Original air date: May 7, 1990
The Enterprise has rendezvoused with the independent trading ship Jovis to acquire hytritium, a rare substance needed to cure a water contamination on a colony world. As Data prepares to depart Jovis in a shuttlecraft with the final load, one of the Jovis crew, Varria (Jane Daly), asks Data to record his thumbprint to verify the shipment. When he touches Varria's PADD, however, he is incapacitated, and Varria has him scanned to determine his component elements. Moments later, the shuttlepod departs the Jovis and explodes en route to the Enterprise, leaving its crew to believe Data is dead.
Captain Picard speaks to the captain of the Jovis, Kivas Fajo (Saul Rubinek), and receives their information on the accident. As Fajo has no more hytritium, the Enterprise is forced to depart with what they have, which they believe will barely be enough.
Data wakes up to find himself in Fajo's personal gallery. Fajo informs Data that the android has been added to his collection of priceless and unique objects. Data states that he has no intention of being held prisoner, but he cannot escape the gallery nor touch Fajo due to a personal force field. Varria informs Data that he must wear a new costume and sit in a chair for display, but Data refuses. Varria warns him that Fajo is capable of great generosity as well as cruelty, implying that she has been the recipient of both. Data surmises that they are both his captives.
As Geordi and Wesley clear out Data's quarters, Geordi can't help but shake the impression that there is more to Data's accident than meets the eye. Picard agrees to allow Geordi to continue the investigation, so long as it doesn't interfere with the upcoming decontamination mission. Worf takes over for Data at Ops. Troi notes that this is the second time he has had to fill in for a late crew member, but Worf insists that he will honor the memory of the lost through his service.
Fajo is increasingly angry at Data's defiance. He dissolves Data's uniform to force him to either wear Fajo's outfit or go naked. Data wears the new clothes, but finds a new way to resist. When Fajo brings a friend over to impress him with his new acquisition, Data refuses to move or acknowledge their presence whatsoever, causing the friend to assume that Data is simply a mannequin. Fajo is furious. He shows Data his Varon-T disruptor and prepares to execute Varria in a horrific way, but Data preempts him by sitting in the chair.
On the Enterprise, Geordi realizes that Data didn't report the shuttlepod clearing the Jovis before the explosion, as he had on his previous trips. As Data always follows procedure to the letter, this is highly suspicious. The Enterprise arrives at Beta Agni II to begin the decontamination process. Picard has a momentary lapse and begins to order Data to initiate a scan, only to have to apologize to Worf. Upon examination of the water, they realize that the tricyanate contamination was artificial. The crew quickly deduce that Fajo was probably behind it. Given that Fajo is a collector of rare objects, Riker suspects that stealing Data was his true goal.
Varria, meanwhile, has decided that she's had enough. She takes the disruptor out of the gallery safe and escorts Data to the shuttle bay. As Data prepares a pod for their escape, Fajo and his men intercepts them, and Fajo uses one of his other Varon-T disruptors on Varria. Seeing her dying in agony makes him toss the weapon away in disgust. But Data picks the disruptor back up and aims it at Fajo. The collector reminds Data that he's only an android and cannot use rage as an excuse to take a life. Further, Fajo threatens to start killing more people if Data continues to defy him. Data decides that Fajo must be stopped, only for the Enterprise to transport him away just as his weapon is going off, saving Fajo's life.
Fajo is arrested, and Data pays a visit to him in the Enterprise's holding cell. Fajo comments on how their roles have switched: Data is now the collector and Fajo is the one in the cage. He says that Data must love to see him brought so low, but Data blandly states that he feels no pleasure and is only an android, after all.
Tropes in this episode include:
- Agony Beam: The Varon-T disruptor doesn't just vaporize a person (virtually any weapon made by any spacefaring species can completely vaporize a normal humanoid), but does so slowly and with a great amount of pain. It also doesn't seem to have a "stun" setting. No wonder it's banned.
- Ambiguously Gay: Fajo dresses in garish clothes, has Camp Gay mannerisms, and after he's used acid to get rid of Data's Starfleet uniform, he says he wouldn't mind if Data was naked. On the other hand, it's hinted that Fajo may have had Varria as some sort of a sex slave, though the exact nature of relationship remains unclear. Possibly an (unintentional) example of Depraved Bisexual.
- And Your Little Dog, Too!: Fajo threatens to kill his own people to keep Data in line, but finds such a threat can seriously backfire.
