Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch: “The Most Toys”

The Most Toys“The Most Toys”
Written by Shari Goodhartz
Directed by Timothy Bond

Season 3, Episode 22
Original air date: May 7, 1990
Star date: 43872.2

Mission summary

There’s a tricyanate contamination on Beta Agni II, and the only cure is more cowbell hytritium, a rare and volatile element that only one man in the universe seems to have: Kivas Fajo, a space trader. On the last transport to the Enterprise, Data uses his thumbprint to confirm the transaction and the datapad zaps him. Fajo’s men (and woman) plant fake Data elements on the transport, launch it out of the shuttle bay, and blow it up. Stunned, the Enterprise crew believe that Data’s been destroyed, but have to high-tail it to Beta Agni II if they want to decontaminate that water supply in time to save the planet.

Data awakes on Fajo’s ship, in a room that feels more like a museum gallery than a man’s quarters. It turns out Fajo is something of a collector of rare and valuable objects, of which Data is to be his prize specimen. Data makes his obligatory Trek speech about how slavery is bad, but Fajo insists that escape isn’t possible and he better get used to life as a dancing monkey for his wealthy friends. Data half-heartedly attempts to escape by pushing on the door and attacking Fajo, but there’s like 25 minutes left so he’s not going anywhere.

Fajo’s right-hand woman, Varria, doesn’t seem to be in a much better position than Data. She tells the android that Fajo is a cruel, abusive man who will ensure that Data never escapes. She gives Data clothes that her boss wants him to wear, but Data refuses until Fajo comes in himself and splashes some acid on the Starfleet uniform, making a nasty hole that even Garak couldn’t fix. Data then tries to passively resist, by refusing to “perform” for a friend of Fajo’s. But this doesn’t end well, as Fajo decides to show off his Varon-T disruptor, which tears apart the body in the most excruciating manner possible. He threatens his lovely assistant with it until Data complies with Fajo’s wishes.

Meanwhile, the Enterprise crew is struggling to cope with Data’s “death.” La Forge and Wesley divvy up his things (including that wretched Yar hologram), Picard accidentally calls out the wrong name on the bridge, and Worf has to take another dead colleague’s place. To make matters worse, La Forge knows that something isn’t right, but his friends just assume he’s in denial about the whole thing. But when they finally get to the contaminated planet, they find that the contamination is a little too artificial, and the amount of “cure” they have is strangely precise. To Wikipedia! The database says that Fajo is a collector of “rare and valuable” objects–like Data. They put out an alert to Starfleet outposts and hope that someone has seen him recently.

On Fajo’s ship, Varria is not at all amused at Fajo’s earlier threat to her with the Varon-T and decides to help Data escape. She unlocks the Varon-T stored in the display room and arms herself, and they head to the escape pods. She tries to set off the escape sequence but there are guards everywhere, and though she is able to take them out she is ultimately stopped by Fajo himself, armed with another Varon-T and not afraid to use it on Varria. He kills her, and her screams echo in the escape pod loud enough to rouse Data who jumps out at Fajo and grabs the Varon-T that Varria had dropped.

DATA: 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. 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. 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. Another of life’s curiosities.
DATA: I cannot permit this to continue.

At that moment, the Enterprise beams Data aboard. O’Brien detects a discharged weapon on transport, but Data says it must have been a transporter error.

Tossed in the brig for murder and theft, and with all of his goods confiscated and to be returned, Fajo is sulking when Data visits him.

FAJO: Oh, have you come to see me to repent? Is this your final satisfaction? Want to see me beg for mercy? You’re not going to get any of that from me.
DATA: I expected nothing.
FAJO: Our roles are reversed, aren’t they, Data? You’re the collector now. Me, I’m in a cage.
DATA: So it seems.
FAJO: Just don’t count me out too quickly. I had you in my collection once. I can have you there again.
DATA: Unlikely, sir. Your collection has been confiscated. All of your stolen possessions are being returned to their rightful owners. You have lost everything you value.
FAJO: It must give you great pleasure.
DATA: No, sir, it does not. I do not feel pleasure. I am only an android.

The Most Toys

Analysis

I had no memory of this episode, not even as I watched it. Now I understand why. It’s dreadful. Completely irredeemably awful.

