Fri
Jan 27 2012 1:30pm
Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Most Toys”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Most Toys”“The Most Toys”
Written by Shari Goodhartz
Directed by Timothy Bond
Season 3, Episode 22
Production episode 40273-170
Original air date: May 7, 1990
Stardate: 43872.2

Captain’s Log: In order to stop the tricyanate poisoning of the water supply on Beta Agni II, the Enterprise has obtained hitritium, a highly unstable compound, from a trader named Kivas Fajo. Hitritium is too unstable to transport, so Data flies it from Fajo’s ship the Jovis to the Enterprise in a shuttle.

As he’s about to take his third and final trip, Varia, Fajo’s aide, neutralizes Data with some form of electrical shock and examines his molecular structure. A few minutes later, the shuttle leaves the Jovis and explodes.

The Enterprise crew thinks Data has been destroyed with the shuttle (Varia left enough trace elements of what he’s made of to fool a scan). They must proceed to Beta Agni II, so off they go — unknowingly leaving Data behind.

Fajo, it turns out, is an obsessed collector-type, and like all obsessed collector-types he has a particular type of object he prefers: unique items that cannot be found anywhere else from paintings to sculptures to weapons to other apocrypha, including a Lapling, an animal believed extinct. Of course, unlike the other items, Data is sentient and objects to being kidnapped. Fajo, however, views Data as the jewel of his collection. Fajo has a personal force field that reacts only to Data, preventing the android from touching him, and the trophy room has a door that only responds to galvanic skin responses and DNA, and is also excessively heavy, so even he can’t open it. Data objects, and Fajo counters — they debate spiritedly, but Data is still trapped in the room. Fajo even contrives to destroy Data’s uniform, thus forcing him to wear the (butt-ugly) clothes Fajo wants him to wear. Data, however, refuses to sit in the chair that Fajo has set aside for him to be displayed in.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Most Toys”

Fajo brings a colleague/rival named Palor Toff on board to show off Data. However, Data stands completely, unmovingly still as only he can. Instead of getting to show off an android, it appears to Toff as if Fajo is just displaying a dull mannequin. Even when Fajo hits Data with the force field, Data simply falls over. “He falls well,” Toff says, unimpressed. Fajo, though, is livid.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Most Toys”

Back on the Enterprise, La Forge and Wes go through Data’s things: his latest painting, his violin, a Shakespeare volume given to him by Picard (which La Forge gives back to the captain, who quotes Hamlet from it during the episode in remembrance of Data), his poker cards and chips (which Wes thinks should go to Riker), his impressive collection of Starfleet medals, and his hologram of Tasha Yar.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Most Toys”

La Forge is also convinced that something’s wrong with the explosion. The only explanation that makes sense is pilot error — which makes no sense when Data’s the pilot. His engineer’s brain wants it all to make sense, but it doesn’t.

And then he hits on it: on the last run, Data did not inform the Enterprise that the shuttle cleared the cargo bay of the Jovis, which he did do the first two runs. Anybody else, it wouldn’t be worth remarking on, but Data not following standard procedure is unheard of. But even as La Forge and Wes go over the shuttle recordings, they have no idea what it all means.

Picard and Riker agree to have Worf replace Data at ops. They arrive at Beta Agni II. The hitritium they have would appear to be just enough to stop the tricyanate contamination. But Worf reports that the hitritium is affecting the tricyanate faster than expected — further, there’s no geologic instability that would explain the tricyanate. Riker, Worf, and Crusher beam down and discover that the tricyanate is artificial. But tricyanate is not the most efficient method of poisoning a water supply; the only possible reason to do it is because hitritium is so hard to find. Which means it was darn fortunate that Fajo had some, and just enough to solve their problem.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Most Toys”

A look into Fajo’s record reveals that he’s a collector of rare and unique items, at which point the other shoe drops.

