not value his life enough to preserve it.
I think the issue isn't just that Data learns to attempt to kill Fajo, I think it's that he actually realizes that he understands Fajo, at the end, and wants to be, or at least pretend to be, "just an android" again so he doesn't have to.
Tue, Nov 12, 2019, 10:29pm (UTC -5)
If he's dealing with criminals then why hasn't one of those criminals killed this weak man?
For that matter why does Fajo have a baseball card? What is a baseball card to him when his planet didn't even have baseball? How would anybody know the difference between a replicated baseball card and the original? Especially when the thing he seems to enjoy the most is the synthetically reproduced bubblegum smell.
Tue, Nov 12, 2019, 10:33pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Nov 13, 2019, 11:45am (UTC -5)
I personally find your objections cited here to be really beside the point, as the fact remains that bad people exist and will do bad things. The episode is about whether Data will alter his ethics to deal with an unusual situation. And to your last point, that Data is clearly in the right to kill for his freedom, the episode make it as clear as it can that Data was no longer in danger at that point and could have left if he wanted to, but would know that Fajo would no doubt continue to do these things to others. Data didn't kill him in self-defence or in order to escape, but *executed him* in order to prevent him doing further harm in the future, which was definitely outside the purview of his programming thus far.
Wed, Nov 13, 2019, 1:22pm (UTC -5)
So Data does have a choice here. He can placate Fajo long enough to find a non-lethal way out - something which Data tries numerous times and fails. Or he can kill Fajo and hope no one else can handle him, which is anything but certain. In the end, Data chooses to kill Fajo not because he thinks it will free him, but because he thinks killing Fajo will at least stop the ongoing slavery, pilfering, and butchery aboard his flying prison.
Wed, Nov 13, 2019, 6:52pm (UTC -5)
That's why I don't think this was a huge stretch to his ethical programming. It's SOP in a hostage situation that the hostage takers' lives are forfeit if they threaten the hostages and if the hostage takers can be killed without harming the hostages. That's the clearest analogy to Data's situation. He should have had no problem, relatively speaking, in killing Fajo. In fact, he should have even less qualms than a human, who might intellectually understand that it's the proper course of action in a crisis situation but might balk at the emotional side.
Wed, Nov 13, 2019, 8:32pm (UTC -5)
I think Peter’s suggestion that Data changes in this episode comes from this dialogue:
DATA: I have been designed with a fundamental respect for life in all its forms and a strong inhibition against causing harm to living beings.
FAJO: What a marvellous contradiction. A military pacifist. Tell me, whose dreadful decision was it to enlist you in Starfleet to begin with?
DATA: My skills seemed appropriate
FAJO: Data, Data, Data. Big mistake. A grievous error. You belong in Starfleet about as much as I belong in a verbal contract. Tell me, have you killed yet?
DATA: No, but I am programmed with the ability to use deadly force in the cause of defense.
FAJO: Shame on you. Shame on you. How neatly you rationalise your capabilities. How can you just casually accept your role in murder?
DATA: I would not participate in murder. Perhaps you misunderstand.
FAJO: Can't you see how much better it will be for you right here? The intellectual rewards alone. Our personal exploration of the galaxy. I am at war with no one. I am your liberator!
Up until this point, Data never had to kill, so there was always a certain angelic aura about him. Data was strongest person on the ship yet solved problems with his wits. In other words, an ideal crew member for the loftily diplomatic Enterprise D. Data needing to kill here changes that image. He’s no longer a childlike android. He’s the android capable of killing on his own if he doesn’t like the situation.
I honestly get how people think that Data needed to kill Fajo to free himself, but did he really? He had the weapon and wasn’t in immediate danger. Why not just knock Fajo unconscious and turn him over to Starfleet? Did he really need to kill (violently and painfully with the Varon T disruptor, by the way) at that point in the episode to be safe? I agree with you that he may be justified in the end, but you’d be damned sure Starfleet would have an inquiry and people would not look at Data the same way anymore.
Wed, Nov 13, 2019, 9:44pm (UTC -5)
Chrome is right that 'my case' rests largely on that setup dialogue, which IMO is deliberately in the episode in order to underline what Data does later, which is not in line with what he says here. Fajo is, in essence, correct that Data is neatly compartmentalizing his capabilities, and he basically proves it. *That* is a real power that Fajo had over him, and in a dark way Fajo won. The line that cements my position on this is Data's final moment of decision/realization:
DATA: I cannot allow this to continue.
