TELEPRESENCE IN POPULAR CULTURE

A study of portrayals of presence

Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Ensigns of Command

If you have information about this portrayal that is missing below or if you disagree information below, please Add a new portrayal with the exact same title as above and enter only the new or changed information.

ABOUT THE WORK

MEDIUM:

TV episode 

YEAR:

1989 

WRITER(S):

Written By: Melinda M. Snodgrass 

OWN COPY?

No 
 

ABOUT THE STORY

SUMMARY:

(copied from http://www.startrek.com/startrek/view/series/TNG/episode/68404.html) The U.S.S. Enterprise receives a message from the Sheliak, who order the crew to remove all humans from the planet Tau Cygna V. According to a Federation treaty, the planet belongs to the alien race, who want to take control of their property and have given the crew four days to evacuate the men and women now living there. If the U.S.S. Enterprise does not complete the task, the Sheliak will kill all of the humans, whom they consider "vermin." Due to the high level of radiation on Tau Cygna V, which the colonists have adapted to over several generations, Data is the only crew member capable of surviving the mission. After Riker speculates that there should be about a dozen humans there, Picard sends the android down to the planet to commence evacuation procedures. But the matter is complicated by Data's reports that 15,000 colonists are living on Tau Cygna V and Worf's estimate that transporting them off the planet will take several weeks, far longer than the Sheliak ultimatum. What's worse, Data meets resistance to the evacuation plan from Gosheven, the leader of the colony, who refuses to abandon the planet. While Data tries to change Gosheven's mind, Picard's pleas for additional time from the Sheliak, who stick to every word of their 500,000 word treaty, are flatly refused. While a stirring speech by Data convinces some colonists to revolt against Gosheven, Picard buys time when he finds a clause in the treaty that allows him to demand third party arbitration of the evacuation dispute. He deliberately chooses a race in hibernation for six months, which forces the Sheliak's hand and they agree to give Picard three weeks to relocate the colonists. 

ERA/YEAR:

Distant future 

CHARACTERISTICS
OF WORLD:

It is the 24th century, and humans have colonized planets other than Earth. 
 
ABOUT THE PRESENCE-EVOKING TECHNOLOGY
NAME:
Data 
DESCRIPTION:
Data is an android who looks, sounds and behaves as if he is human. The only thing that stands out about him as a computer is the fact that he has no emotions. He tries to learn human culture, and incorporates entries in his vast archival memory into his daily experience to better understand human behavior. 
NATURE OF TASK OR ACTIVITY:
Data is sent by Capt. Picard to a planet colonized by humans. He is the only crew member who can survive the heavy radiation on the planet, which its human inhabitants have adapted to over many decades. 
PERFORMANCE OF THE TECHNOLOGY:
Data functions normally, and even diagnoses and fixes himself after the colony's leader uses a weapon to injure him. At one point, he removes a bit of circuitry from his own arm to improve a relatively primitive weapon the colonists have. 
 
ABOUT THE CREATORS OF THE TECHNOLOGY
DESCRIPTION:
Data's creator is a robotics specialist that is mentioned in other episodes (see episode "Datalore").  
MAJOR GOAL(S):
Data's creator was experimenting with androids, and supposedly created Data after his prototype was too realistic (again, see episode "Datalore") and too human-like. 
 
ABOUT THE PEOPLE WHO EXPERIENCE PRESENCE
DESCRIPTION:
The Enterprise crew is a starship crew consisting of multiple human and humanoid races. The colonists that Data interacts with are human. 
 
ABOUT THE PRESENCE EXPERIENCE
TYPE(S) OF PRESENCE:
Social presence 
DESCRIPTION:
Data interacts with many of the colonists on an interpersonal level. He tries to use reverse psychology on them at the urging of one of the colonists who sees his good intentions. Their reactions to him vary widely. 
USER AWARENESS:
The leader of the colony is immediately suspicious of Data because he is an android and refers to him as a "walking calculator." The reactions of the other colonists are mixed. One young woman seems to fall in love with Data, claiming that an android's rational nature appeals to her. 
VALENCE:
The leader of the colony finds it unpleasant throughout, as he clearly has a low opinion of androids. The colonists are concerned and frightened when Data uses a phaser set on "stun" to give them a taste of the destruction they face if they do not evacuate. Eventually, they grow to trust him. 
SPECIFIC RESPONSES:
The young woman who falls for Data is clearly taken with his abilities and his power to reason with the other colonists. She kisses him at one point, then has to explain to him what her action meant. She seems frustrated by his lack of emotional response, but in the end accepts it as part of his rational nature as an android. 
 
ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF PRESENCE
LONG-TERM CONSEQUENCES:
In the end, Data's lack of sentimental attachment to the planet that the colonists have made their home helps them avoid being killed by another race claiming ownership of the planet. 
 
AND FINALLY...
OTHER INFORMATION:
After the colony's leader reluctantly agrees to evacuate, Data points out to him that the planet, the physical spaces they have built there, are just things and can be replaced. Lives, he says, cannot be. It sounds like the final line from Terminator 2 in which Sarah observes that the terminator, a machine, can learn the value of human life. 
CODER NAME:
Tina Peterson 
CODER E-MAIL:
tina.peterson@temple.edu 
CODER AFFILIATION:
Temple University 
DATE CODED:
3/26/2007 

 


Top of Page