Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Most Toys   Rewatch 
November 30, 2020 7:51 AM - Season 3, Episode 22 - Subscribe

A trader fakes Data's death to add him to his collection of rare and unique objects.

Memory Alpha was in the right place at the right time, just when we needed it most.

Story and production
  • British actor David Rappaport was the first actor chosen for the role of Kivas Fajo, but he attempted suicide over the weekend after a few days of filming were completed. Director Timothy Bond stated, "[T]here was a story going around that they had found him in his car with a tube running from the exhaust. Obviously I had to replace him." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 197). A new actor was cast and all the scenes that featured Rappaport were refilmed. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., pp. 125-6)
  • On recasting the role on such short notice, Director Timothy Bond recalled, "The guy who ultimately played the part, Saul Rubinek, is somebody I went to school with. It just happened that he was passing through town as he was just about to start Bonfires of the Vanities, the ill-fated film, and he's a Trekkie. He called me and asked if I could get him in to see the sets. I said I would try and would call him on Monday. So I called him and said, 'How much do you want to see these sets?' He never does guest spots on television, but I persuaded him to do it." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 197) Bond also commented, "Recasting changed the character, because David Rappaport was quite small. The requirement, dramatically, is that people had to be afraid of him. That was very trick[y] for someone of David's size to pull off, and we had to do it through a different approach in the photography and the sense that he could always get a weapon and blow people away. David underplayed it, but I always had guys in the background who were pretty beefy. As a matter of fact, when I first started working on the episode, I had this idea – which I still think is brilliant, but they wouldn't let me do it – to build his spaceship to his scale, so the ceiling would be about four feet from the floor. When anybody got in, they would have to bend over. It would have made it a nightmare shoot, but I thought it would have been a powerful visual. When we lost David, thank God we didn't have the small sets." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 197)
  • This episode features a shuttlepod Pike, named after Christopher Pike, second captain of the USS Enterprise. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion 2nd ed., pp. 126)
  • Lt. Tasha Yar is mentioned in this episode when Troi expresses concern to Worf that he has now replaced two deceased officers.
  • Fajo's lapling was a hand puppet created by Michael Westmore. Producer David Livingston recalled, "It was this little creature that Saul Rubinek went up to and said 'bidi-bidi-bidi.' That was his call to the creature and that became a running gag. People on the set still say 'bidi-bidi-bidi.'" (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 196)
  • Among the artifacts in Fajo's collection is the communication device used by Sarjenka in "Pen Pals", and a small vase that would be seen in the crew quarters of Data, Worf, Miles O'Brien, and many others in later episodes.
  • The 1962 Roger Maris baseball card used was the first in the Topps series of 598 cards that year on account of Maris having bested Babe Ruth's single season home run record by one the previous year with 61 homers.
Poster's Log:

David Rappaport, the actor originally cast as Fajo, is probably best known as Randall, the leader of the bandit dwarves in Time Bandits. He ultimately died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, five days before this episode aired.

Minor dialog continuity error - Data's last transmission before he is stunned is "Level one precautions for incoming material remain in effect", while LaForge's playback of that transmission later says "Level one precautions remain in effect."

There's something I love in Fajo's very American first attempt to communicate with Data ("IT TOOK GREAT EFFORT.... EFFORT... TO BRING YOU... HERE"). Even in the 24th century, speaking English loudly and slowly is assumed to be sufficient to communicate your needs.

Should LaForge and Crusher really have been surprised by Data's collection of Starfleet honors? They've been serving with him for three years at this point, long enough to know his history.

Based on Fajo's description, I was expecting the Varon-T disrupter's effect to be something much closer to the transporter malfunction from The Motion Picture. Jane Daly, as Varria, does a convincing job of making it seem like it hurts, though.

I like the "did he or did he not fire" ambiguity at the end. It's a nice piece of Data growth and makes this episode vital to Data's character arc.
posted by hanov3r (23 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I mostly liked this episode (with one relatively minor--at least to me--problem, which I'll get to), which is kind of surprising given that Fajo is such an awful person. He's so awful, at times the character threatens to tip over into comedy, but then he does something to pull it back to him just being the worst person. It's a very delicate little dance, and Saul Rubinek was incredibly deft in straddling that line--amazingly so, really, given David Rapaport's sudden and tragic departure from the production. The interplay between Fajo and Data during their power struggle on his ship was what they mean by "bravura acting", I think.