I do not believe "this" refers to himself personally being in danger, and I have never interpreted as meaning anything other than that this man cannot be allowed to live, because he will continue finding ways to make people suffer. And perhaps worse than that, will continue turning good people (like Data) to doing bad things under his pressure. Fajo is sort of like a little Lucifer in this sense, more someone into corrupting people than murdering them. I don't think he kills because he likes it, but rather because it bends people to his will and turns them into more of his possessions.
Incidentally, I've only now just realized I do have one fault in this otherwise excellent episode, which is Saul Rubinek. I rather like the guy, and think he's sort of quirky and fun. I liked him on Frasier and I like him here, except that now that I'm looking at some of this dialogue on paper, it looks so different from what he ended up doing with it. He plays it more like a devilish spoiled child, but the text Chrome quoted sounds so intellectually devious and cunning, almost someone who's smart enough to be able to challenge Data; maybe a more sinister and less refined version of Prof. Moriarty. And based on how the result of the episode plays out, he does indeed challenge Data, proving he was right and Data was wrong, even about being able to teach Data things (bad things). The problem is I don't see this guy in Rubinek's performance, so in hindsight I'm underwhelmed that I don't think the acting and directing quite do justice to what's on the page, although it's still good.
Fri, May 8, 2020, 3:53am (UTC -5)
How exactly was Data supposed to knock him unconscious? He can't touch or even approach him because of his anti-positron device. His only weapon has no stun setting. Fajo is certain Data cannot kill him and so refuses to submit or be intimidated. What choice does Data have other than to kill Fajo or submit to him?
Fri, May 8, 2020, 7:43pm (UTC -5)
Forgive me for simplifying things here, but Peter's (and others) position seems to be that the theme is Data going beyond his normal ethical programming in the end. Perhaps one could say it is akin to the Asimov novels. There, the first law of robots is "don't harm humans", but eventually they evolved a zeroth law, "don't harm humanity", which can occasionally supersede the first law. Here, Data does something similar, according to this side of the comments when he shoots at Fajo. His position is not about self defense, but a greater defense of his ideals. And the evidence is the initial conversation between the two that Chrome quoted, the "I cannot allow this to continue", Data lying to Riker, and the last conversation between Fajo and Data with the "I am only an android" line being practically ironic.
Meanwhile, my position (and others) is that Data's actions in shooting Fajo do not rise to the occasion of being beyond normal procedures. Data was kidnapped and held captive against his will, and then was essentially in a hostage situation when Fajo started threatening the rest of his crew. Data shooting Fajo would be considered a legitimate act based a logical moral code.
And unfortunately, I think we're both right. Given the theme of treating Data as an object, and Fajo's outright taunting of Data at the end that he won't shoot him, it seems like this moral quandary was an important issue in the writers' minds. That they wanted it to be about what Data COULD do in such a situation. The discussion on self defense, the question about Data gloating at the end, all of it seems to be about whether or not Data could make the big decision. So I can see where Peter and Chrome are coming from (except the Data lying to Riker bit; that one is just executive meddling...).
But if that was the writers' intention, then they failed. Because in 106 comments, no one has yet come up with a plausible solution that doesn't involve either A) Data remaining kidnapped, B) Fajo killing another crewmember, or C) Data killing Fajo. So while Fajo taunting Data at that point about how he won't kill him seems to clearly point to that being the theme, it doesn't hold the emotional impact it could. After all, how is it a great leap forward for Data to decide to kill him if it was the only logical solution? If it is just self defense, what's the point?
So is the "I cannot allow this to continue" line referring to something greater than the immediate threat? The vague wording there does seem to suggest that's true. But the situation suggests it doesn't. And while the thought that Data has evolved from an innocent cherub to someone who can be judge, jury, and executioner is a sobering and serious one, worthy of an episode, does this situation really warrant it? Yes, Fajo is a sociopath. But outside of the events of THIS episode, what has he done? We know of nothing besides theft. Other than Data, he doesn't collect people, so he's not a slaver. Other than Varria, we have no knowledge of him being a murderer. Yes, Varria's odd statement about his punishments does seem to imply something worse, but we don't entirely know. All the actions that do seem execution-worthy were events surrounding Data. And thus, remain wrapped up in Data's own personal situation. So again, the "this" seems smaller in scope than what may have been intended.