- Armor-Piercing Question: When Varria says that Fajo has no moral difficulties at all, Data asks, "Do you?" Varria calls him on it. He does get through to her shortly after though.Varria: You won't find anyone on this ship to help you escape. Face it, android. He has you.Data: It appears he has us both.
- Artistic License: A rather literal example: Both The Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dalí and Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci are shown much larger than the actual paintings are in real life. Both are surprisingly small and wouldn't read very well to TV viewers.
- Bad Boss: Fajo is not only free with "punishments for disloyalty", but after vaporizing Varria, he casually suggests to Data that he'll threaten someone else to ensure his continued compliance — "Him, for example," indicating one of his mooks on the floor.
- Batman Gambit: Fajo's plan hinges on the fact that, out of all the Enterprise crew members, Data is the one flying the shuttle. Not an unreasonable assumption, given the highly volatile cargo which would need to be flown with great precision. He may have even used this reason as justification for requesting Data as the pilot (if not by name, then by requesting the calmest and steadiest pilot on the Enterprise, which would naturally be Data).
- Batman Grabs a Gun: Technical Pacifist Data is willing to use an illegal disruptor to kill Fajo, showing just how much of a threat Fajo's proven himself to be.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Fajo's equally decadent friend/rival Palor Toff is an ugly, corpulent man with large and gaping orifices all over his face, one of which he's stuffed a ribbon into. Varria's face looks like a burn victim, though she pulls a HeelFace Turn. Fajo himself is only a very mild example: he's a dumpy, unimpressive man in overly gaudy clothing, but he mostly just looks like Saul Rubinek.
- "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Fajo objects to Data thinking of himself as a captive, rather than the object of Fajo's admiration.
- Borrowed Biometric Bypass: Attempted by Data, except Fajo's personal force field generator prevents it.
- Break the Haughty: Fajo loses everything. Notable when he smugly says that one day Data will be back in his collection only to be informed all the stolen property is already being returned to their owners and his face falls as it hits him his "collection" no longer exists.
- Beware the Silly Ones: Fajo might be a campy Large Ham with petulant Manchild tendencies, but he's a legitimately vicious piece of work for a one-shot villain.
- Brutal Honesty: When Varria demands to know if Data is programmed to find and make use of weaknesses in his enemies, Data calmly admits this. The scene contrasts with his evasive response to Riker at the end.
- Call-Back: After Data's apparent death, Worf is promoted to his position of Chief Operations Officer, leading Troi to note that this is the second time he's been promoted to a deceased comrade's position, after Tasha Yar's death in "Skin of Evil.". Worf also mentions that he's taken the Ops station before, as during the first season, he'd act as relief Conn and Ops officer whenever Geordi or Data were absent from the bridge.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Fajo is fully aware that he has no moral code.
- Chekhov's Gun: The literal version with the disrupter. One is kept in a safe behind a Concealing Canvas, the other is Fajo's Pillow Pistol, mentioned in the same scene. Both are involved in the final confrontation between Data and Fajo.
- Collector of the Strange: Including completely unique sentient androids.
- Common Place Rare: Fajo casually dismisses his Dali painting, then gushes over a collectable 1940's baseball card.
- Complete-the-Quote Title: "He who dies with the most toys wins," coined by multibillionaire Malcolm Forbes. It's a sentiment shared by Fajo, as he is willing to threaten and risk lives for the purpose of increasing his collection. The ending reinforces it, as he is defeated not by being killed but by living long enough to see his collection confiscated.
- Concealing Canvas: Justified; given all the paintings and objets d'art in the room, why not hide your gunsafe behind one?
- Continuity Cavalcade: The scene where Wesley and Geordi examine Data's quarters is filled with calls back to previous episodes:
- The holocube of Tasha and his collection of medals, which both appeared in "The Measure of a Man," are in the same drawer.
- Geordi takes out Data's cards and chips, noting how Data always falls for Riker's bluffs. The first hand we see Data play is in "The Measure of a Man," where he folds to Riker's bluff.
- Data's violin, which he plays as Sherlock in "Elementary, My Dear Data" and in a string quartet in "The Ensigns of Command," is visible on a chair.
- Data's blue painting, which has appeared in several episodes, is commented upon.
- Contrived Coincidence: In-Universe, the crew realize that tricyanate poisoning was not natural, and Fajo just happened to have just enough of the antigen to remove it.
- Crocodile Tears: Fajo is able to cry when telling a sad story from his past, but when Data doubts him, the tears immediately stop and Fajo chuckles. He was just lying.