First, we have the greedy, inhumanly cruel merchant: space Shylock.  This was on par with Watto in terms of horrendous anti-Semitic stereotypes. I clearly didn’t notice this the first time I watched it, but on this viewing my jaw was pretty much on the floor for all of Fajo’s scenes. He has slaves. He’s a cheating huckster. He has no moral qualms whatsoever, poisoning an entire planet and kidnapping a sentient being just to show him off. And like Shylock, even when he’s beat in the end and loses everything, he refuses to believe he’s done anything wrong. I don’t know enough of Saul Rubinek’s work to know whether he’s doing the Jewish schtick on purpose or if that’s just his style, but someone, somewhere, should have taken a step back and thought long and hard about what story they were telling. If you want to do Merchant of Venice in space, go for it, but please make Shylock sympathetic. As it is, this was probably one of the most uncomfortable viewing experiences I’ve had.

Second, this just makes absolutely no sense. If Fajo demands absolute obedience, he would never want an android that talked back. He’d just have him in the off position and weld him to that chair. The whole battle of wills is just absurd, because Data is much more dangerous to Fajo than Fajo is to Data. If it had been me, the first thing I would have done is go around the room and destroy each and every one of those priceless artifacts. And in any case, there’s no reason why Data can’t get out of that room. OK, so Fajo has an anti-positronic belt (SCIENCE!). Why can’t Data throw the sofa at him? I bet those shitty modern art sculptures would make fantastic projectiles. Can’t he hack the panels? Fajo uses the replicator in that room to REPLICATE ACID. Doesn’t that seem like something Data would pay attention to?

Third, I found the whole B-plot on the Enterprise emotionally flat. We know he’s not dead. And frankly, we already saw the ship react to the death of a crewmember, and it wasn’t done well that time either. But there’s no subtlety at all. Picard reads some Shakespeare, Riker comments on how everyone is feeling things, La Forge isn’t convinced… it just all felt too forced and insincere. If Data had truly died, that crew would have been devastated. They surely would have done more than divvy up his junk drawer together. Where’s the ceremony, the toast? What happens to Spot?? Where are the stories of the man that Data was, the unique and special being? They aren’t there because the show doesn’t really mean it, and that’s the absolute worst thing a show can do.

Lastly, I just cannot be made to believe that there is ANY moral dilemma here about killing Fajo. Fajo has just murdered someone before Data’s eyes, and threatened to kill every one of his lackeys to get obedience from Fajo. Killing him would be saving their lives. Killing Fajo is the absolute coldly rational thing to do. And even if for some wacky reason Data didn’t see it that way, I don’t understand how the writer thought she could reconcile the concept of Data as a pacifist in Starfleet. Data is a Starfleet officer. He absolutely will kill if he needs to, that’s part of his job description! He’s a military officer! Data should not have morals, he should have rational evaluation of life against life. And even if Fajo hadn’t killed Varria, I think Data was still justified in killing Fajo, because captivity–slavery–is one of the most truly evil human conditions. “The Cage” and “The Menagerie” made that so clear–why isn’t it just as clear here?

Nonsensical, immoral, boring, offensive… pick one.

Torie’s Rating: Impulse Power (on a scale of 1-6)

Thread Alert!Thread Alert: Lovely to see that TNG anticipated the colorblocking trend.

Best Line: PICARD: Mr. Crusher, put us into close orbit. Mr. Data, scan … my apologies, Mr. Worf.

Trivia/Other Notes: Kivas Fajo was originally played by David Rappaport, the famous British dwarf actor. Unfortunately, Rappaport struggled with depression and attempted suicide after only a few days of filming. He was replaced by Saul Rubinek, a friend of the director’s who was in town filming Bonfire of the Vanities. Sadly, Rappaport successfully committed suicide only a few months later.

In the original script, Varria is pimped out to Data, and when he refuses she is so humiliated that it turns her against her captor. Thank god that didn’t make it into the final version…

The writer, Shari Goodhartz, intended for Data to have fired the weapon. The producers wanted to make the ending more ambiguous.


Previous episode: Season 3, Episode 21 – “Hollow Pursuits.”

Next episode: Season 3, Episode 23 – “Sarek.”

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About Torie Atkinson

Torie Atkinson is a NYC-based law student (with a focus on civil rights and economic justice), proofreader, sometime lighting designer, and former Tor.com blog editor/moderator. She watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books.