Revisiting Star Trek TNG: The Schizoid Man
Brent Spiner demonstrates his considerable range in this week's Star Trek: TNG look-back at The Schizoid Man...
This review contains spoilers.
2.6 The Schizoid Man
The Enterprise is called to the aid of Dr. Ira Graves, a cybernetics specialist who has become ill. An away team consisting of Troi, Worf, Data and one of the ship's doctors transports to the planet's surface and spends some time with Graves and his assistant while the Enterprise attends to urgent matters further afield. After insulting the woman in the away team (and then, just for good measure, insulting all women everywhere) the doctor informs him that he has a terminal disease and will be dead more or less within the day. Good job they got there in time!
Graves takes Data into his office and discusses the value of being alive with him, before casually remarking that he's found a way to transfer his mind into a computer, then wondering aloud if Data has an "off" switch. At this point it's clear where the episode's going, but it takes another thirty minutes for the rest of the crew to catch up. Sigh. Data suddenly runs out of Graves' office and announces that the scientist has died. Dramatic!
Back on the ship, Data's behaviour becomes erratic. He's overly familiar to the point of being outright insubordinate. At Graves' funeral he delivers a glowing eulogy of the kind you imagine Steve Jobs would have gotten from someone who owned every model of iPhone. And he starts expressing an interest in – even propriety over – Graves' young assistant, Kareen.
Picard eventually drags Data aside and tells him to sort himself out, and our Android friend agrees. Unfortunately, as he leaves he begins to whistle a tune that Graves had previously been whistling when he was alive. Oh no! Could it be? (yes, it is.) But is it? (yes, definitely!) Yes, Graves has somehow commandeered Data's body! (we realised this several paragraphs ago.)
After belittling Wesley Crusher (although to be fair, who can blame him?) "Data" makes the mistake of accusing Picard of being a letch towards Kareen. Considering he's supposed to be a genius, Graves isn't very good about impersonating Data. After a public argument, Picard orders Data to come with him while Troi makes some insightful remarks about how she detected jealousy from Data. Everyone listening coughs nervously, rather than point out they didn't need empathic powers to realise that.
Geordi's best and most wibbly scans can find nothing wrong with Data, so Troi suggests some psychoanalysis instead. This involves strapping electrodes to his brain and giving him the full Clockwork Orange, at which point she's able to report to Picard that yep, there's a second personality in there. One threatening to engulf Data completely! Picard finally realises what's happened, although he doesn't tell anyone for a while.
Unfortunately, they can't just restore Data from a backup, so instead they start to stalk him, waiting for him to do… something. Data goes and talks to Kareen, explaining that he's Graves, but she's shocked and horrified by his actions. When she becomes upset, he accidentally crushes her hand and runs off. Picard finds him in engineering where Graves asserts that he's more entitled to life than Data, and insists that he's not a monster. Picard pointedly asks about the two engineering guys Data has beaten the hell out of, so Data smashes him in the face as well. Inside, Graves realises things have gone too far.
When Picard wakes up, Data is lying unconscious in his quarters. They wake him up, and he's back to normal. Graves has abandoned Data's body and uploaded himself to the Enterprise's computer, preserving his knowledge, but not his personality (wait, what? Oh, never mind. Let's just be glad it's over.)
TNG WTF: This episode starts with a voiceover from Pulaski, of all people, and then she's barely in the rest of the episode – although there is time for her to deliver one of the worst lines ever written: "A man is ill, Captain, treating him is my priority one." It's almost immediately followed by Geordi saying "Sometimes I think [Data] is becoming more human than any of us realise." Neither line sounds like anything a human being has ever said or thought. Props to Levar Burton for making the latter sound reasonably natural , but come on. Those were first draft lines if ever there were any.
TNG LOL: There are actually a lot of intentionally funny moments in this episode. Graves is quite funny because he's happy to be openly offensive and vain, and although the early scene where Data is trying out a beard raises a smirk ("When I stroke the beard thusly, do I not appear more intellectual?") but "his" eulogy of Graves is flatly brilliant: "A man of limitless accomplishments and unbridled modesty…"
Troi also gets a less intentional laugh when she's suddenly alerted to the fact that they're doing a 'near-warp' transport down to the planet. "Wait a second! I don't understand!" she shouts, moments before Geordi energises the transporter anyway. Yeah, yeah, whatever. Ensign Exposition doesn't understand something, we'll get her caught up later.
Who's That Face?: Suzie Plakson, who played the Vulcan Dr. Selar, will also later play K'Ehleyr, the mother of Worf's child, Alexander.
Time Until Meeting: There are a lot of one-to-ones in this episode, but no actual meeting to be found. Proof if any were needed that the writers were asleep at the wheel!
Captain's Log: On a conceptual level – dying man hijacks Data's body - this episode has a pretty strong idea to work with. There's one scene between Graves and Data which is particularly good, continuing the trend of Data's wish to be human as providing some of this season's best moments, but after that it goes rapidly downhill. This episode has tonnes of truly awful dialogue, and again, only the chance to see Brent Spiner demonstrating his acting range makes the episode worth watching.
After a fairly decent start, things start to drag in the middle part of the episode when everyone fails to interpret Data's massive change in attitude as any kind of foul play, and then in the third act they've basically run out of ideas. Graves only gets caught because he doesn't even try to blend in (some genius…) and his change of heart comes practically out of nowhere. Again, the really irritating thing is that the crew don't actually solve the problem (unless you count "letting yourself get punched in the face" as "solving the problem"). Surely the absolute minimum requirement for a TV show should be that the heroes fix the problem?!
Watch or Skip? Hmm. The first twenty minutes make the episode look like it'll be decent, but in the last twenty minutes it runs out of ideas and turns awful. Skip.
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