Written by Tracy Torme, Richard Manning, Hans Beimler, Leonard Mlodinow, and Scott Rubenstein
Directed by Les Landau
The Enterprise receives a distress call from a place known only as Graves World. This is a planet where a reknown scientist has lived in seclusion for many years. Another crisis appears, so Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) makes the call to deposit four of his crew on Graves World, tend to the other emergency, and return for his crew.
Once there they encounter Dr. Ira Graves (portrayed by W. Morgan Sheppard) and his assistant Kareen Brianon (Barbara Alyn Woods). Kareen sent the distress call as she believes Dr. Graves to be ill. A quick scan by the Vulcan doctor, Selar (Suzie Plakson) reveals that he is suffering from a terminal degenerative disease. His life expectancy is another week, at the most.
Since Graves’ specialty is molecular cybernetics, he sees the arrival of the android Data (Brent Spiner) as an opportunity. Before his arrival, Graves was planning to transfer all of his knowledge into a computer. Data develops a rapport with Graves since he knew Data’s creator, Dr. Soong.
A short time later, just as the Enterprise returns, Data comes out of Graves’ computer lab and announces that Graves died in his arms.
Almost immediately upon his return to the Enterprise, Data begins acting strangely. To the viewer, it is very obvious what has happened: Graves now inhabits Data’s cybernetic body. The crew, on the other hand, seems to search for just about any other reason for the strange behavior.
However, things do not go as Graves initially believed they would. Graves adored Kareen and believed if he were a younger man she would have stronger feelings for him as well. The Data/Graves persona begins acting insanely jealous and at times violent.
This is an episode that again seems to follow the “What is life?” theme running through Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s second season. Once again it falls short. Listening to the Data/Graves persona talk so derisively about what Data was before he decided to inhabit the body is a bit chilling. Data has always been presented to the Star Trek viewer with a child-like innocence and a Pinocchio fixation: he is the android who desires more than anything else to be human. Graves’ disdain for all that Data is shows he may be an intelligent man, but there is something lacking in his soul.
Without a heart, man is meaningless…
The question of that soul is never answered here, and that’s a plot hole you could drive a starship through. Graves talks about transferring his intelligence to a computer, but says nothing about his soul or emotions. Yet, we are supposed to believe a short time later he has managed to do it. Do the writers expect us to believe that his inputting bits of intelligent data into a computer (and subsequently Data) manage to move his soul into there? Or are they trying to state that intelligence is all there is to being human? I would find either point to be terribly ignorant.
One redeeming feature during all of this is Brent Spiner’s acting. He has done a fine job picking up W. Morgan Sheppard’s mannerisms and personality in the part of Dr. Graves. The portrayal of Data inhabited by Graves is done remarkably well.
Unfortunately, that does not save the episode. Much of it feels like filler scenes that were thrown in to make the episode the length needed. The casting of Kareen is questionable as well. Whether intended or not, she comes off as a pretty airhead, and that’s about it. I also have to question the wisdom of a Vulcan doctor. Vulcans are unemotional, so her delivery of the news to Graves that his condition is terminal is lacking in any compassion or sympathy. Although Suzie Plakson is an excellent actress, her talents go to much better use later in the series in a different character.
While this episode wants to be deep and meaningful, it completely misses. The script is too weak and the premise too loose to really mean anything. If you happen to come across this one, keep changing the channel.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – The Outrageous Okona
Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Loud As A Whisper
This wasn’t one of my favorite episodes either. The story was weak, Kareen was just there as human scenery, and…ugh. I have the entire series on Blu-ray, but Season Two (which, to be fair, was hobbled by the Writers’ Guild strike that year) is not my favorite.
Interestingly, Barbara Alyn Woods played the lead role in a cable soap called “Eden.” To promote the show, she posed nude for Playboy in 1993. I wasn’t a subscriber at the time, but I saw the issue.
It’s a shame because all the things I’ve seen W. Morgan Sheppard in have been great. This just feels more like a piece of a story rather than a full episode.
Sheppard later returned as the Klingon prison commandant at Rura Penthe in 1991’s Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. A small part, but a good one.