Written by Shari Goodhartz and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Timothy Bond
The Enterprise has been assigned to secure a supply of hytritium to neutralize deadly water contamination at a Federation colony. Unbeknownst to the crew, Kivas Fajo (portrayed by Saul Rubinek) has an ulterior motive for selling the hytritium to the ship.
Fajo is a collector of rare and unique objects. His collection includes a Roger Maris baseball card, a thought-to-be-extinct alien life form, and the Mona Lisa. He considered the android Data (Brent Spiner) to be the perfect addition to his collection. He and his crew conduct an elaborate ruse to convince the crew of the Enterprise that Data was killed in the explosion of the shuttle while attempting to bring the last load of hytritium to the ship (it cannot be beamed over).
Data awakens in a room with the rest of the collection. Fajo expects Data to be content in this new life and to “perform” as Fajo wishes. Spiner does an excellent acting job as Data resists Fajo passively at every turn. However, what Fajo wants he will do just about anything to get. What starts out as a battle of the wills between the android and the kidnapper quickly turns into something more. Data manages to recruit one of Fajo’s assistants to aid in his escape after Fajo threatens killing her in a slow, torturous manner just to get Data to do what he wants.
Spiner’s acting is wonderful here as Data. He does a tremendous job conveying the problems Data faces, even though he must do so without showing emotion. If data is not frustrated, the viewer is simply by watching Fajo thwart Data at every turn. Although against his programming, Data reacts in a most human-like way to Fajo’s actions and threats in the end.
It may basically be a given that Data somehow returns to the ship, however it is very interesting watching the mystery unravel among his crewmates. At first they seem to believe that he’s gone, but then Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton) puts his finger on something that’s been nagging at the back of his mind. Since Data is an android, like a computer he performs certain tasks in an orderly manner; he remembers things a human might forget to do, down to the minutest detail of protocol. Couple that with the clues on the contaminated planet itself, and the mystery unravels before them.
The writers did a good job with this episode. The mystery is not so obvious that I thought the crew should have known right from the beginning that Data was not gone. Likewise, the way Data is played into a corner at the hand of the nefarious Fajo is also done very well. The effect it has on Data before he is rescued is very crucial to the development of him as a character.
Rubenick does a terrific job as Fajo as well. His mannerisms and arrogance most remind me of the “Newman” character from Seinfeld, although Fajo has a much darker streak to him. At times we don’t know whether or not he could be serious, but the way he treats his assistant as something disposable even after all the years of loyalty she has shown him shows what little regard he has for anyone other than himself. Indeed, it is only when his own life is finally in danger that his arrogance dissipates.
This is a good episode that may have a few technical problems, but those can be overlooked. The only other problem is that most of the regular cast is not given much to do, except mourn for their lost friend. There are small snippets of each one during this time, but the focus of this episode is definitely on Data.
The script is well-written and the acting is solid. Though non-fans of the series might be somewhat confused by what is going on here with regard to some of the actions, it is well worth viewing for fans of the series.
Previous episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Hollow Pursuits
Next episode (link): Star Trek: The Next Generation – Sarek