Fri
Jul 13 2012 3:00pm

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch: “Hero Worship”

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Hero Worship“Hero Worship”
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
Stardate: 45397.3

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.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Hero Worship

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.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Hero Worship

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.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Hero Worship

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.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Hero Worship

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.

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch on Tor.com: Hero Worship

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.

In the Driver’s Seat: For the third week in a row, Ensign Felton is piloting, this time navigating through some nasty gravitation waves.

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!

14 comments
Mike Kelm
1. Mike Kelm
I feel this one is a case of going back to the well, as you alluded to and also suffers by being the second kid centered episode in a row. Jeremy Aster and Worf, Barash and Riker, and now Timothy and Data. It seems like when in doubt, find an orphan and have them latch onto a senior staff officer. This one is a little better than the others IMO because I feel it does the loss thing fairly well and the psychology of it (plus you actually see Counselor Troi counseling, which is what she should be doing all day instead of sitting on the bridge waiting for something to happen).

The B-Plot waves of doom thing I think got handled poorly- we find out that the graviton waves get reflected but not exactly why, just that they do. I'd think this would make a tremendous weapon if someone could figure out the physics of it-Romulan warbird turns on it's shields and promptly blows itself up- but as far as a thing that puts the ship in danger, doesn't do much for me. Besides, it occurs to me that as the ships get tossed around, the shields would lose power, which would cause the danger to go away, not to mention that the shields are a static field, not moving, so I'm not sure after the first pulse of turning them on why they would cause additional waves, especially if the ship was sitting still. I'd get that there would be a jolt as the initial field of gravitons is projected shielding the ship, but since once they are projected they are constant, there shouldn't be the "waves" crashing against the hull.
Mike Kelm
2. Lsana
I've definitely experienced works of fiction like that, ones that are so unmemorable that my only explanation is that a wizard must have cast some sort of "notice not" spell on it so that anyone not actively watching/reading it won't have any memory at all of the plot.

I remember not liking this one when I saw it, though that may have been since I was a kid and the idea of losing my parents hit a bit too close to home. Your summary actually makes it sound pretty well done.
Mike Kelm
3. Sean O'Hara
This episode feels so recycled -- they took Jeremy Aster and plopped him into Data's Day, only with a much lamer B-story (at least Data's Day had the memorable scene with the body cut in half by the deck).
Mike Kelm
4. Megaduck
Oddly enough, this is one of the episodes I strongly remember because I was really young when I first saw it so I identified with Timothy. I haven't watched it in a while but I suspect I would give it more then a 5 when I do.

I tend to like the charecter focused and emotional episodes more then the larger political or science ones (Part of the reason I got bored very quickly with DS9).

This episode is a story about a young boy coming to terms with the death of his family and I think it works as that.
Alyssa Tuma
5. AlyssaT
This episode is hugely bland, but all things considered, it turned out way better than I would have judged it on paper: "Child mimics Data for the better part of an entire episode." *Shudder* Joshua Harris didn't steal the show, but he didn't really irritate me either. Which seems like a minor miracle.

And nothing against art therapy or the reality of how children deal with trauma, but just once I'd like to see a fictional representation of a child coping with a bad situation that DOESN'T include a scene in which he/she channels all that pent-up emotion into a disturbing artwork.
Mike S2
6. MikeS2
I also was about the age of the kid when I saw it when it first came out, and probably remember it for that reason. Now it has some problems that are actually most pronounced when I remember enjoying it but now see how contrived it often is.

How many times have we seen Starfleet standard procedure for children whose parents have just been killed is to leave them alone? Since finding out what happened to the ship is a priority, you think that could get the kid some attention, but not, instead they put him in a normal class and the teacher (who was told his parents died the day before) gets short with him.

