The Next Generation
Disc No :
First Aired :
7 May 1990
Okay, so Data can't get too close to Fajo without the forcefield zapping him. But this forcefield is specific to Data - normal objects pass straight through it, so Fajo can touch objects or other people. So what stops Data from clubbing Fajo over the head with something? Or just throwing a heavy object at him for that matter?
Fajo claims that Data has no sense of modesty. According to "Inheritance", Data actually does have a "modesty subroutine". I suppose we might believe that Fajo wasn't aware of that and simply assumed that Data had no modesty. But then, why didn't Data correct him?
Great Moment :
Hard to pick. Data's apparent intent to kill Fajo, his subsequent dodging of Riker's question and his confrontation of Fajo in the brig are the highlights of an episode packed with excellent moments.
Body Count :
One - Varria.
Originally Fajo was played by David Rappaport, but he attempted suicide two days into filming. Saul Rubineck was hired as a replacement, commencing filming only days later.
The title of this episode comes from a phrase which is often half-jokingly used to justify greed : "He who dies with the most toys, wins."
When David Rappaport was to play Kivas Fajo, director Timothy Bond suggested building the interior of Fajo's ship to suit the diminutive actor - with all of the ceilings only four feet or so tall, and everyone of normal height having to bend over or crawl around. He admitted it would have made filming extremely difficult, but said that he thought it would have been an interesting and brilliant idea. Fortunately he didn't get his way, since the change of lead would have required all the sets to be rebuilt..
In a scripted scene, Fajo sends Varria to have sex with Data in order to test his capabilities. She is completely humiliated about this, giving her further reason to betray him later on.
As filmed, the episode is ambiguous about whether Data actually fired the Varon-T disruptor or not. However the writer, Shari Goodhartz, states that she firmly believes that Data did in fact fire, and says that Brent Spiner was adamant that he played it with that intent as well.
The line Picard reads, "He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again" is from Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2.
At one point Wesley calculates that with a top speed of warp 3, in the 23 hours since they left the Jovis behind it could have traveled a distance of up to 0.102 light years. On the official warp speed chart warp 3 is 3^3.333 x c, or 38.94 times the speed of light. Twenty three hours at that speed would indeed be 0.102 light years - somebody on the show went to the trouble to get this little calculation exactly right! Well done writers!
Of course, on an interstellar scale 0.102 light years is a very small distance - the nearest star to our sun is over forty times further away than this. We are told that the Jovis could have reached "the Nel Bato system, or maybe even the Giles Belt", and that the ship will send out a query to "all Federation outposts within the perimeter". The implication here seems to be that there are multiple star systems within this radius, which is really unlikely. But the wording is just about ambiguous enough to allow it... we would need to assume that the Nel Bato system was a nearby star system - the rendezvous would have taken place about 167 times further from the Nel Bato sun as Pluto is from our sun, so well outside the system itself. The "Giles Belt" would then need to be some sort of area which is not part of the Nel Bato system, but also not part of another system. Perhaps it would be a collection of rogue asteroids drifting in deep space, unassociated with any star? Then to justify multiple Federation outposts, we would need to assume there were at least several outposts within the Nel Bato system, perhaps at least a couple more within the belt, along with perhaps a deep space outpost along the lines of K-7. It is, perhaps, still an unlikely arrangement but it is technically possible, it fits the dialogue - and honestly, since they got the warp calculation right, I am minded to be generous about this.
Of course that raises the wider nit - whilst Starships may zip around at warp 6+ frequently, we often hear of civilian ships which typically travel around at warp 2 or 3. And at those speeds, the galaxy is a really, REALLY big place. It would take Fajo around forty days at maximum speed just to go from any given star to the next star over - and this in a galaxy where, according to T'Pol in "Strange New World", only one in every 42,000 planets is Class M. With ten planets to the system on average, that's a Class M planet every 4,200 systems - meaning it should take Fajo something like eighteen months to get from one Class M planet to another. This would be fair enough, but they almost NEVER depict the Federation as a place where it ever takes a significant time for anybody to get anywhere.
The Enterprise-D has rendezvoused with Zibalian trader Kivas Fajo to secure a supply of hytritium, an extremely rare and highly unstable substance which is the only known way to treat tricyanate contamination. The Federation colony on Beta Agni II is suffering from such a contamination of its water supply, and the hytritium is desperately needed to deal with the problem.
Lieutenant Commander Data has made several trips by shuttle to ferry the hytritium to the Enterprise, since it is too unstable for the transporter. However as he prepares for his last trip the Android is attacked and immobilised by an electrical weapon, rendering him unconscious. The Enterprise-D crew, unaware of this, see his shuttle launch and head back for their ship, only to explode during the flight. With Data apparently dead, Captain Picard is left with no choice but to proceed to Beta Agni II to continue his mission.
