Rewatching ST:TNG after a 20-year break.
The crew react to losing Data in a freak shuttle accident, but he’s been kidnapped by a trader who wants him for his collection.
An odd, low-stakes episode that gives us a good look at Data’s ethical principles and negotiating technique, as he calmly debates with his captor and experiments with ways to resist.
I got a little tired of the eccentric Fajo. He has gone to great lengths to set a trap for Data (manufacturing a crisis on a distant Federation colony, that can only be solved by having the Enterprise send Data to pick up supplies via shuttle). Yet when he first meets Data, he talks to him in exaggerated baby talk, as if he expected Data not to understand English. Why? Wouldn’t he pride himself on how much he has learned about his mark?
More successful is the character Varria, a long-time companion of Fajo, and as much a victim of his selfish cruelty as Data. But the depiction of the illegal weapon in action didn’t do the dialogue justice. The ray-gun deaths of random extras in “Loud as a Whisper” were animated with much more gruesome detail. I did appreciate a scene featuring a very convincing stunt double for Data being zapped across the room. (The stunt performer was too tall, but the makeup and body language were spot on.)
The display room was put together with some care. Some nice touches include a bored Data feeding a creature that’s imprisoned with him and mimicking the Mona Lisa’s smile. Other rooms on Fajo’s ship look like a cigar-chomping producer said, “No, you’re already over budget because of all the alien face prosthetics. Just throw some alien signage on the walls and floors of the sets you already have.”
One really nice low-budget practical effect has Troi and Worf enter the turbolift from a corridor; the doors shut, they have a long conversation, and when the doors open, they are on the bridge. It’s an unbroken scene, with no edits, just a stray piece of corridor set up next to the turbolift on the bridge. and a gradual shift in the camera angle. Very effective.
Some nice bits of character continuity, as LaForge and Wesley go through Data’s personal effects (mostly reused from “The Measure of a Man“) and as Troi counsels Worf about yet again stepping into the position of a colleague who has died. Some impressive macguffin-centered chemical technobabble does its job driving the mystery subplot, which features a visit to the standard TNG cave set, this time featuring some lush green vegetation that I imagine would have a hard time growing in a real cave.
I don’t think I’ve ever been more disappointed to see the just-in-time use of the transporter beam as a way of getting characters out of a tight spot. But the suggestion that Data can rationalize and even fib about his motives and whether he feels emotions is a good character development, and I’m glad that part was left open to interpretation.