On the other hand, we do get to see the counselor actually be a counselor. Then we get to see "the shields were causing the problem” dragged out long after its obvious to the viewer. At least the ending felt realistic.
Mike Kelm
7. Brian Mac
I gotta say, I'm completely amazed that Timothy hasn't popped up in tie-in fiction. I was reading this article prepared to find out that the character grew up and joined the Starfleet Corps of Engineers, or encountered Wesley Crusher as the Traveler, or became best friends with Jeremy Aster or something like that. It's unlike the fandom to leave a character lying around like that.
Mike Kelm
8. Christopher L. Bennett
While I didn't love this episode, I think I kinda liked it, because I could identify with Timothy. After I lost my mother as a child, I got into the habit of imitating another unemotional Starfleet officer, Spock, in an effort to avoid dealing with my emotions (which didn't work). I think Spock's epiphany about the value of emotion in ST:TMP helped me recognize the same thing, which is part of why I value that movie so much. This episode doesn't resonate with me quite so much, and I agree it wasn't a particularly striking one, but I could relate to the situation. (Plus I did a pretty mean Data impression back when TNG was on.)

Although I think that by this point I was already getting tired of their need to tack technobabble danger plots onto stories that were meant to be character dramas. I wish they'd had the freedom to do more often what they did in "Family" or "The Offspring" and just be pure drama with no contrived danger to the ship. Or at least focused more on dangers that were character-driven rather than random impersonal threats to the ship that just happened to run in parallel with the character stuff. It reminds me of how TOS's fight scenes often seemed tacked on to meet a quota for action rather than serving any purpose within the story.
Joseph Newton
9. crzydroid
@3: The person getting cut in half by the deck was "In Theory," not "Data's Day."
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
10. Lisamarie
Aw, I kind of liked this one, maybe because I have kids, and because I love Data. At any rate, I thought the kid was much better than the creepy kid they had in the episode where Aster dies on the away team with Worf.

Also, I have struggled in the past (for completely different reasons; mostly related to bullying as a child) with the temptation to suppress all emotions vs. recognizing the value of feeling, so I actually thought the scene where Data talks about wanting to taste his dessert was rather touching.

I also enjoy these types of character episodes much more than the 'political' episodes. Those are enjoyable too, but are usually not my favorites.

Plus, I always like to see Troi doing actual counselling instead of just saying she has some vague sense that untrustworthy person is being untrustworthy.

Does anybody here have experience with that kind of thing? In a real situation like this, would the therapist really encourage people to play along with the fantasy? Because my first instinct would be to say, "Of course you're not, I can see why you would want to be, but you're not". But I am not a psychologist, and that is probably a good thing ;)
Philippe D. Andrecheck
11. pda
Timothy’s... not participating in a round-robin singalong of “Row Row Row Your Boat,” ...it’s an open question whether or not it’s recovery from trauma or disgust at the bloody awful singalong.

Classic Decandido. Classic !
Mike Kelm
12. Ashcom
An unmemorable episode, certainly, but one I think that at least shows how far the show had come during it's five seasons. The same topic tacked in season one would have been tremendously mawkish and awkward. By this point, though, they were able to handle it with some sensitivity providing an episode that was competent and watchable, if little more.
Mike Kelm
13. Stargazer4
It's certainly an average episode... BUT it gets extra points in my book because of the last scene when Data saves the day. "Drop the shields" is one of my favorite TNG lines ever, coming of course from my favorite character on the show. Ok ok, along with Picard.
Mike Kelm
14. Kellia
I like Data-centric episodes on principle, but boy, was this bad. The first half was so slow it was actually boring (for crying out loud, even the rescue operation at the beginning wasn't exciting), and then we just got to see the Enterprise apparently being terrible at child care. "Should we place the traumatized kid with a family? No! Leave him alone in his quarters!" "This kid is in a particularly delicate place. Should child psychologists keep track of the interactions he's having? No! Let him spend large amounts of time alone with someone particularly prone to mistakes when it comes to human interaction!" "Should we--ROW ROW ROW YOUR BOAT!"

For me, the only redeeming thing here is that it once again established Data's super speed, which I honestly thought the show had just completely dispensed with. There have been so many situations where super speed would've been useful ("The Mind's Eye" for instance--I was practically yelling at the screen for Data to use his super speed to stop Geordi at the end); does Data have some weird reason to rarely use it? Or do the writers just forget it's a thing he can do?

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