In which Data is the Night Watchman, Vulcans are tools, and Data writes his diary.
This episode is going to be Data-centric, (as should be clear by the title) and thus we open with Data dictating a log addressed to Maddox. Data does not hold grudges, and in response to Maddox’s request for ‘further primary source information’ on Data’s functional programming, Data is sending Maddox a copy of his diary.
As it turns out, Data is releieved from his bridge watch a few minutes early so that he can perform his duties as Father of the Bride. Also someone went into labor overnight, an ambassador is coming aboard soon, and hey wait what?
Also, during the night watch, the bridge lights are kept at low levels. Is that a naval tradition? It seems completely unnecessary and even counterproductive in space, when you’re always going to be out of sync with the governing body of a planet you approach unless you play with relativity on your way. My only guess is tradition.
Meet Keiko. She has apparently selected Data to perform the duties of Father of the Bride, and also she wants to cancel the wedding. She was going to marry Chief O’Brien, but since the universe hates O’Brien enough to make him the only enlisted man in a fleet of officers, why should his wedding day be any different? Keiko is also asking Data to be the one to tell Miles that the wedding is off. What are the chances that Data, as far as he’s come since season 1, handles this with tact and grace?
If you guessed “what the heck are you smoking, there’s no way that’s going to happen. Data will fundamentally misunderstand something about human nature and take exactly the wrong approach,” Congratulations! You must have seen at least one episode of Star Trek before!
It seems Data keeps track of a lot of things from day to day. This includes school plays, cultural holidays (today happens to be Diwali. Also, the Enterprise is big enough to be holding two chess tournaments on a single day. Seems odd – even with everyone on the Enterprise participating, the most you’d need is ten roundsto determine a winner. But the big news is that an ambassador, T’Pel, is on board. Interestingly, Data (who believes himself to be incapable of the emotions Vulcans deny themselves) finds their philosophies limited. Harsh, dude.
Data expresses in his running diary narration that he has managed to guess that Riker us being sarcastic when he says T’Pel is charming. Data has learned to recognize irony, but he has to think about it and has yet to master employing it. He is also trying to master friendly insults, and tries out ‘lunkhead’ on Geordi.
I wish I hadn’t just given you that picture of the barbershop, because when Data is encouraged by Geordi to go find a gift for when Keiko inevitably changes her mind again, he meets up with Worf in a room which seems to be dedicated to non-food replication services. The mere fact of the existence of this room indicates something critical about replicator technology – in crew quarters it is mostly restricted to food and food-related items (except for that one time it made a guitar). At least, the menu in crew quarters may be limited.
Data looks for help from Worf to help figure out an appropriate gift. They run through a registry of various crystal stuff, and they talk about the specifics of human bonding rituals. Worf mentions that human bonding rituals often involve dancing, so Data goes to Crusher for lessons. Apparently, Crusher was, once upon a time, a tap and jazz champion and known as the Dancing Doctor.
This is largely a Below Decks episode. That is to say, although it happens to focus on a senior officer, it’s still kind of jarring when Picard orders Data to do a tactical analysis of possible Romulan movements because we weren’t in the room when T’Pel briefed Picard. Even though I saw Star Trek well before I became a Babylon 5 enthusiast, I tend to hold up “A View from the Gallery” as the finest Below Decks episode ever. Perhaps because the viewpoint characters in that episode aren’t main characters at all. Still, this is good Trek so far. I digress. This matter is so top-secret that Picard can’t even tell Data what it is he’s supposed to be looking for.
The analysis currently supports a Romulan attitude of passive-aggressive douchebaggery and the testing of Federation defenses. Picard lets slip that T’Pel may be going on a mission into Romulan space alone, as he mentions he’d like her to take an escort, but apparently Data isn’t supposed to know that. Instead, he’s supposed to go home and feed his cat. Data has a cat. Data’s cat’s name is Spot.
O’Brien comes in to Data’s quarters, distraught, and Data’s attempts to comfort him are not helping because Data is bad at that. O’Brien asks Data to speak to Keiko on his behalf, because O’Brien is just as dumb as Keiko. And Data is just as dumb as both of them, since he thinks Keiko will respond to logically pointing out that since cancelling the wedding hasn’t made her happy, she should change her mind again. In resolving this fetch quest, he is going to Troi for advice. In fact, he has apparently considered the prospect of marriage at some point, even though he doesn’t seem to have any prospects.
T’Pel calls Data in and requests restricted information, apparently as a tst of Data’s discretion and adherence to security policies. He seems to believe that Vulcans are incapable of lying. While this may be true, it is a fact that they are perfectly capable of deception. Just putting it out there.
In order to continue to prepare for Keiko and Miles’ wedding, Data meets Crusher in her dance studio and very quickly learns to tap dance, since his mechanical precision allows him to skip preliminary lessons. It is a good thing that he off-handedly mentions that this has adequately prepared him for the wedding, or Beverly wouldn’t have known to tell him that this does not adequately prepare him for a wedding. The subtleties of slow dancing are a little more difficult for him to pick up than the raw mechanical precision of tap dance.
Duty calls, however. Crusher has to go help with the birth, and the Enterprise has this mystery mission to carry out. The Enterprise meets up with a Romulan warbird commanded by Admial Mendak, and it appears that talks are about to commence between the Romulans and Ambassador T’Pel. They go to beam her over, but they lose her in transport and she dies in the matter stream. This seems problematic. Since this is an uncommon malfunction and nothing was wrong up until that malfunction, everyone seems to be indicating (without stating thus) sabotage. And of course, there’s no body because she dissolved in the matter stream.
Of course, the Romulans also have their suspicions – namely, that the Federation didn’t want these peace talks and arranged the accidents. Now in addition to having a romantic comedy to shepherd, he has a mystery to solve, in order to save the diplomatic process. Data likes mysteries, though. They do a genetic match between T’Pel’s remains with her pattern when she beamed on board. There are numerous errors – Crusher compares it to what you’d see if you tried to replicate genetic material.