The Enterprise warps to where the Jovis was last reported. Meanwhile, Fajo threatens to use his Varon-T disruptor — one of four that Fajo has (there are only five in existence) — on Varia unless Data sits in the chair. Data accedes, but Varia is shaken by the experience and helps Data attempt escape.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Most Toys”

The attempt fails, as Fajo kills Varia with the disruptor — a vicious, violent, awful death — leading Data to aim a disruptor of his own at Fajo. The Enterprise arrives and O’Brien transports Data away before he has the chance to fire — but O’Brien tells Riker that the disruptor was firing during the beam-out. O’Brien neutralizes the weapon, and Data says that perhaps something happened during transport.

Fajo is captured, his collection confiscated, his future bleak. Data “taunts” him one last time by telling him that he feels no pleasure in his incarceration. “I am only an android.”

Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Hitritium is extremely unstable, so much so that if containment is breached, it can blow up a shuttle. But it’s the only thing that will stop tricyanate — faster if the tricyanate is artificial.

If I Only Had a Brain…: Data takes every opportunity to spoil Fajo’s fun — but does so methodically and meticulously, even going so far as to state that he must attempt escape before calmly walking over to the door to try to force it. It’s especially amusing that his most successful endeavor is when he stands stock still and does absolutely nothing. He also occupies himself while alone by feeding the Lapling and trying to impersonate the Mona Lisa’s smile.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Most Toys”

Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi expresses concern to Worf over how he feels replacing a dead crewmate for the second time (having already replaced Yar after she died in “Skin of Evil”).

There is No Honor in Being Pummeled: Worf deflects Troi’s concerns, pointing out a) that he has served at ops before (in various first-season episodes, most notably “The Naked Now”), b) that serving in place of a crewmate who died is commonplace on Klingon ships, and c) that he intends to honor Data the same way he honored Yar, by serving as well as he can in their former posts.

The Boy!?: Wes helps La Forge work through Data’s last minutes to see if they can figure out what happened. They fail.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Most Toys”

I Believe I Said That: “It’s so single-minded, isn’t it?”

“Very persistent.”

“But it’s very polite, which is a very nice touch.”

Fajo and Varia discussing Data as if he wasn’t right there in the room with him.

Welcome Aboard: Nehemiah Persoff makes a very entertaining cameo as Toff, and Jane Daly does well in a fairly standard role; the moment where she touches her chin when describing Fajo’s punishments as being as “lavish” as his rewards for loyalty is very compelling.

But the episode is owned by the great Saul Rubinek as Fajo. Best known these days as one of the great character actors of our time generally, and specifically as Artie on Warehouse 13, Rubinek was a last-minute substitute who had asked his old school chum Timothy Bond, the episode’s director, for a tour of the set. But he got a much more detailed tour than expected when David Rappaport could no longer play the role of Fajo due to a failed suicide attempt in the middle of filming. (Another attempt was successful a few months later, just before this episode aired.) Twenty years ago, so much energy was focused on the fact that Rappaport couldn’t do it that Rubinek was kind of lost in the shuffle. But looking back on it now, it’s a superb performance by one of our finest actors.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Most Toys”

Trivial matters: Kivas Fajo was named after a mineral mentioned in “The Trouble with Tribbles” and Lolita Fatjo, TNG’s script coordinator.

Fajo’s collection includes the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, a large replica of Salvador Dali’s The Persistence of Memory, a 1962 Roger Maris baseball card (the first card made from Topps’s run that year, as it was the year after Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single-season home-run record) with the smell of bubblegum preserved, among many other things.

Data’s current painting is the same one of the spatial anomaly from “Time Squared” that Tam Elbrun was admiring in “Tin Man.” Data’s facility with the violin was established in when he played it as Sherlock Holmes in “Elementary, Dear Data,” and the fiddle in his quarters is presumably the same one he played as part of a string quartet in “The Ensigns of Command” (and will play again in “Sarek,” the very next episode after this).

