Star Trek: The Next Generation Re-Watch: “The Schizoid Man”

“The Schizoid Man”
Teleplay by Tracy Tormé
Story by Richard Manning and Hans Beimler
Directed by Les Landau

Season 2, Episode 6
Original air date: January 23, 1989
Star date: 42437.5

Mission summary

The Enterprise has been sent on a priority 1 mission to assist Dr. Ira Graves, a cybernetic genius who has fallen ill and whose assistant has sent out a distress signal. But who has time for that when we can have a comic interlude! Troi and La Forge head to Data’s quarters because the android has something to show them.

LAFORGE: Did you damage your face, Data?
DATA: It is a beard, Geordi. A fine, full, dignified beard. One which commands respect and projects thoughtfulness and dignity. Well? Opinions?
TROI: It’s er, very different.
DATA: When I stroke the beard thusly, do I not appear more intellectual?
TROI: I’m sorry, I have to go now. Goodbye.

HEY COME BACK HERE. You have to sit through this, too!

But en route they pick up another distress signal, this time from the USS Constantinople, a transport ship with 2012 colonists aboard. To save two birds with one stone, the Enterprise initiates a near-warp transport of Troi, Lt. Selar (a doctor), Data, and Worf to the planet’s surface so that the ship itself may go rescue the Constantinople.

The away team discovers a beautiful but terrified young assistant, Kareen Brianon, and an irascible old man who loves to boss her around: Dr. Ira Graves. He refuses any and all treatment for his ailments (pain, shortness of breath, and irritability, or what we know as “the golden years”), which Lt. Selar pegs as Darnay’s disease–shortly to be fatal so I guess it doesn’t matter. More importantly, Graves recognizes in Data the work of Dr. Noonien Soong, and claims to be the “father” of Soong’s work and thus effectively Data’s grandfather. He and Data separate from the group and chat about how Graves has no real intention of dying. He has been working on a computer to which he can transfer his knowledge and consciousness. The two also discuss the ways in which Data is a cold, lifeless piece of machinery who can’t understand the complexity of human emotion or the raw primal fear of death, but Data helpfully mentions his “off” switch, which Graves notes carefully.

When the Enterprise returns to pick up its deposit, Data emerges from the recesses of Graves’ lab to announce that Graves died in his arms, third-act Shakespeare-style. Once they’ve beamed back to the ship (with the assistant), Picard confronts Data about not calling the doctor to help the deteriorating Graves. He shrugs it off. Hmm.

The crew assembles for Graves’ funeral, and Data has a few words to say. Well, more than a few:

DATA: Just look at that face. The face of a thinker. A warrior. A man for all seasons. Yes, Ira Graves was all that and more. But he was not perfect. Perhaps his greatest fault was that he was too selfless. He cared too much for his fellow man, with nary a thought for himself. A man of limitless accomplishments, and unbridled modesty. I can safely say that to know him was to love him. And to love him was to know him. Those who knew him, loved him, while those who did not know him, loved him from afar.

Everyone exchanges Looks. Picard confronts Data’s odd behavior, but the android chalks it up to the whole “granddad” thing and Picard agrees to let it go, though the niggling feeling (or what I like to call observable evidence) that something is wrong persists. Data resumes his post on the bridge, where Wesley basically asks WTF was up with that funeral speech. Data insults Wesley with aplomb and looses a series of insults and snide remarks directed at Picard for trying to “woo” Kareen by giving her a bridge tour. Picard has had enough–he demands that Data account for his actions. A self-diagnostic shows nothing wrong, but Picard actually suspects Data of lying. Troi “senses” that it may be psychological anyway and suggests a psychotronic stability exam, where they flash images of people, places, and things to gauge the subject’s emotional responses.

The results show that Data is actually two personalities: the weaker, submissive personality of the Data they know and love; and some other cranky asshole, who threatens to subsume Data completely.

Picard has Worf keep an eye on Data while they figure out a plan of action to get rid of the jerk. Data, despite being confined to quarters, has made his way to Ten Forward to terrorize the poor Kareen. The girl figures out what’s going on but rebuffs Graves’ offer of an eternity as an android. She is ready to start her new life, and without Graves. Angry, he crushes her hand and leaves.

The captain has had enough and confronts Data in engineering, finding a mess of unconscious personnel along the way. Graves refuses to give up Data’s body and dismisses any argument that Data’s personality is worthy of preservation, but when Picard mentions Kareen’s broken hand and the violence he’s done to the poor geek squad in engineering, Graves begins to have second thoughts.

PICARD: Graves, every man has his time. Every man, without exception. But you’ve cheated. You have extended your life at the expense of another. Graves, give Data back. Give him back.
DATA: Data is dead.
PICARD: No. He must not be lost. He’s not simply an android. He’s a life form, entirely unique.
DATA: Data is not human! He is–
PICARD: He is different, yes. But that does not make him expendable, or any less significant. No being is so important that he can usurp the rights of another. Now set him free!

Data whacks Picard upside the head and after an impressive pratfall, Picard falls to the floor unconscious. Uh-oh…

Later, Picard awakens and tracks down Data, unconscious in his room. When he awakens it’s obviously the real Data, and Kareen discovers that Graves has uploaded his brain to the ship’s computer. It is knowledge with no consciousness. Thankfully.

Data, much like the audience, wonders what the hell has been going on these last 50 minutes before they all joke it off as another hilarious misadventure.


