Friday, June 17, 2011

The Next Generation, Season 3: The Most Toys

The Next Generation, Season 3
Airdate: May 7, 1990
69 of 176 produced
69 of 176 aired


Commander Data is the victim of a grievous tragedy when his shuttle explodes during a delivery of the volatile materials needed to purify an endangered colony's water supply. But things take a turn for the weird when Data wakes up amidst a room full of rare antiques and endangered animals.

Such as this guy.


Matthew: This is the best of new writer Shari Goodhartz's TNG stories (her others are "Violations" and the somnambulent but still creepy "Night Terrors"). What sets this episode apart? It is as creepy as the other two, but it is more snappily paced and turns on a more interesting question for the main character. It also, I must say, raises (but does not answer) interesting questions about future economics. What makes items rare and valuable in the Federation? What did the Enterprise pay Kivas Fajo with? Anyway, the Fajo character is an interesting villain, really quite different than any thus far in the franchise - he is a sociopath with a desire for collecting rarities. His petulance is reminiscent of Trelane's, but he has a much darker undertone. He was well realized in the script.

Kevin: This episode deserves a lot of credit for pulling off comedy and creepy so well in turns. Fajo's initial glee is almost fun to watch. His threats to and eventual murder of Varia are easily among the most unsettling in the series. It's a credit to the actor and the script that it never feels inappropriate or out of place. The plot to kidnap Data is also very elaborate, but very well developed and it really adds to the atmosphere. Realizing the extremes Fajo can and has gone to, it starts to give credence to the idea that Data may not be able to escape.

Matthew: In addition to putting Data in the spotlight, there are nice moments for the rest of the crew. Scenes of mourning are well done (I get the feeling that a memorial service was cut for time). There was an interesting vignette of Troi counseling Worf over his constantly having to replace lost crew mates. I like that Geordi is the one who becomes suspicious based on Data's seeming deviation from regularity on the last shuttle flight. It shows how much he cares and how well he knows his friend.

Kevin: I also really liked how Geordi developed his suspicions. I also enjoyed Crusher's dialogue during the investigation and Picard and Wesley hunting for Fajo's ship. It made everyone intelligent and credible. It's always nice when the crew succeeds in part because of the strength of their bond. A less familiar crew would have missed the signs.

Matthew: The episode ends on an extremely interesting ethical point for Data. Though he has been programmed with a "fundamental respect for all living beings," he eventually comes to the conclusion that "I cannot permit this to continue." Why? Is it a utilitarian concern for Fajo's threatened future treatment of other living beings? But then, if so, why doesn't Data proceed to kill Fajo later, when he is imprisoned? The weapon was indicated as having been fired - so why does Data lie about it to Riker, saying it was a malfunction? I love that these questions were asked, but I wish they had been resolved to a greater degree.

Kevin: I always wondered if Data's actions were something akin to Lal's emotional awareness in The Offspring. Maybe his experiences were so intense that he momentarily achieved something akin to emotional awareness. Maybe Data is sophisticated enough to have a subconscious mind and it acted to prevent harm in a way his conscious programming could not. It would have been fun to explore this more, but the questions themselves are interesting enough in their implications that I am still entertained by their asking alone.

Matthew: When Worf takes over "ops," one can only conclude that he is no longer chief of security or weapons officer. What the heck is "ops" for? Wesley seems to do all the navigation at the helm, and all the steering, too. The arch position fires weapons, operates sensors, and controls shields. What else is there to do?


Matthew: Saul Rubinek continues Season 3's run of really good guest actors. Wow. It's really a star turn. He cavorts around like an excited child, but switches on a dime to cold, psychotic, murderous intent. The turn from funny to chilling and creepy is superbly achieved. The actor playing Fajo has to convince the viewer that he could drive Data to kill. Script questions notwithstanding, Rubinek succeeds.

Kevin: I agree wholeheartedly. His obsession with his collection and his ruthlessness played well together. He's always looking for something new to entertain him, but quickly tires of both things and people, always looking for more, never valuing what he has. Part of what made it succeed for me is that Rubinek managed to be menacing without being physically intimidating. There was an air of casual certainty in his safety and power that really sold the character.

Matthew: The actor portraying Palor Toff cut a very "hedonism bot" figure in appearance, and did some nice acting as an effete collector. Does Denise Crosby get payed for her likeness appearing in the holo-memento?

Kevin: Her time with Data is all the payment she needs. I liked Varia too. It's can't be easy to act "vaporized from the inside out," but her performance was good, haunting even. She portrayed the balance of cunning and world weary quite nicely.

Matthew: The rest of the main crew does a good job, with LeVar Burton being the real standout. He really was expressive, hurt, angry and mournful, even behind the VISOR. Dr. Crusher, oddly, gets almost no appearances, with her first being at the 31 minute mark on the colony planet.

Kevin: I liked Crusher's performance despite its brevity. She always does an awesome job of imbuing her lines with credibility, and it just really sounded like she knew what she was talking about when it came to tricyanate poisoning. I can't quite explain why, but little details like that really make episodes for me.

Production Values

Matthew: Fajo's ship gives us an apparent shuttle bay redress. The mini-shuttle was outfitted with some nifty canister-holders for the hytritium. The explosion looked really good, with great looking shuttle debris. The only other optical of note was the grisly effect on the Varon-T disruptor death. It was well done, reminiscent of the disintegrations in the Star Trek TOS movies.

Kevin: I've gone on record several times saying how I am not a fan of the explosion overlay, but the addition of the pieces of recognizable debris really mitigate the problems. The disruptor scene may actually have given me more nightmares than Remmick's death in Conspiracy, probably because it was a little more restraint, and as a result, far more scary. Remmick was obviously some puppet work, Varia looked like she was actually dying.

Matthew: The collection room was really nice, with a good looking display of artifacts. I do wish that more non-human artifacts had been in evidence. Why does Fajo collect earth paintings and baseball cards, as opposed to the great works of the hundreds of other cultures in this area of the galaxy? It ended up cheapening things a tad. The other big set was "planet hell" filled with water to pass for the colony's spring source. It actually looked pretty nice.

Kevin: I was okay with the collection. I assumed he had more, and the rooms were a bit themed. I really liked the planet set. The water and lighting were done really well. There was a lot of light reflecting on the high walls and it gave the scene a lovely visual feel.


Matthew: This is a 4 for me. The script was creepy and interesting, but didn't go far enough into the ethical questions springing from Data's actions. The acting was good all around, with a great performance from Saul Rubinek. The production values were adequate if unspectacular. Overall, this is an above average show, and I always enjoy it when it comes up.

Kevin: I agree with the 4, for the reasons you point out. This is a great episode, particularly in the guest acting department. It's episodes like these that really solidify Season 3 rep for greatness. That makes a total of 8.


  1. And Saul Rubinek now has a starring role on Warehouse 13 where he plays... a collector. :)

  2. I have always liked this episode. I have always found Data's decision to "lie" interesting. It actually suggests a Data has some real Human qualities. I mean how many of us would have lied in that situation.

    And yes Warehouse 13 is quite good.

  3. HD Highlight: I saw for the first time ever that Fajo actually sheds a tear when he lies to Data about his wayward youth. It was so subtle, it never showed up in SD.