Written by Harold Apter, Ronald D. Moore, David Carren, J. Larry Carroll, and Joe Menosky
Directed by Robert Wiemer
One thing that surprised me about Star Trek: The Next Generation was the character of Miles O’Brien. From the very first episode, Encounter at Farpoint, he was consistently there, in the background, operating the transporter. Instead of having a different person every week, this was a small spot of consistency which deeply resonated with fans.
The time finally comes in Data’s Day when Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney) becomes a fully flushed-out character. Though the episode is narrated by the android Data (Brent Spiner) as an example of how he is trying to decipher human emotions on a daily basis, the real point is to bring to life the O’Brien character.
The day Data chooses is a complicated one. O’Brien is about to be wed to Keiko (Rosalind Chao) who has been serving aboard the Enterprise as a botanist. At the same time, Vulcan Ambassador T’Pel (portrayed by Sierra Pecheur) arrives on a mission to negotiate a treaty with the Romulans.
While the bride gets a case of cold feet, Data spends time being a messenger boy between the jittery bride and the clueless groom. Having never been a part of a wedding before, he does not understand that the pre-wedding jitters are normal, and does not understand Geordi’s (Levar Burton) reassurances that the wedding will go on as planned. All he sees are the angry reactions by two people who are supposed to be so in love and happy.
Data must learn to dance as well, since as the “father of the bride” he will be expected to dance with Keiko. This involves a wonderful scene between Data and Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) as she attempts to teach the android the nuances of dancing.
Following this, T’Pel questions Data about the ship’s defenses, then backs down when he states he must report her inquiry to Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart), stating she was only testing him. As she is being beamed aboard the Romulan ship to complete negotiations, there is a transporter accident and she is lost.
The contrasts of the two events during the day serves this episode well. On one hand, dealing with the Romulans and T’Pel’s transporter accident calls for Data to be a detective. Using Sherlock Holmes as an example, he deciphers what is going on with a complete lack of emotion. On the other hand, his lack of emotions does him a disservice when trying to relate to what is going on in the lives of his fellow crewmates.
The Romulan storyline is reminiscent of what happened to Data in The Most Toys. This leads me to feel that Data should have been able to put the scenario together a lot faster than he does. Still, it is an intriguing part of the story and does break-up the primarily character-driven story among the crew.
The acting by Brent Spiner as Data is wonderful as usual. I can’t think of any episode where he’s given a truly bad performance, even when the script is less than stellar. Although it seems abrupt that all of a sudden he has such a wonderful relationship with Keiko and O’Brien, Spiner convinced me that they have been friends all along.
Likewise, Colm Meaney as O’Brien takes his moment for all it’s worth. People who have seen him work in The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill but Came Down a Mountain, The Commitments, and Far and Away have seen excellent work by him before. Star Trek: The Next Generation was truly lucky to get him. Meaney managed to parlay a few background shots into a fully fleshed-out character who would become a featured part of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. In this episode, he made me believe that not only did O’Brien and Keiko have a long-standing relationship, but also that his friendship with Data was more than had been shown to us all along.
If there’s one hesitation I have to the episode, it’s the resolution of the situation with the Romulans. I kept thinking in the back of my mind that Kirk would have never let it end that way; that somehow he would have come out on top. However, Picard’s sentiments that some days you win and some you lose strike me as much more realistic than any way Kirk might have managed to come out on top.
Other than that, however, it is a delightful episode. If you’ve managed to get someone unfamiliar with the show intrigued with who all of these people are, Data’s Day is a wonderful way to learn about many of the characters in the series without having to plod through a season or two of episodes. It may lack a lot of action, but the political intrigue is good, even if the resolution feels like a bit of a letdown.