But here's what bugs me: the Space Jews trope [TVTropes]. I'm not sure if the Ferengi had yet been identified as a particularly pernicious example of this trope at this point, but for whatever reason, the producers decided to not make Fajo a Ferengi... and instead gave the role to a Jewish actor wearing something that looked an awful lot like a yarmulke from the front. It's saved by Rubinek not particularly playing Fajo as acting stereotypically Jewish, but it's still not a good look.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:31 AM on November 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

given that Fajo is such an awful person

I do like this episode quite a bit, but rarely watch it for this reason. A testament to Saul Rubinek's performance, I get physically uncomfortable watching it. I know we're meant to think the ending is a little ambiguous, but I've never doubted that Data fired the weapon. I've always maintained that Data does experiences emotion, but they are processed in a very Data way - subroutines and algorithms. I think Data would conclude that the galaxy would benefit from Fajo's death. In short, he's pissed and he's acting on it.

But here's what bugs me: the Space Jews trope

Wow. This had never occurred to me, where with the Ferengi I couldn't *not* notice it. Definitely adds a sour taste to this one.
posted by rocketman at 9:43 AM on November 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

So the climax comes down to Data can't escape Fajo because he can't feel rage and without rage, he won't use force to effect his own escape. Pointing a disrupter at someone is pointless without the will to use it, right?

I don't like this episode, I never have liked it, precisely because how it sets up the ending. It is posited that he won't kill because he can't feel rage That makes him a worthless officer in a Starfleet that is mostly exploration and science, but part Federation defense and law enforcement. Or even forget about the defense and law enforcement part and just look at a situation where an officer may have to sacrifice members of the crew to save the ship. That's basically the situation Data found himself in with Fajo, basically the needs of the many (Fajo's victims past and future) vs. the needs of the few or the one (Data's "conscience"). If Data was worth anything as an officer, he had to have the ability cause the death of another living being, especially one who was holding him hostage and had just killed someone else.
posted by Fukiyama at 10:13 AM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

It is posited that he won't kill because he can't feel rage

I don't mind the question of if Data can kill. Typical TNG IMO. But I don't like how they imply Data was firing and then immediately walk it back. Data needed to own it. Instead he comes off as untruthful.
posted by Stuka at 10:33 AM on November 30, 2020

Saul Rubinek is one of the highlights of the Amazon show Hunters. This episode is not one of the highlights of season 3 IMO, basically for the reasons mentioned by other posters, but it's nice for adding some outside-of-Starfleet worldbuilding to the Trekiverse, not to mention some compelling (if questionable) Data stuff. It is at least a must-see outing for Dataphiles (har!).

Mainly this whole story feels pretty odd—it seems to be an outlier for this series. This ep's writer, Shari Goodhartz (her real name, evidently, not her Bond girl name), wrote the also odd (but in a different way) season 4 episode "Night Terrors" and the sadly-non-outlier Troi-rape episode "Violations" (season 5).
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 10:36 AM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

It is posited that he won't kill because he can't feel rage

But that's coming completely from Fajo's misunderstanding of Data in general (and, to some extent, Starfleet). From the beginning, Fajo very clearly can't comprehend how Data synthesizes his inhibition against causing harm with his ability to use deadly force for defense. There are times coming where Data does have to make the call to sacrifice a few in the name of the many and he shows that he's quite capable of making that call when it's the last resort.
posted by hanov3r at 10:39 AM on November 30, 2020 [2 favorites]

I think Data is perfectly capable of killing without emotion. He weighed all the variables: from the likelihood Fajo would continue to inflict pain and misery on others, the fact if he surrendered he would likely never escape Fajo again, and the fact he was cut off from Starfleet's resources and his only resource was his gun. He determined the most logical course of action that would benefit the largest number of people would be to kill Fajo.

