Mar 27 2012 3:00pm

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

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.

James Knevitt
1. jknevitt
Man, Rosalind Chao looks tired in the first image of her. Maybe that was at the end of a long shooting day.
Michael E. Rubin
2. Michael E. Rubin
A little bit of Yiddish and a Classic Doctor Who shout-out on one rewatch. Keith, you've outdone yourself. Bravo!

One question about T'Pel: didn't she come up again in a future episode? I thought she was brought up as an example of Picard's incompetence, but I don't recall the details.

Daniel Chamberlin
3. critter42
The title at the top of the article still says "The Loss" :)

...and after a refresh, it doesn't! :)
Keith DeCandido
4. krad
Michael: thanks! And yeah, T'Pel will be thrown in Picard's face in "The Drumhead," though on the depth chart of people who should be to blame for that particular fiasco, Picard's pretty damned low....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Michael E. Rubin
5. StrongDreams
Was that "The Drumhead"?
Alan Courchene
6. Majicou
I'm actually watching "Future Imperfect" on the Wrestling Channel right now, but sadly, it looks like they won't make it to this episode.
Michael E. Rubin
7. Seryddwr
Strangely enough, I never thought very much of this episode. When BBC2 first showed it in the early 1990s, it was the final episode before the schedulers, in their wisdom, pulled the rest of season 4 for broadcast later that year. As a result, it drew attention to its middle-of-the-run status. It's all a little bland and lightweight.

Totally agree re: Rosalind Chao. She only got given a fair crack of the whip in season 1 of DS9. After that, she seemed to be increasingly relegated to the status of an appendage to 'O'Brien must suffer' stories.
Michael E. Rubin
8. Christopher L. Bennett
Keith: The ship they're rendezvousing with is the Zhukov. I think they mispronounced it.

This is a good one, a nice day-in-the-life piece and a callback to all those letter-writing episodes they used to do on M*A*S*H (another series where Rosalind Chao had a recurring role). It would've been nice if they could've seeded the O'Brien/Keiko relationship earlier instead of introducing us to Keiko on their wedding day, but TNG was from a time when most shows were still more episodic than they tend to be today.

And yeah, the dance-lesson scene was a good opportunity for two stage-trained performers to strut their stuff.
Keith DeCandido
9. krad
Christopher: Yeep! Thanks for the catch. I have a character who's appeared in a couple of my original stories named Cassie Zukav, so my brain conflated them. Derp. It's fixed.

And I don't know that I'd call Chao a "recurring" character in M*A*S*H -- she was only in two episodes, although one was the two-hour finale...

(She was a regular in the mediocre spinoff AfterMASH, though.)

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Michael E. Rubin
10. C. Wildeman
Oh man, the bit at the end of the dance studio scene when Data's dancing with the holo-partner, and he slowly turns around with that hideous smile on his face; gets me every time! I just woke up my wife from laughing. She was grumpy, until I replayed the scene.
Michael E. Rubin
11. athersgeo
I believe that DS9 wanted to use Keiko more, but Rosalind wasn't available, or her availability didn't line up. I think one of the DS9 dvds has a feature about it.
Michael E. Rubin
12. Tehanu
This was the episode that turned me from total indifference to a rabid Next Gen fan, so I don't agree that it was "bland" -- although I do agree that the whole T'Pel storyline is semi-lousy. It does however provide enough tension & threat to make Picard's welcome, at the end, to the new baby really touching. I only wish they'd used the arboretum setting more in later episodes.
Tyler Durden
13. Balance
This episode is one of the very few where we see our guys lose. Imagine if the story was told with the T’Pel plot front and center. At the end of the day the enemy Big Spy got away clean. This helps to remind us that the Enterprise does not always save the world.
Michael E. Rubin
14. Christopher L. Bennett
Wow, I knew Chao showed up late in the final season of M*A*S*H, but I could've sworn she was in more than just two episodes. Maybe it's because the finale was five normal episodes' worth, or because she was in AfterMASH. Although it's probably partly because I thought she was really cute back then.
Jenny Thrash
15. Sihaya
One could easily use nothing but scenes from this episode to make a sitcom-style title sequence. That said, I do enjoy this episode very much. It's like drinking bubble tea; there's lots of good tasty stuff even between the chewy bits.
Michael E. Rubin
16. ubermuchly
I always liked this episode. The T'Pel scenes were horrible, yes. But Brent Spiner always has a smartass vibe in this show (like A Fistful of Datas), and it seems like he got a chance to show some of it here. He made a wonderful comedian, it's a shame he didn't get to do more of it. And you can see and FEEL how much he enjoys doing it. He was a helluva talent.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
18. Lisamarie
Yay, a Data episode :)

My husband hadn't seen this episode, and he had T'Pel pegged as a Romulan about halfway through the episode (either that or Black Ajah!). And I actually love character study type episodes so I would have been totally fine without that plot to add 'tension' and instead had more Data encounters with the crew.
Bob Weld
19. WaitingShadows
@18 Yay I can't believe you pulled out a WoT reference! You just made my night :)
Bruce Arthurs
20. bruce-arthurs
The richest man in Romulan space owns the shoulder-pad factories.
Risha Jorgensen
21. RishaBree
@20 - This is where I need a "like" button.
Michael E. Rubin
22. Charles Hicks-Moore
In Monty Python's The Life Of Brian, people listening to Jesus have difficulty hearing the Sermon On the Mount and believe he said, "Blessed are the cheesemakers." They are informed that "it's not meant to be taken literally," as it refers to "all manufacturers of dairy products."