Both the Shakespeare volume and the hologram of Tasha Yar were also seen in Data’s quarters in “The Measure of a Man.”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Most Toys”

Data’s shuttlepod is the Pike, named after Kirk’s predecessor as captain of the Enterprise, as established in “The Menagerie” and “The Cage” (and, sorta, the 2009 Star Trek).

Make it So: “Mr. Fajo has no moral difficulties at all.” This has always been one of my favorite episodes. The script is fine: Fajo’s abduction of Data is quite clever, Data’s resistance (both active and passive) is completely in character, and Fajo’s collection is entertaining.

However, several elements raise it above fine. First of all, there’s the wonderfully ambiguous ending. Both scriptwriter Goodhartz and Brent Spiner were firmly of the opinion that Data intended to kill Fajo, but Data’s line about something happening during transport casts doubt, since Data isn’t supposed to lie (a line that was apparently inserted at the insistence of the producers).

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “The Most Toys”

The consequences back on the Enterprise are magnificently played, from Picard and Riker’s professionalism — grieving, but not losing sight of their duty — to La Forge and Wes’s more emotional outbursts to the awkwardness of Worf having to fill Data’s shoes. That last is put in sharp relief when Picard, out of habit, calls for Data to scan Beta Agni II, leading to a most awkward pause before the captain gently apologizes to Worf.

But the main thing that makes this episode stand out is seeing two of the finest actors around, Spiner and Rubinek, going at it. The banter flies beautifully between these two, and it’s just poetry in snark. Add Persoff for a scene, and it’s just gold. Great great stuff.

 

Warp factor rating: 8


Keith R.A. DeCandido is a writer. No, really!

29 comments
Jenny Thrash
1. Sihaya
It is amazing that Rubinek and Spiner stood out so much in an episode that was already really good. The other actors, the visual details that contributed to the story, the script itself were all great. You'd think that Data and Fajo would just sort of ... blend in. But Data demonstrated sort of in real time why he was worth the (excellently portrayed) mourning, didn't he?
MKUhlig
2. MKUhlig
I always liked the doubt cast by the line that Data says. It does not seem so much like an outright statement as a evasion on his part, which showed a more nuanced character to Data than we had been shown - and maybe a growth for good or ill in his quest to be more human.
MKUhlig
3. dav
What brought it down to an 8 then? I sort of agree with that score based on the quality of the 9s and 10s you've already written about, but you didn't include any qualifying criticism to "bump it down".
MKUhlig
4. N. Mamatas
That he had a large print of The Persistence of Memory always bugged me. "Look at these incredible, unique items! Plus, I picked this one up at the museum shop for ten dollars..."

The actual piece is about the size of a shoebox.
MKUhlig
5. StrongDreams
No disrespect meant to David Rappaport, but I'm glad Rubinek replaced him. Had Rappaport starred, I would have watched the whole episode thinking "that's Randal from Time Bandits." Rubinek's face was familiar, but I didn't know him from anything major before, so I was more able to focus on the character.
Evan Langlinais
6. Skwid
Any discussion of this episode is lacking without a link to Fashion It So.
j p
7. sps49
Why was Data concerned about wearing nothing after his uniform was dissolved? He could resist by not wearing his provided outfit.

Aside from the weird water poisoning issue, this episode holds together thematically and logically (how often does thathappen?).

And thank you, Skwid!
Katy Maziarz
8. ArtfulMagpie
I've always been convinced that Data fired. If he didn't fire, what possible reason would he have for making such a deliberately ambiguous statement? He would have just said something like, "I did not fire. The disrupter must have malfunctioned." But "Perhaps something occurred during transport" is such an Aes Sedai line---lying without actually lying. It IS possible that perhaps "something" occured during transport. Of course it is. It's also possible that perhaps nothing occured during transport. I always interpreted that line as Data admitting it--without admitting in such a way that they would be compelled to pursue any official action against him for firing at Fajo--I mean, as I recall (and correct me if I'm wrong!) Fajo had already dropped his disrupter and was, therefore, unarmed--and Starfleet officers don't usually make a practice of firing at unarmed civilians, even if they are murderers...
MKUhlig
9. gibson99
I don't know what my top 5 episodes of TNG are, but I know this is one of them.

