Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Pointless Beard For A Pointless Episode: "The Schizoid Man" Flops!

The Good: Acting
The Bad: Long, drawn out plot, Pointless characterization, Simplified resolution, Obvious
The Basics: When Data comes down with a case of schizophrenia, an episode results with a dreadful plot and worse pace.

One of the more famous publicity shots of Commander Data from Star Trek The Next Generation shows the android with a beard. In "The Schizoid Man" Data begins the episode with a beard in a scene that feels abbreviated. Unfortunately, if there is a longer take (like one where he actually appears on the bridge with his beard), we are not privy to it. Even the random opening scene with Data and his beard cannot save a poorly written, poorly conceived episode.

Data sheds his beard after the teaser and "The Schizoid Man" spends forty minutes drawing out a ten minute plot. The Enterprise deposits four crewpeople on Grave’s World, a planet populated only by renowned scientist Ira Graves and his assistant. Graves is suffering from a rare degenerative disease and by the time the Enterprise returns to Grave’s World, the scientist is dead. After that, Data begins to behave strangely, talking in slang, rambling on, exhibiting emotions.

Well, given what Dr. Graves studied, it doesn't take long for the viewer to realize what is going on. In fact, the episode does not attempt to conceal the truth, eliminating the whole surprise element. That done, the viewer must assume that the lesson we are to learn has more to do with the journey as opposed to the destination. That is, "The Schizoid Man" is about how Data acts once possessed and about how the crew goes about learning the truth.

In truth, the episode is a study in density. While the crew fumbles with clues, the viewer knows the truth and it's frustrating to watch how such an obvious premise eludes the intelligent officers of the Enterprise. The real frustration is in watching how very long the officers remain ignorant of the truth. In the process, there are several scenes that serve nothing more than to fill space (for example the scene where Picard seeks Geordi's counsel about Data).

The resolution, when it comes, is what we - the viewer - expected from about ten minutes into the episode. And what are we left with? The characters have not advanced, there is no lasting change, there is no sense of growth.

What more could be said about this episode? The acting is good. This episode marks the only appearance of great actress Suzie Plakson as Dr. Selar. While Plakson returns in other roles in the Trek universe, this is the only time she takes the role of the Vulcan doctor aboard the Enterprise.

Other actors do a fine job, but they are limited by what material they are given. In one of the saddest (sad as in pathetic) moments of the series, Data throws Picard against a wall, and Patrick Stewart's acting here is probably his worst ever. His limp fall to the floor does not seem terribly real.

In all, this is a forgettable episode, whose highlights are in the first five minutes and thereafter are utterly lacking. There is nothing to recommend this piece to a non-Trek fan, nor to those who enjoy the better things this series has to offer.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: The Next Generation - The Complete Second Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the sophomore season by clicking here!


For other Star Trek reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!

© 2010, 2008, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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