Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Data’s Day”

“Data’s Day”
Written by Harold Apter and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Robert Wiemer
Season 4, Episode 11
Production episode 40274-185
Original air date: January 7, 1991
Stardate: 44390.1

Captain’s Log: Data is recording a letter to Commander Bruce Maddox, acceding to his recent request for more information on Data’s programming and operation. He will give Maddox a full account of a day in his life. He is in charge of gamma shift, and Riker shows up fifteen minutes early to start alpha shift so Data can get ready for his duties that day.

Turns out this is not a typical day, as there is a wedding happening between O’Brien and the head of the arboretum, Keiko Ishikawa. Data is the one who introduced them, and he is acting as the father of the bride. In addition, the Zhukov is en route with Ambassador T’Pel of Vulcan, there are four birthdays, two transfers, two chess tournaments, a school play, four promotions, the celebration of the Hindu Festival of Lights, and Lieutenant Juarez is going into labor.

Data goes to Keiko’s quarters to escort her to the rehearsal in Ten-Forward, but Keiko announces that she’s calling off the wedding, explaining to Data that she thought she’d be happy, but there’s this awful weight on her. Data asks if cancelling the wedding will make her happy, and she says yes, and asks him to tell O’Brien. Data assumes that, because O’Brien has always said that his primary goal is to make Keiko happy, O’Brien will greet the news that she’s cancelling the wedding on the wedding day with pleasure.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Data's Day

O’Brien’s rather cranky reaction gives Data a quick lesson in false syllogisms, best summed up by the Doctor: “Logic, my dear Zoe, merely enables one to be wrong with authority.”

The Zhukov arrives and Data meets Ambassador T’Pel when she beams on board, escorting her to Picard’s ready room. Then Data goes to the barber shop, where La Forge is getting a haircut, and assures Data that the wedding will go on — Keiko just has cold feet. Heading to the replicator room, Data searches for a gift, then heads to sickbay to ask Crusher — who has a background in dancing in her service record — to teach him how to dance. (Crusher is reluctant to do so, and will only agree on the condition that they keep it secret. “I don’t want to be known as ‘the dancing doctor’ — again.”)

Picard requests Data’s presence on the bridge, asking him to examine the pattern of Romulan ship deployment along the Neutral Zone, then changing course to a position more proximate to the Romulan border. Data’s analysis is that the Romulans are maintaining an aggressive posture, and there’s no indication that that will change. This leads to an argument between Picard and T’Pel, as Picard thinks that T’Pel’s planned course of action is dangerous, with Data’s analysis intending to back him up. However, T’Pel is insistent.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Data's Day

O’Brien comes to Data — who’s in his quarters with his cat — and asks him to talk to Keiko, try to make her see reason. This fails rather spectacularly, as Keiko just wants to be left alone.

T’Pel then summons Data to her quarters and interrogates him on the Enterprise‘s defenses. He points out that he needs to alert the captain to this inquiry, at which point she reveals that she was actually testing Data’s responses and level of security.

He then meets Crusher on the holodeck. She teaches him a variety of tap dancing steps, before she realizes that it’s for the wedding, and then shows him more traditional dancing before she’s called to sickbay to aid Lieutenant Juarez, who is having contractions.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Data's Day

The Enterprise reaches the border, and encounters a Romulan warbird, the Devoras,which instructs them to meet at the designated coordinates inside the Neutral Zone. At T’Pel’s request, they hail the ship, and Admiral Mendak replies. She will beam over to begin negotiations. Picard one last time tries to convince T’Pel not to go over alone.

The transport fails, however, and T’Pel is lost. La Forge, Crusher, O’Brien, and Data investigate, but can find no cause. Mendak accuses Picard of arranging the accident to sabotage the negotiations because Starfleet does not wish to normalize relations with the Romulans — who would only negotiate with T’Pel.

Data investigates further at Picard’s order, and discovers two things: one is that the DNA residue that was left on the transporter pattern appears to have been replicated, and there was an energy surge that can only be explained by another transporter beam that hit at the same time. Data’s theory is that the Romulans beamed T’Pel on board themselves while beaming microscopic remains that they replicated onto the Enterprise platform.

Picard orders the Enterprise to intercept the Devoras. Another warbird decloaks even as Picard accuses Mendak of kidnapping T’Pel. Mendak assures him that nobody is being held on the Devoras against their will and reveals that “T’Pel” is actually Sub-commander Selok, a Romulan deep-cover operative, who has just been successfully extracted with the unwitting help of the Enterprise.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Data's Day

Data goes to the arboretum to apologize to Keiko for trying to interfere, at which point she reveals that the wedding is back on. It’s a lovely mix of Shinto and Irish wedding customs. Data dances with the bride superbly. Later on, he meets Picard in sickbay, where he learns that Lieutenant Juarez had her baby: a boy, born during the crisis with the Romulans. The day ends with Data reporting to the bridge at the end of beta shift to relieve Worf and start gamma shift.

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: T’Pel’s pattern simply broke up for no obvious reason. Everything was functioning normally, and Data says that no such malfunction has ever been reported. Data’s theory about the superimposing of another transporter beam doesn’t explain why O’Brien read the pattern as degrading, but hey, no theory is perfect, right?

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi convinces Data to leave Keiko and O’Brien alone and let them work their problems out.

