TNG: S6E08: “A Fistful of Datas”

In which procedures are followed, Brent Spiner gets overtime, and we learn a bit about the Academy Curriculum. 

We are orbiting a planet for the purposes of a regularly scheduled supply run. The Enterprise is performing the duties of a cargo hauler. Seems a little light-duty, but I suppose not every mission can be star-shattering. Because it’s delayed, everyone is taking the opportunity to just kind of chill for a few days. Picard is practicing that flute he got from his other life, for instance, and shows us some of the cool in-flight MIDI processing the computer can do.

Pictured: Picard gambling on a fart and losing.

Pictured: Picard gambling on a fart and losing.

Geordi and Data are running an experiment to  see if Data can run the computer as an emergency measure. I approve of this in general. Planning for something like ‘the entire computer core goes down and we need life support’ is how you wind up with a crew that isn’t dead. And they run it past the captain, so all due dilligence has been followed. Next he gets interrupted by Crusher, who wants him to be in a play. He in no way wants to be in the play, but is very upset that Crusher only wants him for a bit part. Next, Worf interrupts him with a duty plan, and Picard orders Worf to take some time off. It is somewhat surprising that he can’t put a ‘do not disturb’ sign up.

"Where's a child-sized airlock when you need one?"

“Where’s a child-sized airlock when you need one?”

Next, we see why Worf was so eager to be on-duty. Alexander will be taking him to the holodeck, and he looks just so thrilled about the prospect. You may read the next paragraph in the voice of the narrator from Bastion, if you wish.

Sun beats down on a shell of a town. Old man looks hard at the horizon, fear in his eye, doesn’t know where it comes from. Lawman comes strolling into town with a kid for a deputy, doesn’t know what to do, but aims to do it well.

In engineering, as they plug Data into the computer, Data comments on Geordi’s burgeoning beard with something akin to skepticism. They make a little small talk, while in the holodeck worf is propositioned by a Lady of Negotiable Affection. Apparently Barclay helped out with the program. They hear shots from inside the saloon, and upon being pointed at the antagonist of the story, Worf beats the snot out of him with a well-placed palm strike to the nose, and Alexander resets the difficulty of the program. The scene plays out again exactly the same as before, only with more bystanders slinking away and less presenting his face to Worf for imminent punching. When Worf gets backed against a wall, Troi shows up to save him as the Mysterious Stranger with a Big Rifle.

Gosh, with the amount of time we’re spending watching Data and Geordi run this interface through its paces, it’s almost like something worrying is going to happen. Oh man, he’s glitching out while running through gravity control. Maybe this will be the episode where gravity control finally develops a malfunction. Nah, he disconnects as soon as the malfunction happens, so as to avoid any problems. The fact that he flourishes the holster of his tricorder surely isn’t relevant, right?

Man, remember back in the day when it didn't look ridiculous to see someone smoking on television?

Man, remember back in the day when it didn’t look ridiculous to see someone smoking on television?

Eli the Antagonist is cooling his heels in hail for when the US Marshal arrives, or for when his dad comes in to rescue him. Troi (who has named herself Durango for the duration of this farce) is playing her part to the hilt as a a disinterested loner. She demands $500 for helping out, and Worf sends Alexander to the bank.

Here’s a question. Alexander, along with Barclay, wrote the program. One might suspect he knows how the story goes. I mean, clearly he’s playing along because it’s Quality Time With Dad And The Closest Thing To Mom Since Duras Murdered Real Mom, but one has to wonder if Alexander set it up so that the saloon ownder is chasing Worf, or if that was a Barclay addition.

Other questions – presumably, Troi is not actually smoking tabocco. Presumably, it is simulated, but to what extent? Is she vaping? is the smoke entirely holographic? Inquiring minds want to know!

Relaxing in his quarters, Picard’s woodwind composition suddenly becomes, I think, Rachmaninoff. Nope, I was wrong. Dvorak. Crusher’s play, which Riker is prominent in, turns into Data’s Ode to Spot and the rest of his poetry. Pretty clearly this is related to the interface experiment, and the work begins to track it down as Alexander gets cheerfully kidnapped by Old Man Hollander, who is Data. Actually, strike that. Alexander is upset because he’s supposed to be kidnapped later. Nice, I’m very glad that was cleared up in dialogue. Also, now the computer isn’t recognizing voice commands, so that’s problematic.

I think the most important question here is why the computer assigned two completely different accents to the same NPC resource file.

I think the most important question here is why the computer assigned two completely different accents to the same NPC resource file.

Worf is down at the saloon looking for Alexander, when in walks Frank Hollander. Worf assumes this is part of the program and that Data is just committing to the part, until Frank Hollander dislocated Worf’s shoulder. Holodeck safeties off, Worf injured, and Data’s image in the program and replicating. Now he’s Eli Hollander as well. The only solution, apparently, is to play the program out so it will shut itself down automatically. Of course, every western ends in a shootout.On the outside, Data indicates that a purge of the system will only take two hours, and Data’s speech patterns and walk have become noticably westernified.

The bigger problem is that the bleed is happening inside, too. Eli is now shuffling with Data’s dexterity and reflexes, which means that the gunplay on the inside will also happen with Data’s precision. I honestly have no idea whether the revolvers everyone is carrying around were rifled in this era, but presumably at least the rifles were.

And then this happened.

And then this happened.

After Hollander comes by to see his son, Worf agrees to a hostage exchange. Troi explains that outlaws weren’t really concerned with honor and their given word, which surprises Worf rather a lot. Apparently, none of the stories he read growing up in Russia involved people lying. However, once he wraps his head around that, he begins to come up with a valid tactical map, and, as is traditional, begins constructing an advanced technological device from local scraps. He’s managed to use the battern in the communicator and the scraps of a telegraph machine to build a personal force field generator.

So good news! We could build force-field generators if we wanted to, since the technology to do it existed in the 19th century. Admittedly the power requirements might be out of our grasp at this point, but everything else seems to check out. All you need is a telegraph. Heck, forget that. With an energy of even a modest portable size, they ought to be able to easily build personal force fields. That’ll be handy the next time they’re ambushed, unless this technology is never heard from again.

Actually, not to disparage Worf, but he’s no engineer. This can’t be revolutionary MacGyvering. There must be a course at the Academy on how to jury-rig basic survival technology from scraps. Which would be a very handy class to have, apparently. Superior preparedness.



It’s time for the hostage exchange. I wonder if this town was already on the Paramount lot, or if they built it special. Anyway, the exchange goes down and the treachery begins. Worf’s force field works, Troi stops one of the ambushers, and Worf shoots the gun out of Frank Hollander’s hand and exiles him for a bloodless Western ending. Well, almost an ending. Worf has to get a kiss from his love interest first.

After all is said and done, Worf has successfully had Quality Time with his son, learned to actually enjoy himself, and the Enterprise flies off into the sunset. I mean, there’s nothing particularly special about that, they can do that pretty much whenever, but it’s still a nice shot.

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