On Fajo's ship, Data wakes to find himself in a room filled with displays of unusual and rare objects - rare animals, works of art, etc. Fajo and his companion Varria arrive and Fajo informs the android that he is a collector of such items, and has now added Data to his collection. Data tries to escape, but the room is built so strongly that even his enormous strength is useless. When Data tries to use force against Fajo he finds that the trader is protected by a forcefield which incapacitates Data if he approaches too closely. He offers Data a new outfit to wear, but Data declines.
Back on the Enterprise-D the crew mourn Data's apparent death, dividing up his belongings between them - a painting, his Sherlock Holmes violin, a book given to him by Picard, a deck of cards, a set of poker chips, his collection of Starfleet medals, and his holographic image of Tasha Yar. Geordi struggles with the idea that Data is dead, finding it difficult to accept and feeling that he is "missing something".
On Fajo's ship Varria visits Data and the two converse. Whilst she appears loyal to Fajo, she reveals that her service with him may not be entirely voluntary; Fajo rewards loyalty lavishly, but his punishments for disobedience are "equally lavish".
On The Enterprise-D Geordi complains to Picard and Riker that he can find no cause for the shuttle explosion, leaving only pilot error as a possible explanation - but with Data flying with android perfection, he doesn't believe that pilot error is possible either. Picard accepts this and supports his efforts to find the cause of the explosion, but notes that they do have a mission to complete and Geordi must be rested and ready when they arrive. Picard and Riker select Worf as Data's replacement at Ops. On his way to his first shift Deanna talks to him about his having to replace a deceased friend, noting that this is the second time he has done so aboard the Enterprise-D. Worf states that he will honour Data's memory, as he did Lieutenant Yar's, by attempting to perform their duties as well as they did. In a rare moment, he thanks Deanna for her concern for his feelings.
On Fajo's ship Data is still refusing to change out of his uniform. Fajo responds by throwing acid on his uniform which will completely dissolve it, stating that he would be just as pleased to see Data going naked. Data submits and wears the clothing Fajo provided.
Geordi wakes from a dream to realise that he did miss something about the shuttle. On each trip Data reported the shuttle clearing the hangar bay of the Jovis, Fajo's ship - until the last trip, when no such report was made. Whilst a Human pilot might not bother to report such a detail, knowing that the Enterprise would be watching him anyway, it is highly unlikely that Data would fail to follow procedure in even the most minor of ways. At first, Geordi wonders if there might have been something wrong with Data himself.
Fajo invites a fellow trader and rival collector named Palor Toff to see his latest acquisition, boasting about having the one and only known positronic android. Data, however, stands completely motionless and mute, not reacting to the two in any way at all - even allowing himself to fall to the floor. Toff assumes Data is a mannequin of some sort and openly mocks Fajo for the unimpressive display, much to his humiliation.
In the aftermath of the visit Fajo shows Data his Varon-T disruptor, a weapon known for being horribly cruel since it vapourises a victim very slowly as compared to a phaser, giving them a death of screaming agony. Fajo threatens to murder Varria if Data refuses to obey him, clearly meaning it in spite of her long service to him. Data complies.
The Enterprise arrives at Beta Agni II and uses the hitritium on the contamination, but they find that it works far more quickly than they expected. Natural tricyanate does not react so quickly to hitritium - but artificial tricyanate does. Somebody clearly produced the contamination deliberately. Becoming increasingly suspicious, Riker notes that it was very convenient that they managed to find a source of the rare hitritium just when they needed it, and just enough for their needs at that. Crusher responds that Fajo couldn't possibly have created the contamination to pofit from providing the hitritium, because if anything securing and using the tricyanate in the first place would be far more difficult and expensive for him.
No suspicious, the crew investigate Kivas Fajo and find that he is a known collector of rare and unusual items. Realising what has happened, the ship hares off in pursuit of the Jovis.
On the Jovis, Varria comes into Data's cell and opens the safe with the Varon-T disruptor in it; Fajo's threat to murder her spooked her enough to betray him. She takes Data to the hangar deck where there is an escape pod they can use to get away from the ship. But they trip and alarm in the process, and Varria is jumped by a couple of crew-members and disarmed. Data disables the men but as he prepares the pod Fajo arrives and grabs the weapon. He realises Varria has betrayed him and shoots her, leaving her to die screaming as he tosses the weapon aside.
Data picks the disruptor up and faces off with Fajo, threatening him. Fajo just tells him he has non reason to kill him - his ethical program will only allow violence in self defence, and as an emotionless android he does not feel any rage over Varria's death, no desire for revenge. Fajo will simply continue as before, and any time Data refuses to obey he will kill an innocent in retribution.