Every aspect of this episode fails for me. The humor isn’t funny, Graves isn’t sympathetic, and the moral “dilemma” about life is about as fleshed out as a sidewalk pamphlet. Compared to this, “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” is a brilliant work of staggering genius.

There’s no emotional cohesion to tie together these people in this situation. It’s difficult to argue for Data’s continued existence when as a viewer you begin to forget what he’s like or why you should care, as nearly all of the episode is spent without him.  I was further bothered that Picard never really argues that Data’s consciousness is valuable. He argues that all life is sacred (an argument that has never held much water with me), but doesn’t actually stick up for Data as a unique person. I think it would have been more powerful for Graves (or anyone!) to enter Data’s quarters and find Data’s paintings, his gift from Yar, his cat, a holodeck photo of him and Geordi–the touches of a life Graves as so selfishly taken. What convinces Graves to release Data isn’t the guilt at murdering life (Picard’s argument) or consciousness (my argument), it’s an entirely selfish fear of hurting people. Why does that convince him to let go? Can’t he just learn to better gauge his strength? More realistically, shouldn’t that kind of egomaniacal personality delight in his newfound power? Or is the implication that taking over Data–something he did was absolute ease–has begun a kind of mental deterioration that will only continue, until he’s completely insane? If so, I would have liked to see a stronger connection between those two things, and watch Graves grapple with the very real possibility of losing his mind, and Data’s along with it. Absent both Data himself and the cues of his life aboard, very little connection is made to show that losing Data would be a bad or sad thing.

The weak point here for me isn’t even Data, though, it’s Ira Graves. He’s another Okona-like colorful scamp, the kind of guy that writers think is charming and interesting but who I find irritating. When you see the distress signal from Kareen and see her look over her shoulder, you just know something is wrong. This man is violent and unstable. His treatment of Kareen is inexcusable, clinging to her like a bad cold and assuming there couldn’t possibly be anything in her life worth living for without him (or immortality). It’s also very unclear how much of this behavior is the result of the disease or just who the man is. If it’s the disease, shouldn’t that behavior disappear when he’s transferred to Data? If it’s who he is, why would anyone ever speak to him? There’s nothing to recommend the continued existence of his personality, so the moral arguments on his side lack  force. If anything, it makes Picard’s argument that all men must die even stronger. Who’d want this asshole hanging around for eternity? But the set-up just doesn’t work anyway, because Graves, despite his conversation with Data, exhibits no actual fear or panic about his impending death. I was never moved to sympathize or care for this man. With “Little Girls,” Dr. Korby is a sad, lonely figure. I felt his fear of dying and I understood the choices he made. But Graves is just a cranky, misogynistic bully that the world is frankly better off without.

Then there’s all the little plot shortcuts: the fact that Data readily discusses the mere existence of his off switch (come on), the way that Graves makes no attempt to even pretend to be Data, and the oddity of Graves recognizing Soong’s work but not Soong’s face! If there had been a stronger emotional core here–if Data’s impending extinction had been given any weight whatsoever, if Graves had truly had to face death and it frightened him, if Picard had really made a case for death the way that Kirk did because death is what gives meaning to life–I would have looked the other way. But the shallowness with which these issues are approached just draws attention to the flimsiness of the rest of the plot.

On something of a side note, as this show keeps attempting (and failing) at comedy, I’ve been thinking a lot about the dramatic shows that were really successful at comedy. The early comedic X-Files episodes are absolute genius; Breaking Bad can leave me in stitches. So what are they doing right that TNG is doing wrong? Part of it, I think, is that TNG always draws agonizing attention to the fact that A Joke Is Being Told. With the beard scene, Geordi and Troi can’t hold it together. They start laughing at Data, and then Data asks why they’re laughing, and it’s a whole Look At This Joke thing. Later, with the funeral scene, the director goes to painstaking lengths to give you a reaction shot from every person there at least once, usually twice. It takes its jokes too seriously and its ideas not seriously enough.  Every time something funny is supposed to be happening, the show loses respect for its characters. The reasons why cats are funnier than dogs* is because cats exude a quiet dignity that’s utterly betrayed by their actions. These characters don’t (yet…) have that dignity, and instead they look like dogs rolling around in shit. Not. Funny.

This only gets a Warp 2 because at least Brent Spiner got a chance to act a little.

*See: the internet.

Torie’s Rating: Warp 2 (on a scale of 1-6)

Thread Alert: Believe it or not, I have absolutely no problem with any of the costumes in this episode. The warm earth tones coordinate well with Graves’ retirement home, Kareen is wearing a perfectly reasonable shift dress, no one’s hair looks 80s-fabulous… good job, team!

Best Line: DATA: When I stroke the beard thusly, do I not appear more…intellectual?

Trivia/Other Notes: The title of the episode is from an episode of The Prisoner by the same name that also deals with identity crises. Patrick McGoohan was originally going to play Graves. I guess he thought better of it?

A deleted scene involves Data shaving his head Picard-style, following the Riker beard.

The plot is a combination of two ideas: Graves transferring his consciousness to Data, and Data unleashing a flood of repressed memories of the colonists he grew up with, including the split personality of two men in love with the same woman. Just be grateful you didn’t get stuck with that episode.

Previous episode: Season 2, Episode 5 – “Loud as a Whisper.”

Next episode: Season 2, Episode 7 – “Unnatural Selection.”

About Torie Atkinson

Torie Atkinson watches too many movies and plays too many games but never, ever reads enough books.