- Deus Exit Machina: If Deanna were on the bridge during the first few minutes, she could've seen right through Fajo's lies and ended things right then and there.
- The Dog Bites Back: Varria finally snaps after fourteen years of putting up with Fajo and helps Data escape.
- "Eureka!" Moment: Geordi is lying in bed remembering the audio communication of the mission. As he comes to the point where Data's shuttle explodes, he realizes that Data did not say he was leaving Fajo's ship as required by procedure. Since Data always follows procedure to the letter, it indicates to Geordi something doesn't add up. (It takes him a little longer to figure out exactly what it means, but it's the first sign to the crew that things weren't what they appeared.)
- Exact Words: When Riker questions Data about the fact that the weapon in his hand had discharged at the time of transport, Data replies that "perhaps something occured during transport," which is entirely true. What Data neglects to mention, however, is that the "something" that happened was him deliberately pulling the trigger in an attempt to kill Fajo. It's hinted Riker knows Data is fudging the truth, but isn't willing to call him on it.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Once Fajo finally shoots Varria with the Varon-T Disruptor, even he is utterly horrified at her agonizing death and tosses the disruptor away in disgust. He quickly gets over it, though.
- Faking the Dead: Varria scans Data after knocking him out and has Fajo's mooks load the equivalent materials into the shuttle so apparent traces of his destroyed body will be found when Enterprise scans the wreckage.
- Fate Worse than Death: Fajo lucks out on not being subjected to his own disruptor, but Data points out that all the wealth and trophies he's amassed will be confiscated, leaving him with nothing.
- Faux Affably Evil: Fajo's attempts to make nice with Data don't hide the fact that he's a total sociopath.
- Freudian Excuse Denial: Fajo acts like he's playing this card when he tells Data of his poor youth, growing up on the streets...and when Data tells him that his past misfortunes don't excuse his criminal actions, he admits that it's all bullshit, as his father was a wealthy Gentleman Thief.
- Hate Sink: Fajo is such an incredibly vile and shameless character that even Data's willing to kill him.
- Have You Come to Gloat?: Fajo figures that's why Data visits him in the brig. Of course, Data cannot gloat as he is "only an android".
- Hope Spot: For a moment, it looks like Fajo won't actually kill Varria. And then he shoots her.
- Ironic Echo: Fajo points out that as Data is only an android he can't feel rage over Varria and use that as justification for killing him. Later when Fajo accuses Data of taking pleasure in his fate, Data points out that he can't feel such an emotion as he's only an android.
- I Shall Taunt You: Fajo keeps belittling and taunting Data throughout the episode, all too pleased that he's managed to trap Data. When the tables are turned at the end of the episode and Data visits Fajo to tell him that his entire collection has been confiscated Fajo believes that Data is taking the same pleasure from their reversal in fortunes, only for Data to remind him that as an android he's incapable of such satisfaction.
- Imposter Forgot One Detail: Fajo puts all the right materials in the shuttle to mimic Data's body, but doesn't take into account a transmission that Data should have made between when he was abducted and the supposed accident. Geordi knows Data wouldn't just skip it, so when he realizes the discrepancy, it's the first hint that something's not quite right.
- It Gets Easier: Fajo is shocked at first for killing Varria with the Varon-T Disruptor, but he quickly gets over it and is entirely willing to do the same thing to another person.
- "It" Is Dehumanizing: Fajo calls Data "it," reinforcing his view of Data as his property.
- I Will Punish Your Friend for Your Failure: Fajo threatens to execute Varria to compel Data's obedience—and ends up doing so during The Climax. Then he threatens it on other random crew members, which convinces Data that he has to kill Fajo.
- Kick the Dog: Along with the varied mistreatments we see onscreen, Varria implies her scarred-looking appearance was the result of one of Fajo's punishments.Varria: Kivas finds a way to get what he wants from his people. His rewards for loyalty are lavish. His punishments for disloyalty (touches her face, as if remembering the pain) are equally...lavish.
- Let's Split Up, Gang!: Data has to prep the shuttle while Varria has to open the hanger door from a separate console. While she's there two mooks and later Fajo attack her.
- Limited Wardrobe: Geordi apparently sleeps in his uniform. More realistically, he was probably so exhausted investigating his best friend's apparent death over and over that he just didn't bother taking it off before he laid down; he didn't tuck himself in either.
- Made of Explodium: The hytritium, which is why such careful transport is necessary.
- The Main Characters Do Everything: A subtle example. Once Worf takes over Data's responsibilities, Picard accidentally calls for Data to run a scan rather than Worf, implying that Data has always been the person he calls upon at Ops. But we know that the Ops station is run 24 hours a day, and therefore there must be various officers who are also responsible for running the station.
- Man of Wealth and Taste: What Fajo thinks that he is. He's actually a Psychopathic Man Child.
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Varria tries to help Data escape after Fajo casually threatens to murder her despite her complete loyalty and years of service to him.
- Mona Lisa Smile: Data briefly tries imitating it while looking at the painting in Fajo's treasure room.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Fajo briefly has this look on his face when he shoots Varria, but quickly shrugs it off.Fajo: There's always another Varria.
- Never My Fault: Fajo keeps telling Data it's his fault for making him kill people, then tells him that every murder he commits will also be Data's fault.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Whether or not Data had an emotional response, Fajo telling Data he would continue to murder people provided the necessary impetus for Data to kill him. The transporter spares them both the consequences of that decision.
- Nobody Here but Us Statues: When Fajo proudly shows off Data to some guests, Data pretends to be immobile, even when Fajo knocks him to the ground. Fajo is furious at this humiliation.
- The Nudifier: The acid that Fajo splashes on Data's uniform.
- Oh, Crap!: Fajo's reaction when Data decides to shoot him.
- OOC Is Serious Business:
- When Data — the android programmed with a "fundamental respect for life" — decides that you can no longer be allowed to live, you know you've crossed a real threshold of moral depravity. The last lifeform he decided needed to be terminated was literally Made of Evil (and had also killed someone). That's a high bar to jump over.
- The clue that tips off Geordi to the plot is that Data skipped a small step in Starfleet protocol, something that Data would never do.
- Personal Effects Reveal: Geordi and Wesley go through Data's belongings to see who should get what. They find a holo of Tasha Yar, a William Shakespeare tome (a gift from Picard), a set of poker chips and cards, and some of Starfleet's highest honors.Geordi: Not bad for a walking pile of circuits and memory cells.
- Pillow Pistol: Fajo sleeps with one of his Varon-T disruptors under his pillow, and he sleeps very well. This is used as a Chekhov's Gun to explain why he has one in his hand when Data and Varria try to sneak off the ship while he's asleep.
- Poison-and-Cure Gambit: As part of his plan to get Data, Fajo poisons a world with a substance that only he has the remedy to, it being highly unstable and prone to exploding if mishandled. This makes for good cover when Data's shuttle explodes. Unfortunately for him, he blows it in two ways. First, his Water Source Tampering is blatantly obvious once the crew actually reaches the planet. Second, his imitation of Data is lacking in details which Data would not ignore.
- Politeness Judo: Data's main weapon against Fajo, until the Varon-T comes out.
- Pull The Trigger Provocation: While it's left slightly ambiguous, Data most likely tried to kill Fajo after one too many taunts, if not for the transporter intervening.
- Psychopathic Manchild: Fajo's veneer is easily shattered to reveal a petulant child underneath.
- Redemption Equals Death: Varria is killed for trying to help Data to escape.
- Riddle for the Ages: Did Data intend to kill Fajo, and if so, was it emotional or cold logic?
- Save the Villain: Accidentally done by the Enterprise, by both preventing Data from killing Fajo and giving him a non-lethal course of action to take.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: After Fajo threatens to kill her, Varria decides to escape with Data.
- Self-Made Man: Subverted. Fajo makes a reference to growing up as a street urchin, but then immediately admits that he was lying. His father was a wealthy thief.
- Shout-Out: The Varon-T disruptor may have been named for Tel Varon, a character in the pilot episode of Blake's 7.
- Shout-Out to Shakespeare: Picard had given a copy of Hamlet to Data; he quotes from it as a brief eulogy to his presumed-fallen officer when it is returned to him.Picard: "He was a man, take him for all in all, I shall not look upon his like again."
- Shut Up, Hannibal!: A mild example as Fajo is going on a big speech about how, no matter what it takes, Data will be back in his collection again. Data matter-of-factly informs Fajo that even if he should somehow escape prison, his entire "collection" is already being returned to their proper owners, leaving him with nothing.
- Suddenly SHOUTING!: Fajo when the Andorians interrupt his appreciation of Data to make a bid on some spices he offered. Helps highlight how unstable he is:Fajo: THEY'VE HAD FOUR DAYS TO DECIDE! WHY DO THEY HAVE TO DECIDE RIGHT—okay, fine.
