In which Data finds his grandpa, Data is not himself today, and I get sucked down… like… twelve rabbit holes.
Black Friday Special! Regular episode! Nothing Fancy! Deal With It!
OH GOD DAMN PULASKI is the central character in this episode. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. A man named Ira Graves is very smart, but his assistant has urgently requested medical aid. Time is a factor and the Enterprise will be there in a little over half an hour. Pulaski is being driven and focused on her mission to save Graves’ life, meanwhile Data has called Geordi and Troi into his quarters to look at something he’s testing out.
Data apparently wants to project thoughtfulness and dignity and intellect. Okay. Actually, this is a little fascinating, considering that the recent change was Riker growing a beard. I choose to believe that this is indicative of Data noticing a change in Riker’s demeanor and relationship with his shipmates, perhaps one that grew out of his burgeoning familiarity with the crew, but which corresponds roughly with him growing the beard, and correlated the two. Rather than this being a joke at Data’s expense. You can tell who my favorite character is, and I’ll try to tell you why as soon as I can fit into context with an episode in a topical fashion.
the Enterprise has picked up a distress call from the Constantinople, so they’re going to do a drive-by beamdown of an away team to Graves’ planet and then take the enterprise to treat the 1200 colonists. Instead of Pulaski beaming down to help Graves, it will be Selar. Praise the Great Bird of the Galaxy. With Troi and Worf balanced out by Data and a Vulcan, this away team just might stand a chance. The maneuver involves the Enterprise briefly dropping out of warp but not coming to full stop prior to transport, and Riker says the effects of transport may feel a little strange. Apparently the doppler shift when transporting at high relative velocities is somewhere between ‘extremely unsettling’ and ‘actually dangerous’ with no real way of knowing just where on the line that lies.
Apparently Graves’ assistant contacted the Enterprise without his knowledge, which makes it really convenient that the Enterprise is now occupied on a vital humanitarian mission elsewhere and can’t take them back and leave. Ira Graves is kind of a lecher, and Graves’ assistant asks Worf if he’s a Romulan, which is a cute moment until you remember that Romulans and Vulcans are the ones who look alike and there’s a Vulcan in the room. Ira Graves may be a genius according to Pulaski, but his assistant… Also, Graves recognizes Data as Soong’s handiwork, and claims to have tight Soong everything he knows. Selar sneaks up on Graves and diagnoses him as having a terminal disease in its final stages.
The Enterpise finished treating the Constantinople without incident and is already heading back, and Graves is whistling “If I Only Had A Heart” at Data, complete with the lesson on the context, which resonates. Graves goes on one of those contemplative monologues that people in fiction dying of degenerative illness tend to go on when they’re about to do something crazy, but I’m sure that’s just paranoia. Or not. Graves confides in Data that he’s planning to transfer all of his knowledge into a computer, and when Data lets slip that he has an off button, Graves gets That Look in his eye. The next time we see Data, he tells us that Gravcs is dead, and Data is backlit and in shadow, which isn’t ominous at all.
Data is being debriefed as to why he didn’t call the doctor in when Graves started to pass, but he says it would’ve been pointless. Data also seems to have insider knowledge of Graves’ lovely young assistant, and creeping her the hell out. To the point where he’s about to boop her nose or stroke her cheek or something. He also speaks up at the funeral. We cannot possibly, as the viewer, be expected to miss that Graves is now living in Data’s brain. As his co-workers who were not privy to his last conversation, it might take a while, but it shouldn’t take long after that terrible eulogy. So awful that Picard is giving him a talking-to. He manages to con Picard into not suspecting anything, and walks out gloating and whistling “If I Only Had An [organ].”
Ira Grave is the… Iwant to say fourth out of seventh best invasive consciousness we’ve seen so far, behind Janice Lester, the energy creature from “Lonely Among Us” and Garth of Isar, and ahead of Mirror Universe Kirk and Grunting Rapist Kirk from “The Enemy Within.” It’s kind of tragic that Graves’ genius doesn’t extend to not outing himself basically immediately, including muttering under his breath when Picard shows Graves’ assistant Kareen around the bridge and then cussing out Picard.
Okay, two things. First, we can now infer that Graves does know a thing or two about storing neural patterns in artificial computational structures, although this somewhat conflicts with our conclusions from “Lonely Among Us” that the essence of a person may not be solely the product of a brain state. Then again, it might not – Picard’s ‘soul’ was in the Enterprise for a while, so Graves’ ‘soul’ might be in Data.
Second, Troi is capable of sensing jealousy when Picard starts showing Kareen around tbe bridge. From Data. So her empathic abilities, as well, do not seem limited to detecting emotion from biological brain structures. She can either a) sense emotions from artificial brain structures as well, or b) sense emotions from ‘souls.’
I do hate using the word soul here. It’s remarkably imprecise and leads to sloppy thinking.
Geordi has some sort of taser-looking thing that can scan Data by extending a brighy blue beam of energy around him, and uses it to scan Data’s… something. Not sure what it’s measuring, but everything it measures is within normal parameters. Troi gives him another test, including images of Kareen, Ira Graves, dead Ira Graves, and lots of Enterprise mission logs. This equipment was part of an Academy test and apparently works equally well on humans and positronic brains. For the sake of my own sanity I’m going to presume it requires calibration based on presets that the Enterprise has saved, because the idea that Data (who processes things thousands of times faster than a human) could possibly have the same profile characteristics as biological think-meat is frankly outlandish. But the tests show that Data’s personality is being consumed by, surprise surprise, Ira Graves’ personality, and may do so irreparably if not checked.
Data creeps on Kareen some more, offering to build her an android body so they can plug USB ports or whatever it is android bodies do, and glossing over the fact that his personality is killing Data’s. When Picard comes to give him The Speech of the Episode, Graves!Data point out that as a human, he is intrinically more valuable than a mere machine. At this point, I wish Pulaski was here so we could see her reaction to Graves straight-up murdering a Starfleet officer. Would she be horrified, thus showing us that she has a modicum of decency? Or would she agree with Graves? Oh hey, she’s on her way to treat Geordi for the concussion he suffered when Graves went psycho in Data’s body, so maybe we’ll find out. Or Picard will provoke Graves to the point where he slaps him unconscious, I guess.
In fact, it’s Graves who becomes horrified at himself and is then found lying on the floor of his quarters with no memory of how he got there, and Graves transplanted into Data’s desktop. I hope to the Great Bird of the Galaxy that that thing is effectively sandboxed. Actually, it seems that the Enterprise computer is not capable of sustaining sentience, which kind of contradicts the fact that we saw it sustain a virtual machine of Moriarty a few episodes ago. This kind of thing drives me crazy. Maybe… maybe the power surge Worf saw in the holodeck that time was the computer flash-replicating some dedicated supercomputer clusters behind the scenes to add resources to Moriarty’s runtime? That would explain why the Enterprise is not normally sentient. Of course, if the Enterprise is capable of adding networking power to itself by simulating or replicating superclusters, that kind of means it’s capable of becoming sentient on command.
It is a damn good thing we know from “Encounter at Farpoint” that holodeck matter is real, but replicated and recycled and repurposed by the computers, because otherwise I would have to ask, if the computer simulates more computational resources for itself, how much work the computer does to simulate the running of simulated resources and oh god I either need more or way less scotch.