Maybe you didn't mean for this to be taken literally:

"Riker quoting the narrator from The Big Lebowski."

The Big Lebowski came out in 1998 and this episode predates it by 7 years. Just sayin...
Michael E. Rubin
23. JulieK
Nice to know that the Enterprise has shifts. I used to wonder why all the senior personnel were on duty at the same time, and whether there was actually another bunch of senior officers who took the night shift whom we never saw. (If so, it would be a good hook for a series of spin-off novels!)
Justin Devlin
24. EnsignJayburd
@22, I was thinking the same thing about The Big Lebowski. I suspect krad just couldn't pass up an opportunity to make a Lebowski reference. I mean, who would?

"Some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you," is simply listed as an English proverb.

Now, if Admiral Mendak had said, "Captain, you're entering a world of pain," or if Data had named his cat Carpet Pisser, or if the Enterprise had encountered a group of whiny space nihilists then we'd definitely have some sort of Lebowski/Trek temporal anomaly going on here...
Keith DeCandido
25. krad
"It really tied the holodeck together, man."

"Shut the f--- up, Data, you don't know what you're talkin' about!"

"Do not mess with the Duras."

"Watch it, Guinan, there's a beverage here!"

In fact, I could not resist the urge to make a Big Lebowski reference, given that Riker used the same line that was later used by Sam Elliott's narrator.

And to JulieK: one of the things we tried to do in the Corps of Engineers series was sometimes show the other shifts....

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Keith DeCandido
26. krad
Oh, and to athersgeo: My issue isn't with how often Chao was used on DS9 but how she was used on DS9, which most of the time was very very poorly.

---Keith R.A. DeCandido
Michael E. Rubin
27. Mike Kelm
I think the issue with Rosalind Chao and the character of Keiko was that the writers couldn't figure out how to write for a "normal person." She wasn't in Star Trek, she wasn't an ex-spy (Garak), she wasn't the child of someone powerful (Ziyal), she was just an average person, a working mother with a kid. I actually think they started her out well (what am *I* going to do on a trashed space station at the far end of nowhere) but they didn't take it anywhere. She could have been a far more integral person instead of an O'Brien appendage. Why not start a "town council" on the station with her as the head, putting her in conflict with Sisko and O'Brien- that could have been interesting (sort of a proto-Quorum from DS9). Otherwise, just let her go off and find some exciting scientific opportunity and leave the station rather than her twice a season cameo in the latest O'Brien must suffer episode. The most useful thing she did was give an in-plot reason as to how to explain Nana Visitors pregnancy.
Michael E. Rubin
28. swlrsenn
I always enjoyed episodes that featured Data. This was one of my favorites. The whole Romulan spy plot line did feel very hastily added, and stuck out of the story line like a sore thumb.
Hoping not to reveal my fictional technical ignorance here, but this reading of the rewatch made me wonder why in the heck are the transporters not keyed with some sort of encryption sequence that would prevent their use as described here? I mean, it seems they can beam to and from any location, so why would a potentially hostile species ever have access to be able to "beam" something into the ship in the first place? It just seems sort of inconsistent. If the Romulans were able to beam replicated DNA matter onto the pad, then why not simultaneously beam over some 20 day gestating super virus while they were at it? Eh, maybe it just seems inconsistent because the whole Romulan sub plot was pretty crappy.
Joseph Newton
29. crzydroid
@28: The general consistency in Star Trek is that shields block transporter beams. So if a ship had its shields up, an enemy couldn't beam over something dangerous. But if the shields were already down, like here, anything's game.
Joseph Newton
30. crzydroid
@28: The general consistency in Star Trek is that shields block transporter beams. So if a ship had its shields up, an enemy couldn't beam over something dangerous. But if the shields were already down, like here, anything's game.
Justin Devlin
31. EnsignJayburd
"Nihilists? F*ck me! I mean say what you like about the tenets of the Borg Collective, Captain, at least it's an ethos."
Michael E. Rubin
32. USER
A few times they did try to give Keikors something to do, like when she was possessed by QaplaWraiths from the Power-Orb Zone, problem is Rosalind can't act much, really (Tho Majel Rodenbarrett coudn't act either and the Trekkafia seems to lap her up). I'm going thru TNG from the beginning, many times wondering why, and then I come to an episode like this that manages to genuinely entertain. Spiner Yuks + Ronald D. Moore scripting = 39 karat solid zirilium-H. Didn't know Gates was the choreographer for the watershed, milestone, landmark Labyrinth, now I will have to scale back my mild dislike of her (Notice how in this episode she inappropriately smiles when discussing a presumably just transporterbliterated Vulcan diplomat)
Michael E. Rubin
33. Ellis K.
This episode sports a wedding and an encounter with a Romulan ship, the name of which is pronounced "divorce." That CAN'T be an accident.
Michael E. Rubin
34. Tulpa
Actually the Enterprise did succeed to some extent in the Romulan encounter. Because they figured out that T'Pel was really a spy and still alive, the Federation could operate with the knowledge that the Romulans knew everything T'Pel knew. Knowing what the enemy knows is huge in intelligence work, which is why the Romulans tried to make it look like an accident.
Michael E. Rubin
35. TheRomulanSpy
I'm not happy with you, krad. I finally read your book and you made my beloved Admiral Mendak look bad. Come on. You couldn't use Sirol or..well, literally anyone but the sexiest Romulan ever? You wound me, sir. But, fortunately, I'm not ready to start a war. Today. ;)

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