So ultimately, if the writers did intend something akin to what the other side of the comments suggest, then they failed to set up the situation appropriately to allow it to have the emotional impact. Because I (and undoubtedly others) see nothing unusual about Data pulling the trigger in that situation. And if it wasn't the writers' intention, why did they focus so much on talking about Data's use of self defense?
It IS possible that there is a different theme. Exploring how Data would react to a situation that most anyone else would respond to in an emotional manner is interesting enough. And Fajo is an interesting enough foil to that plot. Ultimately, Fajo treats Data as a thing, as an object he can control. But Data patiently outsmarts him, and in the end Fajo loses his control of others. And Fajo's assumptions of who Data is, of his thing-ness, is his ultimate downfall when his assumption turns out false on Data's willingness to engage in self defense. So that theme is present too. But looking back at it, I ultimately agree that it is hidden beneath the question of Data shooting. And ultimately, I think that story ended up stumbling.
So while this episode is certainly a good one, I think it is a bit too muddled for its own good.
Sat, May 9, 2020, 4:37am (UTC -5)
Nice balanced write-up. I'll disagree with a couple of points, however:
"Because in 106 comments, no one has yet come up with a plausible solution that doesn't involve either A) Data remaining kidnapped, B) Fajo killing another crewmember, or C) Data killing Fajo.
So is the "I cannot allow this to continue" line referring to something greater than the immediate threat? The vague wording there does seem to suggest that's true. But the situation suggests it doesn't."
I don't think these were the only options; or at least by the time Data had the disruptor they weren't. He had decisively gotten out of physical danger, and once Varria was dead there was no one else immediately present to protect. If she was alive I could see your argument being completely valid: he has to kill to protect someone, completely logical defense of others. Once she's dead and it's just Data and Fajo, and Data has him dead to rights, the calculus changes. Now the options are: A) Data calls the space cops and has Fajo arrested. B) Data shoots him. C) Data sits around guarding Fajo, disruptor trained on him, waiting around to see if the Enterprise comes.
(A) is problematic because although it's the lawful-good course of action, it seems pretty clear that Fajo's space lawyers will either get him off, or else even from captivity he'll find some way to harm people. To paraphrase Mace Windu from Ep III, he's too dangerous to be left alive.
(B) is apparently a chaotic-type action, forsaking rule of law in favor of an expedient solution that helps protect the innocent in the long run. This may include other crew members on that ship, or else various random other people Fajo may torment.
(C) Since Data has no reason to believe the Enterprise has solved the puzzle, this option is little more than stalling. Fajo could possibly even turn the tables on Data given enough time.
I would like to point out, however, that although (A) looks 'logical' from an American death-penalty-yee-haw standpoint, it's not logical if rule of law is considered to be a highest good. This is the Federation, not the U.S., and there is no death penalty in existence for Data *under any circumstances* (except visiting Talos IV, hehe). So preemtively killing someone who is currently disarmed and helpless, as a Federation citizen, is a criminal chaotic-evil action, period full-stop.
"So is the "I cannot allow this to continue" line referring to something greater than the immediate threat? The vague wording there does seem to suggest that's true. But the situation suggests it doesn't."
If you see the situation as Data being held captive and consider the entire episode's peril, then yes, Data was being held prisoner and was being threatened. But if you *only* consider the present situation - Data holding a gun to a helpless sociopath who will kill again if he somehow gets free - then the only defense Data could be considering is the defense of unknown others in the future. Based on Varria's comments I never considered for an instant (not when the episode first aired, and still not now) that this was his very first violent offense. The writers know that TNG has a light tone and is family friendly, but in so many words Varria lets Data know that Fajo tortures or kills people as a matter of course to get his way. Look at her when she says it - she's terrified of him. It's no coincidence that his favorite antique weapon is a torture device; this is the type of guy who killed little animals as a kid and had that dead expression on his face. I actually take his past criminal violence to be an outright given circumstance indicated in the script, not just an educated guess on my part.
