Trek TNG: Immortal Coil by Jeffery Lang
It's ironic that the Trek characters we can claim the least kinship too are often the most appealing. A Half-Vulcan, an android, a holographic man who wasn't supposed to be left turned on at all.
Ironic, but not surprising.
Each of these characters come by their humanity artificially, and therefore bear no culpability for it. Spock (TOS), Data (Next Gen), and The Doctor (Voyager) are free to act human, precisely because they aren't. Whatever the writers and actors come up with doesn't have to conform to some idealized humanity...just interesting character. And character is what we relate to.
As James T. Kirk notes at Spock's premature funeral, "of all the souls I have encountered in my travels, his was the most... human." Choke. Sob.
But this isn't about Spock. It's about that lovable tin man, that Pinocchio of tomorrow, LCDR Data. In this episode, Data finds his heart, and what's more, his place in the universe.
Immortal Coil takes place sometime after the commissioning of the Enterprise D, which for those of you who've lost count, is Picard's replacement Enterprise, much as the Enterprise A was Kirk's. Worf's gone on to DS9 and the brand new security officer is one Rhea McAdams, about as far from the forbidding Klingon as you could imagine. Not only is she attractive, perky, and of unfailing good humor, she'd rather talk someone ought of a fight than knock their block off.
Not that she couldn't. In fact, when she works out with Riker, he gets pinned regularly, which he isn't exactly sure how he feels about. As W.C. Fields said about being ridden out of town on a rail, "If it wasn't for the honor, I'd have been just as happy to walk." Here's a girl of which there's more to than meets the eye, even though what meets the eye is more than enough.
If Riker feels a tractor beam tugging on his heartstrings though, it's nothing compared to the emotion chip overload that Data gets when they lock optical sensors. Soon he's buying flowers and swilling wine in dimly lit surroundings...and dancing.
But love can wait. Shortly after droid meets girl, the Enterprise is called on to rush to the Daystrom InstituteAnnex where Data's old Star Fleet nemesis, Dr. Bruce Maddox, who once tried to get Data committed to his lab, has been crushed under a collapsing building...leaving only the assertive android's name scrawled in blood before collapsing into a mysterious coma.
Maddox, along with the enigmatic Dr. Vaslovik, had been working on yet another prototype android design, this time using (Danger: Treknobabble Alert!) a holographic matrix rather than Data's positronic brain. It seems that just before they were going to throw the big switch and breath life into the monst...er...android, a sudden failure of the weather grid caused the lab to be destroyed in a freak electrical storm. Obliterating Dr. Vaslovik completely, except for a few spare DNA strands.
When Data discovers that the crushed android body on the slab is a clever fake, he puts two and two together and comes up with the scent of criminal intent and suddenly...the game's afoot.
Will Data unlock the mystery of the missing android? Will he discover the shocking truth about his own origins? Will every single Artificial Intelligence ever used in a Original Series episode (with the exception of Nomad...who declined politely, claiming that he was just spread too thin...) make an appearance? Will he get the girl?
That would be telling.
I worried as the story progressed that it was going to turn out that mankind wasn't bright enough to develop Artificial Intelligences, and it was going to turn out that it was given to us by some more advanced race. I hate it when that happens. As it turns out, there may well be lots of other races that have created AIs, and no few who have been outlived by their creations, but Dr. Noonian Soong, Data's "father" and creator gets to keep his kudos in the end.
Author Jeffery Lang (DS9, ) has done an excellent job weaving the stories of a number of TOS episodes together, though the resolution of the whole affair smacks of the limitations of series television, rather than the epic stuff of movies, it would make a pretty good film, and definitely makes a mystery and adventure worth stowing away on.
© 2002 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu