First, everyone who commented on my last post really got me thinking about Data and his role on the Enterprise. More so than I really ever have before. I tend to have my thoughts in spurts as I watch individual episodes or movies, so to have other people manage to come up with a nice coherent comment that is applicable to the entire span of the Star Trek: The Next Generation experience was really eye-opening.
So now I'm struggling with the task of being not only thoughtful, but also of considering the bigger picture and not just Data and his role in this one particular movie.
|Photo: 2009 Las Vegas Star Trek Convention|
Luckily I gave myself an extra week because I thought it would be fitting to post a review of Data's role in my favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation movie on the birthday of the actor who so magnificently brought Data to life: Brent Spiner.
Today is Brent Spiner's 62nd birthday! Happy Birthday, Brent! (Although darn you for not being born later in the month so I'd get a little more time to write this post!)
But since I gave myself a deadline, I'm going to meet it, regardless of how completely arbitrary it actually is.
Star Trek: First Contact
Okay so first let me say this, I realize now that I'm writing about First Contact and Insurrection out of order. For some reason, I always thought First Contact was more recent but now looking at the dates, I was obviously wrong. My bad.
Before we get into Data's role in this movie, let's address the major plot point that really bothers me: the Borg Queen.
I know I'm not alone in thinking that the Borg Queen makes little sense as a character in this movie. For anyone not familiar with the Borg, they "manifest as cybernetically enhanced humanoid drones of multiple species, organized as an interconnected collective, the decisions of which are made by a hive mind, linked to subspace domain." (Cite: Wikipedia - I know. I know, but this really is a great description of what Borg are! Give me a break, okay?)
I assume it's this "hive" mind that gave the writers the idea of the Borg having a queen. After all, bees have a hive and bees have a queen. So the Borg should have a queen too, right?
When the Borg Queen is first introduced, Data too is puzzled.
Data: Who are you?
Borg Queen: I am the Borg.
Data: That is a contradiction. The Borg have a collective consciousness, there are no individuals.
Borg Queen: I am the beginning, the end, the one who is many. I am the Borg.
Data: Greetings, I am curious, do you control the Borg Collective?
Borg Queen: You imply disparity where none exists, I am the Collective.
Confused yet? The explanation (which incidentally isn't really provided until the Borg Queen becomes a more frequent character in subsequent Star Trek series) seems to be that the Borg Queen is a single humanoid embodiment of the entire Borg collective. So, for example, if you invited the Borg over for dinner, instead of millions of Borg drones looking for a place in your living room to sit, she'd show up.
Basically I think they just needed a female character in order to carry out the storyline that they had created for Data: the Borg want Data in their collective because, let's face it, he'd be an amazing addition and strengthen the collective significantly.
So in exchange for joining the Borg and becoming, in effect, her male counterpart, the Borg Queen offers Data the chance to become more human that he ever thought possible: real emotions, real senses, and, perhaps most extreme, real skin! She grafts a small portion of skin onto his forearm and suggests that she can use the same technique all over his body.
Data assures the Borg Queen that your "efforts to break the encryption codes will not be successful. Nor will your attempts to assimilate me into your collective."
But as is frequently the case where the Borg are concerned, resistance is futile.
While this is all going on, the rest of the crew is engaged in a...wait for it...time travel conundrum!
Ah, that must be the reason why I like this movie the best!
The Borg's plan is to prevent first contact between Earth and the Vulcans. In order to achieve their goal, they go back in time and prevent scientist Zephram Cochrane (James Cromwell) from launching his ship which ultimately obtains warp speed and attracts the attention of the Vulcans.
(And totally randomly, click here to see a news story from just this week which essentially says the same thing, but as actual science and not Star Trek stuff. Basically so long as we continue to operate slower than the speed of light, other potentially more advanced civilizations will have no reason to even know that we're here!)
Initially the Borg are successful and the Enterprise registers a population on Earth of approximately nine billion...all Borg! Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) refuses to accept this new timeline and off he takes the Enterprise back in time to prevent the Borg from preventing first contact!
So it's hard to really get into too much detail about what Data's up to in this movie without spoiling the plot a bit. I'll try to be as vague as possible but if you haven't seen the movie, be warned!
Here is an example of Data pretending to be influenced by a foe when in reality, he has not been corrupted at all. He does this again in Star Trek: Nemesis, the final movie featuring the Star Trek: The Next Generation cast.
It wasn't until the final showdown between Picard and the Borg Queen that I was actually convinced that Data was still loyal to the Enterprise. I mean, look at him. Blech!
Even Data admits to Picard that the Borg Queen's offer of "humanity" was enticing.
Data: And for a time, I was tempted by her offer.
Picard: How long a time?
Data: 0.68 seconds sir. For an android, that is nearly an eternity.
Luckily Data decides that he'd rather be an android on the Enterprise than a "human" in the Borg collective, thus taking the initial step towards becoming more fully human (a goal he ultimately does obtain at the end of Star Trek: Nemesis). He allows himself to be taken to the brink of what he's always wanted, knowing all along that ultimately he'll have to go back to where he started because that is what is best for the Federation. To Data, being human is something which he most desires; however, not, he determines, at the risk of harming the rest of humanity.
Rather altruistic of him, isn't it?
Although there is the consideration that "humanity" in the sense that the Borg Queen was offering it was not what Data aspired towards at all, making his choice an easier one. But remember that even Data's emotion chip couldn't provide him with the ability to "feel". Sure, he could experience emotions, but tactile sensations were totally foreign to him and something presumably far beyond anything he'd ever contemplated.
There's so much more that goes on in this movie that I don't want to give away here. If you have any interest in Star Trek at all, I'd recommend watching it for yourself. I'm sure you'll find plenty of other issues that I've not even touched on here.
And Happy Birthday Brent Spiner!