I do like how you presented this side of the argument as akin to Asimov's zeroth law, and although that's a nice comparison, a distinction I would draw is that I don't think Data discovered a higher ethic here, superseding his old one. That would imply, in a way, that his newer understanding was superior to his old one; the zeroth law implies a greater wisdom about what protecting humanity means. But in Data's case he was put in a position where there was *no way* to satisfy his ethical program, and so he choose to least of evils, and in so doing had to cancel out the boundaries of his ethical programming. This was an ethical step down for him, not a step up. I think the lie to Riker is an indication not of executive meddling, but that Data knows he is now a worse person, and that Fajo has broken his ability to be good in the same way he was before. He lies because the floodgate is now open on "ends-justify-the-means" type solutions, which includes lying for the sake of expediency (i.e. to avoid undue scrutiny). Data overcame him physically, but Fajo defeated him morally: Data had to become bad to defeat worse. It's not a superior zeroth law in this case, so much as the greying out of the existing laws. I definitely always got a chill at the end, and I think it's because Data really did become less of 'just an android' and more like a person, in a bad way.
If I were to ascribe a weakness to the episode, assuming my argument holds water, it's that there's no way this development would ever be allowed to remain. We are guaranteed to get a total reset on what is meant to be a chilling breakdown of Data's perfect ethics. This one works great as a one-off Outer Limits episode of Trek, but really has no place in any extended continuity.
Sun, May 10, 2020, 8:56am (UTC -5)
Skeptical makes some interesting arguments that the episode could've gone further about justifiable homicide and I'm sympathetic to that. He also mentioned some sort of executive meddling in this episode, yet as far as I'm aware the situation was that one of the writers (not the credited writer above) and Spiner wanted it to be definite that Data would own up to killing here, while whoever made the final decision (Shari Goodhartz? Piller? Berman?) decided to leave it open-ended. Does that make the story weaker? We're supposed to consider whether Data changed, and the ending leaves that question up in the air for the audience to ponder.
In any case, I don't think the story hinges on this one scene; the moral dilemma Data faces near the end is just one layer of the episode. As Jammer describes well, there's a lot more complexity to this show with Data using logic and passive resistance to never give Fajo what he wants.
Sat, May 16, 2020, 10:04am (UTC -5)
In my opinion, this is a very contentious conclusion to draw from the available evidence, and I find it odd that most of the TNG crew go along with it most of the time. Thankfully, there are points (such as in "The Offspring", when Dr. Crusher (I think) hints that Data is entirely capable of loving Lal, or the episode where Pulaski suggests Data has hurt pride) which show that not everyone buys it. And the conclusion to this episode dares us to apply the same skepticism.
It's clear that Data is incapable of *the same range* of feeling as humans, and certainly the same intensity. But it seems to me equally clear that many of his decisions and actions have an emotive component to them. For a start, it's really not uncontentious that curosity, which he regularly owns up to, is outside of the realm of emotions. It's a feeling which we act upon.
In the context of this episode, the notion of a "respect for life" is also, to my mind, something that has to be based in feeling. You can't program a computer to have "respect". You can program it to avoid particular results, but those results would need to be quantifiable. If a robot is not supposed to harm humans, then that means it avoids actions which will lead to humans making certain statements, or producing certain sounds, that are unambiguously categorised as evidence of harm.
A robot with Data's processing capacity, operating according to a wider remit of protecting 'life', would be constantly calculating the ramifications of actions, policies and procedures so as to minimise the net amount of suffering and death. But Data devotes himself first and foremost to his duties, prioritises immediate problems and acts primarily to protect those around him. This plainly evinces an emotional response, since he is prioritising proximate stimuli, rather than viewing all available information dispassionately.
In other words, respect requires a qualitative judgement. It requires emotion.
So to my mind, the questions TNG keeps posing are: to what extent does Data 'feel' and what are the ways in which that differing extent of feeling is an advantage or disadvantage? This episode is built around one variation of that question: is Data restricted, in a way that we are not, from being able to assert his own freedom, through lack of feeling? Is he bound to remain imprisoned because he cannot weigh his own needs above that of a person's life, however villainous and cruel that person is? Can he be gamed simply by presenting him with a situation where more lives are endangered by his independence than by his total compliance?
And the episode answers it, in essence, by saying that the more a being like Data is pushed into that situation, the more likely they are to develop exactly those feelings necessary to escape that trap.
@Skeptical wrote, above: "But if that was the writers' intention [to ask whether or not Data could make the big decision], then they failed. Because in 106 comments, no one has yet come up with a plausible solution that doesn't involve either A) Data remaining kidnapped, B) Fajo killing another crewmember, or C) Data killing Fajo."