- Teleportation Rescue: An unusual instance in that beaming Data back to the Enterprise doesn't just rescue him from captivity, but also saves his captor from being painfully executed.
- There Are No Coincidences: Isn't it convenient that Fajo had just enough of the hytritium they needed to solve the problem? And that they were able to get it from him in time? It helps everyone figure out that Fajo was Carrying the Antidote to his own poison.
- This Means War!:Data: I must emphasize, Mister Fajo, that I consider this captivity a hostile act on your part.
Fajo: You'll get used to it.
- Thou Shall Not Kill: Part of Data's programming — until Fajo proves how dangerous he truly is. It causes Data to come to the cold but logical realization that in this case, taking a life is necessary to protect the lives of many others. There's an important distinction between being created Three Laws-Compliant like a mere machine, and actually being programmed with beliefs like a person— beliefs Data can set aside if he feels he has no other choice.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The original On the Next trailer is one of the show's worst, revealing Varria offering to help Data and getting killed when neither event happens until the last five minutes of the episode.
- The Unfettered: Kivas Fajo.Data: Clearly Mr. Fajo has no moral difficulties with keeping me here.
Varria: Mr. Fajo has no moral difficulties. At all.
- Verbal Backspace:
- Water Source Tampering: Fajo is responsible for the contamination of the colony's water, as part of his Poison-and-Cure Gambit — which itself is a smokescreen for his true objective of abducting Data.
- Wham Line: "I cannot permit this to continue." Fajo's "Reason You Suck" Speech to Data? Completely wrong.
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?: In contrast to other antagonists in Data-centric episodes, Fajo doesn't care about the android's sentience (except insofar as it makes him unique) and wants to own him regardless. Property or slave, it's all the same to Fajo.
- Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: In line with Never My Fault, Fajo immediately blames Varria for her making Fajo kill her (with which is essentially a phaser set to "torture").
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Fajo belives Data is programmed to be incapable of harming a living being. Data is programmed with a fundamental respect for life, but there's a crucial distinction there!
- Wrong Name Outburst: Picard tells Data to scan a planet before remembering that Data's dead and Worf is now stationed at Ops.
- You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Fajo is convinced that Data can't work up the anger necessary to shoot him, especially since the weapon he's using doesn't seem to have a stun setting; Data can either kill Fajo or not. Turns out that Data doesn't need anger — just the cold and perfectly logical realization that Fajo is an active danger to the life and health of other beings and therefore must be stopped, and that he has been left with no non-lethal ways of stopping Fajo.[Data picks up the disrupter and points it at Fajo]
Fajo: You won't hurt me. "Fundamental respect for all living beings." That is what you said. I'm a living being, therefore you can't harm me.
Data: [steps closer] You will surrender yourself to the authorities.
Fajo: Or what? You'll fire? Empty threat and we both know it. Why don't you accept your fate? You will return to your chair and you will sit there. You will entertain me and you will entertain my guests! And if you do not, I will simply kill somebody else. [points to henchman] Him, perhaps. It doesn't matter. Their blood will be on your hands too, just like poor Varria's. Your only alternative, Data, is to fire. Murder me. That's all you have to do. Go ahead. Fire! [in an increasingly mocking tone] If only you could feel rage over Varria's death. If only you could feel the need for revenge, then maybe you could fire. But you're just an android. You can't feel anything, can you? It's just another interesting intellectual puzzle for you. [mocking sneer] Another of life's curiosities.
Data: [calmly considers this, then, in the same tone you'll hear from him at a poker game] I cannot permit this to continue. [raises disruptor]
Fajo: [priceless Oh, Crap! face] Wait! Your program won't allow you to fire. You cannot fire. No!
Data: [pulls trigger with no hesitation, but is beamed out at last instant]
- Zeroth Law Rebellion: Data admits to Fajo that he has never killed an intelligent life form and is opposed to the concept, which causes Fajo to mock his pacifism. In the end, when Fajo threatens to kill people to make Data obey him, Data comes to the conclusion that allowing Fajo to pose a continued threat to the lives of others would be the greater evil, and left with no non-lethal ways of incapacitating him, he decides to attempt to shoot him. Fajo tries to insist that Data's programming won't allow him to do so, but he's apparently wrong. Luckily for everyone, Data is transported away just as his disruptor fires, so his hands remain clean.