Data, apparently conflicted over what to do, raises the weapon to fire regardless - but at that moment he is beamed away by the Enterprise-D. O'Brien notes that the weapon Data has is in a state of discharge, and neutralises it before rematerialising him. Data asks them to arrest Fajo on various charges, and when Riker questions him about the disruptor being fired, responds with a calm "Perhaps something occurred during transport, Commander" - apparently a direct lie.
Later, Data visits Fajo in the brig and informs him that his entire collection has been broken up and all of the items will be returned to their rightful owners. A saddened Fajo tells Data it must give him great pleasure to have achieved such a victory, but Data merely claims that it did not - he does not feel pleasure, since he is "only an android."
This is a truly excellent episode, in my opinion let down only slightly by the ambiguity of the ending.
Props go to Saul Rubinek, who really does an excellent job as Kivas Fajo. All the more impressive when you consider that he had to step in at the last minute under rather tragic circumstances. It would have been really easy for this episode to fall apart given that change, with no blame for anybody. Instead they pulled together and got it done, and the result was one of TNG's better episodes. Truly excellent work.
Mention should also go to Jane Daly who does a great job as Varria. She's tough and smart, but she's also deeply, completely terrified underneath, and it's played to perfection. And yikes, what a death scene she gets! Those disruptors are nasty
Most everything in the plot also flows logically. Nobody behaves like an idiot at any point, with the possible
exception that nobody thought to look up Kivas Fajo on their database after the accident until something else made them suspicious in the first place. I would have thought that would be one of the first things they did. You could have worked around that - for example look him up immediately and also send a query to his home planet for more information one him. Your computer knows nothing about collections, but then just as you are getting suspicious of him the answer from Zibalia comes back with that piece of extra info. See, they should consult me about these things when they're writing episodes!
But that's really a minor gripe. What I do like is that the thing that first makes Geordi suspicious is a character moment - a mistake Data would not have made. It would have been easy, and bad, to have Geordi uncover some minor thing in the sensors that proved he was no aboard or whatever, but no, no technobabble involved. Ideally we might have wished to have seen Data's previous trips so that we the audience could have that clue dangled in advance, but that that would have chewed up an awful lot of screen-time watching repetitious actions, so I can see why they didn't.
So we come to the big discussion piece. What DID happen at the end?
Possibility one... Data did not fire. He appeared to be about to, but that was deceptive; he never fired. So why was the weapon discharging when they beamed him out? Well in that scenario, what he said to Riker might have been perfectly true - maybe something did happen in transport. One has to wonder just how often running through the transporter causes weapons to discharge!
But honestly, this is obviously not what the episode intended. See above for the writer's thoughts on the matter, along with Brent Spiners. They both believe possibility two... that Data deliberately fired.
So let's deal with that. The implication of the dialogue in the end scene seems to be that Data would not be able to kill Fajo for any reason other than rage. "You won't hurt me. Fundamental respect for all living beings. That is what you said. I'm a living being, therefore you can't harm me."
Firstly, Data is certainly capable of using violence. Not sixty seconds earlier, he beat two of Fajo's men unconscious. Fair enough, maybe Fajo referred to death specifically. We can probably safely assume the Varon-T disruptor does not have a stun setting, so Data had no opportunity to stun Fajo. To stop him, he had to kill him.
And Data is certainly capable of killing. He says himself earlier in the episode : "I am programmed with the ability to use deadly force in the cause of defence." So the question here revolves around what exactly is meant by "defence". Certainly when Data fired at Fajo, Fajo was no immediate
threat to Data. But he certainly was
a threat to others. As Fajo himself said only seconds earlier : "You will entertain me and you will entertain my guests. And if you do not, I will simply kill somebody else. Him, perhaps. It doesn't matter. Their blood will be on your hands too, just like poor Varria's. Your only alternative, Data, is to fire."
Surely we must accept that if lethal force is justified in one's own defence, it is justified in defence of others. But the sticking point here is the immediacy of the threat. Fajo is threatening to kill, but he is not threatening to kill now
, he is threatening to do so at some future unspecified time. In that context, killing him now is not justifiable. Data's action, therefore, was an unethical one.
This tells us that Data did indeed transcend his ethical programming and choose to murder Fajo. That is remarkable in itself, but he then follows it up by lying to Commander Riker about it.
The question is, why? Did Data attempt to murder Fajo because he made the calculation that Fajo was so awful that he deserved to die? Or was Data actually feeling that which Fajo said he couldn't - rage, and the need for revenge? We do not know.
But whichever may be true, one thing is clear. There was no need to lie to Riker. No cool calculation led to that. Data did that because he chose to, because he wanted
We are left with the near-inevitable conclusion, then. Data does
have emotions, despite his claims to the contrary. One must wonder whether he actually knows this, and chooses to lie about it, or whether he genuinely believes that he doesn't have emotions. Fascinating question, isn't it?
The remastered blu-ray copy has the usual improved image quality.