I would argue, firstly, that there needs to be some measure of ambiguity in the treatment of this topic, so it's a strength of the episode that we can support Data's actions through cold moral deduction. It would be overly blunt to simply have an episode designed to say: "Data can become emotional when he needs to be."
That ambiguity is also the device which leads us to question where our own feelings end and our moral deduction begins, and therefore what makes us so different from Data. Who's to say that all our actions don't amount to logical calculations, based on values that have been 'programmed' into us? We might not like to admit that when we act rashly or destructively, we are operating on the basis of short-term preservation, but perhaps the only difference between Data and us is that he's far, far more intelligent, and an intelligent being sees solutions to most situations that don't involve emotion.
This episode puts Data in a situation where a moral calculation supports the act of killing his captor, but perhaps that moral calculation *requires* that he also feel some measure of anger in order to get him over the hump of how wrong it is to kill. Feeling as an emergency override.
Wed, May 20, 2020, 6:59pm (UTC -5)
So this episode involves a dilemma within that law. The decisive element is not so much Fajo's killing of Varria as his indication of his readiness to repeat that time and time again. If Data fires he kills Fajo. If he fails to fire his action will result in the death of others. Either way he offends against the First Law. However failing to prevent Fajo from killing a succession of people involves a greater breach of the law, because he is only a single person.
It's a classic Asimovian story. I'd love to see what Asimov thought of the episode, which was first broadcast a couple of years before his death.
Ironically it is Fajo's protective screen that would have caused his death, if the timely transporter had not kicked in in the nick of time, since without it Data would have had no need to pull the trigger.
Why did Data lie by misdirection? I think that could also have been justified under Asimov's Laws - telling Riker that he had fired could potentially have hurt him, offending against the First Law, and could also have caused injury to Data, which woould make tge Tird Law relevant "A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law."
Thu, May 21, 2020, 10:42am (UTC -5)
Sun, May 24, 2020, 7:20pm (UTC -5)
So what are Data's options? Fajo won't follow any demands Data has. He simply won't. So Data can either shoot Fajo, or put down the disruptor and submit. There is no third option. If Data puts down the disruptor, either he resists and gets people killed (not a good solution) or he doesn't resist and accepts slavery (not a good solution either). Killing Fajo prevents any more deaths and any more injustice.
Data truly only had one option, logically. "I cannot allow this to continue." That means both for him and others.
Wed, Jun 3, 2020, 8:02pm (UTC -5)
So it's not that I disagree with the rest of your analysis. That is all fine IF Data had other options. I'm fine with Data perhaps recognizing that Fajo is a serial killer as well as a kidnapper (I'll take your word for it about that one scene since I haven't seen the episode in years, but I also recall an impression that even Fajo was shocked when he killed Varra). I'm fine with Data's actions being less than ideal and Data recognizing it. But I'm just not fine with the way it's presented as Data being an executioner rather than Data acting in immediate (or at least in 2 minutes when Fajo picks up a gun and points it at the next crewmember) self defense and immediate defense of others.
You say that it's only a theoretical that Fajo will kill again and not in respect to Data's immediate situation, while I'm saying that, as soon as Data refuses Fajo's command to sit back in the chair, Fajo will immediately threaten or kill someone else. That seems to be the part missing here (also seems to be what Matt is saying). Perhaps its a little ambiguous in the episode, but I think that's one part where ambiguity hurts it rather than helps.
Sat, Mar 20, 2021, 5:39pm (UTC -5)
As has been noted by others the Troi issue rears its head here as she's conveniently not around when her powers would pretty much end the storyline. If you have to conveniently write a character out of story after story maybe that's a bad character?
It felt like it had been a while since we had a truly Data-heavy episode but even in this one, similar to the episode with Tam and the sentient ship, he's really second fiddle and in more of a reactionary role. Loved him essentially shutting down when Fajo was trying to show him off.
Minor quibble - Wouldn't Fajo be scared to show Data off? Seems to me that someone, eventually, would get the bright idea of diming Fajo to one of the major and powerful organizations out there that he's got a fully functioning one-of-a-kind android that they might want to grab so they could copy. It wouldn't take someone being aware of Data in the first place to see the potential value of an android to the Federation, Ferengi, Romulan, Klingons, et al.