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data is still working on a lot of human interactions, though he’s picking up on slang faster (he doesn’t need to have “cold feet” explained to him, for example). However, he kinda sucks at friendly insults (he endeavors to show his friendship with La Forge by calling him a lunkhead).

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Data's Day

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf expresses disdain for human weddings — which he has attended while being raised by the Rozhenkos — saying that they contain a great deal of talking and dancing and crying.

What Happens on the Holodeck Stays on the Holodeck: Crusher re-creates a dance studio on the holodeck, resulting in a hilarious scene that is a masterpiece of comic timing.

No Sex, Please, We’re Starfleet: Keiko and O’Brien are very much in love, despite the travails of getting them married, and they will continue to be a recurring couple on two shows. Data’s the one who introduced them.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Data's Day

We also get to see Riker flirting with a tactical officer.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Data's Day

I Believe I Said That: “Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you.”

Riker quoting the narrator from The Big Lebowski.

Welcome Aboard: Rosalind Chao makes her debut as Keiko Ishikawa O’Brien, a role she will continue both on TNG and Deep Space Nine (moving to the latter show with Colm Meaney). Alan Scarfe — who has one of the best voices ever — is magnificently menacing as Admiral Mendak (he will return as a different Romulan in “Birthright,” and also appear in the Voyager episode “Resistance”). Sierra Pecheur is dreadfully bad as T’Pel/Selok. Shelly Desai appears as a Bolian barber named V’Sal — the first of two different Bolian barbers on the Enterprise (the other, Mr. Mot, will debut in “Ensign Ro”).

Trivial Matters: This episode establishes that Data is corresponding with Dr. Bruce Maddox from “The Measure of a Man.” That episode ended with Data telling Maddox to continue his work, and Data is aiding in that by providing Maddox with information about his daily routine. It’s a nice continuity touch.

Picard’s speech made while officiating the wedding ceremony is virtually identical to the one given by Kirk when he officiates a wedding at the top of “Balance of Terror” on the original series. It will be used again by Admiral Ross in the Deep Space Nine episode “Til Death Do Us Part” to marry Benjamin Sisko and Kasidy Yates.

We see several parts of the Enterprise for the first time in this episode: the arboretum, the barber shop (both of which will be seen again), the replicator room, and the nursery. It’s also the episode that introduces Data’s cat, Spot.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Data's Day

Because Data does not require sleep, he is apparently in charge of the overnight shift, which actually makes a certain sense, though it does give him a lot more on-duty hours than most. Worf is in charge of beta shift, at least in this episode.

Gates McFadden is an accomplished choreographer and dancer (among her choreography credits are the Jim Henson films Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal), and she did all her own dancing in the holodeck scenes (a body double was used for Brent Spiner for most of his footwork).

Your humble rewatcher would make use of “the dancing doctor” in his novel A Time for War, a Time for Peace, and make use of Admiral Mendak as part of the post-Star Trek Nemesis Romulan political mishegoss in Articles of the Federation. (Mendak also appeared in Vulcan’s Soul: Exodus by Josepha Sherman & Susan Shwartz.)

Make it So: “They don’t do a lot of tap-dancing at weddings.” Day-in-the-life episodes can be tremendous fun, and while it’s kind of odd that Data would describe a day that has a wedding, a birth, and an ambassadorial visit “typical,” a really normal day wouldn’t make for much of a TV episode. If anything, the episode might have been better served showing more of the stuff that was going on that day, but even the mentions (the promotions, the school play) helped remind us that the ship is a large community with lotsa stuff happening.

If you’re going to do a cliché episode, you need to have something interesting to hang it on. For the most part, the episode succeeds in this, and it’s mainly due to wisely choosing Data as the focal point. Spiner’s deadpan, his stellar comic timing, the character’s continued attempts to become more human (he has a cat! he wants to get married someday, maybe!) all combine perfectly in this episode.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: Data's Day

The cancel-the-wedding-at-the-last-minute thing is kind of silly, but it works in part because Rosalind Chao sells it (she’s a great actor, playing a character that would wind up being horribly ill-served on DS9, but who was excellent in her appearances on TNG), and in part due to Data’s stumbling attempts to be helpful adding to the episode’s charm. And in the end it gives us a regular who has family on board, something we lost with Wesley Crusher’s departure.

Where the episode really falls down in the T’Pel plot, partly because it feels like it was grafted on to make the episode less boring (even though it’s the most boring part of the storyline), mainly because Sierra Pecheur is just awful as the Romulan spy. Her leaden performance brings every scene she’s in down. Worse, there’s a scene in her quarters that serves no purpose except to make Data suspicious of her; it’s unclear why she needed to make this request of Data at all. (The plot also either makes the Federation look really bad or the Romulans look really good, since T’Pel was a decorated ambassador who obviously fooled Starfleet and the Diplomatic Corps for years….)

On the other hand, the whole episode’s worth it for the Crusher-Data holodeck sequence where she teaches him to dance, a scene that is hilarious, charming, entertaining, and delightful, from Data’s awful smile to Crusher’s breathless “not bad — yeah.”

Overall, a fun little episode, one that is filled with excellent dialogue, fine character work, and a nice look at the larger community of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

 

Warp factor rating: 7


Keith R.A. DeCandido has written stuff. He plans to write more stuff.

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