It is perhaps weird that Data doesn't just own up to the fact he pulled the trigger when Riker questions him, but he didn't deny it either. "Perhaps something happened during the transport" is quite the lie of omission, I think Data could have said something as simple as "Yes I discharged it intentionally." The blame, I think, lies more on the writers than Data, who I can't imagine would be coy about a decision he came to rationally. The writers came up to the line and didn't want to jump over despite Data being, IMHO, entirely justified in what he did.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:26 AM on November 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

I've got it:
Data logically concluded that if he admitted to killing Fajo, his productivity would tank because of the resulting paperwork and possible inquiry—this is the Starfleet of the Federation we're talking about. So, motivated by the priority of maximizing his own productivity for the good of the ship, he went vague, hoping that either his crewmates wouldn't notice, wouldn't care enough either way, or would read between the lines and go with it.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:39 AM on November 30, 2020 [6 favorites]

What's terrifying about that theory, COB, is that Data should be able to do that paperwork at super-speed--imagine what Worf had to go through after the events of S4's "Reunion."
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:43 AM on November 30, 2020 [3 favorites]

I never knew about David Rappaport being the original Kivas Fajo. He was a terrific actor, I still remember his run on L.A. Law as opposing counsel to Jimmy Smitz' character. And, of course, in "The Bride", the wonderful/terrible 'Bride of Frankenstein' movie (he was in the wonderful half with Clancy Brown as Frankenstein's Creature, Jennifer Beals & Sting were in the terrible half as The Bride & Frankenstein). While I can't really picture how the blocking would have worked, I'm sure he could have projected menace as effectively as Rubinek did.

I never really thought about Rubinek's Fajo being an example of the Space Jew Trope -- mainly because he seems so much more blatantly an example of the queer-coded villain, what with that line about Data going naked as his uniform gets dissolved. I think the Space Jew-ishness of the character is more coincidental to the recasting, whereas the predatory gay aspect of the character is right there in the script.

I do like the episode though. Rubinek is terrifically sociopathic, and it's a great Data episode. I guess I'm in the camp that finds it kind of a cop-out for Data to not own up to firing the disruptor, it feels like more of a studio/network note ruling than a writing/creative choice.
posted by oh yeah! at 12:53 PM on November 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

I have a longstanding theory about the various kinds of space Jews in Trek: they each represent a different facet of Jewish identity. Vulcans are, like, Talmudic rabbi rules lawyers; Bajorans are all about preserving their faith and culture in the face of atrocity; and Ferengi are mostly a bunch of anti-Semitic stereotypes rolled up into one Planet of Hats.

(Klingons are not space Jews, in general. Worf, specifically, is Jewish, but the regular Earth kind, because his adoptive parents are Jewish.)
posted by nonasuch at 3:26 PM on November 30, 2020 [5 favorites]

Geordi’s cuboid pillow looks incredibly uncomfortable. Possibly unsafe or actively harmful, even.
posted by rodlymight at 7:28 PM on November 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

It's probably not the intention, but I'm in rocketman's camp.

I've always felt that Data experienced something that he very quickly realizes is an emotion analogue and decides that it is a negative experience. He intended to fire in passion (analogue) and covers it up because of shame (analogue).

It does some lifting for his continued apprehension of experiencing emotion either through the chip or through the Borg Queen.
posted by porpoise at 7:56 PM on November 30, 2020

You can see Rappaport as Fajo here. He was a very talented and compelling actor, but unfortunately I feel like you can really see his depression in his performance here, his lack of engagement with the script. In his prime Rappaport could have been great in the episode, but judging by this clip there's just no comparison with Rubinek's performance. Rubinek made Fajo an unforgettable villain.

While Fajo is a queer-coded villain to some extent and he's very foppish and predatory, I've always had the feeling that he's not actually interested in anything physical with Data. Fajo's big thrill is asserting his will over others. Like, with the line about him being happy to see Data walk around naked, I don't think Fajo is really excited about the prospect of android peen... it's about humiliating Data. If Data had been an intelligent machine who didn't appear humanoid, I'm not sure that would have changed things for Fajo much. He'd still be gloating and leering like this.

