Star Trek The Next Generation: Legacy

You're getting harder and harder to bluff, Data. You've learned this game very well.

When the Enterprise crew answers a distress call from a ship whose warp core's exploded, they find the survivors have taken escape pods down to the surface–of the war torn planet, Turkana IV, better known as the home of the much-missed Tasha Yar. Originally intending only to rescue the Federation refugees, the crew quickly find themselves drawn into political insurrection when Tasha's sister, Ishara Yar, appears.

This type of episode is a category I call "Short Story Trek." These episodes are less episodic and monster of the week than the usual, but they also don't fit too well into the overall Trek canon or developing mythology. What they do extremely well is tell a story about the Trek crew which explores a moment of realization or personal growth. "Legacy" is a great example of this - a well-written nutshell of a story.

Data's growth as an individual has always been referred to in terms of being a human being, even though I often find his personal moral and ethical codes higher, at times, than those human beings express. His development as a poker player, and reader of poker players, has always been a sort of microcosmic representation of that. The opening of the episode is a perfect set up to remind us of how far he's come since "Encounter at Farpoint." His semi-romantic relationship with Tasha has become a mythological moment in the series history which, I'm honestly convinced, was part of an awakening for Data, however unconscious. To build a relationship with Tasha's sister - a relationship whose loudly telegraphed doom seems visible to everyone but the characters on the show - is a great way to test the depth of that awakening. And indeed the episode does explore that depth - the way Data 'gets used to' people, his remembering them, the meaning relationships have to him - and to me, this comes across as very rich and honest.

Where this episode failed for me is... Troi. First she's completely useless at identifying Ishara's duplicity; secondly, she's also completely useless at warning the crew off from their developing emotional attachments to Tasha's sister. The thing is, I felt this was just simply lazy writing. Had Troi insisted on Ishara's duplicity and been shouted down, she would have been faithful to her role - and it might have opened up the character for a new direction. In "Legacy," Troi's only act is to not act, and in an episode where her particular skills could have come very much in handy. This is another parallel to the poker game, incidentally - she wins nothing, and does nothing during the evening in a game where her ability to see below the surface... coulda come very much in handy. What a waste of a character full of potential.

"You've only been here half an episode, and you've already done more than Troi."
What Data perhaps learned in this episode is that being human doesn't necessarily give one access to the right answers. He seems lost after his realization of Ishara's betrayal and defense of Riker. The question of whether he's been too easily fooled isn't just a question contextualized by the current situation, but by his whole experience, including the events of "The Measure of a Man." His little talk with Riker at the end acquaints him with the sad paradox: that being more human renders one more vulnerable to human weaknesses, not less. I wonder, too, if Ishara's crystal implant thingy doesn't remind him, too, of another very human paradox: that connections can sometimes happen beyond circumstances and contexts. I could only wish the ending wasn't as maudlin as it is.

I think this is Ishara's only appearance ever in the series. I don't think Turkana IV or the civil insurrection on the surface ever make an appearance again in the series. What does and will last is the growing subtlety Data develops for understanding human and emotional behavior. Pinocchio, taking yet another step towards becoming a real boy.

Bits and Pieces

Riker attempting a card trick on Data, and Data coldly reading how the trick was done. An excellent moment.

Ishara thinking Data was created as a weapon, when she first meets him. A tell for her innate psychology?

Possibly one other negative for me is the lack of concern or mention of the Prime Directive in this episode; the people on the planet didn't seem as advanced as the Enterprise.


Ishara: So, all that's left of my sister is a file in a computer.
Data: Tasha exists in our memories as well.
Ishara: How did she die?
Data: Lieutenant Yar was killed on Vagra Two by a malevolent entity.
Ishara: In battle?
Data: No. She was killed as a demonstration of the creature's power, without provocation.
Ishara: That's not how I intend to die.

Ishara: Are you able to have friends?
Data: Yes.
Ishara: But you don't have feelings, do you?
Data: Not as such. However, even among humans, friendship is sometimes less an emotional response and more a sense of familiarity.
Ishara: So you can become used to someone?
Data: Exactly. 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.


I'm not usually very excited by one-offs, and Troi was annoying, but overall I found this episode strangely moving, despite its flaws. Four out of five implanted tracking devices.


Billie Doux said...

Nice review, Joseph. As you said, this one is really about Data's development as a person. The poker game this time made me laugh out loud.

Did anyone else find Beth Toussaint (Ishara) to look and sound too much like Linda Hamilton? It sort of drove me nuts.

Mark Greig said...

billie, I thought that Ishara was played by Linda Hamilton for so long I now have trouble accepting that she wasn't.

drnanamom said...

A lovely review Joseph that echoed many of my feelings about the episode. I was also annoyed by the Troi bit and I would have liked them to spend a bit more time on understanding why Ishara might act the way she does. However, as you said, this episode showed some of the heart of the crew and I really enjoyed that.