Written by Hilary J. Bader and Joe Menosky
Directed by Patrick Stewart
Season 5, Episode 11
Production episode 40275-211
Original air date: January 27, 1992
Captain’s Log: The Enterprise is investigating the disappearance of the U.S.S. Vico, a research vessel, in a dark cluster. They find the ship with multiple hull breaches, tremendous structural damage, and no life signs. Riker, Data, and La Forge beam over to find a big mess, the ship coming apart at the seams, and lots and lots of dead bodies. While they download the computer files—which can’t be done remotely due to interference—they hear a voice whimpering. Data and Riker investigate and find a young boy, Timothy, still alive, pinned under wreckage.
The sheer amount of wreckage is interfering with transporting, but moving it may speed the collapse of the bulkhead in that room. At Data’s suggestion, Riker and La Forge transport back, he moves a big-ass beam, Data and Timothy move to the corridor where there’s a clear signal, and they’re beamed safely to sickbay.
Timothy is badly traumatized—he says the ship was attacked—and latches onto Data. Both his parents were part of the crew of the Vico and are therefore dead—they found his mother’s body on the ship, and his father was likely blown into space when the bridge was breached—and whatever attacked the Vico hit it with an EM pulse that wiped 83% of the computer records.
Data asks if La Forge went through any childhood traumas, and he recalls being in a fire as a five-year-old. He wasn’t hurt, but the five minutes between when the fire started and when his parents rescued him was endless.
Timothy joins the other kids for school, where he insists on continuing to build a model even after the teacher has told him that they’re done with that for the time being. Troi thinks Data should spend more time with Timothy, especially since the evidence doesn’t match his story of what happened.
Data visits Timothy in his quarters, where he’s still working on the model. Data offers some constructive criticism, which is not entirely appreciated, and then assists him in completing it. When La Forge asks him to engineering, Data decides to finish the model at ludicrous speed, which impresses the heck out of Timothy. When the boy asks how he did that, he explains about his android nature—but also that he has no emotions.
The senior staff meets to discuss options, and then Troi has an appointment with Timothy—who is now behaving exactly like Data (even wearing a shirt that mimics his uniform). Troi plays along, and later explains later to Picard and Data that he’s suffering enantiodromia—“conversion into the opposite”—latching onto Data’s lack of emotions as something he desires to avoid the grief and guilt he’s feeling. Troi feels that the android persona is part of the road to recovery.
At Picard’s urging, Data helps Timothy become the best android possible, including changing his hair to look like Data. While doing so, Timothy briefly admits to having had nightmares. He then takes Timothy for a physical, where Crusher says he’s functioning within established parameters, and then they paint together. While Data is creating a landscape, Timothy’s is a bit more disturbing, with some violent imagery.
Eventually, exhaustion catches up to Timothy, and he falls asleep while Data is trying to get him to open up. He lays the boy on his couch and lets him slumber.
Timothy is starting to act less android-like, occasionally laughing and showing other emotions, but he’s not quite ready to abandon the android persona. At Troi’s suggestion, Data shows Timothy his own quest to become more human. Timothy doesn’t understand why he’d want to be human, when androids are stronger and faster, but Data points out that he can’t take pride in his work—and can’t taste his dessert, he can only analyze it.
The Enterprise investigates the interior of the black cluster. There are gravitational fluctuations and sensor echoes. Picard test-fires phasers, and they’re reflected all over the place. Weapons of any style would be useless within the field, so it seems impossible for the Vico to have been attacked as Timothy said.
Picard summons Timothy to his ready room, along with Data and Troi. He finally says that the destruction of the ship was his fault, because his arm brushed the computer console right when the ship was damaged. This is, of course, impossible, but try telling a guilt-ridden little kid that.
