Feature: Star Trek: The Next Generation  
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Star Trek: Interference, Divided Loyalties and Insurrection 
 
 
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With excitement building up around the forthcoming ninth Star Trek film, TV Zone takes a look back at the influential series, focusing on episodes featuring Data. For more about episodes which share similar themes to the the movie, see TV Zone #105.

From his very first appearance, Brent Spiner’s Data has been one of the most popular characters amongst The Next Generation crew. Much like The Original Series’ Spock, Data has provided viewers with a unique view of the universe, one unhindered by human faults – and dare it be said, emotions – yet gifted with a child-like innocence and an insatiable curiosity. Throughout the seven seasons of The Next Generation, Data has striven to become more human, and this effort, whilst endearing, has often led to trouble. After considering, for 0.68 of a second, whether to stand alongside the Borg Queen in Star Trek: First Contact, the forthcoming Star Trek 9 finds Data reverting to his most basic form of programming following an incident. Similar experiences have plagued the android before…
Season Three’s Brothers saw Data unwittingly take control of the Enterprise following a message from his creator, Dr Noonian Soong. Soong had hoped to install an emotion chip in his ‘son’, but his transmission resulted not only in a delay to the Enterprise’s urgent dash to Starbase 416, where a young boy named Willie Potts required life-saving medical treatment, but also in Soong’s own death when his first android, Lore, responded to the same message.
Brothers showed that Data’s programming was vulnerable to outside influence, and that plotline was continued in the two-part episode, Descent, in which Data experiences hatred whilst killing a Borg. The emotion chip is revealed to be responsible, with Lore using emotional blackmail to manipulate his brother into succumbing to his orders. Ultimately, Data’s ‘natural’ qualities re-assert themselves, and lead him to deactivate his own brother. The emotion chip would next be seen in Generations.
One of Season Seven’s finest episodes, Thine Own Self, works in a similar fashion to The Original SeriesThis Side of Paradise, in which Captain Kirk, suffering from amnesia, begins a new life as Kirok amongst a colony of native American Indians. In this instance, Data’s memory is wiped by a power surge as he recovers the remnants of a crashed space probe. After stumbling into a village populated by a pre-industrial society, Data soon begins a new life, unaware that radiation from the downed probe is the cause of a severe illness amongst the villagers.
Even suffering from memory loss, Data acts true to form and sets about searching for a cure before he is eventually retrieved by his shipmates. Although Data’s immense strength and mental capabilities make him an invaluable member of the Enterprise crew, his android body and his own will are every bit as fallible to various weaknesses as his flesh and bone crewmates.
In short, he is only human.


Tim Leng

For loads more Star Trek coverage, including an interview with Marc Alaimo (Gul Dukat), see TV Zone #105.


 
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