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Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Schizoid Man

July 19, 2013

Just a reminder that I’ll be visiting my girlfriend this weekend, so no updates until Tuesday. Originally aired January 23, 1989. Stardate 42437.5. Ira Graves, a genius, an expert in molecular cybernetics, has sent out an emergency distress call, and the Enterprise is on their way to help out. Meanwhile, Geordi and Troi are visiting Data, at Data’s request, so he can show off his new beard. Troi has to leave because she’s too busy laughing. Probably pretty legitimate laughter from Sirtis. The Enterprise gets another emergency message, from Graves’ assistant. She and Graves are the only ones living on the planet.

After the credits, they get another distress call from a transport freighter. Riker suggests a near-warp transport to the planet while the Enterprise continues on. Worf, Troi, Data and Dr. Selar, a Vulcan, beam down. Graves’ assistant meets them, and Graves is unhappy about them being there. Ira’s a shameless flirt, as well as hilariously arrogant. He recognizes Data as Soong’s work, and says he taught Soong everything he knew, and declares himself Data’s grandfather. Selar says Ira’s dying.

After a break, the Enterprise is on its way back to Graves’ world, while Data helps Ira in his lab. They talk about Data’s desire to be human.  Troi tells his assistant that Ira’s attracted to her. Back in the lab, Ira continues to make jokes about his life and himself, and tells Data he won’t be dying. He believes he can transfer his mind into a computer, then learns about Data’s off button. Soon, Data comes out and tells them Graves is dead.

After a break, Data visits Graves’ assistant in Ten-Forward. He tells her that Graves always wanted to tell her how how beautiful she is. Then we head to Graves’ wake.  Data speaks about Graves, in an over-the-top manner. Everyone else looks confused, and Picard finally cuts him off. They beam his body into space. Picard talks to Data in his Ready Room, and tells him not to work so hard at being human. As he leaves, he starts whistling the same tune Ira was whistling earlier.

Break. Picard and Troi are still concerned about Data. On the Bridge, Data is acting weird in a way that amuses Riker and Wesley. Picard brings Graves’ assistant onto the Bridge, and Data gets angry. Picard orders Data into his Ready Room. Data runs a circuit check and says he’s fine, but Picard says he doesn’t believe him, and gets Engineering to check him out. Geordi can’t find anything wrong with him, so Troi decides to check his mental health. She later tells Picard that Data has two distinct personalities. The dominant one is growing stronger.

Break. Picard’s sure that Data’s behaviour is related to Graves. Data talks to Graves’ assistant in Ten-Forward, and she recognizes him as Ira. He transferred his mind into Data. He promises to create an android body for her, so they can be together forever. She refuses. Picard has come to the conclusion that Graves has transferred himself into Data. He goes to confront Graves. It’s very tense. Geordi and another engineer are unconscious, injured. An accident. Picard tries to convince Graves to let Data go, but Ira freaks out and hits him, knocking him out. This disturbs Ira. When Picard wakes up, he goes to Data’s room. Data’s lying on the floor. He’s back to normal. Ira’s transferred himself into the computer. All his intellect, but no emotions.

There’s some interesting stuff in this episode. It becomes obvious very early on what’s happened – as soon as Data announces Graves’ death, it’s clear. Spiner does a pretty good job as Graves; almost as good as W. Morgan Sheppard, whose performance is cliched but no less amusing for it. He just sells it really well. Barbara Alyn Woods as his assistant does not do a good job. She’s incredibly dull throughout the episode. Truthfully, her entire presence feels like it weakens the episode. An old guy falling in love with someone who should be like his daughter to him is creepy, and the fact that she apparently returned at least some of it was just as creepy. It makes it too clear, too quickly, that Graves is in Data’s body; without that semi-romantic aspect, the mystery could’ve been unraveled a little more slowly. It was a cliched idea, handled poorly, and the episode is much poorer for it.

On the plus side, Troi gets to do something. She uses her position as ship’s counselor to explore Data’s mental health – her job doesn’t come up very often throughout the series, so it’s always nice to see it. Also good was Suzie Plakson as Dr. Selar. Especially nice was the fact that Pulaski chose to prioritize many potential injuries on a ship over the potential injury of one man, and chose one of the other doctors on the ship to attend to Graves while she handled the greater emergency. It’s a nice touch. It’s a shame we never actually get to see Selar again on TNG (though she does get referenced). Plakson also plays K’Ehleyr (including later this season). She also pops up in Voyager and Enterprise. (The character of Selar, as an aside, would later be used by Peter David for his New Frontier novels. She also appears in some other novels and comics, but she’s part of the core cast of the New Frontier books. The cast also includes Commander Shelby and Robin Lefler, two other single-appearance TNG characters.)

This episode has some good humour, especially early on, when Sheppard was still playing Graves. His comment about Data having “no aesthetic value” is made even funnier once we learn that Data was modeled after Soong himself – Graves getting a little dig in at his own student. The scene between Graves and Picard is very well done. Very tense and dramatic, and leading to Graves’ realization that he can’t handle Data’s body, and choosing to sacrifice himself rather than hurt anyone else. It’s a nice moment.

Overall, I’d give this episode 3/5. The semi-romantic plot is awful, and there’s some wasted potential, but there’s some good humour, some good performances, and some good ideas.

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