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Star Trek The Next Generation: The Schizoid Man

"No being is so important that he can usurp the rights of another."

The original series explored the possibility of immortality via android in "What Are Little Girls Made Of?," "Return to Tomorrow" and "Requiem for Methuselah," and each time came to the conclusion that maybe it wasn't a good idea. "Requiem for Methuselah" even featured a brilliant old man living on his very own planet and obsessed with his young blonde ward.

But living forever in the body of a machine wasn't really the focus of this episode. It was whether or not Data, an artificial being, had just as much right to live as Ira Graves, the "greatest human mind of his time." Graves justified his thievery of Data's body by referring to Data as an unimportant and inferior being, a tin man with no heart. He said that Data's so-called life must be a walking purgatory, existence without desire, passion or pain.

Of course, the opening scene with Data experimenting with a new look was intended to remind us that Data is much more than that. I loved the little callback to Spock's beard in "Mirror, Mirror." The beard was also an homage to my absolute favorite episode of the classic sixties show The Prisoner, also entitled "The Schizoid Man," that also featured a double with evil facial hair.


(According to Memory Alpha, The Prisoner's Patrick McGoohan was originally supposed to portray Graves. I'm so sorry that didn't happen!)

This episode strongly featured the acting skills of Brent Spiner, who did his usual good job while Data was possessed and completely subsumed by the annoying and egomaniacal Ira Graves. This might not be an outstanding episode, but I'm a fan of Spiner's and for me, it was all worth it just for his eulogy to Graves in, of all inappropriate places, the transporter room.

"I can safely say that to know him was to love him. And to love him was to know him. Those who knew him, loved him. While those who did not know him, loved him from afar."
If Graves was supposed to be the greatest living human mind, though, he certainly made some stupid decisions. If he had truly desired immortality, he should have simply acted like Data for awhile and eventually resigned from Starfleet. Instead, he was so romantically obsessed with his young ward Kareen Brianon that he gave the game away with inappropriate asides, wide-flung insults and irrational jealousy. It was consistent with Graves' arrogance and inflated self-esteem that he didn't care much about anyone discovering his deception. He thought no one would care about Data, the "weaker" personality.

The construction of this episode was pretty darned good. Next Gen episodes usually had an A plot and a B plot, but this one was all about Graves and Data. (Or more accurately, Data and Graves.) The set-up with Graves as Soong's mentor, making him Data's "grandpa," and the fact that Graves had already planned to move his own memories and intellect into a computer, made the thievery plausible.

Where it fell down a bit was Troi not "feeling" what was going on with Data. Psychological problems in an android, Troi? Really? It would have made the story more interesting if Graves had been even the slightest bit likeable, too. What if Kareen had actually loved him? At least Graves had enough of a moral compass to take himself out when he realized he was doing harm.

What is Starfleet going to do with Graves' computerized intellect, by the way? What use could it possibly be?

Bits and pieces:

-- Stardate 42437.5. Graves World, Starbase 6, and mention of the liner USS Constantinople.

-- For the first time (correct me if I'm wrong) the episode began with Dr. Pulaski's medical log. Interesting, since she was barely in the episode.

-- Ira Graves was played by W. Morgan Sheppard, the father of much beloved Supernatural and every-other-genre-show-on-earth actor, Mark Sheppard.

-- Dr. Selar was played by Suzie Plakson, who played four different characters in the Star Trek 'verse, including one of my favorite Klingons.

-- Dan noticed that the away team was made up of all non-humans: Worf, Dr. Selar, Data and Troi. Okay, Troi is half-human, but still.

-- Near warp transport? For a moment, Troi was inside a wall? Considering how fast warp speed is, that is wildly illogical.

-- If Graves was only a week away from death (Darnay's disease), his symptoms should have been much worse.

Quotes:

Data: "When I stroke the beard thusly, do I not appear more intellectual?"

Graves: "Women aren't people. They're women."
Okay.

Kareen: "Are you a Romulan?"
Worf (growls) "Hardly."

Data: (re: The Wizard of Oz) "A happy ending. The mechanical man gets his wish."

Picard: "For the first time since I've known you, I don't believe you."
Geez. That should have been your first clue, Picard.

Picard: "So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see, so long lives this, and this gives life to thee."
Random Shakespeare quote?

Riker: "Does wrestling with a Klingon targ ring a bell?"
Data: "Did I win?"

Three out of four evil beards,

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

2 comments:

  1. First time watching TNG

    Now I'm imagining Minuet, Graves, and brain-roided Moriarity having some sort of complicated electronic thruple relationship inside the computer banks somewhere. They do have digital personalities stacking up on the hard drive, don't they.

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  2. I didn't like this episode at all. Troi telling the captain that Graves was taking over the weaker ego, was pure bullcrap. How does Data who is a walking talking computer have an ego? Not possible.

    I also didn't understand why Picard wasn't more upfront with the senior staff, with what he thought was happening. It made Picard look secretive and he displays the same traits in future episodes.

    And finally, the biggest problem was Mr. Ira Graves. He was disgusting to me. He let himself fall in love with a woman young enough to be his grandchild. Why not have other people around, staff, friends someone? Just him and her. When did he fall in love with her? I'm guessing it was when she grew breasts. Then there was the scene in Ten Foward that was pathetic on Graves part. He naturally assumed that him being in a younger body, she would want him romantically. Yeah, someone that she looked upon as a family member. It was too yucky for me.

    I did like the actress that played the Vulcan doctor. She's the actress that played Worf's old flame.

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