Wed, Jun 9, 2021, 5:15pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 12, 2021, 2:46am (UTC -5)
However, was something cut from the Netflix episode? One moment the Enterprise is searching for Fajo’s trail, the next Data is being beamed aboard. There seems to be a sudden discontinuity, a jump, as if a scene was cut.
The real question is - would (or did) Data fire the weapon and try to kill Fajo? His program would prevent it, but a discharge was detected. It’s left hanging by the director, as a talking point for viewers. Logically there is no malfunction present, which is the only thing that would override Data’s programming, and there was no existential threat to him - indeed, he knew Fajo considered him too valuable to lose. It’s a conundrum. I’ll enjoy reading back through the comments to see what others think!
Thu, Aug 12, 2021, 8:49am (UTC -5)
"The real question is - would (or did) Data fire the weapon and try to kill Fajo?"
I think it is meant to be 100% clear that Data did fire. Not only do we see the actual discharge, but the Enterprise's computer notes it as well. The question left to us is what is means that he fired.
Thu, Aug 12, 2021, 10:36am (UTC -5)
ive read down as far as your post on 14/2/2017 and I think you nailed it there. My own thoughts, which echo what you wrote, are:
- Data had already seen Fajo murder Varria, and heard him threaten to kill other crew members, therefore Data - knowing that he was the cause of all this - logically knew that he had no real choice : he had to kill Fajo. The episode is therefore a restatement (or inversion) of Spock's famous dictum "The needs of the many...". The ethical question posed is "Should you kill in order to prevent other deaths?". You could argue that Data should have immobilised Fajo before trying to discover a route back to the Enterprise and delivering Fajo to justice. However we already know Fajo had a 'proximity detector' thingie so Data could never have got close enough to him to knock him out and tie him up. As for other weapons rather than the disruptor, it seems there weren't any, at least, none that he had the leisure to seek out.
- Another point, that no-one here had mentioned up to February 2017: Data was a Starfleet officer, had been trained in all the concomitant military disciplines which that entailed. As soon as he realised that he - as a Starfleet officer - had been kidnapped and that it was a permanent capture as far as Fajo was concerned, he would have seen that as a hostile act which demanded that he treat Fajo as an enemy, a hostile. Deciding to kill Fajo was therefore justified as a kind of 'act of war'. Even more so if you consider that Fajo - at any future time tiring of his 'toy' or frustrated by Data's non-cooperation - could have extracted a high price from the Romulans in turning Data, with all his ultimate knowledge of all things Starfleet, over to them. Though this was never threatened by Fajo, Data's logic circuits would have weighed it as a possible theoretical factor, and without being able to disarm or disable or capture Fajo, his Starfleet training would have made him see that this had to be prevented AT ALL COSTS.
So yes, it was absolutely both ethical and logical for Data to decide to kill Fajo.
Thu, Aug 12, 2021, 1:44pm (UTC -5)
I can't remember if I ever posted about the sale/Romulan angle, but it's a big issue, not just for this episode but for Data in general. He's the one officer that in a way cannot ever be allowed to be taken 'alive'. The show isn't really about that sort of intrigue issue, and in fact the series never really tells stories about his intrinsic value beyond his value as a friend and officer on the Enterprise. But since The Most Toys is overtly about a collector keeping him as a prize, it seems like an inevitable issue that more than just bizarre collectors are going to be interested in him. It reminds me of The Enterprise Incident in TOS, where the mere existence of cloaking technology is going to make different powers take steps to get ahold of it. Data is almost a superior technology to that, and I'm surprised it never occurred to them to write an episode about a plot to capture and study him.
Thu, Aug 12, 2021, 3:11pm (UTC -5)
"It reminds me of The Enterprise Incident in TOS, where the mere existence of cloaking technology is going to make different powers take steps to get ahold of it. Data is almost a superior technology to that, and I'm surprised it never occurred to them to write an episode about a plot to capture and study him."
From a military standpoint, I don't see [one] Data as being anywhere near as valuable as cloaking technology. I'm saying this based on how Data was used (his capabilities) and how we know cloaking tech was used. I imagine you must feel the Enterprise under Picard was only scratching the surface of the potential of what Data could do -- but then that comes from how the TNG writers made use of him. From how Data was "written" -- he is basically a super-human, but hardly enough to turn the tide in a military conflict all on his own.
