Leonard Nimoy and Our Expanding Ideas
I’d like to start by thanking Mission Log for the supplemental episode about the passing of Leonard Nimoy. It helped me understand my own thoughts, and I’d like to contribute them to the outpouring of similar thoughts from fans.
To me, Star Trek is about difference and how we treat people who are different. I don’t think it intentionally started that way or even intentionally stayed that way, but if a person imagines going out and meeting new life and new civilizations, she or he has to discuss difference.
Each Star Trek episode takes a look at difference and considers moral implications of encountering it.
They give us the federation, which tries to be fair to those who are different. They give us the prime directive, which is all about this. And they give us situations wherein these people struggle to be fair towards the other.
There are hits and misses, but the natural result is an ever expanding idea of tolerance, acceptance, and what it means to be good.
I suspect this fed back to the people who made the show. That’s why the episodes improve and we see less sexism, racism, and even nationalism. Who knows if it had continued, they may have grown to show greater acceptance of the LGBT community.
Anyway with each episode, the ideas expanded, the ideas held by the creators expanded, and as a result of watching this unfold, our own ideas expand as well.
When I think of Spock, I think of a character who has a special place in this process because he was both “one of us” and “one of them.” He looks sinister and seems cold-blooded, but we learn that’s only the surface and beneath it is the same swirling mess that every person has.
But by coming to accept Spock, our ideas of the other and justice towards the other expand. We become more tolerant and more accepting.
When I think of Leonard Nimoy, I think of an actor who contributed to making this process of moral growth possible. But he also struck me as a person who was going through the same process, but he did it publicly. I think that’s why he grew in popularity among Star Trek fans as the years went by. Why he grew to love the role he became typecast as.
He helped start us on this journey even as he went on it. He encouraged fans, and found comfort in them. We’ll always have Spock, and we’ll continue the journey that Nimoy was a part of, but his passing affects us so much because he played a large role in sustaining everything Star Trek is about.
In so doing, he helped us be better.
Now for something much,
My notes on the Schizoid Man.
The episode begins with a Dr. P log, telling us about a brilliant scientist named Ira Graves. He’s been working in molecular cybernetics trying to build a bridge between man and machine, but now he’s sick and to help him the Enterprise is on the way to Gravesworld.
INT. MY HEAD – DAY
Gravesworld, Gravesworld, Party Time. Excellent
I play the air guitar while making bad guitar sounds.
Party on Dr. P.
I’ve had enough of this. Maybe I’ll come back in the last act. Maybe.
The teaser continues with Deanna and Geordi visiting Data who is working on building a bridge between machine and man with a fake beard. I don’t blame him. He’s been exposed to a lot of facial hair recently, and he’s just taking a test drive.
Instead of laughing at him and bailing on his attempts to improve himself, Deanna tells him to be careful because they’re visiting Dr. Graves who’s been working on transferring minds to machines. Your bridges might meet.
Then a message from Graves’ assistant Kareen Brianon in which she reveals:
- Graves is sick
- She’s scared
They try to call her back, but she’s not answering.
Graves Has No Bonds
He’s a hermit. It’s required of brilliant scientists in the Star Trek universe. He’s been alone with Kareen for who knows how long, and she called for help because something is seriously wrong. She doesn’t answer their return calls because Graves is a hermit.
He’s not going to be happy to have guests, which is what he gets when the away team does some fancy beaming down. Data, Deanna, Worf, and Dr. Selar, welcome to Gravesworld.
INT. MY HEAD – DAY
Gravesworld, Gravesworld, Party Time. Excellent. Party on Worf.
Klingon warriors do not… Party. On.
Grouchy old Graves comes a-storming in, yelling, “I’ve got no bonds with people and to prove it I’ll insult every last one of you!”
Here come the insults:
- Doctors aren’t people.
- Women aren’t people. (Good on Deanna for taking that with a smile.)
- Klingons don’t look like Romulans but they act the same.
- Data is so ugly he must be Soong’s work.
Sense a pattern here? He’s robbed each other their individuality and uniqueness, their souls, and in so doing has turned them into objects. Robots. Just like one Data is standing next to.
By the way, Selar, the Vulcan doctor, just found out he’s about to die from Darnay’s disease.
Because of an obstacle that came up but I didn’t mention, Data is stuck babysitting Graves. They spend A LOT of time together. Yeah, it’s kind of creepy. Graves even asks Data to call him grandpa. You know, because Data was built by Soong and Soong studied under Graves.
Graves has both a hopeful and a superior view of Data. The hopeful view comes when he compares Data to the Tin Man, a character who wanted a heart and wanted to be human but realized in the end he was always human. A little message that Data is human enough.
But the superior view comes from him saying that Data is an empty shell. A man must feel pain, lust, envy, pleasure, and desire. He must face death because these are the things that make us human.
He thinks Data’s an object.
Data ends up spending so much time with Graves that he forgets the important rule we learned in Datalore, a rule which should never be forgotten: hide your off switch
You see Graves wants a body and he hasn’t realized he’s been alone so long and arrogant so long that he’s stopped being human. He craves a life without pain. Lust, envy, pleasure, sure why not, but pain? No thank you. He doesn’t want to face death either.
He wants to be an object.
Now if only he can find that off switch.
Knowing and Loving Him
Like a bunch of coworkers excluded from a Slack channel, the rest of the away team is hanging out, waiting for the Enterprise.
Data shows up and lets them know Graves went to his… end. The Enterprise gets back, and Picard calls the mission a failure because the old man with a terminal disease died. However Data is acting weird.