The gravitation waves are increasing in intensity. Riker orders Worf to increase power to the shields, but the waves grow larger. Timothy says that that’s what they kept saying on the Vico, more shields. Data then tells Picard to drop the shields, which they do—at which point the wave dissipates. The graviton waves were feeding on the shields. That was what destroyed the Vico, and would’ve destroyed the Enterprise if they’d put any more power into the shields.
Timothy has abandoned the android persona, but is still grieving. Data and Troi observe him in class, where he’s not participating in a round-robin singalong of “Row Row Row Your Boat,” instead sitting glumly alone, though it’s an open question whether or not it’s recovery from trauma or disgust at the bloody awful singalong. Later, Data assures Timothy that he has plenty of human friends, and he’d be fine with Timothy being added to that list.
Can’t We Just Reverse the Polarity?: Black clusters are collapsed protostars, apparently,and they generate gravitation waves that somehow reflect future technology back on itself: sensors, shields, and phasers are all affected.
Thank You, Counselor Obvious: Troi helps Timothy along, noticing that he’s imprinted on Data and encouraging the android to befriend the boy in the hopes of aiding his healing.
If I Only Had a Brain...: Though it’s not mentioned, Data’s experiences with Lal in “The Offspring” probably come a bit into play in his dealings with Timothy, though his lack of knowledge of childhood trauma leads him to query La Forge on the subject.
I Believe I Said That: “Timothy, your head movements are counterproductive. Can you be still?”
“But you do it.”
“The servo mechanisms in my neck are designed to approximate human movements. I did not realize the effect was so distracting.”
Data discovering one of his eccentricities.
Welcome Aboard: Joshua Harris was apparently cast as Timothy due mainly to his ability to imitate Brent Spiner’s head movements, which he does quite well. Sheila Franklin’s back as Felton after “A Matter of Time” and “New Ground,” Harley Venton takes another shot at being the transporter operator after “Ensign Ro,” and Steven Einspahr is awful as the teacher who tortures children by making them sing “Row Row Row Your Boat.”
Trivial Matters: The Vico was named after the Neapolitan philosopher Giovanni Battista Vico.
Despite Timothy and Data agreeing to remain friends, Timothy will never be seen or mentioned again. You wonder if he’s off somewhere as part of a support group with Jeremy Aster and Barash. (Though those two, at least, appeared in tie-in fiction; Timothy doesn’t even get that...)
The childhood trauma that La Forge tell Data about was originally written for the next episode, “Violations,” but it was cut from that script and used here.
This episode marks the second mention of the Breen after “The Loss.” They’ll be mentioned a few more times before finally appearing on Deep Space Nine’s “Indiscretion.”
It was during the filming of this episode that the cast and crew learned of the death of Gene Roddenberry.
Make it So: “I’m an android.” I had absolutely no memory of this episode when I sat down to rewatch it, and I actually found it to be far less offensive than I had assumed it to be, based on my lack of desire to ever rewatch it before.
Unfortunately, I’m sitting here typing this, and I still have very little memory of this episode, even though I just finished watching it.
Part of it is Sir Patrick Stewart’s directing, which is as lifeless as it was when he helmed “In Theory,” but a lot of it is a totally unmemorable turn by Joshua Harris as Timothy. The only thing he does well is impersonate Brent Spiner’s head movements, but that’s not enough to hang a performance on. The danger has no sense of urgency to it, especially since it’s all pseudo-science and made-up technology—this is an early example of the all-technobabble-all-the-time-type episode that particularly plagued Voyager.
Having said all that, there’s not all that much that’s wrong with the episode, entirely. (Though one wonders what they were thinking schedule two straight kid-focused episodes in a row.) It’s just kind of there. So it gets a nice average rating.
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be appearing along with Jonathan Maberry and Gregory Frost at Between Books in Claymont, Delaware on Sunday the 15th of July for both a Writers Coffeehouse sponsored by the Liars Club (noon-3) and a signing/reading for V-Wars, the fantastic new shared-world vampire anthology that we’re all three of us a part of (3-5). Come on down and check it out!