I've always suspected that Data had some kind of emotions even before he got the emotion chip, but perhaps they were somewhat muted and he didn't understand them. The show always kept us guessing about what he might be feeling, and I think the ending here is the closest we get to the confirmation that Data does feel things.

The idea of Fajo as a sinister space-Jew never occurred to me and I suspect (or at least hope) it never occurred to the people making this show either. But now that you mention it, the space yarmulke was pretty unfortunate, yeah.

If the Ferengi began as a racial caricature I think they transcended that on DS9 to become one of the more fleshed-out alien races in Trek. If anything, I think Trek's biggest slight against Jewish people is how there just don't seem to be any in the Federation. I don't just mean that you don't see representations of the Jewish faith, which makes sense because religion in general seems to have died out by then. I mean that you never see characters with Jewish names, like a Commander Goldman or Captain Weinberg. There are plenty of Jewish actors in the franchise (Shatner and Nimoy, for starters) but a curious lack of Jewish characters. A Jewish friend pointed this out years ago and since then I've kept an eye open for characters who were clearly of Jewish descent, and I've never seen any. Plenty of people have commented on the lack of LGBTQ characters in the franchise, but I never hear anybody comment about the lack of Jews. Even the Memory Alpha page for "Jew" is illustrated by the back of an extra's head from a 20th Century time travel episode! (Apparently there are Jewish characters in various Trek spin-off novels, but the fact that you have to go all the way to the novels to find any Jewish people is bizarre.)
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:09 AM on December 1, 2020 [10 favorites]

Geordi’s cuboid pillow looks incredibly uncomfortable.

Geordi sleeps in his boots. I'm pretty sure he doesn't care about comfort.

Also, I've seen a lot of ads recently for cube-shaped pillows specifically aimed at side sleepers. He's just using it wrong.
posted by hanov3r at 7:09 AM on December 1, 2020

Trek will often use stuff for props because they look unusual, with the idea that future stuff will just look weird, and the result that lots of things look hella unergonomic or just plain uncomfortable; I'm also thinking of DS9's triangular pillows. Even TOS liked to use fabrics that seemed to have the texture of pot scrubbers.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:29 AM on December 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

I wish the show had engaged a bit more with the Data’s internal world and the philosophy of “but wait, you can’t kill!” as many of you already observed up-thread. It seemed like an artificial roadblock here for the sake of building tension/conflict, without much in the way of ties to Data’s implicit or explicit arc. Maybe it only seems so because in my mental model of the show, as folks have covered up-thread, Data must have already made decisions along these lines to get to where he is. This very episode even gives us the other main characters viewing his medals, so we can’t claim “Data made hard choices before” isn’t something the writers thought about! Of course it’s possible that nobody in the writer’s room made the connection between military medals and combat/hard choices about life and death, but I’m not quite willing to believe that. Perhaps the joke’s on us and in Starfleet you get medals for Best Paper awards at conferences?

Even if we take away the context of Data’s prior life experiences and assume he really is facing this struggle for the first time, “Non-human entity struggles with philosophy” is a hard thing to sell in a written text, nevermind TV (and, really, the problem seems to be mostly that Fajo is missing the point, more so than that Data cannot do harm). Still, I would’ve liked more than we got.

Ugh I wish there was a better way to flip back and see who wrote what on mobile, so I can directly credit people up-thread rather than saying “you lot up there.” Guess I could wait until I’m sitting down at a computer, but I want to post my hot-take nooooow.
posted by Alterscape at 7:43 AM on December 1, 2020 [2 favorites]

This is kind of a terrifying episode to me, Fajo has been getting away with humanoid slavery for years, and doing so right under the nose of the federation (even doing business with Starfleet!).

So should we assume the quasi-utopian life of the 24th century (no poverty, basic needs met, etc.) is only for those who stick to living in firmly established Federation territories? I guess they get into this a little bit more in DS9 and PIC, but I haven't seen all of those yet.