IIRC during the episode Data says something about being programmed with ethics and morals. He sees what a hopeless situation Fajo's people are in and how evil Fajo is and says "I cannot permit this to continue."

He is making a logical decision that justice is best served by killing Fajo, even though he knows that isn't legal, thus the evasive response to O'Brien and Riker.
Keith DeCandido
10. krad
The episode is an 8 because, honestly, the plot isn't all that and a bag of chips, and it's utterly predictable, especially the by-the-numbers climax from Varia's betrayal to Varia's death to the Enterprise's nick-of-time arrival. I also hate faked deaths because they have a whiff of taking the easy way out -- let's show the grieving process without actually killing anyone! (A well they'll dip into again in "The Next Phase.")

It's a superior example of a tired breed, but a tired breed nonetheless.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
MKUhlig
11. Christopher L. Bennett
This was my first exposure to Saul Rubinek, but it wasn't until his superb turn in Stargate SG-1's "Heroes" that I really realized how great an actor he is. I don't really remember what I thought of him here, because it's not an episode I've wanted to revisit much. I found it somewhat unpleasant in concept and execution, though for the most part I'm not sure I remember my reasons why. Maybe it's just the venality of the situation, the effort to create an irredeemably evil character and show him doing generally unpleasant things.

But one thing that's never worked for me is the ending. The idea was to test Data's ethics to the limit by putting him in a situation where he had no way to stop Fajo short of killing him. But for me, they failed to achieve that, because I thought of a way Data could've stopped Fajo nonlethally. The only reason Data couldn't just physically restrain Fajo is because of the positron-impeding field generated by the box on Fajo's belt. We know the field wouldn't have deflected a disruptor bolt, otherwise killing Fajo wouldn't have been an option at all. So all Data had to do was shoot the box. His aim's good enough that he could've struck the box with a grazing shot, thereby shutting down the field without endangering Fajo's life. Then it would've been a simple matter to restrain him. And if I, a mere human, thought of that, surely Data would have as well. He had an easy way out that he certainly would've recognized, and thus he shouldn't have been the least bit conflicted about what to do.

So for me, the climax completely fails. It's lame and frustrating when a story alleges to set up an insoluble dilemma but leaves a simple, clear solution because the writers just didn't think it through well enough.
MKUhlig
12. Lsana
Count me as another who thinks Data fired. "Something may have gone wrong in transport" my foot.

@11,

I don't think that the point is that Data had to kill Fajo. I think the point was he wanted to kill him for what he had done to both Varia and Data himself. Fajo had done more than enough to deserve death, and the only way he was going to get it was if Data gave it to him.

Is that too emotional a reaction? Hard to say. But I think it was his reaction none the less.
MKUhlig
13. Christopher L. Bennett
And I emphatically reject the notion that Data would kill someone without need just because he "wanted" to. That's called murder, no matter how reprehensible the person may be. Self-defense is one thing. If Fajo had been about to kill someone right that very moment and Data couldn't be sure he could shoot out the field box and restrain Fajo quickly enough, then and only then would he have been justified in shooting to kill. But if Data had a nonlethal way of restraining Fajo before he could kill again, then he would've used it, because that's his duty as an officer and that's what's required by the laws and procedures he follows. Even if the Federation had capital punishment (which of course it doesn't), Data had no legal or moral right to pass sentence. His responsibility as a law-abiding, disciplined officer was to arrest Fajo so that he could be prosecuted and sentenced after due process of law, not to shoot him down in cold blood. What he might've believed about what Fajo deserved doesn't have any bearing on what his duty was, what the legal and ethical thing to do was. And Data of all people would not have put personal feelings or beliefs above law, duty, and ethics.