Take for example his eulogy of Graves: “To know him was to love him and to love him was to know him. Those who knew him loved him. Those who didn’t know him loved him from afar.” Picard steps in to shut all that down.
Then he has a little convo with Data in which he talks about Data’s drive to be more human. He tells him, you’re trying too hard. You’ll be a human doing, not a human being.
Data’s like, my eulogy was better.
Picard’s like, OK, but what I mean is: be yourself. There’s more value in that.
Emotions without Pain or Death
Of course Data is now Graves, and DataGraves takes the talk to heart. He acts more himself, but unfortunately that self is a jerk.
You see what keeps people from giving into the jerk we all carry in our hearts and minds are pain, the approach of death, and our bonds to others. Now that DataGraves has none of that, he’s full on jerk.
He’s a meanie to Wesley, calling him a boy and questioning his cognitive abilities. (Albeit Wesley was making fun of his eulogy. It might’ve been bad, but hey not all of us are public speakers.)
He’s insubordinate to Picard who is helping Kareen get over her loss and acclimate to life in the galaxy by being a little touchy feely and giving her a tour of the bridge. DataGraves is jealous and snarky.
He’s called to the captain’s office, and there he demands an apology. Picard demands his circuits get a check. Data pretends to do it, and Picard calls him on it. Now Geordi’s going to have to do it in engineering. The circuits are fine though.
Picard asks Geordi what’s going on with Data. His answer is entirely wrong, but it shows us what he thinks of Data: he wants to be human so badly that he can taste it, but then he gets confused when his human qualities surface.
I don’t know what you got out of that, but I’m hearing Geordi say Data’s so busy trying to have human qualities that he’s not aware of already having them. The hopeful view of Data first introduced by Graves is the same one Geordi has of his closest friend.
Since the circuit check is showing nothing, Deanna gives Data the old academy personality check. Yep, there are two personalities in there, and one is eating the other.
We Need Our Pain
The ticking clock which is Kareen leaving the Enterprise chimes when they arrive at her disembarkation point, Starbase 6.
DataGraves finds her in Ten Forward, and he tells her the truth. It’s the story of a man who met an android, their bridges met, and the man took over the android’s body. Now all the emotions he wanted are still there. So are his dreams. But there’s no pain and no death.
Before he was weak and old and not good enough for her, but now they can be together forever. Oh, and not to worry; he’ll find an android body for her mind too.
No, she says. I need my pain. It makes me a good person.
She chooses her life over being an android.
He gives her some pain, but not on purpose or anything. He just got kind of sad and squeezed her hand too hard. Instead of thinking this might be indicative of how avoiding pain and death yourself causes pain and death for others, he runs off to engineering.
There he causes some pain to Geordi and some other guy by knocking them out. Picard finds him there, and they decide to solve this with a debate.
Graves says he has every right to take over Data’s body. Here’s why:
- A man has more rights than a machine.
- Graves has hopes and dreams and that makes him a man.
- Data has no emotions and that means he’s not a man.
- Graves has more rights than Data.
- First of all let’s stop saying man and start saying person.
- No one person has more rights than another.
- By avoiding your own death you’re killing someone else.
- Data is an android, but he’s also a unique life form, a person.
- You don’t have more rights than he does, so you can’t kill him.
DataGraves gets frustrated and knocks Picard out, and thats when it hits him. Picard’s right. Kareen’s right. His pain and his impending death made him human. His disconnection from other people made him bad. Made him see others as objects.
That’s why he could do this terrible thing.
That’s why he’ll keep doing terrible things unless he accepts his own end.
True to her word, Dr. P is back for the last act. She wakes up Picard and together they find Data on the floor in his quarters laid out the way Lore left him back in Datalore.
He’s fine now, and Graves let him go. The old genius has uploaded himself into ship’s computer.
Everyone’s fine, or at least pretending to be now that Graves has basically upgraded to a smarter computer. Who knows if he’s listening?
Disclaimer — Not All That Accurate
Having written all that, I feel obliged to say it’s not all that accurate. I tried hard, I mean real hard, to imagine what was going on beneath the surface of this story, and just wrote what I dreamt up. As with everything here at Supplemental if there’s anything entertaining about it at all, it comes from watching the episode before reading this.
Morals, messages, and meanings
- People need people. Don’t be a hermit. It’ll make you grouchy and bad.
- Don’t objectify people. It makes acting immorally possible.
- Accept your own mortality.
- It’s OK to try to improve yourself, but be yourself too.
- Hide your off switch.
Does it hold up?
I guess not.
I arrived at this conclusion reluctantly. I found the episode watchable. After the first time, I shrugged and said, OK.
I always like to see Brent Spiner going over the top. His performance is good.
Graves is fun to watch, easy to laugh at.
But the second time through I was taking notes. I intended to write a summary and inject my analysis into it, but as I started writing and pausing the DVD, a vague worry started to grow.
Then it came time to type this up, and I wanted to go an act at a time. That’s when the worry became clear. The emotional and moral issues shift between acts. Strings are left hanging. Our focus goes from whether or not Data can be a person to the rights of individuals.
Data’s acting all weird, but we’re not sure if the disease that killed Graves was making him act a jerk or was he always like that? What prompted Kareen to call the Enterprise?
If it was the disease that made Graves so bad, why was he still acting that way when he took over Data’s body?
Plus considering the amazing transformation Graves goes through (he starts as a killer and ends as someone who sacrifices himself for the good of others), shouldn’t we feel something for him? I know I never did. He was just a jerk.
All in all, it may be watchable, but it doesn’t hold up as a story.
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