To the 2nd part of your argument, Star Fleet is the one that wanted to capture and study him in "The Measure of a Man". Soong created one Data and it makes perfect sense for Star Fleet to want to do so. Perhaps if Data is replicated a 1000 times it can rival the game-changer that is cloaking tech in a military conflict. But then, the humans of Star Fleet would be subjugating a sentient race etc. etc. and they don't want to go there.
Thu, Aug 12, 2021, 4:55pm (UTC -5)
The fact that the Federation might stop itself creating a slave race of androids actually adds on to the danger of the tech falling into enemy hands, since the Romulans would have no ethical problem doing so and would have a decided advantage.
Fri, Aug 13, 2021, 1:37am (UTC -5)
Yes, absolutely so. Data may be a “friendly android”, but his digital memory would hold so much about Starfleet that could be very valuable to the Romulans.
Fri, Aug 13, 2021, 6:28am (UTC -5)
Ah but you forget that even the Borg queen failed to extract the data in Data's positronic net. Data seemed pretty confident it was beyond her capabilities, which means the Romulans wouldn't have much luck either cracking the 100 zillion bit quantum encryption code on Data's positronic net.
But then maybe the Romulans would take a page out of Borg Bondage Queen's playbook and send some Romulan beauty to seduce him - lick the paint right off his face.
Fri, Aug 13, 2021, 4:37pm (UTC -5)
I had indeed forgotten. However, that fact about Data's brain was surely not yet invented at the time of this episode !
Fri, Aug 20, 2021, 6:44pm (UTC -5)
As for Data, a running theme throughout the series is that while Data says he doesn't feel emotions, it is very clear he does. They are android emotions, so they are completely alien to humans, but they are definitely there.
Tue, Oct 26, 2021, 6:43am (UTC -5)
My own take on this episode is that it is an interesting development of Data's character, but one that doesn't fit into the actual later trajectory of his development, so I find it a sort of dead end in the bigger scheme of TNG. I.e. very good episode in itself, but I see it as outside the general Data story. Although Star Trek (after TOS/TAS) aspired to consistency, it doesn't always achieve it unless you force things into a bed of Procrustes.
The villain raises an important point, which is not answered: if Data really can kill only in strictly defined self defence, what the heck is he doing as a command officer on a warship, even if Starfleet isn't primarily military? I could invent any number of explanations of course: maybe he is programmed to treat morality as irrelevant to the large scale, like a lot of human beings, for example. But really (there, I'm saying it too) it's a case for suspension of disbelief.
On whether Data lied: there is a huge philosophical and religious literature on the nature of truth and lies. Data's statement (which is phrased as a speculation) is arguably a case of suppressio veri, but that constitutes a lie only if the hearer is entitled to be given the information. The script is very finely drawn: Riker doesn't explicitly ask for information, which he could have.
I don't like the ending. It looks to me like Data practising a new imitation-of-humans subroutine: gloating in victory. It isn't the Data we see in his subsequent character development, which is again my view of the episode as a sort of dead end.
But clearly many people don't agree about that.
Thu, Mar 17, 2022, 3:47am (UTC -5)
Thu, Apr 21, 2022, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Feb 15, 2023, 10:45am (UTC -5)
The episode is also a bit like "Plato's Stepchildren", or a number of TOS episodes really, in the sense that the goofy, campy quality of the villain distracts you from noticing how dark, and psychologically truthful the writing is.
This is also one of two episodes which shows a painting Data's been working on in his quarters. The painting is simply a depiction of a long, dark blue tunnel, which when I first saw it decades ago I'd immediately found disturbing. I don't know what the show intended for this painting to mean, but my initial reading was that this was glimpse into Data's psyche; it's as though he's trying to look inward and find something personal to put in his art, but finds only a kind of machinic, soulless emptiness; as though his interior life is a long dark tunnel, going, he fears, to nowhere.
Of course this is just my biassed interpretation. But I remember distinctly thinking it was a very sad painting, and a sad comment on Data, when I saw it so many many years ago.
Wed, Apr 12, 2023, 3:37am (UTC -5)
Sun, May 21, 2023, 12:08am (UTC -5)
Fajo’s alien frenemy with the art-implant in his face - great!
The possibility of Data pulling the trigger.. and then falsifying an explanation… is exquisite.
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