So no, the point of the story was not to say "Data can hate someone enough to try to murder him." No, that's horrible, that's disgusting. If that had been the intent, I'd hate the episode even more than I do. The intent was to claim that this supremely ethical being dedicated to the preservation of life was forced into a situation where he had no choice but to kill in the defense of others. And the episode totally failed to sell that premise, because he did have an option that the writers failed to notice.
MKUhlig
14. a-j
I've always thought, and I do think this was the intention, that Data fires as an act of retribution against Fajo for his actions and it is only the fact that he is transported that saves both of them. I know that Data is not meant to have emotions, but this is contradicted throughout the series and his discovery of an ability to become a cold-blooded murderer is what gives this episode its strength.
MKUhlig
15. John R. Ellis
An excellent episode. One of the ones that never fails to absorb me.

Also a good example of how keeping inwardly vile characters outwardly whimsical and amiable makes the inevitable cruelty all the more potent.

And, yes, another episode that proves Data had emotions all along, he just doesn't process them the same way humans do.
Bruce Arthurs
16. Bruce-Arthurs
In a very roundabout way, this episode led to "Clues" in the fourth season. But I'll explain that connection when these posts get to that episode.
MKUhlig
17. Randy McDonald
"We know the field wouldn't have deflected a disruptor bolt, otherwise killing Fajo wouldn't have been an option at all. So all Data had to do was shoot the box."

Was the Varon-T disruptor even capable of such precise targeting?

When Varria was shot, the disruptor effect slowly spread out from her chest to encompass her entire body. The Varon-T didn't blow apart her chest; it created some sort of field effect that expanded from the point where she was shot to dissolve her entire body.

Even if Data did shoot the field box on Fajo's belt, the same force field effect would plausibly have killed Fajo anyway. In order for the nightmare to end, Data may have judged it necessary for Fajo to die.

Who knows? Arguably it could have been humane for Data to aim for Fajo directly. If Data--say-shot Fajo in the head, at least that way Fajo's subjective experience of an excruciating death by molecular dissociation would be minimized.
Michael Burstein
18. mabfan
"Data shot first."

:-)

-- Michael A. Burstein
MKUhlig
19. ChrisG
I took Data's intent in firing as being to escape the inexorable cycle of Fatjo's making others suffer. Data states almost explicitly that he would not employ violence unless he had no other choice, so I think the implication is that he felt he had no choice.

I always enjoy this episode, and I've watched it many times. Still, overall I agree with @11 Christopher Bennet about the ending. In fact, my first thought was that he could have escaped much earlier using the items in the room to disable the box from a distance -- there were plenty of choices. (Knocking out Fatjo would enable him to open the door and escape.) So, in a sense, everything after that was a bit contrived. (I still loved it though.)

Two other things. It annoyed me a bit that Varia was carrying the idiot ball by putting down the disrupter, especially given how dangerous she knew it was. And while Data's implicit deceit at the end lent an enjoyable depth to the character, it seemed ... illogical. If Data felt he had no choice and thus that firing was the ethically best thing to do, why wouldn't he admit it?
rob mcCathy
20. roblewmac
people (myself included) love the "nutty collecter" plot
MKUhlig
21. Llama
Agreed with #14.

The very obvious implication of the episode is that Data did have an emotional reaction and made an emotional decision. Fajo is mocking him about his inability to feel rage over Varia's death, saying if only he could then he could both repay her suffering and save all the others from Fajo's evil. Fajo thinks he is safe exactly because he believes Data could never kill someone except in perfectly clear legal and moral circumstances, because he thinks the machine doesn't have emotions. He's then shocked and dismayed to be wrong.

Later on, the ending brings it home when Data comes to his cell and taunts him. I'm sure you can argue from the rest of the show that this can't be what's going on, but the episode taken alone is not very ambiguous. Data saying he doesn't feel and is only an android is a taunt because Fajo has just seen him act on personal outrage that he couldn't experience if he were genuinely emotionless.