Great performance by Rubinek, very menacing. This 3rd season is really much stronger and more consistent than I remember. I wouldn't call this great trek, but a pretty solid episode to go along with some very good, and a few great episodes.
posted by skewed at 8:15 AM on December 1, 2020

So should we assume the quasi-utopian life of the 24th century (no poverty, basic needs met, etc.) is only for those who stick to living in firmly established Federation territories? I guess they get into this a little bit more in DS9 and PIC, but I haven't seen all of those yet.

They absolutely get into this in those shows, as well as VOY and ENT. In fact,
[Click for spoiler]one of the earliest eps of DS9 features Tosk, an alien from the Gamma Quadrant who's being hunted by other aliens for sport.

posted by Halloween Jack at 11:18 AM on December 1, 2020

Let's collect the cards of the episode from the Star Trek CCG:

Premiere('94): Varon-T Disruptor; Tricorder; Kivas Fajo - Collector; Palor Toff - Alien Trader; Zibalian Transport. The Varon-T was totally overpowered for personnel battles, doubling strength where a normal phaser would get you a +2 per personnel or so. The Kivas and Palor Toff cards were in virtually every deck, and pretty direct copies of Ancestral Recall and Regrowth from Magic The Gathering.

Q-Continuuum('96): Mona Lisa. A battle/destruction deterrent, joy. Way too defensive in nature.

Fajo Collection('97): 1962 Roger Maris Baseball Card; Persistence of Memory; Kivas Fajo.More gimmicky stuff! The baseball card card came with a big 'ol slab of chewing gum in leiu of adding smelly stuff to the card itself. If you want a thing of 23 year old gum, now you know what to buy. Persistence of Memory is OR excess at its finest; there was a lengthy clarification sheet that explained what it meant to 'reverse' each of ten different cards. Kivas as a personnel has Ferengi-ish skills, two good special abilities, and NO integrity - which is unique in the game.

Blaze of Glory('99): Fajo's Gallery. A capture inventive maybe a bit of a sly 'hey why haven't you bought that premium fajo collection set' promo in one.

Rules of Acquisition('99): Starry Night; Jovis. Two cards crossing over elements shown on TNG via gameplay with DS9. Jovis was free at your Docking Ports and retrieved its owner for you to boot.

Second Edition('02): A Treasure Beyond Comparison; Tricorder. Effectively ATBC is a Second Edition version of Fajo's Gallery. Of all the cards repeated from 1E from the episode, I wouldn't' expect Tricorder to be one, but there ya go.

Strange New Worlds('05): Proximity-Actuated Field; Flink; Kivas Fajo, Collector; Palor Toff, Trader; Varria, Lavishly Rewarded Aide. Kivas again fits nicely into a Ferengi deck, boosting the utility of your copious Acquisition. Varria's a nice skill filler.

Captain's Log('06): Fajo's Menagerie; Jovis, Museum. A draw enhancer for equipment heavy decks and a ship weak to Tactical Disadvantage. Pass.
posted by StarkRoads at 11:33 AM on December 1, 2020 [1 favorite]

Fajo was great - I loved the way the actor played him.

I didn't find the ending ambiguous; I thought it was pretty clear that Data shot. Why he lied about it was unclear. I understand the feeling that the writers were going for there, and I found it emotionally effective and interesting, but I don't think it works for the character, in context.

I do agree with hanov3r that the reading of Data's relationship to violence was entirely Fajo's, and that it was incorrect to start with. Data is much more than a set of rules, and he's entirely capable of any action whatsoever if the logic of the situation requires it.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:59 PM on October 6, 2021

Another bit that bothered me: it doesn't really make sense for Worf to take the Ops bridge position. He's already got a job! We've seen a variety of extras in the Ops position when Data was unavailable for whatever reason, and it should have been one of them who gets promoted to first-string, basically.

I don't think we've ever seen Worf hop on down there when, say, Picard leaves Data in charge of the bridge and Data moves to the captain's chair. Or at least, not since he became head of security.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 3:31 PM on October 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

My understanding of Data's role on the Enterprise is that he's the officer ultimately in charge of everyone wearing a gold (operations division) uniform, and the bridge position is only a part of that role.
posted by ckape at 5:26 AM on October 8, 2021

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