Happy belated Thanksgiving, folks! And, if you’re like me, the feasting persists; what with all of the leftovers I’ve continued to gorge on.
‘Tis the beginning of our yearly holiday season. Though some, it would seem, feel the need to commence their jovial celebrating before Halloween has even come to pass. To them I say, “IT’S BARELY OCTOBER, FOOLS!” But, you know, to each their own.
This time of year is my faaaaa-vorite because I’m usually preoccupied with my own celebratory rituals. Rituals that evolved from a mere happenstance of my cable being tuned to a particular channel last year. Since then, my Grinchy little heart has grown a bit, well, less Grinchy, I suppose you can say. And I owe it all to the Hallmark Channel’s months-long “Miracles of Christmas” movie marathon; although, the celebration really began five months ago with their “Christmas in July” programming, if I’m being totally honest.
But, I’ve digressed. The Hallmark Channel’s fabulous holiday schedule isn’t why I’ve traversed over to my wee digital podium. That would be, my friends, because of Star Trek.
For a while now, I’ve been doing a bit of catch-up. As I’ve mentioned before, I have yet to complete my viewing of all the Star Trek shows. I’m thankfully caught up with Discovery, as well as with all of the feature films, but the past iterations remain untouched in their entirety. Which brings us to the episode that I just watched last night: “Inheritance”. To say the least, it definitely gave me the “feels”. But more than that, it raised a familiar question. One that comes up over and over again, in varying guises, throughout every tale told within Roddenberry’s universe: What exactly does it mean to be “human”?
That’s a pretty loaded query, right? I mean, is it our self-awareness? Or, perhaps, our egotistical and selfish nature? Is it our ability to instinctively rush to the aid of loved ones, or put ourselves in harm’s way to shield the ones we care about from injury, both physical and emotional? Or could it be deconstructed into something as simple as our ability to empathize? The smartest and most cleverest of us have been searching for an answer long before you or I were birthed into existence, and I’m fairly certain it’ll be a question our kind will continue to search for an answer to until we’re but a footnote in the appendices of the cosmos.
Now, we’ve all bored witness to Data’s evolution from the very beginning: from a young (at least, in A.I. years, that is), innocent, and naive android, into what most of us would probably describe as “the very best of what a human can be”. But I don’t think we’ve ever seen him make a distinctly “human” decision such as the one he made in “Inheritance”. The decision that I’m referring to is the concealment of his “mother’s” true nature of also being an android. Accessing the situation with more than just logic, and determining that Juliana’s happiness would be better serviced, over the course of her life, by remaining ignorant of the fact that she was merely a copy of her human counterpart, was, to me, a very touching and human moment. I actually choked up a bit (what can I say, I’ve become quite the sentimental fool over the years).
Data’s decision in this episode was also a nice demonstration of how very different he is in Season 7 than how he was at the outset of Season 1. In a lot of ways, his evolution has always been on a “human” trajectory. The cognitive learning processes that guide him as an android have similarly mirrored our own (because Star Trek has always created non-human characters to be a lens through which we view ourselves), and to watch him doubt himself, and everything that he is, ironically, is also a very human trait.
I’m really looking forward to seeing Data again in the upcoming Picard series (especially if he’s got an emotion chip activated again). We don’t know just yet if the android we glimpsed in the trailer is, in fact, “Data,” or merely a figure in a dream. One theory suggests that he’s a hologram on a holodeck that Jean-Luc possesses. But if it actually is thee Data, it’ll be interesting (and exciting) to see how the character’s evolved since last we saw him in Nemesis. Who knows, maybe we’ll even be treated to another musical number….