The point of the episode as written seems to be that Data's personhood is complete and he is therefore just as vulnerable to a moral-emotional impasse as anyone else.
MKUhlig
22. Quesondriac
A great episode. When you watch this you realize that Data is headed for big things because it is apparent he is evolving. Attempted murder? Yikes, that is one quantum leap in the programming.
MKUhlig
23. lorq
Whatever one's interpretation of Data's actions at the end, I am thoroughly impressed by the intensity that the writer, director, and Spiner manage to pack into that line from Data: "I cannot permit this to continue."
MKUhlig
24. Ashcom
Kind of beside the point, but while I agree with most of this review, the one (quite minor) point I utterly disagree on is where you say that Varia touching her chin is "compelling". I found it horribly false and one of those "actorly" things to do (the first rule of acting is, never let them catch you acting.) It wasn't a natural thing to do at all and the meaning could have been conveyed in much more subtle ways whereas this was just a bludgeoning way to do it. Also the actress looked uncomfortable doing it, I would wager that it wasn't something she wanted to do but the director insisted.
Dante Hopkins
25. DanteHopkins
Okay to avoid repeating myself I will say this: the third season of TNG is chock-full of my favorite episodes of the whole series. This episode is one of them. The dialog between Data and Fajo is very compelling. You almost forget Fajo is fully capable of murder just to get what he wants. Superbly played by both great actors Spiner and Rubinek, I'm glued to the screen every time their scenes come up.

As for did Data fire or not, is one of those things I shrug off as part of the trauma of Data being held and seeing the full cruelty of Fajo having brutally murdered Varia. Data may have had an epiphany at that moment, but ultimately its rendered moot, as Data is beamed back to the Enterprise before he can do anything.

Great episode, and once again I agree with the rating of 8.
MKUhlig
26. Rob Bean
I believe that Data fired on purpose but the ending leaves that open to question, spurring great discussion. In his continual state of emotional evolution regarding a desire to be more "human" Data experiences a moment from the dark side of being human. He is driven to commit an act both he, and we as viewers, did not think he was capable of doing - murder/revenge. His feeling of utter helplessness in his situation and the brutality he has witnessed drive him to attempt a desperate act.
MKUhlig
27. SirJed
I just rewatched this episode, and I agree with Krad: Predictable and unenthusiastic; with excellent acting raising the quality of the show.
I think it's quite clear that Data actually fires the disrupter seconds before the beam out; it's just "lucky timing" that the transporter interfered. Honestly, I always read it as Data believing he had no choice but to kill Fajo, as he had no non-lethal means of restraining him at hand. It wasn't about revenge for Varia (who was very unconvincing for me) he justifies it as a means to prevent Fajo from murdering again. And, for the record, he "requests" Fajo to surrender first.
MKUhlig
28. JohnC
I agree with 13. It seems pretty clear that Data made a reasoned decision to murder Fajo. And murder it would have been, because at that moment in time there was no imminent threat. Fajo had already killed the one being he had previously threatened. Everything else he said was just provocative smack-talk about what he intended to do in the future. The Data I know would have destroyed the disruptor and retreated to somewhere he could continue to explore alternatives until he had no more alterntives. A few episodes ago I lauded the writer of the "The Offspring" for refusing to give in to what was a perfect opportunity to let Data show emotion at the death of his daughter. This writer, unnecessarily IMO, hit a false note at the end of an otherwise enjoyable episode.
MKUhlig
29. Mike2
Huh? Is there seriously a school of thought that believes Data did not intentionally fire the disruptor? Don't we actually see him pull the trigger? Do some people actually think there was a malfuntion during transport?
When I initially saw this episode 20 years ago, I thought the ending was silly because: 1) Data cannot lie, and 2) Data would be incapable of murder. On watching it again I feel this is one of the best episodes of the entire series. Data is more than a machine, and is capable of evolving without anything like an emotion chip (shudder). If I have a critique it is that the show did very little to follow up on this. As best I can recall, this is Data's only true dark moment (if you disregard cases where he was acting against his will).

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment